Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Expensive city mini-break

written 3rd February

Unfortunately Seville was expensive, in more ways than one.  Arriving late, after a long-ish motorway drive and in the dark, we had a tip off about a motorhome home shop right out on the ring road on the far side of town which had a few spaces for touring people to stop in, and being tired and having no particular town centre destination in mind - too late for tourist office - we should just have gone there.  Instead, we decided to try and drive round a bit, whilst the traffic was not too horrendous and try and get our bearings - we really should know better by now.

Whilst trying to find a side road off a many-laned duel carriageway to turn into in order to turn round, Will took what looked like a likely road, marked with a road lane, which turned out to lead to a one way street (the wrong way) and a slip road which had an "no entry except buses and taxis" sign and a bus in it.  As we have a very dear friend who works in "parking solutions" (traffic wardens to the rest of us - their solution to you parking or driving where you shouldn't is to hunt you down and fine you ;) ), we do try not to do naughty things on the road, but in trying to reverse backwards very slightly to get back onto the main road, Will suddenly found his blind spot filled with black passat and crunch.  :(

fortunately, at low speed, no real damage was done, our bike pedals dented her bonnet and grill, her bonnet bent our rear bike wheels but no damage to Jules at all.  We didn't just slam into reverse so our reverse lights must have been showing before we moved and we don't know at what point she appeared in that space or whether she was stationary or moving as she was so close that her headlights were beneath our rear window but still, we were doing something a bit silly and were definitely moving so there you go.  She had a friend in the car who spoke english and they were both very "oh well, these things happen" about it - having since walked round Seville, and seen both the parking (apparently the trick to double parking is to leave your handbrake off so if you are in someone's way they can just push you out of it) and the cars (8/10 had some form of scrape, bump, ding, scratch etc etc)  this is probably fairly normal.  She had a "fill this form in if you have an accident" form in her car - required in "foreign" (according to our insurers) - and our insurers were rubbish.  The insurance certificate doesn't have a number to call on it, the cover letter from the broker does not have a number to call on it, the main enquiries number just says the office is closed and when I did finally get through to their 24h claims line (after having to ring home and ask my dad to look the number up on the internet!) they can take your details but can't actually access your file or any details about you because the computer system is only online between 9-5 - utterly ridiculous!  and then they don't call back when they say they will in the morning.

Anyway, all's well that end's well.  No harm done.  All sorted and in the hands of the insurance companies and we need do no more about it.  And at least I wasn't driving so I can be all understanding and "it could happen to anyone" rather than wracked with guilt and the butt of woman driver and spatial awareness comments (I am one and have none of the other ;))

So we gave up for the night found a side road to stop in and had a large comforting glass of cheap Offley port - which actually turns out to be rather nice.

in these situations you always end up with the 'what ifs' and the 'if onlys' ie 'if only we had gone straight to the aire de service rather than trying to drive through town in the dark when tired which we know will never end well' etc etc but we were thinking about this the other day - in happier circumstances - and how we have never been more aware about how little decisions and choices - or even lack of decisons and choices ie closed roads - can dramatically change history.  In "real life", there are outside influences and larger forces at work - family, work etc - which dictate your destiny.  ie, except in cases of food poisoning, it probably doesn't matter what you have for dinner, you will still have to go to work the following morning so your future is forced down a particular course.  In our little world however, these things do make a difference.  For example, we fancied bbq for dinner last Monday (in Sagres) but were also planning on moving on from Sagres to Lagos because we were bored of the feckless germans.  However, by the time we had bought bbq food and found some internet it was really late so we decided rather than press on to Lagos where we weren't sure if we could find somewhere to bbq (which we probably wouldn't have done, as it turns out), we decided to stay in Sagres and bbq and set off the following morning, and thus fell into the trouser leg of time which led to a coast road quest, a closed road with no marked diversion, a likely-looking dirt track, an evil sand genie and the best couple of days of our whole trip so far.  Because we spent two days there, we got to other places when we did, met the people we did and now have the recommendations for future travels that we do.  If we had not fancied bbq, we would have had van food in lagos, moved on up the coast much sooner, the butterfly would have flapped its wings at a different time and the whole course of history would have been different...  just makes you think how random life is, that's all

Anyway, enough philosophical ramblings, back to Seville. 

