Europe

Soaking Up the Sun in Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Sixteen years ago I sat in my first Spanish class, flipping through the pages of my textbook and stubbornly ignoring Señor Bergeron’s insistent demands to escúchame! It wasn’t the words in the book that had caught my attention – this was my first class after all – but the pictures. The annual Tomatina festival, the colorful architecture in Barcelona, the running of the bulls, the gorgeous sunny beaches of the Costa del Sol – oh, yes, Spain was somewhere I knew right away I was going to see some day.

The years passed and life happened – a baby, a marriage, bills, a home to take care of, and my travel dreams just kept moving further and further down the list in terms of importance. When we found out we were moving to London, my heart skipped a beat because well, it’s London, but also because those long-buried dreams that I’d almost given up hope on were beginning to look more and more like reality. We’ve spent the last year traveling to some pretty phenomenal places, but the climax for me happened this past summer when I was finally able to set my feet on the ground in the one place I’ve always said I must see before I die – España.

Because this trip had sixteen years of expectations to live up to, almost a whole year’s worth of planning and preparation went into putting it together. I’d taken Spanish classes in both high school and college, but 8+ years with no occasion to use it had left me back at square one. Over six months, I took forty hours of intensive Spanish to try to get my skills back somewhat. I’m still nowhere near where I once was, but it was a start. And as an added benefit, it was the class that helped me decide exactly where I wanted my first foray into Spain to begin.

All of Spain’s regions have their particulars that draw me in, but the one I kept coming back to was Andalusia, and in particular, Seville, the region’s capital. A city steeped in history, beauty, and classic Spanish charm, I knew if we started our trip off here, we wouldn’t be disappointed.

Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

The entire plane ride over, my stomach was in knots with anticipation, two parts excitement, one part anxiety. You see, normally when we travel to another non-English speaking country, we just fumble our way through it until we find someone who speaks our language. This time was going to be a little different. We had been told not to expect many English-speakers in Andalusia, so that meant we would be depending on me to talk to the taxi drivers, order our food, buy our bus tickets, and understand directions. No pressure or anything, right?

Within ten minutes of landing, we were already putting my new skills to use. As confidently as I could, I walked up to the taxi driver, told him where we needed to go, and then asked him how much it would cost. He responded as if we were having a normal conversation, which clearly we were, but to me it was a much, much more momentous occasion. A native Spanish speaker had actually understood what I said. If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about – the first time you actually use it and it works is like scoring a winning touchdown in the last few seconds of the game. After that first success, conversing became much easier. However, when the situation called for a more lengthy or important exchange, I always began with – Lo siento, mi español es horrible. That normally earned me a laugh and the kindness of a much slower and more enunciated conversation. After five days of that, I felt like I had improved tremendously, but I also couldn’t wait to get back to a country where conversing didn’t require the use of 100% of my brain capacity.

But I’m getting off track – I have a feeling these tangents will be pretty common for me when talking about Spain. This post is supposed to be about Seville – see all those pretty photos up there? That’s Seville. Pronounced Se-vee-ya if you want to get technical about it. We stayed in the neighborhood of Triana along the River Guadalquivir, about a twenty minute walk from the central part of Seville. I can’t recommend this area highly enough. Being further away from the sites meant less crowds, cheaper meals, and a more authentic experience, in my opinion. Plus, walking to the city every morning on nearly empty streets and soaking up the glorious Spanish sun was one of my favorite parts of the day.

Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Just as I’d suspected, Seville was the perfect tipping point for our vacation. Visiting the world heritage sites in the famous Plaza del Triunfo, walking through the colorful square at the Puerta de Jerez – this is what I’d waited sixteen years for. The bold colors, the heat, the cloudless blue skies, the exuberant personalities of the people, the complete absence of English, the lack of modern skyscrapers and sterile city buildings – at no point could I forget I was in Spain, if that makes any sense.  Maybe many places in Spain are like this, but I really appreciated the fact that Seville matched and surpassed all my expectations of this country in every way.

As per usual, I’ve got many more posts coming about Seville, and the other cities in Andalusia that we saw, in which I hope I’ll be able to demonstrate even better how much we loved touring this fascinating region. Thanks to nothing but sun and blue skies for the entirety of our trip, almost every photo was a keeper! A very good thing seeing as my photos will always do a much better job of conveying the atmosphere of the places we visit than my rambling stories and anecdotes do!

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Seville, Spain

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  • Betty J. Ogburn
    October 9, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    …I loved Andalucía as a whole, but if you need some more ideas of where to go in Spain, I recommend Castilla y León, Galicia, Asturias, Aragón (biased, yes, I know!!), and the País Vasco (Basque Country), :-)…

  • rorybore
    October 1, 2014 at 9:19 PM

    Spain is definitely added to my bucket list now. Gorgeous.

