The Hermit of Seville

So, here I am, returning to Seville at last. I have to warn you, this entry can not possibly be as entertaining as the first Seville entry was.  Seriously. I just reread that entry, to remind myself of what I covered, and I have entirely intimidated myself now.  Like, how is me-now supposed to compete with me-then? That guy was good!  Gotta tell you, feeling Imposter Syndrome in the company of yourself is really taking it to the next level.  Go, me!  Only the greatest determination induces me to continue writing this and not simply walk away.

Determination, and the hope that getting back to my blog will get me sleeping again.  It’s been mostly 5-6 hours a night for a few weeks now, and I still haven’t spotted the source of stress that surely is causing it.  Of course, it might simply be the day/night cycle here in Edinburgh.

It’s warm enough here that I have to leave the window and shutters partly open, and so I get street noise — and possibly just too much light in the morning, rather than internal stress. Sigh.

Anyway, it’s rough when you feel Imposter Syndrome around your own writing (and software), and I rather suspect that it’s only going to get worse.  “Oh, yeah, that Charles-in-his-30s guy sure did write some great software.  Me? No, I haven’t touched that stuff in years.  These days, I don’t even remember how to set the clock on my VCR. What do you mean, ‘That’s not a VCR?’ I guess that would explain why my Duran Duran tapes don’t play on it anymore, damn it.  Well, could you set the clock on it anyway?  Since President Snowden moved us to Daylight Metric Time, I never know when to eat my tapioca.”

By the way, speaking of President Snowden (and, by extension, politics), my Aunt Florida sent me this pretty amazing article written by one of the long time Fox News commentators, about how its shows are as carefully constructed as WWE wrestling.  Independent of one’s political party, it makes for a fascinating read.  It also rather supports my longstanding view that Rupert Murdoch is not a conservative media magnate, he’s a businessman; he doesn’t care what “truths” his channels are promoting, just that they generate reliable revenue.  I’ve always said that if Rupert thought he could make money on a Baby Harp Seal channel, we’d be getting our warm, fuzzy, daily news from baby harp seals.  It’s just product to him, and any negative opinions about the net result are more a condemnation of unrestrained capitalism and greed than they are of the political ideology that the greed is riding into the ground.  Anyway, it’s a pretty cool insight into how that process works, and a reminder that there’s a *lot* of PR manipulation going on in our systems right now, with the usual motivations of money and power.  (Like the amazing Facebook manipulation driven by Cambridge Analytica.)  Reading and viewing widely, from sources across the political spectrum, is one of the few counters to it.  (As is reading nothing at all, I suppose, but ignorance is rarely a useful solution.)

But, if all that leaves you a bit tense or worried, don’t be. There’s always this.

 

Seville

So, in my prior post, I covered my first few days wandering around Seville, mostly looking for groceries. And a yoga mat (twice).  This seems like a good time to repeat the map of Seville that I posted then, for orientation purposes:

Central Seville. The old city is on the eastern side of the river (you can still find large chunks of the old wall around it). The train station, Sevilla Santa Justa, is circled on the right, and my Airbnb place is the circled star near the top on the right (to the right of the Basilica de la Macarena, where I assume they have dancing at church services, like Pentacostals).

I’d like to say that I did other things during my stay there, so I shall: “I did other things during my stay there.”  It’s not true of course, but it feels very affirming to say.

As I pointed out in the last post, my time was soon subsumed by Elder Scrolls Online — not exclusively, but largely.  Let it not be said that, when I get into something, I don’t commit.

When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

— Shunryu Suzuki

But, despite my own personal Burning Season, I did get to wander about the city, sometimes looking for groceries, sometimes following my walking tours app, sometimes just picking an arbitrary point and walking there because I needed the movement.  (It’s very annoying, that I trained from early childhood to sit unmoving for hours at a time, generally while reading, and became quite good at it. And now, all grown up and with time on my hands, if I do that too much, I WILL DIE!!!! Hardly seems sporting.)

So, here’s a bunch of stuff that I ran across while wandering Seville, 70% of which looked like this:

Narrow alleys with pastel buildings and (one hopes) lots of summer shade.

And 20% of which looked like this:

Wider street, with sidewalk, cars, and cafes.

And 10% looked like this: wide arcades with churches and trams and quaint local coffee shops and street musicians playing ethnic music:

Made me nostalgic for Disneyland, this did.