The next morning, we found we were actually quite close to the centre of town so set off on foot to find it and had a nice stroll through a park and past various impressive public buildings.  We easily found tourist office in the square at the foot of the Giralda tower - would not have got near it in the van even if we had known where we were going - the guy was extremely helpful, especially to our question "we don't have much money, what do you recommend?" and we came away with maps, walking tours, local area info, places to see Flamenco (which Will started calling flamingo and now I can't stop - if there aren't lines of tapdancing pink birds with top hats, bowties and canes or girls balancing flamingos on their hands as they dance I am going to be extremely disappointed... ;) ) and a list of bike rental places as we figured that they would at least know about bike servicing even if they couldn't help us themselves.

The initial bike quest led us through the commercial area to no avail, then through twisty back streets to the bus station where it initially looked as if the bike hire would be self-service bikes and credit card machines but then we spotted a little sign towards a dingy upstairs room (spiral staircase for people and winch through a window for bikes!) in the side of the bus station.  And they were really helpful!  proper mechanic place where it looks like they rescue old bikes then hire them out cheap.  guy in there didnt speak english but phoned the owner who did, they had the right wheel and would change Will's gear sprocket over as part of the price!  we hadn't investigated the full extent of bike damage by this point, so left, to return anon, happy that things were looking up.

being by now lunchtime, we wandered on in a vague quest for coffee and a sticky bun and found the famous bullring and the first Seville monument which was twice what we were prepared to pay.  Our usual trick to staying within budget is to decide on approach to somewhere roughly what we are prepared to pay for entrance and then, unless it looks significantly better or more worth going to than we thought, only go in if it comes under that.  We have been pleasantly surprised in some places (Planete Bordeaux, Tower of Hercules in A Coruna, Moorish castle in Silves, Castle in Seisimbra, anywhere on a sunday morning in portugal!) but unfortunately destined for disappointment in Seville.  The bullring was €6 each and whilst I am sure it would be interesting, we now had €50 of bike wheel to factor into the budget so decided to leave it (although we both agreed that we would probably watch a bullfight if it were the right season - not sure I actually agree with the practice but would want to see it once to make an informed decision... well you have to really)

Back to the main square for a spot of lunch at a sunny pavement cafe before deciding that €8 was also twice what we want to pay for a cathedral - even if it is apparently the third largest cathedral on Europe after the Vatican and St Paul's in London and I did quite want to go up the tower (Burgos at €5 was an exception as it was a personaly recommendation from someone we trust and by the time we had battled the elements we were not going to pass it by for the sake of a couple of euro!).

The cathedral was apparently free for unemployed, which of course we are, but when we asked, she said she needed  proof, we asked what proof she needed and she couldn't tell us but as we couldn't think of anything either - other than forcing her to read the whole blog! - we left it and instead we set of on the first of three walking tours (Barrio St Cruz area, jewish quarter, Parque Maria Luisa), doging the horse and cart men and the lucky heather selling women, all of whom were out for our tourist euro.  The walking tours took us round historic Seville (ie many wiggly streets) and conveniently past most of the main tourist attractions (all €8-10 so all unvisited) and many closed churches and other significant buildings we couldn't get into, but the sun was shining, it was blue skies and orange trees everywhere and at about 20-22 degrees, it was jolly pleasant.

We also found another bike shop and a second visit to the tourist office got us an address for a Euromaster garage for a new exhaust - it has been rattling really badly since seisimbra where it lost its tailpipe and has sprung some new holes :( - not a question I gather they get asked often! (she was less helpful when I asked about places where Will might be able to get his hair cut and roughly what we might expect to pay to make sure we didn't get ripped off - her response was basically "well it depends where you go, if you go somewhere posh it will be more expensive"  well yes I can work that out for myself, I just want to have a rough idea of what to expect!)  Anyway, heading back to the van through the park - conveniently on a walking tour! - we set off to investigate the bike damage.  Will's bike wheel was quite egg shaped with a couple of broken spokes and mine was also wobbly but fortunately no other damage so Will thought he might be able to fix them both with new spokes and a spoke key - something we had intended to bring but just couldn't find in the garage in all the packing up fun.  Fortunately the suggested garage, second bike shop and LP-recommended cheap flamenco place were all close together so we set off for a new parking spot near to all three and due to the unique spanish lifestyle - open early, close for several hours for lunch, stay up late - the bike shop was still open.

Andalucia is the home of flamenco - having not been to the museum I can't tell you much but I believe it is of mixed gypsy/latin american origin - so no trip to Seville is complete without some.  Most of the tourist stuff is expensive, full-on, book in advance shows at €30+ per head but the LP sugested an informal bar in the Jewish quarter and the tourist office leaflet confirmed flamenco every night.  And it was good!

