She Acts Like She Owns The Place

Last night, we had dinner at Carmela, a restaurant in the plaza Santa Maria de la Blanca.  We chose Carmela because, even though it was past 9:00, it was still extremely warm outside. Carmela takes up a very large area in the plaza and there were wonderful breezes coming from all different directions.  Every time we’ve walked by the restaurant, it’s been busy.  Also, the tapas specials looked really good.  I chose not to carry my camera with me.  Poor choice.  And, having a temporary local mobile phone, I no longer carry my iPhone (maybe I’ll get a new SIM card to use it here or maybe I’ll upgrade my phone when I get my permanent service), so I didn’t have that as a fallback camera.  You’ll just have to use your imaginations this time. And I’ll have to carry my camera in the future.

NOT MUCH OF A PROMOTIONAL PHOTO.

We ordered Mojitos.  We LOVE Mojitos.  These were our first Mojitos Sevillanos, and they were absolute perfection (they might even have been the best we’ve had).  While we enjoyed our drinks and waited for our food, a woman arrived with an entourage and took over a couple of tables in the plaza right near the restaurant’s service bar.  She then went and took a table from inside to add to her collection of tables.  There was a bit of a discussion with the waiter and he then carried the mismatched table out for her.  She then “stromped” around the plaza collecting chairs.  “Jeez,” we both commented, “She acts like she owns the place.”  We couldn’t believe how pushy she was.  The place was mobbed and, when we arrived, there were only two servers.  This pushy woman would call out to them and get up and ask for things, never giving them a break.  Our food arrived (it was delicious) and we briefly forgot about the grande dame.

Soon, though, Jerry noticed her picking up empty glasses from her table and carrying them up to the bar.  He then commented, “You will NOT believe this.  She just walked behind the bar.  I think she’s washing a glass.”

“Wait a minute,” we both thought (we’re not THAT slow).

She walked from table-to-table picking up glasses, and taking them into the kitchen.  Then, she started busing tables.  She picked up our empties and — warmly, graciously, and kindly — asked us how everything was.  So, not only did she ACT like she owned the place, she DID own the place.  In addition, she wasn’t above some hard work while hosting a night out with friends.  That’ll teach us!

We ended our meal with tartas chocolates con helado hierbabuena — chocolate “tarts,” that were a cross between chocolate pudding and chocolate cake, with mint ice cream.  Dessert was so good we moaned as we ate it.  It was an exceptional place for food, drinks, fresh air, and people-watching.  And it was not at all expensive.  We can’t wait to go back.

LAST WEEK. 
THE BEST FELLOW TRAVELER.
THE SEARCH FOR A HOME

We looked at two apartments yesterday afternoon.  The first was very large and very grand — but very tired and rundown.  The second was two stories, smaller and quaint, but exposed to the street and the other apartments in the courtyard.  Seeing what’s around for the price really helps us make a more educated and enlightened decision.  I am still exchanging emails with the agent who’s handling the pink palacio.  She is extremely pleasant and we’re hoping we’ll be able to smooth out the kinks in the deal with the owner.  So, we might still end up in the pink palacio.  We meet with the agent and the owner Monday morning.

DOING BUSINESS IN SPANISH

I am truly enjoying speaking Spanish.  But, dealing with rental agents and bankers requires me to communicate at a level beyond my abilities.  I can make do with rental agents and we know where to get assistance with contracts and agreements.  But, we definitely need to open our local accounts at a bank that has someone who can work with us in English.  We did our research and found the bank that offered the best services for us but, until today, we could not find a branch that could help us.  So, after breakfast I walked over to the main branch.  It’s located near the cathedral, which is where so many English speakers do their business.  Success!  We have an appointment with an English-speaking banker Monday evening.

I’m sure it’s a challenge at times to understand me because I know I’m creating my own words (soon there will be Mitchellisms).  But, it is clear that the locals appreciate my attempts to communicate in their language.  Quite often I notice that I receive a very cool welcome in a store only to depart feeling like a friend.  Sevillanos seem to take great pride in their amazing city and our love for Sevilla clearly pleases the people we meet.  Today, I stopped at a small pharmacy to pick up some sunscreen (for my ever-growing forehead).  I had a wonderful visit with the initially cool pharmacist.  When I paid the cashier — after telling them both about our retirement, our apartment hunt, our plans to live permanently in Sevilla — the cashier asked me if I was from France.  (Have I mentioned how happy it makes me that my Spanish doesn’t immediately brand me as American or English-speaking?)

