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Carmona, mi amor

October 22, 2010

Today was my favorite, favorite day!

Maybe not ever, but certainly among them.

And of course it is the day that I forgot my camera. But please, all five or so of you reading this, if that many…. Okay, family! Go Google image search Carmona right now and browse those pictures. Hopefully there are some that do it justice.

I have been struggling with Sevilla a little bit. It’s not something that I like to admit, because I want so badly to fall in love with this city. I left in hopes of – no, more than that – expecting, needing this European love affair. Not a carnal one, but one with a city, a different community, a different mindset. I trusted that I would be able to find that here. Sevilla is a city with so much history, and there certainly is so much beautiful culture within its limits – but I feel like my access to it is blocked. I love wandering the streets of my neighborhood, especially on Saturdays when a block radius around every church is enveloped in cloud of wedding perfumes – a welcome change to the garbage smell of weekday evenings.  I love going and sitting in bars and cafes, drinking my coffee and melting into the walls. But I never feel like I am a part of things here. In part I think this is due to the many, many, many tourists that visit this city. The residents have just learned to go about their business and ignore the obviously-foreign faces and accented, stuttery Spanish. And so I am blocked off.

This isn’t the case for all Sevillanos, of course, nor for every experience I have had. I went out last Friday night with a photographer I met here doing interviews for a class. It was my first official bar hop, and I probably drank more manzanilla than I should have. But it got to this beautifully foggy point where Amy, Gerardo, his friends and I were just eating cheese and laughing and drinking and talking while he snapped occasional photos. I remember my Spanish being more fluid than ever before (though who knows, really) and I wasn’t just a foreigner, a tourist since the first time I got here.

But apart from that night and other choice moments, Sevilla has not let me in.

Maybe that’s my fault. Maybe I am not out there enough, maybe I spend too much time in my room reading food blogs and dreaming and searching virtually for the (affordable) culinary key to this city instead of going and finding it in real life.

But then I have days like today, but elsewhere. In a small pueblo half an hour away called Carmona.

I decided to go with Amy last-minute. Just having purchased my (very, very) expensive tickets to Geneva, I am pinching my pennies and debating tutoring fliers. But the bus (round trip) was only 5 Euro, so why not?

We got there, and I was nervous. It didn’t seem that cute. The necropolis – which the guidebook raved about – wasn’t that impressive. Cool and old and creepy and Roman and stuff, but not terribly impressive.

Turns out we were outside the historic center, and once we made it there it became more than apparent that the trip was well worth it. We didn’t have any idea what was there, really, or where any of it was. We got there as the shops were closing for siesta, so we wandered the streets and looked into churches and the places the tourist signs lead us to. We sat in the square and chatted, and what out the rear end (hehe) of the town, beyond the wall to what was a spectacular, spectacular view of the Andalusian countryside – even with the mounds of trash that had been thrown off the cliff. I saw goats, and headed right for them. The bounciest puppy I have ever come across jumped all over us and kissed our hands and followed us a bit further, at which point we realized that this was a CAFO-type goat operation. Not as ugly, and not very smell – but many, many, many, many goats in much too small a space.

We wandered around more, back to this big square plaza lined with market stalls. The market must have closed before we arrived there, but a few restaurants were still open. We had walked through earlier and one in particular had caught my eye – lots of Moroccan tea pots and big cast iron pots full of bubbling spinach and garbanzo beans. I made Amy go, though I am not totally sure she was excited for it. The woman working there, Carmela -who the mini-restaurant was named for – told us what to order. We told us we wanted tea and she brought us this giant pot of sweet mint goodness and this soup of potatoes, peas, carrots, and the tenderest calamari I have ever eaten, with bread and olives on the table, too. For dessert we had panna cotta drizzled with bright green mint sauce and cinnamon – something that I would not have thought of but was perfect for the moment. This whole process lasted more than two hours, and the whole time we listened to intoxicated men at the bar a few stalls away sing impressive flamenco-type songs, with other joining in from time to time and Carmela running back and forth to sing awhile and check on her customers. There were children playing all over the square, and other sporadic groups eating donuts and drinking. It was obvious that we were peering in to this community, that the whole scene was familiar and comfortable and a part of the day-to-day. Other than casual conversation with Carmela about the food and Morocco (I’m going in 3 weeks), we just watched. But it still felt like we were more a part of something there than we have ever been in Sevilla. The realness of those moments wasn’t hidden from us, or moved from tourist view. It was just lived.

I just want to find that here. I’ll keep looking.

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