Sevilla is an incredible city! I love every bit of it, however, as I stay here week after week, the beauty seems to fade into the background. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Growing up in the states, I’m not used to the oversaturation of historical sites. We don’t have ancient history everywhere you look, as they do here. When I first arrived, I marveled in awe at all of it, but as I approach the end of my three months, I almost forget it’s there. Perhaps my favorite example is the Cathedral. Completed in 1528, it’s the third largest in the world and the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. Every morning on my bike ride to school, I pass by it. And on my bike past, often the only thing I notice is when it’s in my periphery, because that means I’m almost to school. Isn’t that terrible?
Another contribution to the beauty fading into the background is my sense of direction. Sevilla is by no means a small city, but it’s not huge either. And having now lived here for more than two months, I’ve seen a good portion of it. I’m able to navigate sans-GPS from just about any landmark to any other (including any location that is important to me). As such, I’m more inclined to put music on and jog to my destination, or stare at my phone the whole way, or otherwise pay no attention to what’s around me and simply head to where I know I’m going. I no longer examine my surroundings in awe, because I feel as if I’ve seen everything.
Next comes a point with an upside and a downside. I’m a regular! They know my name and I know theirs at all my favorite restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Being a regular has its perks. However, there is a downside as well. I feel like I’ve lived here my whole life. Things are simply not as special. I make an effort to try new places, but at the end of the day, I always end up at the tried and true options.
Next is certainly an upside. The people here. Sevilla really isn’t that large, and I’ve met a lot of people in my short time here. These days, it’s very difficult for me to walk anywhere without passing someone that I know. I’ve met people of all ages and backgrounds from all around the planet living here, and they’ve met me. It’s pretty cool to think about!
Lastly on the subject of becoming a local, is learning the language. My Spanish is still god-awful, but at least it’s better than it was when I got here! And recently, I’ve reached an important milestone in my language learning process… I can understand it! I can read signs and menus and texts, and I can understand when people are talking to me (given they speak slowly). Suddenly, Sevilla doesn’t feel so foreign. It feels more normal and natural.
Let that be the takeaway. It only took two months, but after all this time, Sevilla finally feels like my city. It feels
like a city I’ve lived in for a while and a city that I can call home. It feels like my city.
On a different, but related note, as I’ve exhausted many of Sevilla’s weekend offerings, I’ve moved on to traveling on the weekends. It’s not as easy as I would have imagined, but it’s not terribly difficult either. I’ll give you the quick summary of my last two weekends.
Ford Model T at Granada Science MuseumThe weekend before last, I went to Aracena for one day at the suggestion of my host family. A small town about an hour and a half from Seville by bus. In Aracena, there are three tourist attractions. 1) A museum about ham. 2) The ruins of a small castle on a hill overlooking the city. 3) The Gruta de las Maravillas (Cave of Wonders). A ticket to all three cost 12 Euros. Here is my assessment of the three. 1) 2/10 – not worth it. 2) 3.5/10 – Nice view, but not worth the hike up. 3) 10/10 – I may go back. The caves were some of the most spectacular natural geological features that I have seen in my entire life. They are hard to put into words, and as far as I can tell there has yet to really be any effort to 3D map them or take any really complete photos. If you are ever in Spain, you should go see these caves. They are massive and spectacular.
Last weekend I went to Granada (3 hours East) from Saturday to Sunday and stayed at a fairly large hostel. Granada boasts one main sight, according to my guide, the most popular tourist attraction in all of Spain, the Alhambra. A large Moorish palace complex on top of a hill. I visited it on a guided tour, and I have to say, I was kind of disappointed. It was beautiful and grand, and the view of it and from it was magnificent, but once we got inside…. I hate to say it, but not so much. It’s certainly a factor of the sheer amount of incredible sights I’ve seen in the last couple months, but still. I found the whole complex to be kind of plain (which I believe was intentional. Historically, Islamic royalty believed they shouldn’t show off to much… or something like that). I loved it, but I think I would have loved something else more. And as it is so popular, it’s pretty much impossible to buy tickets yourself, so the only option is an expensive guided tour. I have to say, it wasn’t worth it.
What I really enjoyed in Granada was the science museum. An odd choice for a trip to a Spanish city, but what an incredible science museum! It reminded me a bit of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry or Houston Museum of Natural Science, although much smaller. They had an incredible exhibit on robotics in the present and future and another one on the human body as well as one I didn’t have time to see on hazards (everything that could possibly harm you) (They also have an observatory and a few other sights, which I didn’t have time to see). I really loved the robotics exhibit and would highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in Granada.
Lastly in Granada was the food. It was delicious and so cheap! And to top it off, everywhere I went would bring you free tapas when you ordered a drink. Frankly, you could have a whole lunch just by ordering a couple drinks! It was great. My advice for Granada (or elsewhere): just ask the waiter for whatever is best. 9 times out of 10, you end up with something good! That’s how I ordered in Granada, and I could not regret it less!
Overall assessment if you’re in Sevilla… Go to Aracena! It’s super cheap and easy and very worth it. Also, go to Granada if you have some free time, but plan it way in advance so you don’t have to pay for an expensive guided tour of the palace in order to see it. Hope that helps!