Seville, Spain

Greetings from Southern Spain! I always seem to apologize for the lack of posts, but truthfully, I’ve been sitting around basking (or Basquing since I’m in Spain?) in the sun each day instead of spending hours on the computer writing posts. Plus, the wifi (which they call wee-fee. I’m still laughing) is horrible all over the city — even more so when it rains. I’m just over the four week hump of traveling and now ready to start doingsomething instead of aimlessly wondering around the city.

I’ve temporarily settled in beautiful Seville, Spain among the Andalusian orange tree-lined streets, mish-mash of Moorish/Roman/Spanish architecture, endless amount of terraces — and the noisiest construction project of all time directly outside of my window. I tend to forget about the last part while awake, plus it seems to help get me out of bed by eleven. Sometimes. I was instantly drawn to Seville’s culture and people the minute I arrived, much more so than any other city I’ve been to in Europe. The Andalusians spend more time outside than inside; every night the streets are filled with tourists and locals mingling at the bars and walking down the curvy, endless alleys. 

It’s taken me a few weeks to get used to everyday life in the city: I still suck at Spanish, but now I can understand most everything that people rattle off to me in the crazy Andalusian accents; I don’t get nearly as lost as I did in the beginning of my stay (which, embarrassingly, was 2-3 hours at a time…); and I’ve become used to the Spanish schedule. Before coming here, everyone talked about the time— siestas and late dinners and crazy nights — but I thought it was just a loose schedule, like how the States “runs” on 8 to 5. But it’s all really true. Shops, restaurants, and basically the entire city doesn’t open until 10am, which doesn’t really fit into my 6am typical coffee run I had back home. Then a few hours later, usually around 2pm, is siesta/nap time, where lots of kitchens close for a few hours. Dinner is not-so-promptly at 9pm — tapas (small plates) tide people over until then — and then the bar/club (disco) scene doesn’t get going until 1 or 2am and lasts until sunrise. The first two weeks here I thought that I was too old for this insane lifestyle…then one day I stopped trying to keep track of time and started to run on the habitually late, I’ll-be-there-in-a-minute southern Spain time clock. I suppose it works best when you don’t have any set plans save making sure to get to the 50 cent sandwich shop on Mondays sometime in between the hours of 10am and 9pm.  

My previous plans to live in Barcelona foiled when I realized how damn hard it is to get a visa in Spain if you’re not a student or have a million dollars in assets or both. I’ve had to explain the absurd visa rules to just about everyone I talk to, so I’ll write a post about it in the future In the meantime, Nomadic Matt provides a great overview here. So, the general itinerary so far is to spend another three weeks in Seville, then walk the Camino de Santiago (more on that later), followed by Porto, Portugal for a week, then up to Ireland and Scotland for a handful of months if I can stretch my wallet that far. 

I found a temporary job cooking paella and making sangria every night at a hostel in the center of Seville. How I found that job, I’ll never know. Luckily, cooking paella is a fairly easy task and you can’t really fuck up sangria. Working at a hostel is…interesting. 95% of the time, I’m doing one of three things: talking to random people about absolutely nothing; trying to decipher said random’s accents and trying to figure out what they’re trying to say about nothing; or talking to people who might be cool but I don’t have enough time to figure out if they are. It’s all very fun though! Definitely something I needed to get out of my typical career-focused lifestyle. 

three weeks in italia – first trip abroad + going where the wind would take me

So here we are again, now on my third post of the series that I really should figure out a name for; My Solo Travel Experience sounds so uncreative and boring. You can find part one here and part two here.

San Francisco was a great first trip on my lonesome but by summer of the following year, I needed something big. (Also, I highly recommend San Francisco as a first solo travel experience. California is definitely a melting pot, but SF is even more so. Lots of different cultures all at once.) I’ve always loved Italian food, culture, language and passion, so why not Italy? I’m sure everyone can agree that pasta is absolutely delicious…but I love the simplicity of Mediterranean food. The splurging of parmigiano reggiano to make each dish flavorful, the tastes of various olive oil from old trees in different regions, the freshly the crispness of bruschetta. I’m sure I’m romanticizing food, but the country’s passion and intention pulled me in even closer. So that summer, I booked a ticket to Rome in November over the Thanksgiving holiday and immediately started planning my trip.

arno river through florence

I was never one to enjoy social studies lessons in school, but soon I found myself researching the regions of Italy and why the Coliseum is important and what the Black Plague actually was. I wanted to know everything (a common theme in my life…sorry for everyone who has to deal with all of my fun facts) before heading to this foreign land instead of missing out on key cultural locations and only realizing it afterward. After all, I had no tour guide to make sure I spotted the big building on the left or tell me that the Spanish Steps are around the corner from the Trevi fountain, let alone educate me on why they’re a big deal.

Another huge factor that fueled the fire of learning the ins and outs of Italy is that I didn’t want to look like a tourist. And not just a tourist, but a solo young gal in a foreign country. The biggest piece of advice I learned in my trip to SF the prior year is to confidently look like I knew where I was going. Accidentally walk into the Tenderloin wearing a bright green jacket near dusk in a city I’ve never been to? Definitely not accidental, I MEANT to go this way. I wanted to make sure I was confident both on the inside as I portrayed myself on the outside in cities where most people don’t speak English fluently. Besides the whole safety factor, who actually wants to look like the nerdy American tourist who doesn’t know the native language and only sticks to the main areas? Not I. Plus, all this research kept me at home to save cheddar instead of spending it on nights out at the bar. (Win, win)

courtyard in the vatican // vatican city, rome

I’ll go into more detail about planning and where I went later, but this trip to Italy turned out to be as magical as I hoped it to be despite with some minor set-backs. I wanted to see it all; a real Tour of Italy (and not that expensive dish you order at Olive Garden). I knew that late November-early December was the low season for travel so I could be as flexible as possible with my accommodations and plans. I researched, researched, and researched some more and came down to a general plan of Rome, Florence, Milan, and Venice throughout three-ish weeks. And let me tell you: it was awesome.

Obviously it was full of many firsts, but it was really the first time being a vagabond and going where the wind (and my whim) would take me. I had three full weeks to do whatever the hell I wanted without feeling guilty of going too fast or too slow or staying in bed until noon. I walked for 15 hours throughout Rome with my new hostel friends; I spent a few extra days in Florence sitting under a tree in the piazzas; I climbed to the top of the duomo in Milan and spent hours nerding out at the Leonardo da Vinci museum; I was the +1 at a university party in Venice with the B&B manager. I’m in no way knocking traveling with others at all — I LOVE all of my friends and would go on a trip instantly with them — but solo travel guides you into spontaneity and allows you to be yourself when no one is watching.

I managed to hit 22 towns and cities overall, which is very fast paced but just what I needed. Plus, I got to try gelato in all the different regions. 😉 (Spoiler alert: Siena, my favorite city on the trip, has the best gelato. Second place goes to a little shop outside of the Vatican in Rome.) Italy was fun and exhilarating and lived up to all of my expectations. It was definitely full of neat surprises, but it was the kind of feeling when you finally watchthe movie based on your favorite book and it wasn’t a huge flop; everything you imagined has come to life in front of your eyes.

If I thought I was hooked on travel in San Francisco, I was totally hooked now. Being American, and even more so as a Californian, you hear about ancestry and heritage but you don’t necessarily see it. Modern day California was built a hundred or so years ago — buildings are created to look old and worn in but are built as quickly as possible to keep up with the population. People are focused on new technology and the next ‘big’ thing. Being in Europe (and Italy), you soon realize that everything there IS old and authentic. It’s like a breath of fresh air in cities that have been breathed in for thousands of years.