You know when you’re a kid and your birthday is coming up and you start counting down the sleeps? It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but as we were going to be in Sevilla for my birthday, I was looking forward to it a lot more than I have done in recent years.
This year, birthday money would definitely be spent on something memorable. Thanks to Mum I splashed out on a hammam experience which I missed in Morocco. The plan for the evening was for sunset cocktails overlooking the Cathedral, then on to a flamenco show in the evening.
L: Traditional Spanish breakfast; R: Talking to family and friends on my birthday
The hammam bathhouse must have relaxed me a little too much. When we were on our way out for the evening, I slipped down the stairs in our hotel and landed on my backside with my foot in an increasing pool of blood. At that stage I knew that cocktails were out, but all I could think of was not missing the flamenco! While I was worrying about that, Steve was worrying about me. He mopped up the blood from the marble, and somehow managed to get me back up to our room.
After spending some time examining the cut on my heel, we realised that our night was going to be spent at the medical clinic rather than the flamenco. Firstly we were sent to a place by the hotel receptionist only to find a very unhelpful lady who seemed to be quite offended that we didn’t speak any Spanish. Steve actually had to ask for any English speakers in the waiting room before we were informed by one of the patients that we were at the private clinic and should go to the public one nearby.
The taxi then took us to the university hospital where we had 3 different people translating for us in different areas. It might’ve been due to the fact that the doctors were worried my Achilles tendon had been cut, but we were in and out in less time than we would’ve spent in the waiting room in a public hospital in Australia. Even better was the fact that we didn’t have to pay a cent at the hospital for the consultation, local anaesthetic or stitches and only a few Euros at the pharmacist for the antibiotics. The only downside being that we wouldn’t still be in Spain when the stitches were due to come out.
Our itinerary needed to be adjusted to cater for some recovery time in Sevilla. Thongs (or flip flops for our non Aussie readers) were all I had to wear that wouldn’t make my heel worse and were already thin enough to feel every little pebble beneath my feet. There definitely could’ve been worse places to go shoe shopping! We still managed to squeeze in some of the big sights in Spain between the shoe shops.
We rescheduled our tickets for the flamenco show for the following night. I think I did a pretty good impression of the flamenco dancer’s face when I went flying down the stairs the previous night. It was hard not to laugh at the harrowing expressions of the female dancer and it explained why we thought they’d all been caught at bad moments when we saw photos at the flamenco museum in Jerez. We were only allowed to take photos during the ‘encore photo time’ when they were all smiling, but I’ve found one here which I thought represented the anguished flamenco dancer’s expression.
A night in Córdoba was forfeited when we had to stay the extra night in Sevilla, so it was straight on to Granada, where the bars leave the rest to shame with the free tapas they give you every time you buy a drink. The quality and quantity really varied depending on the bar, but essentially it meant that we only had to pay for breakfast and drinks while staying there. Aside from the free tapas, Granada is also known for the imposing palace and fortress of the Alhambra which overlooks the town. The Moorish architecture of the Alhambra was magnificent, especially considering how much of it we had so recently seen in Morocco. The perfectly manicured grounds, which could’ve been designed by Japanese Buddhist monks they were so well thought out, and the view of Granada also explained why it’s Spain’s most visited attraction.
Madrid seemed to be THE market town, with a variety of markets for food, clothes and an infamous flea market called El Rastro with the same few types of stall repeated for the whole stretch. Being in town on a Sunday meant we were able to check out a few different markets including the epitome of markets! It was in an abandoned rail yard in Madrid where people could walk around with a beer, mojito or tinto de verano in hand. What more could you want?
On our way out, after checking out all the trains and the retro clothes, which were a lot closer to retro prices than those we see at home, we came across a group of people sketching who asked if I’d like to sit for them. Of course I agreed to sit still for 15 minutes! The results were very interesting; my favourite is probably the simplest. It’s been the trigger for me to start sketching again. Steve modelled for me, but there’s no way he’d ever be still for that long while awake.
By the time we made it to our final Spanish city we had seen such a range of architecture, all of which we spent time ogling and wishing we had the same quality of historic buildings at home. But it was time for Gaudí and the modernist architecture of Barcelona. The organic lines, use of colour and completely different way of thinking made me feel like I’d stepped into a surrealist painting when walking next to one of these buildings.
L: Plaza de Isabel la Católica, Granada; C: Edificio Metrópolis, Madrid; R: Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid
Barcelona: Modernist architecture & completely contrasting churches
Passeig de Gràcia (avenue in Barcelona)
As much as we were interested in the famous attractions, our attention was captured just as much by the little things you notice when you look away from the monuments and stroll along the local pathways. This is probably one of our favourite parts of travelling (after trying all the local food, beer & wine of course). The Spanish would have to have the best dressed babies and children in the world. We loved having the excuse to go shopping for baby clothes for some of our expectant friends and family.
L: Granada; R: Socio, our housemate in Granada
All the bars had legs of meat hanging around
We also managed to find a bar in Madrid where Steve’s beer was accompanied by more free tapas
L: Nuns who’d been visiting La Sagrada Familia; C: Missing out on the action; R: Ancient Torahs in a Barcelona synagogue
Despite having come to a few more bumps in our travel we absolutely adored Spain, but couldn’t wait to leave (on the red-eye flight after a night at the airport) as the time had finally come to rendez-vous with Steve’s parents in Paris!