‘If I can’t get behind myself in order to see what’s going on, if I can only live forwards but understand back, then it follows that at the very least I need time to walk, meditate or pray.’ Kirkegaard.
A few last shots of the exceptionally beautiful Sierra Calderona before moving on.
I left Olocau, near Valencia in Spain with Phil and Fred in the dark, with ice on the windscreen! Thanks for the lift!
Very soon the sun was rising red, orange and yellow in deep, deep colours on one side of the car, date palms silhouetted against the sky.
We drove into the city of Valencia with many kilometers of industrial sites including a sex toys supermarket.
On the other side of the car were pale wisps of pink and baby blue/yellow.
As we drove we knew it was only a brief gap in the Las Fallas festivities after Sunday night celebrations finishing at 5am and then starting again at 8am this bank holiday Monday. Sure enough as I waited for my Bla Bla Car, the sounds of the fireworks escalated until they were reverberating all around me.
Waiting in the cold for 1.5 hours was not much fun. There were no bars open for the toilet so I had to go in a public garden by the side of road 😦
On my third tour of the area I discovered a bakery and bought 3 cakes which turned out to be coconut which, apart from meat is the only thing I do not eat! It was colder and colder and there were many cars picking people up for Madrid.
Eventually, 45 minutes after our driver was due, the young woman next to me (who happily loved coconut cakes) phoned and we ascertained our lift was nearby. This is very unusual as Bla Bla Car drivers are usually very prompt. In addition it transpired that the third passenger was waiting at the wrong place.
As we drove out of the city towards Córdoba, we quickly hit a random road block with eight Guardia de Civil officers stopping people to breathalise them. Luckily not us!
Driving through the Requeña area, half way between Valencia and Albacete on the N111, I saw the same cliff colours I had been walking through all week – it is a strong orange brown land with an ancient tower and acres of vines mostly espaliered. They are like rows of black commas or embroidery made of dots; like flattened out oranges studded with cloves.
There was a motorway sign warning of hail, ‘niebla‘. I had some conversation: my driver has walked the Camino del Norte ‘muy bonito‘ she said, very beautiful. I dropped in and out of sleep as I finally warmed up again!
We were passing from Valencia to Castille-La Mancha through forests and mountains. The next time I jerked my head, bit my tongue and woke up there were green fields of flatness.
The journey cost each of us £32 and the two youngsters slept. Perhaps they had been up all night?
The driver is a lawyer from a big Cádiz firm. She is smiley and we had plenty of stops but she did check her phone while driving which I would have preferred she did not.
Like almost all women over 45 years, she wanted to know if I was walking alone and then said she wanted to come with me!
With 220kms to Córdoba there were still fields and fields of baby vines and we passed Bodegas Artisanos (artisan wineries). There was, as normal on these long journeys, a nice sense of companionship in the car – often sharing food and exchanging looks on hearing the snorer!
It is a very long drive, right across Spain (650kms). We took the Venta de Cardenas tunnel into the Province of Jaén where Javi (one of my lovely lodgers) grew up. Then the Autovía del Sur motorway which careers down towards Córdoba and there were still 280 kms to Seville. We sang along to Michael Jackson and outside it was all olives, full grown in rows as far as the eye can see.
We drove on through the rather brooding looking Sierra de Andújar mountains heading south. Raptors (buzzzards?) flew above the landscape. It was not a bad day to be spending so many hours travelling: dull and chilly although there was no snow like Dartmoor (England), the Asturias (northern Spain) or Edinburgh (Scotland)! Later there was pouring rain and we were 60kms from Seville making good time after our late start.
The wind was blowing the tops of the palm trees, all in the same direction of course, and there was sodden ground for the poor Camino Mozarabe backpackers to walk on. I saw my first two cranes’ nests on top of high poles (familiar from previous visits), and the ubiquitous huge black metal bull hoarding, silhouetted – left over from old advertising and now a sort of national symbol.
Here are some photos of my time in Seville.
