Well I made it to Valencia, which is a really gorgeous corner of the world. Big wide streets, lots of palm trees (still trying to work out whether these are native or not, there's so few tracts of undeveloped of unfarmed land left in the south). A gorgeous hotel, right in the middle of things and of course, amazing food. We're pretty spoiled for great food in Melbourne but the seafood here is something else. I can report that the paella was fantastic! Valencia otherwise involved lots of wandering, quite a bit of getting lost and a few really great galleries. One in particular, IVAM (Institut Valenciana de Art Moderne), was one of the best contemporary art galleries I've seen anywhere; it was incredibly funny. Not overtly cutting edge or trying to be cool (though it was both those things), it was completely whimsical. Lots of works by people like Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney and a whole host of Spanish artists. I was walking around, laughing quite audibly and I think perhaps the guards thought I was crazy. Or a terrorist. Or both.
I then flew across to gorgeous Sevilla, desperate for some sunshine. It hasn't been cold the last week but it has been relatively overcast. Since I know I'll have to spend my month of sunny Morocco time covered from wrist to ankle, it would be nice to see some sun while I still can! I adored Sevilla, in part because I had time to spend with Ale, who is based there while his mother is unwell. Several of his brothers and sisters live in the area, so we had a pretty amazing feast with about half the family on the first night that I was there. His sister, Ofelia, cooked an incredible rabbit dish (I'm eating previously-unexpected quantities of rabbit....Grampsie would be proud)! In typical Spanish fashion, we didn't eat until about 10pm and there was kids and dogs running around until about 1 in the morning. It's been a fairly full-on few weeks for the family, so I think they were glad to take some time out.
Sevilla is a very picturesque city, filled with gardens and wide, tree-lined avenues. The morning after the enormous feast was a big fiesta in the city centre; the Rocio pilgrimage. Gypsies on horses paraded though the city, followed by a long line of coloured wagons on a pilgrimage to the holy site of Rocio. It was strange, as a very-lapsed Catholic, to see people kneeling in the street and praying. Roving bands of musicians played and all the crowds sang along. It was quite magical. After this excitement, I spent the day wandering and exploring the numerous ancient buildings, particularly the Alcazar, which is the Royal Family's home in Sevilla. It's just nice to come to places that have buildings that are more than 200 years old - maybe a lack of our own physical history is what prompts so many Australians to go exploring elsewhere....
Am now in the village of Cartejima, the highest village in the Andalusian mountains. The whole mountain range is scattered with tiny, white-washed villages that, from a distance, look like birds perched in a tree. The people here have lived here for centuries, and they're somewhat inbred and corrupt! They know not a word of english and their spanish isn't even like actual spanish; all their words slur off into nothingness and they all look at you sideways, with suspicion. I feel a little like I'm on the set of a Hollywood Western.
Am staying at an incredible little pension, owned by an expat Brit who bought it a few years back (with cash!) and now operates it as a hostel. He's a former chef, so we're eating like kings and last night sat around the table with a couple of lovely American backpackers and ate and drank into the wee hours. Today I explored the mountains for a couple of hours - this is possibly the most energetic thing I've done since I left Melbourne!! So a lie down is in order!
Off to Granada tomorrow and then next week to Morocco, to meet Pip at the end of the week. Thank god, another moment without sunshine and I think I'd just about cry.
Footnote: Adventure Owl was stolen yesterday, en route to Ronda. He was taken from my bag at the Sevilla Bus Station. I'd like to think he's flown on to greater adventures, possibly in Neverending Story territory. Vale, Adventure Owl.