Friday, September 16, 2011

Sevilla to Rome

After spending only three nights in Sevilla, it is definitely in the running for one of my favorite cities in Spain.  While Granada was warm and friendly, Sevilla took it to the next level.  It has such a charming, old country feel to it that is reminiscent of the Spain you remember from old movies.  In other cities, it took a few days to discern if it was a place where I felt I was on vacation or a place that felt like home.  In Sevilla, I had the same at-home feeling I found in Madrid but it was almost instant and maybe a little bit stronger.

I arrived in the afternoon and headed out to find an outdoor cafe. I had a terrific lunch and ended up chatting with two of the waiters who had a break when I finished my meal and sat with with me.  We spoke solely in Spanish and they were so patient, helpful, and encouraging. After lunch, I wandered through the streets of the center city (which like Granada, had so much character and were so full of life). Strolling along, I thought I recognized someone and as I got closer - sure enough it was my friends Diego and Ariceli, a couple I met on the first program I did in Spain - hours away from Sevilla and months before. They were spending the weekend in the city as well. Crazy!  We agreed to meet up later that evening and I walked away shaking my head in disbelief but smiling ear to ear.

For the next few days it was more of the same.  Anywhere I was sitting or walking, I met people.  Everyone sits, talks, and laughs together.  Meals are long and enjoyed with new friends and old.  I understand now what people were trying to describe to me in regards to the "slower" pace of Sevilla. I think what I appreciated most was that it was a combination of the old and the new, a perfect balance.

I visited some sites, saw an authentic flamenco show with new friends, caught up with old friends, and at the end of it all I left Spain with a very heavy heart.  I still feel like it wasn't time yet, but this is why I planned my volunteer work in advance.  If I didn't have something to push me forward, it would be too easy for me to stay in one place and possible miss out on what's to come.  That being said, I will definitely return. Maybe sooner than later...

Fortunately, leaving Spain meant heading to Rome for 3 nights where my friend Damian also happened to be traveling due to a friend's wedding a few hours from the city. He has been to Rome a few times already, speaks some Italian, and thinks the same way I do so I was able to take a mini vacation from planning, map-reading, searching, etc. and just follow him around. Awesome. We went to the Basilica at St. Peter's (and all the way up to the top of the cool), the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Trajan's Column and other random stuff that we happened upon while wandering in the city. I have one day left here on my own so I'm heading to the Colosseum and that will be the extent of my whirlwind tour of Rome. 

I'm going to close with a great story - a recap of our dinner last night, which we agreed was one of the highlights.  We got a recommendation for a local place (outside the downtown area) and even though almost every other place we passed was basically empty, this place was packed. Good sign.

Sat down and the owner came over, greeted us, and simply said - "What do you want to eat"? Damian and I looked at each other in confusion and Damian asked for menus. The response was - "No, no, just tell me meat or fish". Um, okay...we both decided on fish and he said - "Good. White wine then. Ok". Off he went, and then it began...

1st - Seven different appetizers came out.  Shrimp, calamari, escargot, ceviche, spelt fish, salmon, and one thing I can't remember
2nd - Seafood risotto
3rd - Linguini with white clam sauce
4th - White fish (that was excellent but I can't remember the name), grilled langostino, grilled shrimp, fried calamari, and salad
5th - A tray of melon, pineapple, oranges, strawberries, plums, watermelon, prickly pear, grapes... Cake... Limoncello, Grappa, Mirto (sp?), Espresso

So yeah, that happened. Wow.

~ N

p.s. Photos from Granada and Sevilla are now up on Picassa (links on the left).  Rome pictures will be up soon.