Day 265 – 21 Nov, 2015
Perhaps bittersweet to leave Córdoba, it was time to get my travel legs again and there was no reason to delay any longer. Feeling a bit out of practice, I had to remind myself how to pack, everything has its place. The current state of affairs was a huge pile that needed to be reordered and reorganized.
At the train station, I stared at the ticket kiosk. I had made the rather difficult decision to skip Málaga and Granada (which I had visited once before in 2008 and adored) and go straight to Seville. I had a flight from Seville in 5 days and because I was just getting my feet wet again, I thought it best to go directly and ignore any distractions….that is, until I got to the train station. The destination options blinked back at me and before I had time to second guess, I found myself buying a ticket for Málaga instead. I wasn’t ready to leave Spain. Five days was plenty of time. No need to go directly to Seville when I could go to the beach for a day or two first! I wasn’t out of practice – as soon as I loaded up my bag, properly packed, I fell right back into the familiar rhythm.
Málaga sits on the southern coast of Spain, on the Mediterranean, la Costa del Sol. Even in late November, the temperatures were pleasant and the beaches were lively. Add in the fact that I was there over a weekend, the markets were buzzing and families from all over Andalusia were taking advantage of the sunshine. I strolled the length of Palmeral de las Sorpresas, Puerto Málaga, and along the beach, Playa Malagueta. There was live music and street food and all of the vibrant personalities I had come to love about Spain. I noticed a team of workers were working diligently to string Christmas lights throughout the main shopping district, but with that, it meant the time for me to go was drawing near. The lights weren’t scheduled to be turned on until December 1 and by then, I would be gone.
The first time I had gone to Seville, it had been by bus. I had arrived in Plaza de Armas and promptly gotten impossibly lost. Back then, my hotel was in the Jewish Quarter, which has a tangled web of narrow alleyways and passages, losing even the most direction -adept travelers (of which I am not!). I spent 3 days darting down one wrong street after another before I gave up in complete frustration, stubbornly relegating Seville to a “never visit again” category.
Almost exactly 7 years later, armed with capable Spanish grammar (to ask directions when needed), a wealth of experience navigating new cities a few times a week, and an iron-will determination to love my last few days in this magnificent country, I descended on Seville once again. It was the train station this time, requiring me to take a local bus to Plaza de Duque de la Victoria, and then walk the remaining few blocks on my own. It wasn’t without a handful of false starts, but my confidence didn’t waver. Soon enough, I had arrived at my hostel already feeling as if I was beating this city. The Jewish Quarter would be my final exam.
I was such a novice traveler the first time around. I did all the things the guidebook says you’re supposed to do – la Catedral, climb to the top of Giralda Tower, flamenco, Plaza de España, Parque de something or other – you get the idea. I ate where and what I was supposed to eat – paella, sangria, olives, bacalao, etc etc. The Alcazar had been closed back then so I made the obligatory visit to Seville’s grandest historic landmark. It is beautiful, of course, but I found it hard to be enamored after so many other breathtaking monuments and important sights. Instead, I wandered through the gardens, finding solitude among the fountains and peacocks. This was more my speed.
My last day in Spain, the last in Europe (for now anyway), it seemed important to squash any of the old stigma I associated with Seville. I had deeply enjoyed the previous days, loving Seville as much as most people seem to. Now it was time to ditch the map and brave the Jewish Quarter, Barrio de Santa Cruz. I wanted to find my old hotel and the cafe where I had the best fresh churros and chocolate and the restaurant where a Spanish couple had treated me to a glass of limoncello. Going without a map meant I had to use my instinct and talk to people if I got lost. I headed east, this I knew was correct. After 15 minutes, the wide avenues became more narrow and twisty. Instead of letting frustration seep in, I knew I was still headed in the right direction. I was in no hurry. Right, left, left, straight, turn around, another right, through the courtyard, slight right, this looks familiar….. And there it was – Hotel Patio de Santa Cruz. It had been so easy! I walked to the end of that street, made a right, rounded the corner and there was the restaurant and the cafe was across the street. Such a small thing, but I felt like I won a scavenger hunt. Only a moment to revel in the victory, I looked at the menu for the restaurant and winced. Expensive! Oh, yeah, I had a job the last time I was here and was not on a budget. I would not be staying here to celebrate. It was back to my hostel to pack. Onward for more adventures on another continent!