Part IX continues with my trip about Spain and Portugal. From Sacramento to Lisbon, follow my journey through these two countries. Another day in Sevilla before heading to Portugal and enjoying a couple of days at the beach.
Day 16 – Sevilla and a Flamenco show
We slept in again and then I went to use the internet for a while. Met back at 1 pm and headed towards the Plaza de Espana. We ended up taking a walk through Sevilla’s university. For years, the university used to be a tobacco factory. No matter where I go, I love colleges and universities. I like college students because I enjoyed my experience in college so much. I may be weird but I also enjoy visiting college campuses. Whether it be a smaller school (my wife’s school, while not small, is not as well known but has its own unique campus – Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, AZ), a big school on the west coast (visited University of Washington on a trip to Seattle), or my own school (University of South Carolina), I just have always loved colleges and universities for so many reasons – campuses, the culture, college students, collegiate sports.
Even as an 11 year old, I walked around campus at Furman while I was at a football game and was so excited. A lot of this has to do with my love of college athletics but it is as much about the students, campus, and atmosphere as well. Even though Sevilla doesn’t have college sports and was mainly one huge building, it was fun to walk through and just be around the students. We even had a cheap lunch of chicken sandwiches and cokes with the students at the university cafeteria.
From there, we made the long walk towards the Armas bus station area to see the Museo des Bellas Artes which contained two lesser known artists and Spanish painting from the 1500 and 1600s. The two artists the museum focuses on are Francisco de Zurbaran and Bartolome Murillo. Zurbaran painted saints and monks and made his work a focus on God as he painted with detailed realism. His most famous work is The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas in which he paints the saint and his miraculous moment in a detailed, down-to-earth manner.
Murillo was a local artist who painted with more warmth and focused on Mary with his most famous being Madonna and Child. The museum also included works from other parts of Europe but mainly included Spanish art from the 1500s through the early 20th century. There were only 14 rooms so it was not overwhelming to go through. The art fits the time period and the periods that I enjoy – Baroque, Renaissance, and various paintings from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th century. Needless to say, I enjoyed this art museum..
After the art museum, headed back towards the hotel and stopped by Horno San Buenaventura for a yummy pastry. We went back to the hotel, took a nap, and then headed over to the Flamenco show at 6:30 to get in line for seats. It seemed like almost every person in line was an American. In talking to the guy who works there, many Americans, Germans, Italians, British, and Spanish (from other parts of Spain) come to these Flamenco shows. You could tell the line was full of Americans by how they dressed and how loud it was. I like Americans back home. But here in Europe, they are louder than everyone else in lines, cafes, restaurants, and museums. They dress differently than Europeans – shorts, sneakers or sandals, camera bags, backpacks, hip sacks, sunglasses, and hats. When I travel, I like to try and fit in rather than stand out. I want to learn something from the culture I am experiencing. I try to talk quietly, dress to fit in, and speak the language where I can. I may be strong in my opinion on this but the beauty of travel is getting to know another culture, not interrupting the culture you are visiting expecting others to conform to you.
The Flamenco show was an experience, entertaining, and only an hour long. Flamenco is a mix of Roma and Moorish cultures and involves dancing, footwork, great guitar players, and raspy singers in Arabic style and language. Here is the best way I can describe it – singing that sounds like something you would hear in a Middle Eastern country with dancing by a girl in a colorful, layered dress in which the tapping and stomping of the feet and snapping and clapping are part of the music and rhythm of the song. While many people are excited by the dancing, I was fascinated with the guitar player. Hands down they are some of the best in the world. Their incredibly fast strumming and picking create amazing, Arabic style music that accompanies the singing and dancing. It was a great experience and I am glad I saw it. However, this may not be for everyone’s taste but it is good to experience once. Definitely on the touristy side and I didn’t like that. There are some less touristy, more local, better quality and more expensive flamenco shows but this was a good enough introduction to Flamenco.
After the show, we walked through the streets of Barrio Santa Cruz looking for something to eat. We ended up down the street from the Cathedral at a Chinese restaurant. I admit it is a bit weird to see Chinese people speaking Spanish (not to each other though). But the food was one of the best and cheapest meals I have had in Spain. For 6.50 euros, we got an eggroll, fried rice, chicken with almonds, a drink, and a dessert. I rarely eat Chinese food back in the States but it was good enough to make me want to eat it again. Ironically, our last meal in Spain was Chinese.
After dinner, we walked around the Cathedral, looked at the horse and carriages, walked down Avenida de la Constitucion, and then headed back to our hotel. Today was the last full day in Spain. We packed up and went to bed, ready to explore a new country as we head to Portugal tomorrow.
Lessons Learned – If you want a different feel for a city, explore the local college campus and observe student life. Most students know English so if you get the courage, talk to one of them. Many college campuses are a good place to find local guides for a city. Getting a young, local perspective on a city can give you insight on a city you could never get on your own from a guidebook or tour. Experiencing local culture can also be a great thing as well. Each city may offer its own unique cultural events. Try them out and see what you think. It may surprise you and educate you at the same time.