La Carboniere is a low key bar in in a converted coal house with no signs outside except an opening time.  We arrived at 10:45 - we are jetlagged from our border crossing so waking up later and staying up later, well that is my excuse! - to find flamenco started at 11pm, a couple of acoustic guitars and a singer in progress in the tiny front bar and long, bustling trestle tables under a corregated iron roof in the back bar.  We found a few people to chat to - an australian guy travelling for two weeks with his french friend and their hostal guide, a dutch girl who is travelling spain for a year with the intention of going out and getting wasted every night - the drinks weren't too expensive and the flamenco was two guys with guitars, a male singer and a very fierce looking girl dancer - I think the french guy fell in love, he spent his whole time with his jaw on the table and his toungue hanging out, mumbling "she is a powerful, powerful woman"... ;).

There is clearly some back story we didn't get, the singer was pulling all sorts of overly dramatic, full on angsty faces and she was at first clapping along

and then dancing in her stampy footed, fierce way - basically using the floor as a percussion instrument - but it was all very good (apart from when they got pissed off that people were talking and stopped so that the guy on the guitar could shout at them for being inconsiderate)

no pink tap-dancing birds though... :(

Leaving the bar, and not fully adjusted to the time yet, we headed off into town where we were very surprised to find nothing open - ok so it was a tuesday (i think, so hard to keep track!) but we had always been lead to believe that the spanish were late night people and out every night! - but the irish bar was open so we settled in for a glass of wine and Will's favourite business travel past time of american baiting.  Apparently this is what he does when on business trips alone as there is usually also a lone american also in the bar, and will can usually get them going by dint of taking the opposite view from whatever they opine and thus a happy evening of bantering ensues.

On the evening in question, we found two americans from Atlanta on two week trip to spain who had just started depth charging (a shot glass of half baileys and half jamesons dropped into half a guiness then downed) and were well on the way to chatty inebriation.  Over the course of the next hour or so we found out their views on Bush ("I hate the b**tard and I voted for him"), Obama ("I hate the b**stard, I like his social policies but he's financially unconservative so I won't vote for him"), the second amendment ("no one can take away my god given right to own a gun.  I give $1,000 a year to ACLU to protect my right to protest peacefully and $1,000 a year to NRA so I can shoot 'em if I have to"), women ("never date a woman below a five or above an eight, don't get me wrong, I'll be friends and all with women below a five but above an eight they're just a whole load of trouble"), marriage ("never doing that again, whole load of trouble and now I have to pay her money for the kids") and that I apparently look like Tina Fay (american comidienne, famous recently for Sarah Palin takees offs) and he and Will had a spirited debate on the causes and consequences of the boston tea-party - just because millions of people are taught it in school like that, doesn't make it the correct version of events...

As I say, a happy evening all round, with the barman chipping in from time to time when the debate got a bit heated.  Eventually it was clear they were packing up so we all settled up (€5 for us for 2 wines, €75 for them for their state of merry sozzled-ness) and wandered into the night.

The next day saw us on our quest for new exhaust and mended bike wheels.  After two different garages, we were directed to a far off industrial estate and a boy racer stainless steel performance exhaust shop.  As usual, they spoke no english and we speak no spanish but eventally we were all on the same page.  They were initially confused by will's home fitted lamda sensor and reluctant to do away with the cat but eventually we  convinced them and left Jules up on ramps for the third time this trip and in their capable hands.

Unfortunately, being without van means also being without a home, and all over the three hour lunch break too :(  oh well.  Will managed to fix my bike wheel with some spoke adjustment and we spent the rest of the day on a walking tour of shopoing centres and industrial estates of seville before returning to find a beautiful bespoke stainless steel silencer and tailpipe fitted and set off back to the original  bike shop for new wheel.  It is a straight through silencer with no cat so we sound like a proper growling beast now, but eventually, Will will fix the fuelling so the two litre engine will need all these performance bits... ;)

All in all, in lovely weather, as we had, Seville would be a perfect mini-break destination with plenty to do for a couple of days -  even if you don't have an exhast pipe and bike wheel to fix! - but to make it worth going, you really need at least €250 each spending money for sights, flamingo, meals, coffee and buns etc - maybe we'll come back one day...

Still, over budget and back on the road once more, this time to Chipiona, Cadiz and then some cheap days on the beach...


  1. 20-22 degrees! Wadamidoingherestill? About 5 here on the 'Riviera'.

    Bad luck about the reversing glitch - been there, done that.

  2. come and join us in the south then! Although raining in tarifa atm so can't see africa :( hoping it will be better tomorrow