That was taken on avenue running southeast from the Plaza Nueva (marked with a star on the map above, almost at the center of the map and just above a little blue box that indicates a tram stop), until it reaches another tram and subway stop at Puerto Jerez by the river, near to the Torch Coffee Roasters (where I went looking for some decent coffee beans).  Google, for some reason, does a terrible job of showing that this street exists, unless you really zoom in — but despite that omission, it’s a lovely street:

The Plaza Nueva. This was a nice place to sit out with a cup of coffee. I reach that conclusion by deduction based upon observation, rather than by experiment, as I only sat out there without coffee. But I have a high level of confidence in my conclusion.

A building along that avenue. I’ve mentioned before how pathetic most U.S. architecture is, right? Of course I have. Consider that reiterated.

I mentioned that there was a church along this avenue, right? It’s this, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, aka Catedral de Sevilla. No big deal, just 80 chapels, 500 masses per day (as of 1896). Thought I’d mention it. You can see some more pics here, and interiors here.

I never quite made it inside that church, because I was distracted by finally catching enough Magikarp to evolve a Gyarados!

It takes 400 Magikarp points to evolve one into a Gyarados, so I was super happy to finally get one, and named it after the city itself. Seville was worth visiting for that happy achievement alone!

(I also caught my first Ditto here — also very exciting — but that was as nothing compared to getting the Gyarados! Woo-hoo!)

The other end of the avenue, near what seems to be a subway station. I never needed to take the subway, but it’s good to know that it exists. Also, again: architecture. Come on with the come on!

And then, of course, continuing past on the left of that orange-banded building, you reach the river:

This is scenic in direct proportion to (a) what season it is and (b) how fully you are in the shade when you view it. In the sun, on February 1st, it was quite nice. I’m pretty sure that as I write this on June 14th, it’s another story entirely.

Of course, not all of Seville looked this quaint — some bits were more modern, or a bit more run down and decorated in Decaying Modern. Like, this was literally the first place on the other side the river:

♬ There was a plaza, ♫ had some kitsch, ♫ and Bingo was its name-o. ♬

And this thoroughfare ran out from that plaza. I mean, the streets are clean and all, and it’s not hideous — but would you want to live there? Cheek by jowl with hundreds of other hive-homeys in modern pillboxes, above constant traffic? On one side of the river, beauty, and on the other, despair, as if divided by the River Styx. Perhaps I’m being too harsh. Perhaps they’re perfectly happy there. *I wouldn’t be, but it takes all kinds, etc, etc.

On the other hand, they *did* have what is clearly a Euthanasia shop just down the street, so maybe I’m right after all.

I headed back across the river pretty quickly, and was rewarded with street art:

Like this bit of poignant commentary on the burdens of fashion — and it was on the side of a church, no less! I was impressed at their willingness to display graphic cultural commentary like this.

All these years that I’ve heard this song, it never once occurred to me that it referred to a street. I’m not sure why this street was such a big deal, it didn’t look special. Maybe the songwriter grew up here? Ah well, learn something new every day.

I suppose I should mention, since much of this walking about was motivated by grocery shopping, that I did find places that sold decent coffee — the regular grocery store coffee that I mentioned last time wasn’t actually that bad, but the organic shops had better.  They also had some decent organic beers — I’ve had mixed success with organic beers in the past, but Seville had a nice selection, and the regular market had Guinness, so all was right with the world.  Though there was one beer that I gave a pass:

Rule of thumb: the more high-concept a beer gets, the worse it generally is. (There are notable exceptions, like anything from Dogfish Head brewery, but it’s pretty true in the general case.) It’s like Christian Rock — the quality of the music is generally sacrificed in the interest of driving home the message. In this case… no. I don’t even like “chocolate” beer, or “coffee” beer. If you think I’m going to like “weed” beer, you really are high.
(BTW, ratebeer.com agrees, and gives it 1 star out of 10. Ouch!)

Mind you, weed beer wasn’t the only thing I deliberately passed up:

“JapoKitos”? Which are, somehow, Japanese-themed, though only the branding suggests that? And are fronted by a malevolent looking tween wielding cat-themed fake chopsticks? I give up.

Although in retrospect, I probably should have purchased and consumed the JapoKitos in preference to this:

At the time, I was jonesing for ice cream, and could not find my usual vanilla or coffee, just weird strawberry stuff, or Ben & Jerry’s There’s So Many Flavors In Here That We Just Gave Up And Picked A Random Name Out of the Dictionary Of Cultural Literacy. (I hate that flavor.) But I saw this and thought, “Well, ‘leche’ is milk, and it’s Häagen-Dazs, how bad can it be?” All. All of the bad. “Dulce De Leche”, it turns out, means caramel, and whatever you may think about the virtues of caramel, throw them out. Because it turns out that when you mix caramel with already sugar-intensive ice cream, the result is an insulin-shock inducing swamp of concentrated candy that would send even a Japanese person running for the vomitorium. It. Was. Horrible. First bite: “Huh, ok, not what I was expecting.” Second bite: “Ok.” Third bite: “Yeah, really not my thing, I think.” Fourth bite: “Must. Not. Waste. Food.” For the avoidance of doubt: I did not finish the pint.

