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Adventures with the PAR Bros Part 3: Nocturama- Basia Bulat

Basia Bulat came to Sevilla. SEVILLA! Ahhhhhh!
Lovely concert in the gardens of a monastery with some cervezas, tapas, and sweet company.

El Monasterio de la Cartuja- The Gardens

Old chimneys where they used to bake the ceramics

 

If you don’t know Basia Bulat, check her out. She’s a Polish-Canadian gal who plays 4 instruments flawlessly and has a voice much like Tracy Chapman.

Basia with the Ukelele

She sang in English, joked with the audience in Spanish, sang a Polish folk tune and ended the show with a Spanish song by Silvio Rodriguez. In short: wonderful!

Sevilla Siempre

“Sevilla es una ciudad bella por antonomasía ”
Finally, the day came when I went to visit my old beloved home, Sevilla. Oh, how lovely! Oh, how scorching hot! The couple of days in Sevilla were wonderfully spent seeing old friends and revisiting my charming old haunts where precious memories were created not too long ago.

Biggest Change: Las setas were finally finished in Plaza Encarnación!

Under the Setas (mushrooms)

I was able to crash a retirement party for some of my favorite people who were starting their new life after years of teaching at the school where I taught, German and Paco. German gave a very touching speech which enlightened us all to the fact that he started teaching just when democracy was coming about in Spain. Absolutely fascinating.

I always wonder what is going to happen when the people who have lived during these very important and marking times in history will not be around anymore.. It makes me a bit sad.  Obviously, German and Paco are young and have many years of enjoyment and life ahead of them, but those old stories of the tough times and the strong spirits of the people who lived them, they will be gone one day. I don’t wish any tough times upon anyone, but I guess history is such an interesting thing when hearing it from different perspectives apart from the books, and I don’t know that my generation will have much to tell once we get older. Hopefully adventure stories of crazy travels and marking experiences that open the mind and heart to all aspects of humanity and nature. It will be a different genre of narratives, indeed.

The rest of my time in the center of Sevilla was spent with Carmela, another dear, dear colleague who is actually in Granada as well and whom I will be seeing much of (hopefully!). I caught up with the lovely Pilar and her silly husband, Juan Antonio, at the delicious tapas bar, Casa Blanca. I also visited lots of the places I wanted to return to, though regrettably I was unable to make it to my favorite gelato shop, La Fiorentina. Uff! Next time!

With the lovely Pilar at Casa Blanca off Av. de la Constitución

Being in Sevilla was great, and different. It actually helped rid me of a lot of the idealism I had been harboring in my mind over the past two years about life there. Things have changed, people have moved on, and I think I have come to terms with the idea that I would be fine not living there and just visiting. Especially after visiting the pueblos and witnessing life in a simpler sense; I rather enjoy a smaller, more intimate atmosphere and traveling into the city every once in a while.

Sevilla, you will always inhabit a special place in my heart, beautiful city that you are. But I think I can move on, now 🙂 I promise to visit as much as possible, though!**
“Sevilla no hay más que una, Sevilla no hay quien te iguale.”

**Update as of August 20, 2011- I may have spoken too soon and put my foot in my mouth.  I love Sevilla and would be happy returning there to live any day. 🙂

Adventures with the PAR Bros Part 2: La saca de la yegua and Doñana

Day 2 in Sevilla started very early as we prepared to drive out west from Sevilla to the little cowboyish town of El Rocío. There are not enough words to describe all that transpires here, and if I could, it would be better for you to just visit it. Inexplicable, it is.

We arrived in El Rocío mid morning to visitors and residents bustling about getting ready to see the “saca de las yeguas.” This is one of those fascinating festivals for which Spain is so infamous. The purpose of this event is to round up the mares and the colts/foals that have been in the marshlands since the last saca. Men, some boys, and a few ladies from surrounding towns ride their horses to round up the group and stampede them through the streets of El Rocío. It’s a lovely thing, watching the horses run with the long legged and often awkward babies glued to their mothers’ sides.