I had a great couple of days in Seville with Pedro and Jesús: wonderful Shiatsu (see the professional and attractive ShenSations Shiatsu studio website ); attractive surroundings; and good food (especially the tapas last night with wonderful pulpo (baby octopus) and gambas (prawns) in olive oil and garlic. So lucky to be with locals who know the best places! (Una y Media, Camas).
Notes re. past blogs: G. told me the name of the very attractive bird which calls bou bou all day long: the Hoopoo with its black and white tail feathers and tuft on top of its head.
Thanks also to friends Cynthia and Sue for informing me of flower names.
And now I am driving through Monasterio, through which I walked last May 2017, on the way to Mérida. It will take me 2.5 hours on the bus to go the distance it took me to walk for 10 days. I remember it well!
Day 3, 18.5.17. Via de la Plata camino walk, Castilblanco de los Arroyos to Almadén. 29.5 kms.
On and off through the night I was shaken from my dreams by snoring, but as I know I ‘give as good as I get’, I could not complain. Later I was woken by my alarm and was the first up. I did try to be careful, indeed I had prepared everything the night before so I could creep out silently, but I forgot I had emptied my pockets and as I moved my clothes I dropped all the coins. They rolled loudly and far on the tiled floor – what a racket!
After breakfast, I set off confidently, but down and back I went looking for the arrows to show me the way, and I lost the time I had gained from rising early.
The others were up and out, probably woken by my noise, and so I thankfully followed them. As I walked my head was full of questions.
I compared the luminous yellow arrows with the luminous sunny morning. There was no comparison! How does the sun pick out the edges of each leaf, as well as ripples of old bark, which has no shiny surface, and make them gleam?
I hoped that I had built up enough strength during the previous two days for the 30 kilometers ahead of me, and that I would not therefore have to use super-human, prodigious will power. Ah, there was a thrilling bird voice – was it encouraging and reassuring me?
It was day three of being on my own. Would I be content to be a hermit or enter one of those retreats like Tenzin Palmo? If I am alone so often anyway, maybe. Then again, like most others I enjoy companionship. It is all about balance.
”..the walk is solitary and rural, a means of being in nature and outside society.’ p. 18 Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust
I moved between tarmac and softer gravel, along a bed of dry, brown leaves from last year – it is kinder on my soles. I hear French spoken behind me. It is crisper and much less passionate than Spanish. Later I meet the couple and exchange a while. He does most of the talking and was indeed a crisp sort of person.
Then a tandem passed me – him with his long back in blue and black, she behind in pink, legs circling of course, in exact time with each other. ‘Buen camino!’ A little further on they get off and walk up the hill, and I realise I have been steadily climbing. There is a long, spider-legged peregrino in front of me, an older man without all the gear behind, and the wheeled couple coast down the other side.
The walls I trekked between were white and had decorated name plates outside, even the ordinary ones. They have plants in the type of pots you might expect a genie to whisp out of, and they adorn the gatehouse, while the road stretches in to the land behind. It was much hotter by this time, even at 9am. My right hip bothered me a little with the climbing. Crunchy old acorns littered the ground.
At 10.10am I enter the Parque Natural de Sierra Norte and am off road. The two French people were in front.
I take my first pee of the morning – oh to be able to stand up and do it like men! Next time I will wear those shorts which you can just pull up and down easily. It is a real struggle to squat with the money belt and rucksack, and then try and do buttons once standing up again. After repetitively walking a long way, bending the knees is hard, although having said that, it is probably good to keep them lithe. A bird sings ‘pee pee pee’!
I wonder about listening to music as I go along. Alain, who I walked with on the Camino Francés, used to play songs and sing to me, it was a way of getting to know each other. I try, but after a few moments I stop. I like to hear the sounds around me and potter along at my own pace not to the song rhythms. My head is full enough as it is.
‘Never did I think so much, exist so vividly, and experience so much, never have I been so much myself – if I may use that expression – as in the journeys I have taken alone and on foot.’ Rousseau, Discourses on Inequality.
Lunch was at 10.40 and what a cacophony of toads down in the stream. Such beauty.
There were soft, soft, fine grasses curving over in the mild breeze, black olive trunks contrasted with swathes of yellow flower heads and hopefully, I mused, I was over half way to Almadén.
