April 11, 2015: Weekend Trip to Sevilla

Dominica was up at eight thirty this morning getting everyone ready for a weekend trip away.  She woke me up at ten so that I could get ready myself.  We have so many places that we really, really want to see in Andalucia (and Morocco) that we really are pressed for times with the available weekends that we have even though we are in the region for three months!  It is amazing how much time it takes just to get to see the highlights of this one single region.  We have to carefully schedule time during the week as well to see things that are more local, like anything in Granada or any Mediterranean sea front stuff, so that are weekends are free for more distant travel like this weekend in Sevilla.  Sevilla is, we think, our most distant location to which we will be driving while here.  So we have gotten two of the most difficult, far away weekends out of the way after this weekend.  Most everything will be easier logistically, except for Morocco, of course.

Dominica had left some laundry out last night thinking that it would get a little dryer overnight.  That did not work so well as it rained last night and at least one towel came down and got completely dirty in addition to everything being completely soaked.

We had a disaster strike before we were able to leave the house.  My MacBook Pro, which is the only device from which I work while in Spain, did an update yesterday and when it restarted this morning to complete the update – it died.  It just never came back.  It said that it was rebooting and, that was it.  Not good at all.

I managed to get it to “power on” but it just came up with a folder and a question mark flashing and nothing else.  Bummer.  We did some research quickly via Dominica’s phone and found some troubleshooting ideas.  We tried the first one and it asked for a password.  A password that I did not have.  Not good at all.  So I sent a message to work from my phone, since I am on call this weekend (also not good), and let them know the situation.  It is the middle of the night in San Francisco so they won’t know for several hours.

We were on the road by around eleven, which was not too bad.  I drove the Opal Corsa up into the plaza and backed it down to the front door to make it easy to load everyone up.  Luciana had gone along for a walk with me because she wanted to “say hola to Lula” which is what she has named her cat thing that she likes to ride on the little playground near the parking area.

We were on the road and had an easy drive out to Sevilla.  Spanish highways are very easy to drive and navigate.  We got just a little rain today, but very little.  Our village was completely encased in fog this morning but once we were heading up the A44 to Granada it got clear, while still overcast.  There was a little sun as we drove west, but very little.

It was four when we arrived in Sevilla.  We had two little bits of getting lost on our way to the city.  One was that got distracted driving through Granada and missed the turnoff for the A92 which cost us about half an hour in total early on.  That was very annoying.  We had to make two stops along the way.  The first for gas and snacks.  The second because Ciana had a bathroom emergency.  She is getting much better at giving us a warning, though, and telling us that we need to stop at a gas station.  And then in Sevilla itself our GPS took us in a big loop because it could not find the entrance to our parking area.  So that cost us fifteen minutes at least.  But all in all, we did pretty well.

Parking was easy.  We got private parking in a big lot for one Euro a day which is nothing at all.  We paid for three days and left the car to go in search of our apartment which Dominica had found on Booking.com.

The apartment is less than five minutes away, on foot, from the parking lot.  Super easy to find and the location is amazing.  We are right by one of the major parks, the Columbus Monument and the Bario Santa Cruz which is the old part of the city and the part where nearly everything that you want to see is.

We got into the apartment right away and were really surprised to find it to be completely modern, even though we are in a very old part of the city.  It is not huge but it is quite spacious with a very modern design.  Extremely modern.  All of the fixtures were very sleek and flush.  It all looked brand new, like out of a television show.  The bedroom was very nice with lots of extra room.  The livingroom and dining area was small but well laid out to be extremely usable.  Not an apartment for a family to live in, but for a single person or even a couple it is very nice.  The bathroom was huge and spacious.  Very comfortable which is a huge change from everything we have seen in Spain thus far.  Instead of cold and making you worry about bumping into every wall (or ceiling) you can practically dance it in and the shower is actually more spacious that you would want as it is a little hard to keep it warm and the washing machine is even in the bathroom too.  We like this for a change.  And solid wifi too.