Un potro

The craziest thing was the following: I had not seen anyone in Sevilla besides the PAR brothers. Years ago I had visited the house of a colleague of mine from school, who was very much like an adopted grandfather for me. I thought to myself upon arriving this time, “if I see Manolo I am going to go crazy.” Well, as we were waiting between the groups of horses, there went Manolo and his wife, walking right in front of me! It was THE most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced. The sheer fact that I would know someone at El Rocío and actually see him at this event was so strange, yet so wonderful! It’s like going to some random town like Locust or Rutherfordton, NC, going to a rodeo or something of the sort, and seeing someone you know and hadn’t seen for years.

Horses!!

Continuing, we ate lunch with the PAR family in Matalascañas, a beach town nearby, then went back to the PAR residence at Doñana National Park, took mega naps, and left with Papa PAR to take a tour of the area. We stopped at a pretty much secluded beach, no people for miles and miles! Not even a footstep was found except my own. We then went into the park for a spectacular sunset tour to see the dunes, marsh, and wildlife.

Pepe, the head of the PAR family, is a published photographer (48 books) and works at this national park. He has the largest camera I’ve ever seen. I asked him how he got started and his answer really captivated me. He said, “Antes cazaba, pero ahora para mi la fotografía es un tipo de cazar.” (“I used to hunt a while back, but photography is a type of “hunting” for me now.”)

El Parque Nacional Doñana

Adventures with the PAR Bros Part 1: El Cerro de Hierro

“Uff… You don’t want to go to Sevilla this weekend. You’d be better off staying here in Almería. This weekend it is going to be hot there.” These words were the ones that sent me on my way to Sevilla from sunny, breezy Almería with cool water at about a minute’s walk from the door of Beth’s house. Oh, how I wish I had heeded the advice of the flight attendant! (Actually I don’t, no regrets, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to encounter..)

Sevilla was hot. Like a frying pan. Or more like the fire below the frying pan. You can’t do anything from 1pm- 9pm because it’s too hot to be in the streets. It’s frustrating and makes you lazy. The opening topic for every single conversation (no lie!!) is the unbearable heat. However, I find it so curious that so few houses here have adapted to this ‘phenomenon’ and installed air conditioning. And even when there is air, the majority of the time it isn’t used!

Anyhoots- I arrived to searing Sevilla early in the morning to be greeted by my beloved Spanish brothers, José and Manu. I hardly had time to breathe as we raced home to drop off my bag and eat a  napolitana (croissant with chocolate- myam!) before promptly leaving for the Cerro del Hierro to go rock climbing for the day with their friend José Luis.

This little mountain chain to the north of Sevilla was the place of iron mines years ago which have created a very ominous and impressive site for hiking and climbing. The serrated rocks have left great little holds for wandering hands trying to pull their owners up the face of a rock.

 

We spent most of the day trying different climbs and cheering each other on, listening to our voices and laughter echo through the desolate landscape. We were the only people there for most of the time. After our appendages were nice and sore and raw, we went for a dip in the COLDEST mountain water I’ve ever felt. Truly, nothing helps tired muscles like a swim in a mountain spring!

 

 

"El centro de la tierra"

 

La Fiesta de San Juan (aka, Summer Solstice Party, or “Everyone build a fire on the beach”)

Last night a huge beach party went down all along the coast of Almeria to celebrate La fiesta de San Juan.

San Juan is a couple days after the summer solstice, but it celebrates the longest day of the year anyway, along with San Juan, or Saint John. I don’t know what he’s the saint of…

People in Almería celebrate by gathering friends, firewood, and food, congregating on the beach, and passing by the hours of the evening into the night with full bellies and general merriment. At midnight, they light the huge bonfires they have built and run to the ocean to either wash their faces or jump in entirely to get rid of all the negative things and negative energy from the past year.