I remember trying to pick up my pace but my feet were sore and my ankles stiff. I obviously was not yet into the swing of this amount of daily walking. A bird kept saying ‘bo bo boh’, one with a largish orange-brown breast and a black and white tail. At least I thought that was the one which belonged to that particular call. It can be hard to identify them.
There were long, oblong stone troughs for feeding the animals, white-pink stones rather than crystal quartz, very tall trees reminiscent of the ones next to the albergue roof terrace last night. I had watched the leaves meditatively spinning whilst doing my T’ai Chi.
Banks of lavender fell down hillside, which when squeezed released a potent and wonderful aroma.
As far as the eye could see there was only trees and nature and natural sounds: I climbed over some water, admired the lollipop pines and inhaled their resiny smell. It all prompted me to take deep breaths.
And in good time, because there followed a very, very steep, though thankfully relatively short, climb of 550 metres. Half way up was a memorial to a dead pilgrim (Michel Laurent) which seemed appropriate given the gradient. Many people walk the Caminos at the end of their life or because they are unwell and some do die on the way.
At the top there were three of us and we gave thanks for the cooling wind. I was excited to see the end in sight as well as tomorrow’s path running east to west on the slope opposite. That was to be rather important information the next morning.
It was the first town or village I had set eyes on since 6.30am, 6.5 hours ago, and although it was also a very, very steep topple down, and I had to take enormous care because of the boulders and sheer rocks, the reward was at the bottom.
In Almadén, on the church tower, were 5 of the huge black and white cranes which I had seen in Northern Spain.
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust. ISBN 978-1-78378-0-396
Via de la Plata camino walk, Spain. Guillenna to Castilblanco de los Arroyos. 18 kms. 38 degrees heat on arrival.
There was a crescent moon high over Guillena as I left in the cool air at 6.15am. There were already birds singing and the cats were skittering around the deserted village, scouting the bins and very nervous of me. There was that Spanish smell: a mix of plants, food, perhaps even the building materials – very hard to describe. The cock was heralding the dawn of my next stage. As I walked I felt really happy, happier and happier, and the kittens did their tree climbing practice while their mum looked on.
If I had walked past here, extending the kilometers covered as the Germans did yesterday to the next town, I would have missed this. As it was I was refreshed and ready for the journey. I realised that I was only wearing a T shirt and the temperature was very pleasant. Only a few clouds bordered the horizon.
I traversed the River de Huelva, bats flying around me, and ah! I remembered that I had left my food in the hostel fridge again. I hoped it would be enjoyed by others.
My camera could not see the sunrise the way my eyes could. I rehearsed the description in my mind so I could try and conjure it up later: the colours – red and blue at the top, a stippled layer of dark purple underneath pale yellow, under pink – not like anything reproduced in fabric or paint. All this above a silhouetted horizon of palm trees, like pineapples on sticks. The top edges of ordinary farm or industrial buildings stretched right across my vision, pulling my gaze towards the destination away from the hedgerow. That sillouette got stronger and stronger as I walked the long stretch of road, and as always on the outskirts of towns, there were very few arrows as guidance.
And then it lightened.
I came to an industrial area by the main road intersection. My mind was generally quiet except for the mini-panics over finding the way. Passing a blue, white and yellow warehouse there was a lot of rubbish littering the deserted tarmac and there was an air of danger. I am not religious, but I felt as if the cross which hung around my neck given to me by Pedro the night before I left was protecting me. Perhaps his wish for me to have a safe journey was imbued in it.
I was prepared for difficulties because there was no translation of the website when I planned my route the night before. After an hour I came to farm land, crossed a dry river bed, and there were the wonders of nature laid out before me.
My Shiatsu and its theory is always with me and I muse: I guess all of us who love to walk, feet on the ground, have to be balancing our Earth element. It then follows that worry which is associated with that element can be a normal thing for us, and the walking helps with it. I spotted a rabbit and bees were collecting. My thoughts are interrupted by what surrounded me.
