Malaga, The Return Trip: Sometimes, Seats Do Face Forward

Yes!  For our return trip via train from Malaga to Sevilla, I persevered and asked for seats that faced in the direction we would be traveling.  The gruff, this time, ticket agent said he would try but couldn’t guarantee it.  So, we expected the same old same old.  We were so sure we had once again been unsuccessful that even after we got on the train and found that our seats did in fact face the apparently correct direction, we were convinced that the train was going to pull out of the station and then reverse direction (which is a possibility since this Malaga station is not a “drive-thru”).

Oh, ye of little faith.  We didn’t have to change seats.


The Cousin of the Germ sat down in front of us for the last half hour of the two hour and thirty-eight minute ride, but she was spraying her TB on the guy in front of her.  I don’t think we were exposed.


We were both kind of tired today, so didn’t have the energy to do lots of wandering around Malaga.  We did head to another neighborhood (away from the old center) to check things out and we loved what we saw.  My mother will be pleased to know they even have Dunkin Donuts… well, Dunkin Coffee in Malaga.  She thinks their coffee is better than Starbuck’s or Peet’s, so we gave it a try.  We had a couple of donuts while we were at it: Boston Cream.  I wasn’t however sold on the coffee.  Spain’s cafe con leche is my new best friend.


On our way back to our hotel we came upon Malaga’s public market (Mercado Central de Atarazanas).  Another exciting place and it makes Jerry want to cook.  It just makes me want to look around, take some pictures, and maybe buy some dried fruit.  It’s a beautiful building with stunning stained glass inside.


So, with our brief visit to Malaga complete, we’re pretty sure it’s where we’ll end up living.  The weather was not glorious — rain and gray for our visit.  But the air off the Mediterranean smelled fresh and it was definitely much milder than Sevilla.  It’s a very easy city to get around.  Great shopping, for those who care.  Beautiful beaches, which are probably insane during “season.”  Lots of available housing at very good prices.  There are two train stations.  The RENFE station that we went in and out of is beautiful.  And there are an amazing number of museums, including the Picasso Museum, that will keep us busy and happy for a good long time. 


We also have our new favorite book store (music store, electronics store) called FNAC (pronounced EFF-KNOCK).  It’s French-owned and there’s also one in Sevilla.  They even have live performances in their little cafe.  We caught a great performance at FNAC in Sevilla over the weekend by a group called Contradanza.  They are a small Sevillian band that puts a different spin on traditional, folk, and flamenco Andalusian music.  We enjoyed their music so much that we bought their latest CD “Tentenelaire.”  Jerry is going to learn all the lyrics by heart and sound fluent in Spanish… except that Jerry has never learned ANY lyrics by heart to even sound fluent in English.

Jerry is relaxing and reading and I’m about to work on my attitude so that we can go out to dinner tonight and I can be pleasant company instead of being tired, cold, and crabby.  Keep a good thought for Jerry.

Seats Facing Forward: Taking the Train to Malaga


Heading out of Sevilla Tuesday morning, we had a warm, friendly, and helpful ticket agent.  I explained to him in Spanish that we needed two seats to Malaga that faced forward… two seats that looked toward the front of the train… two seats that looked in the direction we would travel… two seats that looked straight ahead.

Jerry even acted out getting motion sick, which included an Oscar-deserving pantomime of projectile vomiting.  It was quite a performance.  The agent laughed and laughed, understood each explanation I gave, and — when I told him that Jerry’s pantomime was the extent of his Spanish language skills, the agent said his accent was perfect.

Hallelujah!  We had seats that faced forward for our two-hour and twenty-eight minute train ride.  (To catch the express train that only took one hour and forty minutes would have meant getting up before 8:30 a.m.  We haven’t seen 8:30 a.m. in a while now.)

So, we happily got on the train and found our seats.  But, they appeared to us to be facing the wrong direction.  I asked the woman who sat down directly behind us which way the train would be headed.  Her response was that it would head the opposite direction to what we thought, which meant our seats did in fact face the right direction.  I was confused.  The first stops were the same as the first two stops on our trip to Jerez, and I could have sworn that train went in the other direction.  Oh well.  We relaxed and settled in.

