Saturday, March 20, 2010

6 March: The first full day

me-gb-shirt-smlSo, back to Seville... Woke up at 7:40am after a night of heavy rain and massive thunder. I spent a good 10 minutes washing and trying to dry my Gallows Grey Britain T-shirt, which was uncharacteristically stinky after a day's travelling. I'm not really much of a sweater, but humping luggage and running from place to place in the overheated airports wearing a heavy-ish coat clearly took its toll. We both got showered and dressed ready for the day ahead (my last day in my 30s!), and then we would go off and talk to reception about our bed situation (remember?). Checked my watch just before heading down... Shit! It's 10:20am. How did that happen?! Ah, forgot to put my phone's clock to Spanish time.

I mentioned it was my birthday, we were disappointed about the beds not being a double, etc, and reception told us that they would upgrade us from tomorrow to their superior suite. There was no mention of extra cost, just that we should get all packed up in the morning and go down and see him again. Cool.

Ready for the rainSo then we set off, pausing in the hotel doorway to don our "Jack in a Pack", since it was pissing with rain. Fab. And then we made our way to a bar for some breakfast. This first day we settled on a place we'd never been before, Bodega Santa Cruz Las Columnas, which is opposite and a little way up the road from usual haunt Cerveceria Giralda. We each had tostada (toasted bread) with aceite (olive oil) and tomate (or salsa de tomate, a tomato sauce but not like ketchup!); a coffee (con leche for me, manchado for Red); and a glass of OJ between us. It's always great just watching these guys in Spanish bars working. Any Spanish bar I've ever been in is essentially the same in this one regard: it's like a super-well-oiled machine. So fast and efficient, they totally put the UK service industry to shame.

Baños Árabes entryBreakfast done, we next made our way to the Aire de Seville baños árabes (Arab baths) to book a slot for tomorrow, my birthday proper. The baños árabes played a key part in my choosing Seville as the destination for my 40th birthday: that's how fucking great it is. It seemed a slight blow that we couldn't get anything earlier than 4pm, but only for a moment. Thing is, once you've had a lunch on Spanish time, it's almost 4pm anyway! Plus we have to do all that checking out and back in nonsense tomorrow, too...

The rain continuing unabated made us think we should take some indoors time for a couple of hours, so we opted to do something else we'd never done yet in Seville: visit the Archivo General de Indias (the General Archive of the Indies). This absolutely massive structure is surprisingly anonymous from the outside. Indeed, we've walked past it probably hundreds of times hardly giving it a glance but knowing what it was called, even if we didn't really know what it was or even whether it was open to the public. One of the guides we had mentioned that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so we figured we should check it out finally.

First things first, as a Brit abroad (and I know it's slightly unfair to say this latterly, given there have been changes as regards our galleries in the past 10 years), it still takes me aback that there are some important places you simply don't have to pay to enter. We had to put our stuff through an x-ray machine first. (Spain is very good on anti-terrorist measures, even here in Andalucía, which is apparently the European hub of al-Qaeda, so they probably needn't worry: who shits on their own doorstep?) And then, once through, they gave us a little guide thing and said to head on up the stairs.

Archivo stairwell
Well, the stairwell itself (above) is a thing of some majesty! You know it's huge. You're on it, and you know it's big, but somehow you don't really get a sense of quite how big until you take a picture of yourself on it, dwarfed by its vastness. Really. (Actually in the image above, at the bottom right, you can see a fire extinguisher by way of scale.)

There are, of course, the eponymous archives of billions (probably) of papers and documentation, which itself is astonishing, with all these identical box files behind lockable grilles (check the locks among the images at the end of this post) and on beautiful bookcases, but also on display are maps and items brought back from historic voyages of centuries past -- the times when we in Europe were off globetrotting and killing natives and taking their land... Bringing civilization to tribespeople on the other side of the world and offing them if they weren't interested. You know, all that good stuff.

And there's also a little room where a film plays on a loop, chronicling the history of the archive, as well as of the building itself, which was totally fascinating. It's incredible to think that such a jaw-dropping architectural beauty could ever have been converted into a tenement building, but that was exactly what had happened at some point in its past. Unbelievable. Thankfully, you would never know, looking at it today.

Forbidden fruitWe took pictures where we could, but in one whole big room it was not permitted, which was a shame. I couldn't really see the problem, though I know a lot of places with historic ephemera have concerns about the use of flash. I wish they could just have a "no flash" policy instead, if that's the case. I fired off one quick shot in the forbidden room (see right), being all nonchalant and avoiding as much as possible the eye-in-the-sky security camera. Ooh, I'm such a rebel! And after that, while in a different area, I got told off for putting my camera on top of a glass case. I mean, really? My camera (I didn't take my dSLR for space reasons) weighs little more than a wallet. Do me a favour, mate!

All done there by about 1pm, we next hit the bakery just opposite: the Horno San Buenaventura. This is a hugely popular tourist trap, yes, simply because it is massive and has lots of tables and chairs. But there are plenty of locals, too, due to the wide range of top-quality baked goods on offer. And of course, if you stay at the bar, like a local, rather than taking a seat, like a tourist, you pay less for your purchases. I had a café solo (an espresso) and a tocino de cielo. I think Red just had some water. The sugary gorgeousness of the tocino and the caffeine kick of the espresso would keep me walking until lunchtime (which was now, really, but since we'd had such a late breakfast...)

Off we trotted, then, to the Macarena area of the city. But I'll save that for the next post... Meantime, here are some pics from the Archivo General.



Ceiling and doorway



I am cannon, hear me roar.

Archive lock 2

Behind an unlocked door

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Blogger furiousBall said...

great shots! sigh, i really need to get out of the states to see some history

20 March, 2010 14:27  
Blogger Ben said...

Good stuff! To a Texan, it's always sort of sad to be reminded that some of our east-of-the-Atlantic brethren might need the clarification that a sauce made from tomatoes can be different from ketchup (it certainly goes for ze Germans).

20 March, 2010 16:21  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Definitely, fB. Come and visit Europe sometime.

20 March, 2010 16:21  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Ben: I hadn't really considered it even potentially being confused with ketchup until I put the words on screen. Lightbulb moment: tomato sauce but not tomato sauce? Best clarify!

20 March, 2010 16:23  
Blogger Milla said...

Beautiful shots!!
Red looks so sad though, in the "Kappa uei".

I love the way you write, *Aste! It's really like: let's cut the crap and tell it as it is. I love it!!

22 March, 2010 12:36  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Thanks for the kind words, Milla. I try to be succinct so as make fairly long posts readable. But I had a tendency to go off on a tangent!

We were both sad to have to wear our K-ways, but we had planned for the eventuality...

22 March, 2010 12:55  
Blogger tweetey30 said...

Amazing placee Aserisk.. Just amazing.. I like my Kodak Easy Share Jeff bought me for my b-day in January.. I can take photo's with no flash. And they come out nice..

23 March, 2010 16:57  
Blogger Milla said...

Ah, that is a word unknown in my vocabulary: 'succinct'.

Just passing by to look at your back again! Wonderful, it looks.

24 March, 2010 13:23  
Blogger Candy Minx said...


26 March, 2010 16:12  

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