Wednesday, January 14

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We woke up in Seville. Some days I wake up and I have absolutely no idea where I am. Today was one of those days. Our hotel buffet breakfast was typical—lots of rolls, meat and cheese plate, runny eggs, bacon, and canned fruit. Always coffee, thankfully. After breakfast, Andrew and I left for another optional excursion. This one included a bus tour around the city and a trip out to Italica, a bunch of Roman ruins just across the river.

Italica was pretty cool. The grounds were huge, and lots of the stonework and cement was original. Apparently they don’t make cement like they used to. This stuff dates back to 100 AD or so. Crazy old. There was also a large amphitheater, coliseum-style, which was awesome. We got to walk down inside the arena, too, and look up into the seating areas. It was sort of unreal to imagine what it was actually like there almost two thousand years ago.

After Italica, we went to Seville’s big cathedral. It was a measly five hundred years old. One of Andrew’s friends said this was THE coolest cathedral he’d seen, the one that Should Not Be Missed. But we were not so easily impressed. Sure, it was big, but it paled in comparison to Toledo’s cathedral. It did have the tomb of Christopher Columbus, though. So there's that.

Our local guide was sort of ridiculous. He’d talk for 20 minutes about one little thing (like how a lot of California cities are named for saints—Santa this, Santa that). But he skipped even walking past parts of the cathedral. Frustrating. Fortunately, the tour ended at the cathedral, so we were left there to wander on our own. So we got to see what the guide missed. The coolest part of the cathedral was climbing up in the tower. There were 35 ramps up to the top (they built ramps and not steps because they used animals to get the building materials up there, and animals won’t go down steps) and it was a beautiful view from up there. It the most gorgeous clear day, and we could see for kilometers and kilometers. (see how European we’re becoming?)

We could see the Arabic influence all over this part of Spain.
See the shape of the window?

After leaving the cathedral, we bought some orange marmalade for my parents in Seville. We learned that the thousands of oranges on the thousands of orange trees are no good to eat. They’re extremely bitter. So ages ago the people figured out that they could use the oranges and preserve them at the same time if they mixed them with loads of sugar and made marmalade.

Then lunch. Paella, fried fish (that turned out to actually be calamari), stew (that turned out to be slimy spinach), and chocolate mousse (that thankfully turned out to be pretty good). After lunch we walked south to the river, then walked a few blocks along the river to get to this churreria we’d seen from the bus earlier. I’ve been wanting to try churros con chocolate since we first arrived in Spain. They were freshly deep fried and kind of doughnut-y, but shaped like a bent stick of dough. We dipped them in chocolate, which was served hot, and it was like pudding, but not quite so thick. Tasty and greasy.

We walked back to the hotel and stopped at the grocery store that was next door. We bought apples, granola bars, and bottled water to get ready for Morocco. Back at the hotel, we sat out on the sun deck, which was designed for siesta. The deck chairs were permanently in the reclining position. It was so nice, reading and napping in the sun. I could really get into this siesta thing.

When we got cold, we decided to just go find dinner and get to bed early. We’ve both caught colds and we’re not sleeping as well as usual. On our way to find dinner, we stopped for a few minutes to watch these kids performing outside the hotel. They had a stage set up, and they were all wearing matching outfits—red sweaters and white scarves. We assumed they were singing Spanish Christmas music, but who could tell? No recognizable melodies.

We stopped at an ATM to get some more cash, and it said that it had English, but we couldn’t figure out what button would get us the English. We kept trying different things, but nothing was working. We had just given up when we saw one of the two Spanish speakers on our tour. We asked her for help, and she came outside to the ATM and instructed us to insert our debit card. The instant we did that, the menu brought up all the different language options. We felt pretty dumb, but she was very nice about it. I guess we should’ve tried putting the card in first, but we were afraid we’d lose the card if we couldn’t figure out how to get it back. Silly us.

Finally on to dinner. We were looking for something bland, like pasta. We found an Italian buffet place that was just right. It was affordable and non-smoking. Sure, it didn’t have authentic Spanish food, but so far, we haven’t had a lot of luck finding good Spanish food. I’m kind of worried about the food in Morocco. If I can’t even handle ordering Spanish and Portuguese food, what will I do in Morocco when everything will be in Arabic? I’m starting to understand why American travelers end up at Pizza Hut or McDonald’s.

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