far too much writing, far too many photos

[continued from previous entry]

When daylight began to fade, I headed off into the barrio of Santa Cruz, the warren of narrow streets and pedestrian ways to the east of Sevilla’s cathedral, to a place I’d visited a couple of times in the past, a center that hosts flamenco performances every night. By young musicians — advanced students, maybe — giving great, energized performances the two occasions I’d been there before.

The music happens in a courtyard, a curtain of trailing vines covering the wall behind the musicians, a canopy a couple of stories up providing a roof. A small space, allowing three performers and an audience of around a hundred seated in rows of chairs around three sides of the room. I arrived early, found myself sitting front and center, daylight fading as nine o’clock approached. A guitarist and vocalist entered, both performers I’d seen here before. They launched into a long, complicated number, the guitarist working hard with difficult, complex material, the singer extravagantly emotional, getting away with it by committing to it in extravagant fashion.

And when they finished up, a dancer entered, one not of the typical look I’ve seen in the past. Not svelte. A bit chunky, in fact, with heavy features. Took her a few minutes to warm up, her concentration twisting her up features in a strange, unflattering way. And then everything settled into place, her movements found a grace and emotion they hadn’t had, her performance became more intense, more in sync with the musicians and the audience. And from there the evening took off.

The moment the show ended, I was out the door, walking back through the barrio, past the tourist concentration point of el Alcázar Real and la Catedral, across la Avenida de la Constitutión into my hotel’s barrio. A good fifteen-minute hike, me pulling up at the restaurant in which I’d eaten the night before. Which turned out to be empty, no one there but the owner and me.

He threw together a good meal, brought me a small beer or two, I inhaled everything like someone coming off an extended fast, noting the quiet, sad atmosphere of a place lacking business, the owner reading the paper to kill time, taking a few minutes to write out the next day’s menú on a chalkboard.

He didn’t seem particularly inclined to a chatfest, I let him alone, paid up, got out. One last walk through narrow streets, the neighborhood’s numerous watering holes mostly doing better business than the restaurant (except for a wine bar, empty apart from the two employees who stood outside the door, both talking into cellphones), then back to the hotel where the TV went on for a while, Spanish-speaking voices filling the small space of my room until the light went out.

Next day: more of the same. Good espresso. Croissant. Roaming around enjoying scenery, people. Good lunch.

Late afternoon: returned to hotel, packed up, left for the airport for a Ryan Air flight back to the U.K. Found myself second in line, behind a 60ish English couple with several bags piled on a cart. Airline personnel appeared, putzed around getting ready to begin check-in — their point person a tall, blonde English type. He gestured the couple forward, tall, blonde guy didn’t like something about their stuff, the check-in stretched on and on, him finding one objection after another. Until he sent them and their luggage to a customer service window way off on the other side of the terminal. (To pay for excessive luggage, I found out later.)

During all that, Ryan Air personnel repeatedly announced that passengers were allowed only one carry-on bag. Watching the routine happening with the first couple in line, I began taking the announcements seriously, stuffed my bag o’ books into my monster wheeled duffel, leaving me with my laptop bag. Legal, thought I. Blonde guy gestured me forward, I lifted the wheeled duffel onto the conveyer. He stared at a weight indicator, told me it was too heavy. I removed the bag of books, leaving me with the same duffel of possessions I’d come to Sevilla with. No good — he wanted me to remove five more kilograms of stuff. I stared at him, it not computing. He stared back, expressionless, unyielding. We went back and forth a little, me a little stunned, not getting why my bag would have been acceptable on the way down, unacceptable for the return trip. I removed a few items, jamming them into my computer bag. Then more things, a small, unmistakeable smirk appearing on blonde guy’s face during the process. He finally let the bag go through, tossed a boarding pass at me, I turned around to find the couple behind me watching fearfully, wondering what the hell had happened. I told them, they looked from me to the desk, eyes wide. I took off as they approached the desk.

I later spoke to them and to the first couple. This, it turned out, was not the first time they’d witnessed or experienced strange happenings at return-trip check-ins for Ryan Air flights. Couple #1 said this was their third time flying with Ryan Air, they’d been subjected to something unpleasant two out of the three times. By contrast, they’d flown with EasyJet many times, never experienced a problem. Couple #2 were hassled as I was, wound up having to re-distribute stuff between bags.

The good part of the experience: it got me examining my tendency to overpack. This trip, in particular, coming over for a month, I decided to bring everything I wanted. The result: er, too much stuff. Time to re-think the packing thing.

Another good part: I found myself sitting next to couple #1 during the long boarding wait, we began talking and continued talking, becoming one more confirmation of my general experience with Brits: they’re friendly, warm folks I enjoy being around.

[continued in next entry, sort of]


Buildings/sky, Sevilla

Madrid, te quiero.

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