July 2004—Greetings from Sevilla!!
It has been almost two years since we left home, a long time away from friends. We hope you are all fine and that life is treating you well.
We arrived in Sevilla almost a year ago,September 26, and it seems like only yesterday. This past winter has been most eventful and it started with a bang, complete with fireworks the night of our arrival in Sevilla. It just happened to be the “Fin de Verano” (end of summer) Party at the Club Nautico. As if on cue, the band started to play just minutes after we tied up to the dock and the music hasn’t stopped since.
Every morning from the galley, we get this fabulous view of the famous Giralda catedral.
You must understand that Spain is the party country of the world and Sevilla is its capitol, of parties that is. Any excuse for a fiesta is a good one and there are fiestas in abundance! This was just the first of many.
The Atlantic crossing wasn’t too hard on Entr’acte so we did not have much boat work to do. Our major focus for the coming months was to produce a video memory of our adventures in the Bahamas with Fred and his family. Fred returned successfully to Canada at the end of August mission accomplished but in November he was hospitalized and began chemotherapy. So Entr’acte became a floating video production studio. From November until July we were frantically editing and creating.
We managed to condense 30 hours of video footage into 5 one-hour segments which we sent to Fred one by one in hopes that they would boost his spirits. The project is now complete and Caicos Fred is a movie star!
Taking a break from video editing for shrimp and calamari at give away prices.
When we departed Sevilla back in 1984 we vowed to return some day. It took 20 years but here we are and truly it has been even better this second time. Spain has changed much during the past twenty years and it has been for the better. Re-discovering Sevilla, the most beautiful undiscovered city in Spain.
Our first tourist event was “A Walking Tour With Carmen.” A very creative Belgian girl uses the plot of “Carmen” as a vehicle for a sight-seeing tour of the central city.
Carmen is alive and well in Sevilla.
For two hours “Carmen” comes back to life as she leads a small group throughout Sevilla. Singing, dancing, and playing the accordion, she tells her side of Mirame’s drama while tying it into the history of Sevilla. Her “show” was totally whacky, unpredictable and thoroughly entertaining. It was also FREE; donations only. We decided that it was the best bargain in town and encouraged everyone we could to attend.
Our “domicilio” in Sevilla is El Club Nautico, the local yacht club. We are 40 miles up the river Guadalquivir and just a 10-minute walk to every tourist attraction possible.
A beautiful walk through el Club Nautico.
We wake up every morning to the sights of Old Spain and go to sleep at night (LATE) to the sound of real Flamenco always coming from somewhere. The Club Nautico has all of the amenities: tennis, weight room, sauna, basketball, football and three swimming pools! We began regular attendance at the indoor pool every other day. Ellen is up to 5/8’s of a mile – doing the crawl with turn-arounds and Ed does one mile. We noticed immediate results and have kept to this regimen throughout the winter. Between walking to all the tourist sights and swimming, we felt confident to eat all the tapas sent our way.
The food is decidedly the best feature of Sevilla and Tapas are a way of life here. Tapas are small portions of incredibly delicious food, which include shrimp, fish, octopus, steak and vegetables – an unlimited variety! The Spanish usually have a large meal between 2 and 5 P.M. each day. This is the time they take their siesta; all shops are closed, kids are home from school and the family eats together. Everyone takes a twenty-minute nap and around 5:00 they head back to work or to school activities. The shops stay open until 8:30 at night. After work everyone goes to the bars to have a few tapas before going out to the seemingly unlimited cultural events to arrive home around One AM. A group typically meets at a bar, samples several tapas and a beer then moves on to another one. Each establishment has their own specialty so if you want Pulpo (Octopus) you go to Sancho Panza, for Berejenas (Eggplant) you go to El Candil.
Nightly Tapas are a way of life in Spain. If you must be in bed by 9:00 PM, Spain is not the place for you! The Spanish NEVER sleep!
