Hello all and welcome to this week’s People & Pints! This past weekend I was lucky enough to visit my wonderful friend Jess, who is studying in Sevilla, Spain. Jess is also from Boston College and I was incredibly excited to travel to Sevilla and see her. I did minimal research beforehand, attempting to arrive with as little preconceived notions as possible, though I did manage to add one thing to the weekend’s agenda; in the spirit of this blog, I decided to find out whether there is any craft beer in this city in southern Spain. Spain is more known for its wine than its beer so I assumed the options were limited. However, I managed to find a bar that served what craft beer so with that knowledge in hand, I eagerly set out for my weekend in Sevilla.
As soon I stepped off the plane, I couldn’t help let a smile stretch over my face. The journey to reach Sevilla was a relatively long one. I flew out of Eindhoven, another major city in the Netherlands, which is about a two hour train ride from Amsterdam. From the train station I then had to take a shuttle from the station to the airport. Finally, I sat through another two hour plane ride and arrived in Spain. The trip wasn’t particularly arduous but it was a bit draining switching through all these modes of transportation. Nonetheless, I arrived beaming and breathing in the warm Sevilla air. After a shuttle ride into the center of the city, I was greeted by Jess and her roommate Claire, who is from Wisconsin and was really wonderful. They showed me around the city as we walked to my Airbnb. My first impressions were that Sevilla has quite a bit of vegetation and is very quaint; there were palm trees lining most of the main streets and, despite the fact that Sevilla is a significant city, it had the feel of simply a large town. In that regard I suppose it was quite like Amsterdam.
We arrived at the apartment in which I would
be staying for the weekend and were greeted by Nuria Maria, who was renting the room out to me. She welcomed the three of us genially, though she had to nervously double check that only I would be staying, not me and the two girls. Up until this point we had been speaking Spanish, though at one point, and I can’t remember why, she switched to English and I asked if she spoke fluently. She seamlessly switched to English for the remainder of the conversation, able to swap between Spanish and English when needed. She revealed that she is a flamenco dancer and that she had taught dance in Amsterdam for about 15 years, which was quite a funny connection. After I announced that my mother is from Buenos Aires, Nuria Maria told us, happily, that she has danced there before and that she was in the process of arranging a trip to Argentina to dance. She continued to chat with us for a few minutes and then I
remembered that I had brought something for Jess and Claire, but was happy to share with Nuria Maria as well. Her eyes lit up, knowingly, as I pulled out a bag of stroopwafel and told my friends about this Amsterdam delicacy. We all enjoyed a stroopwafel and bid “hasta luego” to Nuria Maria. That evening was spent mostly just wandering the city and sampling a few tapas. The night was beautiful and we decided to take in a view of the city from the top of the Metropol Parasol, the largest wooden structure in the world. Later in the evening, we joined some other American students and enjoyed the Sevilla nightlife.
The next day was spent exploring the main attractions of the city including the Cathedral, the Alcázar and the Plaza de España. It was a hot day, which was something I hadn’t experienced for quite a while in Amsterdam, but it was still lovely. The Cathedral was enormous and we climbed la Giralda, which had a marvelous view of the city. The Alcázar was gorgeous, with lovely flowers, fountains and amazing architecture. Lastly the Plaza was very serene and we decided to rent a row boat to take on the little river. After we spent a large portion of the day walking, we took a much needed siesta. I realized the idea of taking a siesta is what truly sets Spanish culture apart from many others. Spaniards, and I suppose Mediterraneans in general, have a reputation for being a bit more laid back. Meals are often much later than they would be in America; we didn’t have “dinner” the previous night until about 9:30. More than that, punctuality isn’t necessarily as prized a virtue as it would be in the states, or in Amsterdam for that matter. Even the way people greet each other, with warm, friendly kisses on each cheek, demonstrates the informal, welcoming and cordial way the culture functions. Sevilla’s culture, though it has heavy Muslim influences, is quite particular. Amsterdam has a very rich history, but it is comprised of a variety of cultures through years of conquest and colonization. Nonetheless, there are still several similarities between my new home, Amsterdam, and Sevilla. In Amsterdam, locals greet each other with three kisses on the cheek and like Sevilla, the city is accessible and walkable.
Another significant similarity, though perhaps not as clear, I discovered later that evening. Jess and I were joined by two of her friends, Lauren and Shirley, both also from America. We decided to try a few restaurants and bars for dinner and drinks. It was then that I suggested we try the craft beer bar, Maquila, that I had discovered in my limited planning. Although, craft beer isn’t as big of an industry as it is becoming in Amsterdam, there is nonetheless a similar culture of imbibing. Dutch are quite fond of cozy, “gezellig” locales to drink delicious beer and chat for the evening. People in Sevilla do much the same, though usually with a pitcher of Sangria. However, in Maquila, I was happy to find a delicious glass of beer and engage in warm conversations with Jess, Lauren and Shirley. We chatted about favorite foods, where we were from and a range of topics that lasted long after we left Maquila. I had a glass of SON Compañía Cervecera, the house brewery; I tried the SON Mayo 15:37, which was a fantastic saison with hints of ginger and citrus. As we left, I worked up the courage to ask the bartender, who had spoken a bit of English to us, some questions about the bar. My knowledge of Spanish does not yet include craft beer vocabulary and neither did the bartender’s English. He did manage to reveal that they were in the brewing a strong stout for the “colder” weather. He also shared that production was relatively small and I responded that that fact probably made the beer feel more local and undoubtably more tasty. He agreed with a smile and asked why I was so curious. I couldn’t formulate an eloquent, articulate response but I did manage to reply, “estoy estudiando en Amsterdam y las cervezas son muy bonitos allí.” After I said Amsterdam, the bartender smiled and nodded and then affirmed, “son fantasticos.” “Pero,” I continued, “estos son fantasticos tambien.” The bartender laughed and thanked me as I left with my friends. We tried a few other restaurants for more tapas and eventually wished each other goodnight.
My last day in “Sevilla” was actually spent on a beach in Portugal. Praia de São Rafael was beautiful and absolutely necessary after weeks of chilly days in Amsterdam. The water was a bit cold but I didn’t mind and I was happy to get a bit sunburned, soaking in the warm sun. The most amazing part of the day was when Jess, Claire, Nicole (their friend who also happens to be from Boston College) and I climbed one of the incredibly tall rock structures that marked the end of the beach to take in some breathtaking views. It was absolutely stunning atop these mounds of compacted sand, shells and rock. We descended on the other side to feel the water as it crashed against the side of this structure. We struggled upwards and reached the high point to sit and breathe in the fresh sea air and look out over the horizon. Before long we had to return to Sevilla and then next morning I bid goodbye to this beautiful city. My girlfriend Rosa at one point jokingly asked me when I told her how much I liked Sevilla, “What? Better than Amsterdam?!” I laughed and said, “No, they are just very different.” I love life in Amsterdam, but Sevilla was pretty great as well.