Monthly Archives: September 2014

discovering seville

Olivier and I spent eight days in Seville. If I’m honest, they were quite lazy days. You could probably cover most of what we saw in a long weekend, but we preferred to take things at a slower pace. In the mornings we got up, had breakfast at the bar across the road, did some sightseeing and then went for lunch, before spending our afternoons soaking up the sun by the pool. And that was just fine with us. We hadn’t had a proper holiday for a while and we wanted it to be relaxing!

On the third day I forced Olivier to get out of bed so that we could go on a free walking tour. They’re run by a company called “Feel the City” and the idea is that afterwards you give a donation if you want to. The guides did a roundup of tourists from lots of different hotels and then we were divided into groups by language. We joined the francophone group and were led around the city by Angela, a lovely Spanish girl from Seville, who had studied French at university.

Here’s a little of what we saw…

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One of the main streets in Seville, with a mix of ancient and modern architecture.

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The world-famous cathedral. The Giralda (bell tower) in the left of this picture is the former minaret of a mosque which stood on the site when Andalusia was a Muslim region. The tower is the oldest part of the cathedral, and dates from the 12th century. The rest of the cathedral was built in the 15th century, as the city was conquered by the Castilians in the 13th century and had come under Catholic rule.

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This is a view of the Cathedral through the west door. This door, like the tower, was also part of the ancient mosque. If you look closely you might be able to see the distinctly non-European decoration on the inner arches. The door was left standing and incorporated into the Catholic cathedral, where it was renamed the “Door of Forgiveness”, symbolising its “conversion” from Islam to Christianity. (Ouch!)

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This Latin graffiti is hundreds of years old and was daubed on the walls by students in bulls’ blood to ensure that it couldn’t be washed off. More permanent than a permanent marker! (I wish I could remember what it says, but unfortunately I can’t!)

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This building is another extremely old corner of the city; it has been a bakery since 1385! (Although I believe it has been renovated since then!)

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The whole city is full of colourful winding streets which I absolutely loved.

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As we walked along the Guadalquivir river, the sky turned an ominous shade of grey, and seconds later the heavens opened. We took shelter under the trees, but within ten minutes we all looked as though we’d got in the shower fully-clothed! Luckily we found a shop selling cheap umbrellas, and persevered! The walking tour finished at Plaza de España, an incredibly beautiful place which I shall save for another post!

As the weather had taken a fairly dramatic turn, Olivier and I took shelter in a cafe and had thick hot chocolate with churros whilst waiting for it to pass. Luckily it brightened up again later and we had a sunny afternoon by the pool before going out for tapas in the evening.

To be continued…

pépère el gato

I’m writing this from our hotel room in sunny Seville. We’ve been here since Friday and I have fallen in love with Spain.

We only booked our trip a week before we left, but I made an effort to learn some Spanish. I’m glad I did, because a little goes a long way! I learnt French and German at school. I’m now fluent in French (mostly thanks to my time as an au pair and being with Olivier) and have forgotten almost all my German (use it or lose it). I never learned Spanish at school though.

Before I left I spent about a week learning a few words and phrases, mostly using Memrise and Duolingo. (More on these later, as I can feel a language-related post coming up.) I wasn’t sure how much use a few words of Spanish would be, but I’ve been genuinely surprised at how far it’s got us. I can’t say very much, but I understand most of what people say to me. On previous visits to Spain I’ve been surprised about how little English most people speak, even those who work in hotels and restaurants. That’s not meant to sound arrogant, it’s just that in most places I’ve travelled to, everyone seems to speak pretty good English and it’s difficult to get people to speak to you in their language. One thing I’ve noticed about Spanish people is that if you try to speak to them in Spanish, they don’t automatically try to speak back to you in English, but they generally speak a bit slower and they don’t seem to mind at all when you make mistakes. I feel a lot more comfortable having a go at speaking Spanish here than I do trying to speak the local language in many other places. (And don’t even get me started on the Parisians… You have to be pretty much fluent before they will stop replying to you in English!)

When I get back to London next week I’ll be a student again, as I’m about to start a part-time masters degree whilst working full-time. I don’t know whether I’ll have any hours left in the day, but if I do I think I might sign up to Spanish classes with the university. Watch this space…

In the mean time, I’ll leave you with some pictures of Seville and the promise of a proper post when I get home!

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blackberry picking

I just didn’t feel like writing this summer.

When the air is warm on my skin and the sky remains light long into the evening, I prefer to sit outside with a cold drink and a book. My laptop has stayed inside, ignored and forgotten. With Olivier back in Paris, we’ve spent most of the summer making up for lost time, with a few trips to Paris for me and a few to London for him.

Tomorrow I’ll be catching the train to Paris after work and then on Friday morning Olivier and I are flying to southern Spain to enjoy the last of the summer before the autumn nights start to draw in. 

It was a beautiful mild day today, so after work I went out for a walk. Everywhere I looked, I saw ripe, fat blackberries hanging heavily from the brambles. By the time I come back from holiday, they will probably be gone, so I picked a whole boxful to freeze for jam-making when I come home. 

My fingers might be stained purple from blackberry juice, but I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to summer yet.