far too much writing, far too many photos

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I have never experienced the kind of friendliness toward strangers that’s come my way during this swing across the Atlantic. It’s been clear since my first time outside London (whenever the hell that was — three or so years ago now) that there’s a real warmth to the English character, a kind of warmth that extends itself easily. But since my first afternoon in Newcastle-under-Lyme, a week ago, when folks passing on the High street dropped a hello or a wink, there’s been a friendliness and curiosity that’s prompted all sorts of people to strike up conversation, especially during this last couple of days. It’s caught me by surprise (in the nicest possible way).

So. Yesterday morning, 8 a.m. sharp: hammering. Not at the door — across the narrow street from the hotel, where a building has been gutted and is being restored as flats. Though it could just as easily come from down the block, or around the corner, because there’s work going on everywhere. The plague of rehab., construction and public works that’s made life in Madrid so messy and chaotic has hit Sevilla. (The simple mention of this to the cabbie who drove me out to the airport yesterday evening provoked a confirming monologue at once exasperated, dismayed and resigned.) A short-term solution: stuff earplugs into the appropriate apertures. I did so, dropping back off for a while, eventually pulling myself out from the, er, compact single bed that came with my one-person hotel cell, making myself vaguely presentable, stumbling out for caffeine.

When trying to decide on an establishment for food/drink in an area I’m unfamiliar with, I sometimes follow the crowds, working on the assumption that a place might be popular for good reasons. A joint down the block from the hotel seemed to be heaving with Spaniards, I followed a group of people in. Found a spot at the bar, ordered an espresso, asked for a croissant. No croissants, they told me, adding insult to injury by handing me a cup of offensively mediocre brew. Finished up quickly, paid up, went to another, quieter place further along the street. Better coffee. And croissants — good ones. A leisurely while later, I headed off for the first of many long walks through the city center.

I’m not entirely sure why walking seems so therapeutic to me. Could be the people-watching, could be the ongoing process of trawling for things to aim a camera at, could be the losing myself in the simple activity of moving, covering ground, with senses on full input. Whatever it is, it works. Big-time, inexpensive therapy (though potentially hard on feet shod in pointy boots).

Sidestreet graffiti, Sevilla

At some point, I became aware that a song had lodged itself in my teeny brain and begun playing itself over and over — a quirk that’s been happening far too often this last week. A few days back, after a discussion about Queen, ‘We Are The Champions’ took up cerebral residence, hanging around for many hours. This morning, waking up in a hotel room in Liverpool, I realized that ‘Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey’ had somehow taken root overnight and was running on an endless loop. (Someone please shoot me.) The song in Sevilla was a tune I’d heard from a nearby radio — happily, I can’t remember it, meaning it won’t have the opportunity to lodge itself in my gray matter a second time — providing a soundtrack as I walked, finally fading and giving way to the sounds of the city.

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The east end of la Plaza Nueva on a spring morning — Sevilla

EspaƱa, te quiero.

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