I’ve ended with a photo I took yesterday of a Common Swift.  We see them and hear them (a very sweet, not unpleasant or sleep-interrupting sound) outside our hotel window every morning.  Difficult to get a clear picture.  I did mention they’re called “swift.”

Possibly Passing on the Pink Palacio

All is not going well in the land of apartment negotiations.  We thought everything was settled regarding the rental of the rose-colored palacio on Calle Cuna, but we haven’t been thrilled with the unwanted surprises being thrown our way by the owner — surprises that give us headaches and would cost us a lot more money.  So, it looks like we’re going to pass this one up.

WE WALK BY THIS SIGN ALMOST EVERY DAY.
IT’S A HOSTEL CALLED “THE GARDEN.”
YES, “THE HOSTILE GARDEN.”

EMPOWERMENT
We may not be as settled as we thought, but it opens up the opportunity to explore some more.  It also gives me the opportunity to use my Spanish with rental agents.  I just phoned and made an appointment for this evening so we can see a supposedly grand apartment near the Museum of Bellas Artes.  The woman on the phone was warm, friendly, helpful, and charming.  And, although my Spanish is bad (it’s especially difficult on the phone when I can’t use or watch body language), I was pleased to learn that my accent is clearly not American (or that of an English speaker).  After speaking in Spanish on the phone for 10 minutes, she heard me ask Jerry a question in English and she excitedly said, “Ah. You speak English!”  For the rest of the conversation, she mostly spoke beautiful English with Spanish thrown in when she got stuck. I then spoke a combination of the two languages and even learned some new words.  We’re meeting on a street near the department store, El Corte Inglés. When she told me the name of the street, I understood everything but the first word and asked her to repeat it twice before finally asking her to spell it for me.  V-I-R-G-E-N (you know, like virgin).  Should anything be read into the fact that I couldn’t understand the word “virgin”?  Anyway, we’re meeting this evening on Calle Virgen de los Buenos Libros (literally, Virgin of the Good Books Street).

OUR FIRST VIRGIN IN SEVILLA.  OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, SANTA ANGELA DE LA CRUZ.

THE PARADES PASSING BY

We are in the midst of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel or, as she’s known in Sevilla, The Virgen (there’s that word again) del Carmen.  Most nights, we simply stumble upon pasos, spectacularly mounted statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus being carried through the streets.

ANOTHER NIGHT.  ANOTHER VIRGIN.  ANOTHER PROCESSION.

The ornamentation is spectacular.  The pomp — the escorts, followers, spectators, marching bands, and music — vary from average to exceptional.

CREATED FROM THE TREASURES (LOOTING) OF THE AMERICAS.

 

It is considered a great honor, a life-altering honor, to carry the virgin through the streets.  Depending on the size of the paso and the heat of the night, the job can be simply cumbersome to completely exhausting.  But the men who perform the service are extremely proud to be allowed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

THE SNEAKERED FEET OF THE CARRIERS.  IT REMINDED ME OF THE FLINTSTONES.

COOLING OFF FOR A MINUTE BEFORE CONTINUING THEIR MARCH.

AN ICE COLD BEER AFTER THE WORK IS DONE.

Metropol Parasol and Finding Home

FROM THE MAIN PLAZA BEFORE TAKING THE ELEVATOR UP.

In a recent post, I shared a couple of photos of the new construction at the Plaza de la Encarnacion in the center of Sevilla.  The structure is called Metropol Parasol and it’s the largest wooden structure in the world. The views are amazing and down below are the Antiquarium (the brand new archaeological museum), a restaurant, and Sevilla’s farmers’ market.

LIKE BEING INSIDE A GIANT HONEYCOMB.

Last night before dinner, Jerry and I took the elevator to the top of the structure and strolled the walkways to admire the spectacular views contrasting old and new architecture.  Well, it would be more correct to say that Jerry and I both took the elevator up, but I alone strolled the walkways.

RUN!  A MILDLY PANICKING JERRY TELLING ME HE’S HEADING BACK DOWN.