Soft grasses stroked my arm. The warming sun released the smells which changed from a damper, cool, morning green smell, to an earthier, warmer, sweet brown smell, and then to the searing fiery red emanating from the soil which has absorbed so much sun over so long. The track stretched straight into the distance and now I could see that there was a single pilgrim ahead of me and 3 Italians behind. I had spoken to one the night before as we both had some French. There was a Spaniard with a stout stick and an Alsatian dog coming in the opposite direction.
I stepped carefully, picking my way across the stony, pinky-brown earth with olive groves on one side, and crops on the other. Each had a narrow strip of flowers and grasses where the pesticide had not killed them.
I kept asking myself why I walk. Maybe to prove myself to myself, to learn to be with myself without judgment, so I can do that with others. The quieter I am, the more accurately I hear, and then I know things before they happen. When I am attentive, things come into my mind before they take place outside and so I am not surprised by them when they happen. I am pleased with this. It releases some of the anxiety, but it is still new and unfamiliar. I believe that this sixth sense is one of the things babies have but then lose, getting replaced with fear. I am trying to unlearn the fear.
‘A walk was her answer to everything. It was her way of saying she did not want to talk.’ p. 190 The Words In My Hand, Guinevere Glasfurd
I heard amazing bird song: some songs are simple – one or two notes; others start with one, but complete with a different rhythm altogether. They repeat, as if they were giving me lots of chances to understand what they were ‘saying’.
Ahead was a wonderful sight – a tiny castle in the distance amongst a huge field of sunflowers.
As I walk memories surface, triggered perhaps by things I see or other thoughts. Today I was thinking a lot about my mum and I when we were in Menorca many years ago. Maybe she was thinking about that too.
I had entered the Natural Park which signaled the start of the Sierra Norte and the Cortijo del Chaparral with its terracotta-coloured earth pathways. It was still flat and I was heading in the direction of Castilblanco de los Arroyos.
Glimpses of last night’s dreams floated frustratingly in and out of consciousness. I reflected that part of this happiness was knowing that I had set off at good hour so that if anything went wrong there was time to put it right.
After more thoughts and observations I returned to the walking, my breath, and the feeling of my feet and core. I called ‘hola’ (hello) to hard working farmers as I walked. I must have been losing fluids because I was regularly tightening my rucksack straps. (It must fit me snugly to avoid back and shoulder ache.)
A group of men who were working hard in the fields, miles from each other but still managing to converse, did not notice me passing until I was past. Then they unfolded, absent-mindedly standing, curious. Someone was hand-pruning a peach orchard. Here were pregnant long-horned cows and rabbits in among the olives, and I heard a new bird call: a hoot coming in 2s and 3s that was being responded to in kind from sonewhere else.
One bird screeched, its long tail beating up and down. It was collecting from the ground and doing a sort of bouncy hopping from 2 feet to 2 feet, right alongside the rabbits, taking scraps to the excited babies in its nest. One bird daringly swooped in festoons from tree to tree, brushing past my head. There was lavender, rosemary and sharp cistus bushes, with sage too, and later a pungent fragrance like-sweet peas.
It was rocky with lots of yellow arrows. My advice if you are walking this way: if you have not seen a sign in the last 5 minutes, retrace your steps.
I was tempted by the sounds of fellow travellers and immediately took a wrong turn. One turned out to be the first Brit I had come across, a cyclist with good advice. He ‘buen camino-ed’ me from a distance later, unsure for some reason whether I spoke in English, and that little exchange changed my energy. I saw him again, once in a village as he was looking for a post office to send back his guitar. He said it seemed to be a good idea at the time, but actually it was a nuisance on the bike and unused.
The ants hurried along in opposite directions. There was a buzz of pylons as I passed underneath that sent my brain fizzing. I was so glad that I did not walk this part yesterday in what was a 38 degrees heat at the end of a 35 km day!
The solo peregrino who I thought was behind me passed as I sat quietly on a rock and ate my pear.
To avoid the curled-forwards posture of the everyday backpackers I saw around me I was using Bill Palmer’s concept of buoyant / full organs to keep my solar plexus open.
There were butterflies galore, some almost black.
I thought as I walked: our words live on inside others, so it is important to take care with them, to take responsibility for what we say.
