Seville, Spain – What You’ve been looking for

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Sevilla Feria 2014 Portal

Sallying forth into Seville on the first day of the week-long Feria de Sevilla (Seville festival) was not part of the plan. In fact I had congratulated myself thinking I had avoided it, but alas Easter was late this year, so Feria took place in the second week of May.  I arrived  in the historical district over-heated and with low blood sugar so I set off looking for a market. Now whenever I go looking for a market, pharmacy, or liquor store, I am guaranteed to find myself in the middle of a demonstration or religious procession or worse.

In this case I found myself, not at the market, but dropping into the first available seat with a table on the fashionable Triana side of the San Telmo bridge.  This spot turned out to be the meeting place for the revelers all decked out in their Feria finery.  I sat there like a peasant munching on tiny, bony, fried fish while they chatted with their friends, smoked, and sipped something that looked like white wine or pale sherry. There was one interesting moment when a tiny fish spine became wedged in my windpipe and I had a brief but terrifying vision of myself choking to death, unnoticed, amid a sea of polkadot flounces, fringe, and painted fans. At three pm it was as if a gun went off, for suddenly they all legged it to the line of fancy horse-drawn carriages or waiting cars.  Game on!

Somehow I didn’t mind being on my own in Malaga, Granada, Ronda, and Cordoba, but it would have been a shame not to engage with others in Seville.  I am so glad I saved it for last, for Seville has the capability of making all one’s dreams of Andalusia come true if you have a way of making contact with either residents or the immensely varied international crowd that comes each Spring for the festival. I found that quite a few of the Dutch, Scot, American, English, and German visitors I met had lived in Seville at one time or another and had fallen passionately in love with the city and its inhabitants.

I had reserved five nights at what is now my idea of a perfect hostel, La Banda Rooftop. The building is flanked by the magnificent Cathedral of Seville (third largest church in Europe) and the exquisite Alcazar on one side, and by the Guadalquivir river (actually canal) on the other side. I had chosen this particular accommodation for the location, but La Banda Rooftop Hostel turned out to be so much more.  It is run by four young Englishmen, Tom, Richie, Sam, and Ollie whose generosity of spirit is apparently limitless.

The highlight of every day was a late night cocktail hour and dinner served on the roof amidst cool breezes, candlelight, and incredible views of the illuminated cathedral.  The guys insist on one table so there are no cliques or private enclaves for the various groups.  On any given night there could be as many as eight nationalities at the table, with everyone talking at once, mostly in English. When the rooftop closed down around midnight, most of the guests would just move to the first floor lounge where anything could happen. For example, on the fourth night, we greatly enjoyed listening to a brilliant Scot (wearing a kilt) exchanging good-natured insults and challenges with seven young males from Holland (the ultimate partiers by any standards.) Then after a few hours, groups would take to the streets to search for nightclubs or to visit the Feria fairgrounds.

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Coming from Austin, Texas (the bohemians in Richard Linklater’s film “Slacker” were my contemporaries and neighbors), I couldn’t help but think what a great film it would make, sort of a Sevilla Feria version of “Slacker” with Tristan (the over-the-top hilarious Scot) and his gorgeous and outspoken Croatian girlfriend, Natasha, in the lead roles.  Toss in Medi from Morocco (gives three-hour walking tours that could more accurately be described as “running, dancing, singing, tourists-on-acid” tours.) Now add half a dozen crazy and adorable Dutch guys followed by the saintly La Banda staff who expertly facilitate all the madness such that all events culminate in international goodwill. As for the females, I am pleased to say that the girls at the hostel tended to be smart, savvy, solo travelers ranging from cute to sexy to drop-dead gorgeous, adding a bit of edgy, funky chic to our film. These girls could hold their own with anyone and after three or four days would start to greet you with an affectionate gallic double kiss. You knew you were in and that you would be back.

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