A VIEW FROM THE BACK. NOTE THE WALKWAY SNAKING TO THE RIGHT.

UNDULATIONS.

A STUDY IN CONTRASTS.

Jerry went out onto the first walkway concerned about the heights only to become more concerned about the vibrations.  So, I continued on and he went back downstairs to check out the Antiquarium (built around the discoveries at the base of the Metropol Parasol).

LA GIRALDA (THE CATHEDRAL BELL TOWER) IN THE BACKGROUND.

The museum was closed (Sunday night at 9), but you can still see quite a bit through the glass and it was beautiful and fascinating. We’ll have to get back to really explore the ancient history (ruins going as far back as 1 A.D.).

LOOKING AT SEVILLA THROUGH A ROSE-COLORED PALACIO.

REALLY CLOSE TO HOME

We take possession August 1 of our apartment on Calle Cuna. We are elated.  The apartment shares the top floor of a three-story former private palace in the heart of old Sevilla.  Our “palacio” is on a pedestrianized street and is simply 10 apartments built in the shell of a former palace.  It’s only two bedrooms, but it’s grander (in style and quality) than we expected to find.  It’s light and airy, and quiet; with large windows opening onto a charming and large interior courtyard and other windows looking out back.  And the location is incredible.  For those of you who know the city, we are across the street from the Palace of Lebrija, a fully restored private palace that is now a private museum.  We are just a few minutes walk from Metropol Parasol, El Corte Inglés, and all the other shopping, dining, and people-watching you could possibly desire (and about 10-minutes away from that antique store that’s selling my Parachute Jump, which would look so great in our new apartment).

Nobody Loves Me. Everybody Hates Me. Think I’ll Go Eat Worms.

The title of this post is the start of a song from my childhood.  And it hasn’t stopped playing in my head since dinner last night.   I’ll soon explain why.

COMMEMORATING THE 2ND OF MAY 1808 REBELLION AGAINST THE OCCUPYING FRENCH.
MONUMENT TO LUIS DAOIZ DE TORRES, ONE OF THE LEADERS OF THE UPRISING.

We returned to Dos de Mayo, one of the best (if not the best) tapas bars around.  The place is always busy and the food and service are always phenomenal.  Everything is made fresh to order.  We started off with a spectacular plate of large grilled shrimp — the bartender showed us the fresh gambas (shrimp) as soon as we sat down and then had them cooked up for us.  As usual, we ordered too many — eight instead of simply four — and they were very expensive I’m sure, although they were worth every penny.  They were so good I didn’t even mind getting my fingers messy (and I usually mind very much getting my fingers messy).  And I now know the Spanish word for those individually packaged moistened towelettes — toallitas.

FOUR DOWN.  FOUR TO GO.

We had to have spinach and garbanzos again.  As delicious as we remembered.  And we were pleased to note that the spinach and garbanzos Jerry cooked in Irvine were exactly right.  I then asked the bartender to choose two more dishes for us.  He suggested, and I agreed to, a cazuela (casserole) of shrimp and fish, and a lamb and vegetable skewer.

SKEWERED.

When the cazuela arrived, it was filled with shrimp, fish, and what looked like some kind of sprouts (like alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts).  On closer inspection, the “sprouts” appeared to be worms.  A bowl filled with worms.  Jerry and I were both brave enough to try one each and we then agreed that not only did they look like worms, but they felt like we thought a worm would feel in one’s mouth.

BEAUTIFUL AND DELICIOUS… EXCEPT FOR THE “WORMS.”

I asked the bartender if he knew what they were called in English and he did not.  He called out to a customer at another table and she told me in English that she was pretty sure they weren’t worms, thought they were fish of some kind, but did not know more than that.  I laughed and said they still looked and felt too much like worms for our taste.

EENSY WEENSY SQUEENSY ONES

THE WORMS
After I emailed the photo to Margarita to find out what they were called, my personal research librarian, Jerry, checked things out this morning and we now know all we need to know about the worms that are not worms.  Angulas, 2-inch-long (5cm) baby eels are a traditional Basque dish.  Six families are the principal suppliers in the world.  These baby eels, also known as elvers (a crossword puzzle staple) in English, are rare and very expensive (more than $40 a pound) and in the 1980s were so hard to find that the price was up to $120 a pound.  So, one of the Basque family companies came up with a less expensive imitation.  They work with Japanese technology to convert surimi (fish from Alaskan waters pressed fresh into blocks on factory ships) into pseudo-elvers, which they call “gulas,” by forcing the material out, spaghetti-like, into the shape of elvers.  A touch of squid ink is then added to tint the backs dark.  What makes it obvious these are fakes is that there are no eyes.  Now, why anyone would want to eat anything that looks and feels like a worm (or baby eel) — pseudo or not — is beyond me.  Margarita, by the way, thinks they are “marvelous”!

