CouchSurfing with Manolo

My first real time CouchSurfing, and my first real time surfing alone, I contacted a man named Manolo and he agreed to let me stay for a provisional 2 days. Two days turned into five, and I couldn’t be luckier!

Manolo lives a few minutes away from downtown Sevilla in a pueblo called Valencina de la Concepción. Here’s a view of his street:

A view of Manolo's street on my last night in Valencina

White walls and flowers everywhere. The little trees lining the street are lime trees, and the big bushy one toward the front is lovely, fragrant jasmine.

Although living in Valencina meant that I wasn’t getting to explore or know Sevilla very well, it was a solid introduction the Spanish tempo of life. Here’s how a typical day went with Manolo, who is a retired lawyer:

8.00

Wake up, get dressed.

8.30

Have breakfast. This is tostada con tomate, fresh-squeezed orange juice (4 halved oranges and an electric juicer), and a cup of tea or coffee. Still hungry? Have a banana or an apple:

tostada con tomate, cafe, orange juice, apple

Oops! I ate it!

9.00

Drive to Sevilla to do errands for a few hours. For me, this meant looking at pisos and finding a place to catch wi-fi, getting a cell phone, and generally trying not to get lost.

OR

Go on a trip! We went to the cuevas (caves) in Aracena and then drove to the top of the hill to the church.

14.00

Siesta! Take a nap or go swimming. Or, take a nap and then go swimming! He has a beautiful pool:

Manolo's backyard, including a well, swimming pool, eating area, and patio.

A perfect place to spend a hot, sunny afternoon.

At the foreground of the picture, where the potted plants are, is a well. You can recognize the pulley hanging from the top right. In the lower left of the picture, in the midground, is my laundry hanging out to dry. We always did laundry during siesta because the sun was hot and everything would be dry within an hour. In the top right corner you can see jasmine flowers. They smelled so good that I picked some and put then in a glass of water by my bed.

15.00

Lunch! Sometimes we went out to eat, especially if we were still in Sevilla or on our way back from Sevilla. Sometimes we stayed at Manolo’s and ate at the table by the pool.

18.00

Head back to Sevilla, but this time for fun. We would explore the different barrios (neighborhoods) and Manolo would tell me about them. The first night we went to Los Remedios which is in Triana across the river. We ate at a pizza place called Sloppy Joe’s, which is owned by an American who used to be a pilot. We ate pizza espinaca (spinach pizza) and garlic bread. The sauce on the pizza was made out of spinach instead of tomato, and it was delicious with a nice thin crust!

Another night we spend wandering in barrio Santa Cruz, which is the old Jewish Quarter. The buildings are very close together here, and the streets are very short and branch off in every which way. Every time I come here I get completely lost! We passed by the old Arab bath house, the best flamenco show in town, and some of Manolo’s favorite cafés. This is where Manolo was born and grew up, so he knew a lot of people, shop-owners, and history.

Another night we walked past Plaza de España to look at the old exhibition center all lit up for night. Practicing just outside was the drum corps for Semana Santa. He showed me a famous statue where all the high school kids go when they are dating. The statue forms a bench all the way around an old tree. The Three Graces sit flirtatiously on one side of the tree, and a young cupid lays over their shoulder. On the other side of the tree an older cupid lays, collapsed, arrows broken. Tucked into one of the The Three Grace’s hands was a piece of paper with “I love you like crazy” written in Spanish with different handwriting on either side.

22.00

Finally it is time for dinner. Usually we have tapas and drinks. Here we are getting vegetarian tapas near Plaza Alfalfa:

Eating tortilla espanola and berenjenas con miel at las columnas in barrio santa cruz.

The eggplant with honey was so good, and I always enjoy tortilla. We are drinking "tinto de verano, blanco, poco tinto."

A few times we went to a bodega for a bigger meal. My favorite meal was at a bodega near Manolo’s house, so not in Sevilla center. We ate with his friend and his friend’s wife. We had gazpacho, espinaca con tomate, bruschetta, tarta, olivos, and more. Including drinks, dessert, and enough food to fill 4 people, the bill came to only 11 euro each. The bodega is known for making its own wine. Large barrels lined one side of the wall, big, brown, and marked with chalk for the date they were created. The owner of the bodega said that October was the best time to drink it because it was the freshest (so we had perfect timing!). It was white wine with a bit of a kick, a little like sherry:

A small glass of wine from Bodega Pepe Girón

Delicious! I would love to go back!

24.00

Usually by midnight I was getting very sleepy. The first couple of days I didn’t take a nap for siesta and my energy was too low to keep on going. After I started taking naps, I could stay up more easily until 2 am.

Finally, it was my last day with Manolo. I had adjusted so much to staying at his house that it almost felt like moving to Spain all over again when we dropped off all my things at the new piso. Now on my second day here I feel a lot more comfortable, and it’s nice being able to walk to whatever I want to do on my own time.

Manolo and I will keep in touch, though. It’s nice to know that I have a friend in Sevilla!

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