Christmas was a rather quiet affair. We attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in the Cathedral – the third largest in the world and on Christmas Day all of the Yachties gathered for a formal “Multi National” Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. In Spain, Christmas is somewhat a nonevent! It is Three Kings Day (10 days later) that is the big deal. The Three Kings arrive with great splendor to bring gifts to the children. At night the Three Kings Parade through Sevilla on giant floats and throw candy to all. That last sentence is the understatement of all time! The Kings are usually the three most famous Spaniards of the past year and in one night they managed to throw (shovel by hand) 20 Tons (that’s what the newspaper said) of sucking candy to the hungry hordes. It took us two hours to scrub our shoes clean from the sticky mess on the streets.
All life in Sevilla revolves around two events. Semana Santa and Feria. Anyone who has experienced either of these two events agrees that they are absolutely impossible to describe. Every day there is always some discussion relating to the preparations for one of these festivals. Almost every night of the week we are serenaded by one of the marching bands as they rehearse for the coming Semana Santa.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) takes place between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. For 24 hrs a day the city is alive with processions of massive floats called Pasos. Each Paso depicts one of the scenes in the sequence of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. These Pasos are not motorized. Each Paso weighs in excess of one ton and are carried on a 12 hr procession through the city by 40 weight lifter types who carry the Paso out of respect and honor!
The Pasos is a outstanding example of the sculptor’s art. There are some 50 to 60 Pasos that make up the entire Semana Santa spectacle. Each Paso is accompanied by a band and an army (1200+) of hooded penitents (Nazarenas) who process in silence in advance of their Paso carrying crosses or candles.
The robes of the Nazarenas date back to the 12th century and bear a striking and mistaken resemblance to the the costumes of the KKK. The Pasos are incredible works of art and the press of crowd is not to be believed nor described. It was not unusual to go out for a “short walk” and come back 6 hrs later because you “ran into a Passo.” If that happened you were “in it” until it was over. You had to go with the flow of the crowd until you could find a side street to escape; only to run into another one, then another, and then another! There was no way out! We continually marveled that in such an incredible crowd everyone was always polite and well behaved.
Feria begins two weeks after Easter and is as outrageous in its festivity as Semana Santa was solemn. Feria celebrates Sevilla. Period! It is one week of food, drink, horses and dancing that special dance “The Sevillana”.
“The Sevillana” is a special series of four dances. As usual, the first one is simple and they become progressively more difficult. They are always performed as a complete set. How one group of people can devote 24 hrs a day for a week to one dance is baffling but the Sevillanos somehow manage. They take a huge fair ground and erect hundreds of tents called Casettas. Each Casetta is sponsored by an individual, a group or a business and its sole purpose is to entertain.
The week is spent moving from casetta to casetta; by horse or carriage during the day, on foot at night, when you partake in Tapas by the millions, sherry, wine and beer by the gallon and dance the Sevillana over, and over, and over, FOREVER!
The Sevillana Dance is such serious business that the Club Nautico sponsored dance lessons for anyone who was interested. Much to the surprise and delight of the locals we were the first on the sign up list. “Muy difficile, muy aerobico” they warned. We attended class twice a week from January until the night before Feria opened.
Classe de Sevillana en El Clube Nautico.
We were drilled unmercifully by Don Federico all in Spanish and it was an absolute riot! We were hit not because we did better than the locals but because we practiced on the dock every afternoon. At 5PM everyone in the bar turned their chairs out toward the river to watch us work out. It was not at all unusual for one of the locals to stop and dance with us as we worked out. The tour boats tooted and cheered as they passed and the practice session usually degenerated into a dock party—once the work was done.
Our Dance teacher Don Federico Gallego and our dance class.
Our arrival at a casetta was always accompanied by some announcement “these are the Americans from Club Nautico who took the Sevllana class. Everyone would stop dancing, form a circle and the test was under way. The band would begin and the cantar would call the dances out of order to test us; all under the full scrutiny of the Sevillanos who cheered enthusiastically as we completed the set.
Class-work completed. Now it’s time for the test!
No one could understand how we could learn in three months what usually takes several years to learn. We never told anyone of our background in music and theater until close to the end. Once we came clean it was a good laugh.
Ed just has to have a drum.
Several months later we found out that we had been on Spanish national TV.
You don’t come to Europe for great sailing. You come here for food, for music and for culture. The winter was absolutely packed with sight seeing, trips to the outlying villages, concerts festivals and parties. It had very little to do with boats. We did very little boat work all winter. Entr’acte was just another, albeit small, apartment in Sevilla.
