Thursday, December 19, 2013

¡Viva España! Sevilla Day 3

Pain.  Chills.  Pain.  Chills.

I fell asleep relatively quickly, but awoke in the middle of the night shivering with a bad case of the chills.  I got out of bed and put on literally four layers of clothes.  The chills subsided somewhat, but my entire gastrointestinal tract started hurting like it had never done before.  Sure, I've run (pun intended) into GI issues before, given my love for adventurous street food in many developing countries, but this was by far the worst.  I went to the toilet, but it only made everything  worse.  Excruciating pain tore at my entire bottom.

My mind kept going back to that half eaten olive and that tuna tapas.  Had I gotten a bad case of food poisoning?  I closed my eyes and tried to rest as best I could, hoping that I would feel better at sunlight.

I got out of bed early in the morning.  A hot shower helped a lot, and I drank plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.  Normally, I carry some antibiotics in my foreign travel kit, but I was in Spain.  I didn't think I would need it so I had left it behind.  Silly me.

I felt a little queasy, but that wasn't going to stop me from enjoying my last full day in Seville.  First, I had to get back to the Alcazar to see the Baths of Lady Maria.  I went to the palace exit, where I found the same guard from the afternoon before.  He remembered me, and cheerily waved me in.  I walked directly through the gardens, trying to find the Baths.  It took me a while because the area had been roped off to the public!  Puzzled, I inquired about this to a guard, who didn't know anything about it.  I then went to the ticket counter, where the attendant said the Baths were undergoing repairs.  Just my luck.

I wandered about disappointed, and then went back to the Baths to see if I could at least sneak a peak.  Two workers were plastering the entrance ceiling.  Using English, Spanish, and lots of hand motions indicating a flying airplane, I tried to convey that I wanted to see the Baths because I had flown a long way.  "Sólo cinco minutos, por favor." I asked sheepishly.

The workers actually let me in!  They motioned me to hurry, and I went inside.  The Baths were stunning.  Unfortunately, the water had been drained, which prevented the photogenic reflective pool, but I could imagine how wonderful the Baths must have been in its glory.

I exited and headed for the Cathedral.  It had started to rain, so staying indoors seemed sensible.  The church certainly is big, but other than that, I was unimpressed.  OK, so they may (or may not) have buried Christopher Columbus there, but I found the church dark and kind of boring.  I hoped for better when I climbed the Giralda Tower, which offers views of the entire city.  In the rain, however, everything just looked grey.  The only item of note on my church visit was the stone carving that bore a resemblance to Willy Nelson.

I ran back to the hotel in the rain to see if I could borrow an umbrella.  I had left mine at home.  It's probably sitting next to my antibiotics. The staff didn't have any umbrellas left to spare, so the rain stranded me a bit for lunch.  Luckily, the famous Casa Robles restaurant was only a few doors down.   My bottom still hurt, but my stomach now felt fine and wanted food.

Casa Robles was crowded, and reviewers give it a high rating.  I cannot understand why.  The food tasted truly horrible.  The extreme overprices added insult to boot. I ordered the paella tapas and their specialty of "exquisite scrambled eggs with traditional sweet black pudding and spicy chorizo."  Both were borderline indelible. The paella was too salty, with the rice both dry and mushy, which I would not think was possible. The special egg thingy was basically held together by French fries, so it resembled a bad version of chili fries. Yuck.  Please avoid this place.

By now it was raining much harder, so I just went back to my room to rest.  I took another hot shower to ease the pain, and then spent the rest of the afternoon answering emails and working.

The rain stopped at night.  For dinner, I wanted to try a recommended restaurant in the Barrios, but they had a 20 minute wait when I got there.  The food looked very good, but I was in no mood to wait.  The Catalina Bar de Tapas was only a few doors down, and had a Tripadvisor sticker on the door so I instead gave them a whirl.  The place had eclectic decor, and the tapas were good, in a homey kind of way.  I ordered, among other things, the chicken curry (for a change of pace), and some bacon and meatball skewers.  The food came out piping hot and was quite filling.  I noticed the "prawn" salad order by another patron, so I tried that as well.  It was OK, but not great, as it tasted like a regular potato salad with some small shrimp thrown in.  Overall, however, the food satisfied me and I was happy.