Then the woman behind us started coughing.  And coughing.  And blowing her nose.  And coughing.  And wheezing.  And coughing.

We both curled into balls trying to block the spray of germs with our tall backrests.  For 10 minutes we cringed every time she coughed.  I laughed, groaned, and whispered to Jerry about her cold germs.  He said, “I’m worried about getting TB!”  This was serious.

The train took off.  In the opposite direction…  Since it was empty, we got up and changed our seats to ones facing forward.  That also got us away from The Germ.

The Germ laughed about how the train was going in the direction opposite the one she thought it would go. She also changed her seat to face the direction we were headed.  Now she was sitting across the aisle and again behind us.  She continued to cough.  We changed our seats again.

We listened to The Germ hack for the rest of the ride, but we had four rows and an aisle between us.  We think we may have evaded the TB for now.



I have no idea how one reserves a seat on a train and ensures it faces the right direction.


Coming soon… 
More about our visit to Malaga.  Our brief exploration.  Our 4-star hotel.  Our amazing dinner at a flamenco restaurant… on a night they don’t have flamenco.

Another Domingo [Sunday] Gone


Another Sunday in Sevilla.  We spent a few hours at the cathedral this afternoon.  It is overwhelming, magnificent, enormous, freezing cold (whatever the weather outside, apparently that’s the weather inside; and weather outside today was raw, cold, damp, and rainy… OK it wasn’t rainy inside).  We climbed the stairs… the ramp, really… of the Giralda, the bell tower, which has stood since Moorish times.  The views were spectacular all the way up, but we had to brave the damp, raw winds.  I wasn’t prepared.  No hat, no gloves, no hood, no umbrella for the day.  But, it was worth it and it gave us an excuse to stop for coffee a second time.
I feel like I now need to report every day on our food failures and successes.  We had no failures again today!  Breakfast at home.  Lunch of soup and sandwiches at a little chain restaurant we’ve come to like.  Both women who work there (at different times of day) treat us like friends and neighbors.  Dinner was intended to be at an Argentinian-style restaurant, La Nieta de Pepa (Pepa’s Granddaughter), in the Barrio Santa Cruz, but we arrived to find it closed.  So, we headed two streets over to San Marco, the restaurant we found and loved last Sunday.  “Our” waiter greeted us like old friends and we were immediately glad we went back.  Another amazing meal, capped off by on-the-house licor de hierbas, a traditional Spanish after-dinner drink that supposedly aids digestion.  I truly believe it helped… me, at least.  Jerry touched the glass to his lips and looked like someone had just forced him to eat a walnut (I don’t know if you’re aware how much Jerry hates walnuts).  I loved it and I loved it more the more I drank (and the servings were way too generous).  I was overwhelmingly stuffed after eating my chocolate tart smothered in chocolate sauce.  After my licor de hierbas, I felt immediately better.  So, I’m sold.  We plan to head back to San Marcos one more time before we leave Sevilla.
I just love that word:  Paraguas.  Literally, “for waters” and it means umbrella.  Unfortunately, the weather has turned.  We lucked out with sunshine and mid-60s for the first week.  But the temps have dropped to high 40s and rain is here in the form of drizzle or showers, it appears, for the next week.  Ah well.  We chose to visit in January so we’d see how we felt when the weather was at its worst. Fortunately, we bought great jackets from ScotteVest for our trip (  You should check them out.  Our jackets have pockets everywhere — inside and out, magnetic closures in addition to the zippers and snaps, fold-away hoods.  My hood and sleeves unzip.  They’re lightweight, water-resistant (and we’ve now tested that claim).  Jerry bought the Expedition in khaki and I’ve got the SeV Revolution in black.  Did we mention we color-schemed our travel wardrobes to make it easier to mix and match? Jerry is in blue, khaki, and gray.  I’m in black and gray (very New York).  We’ve got to admit, though, we both are finding it kind of boring!