I make the least imprint on the earth I think, walking like this, compared with bikes, cars, trains and planes, and I hope I give lots back in return for the joy I am getting.
In case you get lost after leaving the park, you turn left into the road, cross over and there is a path through the undergrowth on the other side. It has to be eyes down for the arrows.
Walking the Caminos alone is good for people who usually try to behave correctly in life, as it is often the first time they can please themselves.
If it is early when you arrive in Castilblanco (11.30am), do as others do and and sit outside the first bar you come to because the albergue doesn’t opens until 1pm.
I went for some food and it was quite a performance. The English version of the menu did not have the same meals as the Spanish version did. The bar owner explained that the reason they did not have the fried anchovies was because it was not on the Spanish side! I said ‘sin carne / no meat’ (ah, yes, I remembered the way this went!), and the first thing ge brought (when I ordered chickpea salad) was meat stew. I reminded him that I did not eat meat, and he said, ‘what, not chorizo?’ and so he offered spinach salad. After a long time he reappeared with a delicious spinach and chickpea curry and fried bread. I definitely did not say, ‘but you said there was no spinach’and it all went beautifully with the red wine.
The ‘pilgrim’s menu’, much later in the evening was 8€. The calamares (squid) came the way I expected it to. That was one reason why I asked for it. I thought it would be simpler. Why do I insist on speaking in Spanish when he has some English and my Spanish is so limited?
The hospitalier at the albergue / hostel was charming It doubles up as a day centre for people with disabilities and there is space at the front to sit and watch the world go by. The dorms are upstairs and follow the usual format – everything is provided for the washing of self and clothes, for sleeping and preparing food, and it was spic and span.
In 3 hrs my washing was dry, even the thick things and by then the roof terrace tiles were too hot to walk on. It was decorated and full of others congenially chatting in multiple languages.
Beginning the Via de la Plata from the start this time. Seville to Guillenna, 25 kms. 16.5.17
Jésus kindly dropped me off at a very early hour, still dark, to begin the Via de la Plata in the city of Seville, in deep southern Spain.
All the Spanish caminos have Santiago de Compostella as their final destination. I had completed the Camino Francés in late November 2016 and fancied continuing to walk, so started the VDLP (as it is known in the club!) from the end, in the direction of Seville where everyone else starts it. In fact it was very tricky to negotiate the signs and arrows going backwards, so I only did ten days or so and promised myself I would recommence from the beginning. And here I was, five months later!
‘He gathered these details as he walked, and he could not have gathered them had he not opened himself to the kinds of encounter and perception that travel on foot makes possible. Walking, Lee notes, refines awareness: it compels you to ‘tread’ a landscape ‘slowly’ to ‘smell its different soils.’ The car-passenger by contrast, ‘races at gutter height, seeing less than a dog in a ditch’. Lee, like Leigh Fermor, believed in walking not only as a means of motion but also as a means of knowing..’. taken from Robert Macfarlane’s introduction to ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ by Laurie Lee.
Like Laurie Lee, I had travelled across Spain, unlike him I had spent one day in fast cars (Zaragoza – Madrid – Seville), and so I resonated with the above quote. I was so very glad to have my feet back on the ground and be moving at what felt like my natural pace again.
And of course I got lost as usual, attempting to find my way away from the urbanisation. Seville is a beautiful place, but my heart lies in the rural landscape and I was keen to move on there. The birds, my constant companions, were wide awake. I trundled through wasteland searching for the yellow arrows – scouring the edges of benches, trunks of trees, discovering one wrapped around a lamp post, and another on a motorway bridge underpass.
My advice to fellow travellers: everyone knows the way, ask, and/or wait patiently for a sign.
Do not go too fast, look back so you get sights of the sprawl you are leaving behind.
Like many parts of all the caminos, the outskirts of cities and large towns are less than salubrious, but because I was so excited, and have been practicing appreciation of all that is around me, there is beauty if you look in the right way.
I was not really going that fast, but there were 3 Germans walking out at the same time as me, and they went ‘like the clappers’. I needed to keep up with them, so I thought, because they were so confident, but it was not my natural speed and there was not enough time to take focused photos. I have kept it in as a record of the route.
