The First Days

Estoy aquí! I arrived safe and sound in Sevilla on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, and am living in the most beautiful, chic apartment, which overlooks the Guadalquivir River, just a few blocks from el centro (downtown).

My new dirección (address) is Radio Sevilla #5! This is how they indicate street names in Spain -- large plaques on the side of buildings.

...and this is my posh apartment building!

...and this is my view!

Sevilla is GORGEOUS! How has this city not been over-run by... well... EVERYONE?! Ssshhhhh! Steeped in ancient history, the architecture is breathtaking! Even the banks and supermarkets. The weather is perfection! It's downright balmy. No jacket needed. There are palm trees everywhere. It's amazing here! I'm giddy!

I haven't spoken a word of English since I boarded the flight of the second leg on Tuesday! Fabulous! Even typing this in English feels weird.

Both flights were smooth, with no problems! I found my way to the bus (locals were happy to answer mis preguntas), which took me to the train station in Madrid. Figuring out how to buy a train ticket was a puzzle, but I fumbled my way through it. I've always loved a good challenge. The train ride from Madrid to Sevilla was filled with gorgeous countryside-scenery (at least the part I saw when I was awake! ha ha!). Pedro, Lourdes's cuñado (brother-in-law), picked me up at the train station in Sevilla and provided a lovely driving tour of Sevilla, before bringing me to my home for the next five weeks. I will be living in the apartment of Lourdes and Pedro, the lovely couple who is home-exchanging with me. Pedro (brother-in-law - yes there are two Pedros) and his wife Pilar, and their two niños (kiddos), live in the same building as me, just one floor above. They have made themselves available to me if I need anything. In fact, Pilar had gone shopping (at Lourdes's request) and bought a loaf of gluten-free bread, a box of almond milk, and a bag a gluten-free cornflakes, which were waiting for me on the kitchen table. So thoughtful and sweet!! And yippee because I was starving. Love them already! I'm getting accustomed to the daily routine of the Spaniards, and in many ways, it feels very natural to me. Breakfast (desayuno) and lunch (almuerzo) are fairly similar to the U.S. timing-wise, while the types of food are quite different. The Spaniards don't make a big deal about lunch; in fact, many do not even eat lunch, but will perhaps have a light snack in the afternoon. There is a long siesta, taken by everyone, in the afternoon. Then, their work day resumes until early evening. After the siesta and the second half of the work day completes, the streets truly come alive! The evening meal (cena) is a pretty big meal, and happens late at night. It's totally normal to be eating at 10 or 11 at night, and then helado and café con leche even later! Personally, I love this! "Good eating habits" and schedules be damned! These people are living! Upon arriving, I was wondering about jet-lag (when will it hit me?), but was too excited to worry about it, so I quickly freshened up and took a walk around my new neighborhood. I walked out the front door of my apartment and found myself steps away from the Guadalquivir River.

Lots of people were everywhere along the riverbank – small groups, large groups, people playing soccer, riding bikes, running, walking their dogs, in-line skating (apparently still very popular here). The cobblestone sidewalks and streets are all filled with people ALL. THE. TIME. A diverse population enjoying themselves and each other.

It was about 11:30pm by now, as I was happily meandering along the streets, taking in all the sites, smells, sounds, stopping in a shop here and there... As I began to feel a bit tired, I decided to head back to my apartment, and just a block away from it, found myself in front of teeny tapas bar. Nothing fancy at all. Seriously, teeny-tiny. I had read the local spots were the best spots, so I wasted no time, and bellied-up. I ordered a café con leche and watched the futbal (soccer) game on TV. When in Spain... The place had a few tables outside as well, and every one of them was occupied with folks eating tapas, drinking beer, talking, laughing, enjoying the evening. It was quite a delight! I think I'll become a "regular" there.

The next "morning" I opened my eyes for the first time at noon (gasp!!). As it turns out, on my second day in Sevilla, I was awake for a grand total of 1 hour, in 15 minute segments. Hello, jet-lag. Relived in knowing I have the gift of time on this journey, I surrendered to the jet-lag. I awoke around 7:00pm, just in time for a nice walk along the river (gorgeous!) and then off to el centro (downtown).

So I walked, no - it was more of a stroll - along the winding, tiny, cobblestone streets of el centro, while eating the best chocolate helado (ice cream) I've ever tasted. Not sure if it was the best, or if it was because everything looks, smells, tastes brand new! I continued my stroll, listening to the sounds of people talking, laughing, eating, drinking... I was gloriously lost for about an hour, during which time I bought a fabulous dress and scarf, both hand-made in Spain, and made a new friend with the store clerk. Emerging from the lovely little shop, I looked up and saw the cathedral tower, my landmark, and realized I was never really lost at all! Ah, but it was fun pretending that I was for a while... I passed by one tapas bar after another, every single one crowded with people, sidewalk tables and chairs filled with more people. Giving no weight to the fact I had already eaten dessert, I decided now was exactly the right time for tapas, and chose a tapas bar with sweet sidewalk tables beckoning me. I sat down at one and settled in to enjoy my very favorite kind of entertainment -- people watching!

With delicious tapas and Spanish vino as a backdrop, I sat at my quaint sidewalk table and shamelessly watched all that was around me. The wait staff were very friendly and lingered to chat with me whenever they stopped to check on me. I came away with their local recommendations for the best Flamenco shows and some good tapas bars.

Afterwards, I walked down to the end of the street where I found myself standing in the plaza of La Catedral de Sevilla -- the beautiful cathedral of Sevilla. I was in awe, standing in the glow of the ancient street lamps and gazing up at the the giant architectural masterpiece.

After taking a copious amount of photos, I headed for home. I took my time strolling along the ancient, narrow, winding streets of Sevilla, the cobblestones beckoning me...

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I was deliriously happy, not knowing exactly where I was, though never completely lost. Soon enough, I was walking along the river, and found myself at the door of my new home. HOME!

Hasta pronto...

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