Sunday, April 08, 2007

Andalucía II: Dinner at One in Seville

The pasos weren’t something we needed to seek out in Seville; we ran into them accidentally, trying to get from one place to another and suddenly facing those pointed hoods and massive crowds. Occasionally, forced to cross some street or another, we found ourselves momentarily part of the procession, in step with the hooded figures.

While the pasos processed around the city each day, we saw some other Seville sights. We climbed to the top of the Giralda, the tower of the Cathedral; instead of steps, there are 34 ramps—riders on horseback used to ride to the top. We went to the Real Alcázar and saw the impressive Moorish carvings and elaborate gardens. I went to the Museo de Bellas Artes one afternoon while Andrew had a phone conference and saw some beautiful Spanish art; one of the most popular Zubarans was on loan—but it was on loan to the Guggenheim’s exhibition of Spanish art, and I saw it when I was in New York for those couple of days this January. I had a strange feeling, of perhaps being in too many places in too short a time.

And we ate well. Very well. We had churros y chocolate late one night after watching a paso. We sampled an Andalucían speciality—spinach with garbanzo beans (delicious). One night we rounded off a fabulous tapear—something southern Spain does way better than Barcelona—at a fritadoria, which is my personal version of paradise: a place selling only fried fresh fish. We ordered fried shrimp in a paper cone and ate it outside on the street. It was well after 1 a.m., and people were just figuring out what to do for dinner. We’d had to fight our way through crowds to the counter—there are no lines in southern Spain. Grandmother-types were ordering vast quantities of fish. I thought we ate late in Barcelona—but Seville takes “eating late” to another level entirely. And in every bar there were posters and framed pictures of Jesus and Mary in states of suffering and mourning—usually right next to something profoundly secular, like a mounted bull’s head or liquor bottles. Catholicism is woven into every part of this city, unobtrusive unless you’re a visitor seeing it all for the first time.

Seville is the kind of place where people eat standing up, crowded around the bar or around large barrels standing on their ends, ordering tapas by pointing at it, shouting requests at the harried tenders behind the bar. We wound up one night at a packed bar, having delicious ensaladilla de gambas (shrimp salad), among other things, surrounded on all sides by shouting Spaniards trying to get the bartender’s attention; and it struck me how lucky I am to be doing all this—seeing all these places with Andrew, having him to lead us through the chaos that is the Sevilliano tapas bar, being able to travel for an entire week across southern Spain together, simply to experience Holy Week. These are lucky, wonderful days.

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