Once we were settled in we set out to explore the city a little bit.  It was not yet five and we had no specific plans.  We just set out towards Bario Santa Cruz.

We found an awesome fountain right at the end of our street and across the street from it was a very impressive city park.  Excellent start to our exploring.  So over to the park we went.  The girls were hoping for a playground but no luck on that.  We did, quite immediately, find the Christopher Columbus Monument, however, which is a large fountain and they love fountains.

From there we just started wondering.  The parks were amazing.  The best thing that we found were the immense trees.  So big.  So tremendously big.  We were guessing that they must date back to the Moorish empire.  We’ve never seen trees of that type so large.  It is hard to describe just how big they were.

We found the old city wall and from there our way into the old city with its winding streets and narrow alleys.  One thing that we all noted immediately was that the city is flat.  We are so used to being on continuous up and down grades that being in a large, flat city is notably different.  It is so nice being able to walk without worrying about stumbling or the huge effort of going up and down.

We found the cathedral very quicky, it is the largest church in the world by volume (how else would you measure the largest?) and we found the old castle.  The girls really enjoyed the large monument that sat between the two and played on the steps of it for a while.

We found the Andalucia Regional Tourist Office, since Sevilla is the regional capital this makes sense.  We stopped in there to pick up some pamphlet guide maps to different parts of the region that we were planning to visit in the coming weeks.  The tourist office girl also recommended, because she had seen the girls, that we take the Sevilla guide for kids.  What a score.  It is a full map designed for kids to see the city and a really nice guidebook and workbook in Spanish and English to help us tour the city!  We are really excited about that and plan to give that a try tomorrow.

We walked a little more from there but we had not had any real meals today so we looked for a restaurant to park ourselves at and get some food.  We started back towards the apartment and found ourselves at one of the restaurants that we had passed while it was still siesta.  Now it was open and busy.  It was on a plaza with a small fountain in it that the girls liked.  We sat outside and ordered tapas for Dominica and me and pizza for the girls.  Dominica and I got ensalada rusa, patatas alioli and espinacha (which was amazing) and then got patatas bravas too.  The girls really enjoyed their pizza.

We hung out for a little while.  Dominica and I each had a glass of wine with dinner.  The girls went and played on the fountain.  Liesl tripped over a ledge and hurt her knee so came back and sat at the table.  Luciana sat on the fountain singing for quite a while.  A lot of the patrons of the restaurant sat and watched her for a long time.  It was very funny.

After dinner, Liesl led us on search for ice cream and with some amazing sixth sense led us almost immediately to an amazing little ice cream shop that was delicious.

From there we worked our way back to the apartment getting only a little lost.  We went back through the park and back the way that we had come, more or less.  We stopped in the park for a little while again as the girls wanted to run around.  I filmed a quick interview with Liesl via my iPhone.

For the entire walk up until now, which was several hours, I had been talking to the office over HipChat and Facebook Messenger trying to figure out what to do about my dead MacBook.  This is a big of an emergency and things like driving up to Madrid on Monday morning to go to the office there or going to Malaga to find the Apple Store or possibly even flying to London were being kicked around.  But they finally got me some information on what to try (e.g. they got me the password that I needed) while we were at the fountain in the park nearly back to the apartment.  So once I had that we took off to get back and see if it would work.

It was just getting dark as we got back to the apartment.  Everyone parked themselves on the couch except for me who had to run to the car and get the rest of our stuff out of it before I could relax.  Dominica is exhausted already.  The girls were pretty excited to get to use their iPads and relax.  I got right to work seeing if I could get the laptop fixed and plugging in my iPhone which died right as we got back to the apartment.

The fix for the MacBook actually worked.  It was something wrong with the drive encryption and it had blocked the install from moving forward and made the whole thing not work.  We are seriously relived that it is working.  It still had to spend over ten minutes running the update that had not worked yet, but it worked and I am writing this update from that MacBook now.