There were trees laden with oranges (no photos) lining the streets, and I kept on going straight.
I dashed into a cafe for a take-away croissant (no breakfast – very stupid – I never learn) and promptly lost the others. I panicked thinking I would never find the way on my own, so I ran to catch up. Ran! It is no fun with a backpack I can tell you.
The unmistakeable sound of a peacock heralded my arrival in Santiponce, 7km from Seville, after two hours. One of the richest artistic and cultural heritages in Andalusia, it is sited on the banks of the River Gualdaquivir, which suffered several floods. One caused its surviving inhabitants to take refuge in the monastery (see below), which then granted the highest land for the safe re-building of the town as it is now.
There were more orange trees and the sun was trying its hardest. I have to say that after yesterday’s scorcher, I was rather glad that it was not as hot, given it was my first day back on the road with the rucksack and all.
I took a detour to see the Roman Theatre but it was shut, only open in the summer (I guess May is not the summer) for performances. The nearby Tourist Information was very helpful though, and it had lovely clean toilets.
The Anfiteatro de Italica opens at 9am and one of my favourite blog writers recommended seeing it (see end of page), so I sat and ate an orange, listened to the birds, and rested my back until I could get in.
There were gardeners planting and tending red roses, just like characters from Alice in Wonderland. But it was hard to rest and enjoy when I knew there were miles to go. So I rejoined the Way and the flora and fauna.
An hour from Santiponce and it was starting to get hot. The smell of a jam factory meant I was headed back into an industrial area, and a massive motorway junction followed.
After a little while I was rewarded with beautiful wild flowers – azure cornflowers, cow parsley like big white iced buns with a beetle instead of a cherry on top, silver grey thistles, reeds, irregularly shaped fields of wheat – green and pale yellow – as well as pylons and traffic sounds competing with the birds.
The path was stony and my feet were getting sore.
The plants were undulating in the welcome breeze.
Piles of ants descended on scraps. Their diagonal queues dissected the path and I tried to avoid them. Birds played together in the breeze.
More flowers: Bindweed and borage. I was totally alone. There were no words except the occasional ‘buen camino’ to and from cyclists flying past, shoulders up to their ears. Now I was able to breathe in time with my walking steps, to notice a butterfly I hadn’t seen before – pale green with a splash of yellow and just a few black dots like Kandinsky, beautifully blended with the flower colours. I saw a dragonfly. I felt happy.
‘Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart’. Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit p.5.
It was a lesson in endurance. When you are tired, you look into the distance and never believe you will ever get there, but you do. And it is joyous, my arrival into Guilenna.
There was quite a way before I really arrived. White houses with terracotta roofs greeted me at the end of the very dusty road. It turns out I should have gone over the bridge, not round by the river. I should have known when I found myself climbing over fences! The yellow arrows were once again hard to see.
Here was the prettiest church ever seen.
The first hostel was shut and I had to ask many women before I finally arrived at Hostel La Luz at 12.15 and it was 25 degrees by that time. The lady at reception was lovely – friendly, and informative. I was the first to arrive and had a dorm to myself next to the small courtyard, on the ground floor. The facilities were basic but fine for me, I had everything I needed.
I had decided to send things back to the UK (no use for my swimming things, or so I thought) to lighten my load. The post office was so, so slow – I sat and waited, watched and listened to the excitable Spanish conversations, and eventually it was my turn. It was a simple thing to do, not very expensive, and I sent some post cards as well. I rested and then had to go out again for food – what a very long main road it was in the 28 degree heat at 5pm! Or in fact 35 degrees depending where you looked (phone or electronic sign in the town).
I went to the start of Mass in the evening. Inside, it was highly elaborate as you would expect of a Spanish Catholic church, although there was a simple wooden roof: one part with stars, and the other vaulted, made of stone and painted pale yellow. There was a very life-like, full-sized Virgin wearing a real black velvet dress embossed in gold with a fantastic silver tiara and beautiful lace scarf and collar. The women were all in attendance, one with the sound turned up on her mobile, tap tapping in response to the message which sounded very loud reverberating around the nave.
