I must admit that, before I going to Seville, I had zero knowledge of the place or whereabouts. Adding insult to injury, I could only grasp only the most-Italianised of Spanish dialogue. Nevertheless, this city situated in the Southern Part of Spain, in the Andalusian region, has become an absolute favourite of mine. As this is being written less than a full 24 hours after arriving back in Malta, here is a subsequent list of what I consider to be the pros and cons of Seville:
A city calm like none other
When I first took my first steps in the city, I was struck by a certain positive atmosphere which was unusual for any city its size. While Seville lacks the numbers in population and area to compete with the biggest international cities such as London or NYC, it still had every right to be considered as a metropolis. Being an avid city lover, this populated yet soothing, calm atmosphere soon grew on me.
Yes, the occasional traffic jam, the rare sound of an ambulance siren in the distance, the numerous buildings of different shapes and sizes engulfing surroundings, and the sheer size of the city as depicted in the map in your pocket all act as a reminder that Seville does house a large, densely packed population. Yet the large collection of narrow, clean streets, the slow pace at which the whole city seems to be moving, even the sheer amount of greenery that surrounds the city and the nearby lake eases any possible tension that might arise.
Attractions are a-plenty…
If the scenery and the usual stroll through the city is not enough for you, Seville has plenty of places for you to visit:
From the Real Alcazar Castle, which together with its enclosed gardens introduces the beholder to the world of Spanish nobility, to the glamorous Seville Cathedral, making any other churches in its vicinity look like bland Lego blocks next to artistic masterpieces, the monuments and places of interest which fill up the central part of Seville are a must-see. A personal recommendation of mine is the Plaza de Espana, with its optional 40-minute canoe ride in its enclosed pond a relaxing, yet enthralling way to pass the time.
Cheap or average prices all round…
For one of the most important cities in the Iberian peninsula, let alone in Andalusia, I half-expected the pricing to be sky-high… So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon 2.5 litre bottles of soft drinks for less than a euro each… Or large bottles of water for 36 cents (Yes, €0.36 for a 2 litre, cold bottle of water. No, it’s not tap water, in case you’re wondering.)
Food is not that expensive either… However, my personal opinion is to stick to the more traditional Tapas places, preferably those which have an English translation of the menu, and avoid fine dining due to its generally higher (but not necessarily extortionate) price range. The wide range of clothing shops must not go unnoticed: prices look reasonable, but try to locate brands which are not accessible or found in Malta, otherwise it’s not really that much worth the difference.
Language barrier’s a b*tch….
So it goes without saying that the Seville population speaks Spanish or, at worst, an Andalusian dialect which a prime facie is very close to the original…
But what really hit me in the gut, as a non-Spanish speaking tourist, was the apparent lack of English, Italian, nor even French speaking citizens in the street and in the tourist attractions around.
When I started introducing myself to the hotel receptionist about checking in my room, the poor lady’s expression was one of horror and bewilderment, as if General Franco has just risen from the grave… swearing in Catalan and wearing a Barcelona football kit. It took a whole changing of the guard ceremony inside the Front Office in order to find a suitable English speaker.
When I had an emergency and needed to talk to the police, I managed to find around and meet half a dozen policemen before I had actually arrived at the police station. All initial feelings of hope and excitement were swept away each time with the phrase: “Nada, Espanol.” Not even the person responsible at what was supposed to be the regional ministry of interior affairs was capable of uttering more than a few words in English, making it much more affordable to just use Google Translate.
In between hell and high temperatures…
Word of warning: If you are going to remain outside for hours on end, be prepared to sweat like a prostitute in confession; it is flaming hot.
I can’t stress this enough: in summer, everywhere you go, there are posts or warning signs making sure you realize that its temperature has exceeded the 40 degree mark.
Time is everything… and nothing.
As a general rule, shops are open till late. The sun setting down at 9, even 10 in the evening, actually helps shops remain open up till late- who would have heard of going to shop for clothes at 9 in the evening?
But beware, fellow tourists and travelers, the notorious “siesta” ie. the brief afternoon nap which the Spanish are known to follow rigorously, is no exception here in Andalusia. Whole restaurants tend to close down during the brunch to drunch hours, so plan ahead for your dietary needs.
From what little I tried the buses, I actually discovered that they arrive generally on time, with the trip from the centre of Seville to the airport taking less than half an hour to complete at rush hour traffic. Yet, if it is possible to walk it to your destination, get your backpacks full of water and go. If you persist to use the public transport, then do so. But make sure you count the number of bus stops till your destination, because there is no way, neither on the bus itself, nor even on the bus stations, to know where you are or where you have arrived, and you can miss any obvious name clues in the blink of an eyelid.
All in all, my visit to Seville has been memorable and, no less than a full 24 hours after I’ve landed my feet on home soil, the nostalgia and the post-holiday blues have kicked in. Someone buy me a ticket please….