Day 17 – Beach day in Salema, Portugal
We woke up early at 6:50 am (only our second early morning) to get ready and catch our bus. We ended up running a little late and are glad we checked out the night before. We had to wake up the night receptionist (nice old man who was very polite) in order to get out of the hotel. We finally left at 7:45 am and walked as fast as we could to the bus station.
There were not many people out and not much traffic this early in the morning. Despite our late start, we made it to the bus at 8:20 for our 8:30 am departure. The bus ride was long but not as long as I expected. I slept for the first part of the trip but the last part went by quickly. I looked over the bridge as we entered into Portugal. The water was beautiful, it was sunny, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
As we crossed the border, we dropped off some people we picked up at the border of Spain for the ferry. We made a couple of stops in towns like Faro and Portimao before arriving in Lagos. The journey only took a little over 5 hours and we gained an hour as we crossed into Portugal due to the time change.
When we arrived in Lagos, we bought our tickets to Lisbon and waited for the bus to Salema. At 1:30 pm, we jumped on the bus to Salema and stopped in some very small towns, picking up and dropping off various high school kids. Around 2:15 pm, we arrived in the small town of Salema.
Salema is a small fishing village that has three streets, some condos, a few hotels, and some restaurants. The town sits right on a beautiful stretch of sun soaked beach. There is one street into town and it contained a small square (a parking lot and entrance to the beach), a small strip mall, 2 small restaurants, and our hotel. One small street to the left of town had 2 more restaurants, and some houses going up the cliff. The other street went up the hill to some more homes and a few condos. And that was all there was.
There are no sights to see, no museums, and no shops. There is nothing but a beautiful beach and cliffs overlooking each side of the beach. One thing I noticed immediately and loved about Portugal – everyone speaks English from hotel staff, bus information office, the locals, and even the German tourists. This is a popular place for British and Germans as they made this small fishing village a tourist town.
The beach is lined with small boats as many of the local men still fish each day and catch octopus in jars. As we checked into our hotel, we got a room with a balcony overlooking the square and the beach. After settling in, we took a walk on the beach taking in the beautiful coastline with the sandy beaches and cliffs, watching people lay out and swim, and looking for shells. The weather was amazing – blue, sunny, and hot. The water was also a turquoise blue. And lucky for us, the beach wasn’t crowded at all.
After K went back to the hotel, I walked up the uphill street and came along these dirt paths along the cliffs. Some had very steep drop offs but beautiful views of the ocean. Beaches would pop out below the cliffs with steep hikes down. Listening to my iPod and hiking along the cliffs, I got some great views and pictures of the Algarve coastline and beaches. Although some of the hiking was a little scary, I hiked for an hour and a half before getting back to the hotel.
Back in the room, K took a nap. I sat on the balcony looking at a nearly empty beach as the sun slowly started to set. A few people were coming in from the beach and some were in the small square. But it was quiet and peaceful with the sound of the ocean crashing on the shore.
Around 7:30, we got ready and went to the restaurant on the beach – the Atlantico. I was ready for some really good fish so I ordered the fish soup and the cataplana – a mix of different fish with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and whatever else. To drink, I had wine and amarguinna – a sweet, almond liqueur. Things are served differently here than the States.
While the fish was normal, the cataplana was an adventure to eat. Huge chunks of fish were in the soup – skin, bones, and all. It was difficult to pick through and eat and even when I was eating the soup part, I never knew what I was going to bite into. What I ate was good but probably not something I would eat again as it was a lot of work.
After dinner, we headed back to our room and watched a little BBC television. We watched an interesting show called “How Dirty Can I Get?” A woman found a partner in crime (a guy) to not wash hands, bathe, brush teeth, or clean at all for 6 weeks. Also, no deodorants, cosmetics, or other chemicals were used. Lab samples of skin, teeth, nails, and crotch areas were taken to compare with bacteria after the 6 weeks.
She visited people in a no chemical/cosmetics environment to see how they lived. She visited a deodorant factory and talked to people on the street. Over the 6 weeks, we got to see their lives without cleaning. In the end, bacteria on all areas of their bodies increased over 1000 times. Hair was smellier than their bodies. Plaque built up causing major damage to teeth and they smelled. But neither one got sick.
In the end, we learned it is important for people to stay clean to avoid the spread of infectious diseases. However, we don’t need all the products we think we need to keep our bodies and homes clean and free of germs. It was a fascinating show! Afterwards, I went to sleep with the windows open, listening to the waves crash on the shore.
Lessons Learned – When taking a long trip, it is always good to build days into your trip to just relax (whatever that looks like for you). While touring and seeing many cities and sights is the reason you are traveling, it’s good to give your mind and body a break. A beach, a day at a spa, a hike, watching a BBC show on getting dirty, or just taking it easy is a great break in the middle of a big trip .
Next up – From Salema to Lisbon
Read more about my adventures in Exploring Spain and Portugal
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