Can’t wait for our train trip to Malaga some time this week.  Since the express train takes one hour and forty minutes, we’ve decided to stay overnight rather than try to cram it all into one day.  (Or at least that’s the decision for today.)
Oh, an interesting little episode (very little episode) occurred at dinner tonight.  We were given, also on the house, a three-tier silver server containing some cookies — to hold us over I guess between our huge meal and our huge dessert.  We of course consumed all eight cookies.  The last two were small rectangular cookies with one chocolate drop on top off-center.  Jerry and I each took our cookie.  
Jerry ate first from the end containing the chocolate drop.  His reason:  Because the chocolate drop was the best part.  I ate first from the plain end, saving the chocolate drop for last.  My reason: Because the chocolate drop was the best part.

No Bus to the Protest March

Unable to upload my photos for some reason, so you just get words… Some nice pictures taken today will hopefully show up soon.

In case you’re wondering, we had homemade (by Jerry) chicken soup last night and again tonight.  And it tasted just like chicken soup.  It sure is nice to be cooking [for Jerry to be cooking] at home.  Friday, we had breakfast in and then met another couple for coffee late morning.  They’ve been living here from the states for a few months and have been so generous with their time and insights.  We got to see their apartment, their neighborhood, and one of their favorite neighborhood cafes.  Cafe con leche all around, amazing cakes, and Jerry got to stuff himself with toast and jam (the local orange marmalade… from the oranges in all those trees).  Bliss!  We had creamy vegetable soup and hot sandwiches — out — for lunch.  So, no restaurant disasters on Friday!

The wind was blowing this morning (Saturday)… Well, it was already afternoon by the time we headed out for our coffee.  After coffee across the street, we planned to take the bus to the Museo Bellas Artes, the museum of fine arts.  We eventually made it, but while having coffee we discovered one of the main streets was closed for a protest march that was coming by.  We were able to get a bit of information from the sidelines that it was in protest of the privatization of government functions.  We’ll have to get more information.  The marchers appeared to represent all different branches of government workers.

The Asker

As a result of the roadblock, we ended up walking all the way past the Barrio Santa Cruz, about 15 minutes, to finally meet up with our bus.  We got off the bus and Jerry got us a bit lost, so I asked directions… in Spanish.  I received directions… in Spanish… And I understood those directions and then got us to the museum.  Per Jerry’s sister Linda, he is going to start calling me “Asker,” short for “Ask her” or simply because I’m the “Asker.”  

Jerry is picking up a Spanish word here and there and is doing well.  Sadly, his English has gotten worse.  And, as you know, being from South Dakota Jerry already spoke English as a second language.  

Actually, I don’t think it has anything to do with South Dakota (especially since no one else in his family seems to have the same problem).  Jerry is just creative.

We went to a flamenco bar near the museum for lunch.  Flamenco only on Friday and Saturday nights, but a great inexpensive lunch, great service, and no embarrassments!  

The Martyrdom of the Saints

The museum was exceptional.  A bit more religion than I can usually tolerate, but the art was so good that I managed, and there was enough later non-religious art to ease my pain.  A surprisingly strong collection in a spectacular setting.  Originals by Goya and more.  We then took the bus home, napped, had chicken soup, and watched a movie on TV… once I figured out how to change from Spanish dubbing back to the original English.  It didn’t help that all the menus on the TV in the living room were set to German!  Ach du lieber!  Could it be any more confusing!?!

Party Boy Jerry suggested going to a flamenco bar tonight, but I was lazy.  He didn’t complain though about spending a night in for the first time since our arrival here.

Tomorrow, the big plan is to tour the inside of the cathedral.  It’s free on Sundays.

During the week, we plan a day trip to Malaga and also to Cadiz.  Malaga is cooler in summer and warmer in winter, so utilities would be cheaper.  And housing is cheaper in general.  Also, we’ve heard some very nice things about Malaga.  So… still checking out our options and still in love with Sevilla.

Hasta manana (or maybe an extra day)!

