Sevilla and Algeciras

14th July 2015

It IS the heat…..

Sevilla – Sultry, Sedate and Seductive
It is indeed a grand city. Beautiful regal architecture (and an eye-popping modern one with the revealed archaeological dig at its footing), wonderful old bars, ancient alleys, a slow and broad river (the Guadalquivir), a night-life of great repute which we never manage to stay up for (we did, though, manage a couple of post-midnight nights), a great regional cuisine (better in the back streets and suburbs), loads of tour groups, and you’d never complain about the cold.

Seville Triana Spain

Historical Seville Spain

Geeeez – it is hot! We walk slowly these days. 44 degrees in Sevilla most days with no let up. No wonder they don’t do much activity until the late evening. I haven’t really adjusted to the Spanish eating and siesta routine; I haven’t had much appetite for luncheon meals so by mutual agreement we have ended up just starting our day with café con leche and a toasted bun with olive oil and mashed tomato (that, at least, is Spanish) and often a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. For the rest of the day our food and beverage intake is all out of kilter with their routine but, I assure you, immensely satisfying.

The perfect ice coffee
Iced coffee in Seville

My Spanish cousin, Manny was once again a boon with his ability to direct us into fabulous local eating and drinking places and is a mine of information about Spain and Sevilla in particular. He is a very talented, professional photographer but Spain is a particularly difficult country to work in, especially in that field at present and his impoverished state and necessity to continue with some photography and book projects precluded our going on any side trips this time. So, we limited our stay to four nights. However, my nephew Thomas (son of brother Tom) and his partner Gabby arrived to make family connections on the second day and we were able to introduce them, permitting Manny to ably demonstrate his aforementioned expertise and knowledge. They enjoyed their visit and it was a pleasure for us to connect with Thomas again and to meet his partner.

Street art Sevilla
Seville Street Art Seville

From here we can see the rock of Gibraltar just across the Bay. We arrived to the same oppressive humidity and heat. The reason for this weather is the hot wind that blows over, across the Straits of Gibraltar (and, indeed, across all the Mediterranean) from North Africa’s Sahara Desert. In Spain this wind is called The Levant, in France – perhaps more famously – it is called Le Mistral. It brings with it energy-sapping heat and humidity, and frequently dumps sandy dust from that desert as far inland as Sevilla where it will coat all the streets and cars.

We arrived in Algeciras on the day of a local Fiesta, Santa Cristina. Just before sunset we watched the blessing of the fishing fleet from the upper plaza. It involved many boats going about the harbour tooting their horns, firing water at each other and setting off parachute flares (you wouldn’t want to have been a boat in trouble that day).

Blessing of the Fleet - Algeciras Spain

Later that evening, as we lay zonked on our beds under an ineffectual ceiling fan in the sweltering heat, the music and parading of the saint’s effigy through the local streets started up, culminating in the lighting of innumerable fireworks. The band’s drum beat thudded a repetitive funeral-dirge rhythm (the saint’s carriage, supported by many men, is very heavy) and the band, made up of oboes, saxophones, clarinets and trumpets, played its distinctively Spanish-fiesta refrain.

It was quite effectively haunting (as befits the mystery of the church), however, even as the fireworks started up I lay unmoved and sweating abed; I heard Rachel go to the window once and mutter something about the cost of the fireworks. Fortunately, we have been lucky enough at other times to witness a few of these fiestas and processions so didn’t feel we were missing anything.

At dawn (and quite oddly for this urban environment) roosters started crowing. A lot of people living near us seem to live in one room apartments which open right onto the street (now where have we seen that before?) and, god knows, in their economising they may keep the chickens indoors. Fresh eggs, at least. Alternatively, they could be penning them up on the flat roofs.

Grubby and old Algeciras – it is, after all, a fishing port, a very busy ferry port and a major cargo port. Four or five (depends on how business is going) regular hookers stand in the morning’s heat hugging the wall not twenty metres from where we stay (there were others there last night – we’ve taken to saying hello to them). The old market – one of the best and busiest you will encounter in the whole of Spain I kid you not – is five hundred metres away from our accommodation and is surrounded by bars selling fabulous food in the way of tapas, raciones (or half raciones) or platos and, of course, liquid refreshments. (pic below: boquerones and paella as bar tapas)

Boquerones in Algeciras Spain

Paella in Algeciras Spain

Not unexpectedly in this port that services Morocco, there are also many things Moroccan here in the way of food, clothing, etc.; an interesting and positive mix. Last night we ventured uphill to the old plaza mayor (major) and fed ourselves up there in a place we used to frequent but, good as it is, it is a more costly exercise and we are now content to spend our remaining time down below where things are more modestly priced: in fact they are really affordable but will get even more so when we sail over to Tangier from Tarifa (a short bus ride from Algeciras) tomorrow.

We took the half hour bus ride over to La Linea (the border with Gibraltar) in the afternoon just to revisit some old haunts and kill some time and lo and behold, encountered yet another small fiesta:

La Linea Spain

One of our favourite bars in La Linea – La Parada
La Parada in La Linea Spain

And the very next day, much to Noddy’s delight, he and Big Ears embarked on a ferry to cross the Straits of Gibraltar to land in the Kingdom of Morocco. Make sure you read next week’s exciting story of this adventurous couple as they make breathtaking discoveries and drink lots and lots of mint tea. Bye bye for now dear readers . . .