Thursday, September 3, 2009

Seville to El Puerto de Santa Maria


This afternoon I'm enjoying a few hours to myself in our cool shuttered flat in El Puerto de Santa Maria, just across the bay from Cadiz in Spain. Nick and Fin are wooshing down 40 foot water slides under a faultless blue sky at the local water park, while I type here in peace.

We flew into Seville last Friday from a positively wintry Bristol. Even in tights and cardi, my teeth chattered noisily as we waited at the bus transfer stop in a bitter wind.

The flight was magical, first the west coast of France and then Spain unfolded before us, a great undulating cloth tapestry of fields, woods, towns and rivers, baked harder and blonder the further south we flew.

We touched down in Seville and tumbled eagerly from the air-conditioned plane. Before our feet evn touched the hot tarmac, we scrabbled at our clothes to remove as much as decently possible. The dense afternoon air lay heavy on our chests, slowing us down. Sharp all pervading light sought out every shadow and laid it bare, obliterating subtlety, bouncing in bright showers from the hard windows of the terminal. We hurried slowly with leaden feet towards the inviting shadows, past airport staff dressed in thick navy blue uniforms and flourescent tunics - dark brown eyes laughing heartily at our inability to cope with a little heat. Their chestnut coloured skin showed not a bead of perspiration to compromise their languid confidence. We wilted simply looking at them.

On the roof of the hotel was a small but perfectly formed pool. With only an hour until it was closed for the night, we hastily pulled on some swimwear and headed up. It was a delicious hour, basking in the evening sun and gazing over the terracotta rooftops as the sky changed gently from azure to the ice-cream colours of sunset. All too soon a very polite man without a crease on his person ushered us away from the water and back to our room.

At a suitably late hour, but earlier than most Sevillianos, we made our way out for supper. Seville was gently murmuring to life for the night, as families wandered out and workers made their way home with bags of shopping. The air was as hot as before, even though the sun had set hours ago. A breeze wafted gently over our damp skin, as warm as the air around it. It curled and shifted, like formless fingers stroking the air, but did not cool. It lay like treacle in our mouths. The heat came up from the ground through the soles of my feet, layer upon layer of heat soaked stone and below it, heat soaked concrete and below that the very earth seemed to have sucked up the summer, only to give it back out again once the sun had set.

We cooled ourselves with ice cold fino and sparkling water, fanning our damp skin and watching the world pass in an array of sweet coloured clothes, laughing and joking as the hot Seville night came to life on the street.

The following day we rose early and breakfasted in a palm fringed square on ripe bananas, smoked salmon and jamon before visiting the gorgeous Alcazar to gasp at ornate tiles and lofty moorish ceilings and wander dreamily through palm gardens sprinkled with scarlet hibiscus and violet pink azaeleas. Finley took photos as we went, aiming haphazardly at things he found interesting. When we reviewed the pictures later we found a shot of a dead pigeon amongst the luscious moorish tilework, Finley just shrugged.

All too soon the time came to jump on the train to El Peurto. The station was as grand as a cathedral, with ceilings that soared far overhead. Trains sat hunched and ready at the starting blocks, their streamlined noses sniffing the ground like hunting dogs. Everything was clean and smooth, built for speed. We pulled our luggage as fast as the syrupy air would let us, stands of damp hair hanging limply, clothes sticking to our legs until we found our carriage and boarded gratefully.

Our train was cool and clean, everything in toning shades of cream and blue. Even the floor was a smooth, creamy stone colour, spotless enough to make a British Rail conductor weep with shame. 

The doors closed with a delicious woosh and we were off, speeding through the parched countryside on our way to the breezy coast and sandy beaches.

I'll tell you more in a few days and post a little recipe too. x x x