Saturday, June 29, 2013


Photos from today's walk can be found here.

Another new place for me. This charter has us deadheading from the US thru Cologne and Frankfurt to Seville. From there, after appropriate rests along the way, we will be shuttled to the airplane at a nearby military facility and fly our assigned legs of the charter.

I've never been to Spain before, though my airline does fly to a couple destinations in the country (but it's a different fleet, not the MD-11). We got in yesterday, arriving at the hotel around 3:PM, but--my circadian clock being in shambles--I really needed to sleep. I managed to go out for an hour's walk before coming back to the hotel to wind down and try to sleep. I achieved this (to some degree) from around 6:30 or 7:PM until about 1:AM or so. Then I sat around until about 3:30 before trying to get another couple hours.  By 7:30 I'm up and headed down to the hotel's free breakfast, then off on foot to explore the town.

Yesterday's brief jaunt was not terribly interesting, so I'm glad I didn't use that experience as an excuse to sit in the hotel all day. My walk today took me in the opposite direction to a much more interesting part of town (I use Google Maps to get a general lay of the land before I depart, so I at least know what general direction to go). After an hour or so I found myself in the center of town (after passing a very odd, plastic-products apocalypse by a city park. Literally thousands and thousands of plastic bags and bottles and drinking glasses scattered densely along a couple of blocks. On my way back a crew was working to clean it up and the mess was mostly gone. Very curious.)

There's so much of Europe I haven't seen, but there is a certain sameness, a common thread running through the places I have seen: Paris, Cologne, Athens, London, Amsterdam. And now, Seville. It's a combination of things, I imagine: the signage and the types and brands of cars and a slightly different mode of dress than one sees in America and a zillion other little details--the design of their payphones and door handles and junk food and so on. Some of the sameness across EU countries is age-related, I imagine, though even that is hard to say. Much of what we see in these places is a re-creation of more ancient things, and many buildings are no older than what one sees in American cities. But the layout of the towns themselves betrays a more ancient origin (in much the same way as lower Manhattan or Boston show their pre-surveying origins). The small streets of Seville remind me of these other European cities, narrow and winding and cobble-stoned. And the streets are punctuated every few blocks with something that feels genuinely old--a church or palace or museum. But even these things are mixed in with modern structures and buildings of indeterminate age.

I was most taken with the narrow little streets. Except for the big (obviously new) 4- and 6-lane thoroughfares, few of the streets run in a straight line. On the contrary, most everything twists and winds such that you can never see more than a short block ahead of you, and the road either curves out of sight or dead-ends with a narrow little hidden escape when you get there. And every couple of blocks the narrow paths open into intimate little cobbled squares which are rimmed with cafes and boutiques. The vendors were just opening up as I walked thru, and tables and chairs and sun umbrellas were being put up. This seems to be where neighbors gather, and as the day progressed I saw lively conversations around the tables, folks jockeying for table food and smoking and sharing wine or beer (yesterday as well). The result is that the city feels warm and enveloping, intimate and friendly and manageable (despite its 700,000 / 1.5 million city / area population). The narrow-streeted neighborhoods of China have a similar feel, and they're also very social places; but again Seville has this "European-ness"about it. Signage or the scale of the buildings or the materials or some combination.

I'm reminded that my lack of food adventure causes me to miss out on things at times. Food here seems to be overwhelmingly social. The local custom of tapas seems to involve groups of friends and family gathered around plates of community food, kind of like hors d'oeuvres in scale, that are consumed in breaks in the conversation. I saw this a hundred times on my walk (including a surprising number of beer-drinkers at 9 in the morning). Susan has been to Spain before (though not, I think, to Seville). She would have forced me out of my comfort zone, and my visit would have been richer for it.

My route tracker put my walk at about 12.5 miles by the time I found my way back to the hotel. A nice introduction to a place that I may never see again (after laying over here again Monday-Tuesday).


CyberKitten said...

I really liked the few parts of Spain I've been (down on the South coast mostly). I *think* I've been to Seville (briefly) and can remember - just - that I liked it. The feel of the closeness in a big city reminds me very much of Rome - a huge metropolitan area with the feel of a local community. I loved eating out in those places - but we always ate far quicker than the locals! I guess I would have to be there for weeks before I started to slow down enough... [grin]

William Stachour said...

We noticed that in Greece as well--eating dinner was an all-night affair! I haven't seen the night life here (and won't on this trip--not that that's my deal anyway) but lunches seem a similarly leisurely affair!

CyberKitten said...

I think it's that we Anglo-Americans regard a meal as a time for eating only. The Europeans regard meals as a time for socialising with the opportunity to eat. It's all a matter of perspective [grin]

dbackdad said...

I love the architecture, new (airport) and old. Also the electric bikes.

"There's so much of Europe I haven't seen ..." -- Well, you both obviously have me beat in how much you HAVE seen.

William Stachour said...

That airport is actually Madrid. There's not much to the Seville airport (not bad, just not very big compared to Madrid, which is huge).

And those bikes are actually just regular bikes, I think. But it's Seville's version of the ubiquitous rental bike. I'm fascinated at the huge welded-on docking device that locks the bike in its rack. Then there's the computer thingie you use to rent the bikes. Very space-age! And I saw quite a few people riding them, and a lot of docking stations around town. Very nice.

Looks like we're stranded here for another day, which is fine by me! I'd rent one if it weren't more profitable to just see the world on foot!

dbackdad said...

As soon as I wrote "electric bike", I had that moment of doubt that this might just be how the bikes looked.

Enjoy your stay!

William Stachour said...

Looks like we're delayed by 24 hours--broken airplane down the line somewhere--so I get another day of exploring! More bad photos to follow ;-)

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: Well, you both obviously have me beat in how much you HAVE seen.

Well, I do have the advantage of already living here! Considering I'm just a short train ride from London and therefore the Channel Tunnel it's quite shameful how little of the European mainland I haven't seen. Never been to Germany, any part of Scandinavia....