September 24, 2005

Walking in Sevilla

We´ve pretty much walked all the central touristy parts of this city, and gone past them into residential neighborhoods, most of them middling to lower-middling. The street signs throughout Spain are spotty, often the main street has no signs, apparently because you´re supposed to know what it is, and a select few of the larger side streets have signs. Some plazas and churches are shown on the maps and some aren´t, and the maps aren´t usually arranged with north at the top. As a result we´re continually walking in places where we don´t know where we´re going, and learning to recognize them hour by hour. Often we walk through the same streets again and again, realizing it at some point by spotting a landmark -- a shop sign, a tapas barm a conjunction of streets.

Yesterday evening instead of eating dinner in a restaurant we bought bread and cans of sardines and tomatoes and pears at the market next to our hotel, and we watched a Spanish DVD with English subtitles on Dan´s computer. It was fun -- the movie was a historical conjecture about the poet Lorca´s death -- and tonight we´re going to repeat with a different movie. The restaurant food on the trip has not been a culinary revelation on the whole. At its best it´s tasty and interesting and subtly different from what we´re used to. The fun is more in discovering places, picking one terrace to sit at out of dozens of possibilities. The pastries have been generally high quality, as is the coffee.

It´s evening now, getting toward sunset, and the boulevard near our hotel is unrowded at last and surprisingly pretty: clean and wide and shadowed, with little enough traffic for a leisurely stroll against the traffic light.

We´re hoping for another day of restful strolling tomorrow, before the evening´s bullfight.

I don´t know if my knowledge of Spanish is deepening, but I´m becoming more fluent in the key phrases you repeat over and over to waiters and hoteliers. And I´ve enjoyed trying to decipher newspaper headlines and articles. The Spanish make very little effort to accommodate to the linguistic deficiencies of their visitors. The waiters rattle off their questions as if you were a native, and then you look puzzled and they rattle off something else. Rarely, a waiter will slow down and simplify a question -- and when one did this afternoon, I left him a bigger tip English is out of the question usually. Luckily Dan speaks a little Spanish from his childhood and from his months as an artist here.

I´m reading a book about Goya now, written by an Englishwoman. I think when I get back I might try some Neruda in Spanish.

That´s all for now -- I´m very glad the hurricane is being downgraded. Hope everyone is okay.