Liesl took a shower, her first chance to take a more American style shower since getting to Europe although the room is so big and spacious that the European trend of having open showers made it so that she could never really get warm because while the water is warm there is so much air space that the air never warms up like it would in a traditional shower.  Dominica and Luciana just hung out on the couch.

I set about getting some pictures and videos from the day uploaded now that we have things working.  I had been expecting that only my iPhone pictures would make it up today but the Nikon pics are getting uploaded too, although it is very slow going.  About sixty pictures for the day heading to Flickr from the Nikon.

Dominica was in bed by ten thirty and asleep long before eleven.  The girls were in bed for a bit but around eleven got up to snack and hang out in the living room on the couch to watch shows on their iPads.  They are late night kids and if we don’t make them, in some way, they will stay up until one or two every morning on their own.

At eleven twenty I set out for a personal walk of the city.  I need a lot more walking than Dominica needs to wear me out.  So did nearly two hours walking casually around the city. I did, as a total for the day, 18,500 steps and around seven miles.  About two thirds of that was on my own without the family.  Unfortunately my health app on my iPhone flips the “day” at midnight, so 6,288 steps and 2.68 miles got recorded as tomorrow instead of today.  Argh.  I need a more robust app for this.  I am pretty sure that I am getting the Apple Watch as soon as we return to the States because I think that I will use it extensively, especially for tracking stuff like this to encourage me to get a lot more exercise.

The walk was great.  I went out to the main road, the Avenue de Maria Luisa, and walked all of the way down and across the river for just a little ways.  I found the local metro station and a really near by playground that looks awesome for the girls.  I also found one of the sights in their kid’s sights of Sevilla book that they really wanted to see, so I can easily get them to that now.

I ended up walking north along the east side of the river, after coming back over, and going just north of the “Gold Tower”.  I assume that it is named that because it was a huge cannon wielding tower along the river designed to protect the gold shipments.  Sevilla is the city of Magellan and Columbus, after all. Long ago this was a port town, before the river silted up.  This was Spain’s primary port for the Atlantic and very heavily fortified.

As I returned to the apartment I walked through the University de Sevilla area going up to the old town and back down through the heart of campus.  The streets were just packed with people of all ages.  From kids in strollers to the elderly.  Even at one in the morning, everyone was out.  Restaurants, gelato places, tea houses, bars, cafes…. all full.  And so many people out walking and biking around.  It was amazing.

I love my lonely city walks.  There is a magic to seeing a city at night.  It is when the city is raw and laid open.  You get to see it in the quiet.  Nothing is hidden.  There is no better time for exploring a city and some self reflection that late at night.  It is especially good in a city that is still alive, like Sevilla.

We were only in this city for an hour or two before Liesl declared that she wanted to move here.   I have to say, I am starting to agree with her.  I had no idea that I would love this city so much, but it is really something.

The one thing that really strikes you about Sevilla, and it was Liesl who pointed this out, is the trees. Trees everywhere.  Every street, every corner, every garden is full of trees.  You rarely see the sky, there are so many trees.  Fountains everywhere too, of course, and amazing buildings.  But the trees are breathtaking.  Even little side streets are full of trees.  It makes the city feel just wonderful.

By the time that I got back from my walk the girls were still awake and watching shows on their iPads and the MacBook was still busily uploading photos from the day.  I can’t believe that I managed to take sixty pictures on the Nikon alone today.  And I really can’t believe that four hours is not enough time to upload them!  And several pictures from the iPhone to get uploaded too.  It really takes forever to do this stuff over here.

I finished up some writing, worked on getting some pictures available for people to see and got ready for bed.  While I was writing the kitchen light burned out.  I got one of my Nikon batteries plugged in and charging.  Want to make sure that we have enough charge to get through tomorrow.  I have three batteries with me but ran through one today and tomorrow is going to be a long day, I assume.

Only a few pictures left to upload before I turned in for the night.  Still have hours of editing before most of them will be visible on Flickr, though.