But I find that I’ve gotten a bit derailed by the food topic.  Back to my walkabout.  I have to say, I found Seville to be generally a very nice walking city.  The car exhaust was maybe a bit much on the main thoroughfares, but you could avoid much of that by sticking to the narrower streets, of which there were many: winding, disorganized, chaotic lanes of varying sizes running through seemingly endless blocks of ancient, pastel apartment blocks, opening up occasionally into tiny plazas and shopping arcades.

Perfect example: a random little plaza, with fountain and orange trees, and with shops and homes around it. There’s no not loving that, none at all.

If you think that’s too small and quaint, and you’re impatient for something larger and more dramatic, just hold your horses. (Or let these guys do it for you.)

And if you want really dramatic:

I tripped across this one day, and I have no idea what it’s supposed to be, but I love it and I have dubbed it Eggo Plaza, the name by which it will henceforth be known to all who may ask.

Or, if you want something smaller scale, the shop windows were often entertaining, though I wasn’t always sure of the motivation behind them.

I’m not sure what shopping demographic is served by selling figures of ceramic turnips, Depressed Jesus, Disney dwarves, and Darth Cleric, but I have to assume that they know their business. (Knowledge that I find myself grateful not to have.)

“Please come in and buy our totally official, and not at all home made, brand name merchandise. Sweatshop-free since 2015!”

Did I mention the magic wand shop down the street from me? I totally meant to go in there and ask what sort of cores they use, but I never got around to it. Plus, the language barrier. (And, I really can not carry anything else with me, my pack is heavy enough already.)

There were a *lot* of little restaurants that I passed on these walks.  I kept looking for a place that served rabbit — which I assumed would be labeled “conejo” on any menus — as part of my goal to eat The Rabbit of Seville. (Damn, but it’s hard not to stop writing and watch that all the way through.)  Unfortunately, despite some serious looking, I was completely unable to find one in the month that I was there.  I did find lots of these:

A lot of places made dishes from something called “tapas”. I’m not sure what animal “tapas” comes from, but given the way some meats disagree with me, it seemed like a good idea to just avoid it.

Fortunately, there was an alternative:

O’Neill’s Irish Pub, which Google Maps will actually let you virtually walk into, here!  I came back here at least 2 more times.  I always sat inside — I hate sitting outside next to busy traffic, and this was a super busy intersection.  I heard the Irish bartender talking about the weather with another patron, and he said that sometimes they get hot, dry, sandy winds all the way from Africa — another reason to get out of Spain before summer.  The burger, with bacon and egg on it, was super good, btw. 😀

(Side note: Murphy, my current host in Edinburgh, says that *they* sometimes get sandy winds from Africa!  It comes as very fine dust, carried in the upper atmosphere.  I guess that’s not any weirder than 25% of San Francisco’s pollution coming from China, but still. Would not have guessed that.)

One of the nice things about a lot of these older cities that I’ve been in, is that you continually trip across interesting things, just in random wandering.

This little side street near O’Neil’s Pub particularly struck me. It was like a street that in most cities would have been a run-down side alley, but they’d kept it up, kept it clean and scrubbed, and it stayed quite nice as a result. So, yaay that.

There’s very little of that in large modern cities.  Like, I can walk for ages in Manhattan and never see anything out of the ordinary — it’s mostly all of a piece, and that piece is generally a bit worn.  San Francisco, though I love it, is much the same. It’s city, and there may be oases where you get something different, but mostly it’s very planned and constant.  I have found that less true in the older cities, and I’m not quite sure why.  At least some of it has to be that their old stuff stands out to me as different, and noticeable, because it comes out of a different tradition than I’m used to — whereas most of the new, modern stuff that younger cities are made out of reflects the same broader (American-dominated) world culture that I’m used to seeing everywhere else.  Maybe some of it is because they’re old societies that have had their roots in the same neighborhoods for centuries and learned to keep up the place they live in, so their back alleys look prettier and don’t look as ignored?  Maybe because they’re so Old, the New has to move in slowly, and the controlled interplay between them creates a wider variety in what you see roaming around, than what you see in more purely new cities.

