This morning we decided to head up north, away from the tourist crowds and into the district more popular with the backpackers and 21stcentury hippies. Called the Macarena after the biggest church in the neighborhood, it’s far funkier that what we get down here in the tourist choked Santa Cruz barrio.
We were hoping for coffee at our favorite place but rounding the corner at 10:45 it was clear that they would not be ready for us. They were just setting up tables and chairs on the sidewalk. So on to Starbucks again, a habit that we’d like to break if possible. Sometimes though, convenience is the name of the game, and it’s not like either of us hate the coffee there. The one across from the cathedral, on Constitución, at least small and uncluttered. We had some small compensation in getting to watch people come in to use the restroom, in spite of the sign stating that it was for patrons only. If it happened to be a couple, one of them would peel off and pretend to be buying something while the other would skulk quickly past the counter. Before we left I went in and it looked like there had been a flood – water covered the floor and paper was balled up and thrown everywhere.
The route we took was pretty straight, up Tetuan, across Velazquez through the park next to Corte Ingles and then on to Trajano, named for Trajan, the first Roman Emperor born in Spain. He hailed from Italica, across the river and today mostly buried under the sleepy village of Santiponce. There were a lot less people out in the streets, mostly doing real things instead of tourist things. But narrow streets and narrower sidewalks still meant a lot of people- dodging, but not nearly as bad as what we’ve been doing for the last 4 days. Eventually Trajano opened up and we were there, the Alameda de Hercules, one of Sevilla’s busiest squares.
Designed and built in 1574 by the Count of Barajasi, it’s a long yellow dirt square lined in Plane trees and featuring two Roman columns at each end. On the south side, they are topped by statues of Julius Caesar and Hercules, the purported founders of Sevilla. At the north, two lions cap the columns lending an oddly British feel. In between, families with babies in strollers, children playing in a playground and old men spending their morning arguing about who knows what? Cafes and clubs line the outside of the park, and the district is really best known for its wilder night life. We watched as a dad whisked his little girl through some misters that shot water up out of the ground, no doubt there to cool off the kids on the jungle gym. She was having none of it though, and started screaming, pathetically pawing at her bangs to get the water off of her face. We continued on until we passed out of the neighborhood and on to the Resolana Andueza, a broad divided four lane boulevard that more or less circles the older part of the city.
Crossing that we dropped down to the promenade that follows the Guadalquivir River through the city. We could hear the screams from children on the rides at the Isla Magica theme park on the other side, a contrast to the quiet on our side where the activity was limited to a few joggers, cyclists on the bike path and a few dozen fishermen patiently waiting for something to bite. They had the most amazing set ups, fully adjustable and padded seats with articulated legs that allowed them to sit on even a very rakish angle. Their poles were very long, perhaps 15 feet and made of tapering hollow carbon fiber tubing. The length was apparently necessary to get the hook well out from the sloping banks. We saw one decent catch as walked by, the rest were perhaps spending more time dreaming that actually working at their hobby. There were many people out on the river in sculls, singles, doubles, even quads. Many young women yelling in English and being coached by men in small powered boats. We walked past one of the boat houses and watched as a few young men loaded their boats in the water. Every time I happen upon people doing this, I wish I could. But our Rio Grande simply isn’t up to the task.
There were five new bridges built for the 1992 Expo, and two very interesting suspension bridges bounded our walk this morning. The Puente de La Barqueta is the simpler of the two, a big white arch with red cables coming down to hold up the roadway. The second is much more spectacular, the Puente Alamillo, a 500 foot tall white pylon supporting a 700 foot span with 13 pairs of cables. It looks like a giant harp on its side, quite striking and yet a bit diminished by the graffiti that mars its base. Still against the blue sky filled with puffy clouds, it was a sight.
The graffiti is really something here, ranging from stupid silly tags to some genuine masterpieces. It’s on the wall every just about every single city piece of infrastructure. Not so much buildings, but every retaining wall and bridge. A lot of it is interesting and well executed but even when well done, it still diminishes the feeling of the place. I’m not sure whether there is a tacit understanding between the taggers and the city or if they are actually encouraged, but whatever the reason it’s more than I’ve seen anywhere else.
The midday heat and humidity were starting to get really oppressive so we decided to forego a stop at a section of old city wall and instead we retraced our steps, staying on the shady side of the street as much as possible. Trajano had apparently been part of a Hermandades route, judging from the banners draping some of the balconies and the wax residue that caked the cobblestones.
Leaving Macarena and crossing back into Santa Cruz, the humanity in the streets had increased tenfold. We were back to weaving in and out of groups of people failing to maintain our pace. We passed a young couple in the lane where the Hermandades walk – he was making a video of her doing some sort of odd girl-band-Michael-Jackson-Madonna dance routine much to the enjoyment of the passersby. She wasn’t very talented or coordinated but I gave her points for chutzpa, performing that way right out in public.
Stopping at our favorite little bakery for a loaf of bread for lunch, we crossed behind the cathedral and popped into a little store that advertised stamps for post cards. We had the nicest visit with the woman running the shop, there covering for her daughter who was in the hospital with a baby, and not entirely sure of the answers to the questions we were bringing. We exchanged a lot of Spanish and English terms and had a good laugh before heading home for lunch, a break from the heat and a siesta.