San Juan in Retamar

San Juan in Retamar

Love in San Juan

Love in San Juan

We ordered some pinchos, or sish-kabobs from a bar and some grilled sardines (YUM!) and trekked down to the beach with a blanket and beers to watch the festivities. We definitely participated, washing our faces in the ocean and laughing at the monstrous bonfires and crazy yungins. It was a nice time of reflection on the past year in the midst of such a setting and thinking of the negative things that I didn’t want to be a part of this coming year. I was so fortunate to be spending it with people whom I consider part of my family 🙂

Feliz San Juan and may the coming year be filled with positive energy, love and light for you!

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” -Paulo Coelho

Soul Sista

The above picture perfectly portrays my dream for the past 6 months:
To reunite with my dearest friend, Beth, in Spain.

I’ve been hanging out with her in Almería, where she’s been living for the past year, for almost a week now and can’t think of a better place, moment, or season to be chilling with my soul friend. Reunion is so sweet a thing! Here’s a tribute to my pal, and a cheers for many more moments to come of silliness, seriousness, advnenture, tranquility, music snobbery, singing with the windows down, understanding, dancing, dressing room sagas, just plain fun, and most importantly: love.

Love ya, ole Betul 🙂

Saltando...

Saltando...

...así, así!!

...así, así!!

Almería del alma mía

Whelp. Spain has done it once again. She has wooed me another time with her charms and beauty. Above is a picture of Almería, a region in the south of Spain. It honestly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. The capital city of the same name leaves something to be desired. If I had stayed there I would not have much to write. However, the surrounding towns are as charming as can be, quiet and free of hordes of tourists. Being here seems like I’ve stumbled upon one of Spain’s best kept secrets.

Almeria is a desert type landscape with dramatic coast lines and lovely beaches. The June weather has been delightful so far- hot during the day and cool enough at night to require a jacket (my favorite type of weather!).

I’m staying with the marvelous Beth, my dear friend and flatmate when we lived in Sevilla, and her main squeeze, Miguel. We have had such a great time so far hanging out and exploring the neighboring towns such as the cute Rodalquilar and the quaint little beach town, Las Negras. There is a charming (but very DAnGeROuS) boutique with the best clothes! We got caught in there for about an hour and walked out with some new additions for the wardrobe. And we got some deals! Always a plus. Toma ya!

Lookout at Amatista

I have to mention this because I just can’t stop thinking about it: I had the most delicious tapa in Las Negras. The special of the day was pulpo a la marraná. This is octopus for you anglophones in a tomato based stew with some potatoes and other veggies. Such a spectacular flavor and the setting was perfect- sitting on a patio overlooking the boardwalk and the ocean. We were maybe 2 of about 20 people in the beach area at that hour.

(By the way, when you order a drink here you get a free tapa, or small plate. They can run from 1.50€ to a little over 2€. So awesome!)

Beth took me to a beach dubbed “El Dedo” because of a large rock protruding out from the water that looked like a finger. I think the proper name was Cabo Rajá or something. To get to this place, we first had to drive on a one lane road around mountains that had a huge drop. It was quite scary! Then we had to walk down a steep climb to get to the beach, cross the hot sand (the hottest I’ve ever felt) and finally arrive at our resting place. It was more than worth it! There were hardly any people on the bay-like beach, and the water was wondrous. Just proves that the best things in life take a little more effort!

Cabo Rajá

Cabo Rajá

One lane road around Cabo de Gata

Another beach we visited was called Los Genoveses out by the town of San Josè. There were more people here, but that can only be expected with the Pirates of the Caribbean like setting, shallow, clear blue, warmish Mediterranean water, and beautiful hikes on the two mountains guarding the entry to the bay. Definitely worth the rocky road on the drive out there. If nothing else, it provides spectacular views of some of the best landscape Almería has to offer.

Los Genoveses

Alas, today is my last day in this magical place. We rounded off my little vacay with massages at a nearby spa, lunch at La Goleta in Cabo de Gata, naps, and we’re having a patio barbacoa tonight before Beth and Miguel move to Córdoba next week.

La Goleta

Tomorrow: heading to the town of Brenes to hang with the PAR brothers, José and Manu, and then a visit to my old home, Sevilla!