Seville, Spain; Denver, USA
Our niece Erika Gundesen was celebrating a milestone birthday on March 13, so joined us in Seville to begin the festivities. Erika also wins our most frequent visitor award! (4X - Barcelona, Edinburgh, Denia and Seville).
The birthday girl’s chariot was waiting for us to tour the historic city of Seville. I know we have enjoyed this ride with a few of our other guests, but I did my best negotiating with the carriage driver to take us on the “Grande Tour” for the monumental occasion! The horse, Fanny, also did her best to make the birthday tour particularly memorable as she headed down lots of narrow streets and didn’t miss the bougainvillea.
The same evening, we went for the pre-birthday dinner at very laid-back restaurant, Fargo, that prided itself for having the best vegetarian dishes and Iberian pork, go figure! (stuffed squash/artichoke strudel/Iberian pork with veggies)
The birthday princess toured the Royal Alcazar on her own, while her injured Aunt and Uncle went to physio for repair. We met up after and toured a beautiful privately owned palace, Casa de Salinas. These palaces are amazingly steeped in history, still owned and occupied by the same family since the early 1900s. I am convinced that these guys open their palace to the public (for a fee) as their 401k/RRSP plan!
Seville is a beautiful city, and great for just walking around.
Lot’s of touring works up a thirst, so we headed over to the Hotel La Terazza that has a roof top bar with unobstructed views of the cathedral. (We went from a 3-star hotel with the Pura Vida bar to a 7-star hotel – is there such a thing as a 7 star hotel?)
The next day we strolled around Triana, which is on the other side of the river from Seville. Triana was once a town known for the production of ceramics. Back then all the kilns were powered by burning wood which produced a huge amount of soot in the neighborhood. We were told that the people of Triana would call the factory and ask if they were “firing” the kiln on laundry day. If the answer was yes, they would not hang out their laundry as it would get covered in the soot from the kilns! I don’t think they these kilns would pass the EPA tests of today!
From Triana we headed over to tour the historical Alfonso Hotel. This is a grand hotel in which Margo, and I stayed 3 years earlier when we were in Seville. The hotel was a perfect setting for the birthday princess to check out!
Back to the celebrating! Seville is famous for flamenco dancing, so we headed over to Museo del Baile Flamenco show and enjoyed the small, intimate show.
Then it was off to the main birthday dinner, no dress rehearsal here, this was the real thing! The food was amazing, including grilled vegetables, beef entrecote (cooked on a hot rock at your table) and as they say, “the world’s best tortilla”. They even recognized Erika’s birthday by turning out the lights (briefly) in the restaurant and delivering Erika’s dessert with a sparkle in it. Kinda looked like a roman candle firework! So, the picture below isn’t Erika, but you get the idea of the sparkler!
Erika checked out the inside of the famous Sevilla Cathedral for a couple of hours and then we met up with her and walk through Jardines de Catalina de Ribera, Maria Luisa park and Plaza de Espana.
Unfortunately, the pre-birthday celebration had come to an end. We had tons of fun during the 4-day pre-celebration to Erika’s birthday, and the big day was still a week out! We drove Erika to the airport and sent her on a flight back to London, where she spent her (real) birthday with her buddies there. Here is a blast from the past, one of Erika’s not so recent birthday pictures (she is on the left in both photos, with her sister Lyndsay).
The day Erika left was also the first Friday of Lent which is a big celebration for Spaniards, at least the ones in Seville. We saw many locals lighting candles for their loved ones at a Catholic church right by our apartment. We lit a couple for Madi and Abby!
Moving day! We downsized from a 2-bedroom apartment, which was cozy and comfortable to a bright studio apartment with a fabulous roof top terrace.
The new apartment called for a dinner celebration! We found a small restaurant with fantastic food and great staff, called Abaceria del Postigo. Put this on your list of restaurants if you visit Seville. Amazing organic tomatoes with mackerel (not the kind of mackerel we get in North America) and anchovies on toast with pumpkin.