THE SONG.

The Great State of Santacoda?

Last night, we had a tapas dinner in La Alameda neighborhood with our warm, charming, funny, and fascinating Sevillana friend, Margarita.  Margarita teaches English and Spanish, but our rapid-fire American English at times leaves her a bit confused.  In January, while trying to fill a lifetime of information into a few brief meetings, we told her about Jerry’s childhood in South Dakota.  As part of Margarita’s studies, she learned about all the states of the USA and all their capitals.  (She’s probably more informed than I am.)  But, because we were speaking so quickly, she didn’t clearly catch the words “South Dakota.”  So, she admitted last night, immediately after we left in February she began to do research on the place she thought Jerry was from.  She said she became more and more frustrated because she could find absolutely no reference to this placed called “Santacoda.”  After a couple of days, the light bulb went on, “Hmm,” she thought, “that sounds an awful lot like South Dakota.”
 

THE JUST-COMPLETED PLAZA DE ENCARNACION, HOME TO THE PUBLIC MARKET.

What a warm welcome we have felt in this exceptional city.  We are so glad to be back here and to have decided that this will be our home in Spain.  The counter-person at our favorite breakfast place, Nostalgia, (remember “dos especiales, por favor”?) recognized us and welcomed us back with a huge smile and warm greeting.  Thursday night, we had dinner at our favorite restaurant, San Marco, the place we visited every Sunday when we were here in January/February, and one of the servers remembered us and even offered to treat us to after-dinner drinks.

HISTORICAL PURISTS ARE NOT THRILLED WITH THE DESIGN. BUT I FIND IT UPLIFTING.

Our friend Alberto, who had been visiting family far from here for 12 days and only just returned for two days before heading off again, still managed to schedule an appointment for us with a rental agent he knows.  He met us for drinks before introducing us to the agent and he then raced off.  He is so kind.  The agent was great and showed us the one and only apartment she has available and, unbelievably, we fell in love with it.  So, we may even have a home!

CALLE CUNA; POSSIBLY OUR NEW STREET.

I had my own Margarita Moment (Santacoda) yesterday while talking with the agent as we were leaving the apartment, which is part of the top floor of a former private palace.  I told her in Spanish that we were very interested.  Well, I MEANT to tell her in Spanish that we were very interested.  What I in fact said was that we were very interestING.  I realized my mistake and started to laugh and then corrected myself (interasado, not interesante).  She laughed, too, but said she agreed, we WERE very interesting.

WE ASKED MARGARITA TO DO THE ORDERING.  EXCELLENT ENSALADILLA RUSA
AND, A FIRST FOR US, DELICIOUS SALMOREJO — ANDALUSIAN CREAMY, COLD SOUP.

Also, we told Margarita that Thursday evening when we walked by Rodilla, a very good chain cafe, the counter person remembered us and excitedly welcomed us home.  Margarita said, “Ah, Rodilla.  Si.”  Jerry thought she was correcting our pronunciation of the name, so he repeated, Arodilla.  I then had to explain… to him and to her.  This is certainly going to be entertaining!

REDUCED FROM €199 TO €169.  MORE THAN THE PRICE OF A COUPLE OF SAILORS.

ANOTHER MAGICAL MOMENT

On our way to La Alameda with Margarita last night, we passed an antique and collectibles store.  It was closed, but the lights were on and, from across the narrow street, I noticed what looked like the Parachute Jump sitting on a small table in the window.  I excitedly crossed the street to get a closer look.  Yes!  It was an actual working replica of the Parachute Jump from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  The Parachute Jump visible from my mother’s apartment windows.  The Parachute Jump my mother got to ride with her friend Harriet in the mid-1940s by “picking up a couple of sailors.”  So, now I’m trying to keep myself from going back to the store to buy it.