Monday, January 27, 2014

Beautiful Seville by bullet train!

The morning of January 19th, we awoke to chilly, rainy weather in Madrid.  Not wanting to hunt around for food, we decided to have breakfast at Pans & Company, a Spanish fast food chain that emphasizes "healthy" options.  I discovered Pans & Company in 1997, when my travel buddies and I found it in Barcelona.  It's especially known for its bocadillos, sandwiches that Spaniards like eating as snacks.

I had orange juice, coffee, and a chocolate pastry.  Bill had a more savory option.  While we were in there, a young couple with a cute little daughter came in.  I was heartened to see how her parents cooperated in looking after her.  She was basically well-behaved for her age, but I could also tell she was a bit of a handful.  For fast food, Pans & Company offers an inexpensive yet decent quality breakfast.  It was a lot more economical than the 10 euro per person buffet the hotel was offering.




Eats from Pans & Company...

We checked out of the hotel and took a cab to the train station.  I have to say, the Atocha station in Madrid seemed a lot nicer this time than it was when I was last there in 1997.  We were there a bit early for our train, so we hit a wine bar and enjoyed a nice glass of rioja.


Nice palm garden at the Atocha train station...

The view from our table…


Bill enjoys his vino...

After we had our wine, Bill visited the one and only pay toilet we encountered on our trip.  The train station had an automated toilet that cost 60 euro cents, but allowed you to go twice if you needed to.  Of course, once we went through security to get on the train, I noticed there were free toilets.  I guess they do that to keep the bums from abusing the train station's public bathrooms.  


I had taken the AVE train to Seville before and it was in second class.  I remember it being a decent experience.  It was this time, too.  The seats were comfortable and our car wasn't full of people.  The 300+ mile journey was knocked out in about two hours and twenty minutes and we whizzed through beautiful Spanish countryside.  I listened to music the whole way, enjoying the ride immensely.


Bill prepares to take his seat on the train...

We arrived in Seville to sunny skies and relative warmth.  It wasn't *warm* per se, but it was definitely not as cold and bitter as Madrid was.  A cab took us to our hotel, Hotel Casa 1800, a cute boutique hotel in the Jewish Quarter.  I promised Bill he would love Seville.  It is my favorite Spanish city.

Bill's first gaze at Seville…

After we checked in, we went across the street for a late lunch, where we were immediately confronted by a waiter who had obviously dealt with a lot of Americans.  He was kind of pushy about what he thought we wanted.  We had some cava and he was pushing a fish platter, but I opted for a meat platter instead, which Bill and I shared.  It was actually very good.  There was chicken, skirt steak, and pork, as well as salad.  It really hit the spot.

Mucho meat!

We walked around the Santa Cruz area and I showed Bill the very no frills hostel Becky and I stayed in during our last visit.  Then we ran across Aire, a hammam (Turkish bath).  I had read about this spa as I was researching our Space A trip in 2012.  I thought we might end up in Spain then.  But then I forgot about it.  This spa/hammam is located on a very secluded street.  I knew I wanted to try it.  Bill hadn't brought a bathing suit, but the hammam provides them if you need one.  I booked us an appointment for the next morning.

Camembert and strawberry sauce...

Tapas sized paella...

Potatoes and cheese...


Ham croquettes

Later, we went to another tapas place and ordered way too much food.  We actually went in there because I needed to pee, but stayed because it was kind of an interesting place.  A street musician came in and asked if he could play for money.  He turned out to be kind of a funny guy.  We gave him a couple of euros and watched as people went to mass.  A large chapel was close to the bar and it was easy to see people come and go to church.

As we walked back to the hotel, I gazed around Seville at the bountiful orange trees that hung heavy with fruit.  Some of the oranges had fallen and were smashed by passing cars navigating the winding, tight streets of Seville's barrio.  We passed Seville's enormous cathedral and enjoyed the sights and sounds of mostly local people.  January is a great time to visit Seville.


These tiles are all over the place in Seville...


The tower at Seville's cathedral...


I had to take a picture of this… it's kind of a Carlin quote.



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