Seville26 July 2013 – Just Under 6 Million People Unemployed In Spain

Ahh, dear old Sevilla.

A very hot and dusty place always at this time of the year with temperatures nudging 40degC – but it quickly dries the dog shit up (my 2nd cousin Manny claimed as we walked his little inherited dogs). The Salamanca to Seville leg on board a coach was a relatively mundane journey during which we enjoyed the scenery – ancient, craggy castellated villages, vast spreads of acorn trees and sunflowers and so on, and dozed a little. They always stop for a good half hour for a lunch/dinner break anyway.

Medina Sedonia‘Tis a strange thing I discovered years ago in Spain: that young (and/or old) males will sit for hours discussing not the ways and whiles of women – but food. They will analyse its construction, compare recipes, flavours, and swear certain regional superiority – a significant thing here – of some produce or other with dramatic and voluble enthusiasm; it absorbs them totally. The other day in a restaurant in Medina Sedonia, sitting in a colourfully tiled courtyard under the shade of a fruit-laden arbour of grapes with Manny and Rachel, I found myself suddenly smiling with the realisation that that was exactly what he, Rachel and I had been doing for the past fifteen minutes or so while waiting for our order to come – an enthusiastic conversation totally centred on food. What is happening to me! I don’t even eat a great deal.

Tapas in SevilleI do like to try different things however, and it is the season for snails here. Most bars/restaurants are featuring the smaller caricoles and the larger cabrilles. The sauces they are cooked in are outstanding, but I can take or leave the chewy little creatures. Rachel enjoys them, Manny’s wife Maria Jose devours them with relish . . . hang on, no relish – but great enthusiasm.

Our side trip from Seville down to Gibraltar did not go to plan. We were to go in Manny’s car, but at the last minute he discovered there was water in the oil – suggesting a blown head gasket. Getting an affordable rental was a wearisome process but the three of us managed to eventually get on the road south in a small new Skoda. About one hour on the road I started to feel queasy and finally had to get Manny (our preferred driver) to pull over while I heaved and heaved to no great effect. Recovering my composure, we set off again only to have to pull in to a small town where I repeated the process in a car park. They forced me to drink liquid and we set off once more. At this point I was already contemplating us abandoning the journey; I wasn’t well. The next time I had him pull over was on the shoulder of a major country highway, vomiting out the window before he’d stopped. I made it over the safety barrier and staggered to some bushes where I delicately disrobed and proceeded to water the parched ground with copious amounts of liquid from both ends. I was in bad shape; no sooner did I finish evacuating from one end then I was firing from the other. Needless to say, I had become totally dehydrated by the process. An emergency conference decided we should find the nearest hospital, but quite honestly, lying uncomfortably recumbent on the back seat, I was beyond caring. I just wanted to sleep. Manny and Rachel finally got us to Chiclana Public Hospital where, after a long wait in the emergency ward a doctor gave me an injection in the bum to block my system, and lots of good dietary advice. My assistants, of course, were wonderful: Manny getting us through the bureaucracy of the hospital system and Rachel alternating between a clucky mother-hen and a no-nonsense matron. I wasn’t much help. The hospital didn’t charge – I am a Euro citizen, after all. Food poisoning apparently, though we still haven’t pinned down what it was that did it as we all ate mostly the same stuff the night before. Just bad luck. By the time we got to find some accommodation in the southern hill-town of San Roque I was pretty weak, but we still headed out to a nearby plaza about 9pm where, al fresco at a very busy small restaurant, Rachel and Manny enjoyed a series of delectable dishes accompanied by Tinto de Verano over ice, for Rachel, and beer without alcohol for Manny. I sucked on a cooling soft drink, looking on with a mixture of envy and caution, nibbling at a few tasty morsels just so as not to miss out on the experience. I was recovering.

San Roque - Manny, Rachel, CedricThe next day was a comedy of errors as we set out to cross the frontier into Gibraltar to visit more family. Being my second cousin on my mother’s side, Manny has the same family on The Rock, though I was to introduce him to another one that day. His father is from Gib, as is my mother. His mother was a flamenco dancer in Gibraltar when the two met. We decided to leave the car parked where it was and catch the bus down from San Roque to La Linea (the frontier between Gib and Spain). On the bus, near La Linea, I realised Rachel and I had forgotten our passports. This called for a change of plans and some rescheduling of appointments but we decided to do a ‘walk down memory lane’ in La Linea first before going back to pick up passports. Arriving back in San Roque by bus we scurried up the hill to the hotel and retrieved our passports but then decided to eat; we thought we could catch the last bus (to meet our appointments with family). We missed it by a minute. OK, so now we’ll take the car into La Linea, park it, and walk across the border into Gib, catching a shuttle bus into the town we figured. Our frazzled thinking was motivated by a desire to achieve economy of cost and movement. We had already failed on all counts; our parking bill at the end of the day was huge, and our return tickets on the shuttle bus couldn’t be used because they’d stopped running by the time we went to leave Gib. But what the hell: it was great day and I was recovering.

In Sevilla we ended up having ‘supper’ way after ten in the evening and getting back to our hotel after one in the morning. It just happens. We’d go from place to place eating this small dish with a drink, then to another place for some different treat and so on. It’s also to do with the balmy summer nights; much cooler and more comfortable than the day. We were lucky, of course, to have such a good guide in cousin Manny. Poor as he currently is, he is a dedicated foodie with a lifetime’s interest in Spanish cuisine.