Of course, not all of that interplay really, um, works:

At the end of a long day of Nude Newspaper Selling, you need a beer. I don’t judge.

On a wall plastered with concert posters, this made me laugh. It’s one letter off a Japanese term for — well, this is a family blog so let’s just say, “little boys” and leave it at that. I’m not sure the artist would be pleased by the association. 🙂

The Isla Mágica water park across the river was closed — doubtless due to the bitter winter weather — but it apparently features a sort of German beer garden with what appears to be a German beer drinker, with barrel, suspended in mid-air. (For reasons which I’m sure were clear to the park’s architect, perhaps while in his cups.)

The water park was part of a larger stretch of park that ran for quite some length along the west bank of the river (paralleled by a narrow park-ish embankment on the east side).  Much of it was very pretty to look at and be in.

The south-of-the-water-park section had some developed river-pier areas, though in this stretch they seemed to be used more for jogging than for anything actually nautical, despite the water traffic passing them.

It also had some sections that quite terrified me!

Noooooooooooooo!!!!!!

This was taken February 3rd.  The beginning of February! For Pete’s sake, what do I have to do to avoid Spring?!

Thankfully, I was due to leave on the 17th, and Seville is nowhere near as green as Zagreb, Croatia, was.  But still… my Post-Traumatic Spring Disorder runs deep.

The other thing this park had was, as usual, tons of orange trees.  The oranges were simply falling ripe onto the ground, clearly underutilized, so I took the risk of violating the public order and picked one.  A little research quickly turned up why the city’s ubiquitous oranges were underutilized:

I think I’ve mentioned before, that I have that genetic variant (in common with much of my family — in the traditional manner) that means I don’t really detect bitter tastes.  It contributes to my fondness for dark beer, dark chocolate, strong coffee, and other things typically described as being bitter. I barely notice that aspect of them.

This, I noticed.  Wow.  It was an interesting experience, and I don’t regret it, but thereafter I bought my oranges at the grocery store like everybody else.

Curiously, now that I think of it, I still can’t really conjure up what “bitter” tastes like.  I mean, I recall that orange being a really strong, not very pleasant taste, but I can’t bring it to mind the way I can sweet tastes, or savory, or tart, etc.  I remember discussing this with Brandon a few years ago, that I was supposedly had a poor ability to taste bitter and that I couldn’t even bring to mind what bitter tasted like.  So we did a test where we drank a beer with a strong hop taste, that would be considered bitter — and there wasn’t anything in it that particularly stood out to me, versus other beers of its style.  I could vaguely detect something in its flavor that was kind of like something that marmalade had.  But I still couldn’t describe what that was, and I cannot recall it now.  I guess those neurons in my brain never needed to develop, because they so rarely got that input.  Kind of weird, but kind of cool, too. You can do a lot worse than going through life never really noticing the bitter parts.

On the western side of this bit of park was a gated-off complex with a futuristic look and no clear purpose:

This is exactly the sort of location they’d use for films like Gattaca, or Battle for the Planet of the Apes, where you need some futuristic city backdrop, and people in weirdly cut suits walking up and down the stairs. I’m sure it was something much more innocuous, like a government lab for developing super-viruses.

There was also a fair amount of graffiti, some of it fairly complex:

I always appreciate good graffiti. The kind that are just lazy signature scrawls do nothing for me, but there was a lot of this better sort along this stretch of the river, and it was pretty cool.

And some of it was super complex:

Sines of the times.

Making liters out of mole hills.

Oooo, you’re a rebel, scrawling graffiti about force and change. Get a job, hippie.

The north end of this long park was much wider, spread out across what would have been a number of city blocks, and it had what appeared to be proper  groves of oranges, kids’ playgrounds, adult exercise equipment, lots of trees and grass, a tiny functional train circuit.  And yet, somehow, it managed to never be out of earshot of nearby freeways and heavy-traffic roads.  I’ve got really no patience for that sort of thing; traffic noise is not restful to me, and whatever peace might be derived from pleasant trees and grass is completely wrecked by the distant roar of 18-wheelers. (Similarly, city cafes with outdoor seating next to busy streets.  I do not get the appeal of eating next to the noise and stink of traffic.  I mean, maybe there are people who just never get outside, so sitting in *any* outdoor setting is worth it to them.  But, if so, wow. That sounds painful, man.)