I started to feel better, and I wanted to try another local flamenco experience.  I debated going back to Casa Anselma, but I wasn't sure I wanted to stay up late again.  Instead, I walked over to the flamenco bar Carboneria, which a couple of guide books had recommended.  The show was free, and they charged only 2 euros for the wine.  Perhaps one gets what one pays for sometimes.  While the performers were enthusiastic, they lacked the same skills (to my untrained eyes and ears) of the others I had witnessed.  The crowd, consisting almost entirely of tourists, kept babbling during the show, which annoyed me a little.  I arrived around 9:30 pm and stayed only for about an hour.  Apparently the scene gets much better after midnight when most of the tourists pack it in.

I didn't want to push my body too hard, so I headed back to my hotel to get some shut eye.  Along the way, every street and bar seemed filled with people out socializing and having a good time.  I envied their laughter and merriment.  One reviewer got it right when he said "Seville has soul."

I easily started dozing, but woke up several times in the middle of the night which left me with only fitful sleep.

I slept in the next morning.  I felt better, though my body still ached, and the weather had also cleared.  I would leave Seville later in the day, so I got up for my final walk around town.  I encountered the funniest sight that morning.  A choir of middle aged ladies sang Christmas carols in Nueva Plaza.  They weren't bad, but about 20 meters away, a group of older men led some kind of civil demonstration, shouting and blowing noise makers that sounded like loud, out-of-tune kazoos.  Each time the men made noise, the ladies tried to sing louder, resulting in a humorous cacophony of indecipherable Spanish.

I walked around for a bit, just people watching for the most part.

I ended up at the church Iglesia Salvador, which is a working church.  My ticket to the Cathedral gained me free entrance, and I walked around the church fairly impressed.  While only a fraction of the Cathedral in size, the church felt more spiritual and less sterile.

I was in the mood for some brunch, so I entered the Cafe Del Sol near the church.  I ordered a pretty basic sandwich of ham, cheese and tomatoes, plus coffee and orange juice.  It set me back 5 euros and was satisfying.

By now clear and bright skies shone on Seville.  The sunlight was perfect for photos, but my body started aching a bit again.  I decided limit my walk and stayed generally in the area, just taking in the scene.  The statue performers were out in force; I have to admit I was impressed with the Raffi Nadal look alike.  I even threw him some coins.  Other street performers also plied their trade.  I don't get why the guy in the sombrero had a suitcase with him.  If he were in a Texicana town, I might guess he was afraid of the INS and wanted a quick escape.  Here it just looked goofy.  Regardless, many Sevillanos were taking advantage of the great weather and just enjoying being outdoors.  I, too, was enjoying the day.  I even felt OK about the gypsy ladies who had gathered by the tree, trying to extort money from tourists by "selling" twigs.

Around 1 pm, I headed back to the hotel to check out.  The pain was now back pretty strongly, and the guy in the photo below captured how I was starting to feel.

I took another steaming hot shower for pain relief, and it helped only a bit.  The cab driver who took me to Santa Justa train station was a bit shady.  I'm certain he overcharged me, but I was too uncomfortable to argue.

The national railway went on a partial strike this day.  I got lucky as my train was unaffected and I left for Madrid on time.  As the train pulled away, I thought about when next I could return to Seville.  Even though I was here for only three full days, the city grew on me with each passing moment.

In many ways, Seville is a romantic destination.  I don't mean that necessarily in the "candle lit or walk along the Seine" kind of way.  Simply, Sevillanos embrace life and each other with passion, making their home town incredibly vibrant.  The loud conversation and laughter of people having fun fill the cafes, bars, streets, and squares.  This is a city meant to be shared with someone special, and I hope to do that on my return visit.

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