We downsized our car as well. We had planned to be leaving for Morocco from Madrid, so returning the car there made sense. However, with Margo’s ski accident, doctor and physio appointments, that was no longer our plan. We still hope to go to Morocco, maybe next fall. It was an easy drive, 5 hours north and 2.5hr high speed train back to Seville.
In preparation for our eventual trip to Morocco, we have been sampling their food which is plentiful in SW Spain. The Moors didn’t just leave a legacy of incredible buildings! Al Wadi restaurant had incredibly fresh ingredients and interesting Spanish/Moroccan flavors. We started with the mixed appetizer plate (roasted peppers, falafels, hummus etc), then had basmati rice with Moroccan beef and lamb chops.
Margo and I set out to do a little physio on our own and rented a bicycle built of two. We drove through Maria Louisa Park, excellent for Margo to build up the strength in her knee!
We followed that up with a walk around the Jewish Quarter of Seville.
Friends from Denver, recommended an excellent spot for us to enjoy a Spanish tradition, churros and chocolate…..YUM! Good thing we resisted these til now!
Needed to burn of the calories so we went shopping! We bought an amazing piece of artwork and a purse for Margo to remember our time in Seville.
We knew the Coronavirus situation was heating up in Spain, specifically Madrid, but we were not aware of how quickly things would change. We went from planning our next 3 months in Europe, with a “visit” home in the summer, to booking a flight at the end of March after Margo’s doctor appointment and completing our physio. That night we learned there was a state of emergency being announced by Spain’s government imminently that would “lockdown Spain”. We didn’t know exactly what that would entail but decided it was time to “get out dodge”. We changed our flight to depart two days later. The route was Seville to London and then direct to Denver, great, we were set…not so quick! We then started to hear about Seville limiting the number of planes coming into city to control crowds at the airport, so feared we would not be able to get to London. Ok next plan, lets drive 2 hours west to Faro Portugal and fly from there to London, perfect right? As all this was going on, restaurants, shops, churches, you name it were locking the doors. It was becoming a ghost town! How were we going to get to Faro? Got it, I went to the plaza nearby to hire a taxi to drive us to Faro. Francisco agreed to take us that night, as the highways were being closed to non-essential travel the next day. We quickly packed, jumped in the cab and left Spain. €350 later we got to our hotel in Faro and got caught up on the news as we attempted to relax after our unexpected and sudden exit from Seville and Spain.
As you can see from the picture, taxi drivers take their jobs very seriously. Driving in Spain is a bit like being a Formula 1 driver!
News flash, literally! The US government had just announced that they added the UK and Ireland to the list of countries that required screening to enter the US. US citizens need to enter through 1 of 13 airports that are set up to screen people coming from Europe and guess what, Denver was not one of the cities. So, we knew our flight would be canceled or rerouted. Ok, let’s turn up the pressure to get back to Denver. Back onto the computer and found a United flight going from Lisbon to Newark (New Jersey) to Denver, we booked the tickets. Perfect as Newark was one of the authorized cities to enter back into the US. Next, cancel the flight to London and book a 2.5hr train to Lisbon to catch our new flight home!
Literally planes, trains and automobiles. As I type this we are on the plane, two hours to go, psyching ourselves for a busy Newark airport with the new screening process. Then home to Denver. Hard to believe we are on our way home, things changed so quickly, it seems a bit surreal that we will be sleeping in our own bed tonight after 11.5 months on the road! We hope you have enjoyed the journey with us, and we are really excited to see everyone!
We have great friends and neighbors who made sure the house was still standing and that it was full of food and supplies. We had an impromptu happy hour out front, maintaining social distance of course!
Our last furry friends in Spain…for now: Carlos and Gringo, a cute pair of Yorkies, and last but not least Emma, a standard poodle owned by a couple of Canadian guys that just arrived for a year in Spain - yes, they brought their dog!