And then there was this:

My PokemonGo app calls this point of interest “Huevo de Coloń”, or The Columbus Egg. I don’t know if this is the official name but it’s descriptive, so good enough. I have mentioned before, my reaction to monuments to Columbus, so I won’t repeat it here. But the egg is weird enough that I can’t entirely disapprove.

Though the day I walked this park was rather long and tiring, and least I had something cheery awaiting me at home:

This mead, and other beers, are apparently made by a brewery in the Seville area, despite the Nordic name. I ran across a little beer shop that carried them, bought a small variety, and enjoyed them all. 🙂

There was another park across the city that wasn’t as large but seemed more quiet:

I liked this place, but it was completely without grass, and I got the strong impression that they’d simply given up trying to keep it alive in the summer and settled for packed clay as a lower maintenance solution. Can’t say that I blame them.

I took that shot on my way to the Plaza de España, an impressive complex of gorgeous buildings (mostly serving as government offices), tiled courtyards, water, and parks.  Which I took a ton of pictures of, only to discover that even the Wikipedia page for the place has better pictures.  Well, pictures that are at least as good, lets say that.  Of course, Wikipedia doesn’t have this:

I cannot recommend resting on those benches, if the men’s and women’s toilets are where the sign seems to indicate.

I did capture a couple of pictures that seem nice enough to be worth saving — though I don’t dare do a Google Image search, where I’m sure even they would be put to shame.

Come on, that’s just pretty, right? I mean, I don’t get the people who chose to rent a rowboat to go back and forth along the tiny canal. And I bet the stone & tile plaza is bloody hot in the summer. But other than that, it’s charming!

The base of the building, running along the curved edge below the arches, is a series of little decorated niches, alternating sitting areas and small fountains (which weren’t running at this time of year).

Eventually, I pieced together that each niche represented a different region of Spain, and had little painted scenes that reflected important events for that region. The ones with the little fountains might have been nice to sit next to, if the fountains had been running and if you had a lot of sunblock on.

The surrounding park was also very nice, with trees and benches and fountains and this:

The little waterfall was nice, and there were nearby benches to sit out and listen to the water and not hear the traffic, and I even nodded off a little resting there. The hill had a little gazebo on the top, and I wanted to take a panorama from the gazebo. But there was a couple snogging up there and they lingered until I gave up and left.

On the walk home, I stopped at a gelato shop on the Av. de la Constitución, and they made the most amazing construction out of my 2-flavor request:

I almost hated to ruin this by eating it. Almost. (It was as yummy as you could expect.) I’m not sure what they called this, but a gelato rose by any other name would taste as sweet.

I should point out that, in visiting Seville, I’d wanted to do 2 things specifically: eat some rabbit, and get a haircut.  As reported, I failed at the first of these, but, thankfully, was successful at the second, about a week before I left.

Trip not wasted, and a decent haircut out of it. Yaay, me. 😁

And that’s about it.

Leaving

So, on February 17th, I woke up early, tidied whatever I hadn’t tidied the day before, left the keys on the counter, and headed off to the train station.  I don’t think I ever saw my host after the day that I checked in, but the place was more like apartments than a shared space, so that wasn’t surprising.  But we exchanged a few e-mails, got along well in them, and left each other nice reviews, so it all worked out.

My train left at 8:50am, so I retraced my arrival path, got there in plenty of time, grabbed a second-breakfast sandwich for later, and caught the train for Barcelona as expected. And that was Seville.

I liked Seville.  It would be too warm to spend much of my year in, but I could see going back sometime.  Probably won’t be this lifetime, but almost certainly the next, for like a weekend or something.  (I mean, Elder Scrolls Online is releasing new content all the time, and I just don’t see how I could fit another visit in, this lifetime. You’ve got to be practical.)

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3 Responses to The Hermit of Seville

  1. Holly says:

    The math graffiti photo captions +++

  2. Michael says:

    Charles,

    Another excellent post! I, for one, be a fan of pictures. Video’s are nice, ecpsecially if they have Star Wars background music (?).
    It has been said that comedy is timing with juxtaposition, and you clearly have it. When you spoke about the impressive cathetdral it made me stop and think ‘whoa, that is a hallmark of civilization, truly aweinspir….’ and was hit by “I never quite made it inside that church, because I was distracted by finally catching enough Magikarp to evolve a Gyarados!”

    That made me spit out a banna on my keyboard. Thank goodness I have a cover or I’d be a lil frustrated. 😛

    Most important is your well being, and if your good spirited commentary is any indication, it is reassuring to know you are doing well.

    A very enjoyable read, an excellent way to start my day.

    Sincerely,
    Michael

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