The little girl who entered in her gold shoes and bracelets had a carrier bag with a pink ball in it. She put her finger to her lips for a loud shush to grandma and great grandma. Extended families wore their everyday clothes. The deeply tanned young men in white t-shirts ranged around looking at the iconography. I was at the back and attracted attention, presumably because I was not local. It was very much of a social gathering before the service.
Later I enjoyed my own brand of spirituality – t’ai chi on the terrace in the evening sun with the village rooves on two sides, the countryside I had just walked through on a third, and the place I will walk into on the fourth. I gave thanks for the whole situation.
…and arrived rather later than anticipated. For a long time I had planned to start my next walk in Seville and posted on Facebook that I was looking for someone who would like Shiatsu in return for a bed. My kind friend, Gill, put me in touch with Pedro, a fellow Shiatsu practitioner, and he was more than welcoming with his excellent English.
It was good sleeping amongst the healing Chi of his practice room and I was delighted to listen to Jesús’ Cuban guitar for breakfast.
My tourist day in Seville began when I was dropped off at Plaza de Armas (where you can also find the bus station and super-market), and I started my walk along the River Guadalquivir towards the Mercado (market) Lonja del Barranco in Calle Arjona, next to Puente de Isabel II (one of the many bridges at regular intervals along the waterway).
I sauntered past shops with gleaming apricots and sombreros for sale.
Then continued along the Paseo de Cristóbal Colón with its glorious colours: yellow earth, orange flowers and jade-green river. The subtle-sweet aromas, the sounds of school children, rhythms improvised with plastic bottles and hands making steel pan drum sounds on metal table and chair, with grass cutters in the background reminding me of those along the Brittany coast two days before.
The architecture is quite different in this south-western corner of Spain. The yellow and white bullfighting stadium, deep pinks and orange of residential apartments are interspersed royal blue shuttered grandiosity. None of your Tobermory pale baby colours as on the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Seville is a gay-friendly and open-minded place, extremely attractive, and full of tourists, artists and university students.
When I am in a city with so many famous sights, too many for a short visit, I have found a way to choose what to do: I get to a corner and I stand still and contemplate. If I like the look of the left-hand street I go there, if right then there. I have been practicing spontaneity and following my interest for many years in my Shiatsu sessions. Here my eyes draw me to a baroque exterior in the sunshine: a balustrade above oval windows, above decorated towers, beside naked torsos at the Instituto Geográfico y Estadístico in the Plaza Nueva next to the Plaza de San Francisco.
It was the unexpected details which caught my eye: the Banco de España (Bank of Spain) has cuboid trees; horses and carts sport shiny yellow wheels; while a woman squatted to take photos.
There was more English spoken around me than I had heard in weeks. It was swelteringly hot so that I was glad to get into the cool church.
If you get the chance to visit, check out the solid silver altar piece in the Cathedral, the flying angels holding lamps, pink marble, and, when I was there, spray after spray of white chrysanthemums and fragrant lillies. Outside, a young boy kindly put his arm around his brother and comforted him – there seemed to be good feeling everywhere.
I found myself back at the river: two men were lounging in a huge pedalo-type river craft made of white fibreglass;
a school girl on a bike was dressed in a burgundy and black kilt with matching socks; there were rows of municipal bicycles I had only previously seen in London; the green men on the road crossing signs walk! and three boys in swimming trunks took it in turns to jump off into the river. It was already 38 degrees. In fact for a moment I rather worried for myself for the walk tomorrow.
That evening we went to a concert in the Moroccan Pavillion, from the Expo in 1992. It has a highly decorated interior and glows in the evening.
There was tango, piano and singing (mostly in English from British stage shows – apparently very popular) in shorts and T-shirt, and we sipped free beer and ate peanuts. Later we drove through the gloriously illuminated city and enjoyed tapas in the slight breeze – welcome at midnight sitting outside!
Without a guide book, I had had to locate the setting-off place for the next leg of my travels through Spain on my own. Happily I had found it by chance at the very beginning of the day, so after a few hours of sleep I knew where to start.