    Is this the place where the dancing horses are? I don’t know why I thought of that…. I just really like horses. that dance :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 5, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      Dancing horses? I’m not really familiar with that! Sounds kind of interesting though…definitely worth a quick Google. :)

      • Sarah Shumate
        October 5, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        Okay – just checked it out, and you’re right! Andalusia is where the dancing horses are – specifically Jerez, which is an area we did not see on this trip. Good memory, lady!

  • Miwa
    October 1, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    I’ve always wanted to go to Spain too, and your pictures are making me want to relearn Spanish again! I would love to put all those years of classes to use (for some reason the only phrases that come to my head right now are “donde esta el bano” and “esos son mis pantalones.” I definitely need more than forty hours of studying! haha.)

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 5, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      Hahaha! Well, at least that first phrase would have come in handy! :) I used that one a time or two. I didn’t realize you spoke Spanish as well – three languages, Miwa! You’re putting me to shame!

  • Jenn
    September 30, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    Spain <3 Definitely one of my favorite countries! Can't wait to hear the rest of your adventures!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    September 30, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    I’ve been tentatively thinking about heading to Andalusia some time soon and your pictures definitely make me think I should! ;) It’s also raining right now, so I long for the beautiful sunshine in your pictures! Love the story behind this journey and this post!

  • Katrin
    September 30, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Your pictures are so beautiful! I have not been to Sevilla but it is surely worth a trip! :) I know what you mean about the language. When we went to Paris I actually had to speak French which I have not done in years and it made me so proud when Parisians understood me. :)

  • Elise Angelopulos
    September 30, 2014 at 2:14 AM

    I couldnt agree more about “southern Spain drawing you in” I lived in Madrid and traveled all over Spain but the people, the culture, the food and even the smell of Sevillle is diving.

  • Robert
    September 29, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Beautiful photographs, Sarah! I’ve actually been thinking about a trip to Seville recently as a few friends have just had an amazing trip there and I’ve never been. Reading about your time there too makes me really, really want to visit now! :)

  • Jo
    September 29, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    I haven’t managed to make it down to Spain yet, (apart from a very bad stop-over in the airport many years ago) …. looks amazing!

  • Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons
    September 29, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    Your photos are absolutely beautiful. My favourite is the first one with the colorful building reflected on the water. I took Spanish all through Middle school and High school (being from New Mexico helps) but I still feel self-conscious and not very confident when speaking Spanish. I can listen and understand but then words turn to mush in my mouth out of nerves! x

  • mark a.
    September 29, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    wow! what a very pretty place!

  • Mandy Southgate
    September 29, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    I think this might just be my favourite of all of your series Sarah. I went to Spain on honeymoon (Costa del Sol) and again to Costa Brava about two years ago. I love Spain, the language, people and culture and your post makes me remember why I’ve long wanted to visit Seville. Yay for auto-photo-enhancing blue skies!!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    September 29, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    I learned Spanish as well, and it’s so rewarding when people understand you! My phrase was “mas despacio por favor” slower please! because spanish speakers would speak so quickly I couldn’t keep up. My friend studied abroad in Seville and always said how beautiful it was, it definitely looks it from your pictures.

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 5, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      Haha – yes! I used that one often, too! As well as ‘Puedes repetir, por favor’. :) Native Spanish speakers do speak rather quickly, and they naturally leave off certain letters when speaking which totally confused me. In Seville, people would often leave the ‘s’ off at the end of words, sometimes making it sound like an entirely different word. Very confusing.

  • Caroline
    September 29, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    So pretty and colourful. Lovely photos.

    Caroline x

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    September 29, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    Congrats on using your Spanish! I love that the taxi driver just carried on with you! Spain definitely holds a special place in my heart as well!

  • Rachel G
    September 29, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    I could relate to much of your experience–with us just moving to China, because of my background studying Mandarin we rely on me to communicate for all necessary conversations. It’s a lot of pressure when it’s your 2nd language but you aren’t fluent. If we went to Spain, though, I’d make my husband do all the talking. Looks like a gorgeous trip–isn’t it a good feeling when a vacation actually surpasses your expectations?

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    September 29, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    Love hearing your love story of Spain and Sevilla!
    Sadly, I did not make it to Sevilla while we lived there. I’m surprised at myself that we didn’t since Jerry spent a summer there in college. Hopefully we can make that happen one day! We’ll see! =) Great seeing you yesterday!!

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    September 29, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    Simply divine – your stories and images always convey such beauty & emotion. Sadly we’ve only been to Barcelona & didn’t enjoy it so much – perhaps because we were hoping for your Spain rather than just another city?

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 5, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      That’s what I’ve heard from a few sources about Barcelona, and it’s the reason we chose not to go there first. It’s a city I’d love to see, but I wanted our first trip to fit a certain picture I had in my head. :) You ought to give Spain another try sometime!