Seville, Spain: A Recommended Quest


O’ Dark-Thirty

Bee-beep… Bee-beep… Bee-beep… Time to get up. Bee-beep… Why? Where are we? My brain wanted to know but the rest of my body wanted to go back to sleep. Beeeeee-beep! beep! beep! beep! For a month we were in Perpignan taking the days slowly and never setting an alarm but the last few days were spent power-touring with my brother in Barcelona. Yes… that’s it, Barcelona. My brain was getting a foothold. What an awesome city (check out Pat’s post). Ok. Right. Now about that alarm? Of course… Our flight to Seville is this morning!

We rolled out of bed at o’dark-thirty and departed Michael’s Airbnb with more than three hours to flight time. One hour was spent on the subway/train (very convenient by the way) and the next two vanished mainly into the black hole that was Ryan Air’s check-in process.


Where Did the Time Go?

We were Ryan Air virgins but we had heard enough to know that it was imperative to follow the rules. Our boarding passes were printed. We had weighed and measured our bags, pre-purchased the appropriate ‘services’ and arrived two hours early. The only thing left to do after check-in was pee since we had not purchased that in-flight ‘service.’

We queued up with the rest of the ‘budget travelers’ and thought to ourselves, Gee, this line isn’t very long. We’ll probably have an hour to kill and time to get a much-needed coffee… and pee, of course. After 15 minutes in line, we noticed that we had moved only about two feet, which may have had nothing to do with actual customers being served but rather natural attrition. It started to look like the cup of coffee was unlikely to happen.

No jetway for us!

The problem was obvious, only one Ryan Air agent was single-handedly checking in all of the passengers. Each time a party appeared before him, you’d hear the sigh, the bargaining, and finally the anger, almost like the five stages of grief but in reverse. Some unfortunates were banished to the gigantic line of non-rule-following passengers while others were permitted to shuffle items from checked bag to carry-on or vice-versa.  All left the check-in desk with the same shell-shocked look as a person after emerging from their first timeshare sales pitch.

Pat and I narrowly escaped being sent to the ‘Special Baggage’ line because our bags had straps. Fortunately, the straps on our eBags unsnapped and tucked into a zippered compartment. Whew! And, wow! Where did the time go? All of the sudden we had 30 minutes to get through security and to our gate. We made it, but just.


No Barf Bags? Really?

The flight was uneventful and thankfully short. It was everything you would expect from a cut-rate airline and less. The seats didn’t recline. There were no seat pockets, magazines or barf bags (those might be in the airline’s best interest). Coffee, tea, water, and snacks were all for purchase. Apparently using a jetway costs the airlines money, so on departure and arrival, we hiked to/from boarding stairs on the tarmac. Using a near runway must be more expensive than runways out in the boonies. By the time we taxied to our take-off runway, I thought we must have arrived in Seville.

But arrive we did. After our hike from the plane (somewhere near Madrid I think) to the terminal, we collected our bags, finally peed, and waited for our Airbnb hosts to pick us up.

Very purple trees in Seville

Very purple trees in Seville

Alvaro and Corinne arrived shortly with big smiles and were very welcoming. She’s a Brit and he’s a Spaniard. They drove us to their newly remodeled flat in the old section of Seville and confessed that we were their first Airbnb guests. It was a beautiful flat in a very traditional building, perfect for exploring Seville for a few days. Before they left us, they walked with us to Las Setas and pointed out places we might like to visit along the way. Alvaro’s pride in his city was palpable.

Las Setas - The Mushrooms

Las Setas — The Mushrooms — Great pic of my brother taken by Pat


One Must Always Have a Quest

We walked all over the old section of Seville in the two days we were there but our real quest — one should always have a quest — was to find vermouth the way the Spaniards do it. When I think of vermouth, I think of the dry vermouth that gets dribbled into a martini, or as Hawkeye would say, “a moment of silence.” That’s not even remotely what Spanish vermouth is, but we didn’t know it yet as our quest had just begun.

Our first Spanish Vermouth

“Here’s a place,” my brother said while looking at a blackboard outside a narrow bar with legs of cured meat hanging from the rafters. “Let’s do this,” Pat and I said in unison. The vermouths arrived. They were a deep reddish color with a bright orange orange peel tucked into the ice cubes. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and spiced, but with wha t? cinnamon? cloves? It was hard to tell and, apparently, a closely guarded secret. We all gave it a thumbs up and vowed to find the best vermouth in Seville.


Hunger Strike…s

We rambled around the streets taking in the architecture, fountains, and parks. Soon enough, we were hungry. There were lots of quiet places with tables on the sidewalks and set price lunches but we spied a place with what seemed to be locals spilling out of the doorway and much commotion inside. The tables were packed and there was just enough room at the end of the bar for the three of us to stand with a little bit of counter in front of us. We ordered beers and gazpacho (recommended by our hosts). Both arrived in glasses. I have to admit, I prefer the Mexican version of gazpacho, but a cold beer on a hot day is always appreciated.

This is your tab. Be careful not to accidentally erase it!

This is your tab. Be careful not to accidentally erase it!

The bartender came back and asked if we wanted recommendations for lunch, at least that’s what we thought he said. We said “si,” but he went away. It was loud and maybe our Spanish failed us so we started studying the menu on the chalkboard above the bar. A few minutes later, the bartender reappeared and set a different plate of food in front of each of us. “My recommendations!” he proudly exclaimed. I get it now and oh my, were they good! We bantered back and forth with the bartender in our best broken Spanish over the din around us and had a very fun time — not to mention an exceptionally tasty lunch. Glad we didn’t chicken out when we saw the crowd.

Definitely a locals place. Great food, lots of people and a really nice bartender.

Definitely a locals place. Great food, lots of people and a really nice bartender. (The crowd had thinned by the time we took the photo.)


Back to the Quest

Sated and hydrated we said goodbye to our new friend the bartender and walked to Plaza de España.  From the guidebooks, we had some idea of what to expect, but we had no idea just how huge it was. It was like thinking you know what the Grand Canyon is like from pictures in a book only to be thunderstruck by its sheer volume when you see it in person. We walked around for a bit but it was getting on toward late afternoon and quite hot. The mist from the great fountain in the center of the plaza was a welcome relief. We didn’t dally long as it was time to head back and continue our quest for the best vermouth in Seville.

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de España


The great fountain in Plaza de España

The great fountain in Plaza de España


Another entry into the Best Vermouth in Seville contest

Another entry into the Best Vermouth in Seville contest

The most memorable parts of travel, in my opinion, are rarely the big sights. The things I think back on are almost exclusively the interactions with other people and eating, drinking or trying new things. Our first Spanish vermouth and lunch in the crazy, crowded bar will never be forgotten and neither will our first Ryan Air flight — for completely different reasons obviously.

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