There is only one place to stay in Sevilla if you have a motorhome, and it looks like the scummiest district in town. You cross the river after sailing past Ikea and skirt around until you find the least salubrious place in view. Then you plunge off the road over some disused and overgrown railway tracks, and down two heavily pot-holed industrial estate roads, past abandoned buildings and dodgy-looking empty car parks, and up to a fenced off area of the port. There, amidst the lines of cars and lorries that are waiting for God know’s what, is a smaller fenced off area that is the motorhome park. It has electricity and a waste dump spot and water. Yeah, that’s about it. And yet it’s cheap and quiet and safe and calm, and I totally recommend it.
We stay here because we are meeting our old friends Phil and Esme in Sevilla on New Year’s day, and we’ve arrived a day early so that we can get set up and have an early night to finish recovering from the flu – on New Year’s Eve.
Wouldn’t there be fireworks or some kind of celebration, I hear you ask?
Well no, apparently, because Steve has done some research and this is what he has found out: there’s not much going on, but the city folk do gather in one of the main squares and eat grapes at midnight. Then they go home. Oh, okay, bit underwhelming, but we’ll give it a go.
So we drug ourselves up to tide us over the dregs of the flu, and go into town intending to explore a little, have something to eat out later, and try to stay awake until midnight. We find the square and it is pretty blank. Nobody is gathering, no celebrations are being advertised there, and it looks pretty dead. So we pootle off and find this joyously fabulous place instead – the Plaza de Espana. Wow.
Situated at the end of a gorgeous park, this semi-circular building shielded a tiny boating lake. There are bridges, walkways, open squares and cloisters. It is beautiful. Everywhere you look it is decorated with colourful tiles, and the inner wall itself celebrates each major town or city in Spain with a tiled mural surrounded by a tiled seat. This one is Almeria.
There are a constant stream of horse-drawn carriages that trot through the park and up to the Plaza, then down the road past all the foreign embassies, which themselves are a sight to behold. The Colombian one looks like a tiny Inca palace all on its own.
We go back into town to find that all the cafes and restaurants have shut and the city is completely dead. We ask a doorman at a posh looking hotel where we can get something to eat, and he directs us to a bodega near the main square. There are queues of people forming all with the same idea, but we get a table, eat a hurried, unpleasant and over-priced meal (because they can – they’re the only place open) and then decide to give up and go back to Georgie.
We watch a film that Steve has downloaded and then go to bed. At 11.15. On New Year’s Eve. And three-quarters of an hour later, we realise that Steve’s research may have been a little sparse due to flu-brain, because the fireworks kick off, big time, at midnight. At first I think that they are probably just a few local ones and it will stop in a minute. It’s not worth getting dressed because, by the time I do, it will all be over. Not so. It carried on for half an hour, with me dithering the whole time, until eventually I just fell asleep. Not quite the party animal I was in my youth.
So, yes, the town was dead in the evening because everyone goes home to eat a big meal with their families. Then they all come back out again, and gather in the square to eat a grape for luck on each stroke of midnight, and all the bars open up again and they party on for hours. Right, missed that then.
For the next few days, we meet up with our friends and do as many of the sights as we can. We have coffee at the Alameda de Hercules, then walk through town to the Plaza de Espana.
We go to the Cathedral to gawp, enthralled, at the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Those guys are massive.
The bell tower of the Cathedral was once the minaret of the mosque that originally occupied this spot. It is over ninety metres high – which is thirty-four or so floors when you’re walking up it. Easier than you think, though, because it doesn’t have stairs, just ramps that were once used for the guards to ride up to the top. The view is marvellous, but the bells are fricking loud. The tower is called La Giralda, (and every time I’ve tried to write this, spell check has turned it into L.A. Gerald. Who he?).
We see peacocks in The Alcazar palace gardens, flamenco dress shops in the old Jewish quarter, and loads of interesting vintage shops in the north end of the city. It is here that we found this bonkers bag lady, who insists on making her dogs pose for us. Sweet.
Then we have to say goodbye to our lovely friends (and carry on with real life by going to Ikea to replace broken glassware).
I remember that Elena has said that children in Spain get their presents on the morning of January 6th, after the arrival of The Three Magic Kings, so I wonder what the format for that day is. I don’t trust Steve’s sources after New Year’s Eve and decide to check it our for myself.
Which is why I drag a grumbling and complaining husband out into town on the evening of the fifth, even though his flu has relapsed, and he is tired and feels a bit shitty. Heartless cow, I am. Because a fantastic carnival parade is going to march right around the town and I have downloaded the route. The people on the floats will throw sweets for the children, and the special Magic King, Caspar, I think, will be represented, possibly even on a camel. Sounds good? No, it is BRILLIANT.
Firstly, we find a place to view the procession from, which necessitates getting a drink at a bar first. Steve discovers that a gin and tonic is served as a mug full of gin, over ice, with a splash of water in. He starts to cheer up no end after that.
As the first floats hove into view, they are preceded by lots of marching bands and cool Spanish guys, in uniforms, riding horses. Don’t know who they are, but the bands play songs that everyone sings along to, and we were amused to find our ‘spot’ is beneath a balcony full of young women with sequinned cat ears. The guys on horseback are delighted and stop to watch as the girls dance about and serenade them.
I don’t know what the song is, but they jiggle about very fetchingly, and everyone in the crowd joins in the song. By the second verse, so do we, because the words are something like ‘Ole, ole, o-le o-le, ole ole’. There is a family with a 12 year old boy just next to us, and when I turn to Steve and remark, ‘I reckon we’ve got the best spot,’ he agrees with me. The smile on his little face as all those boobies bounce around above his head. Bless.
Then the floats appear and we got absolutely pelted in the frenzy of sweet throwing. The lad next to me is beside himself when he catches a whole 4lb bag full, unopened. The lady in front of me is less so, when one explodes open on her head.
The floats go on and on, nothing very spectacular in themselves, but the interactions between them and the crowd create a really fun atmosphere. The final floats, and bands, and Magic Kings ride by and the street is suddenly filled with balloons. I see umbrellas hung from balconies to catch the sweets. Some people have even held out blankets.
We look down at our feet where children and adults alike are still picking up the last of the sweets and we realise why everybody else has got plastic bags over their shoes. Ours are crusted with candy. By the time we get back to Georgie, we are ridiculously happy and our shoes are completely ruined.