Two Restaurants and Two Lunches in the Same Day


I mentioned recently that we purchased a pocket Spanish/English dictionary so we would be able to translate the Spanish menus and actually order a decent meal.  What we didn’t realize was that much of what was on the menu might not be in the dictionary.  Hence, meal disaster (or near-disaster) #2.

We took a walk today to and around the neighborhood of Triana.  It’s across the Guadalquivir River and we felt as if we had entered an entirely different city when we walked across the bridge.  Somewhat like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights… but not quite.  Triana is beautiful. It was the center of tile work and ceramic art and some of the details in the buildings are amazing.  Apartment building entries are works of art.

The restaurant name was El Faro.  The location was stunning.  A rooftop restaurant at the foot of the bridge with a view up and down the river, and across the river to the cathedral, bullring, and everything else in the old center of Sevilla.  The sun was shining.  It was siesta time, around 2:30, so many restaurants were closed.  A perfect choice.  But then, being where it was should have been our first clue that it might be a tourist trap.  Well, we headed to the roof, selected our table with its wonderful view.  And the fun ended there.


Our waiter was not very pleasant.  We ordered drinks.  I asked for a “half” beer and Jerry asked for a small wine.  I had had a half beer before and it came in a normal glass, half full.  We didn’t specify a small “glass” of wine for Jerry.  The waiter arrived already opening a small “bottle” of wine.  Too late to take that back, we thought.  I don’t know what my half beer was half of, but it was enormous.  He asked if we wanted to start with some ham.  We thought, sure.  Then we started looking at the menu.  Jerry pulled out the dictionary and could find hardly a word of the menu within.  Fortunately, the service was so bad that the waiter never returned to take our order.  Meanwhile I had suggested to Jerry that we eat our “ham” when it finally arrived and then head someplace else for lunch.  Our ham arrived.  A plate of 16 slices of Iberian ham.  Not worth the ridiculously high price… and not even very good Iberian ham.  I finished my beer and was extremely tipsy.  Jerry left most of his wine behind… and was extremely tipsy.  After asking for the check and waiting an eternity, we left the restaurant miserably disappointed and feeling like a couple of fools.  Just remember that the restaurant sitting on the Triana side of the river, at the base of El Puente de Isabel II (the Isabel II Bridge), with the inviting rooftop terrace dining, is to be avoided at all costs.  Bad service, absurdly expensive, and our waiter at least likes to take advantage of tourists.  So, OK, our ignorance does not help in these situations, but we were definitely taken advantage of.  And the service was awful from both waiters for everyone on that rooftop.


We walked a bit around Triana, but were hungry, crabby, and needed to use the facilities.  So, we went back to our walking tour book and found a cafe along the route that was highly recommended.  We headed over to Casa Cuesta and our entire day improved.


We were greeted warmly by the bartender.  We sat down with the menu and took out our Spanish/English dictionary to once again discover it was useless as a menu translator (the primary reason we bought it).  Then our waiter arrived.  He smiled, put his hand on my shoulder, and in the most beautiful broken English we could ever hope to hear asked (with a smile in his voice), “Do you need some help?”

I spoke broken Spanish.  He spoke better broken English and we selected a great meal.  Well, he suggested a great meal and we agreed.  Patatas alinadas (potatoes in a deliciously seasoned dressing); entrecotte (perfectly seasoned and cooked beef with potatoes); fritera Andaluza (a selection of fried fish and seafood that Jerry enjoyed and I could have lived without).  Fish on the platter: hake, anchovies (very LARGE anchovies… as if small ones aren’t bad enough), sole, squid, clams.  I’m kind of picky when it comes to seafood, so that wasn’t the best choice for me, but it was impressive and I at least did enjoy the calamari (although there are so many sizes of squid in Southern Spain that they all have different names and I don’t think what I had was really considered calamari).

We finished off with the most amazing chocolate cake, which we rationally shared, and headed off happy, loved, and promising to return.


Casa Cuesta in Triana.  Get to Sevilla and make a point of checking this place out.  It just celebrated its 130th anniversary and it deserves to be there at least another 130 years.


And now, buenas noches, mis amigos!