I’ve decided to bring the #tbt trend that’s flooding social media sites each and every Thursday right here to my blog to post some of my old e-mails and blog posts from the past. I hope these give you a glimpse of how I fell in love with travel, made my dream of living in Spain a reality and figured out how to navigate the experience of living abroad. This particular e-mail is from Spring 2005 on my first trip abroad. Visiting Sevilla during their annual April Fair gave me and my fellow travelers a once in a lifetime experience that felt like something out of a movie.
Having just spent two weeks in the capital city of Madrid, I was skeptical that another Spanish city would have the ability to capture my heart in the same way that Madrid had. However, it didn´t take long for me to find the charm of Sevilla. It definitely wasn´t my introduction to the Andalusian delicacy of cold tomato soup, gazpacho, on a sidewalk cafe that first afternoon, which won me over (it would be a few more years before my taste buds matured enough to acquire a love for gazpacho). It was more likely my first visit to the Palace Gardens of the Real Alcazar, where I found myself absolutely overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture and greenery which surrounded me. I wrote in my journal at the time “Why would anyone ever take their kids to Disneyland when there are places as beautiful and magical as Sevilla?” (As a wide eyed, naive 20-year-old traveling Europe for the first time, I had yet to really comprehend the economical difference behind these two possible vacation plans).
In Sevilla I was introduced to many memorable firsts in Spain: flamenco, sangria, drinking beer at a circus, an important bullfight, eating breakfast at a sidewalk cafe by myself, and most importantly it was here that I discovered my desire to learn to speak Spanish. While waiting in line for the circus, a small Spanish girl taught me my very first phrase in her language, ¿Te gustan los elefantes? (do you like elephants?).
I arrived in Sevilla on Wednesday afternoon after taking a high speed train from Madrid. The trip would usually take five hours, but only took us two and a half. Amazing!
I thought I really loved Madrid, but Sevilla is absolutely incredible! The weather is gorgeous, it has been in the 70´s (not sure the exact temperature because I haven´t mastered the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit yet) and there’s barely a cloud in the sky. The air is also much fresher here than in Madrid, which was packed with smokers. It´s nice to be able to take a deep breath without looking around you first to make sure that you won’t inhale a big gulp of smoky air.
The streets are also much more enchanting than Madrid´s crowded, plain jane roads. It’s very easy to get lost on the windy streets, but as long as you watch out for the mopeds which zip by unexpectedly, than you are bound to find your way to a familiar landmark eventually. I’m also enjoying all the greenery here. The first day we enjoyed lunch outside under the shade of orange trees, which decorate the entire city. We have yet to try one of the oranges though as we hear that they are very bitter and only used for perfume and cat food.
If you’ve never been to Sevilla, I would encourage you to put it on your list of things to do before you die. Yesterday we visited the 3rd largest cathedral in the world. It was absolutely breathtaking! We climbed all the way to the top of the bell tower for the best view of the city. No building in all of Sevilla is allowed to be taller than the tower. Today we visited the Real Alcazar, which is a palace where royalty still live. I truly felt like I was in paradise as I wandered around the massive gardens surrounding the palace. I spent a long time in the center of the park writing poetry as the sun beat down on my face and birds chirped all around me. Don´t worry, I took PLENTY of pictures and as soon as I get them on a CD I will email some out. My afternoon was spent in the Parque de Maria Luisa journaling beneath the terraces. I don´t think I have ever wrote so much in my entire life as I have here. There have been many nights where I have found myself staying up until 3am journaling. There is just so much I want to record, so many new experiences, insights and knowledge that I do not want to forget.
The best thing about being in Sevilla right now is that we are here for the April Fair. It’s a yearly festival where the entire city pretty much shuts down for the week and heads to the local fairgrounds. Horse drawn carriages take people to and from the fairgrounds or you can hop on the “party bus.” Girls of all ages get decked out in their best flamenco dresses, adorn their finest jewelry and shawls and put giant flowers and fans in their hair. The men put on their best suits as well. My favorite are the little girls and boys who are dressed up like miniature adults–especially the little girls in strollers whose ruffles from their dresses spill out everywhere. When we went to the fair last night I truly felt like I was in a dream world! Families host parties in mini tents that are decorated like homes and they invite all of their friends for food, drinks, music and plenty of flamenco dancing.
There’s also a circus going on that we went to last night. It was really fantastic, except that it was 3 hours long so we didn’t leave until 2 am! I was surprised at some of the humor though, lots of sexual innuendos (stripping clowns) and jugglers smoking giant cigarettes. It’s just not what you´d expect to see at a family show. I really enjoyed laughing alongside all of the locals though and shouting “BRAVO!” It was great to see how people from all cultures around the world can appreciate good entertainment. In all, I spent eight hours at the fair yesterday just taking in the sights and enjoying the circus.
Tomorrow we’re heading one and a half hours South to the coast of Spain where we’ll spend our day at the beach! I’m so excited to be at an ocean where it’s warm enough to swim, unlike in Seattle. I’ll write again soon with more tales to tell and hopefully pictures! I’m sorry to all of you who I have not had a chance to respond to yet. Please keep your emails coming, I read every one of them! I miss all of you and wish you could fly over here right away to enjoy this fabulous life with me!
I’ve since had the pleasure of visiting Sevilla four more times and despite the fact that I’ve never again visited during the April Fair, the city has still managed to surprise and delight me in different ways each time. What destination do you never tire of visiting?