With the end of Feria and warm weather we took to the road. We spent two weeks traveling the continent by train to visit old friends in France, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.
A trip to the ancient city of Cordoba.
A whirlwind tour to be sure but our plans were to depart Sevilla and come back across the Atlantic to Panama and on to the Pacific this fall so. It would be a long time before we would see these friends again.
We arrived back in Sevilla just in time for the Rocio and Santa Anna festivals, what else? One by one all of the boats were leaving for all points of the compass and we went to work to clean, to prepare and to provision for our Atlantic crossing.
That is when the Rat moved aboard! And so it was that for the next THREE WEEKS we engaged in a all out war.
This rat was the most intelligent rat in history. He avoided all traps, glues, baits and poisons. The Club Nautico took it as an affront to their national honor and hired an exterminator to come and get rid of it; to no avail. This rat had an entire yacht filled to capacity with all kinds of food for the taking but he insisted on eating Entr’acte’s entire electrical system! He was quiet by day but throughout the night we could hear him munching away and the very next morning there was another piece of vital equipment that no longer functioned. There was nothing we could do about it. There was so much poison in the boat that there was more danger to us than to the rat. He wants electricity we decided to give it to him, all 220 volts! With the help of a French boat we designed and built a very high voltage rat frier. “Mon ami, he step on the plate, he touche the fruit with his tongue and poof he is gone!”
After the failure of our high voltage electrical trap we were becoming desperate. We were making plans with the fire department to close up the boat and pump it full poison gas when the exterminator returned with yet another poison. He took three giant tomatoes, cut them up and preceded to mix in this powder—“sufficiente por El toro 750kg!” With a gleam in his eye he handed me the tomatoes and I proceeded to “wash and wipe” the entire electrical system, engine, fuel tank and lockers in hopes that little “Rochefort” would inadvertently walk through the stuff and lick it off.
That must have done the trick because he departed as mysteriously as he arrived. Silence, but what a mess! The entire electrical system was in a shambles. We had no Radio, no emergency pumps, no navigation instruments, NADA! So the repairs began. One of the cables was very special and had to be mail ordered from California. While we awaited this wire we systematically unloaded every locker both to clean out the poison and to also look for the body before the smell destroyed the entire boat. We never found a body!
By July 15 we were finally ready to depart and Ed did it yet again! In his zeal to make certain we were fully prepared he sought out a supply of kerosene to top up our galley-stove fuel tank. It was surprisingly simple. Parafina para Fuego? No hay problema. Bought, paid for and tank filled inside of two hours;so easy! That is until Ellen lit the stove for dinner and the whole thing erupted in flames. It turns out that they now use a new synthetic mineral oil and call it Parafina (kerosene)but it is not chemically the same thing and will not burn properly in our stove and worse still, the fuel already in the tank was contaminated with the new stuff. It ALL had to be pumped out and thrown away at great expense! We had no trouble buying real kerosene last winter as they use it for home heating but the only thing now available is this new stuff! They no longer sell kerosene anywhere in Spain until October when the heating season begins. We can’t go to sea if we can’t cook. So another fight began! After much experimentation we got the stove working well using regular diesel fuel from our engine and all is well.
We are now finally ready to depart Sevilla! BUT, in the meantime while we were fighting these latest battles we could not help but notice what wonderful people are these Sevillanos. We received so much help and support from everyone that we actually had a lot of fun dealing with these problems. We sure laughed enough! The Club Nautico took special notice of Eduardos courage in our balle with the rrrrata—and bestowed an offical title on him. Ed–Euardo was now “titled Don.” This was all too much. We looked around and said “Hey, let’s not be stupid. The Pacific has been there for thousands of years and it’s a long way back here. Let’s not be in such a hurry. Those Berejenas Mediteraneo at Restaurante Albahaca are terrific! We have not heard anywhere near enough Flamenco. Besides, the dance classes begin in October this year.”
The bottom line is that after a short voyage to places undecided, we will return to Sevilla and to the scene of the crime.
Ellen and Ed
“El Ratador Don Eduardo ‘El Ratito’ de la Maestranza de Sevilla-Zeta!”
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