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.

The Family In Sevilla

Late July 2013

They are 2nd cousins to me on my mother’s side. They put on a great spread for us at the home of Mari Loli (a sister of Manny) and her husband Jesus (a property developer and antiquities collector). In the late afternoon Manny, his wife Maria Jose, his aging mother Mari Reyes, Rachel and I raced out through scorched landscape in his doomed car – one eye on the road and t’other on the temperature gauge.

Mari Loli and Lydia - Sevilla 2013Mari Loli lives on the outskirts of Seville in a grand, patio-d and tiled two story home with large swimming pool with their two children: daughter Lydia and son Jesulito. Lydia’s novio Elio (a budding artist) and a couple of friends (Luis and his novia Rocio) were also at the gathering. There was a sister missing, uninvited due to some family dispute. The food was great – tortilla, olives, salmorejo (a tomato, red capsicum, egg yolks, wine vinegar, garlic and bread soup served cold), barbequed pork, spicy chorizo, ensaladilla rusa (a potato salad) and of course, bread. Dessert was a slab of ice cream between wafers. There was, naturally, wine and beer. We had a table tennis championship, but I was out of practise and have booked a rematch. Loli’s husband Jesus has done well for himself, but is also a collector of ancient things and has a veritable museum of Roman and pre-Roman things which I find fascinating. A lot of it is, indeed, stuff which should be in a museum, but I won’t go into that. He gave me some more Roman coins for my collection too. Nice bloke. The evening ended with the ladies dancing flamenco, with the men singing the coplas unaccompanied. They were all clapping to a complex beat. Old Mari Reyes (Rocca) was a Flamenco dancer in Gib as I said, and her daughters were taught the art; the mother still dances with grace. Mari Loli has passed the skill onto her daughter Lydia. It was a real visual and aural treat for Rachel and me. We’ve been invited to stay with them on our next visit – cousin Manny has no room, in fact his apartment is very small, but quite typical of a lot of Spanish folk. We’ll see. We like to be independent.

Family in Sevilla July 2013

Seville has recently completed the construction of an amazing bit of modern architecture in the very centre of the old city. Locals refer to it as la seta, or, the mushroom. Overground, in a swirl of white ribbed steel you can walk around and up to a height where you get a great view over the whole sprawling city. We noted with pleasure that there is one – only one – modern glass office tower (a bank!) in the whole of the city; Seville had determinedly retained its ancient, low-rise architectural integrity. But, below ground, they intended building a car park. They got about four metres down and found they were uncovering Roman remains (not unusual round these parts). Construction came to an abrupt halt and plans were revised. Two years later and way-the-hell over budget, they opened this architectural marvel with a Roman palace uncovered and available for the public to view (for a very reasonable 2 Euros each) with some almost complete, large mosaics, artefacts, walls, baths, water systems etc. Or, above, you can walk about looking down upon it through glass. I found a bar/restaurant (unfortunately closed at the time) situated brilliantly above these remains over a glass floor. Imagine, 2000 years of history beneath your feet for you to ponder upon, with a drink in your hand and a tantalising, tasty tapa or two within arm’s reach to distract you. Hmmmm?

Sevilla - Under La Seta