Friday, December 29, 2006

I Like It Here, Can I Stay?

I hate it here. I hate it here. I hate it here. Those were my initial thoughts as my weary ass drove up from Gibraltar and dealt with the ungodly traffic of Sevilla. The roads were packed not only with all sorts of drivers in a Los Angeles-like logjam of fuel and steel, but also with countless student drivers, straddling lanes, blocking intersections, and generally making a mess of things. I'm not sure if we arrived on the official Adult Ed. day, or if all of a sudden, a whole throng of 30-somethings decided they needed to learn how to drive. Either way, they were all older than the usual student driver, and even worse at operating a vehicle.

Parking is a mess as well. Besides navigating impossibly narrow streets, attempting to park in them is a joke. The garage situation isn't much better, with the signs changing to say completo (full) whenever you pull up to one. We eventually found a parking garage underneath the El Corte Ingles department store and plodded our way to the city centre by foot.

Oh, what a mass of humanity. Everyone was doing their post-Christmas shopping, and the pedestrian-only thoroughfare leading to the center of town was packed. It's winter, but the crazy amount of body heat emanating from tens of thousands of Sevillian shoppers made it unbearably hot. It didn't help that I was sore and tired and pissed off to begin with.

Things subsided when we made it to the gorgeous Plaza Nueva, lit up with blue Christmas lights and embellished with an awesome exhibition of modern statues by a local artist. I was finally able to breathe and relax and take in some authentic Sevillian beauty. It also helped that we stopped by at a nearby cervezeria so I can unload some of the evening's stress in the form of beer. Mmm, beloved beer.

Feeling less grouchy and more relaxed, we pointed ourselves toward the Cathedral and the Alcazar to check out some of the finest in gothic and Moorish architecture, all beautifully lit up at night to show off the tons of history on display. By then, all stress and fatigue melted away, and I just took it in with wonder.

Despite being Andalucía's largest and most sprawling city, Sevilla is truly beautiful. At every turn, there's something gorgeous and new, and it seems every street is lined with orange trees, rife with fruit and fragrance.

WIth a penchant for avoiding the main tourist drags, we made our way to the Barrio Santa Cruz to go tapas bar hopping. A little beer here, a little jamón Iberico there, a little wine over there, and some croquetas in another place. This is living. All the while, as the hours turned late, we saw even more and more people turn up, often with their children in tow, enjoying the same late night imbibements that we were, making conversation and generally enjoying life. On a weeknight.

We may think we have it all in America, but we really don't. I'll trade our wealth and TV shows and movies for the pace of life here.

Do we really have to drive back? I really like it here. And I've been up and driving since before sunrise, anyway. We should just push all of our dates back a bit and spend a few days... maybe weeks... ok, months here.

Of course, that's all just dreamy-eyed fantasy talk. In reality, I can't do that. In reality, I go to Starbucks across from the Burger King and McDonald's to get a double espresso and use the toilet before driving over 250 km through the center of Andalucía, back to Marbella late at night.

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