We arrived after a 6 hour high speed train ride from Barcelona, first class coach and a breakfast far superior to what we had on the plane coming over, into the modern Santa Justa terminal in Sevilla.
Following the map we trudged into town (those backpacks are great, but we were tired and a bit hot) and as the streets became crowded with sidewalk cafes, all full with the leisurely Sunday crowds we found our maps confusing so stopped a waiter to ask where Fabiola was. First answer was “Hmmmm,” and a gesture to follow him as he asked another waiter who replied “Hmmmm.” They concluded we were heading in the right direction but suggested we go to the next plaza and ask again. It took a few wrong turns, but in this part of the city the “blocks” are short and unpredictable so it was not really a problem and suddenly we had arrived.
We knocked on the narrow metal doors and our host hollered out, opened the door, and a fast talking, sort of wild, somewhat comical and frantic small middle aged man hustled us through a tiny crowded courtyard of sorts and into a dining room that was completely filled by a table, TV, and a few chairs. He spoke so quickly it was a bit hard to get into the rhythm of his Spanish, and when I replied in Spanish he gleefullly insisted he would speak only Spanish to me, an unnecessary declaration as what little English he has is incomprehensible.
“Passaportes!” David handed them over as Juan pulled out his forms and started filling in our numbers. Within one minute he had a tourist map spread in front of us as he circled one place after another, some with almost illegible names he scrawled in the margins. “Levies,” he announced, where we could get a meal at any time and was a few steps and corners away. Go here for bullfights, here for a church, and so on. When he circled a long green park and said “Heepies!” I stopped him. “Hippies?” “Si, si, pero artistica!” We discovered later it is a park called The Alameda and no “Heepies!” were in sight.
The house is a festival of hazards and quirks…we struggled to both keep up with Juan and stay out of his way. “Cocina! Bano!” He then thrust a key ring into my hand, “grande para la puerta y pequena para su habitation!” I looked at the keys…the little one for our room is like for a child’s jewelry box or diary…and, yes, the key to our room fits a tiny padlock that fits a wobbly lock that holds together two small doors of glass panes covered by a pair of thin white curtains.
The stairway to the second floor where our room is located is perhaps 5 degrees short of being a ladder, turning at the top to a warren of rooms which comprises two bedrooms, a “salon” as he calls it, a little anteroom between the two bedrooms that somehow holds two stuffed chairs, a matching couch, a blinking modem and router, and small TV. Before we could settle into our room Juan gestured us up another impossibly steep stairway to a two foot by two foot landing where he stopped to give us detailed instructions in rapid Spanish and lots of pantomime regarding keeping the key under the mat. He pointed to one door, his room, and then led us out to a multi-level hodgepodge of a rooftop with lounge chairs, clotheslines and a view of other rooftops in this very old, very crowded barrio. Looks pretty cool, but we never returned.
The entire house is built around the tiny central court, and all the rooms have large double windows, glass with thin white curtains, and inside shutters. Our room, our smallest yet, holds two single beds shoved together and a small dresser and wobbly wardrobe…all of the furniture seems handmade and ancient but the beds are firm and we slept well with tall, never to be quite closed floor to ceiling windows to the “street” (the house sits in a short narrow spur off the street proper) and as necessary opening the shutters and window to the courtyard. When a remnant of the hurricane came roaring through Sevilla one afternoon we saw that the courtyard is covered, more or less, with hard plastic which held the torrential rain for the most part but started leaking after a while. The floors are all tiled, and so uneven that in places the tiles clatter as they are not, and could not be, cemented in place. But the bathroom functions well, and as with every place we have stayed in Iberia the water pressure is strong and hot water hotter than hot. As in Évora the shower stall is tiny (though in Évora it was modern and sleek), so small that when David dropped the soap he couldn’t pick it up without inadvertently bumping into the handle and turning the water off.
I did think to ask Juan how old the house is. “200 or 300 years!” It is a wonder, and we are happy to have had this experience, and look forward to Granada where we will be in our first and only hotel of the trip.