Travelling without moving

I still get lost. Three weeks in Seville and I'm still in constant danger of becoming gloriously, stupendously lost.

All it takes is one false move, one step in the wrong direction at a five-way intersection of the old town's narrow, winding streets and I'll immediately go from confident local to bumbling tourist.

The buildings are high, blocking out any landmarks with which to navigate. The streets bend and twist with no discernible pattern, crossing at haphazard intervals, joining other alleys or petering out into dead ends.

Maps are almost useless. It is pretty hard to work your way out of a mess when you can't even figure out where in the mess you are.

Navigation is tough, but as with everything in Seville, you just have to know what you're doing.

And I do know what I'm doing. Mostly. Three weeks in the Andalusian capital and I'm beginning to get the hang of it.

About the only thing I can't get my head around is getting from point A to point B without detouring via the entire alphabet along the way.

Aside from that, I feel right at home, which is nice, because this isn't the way I usually do things.

I mostly flit from place to place when I travel, spending a few days here and a few days there, enjoying destinations like tapas, taking small bites and then moving on. But in Seville, I'm having the main course.

My friend Nick calls it "travelling without moving".

Rather than bother with trains and buses and airports and packing and unpacking and repacking, you choose one destination and stay there for a while, getting to know its quirks and intricacies, getting into the local rhythm.

And it works. There are plenty of things I know about Seville now that I didn't know three weeks ago.

I know, for instance, that the bar at Plaza del Salvador is the place to be on a sunny afternoon.

From about 1pm every day, the entire square is filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, drinking little glasses of beer, eating potato chips in paper cones, sitting on the church steps, generally enjoying being outside and happy.

I also know that if you roll up at Plaza del Salvador at 5pm, you will be extremely disappointed. The shutters come down on the bar, the potato chip guy packs up and goes home and the drinkers move on somewhere else. By 5.05pm, the place is completely empty. Why? I have no idea.

The small shops in Seville all close for siesta. Some bars do, too. There is a place that specialises in international beers and is packed most afternoons and evenings, but for a few hours late in the day, the owners shut up shop and have a rest.

At first, that seems insane. But after three weeks, you start to get used to it. You don't even try to achieve anything between the hours of 2pm and 6pm. You don't get frustrated that everything is closed. You just go with the flow.

I know how to buy football tickets now. I know that you have to go to the stadium and you have to go there after 5pm, otherwise, the ticket office will be closed.

I also know that the girl who works in the stadium shop won't tell you that the ticket office will be closed. You just have to figure that out for yourself. (You can't read the sign, because there isn't one.)

I now know people, and people know me. Pepe in the cafe next door knows I'll want a cafe con leche each morning. He doesn't even ask any more, he just puts it on the counter and nods. Meanwhile, I know that Pepe's "tapas del dia" are exactly the same every day.

I know the buskers who wander in the tourist areas, plying their trade. I know the flamenco guitar guys and the accordion guys are actually really good. I know the busker who dresses up as a baby and speaks in a squeaky voice deserves to be shot into the moon.

I know the food. I know that a tapas-sized portion at Taberna Coloniales is about the size of a normal meal anywhere else. I know you can get an incredible plate of fried foie gras and apple for about $5 at Albarama.

I know that jamon iberico is a gastronomic staple that should be consumed at least once a day. I also know that for the rest of my life, whenever I eat jamon iberico, I'll immediately start boring my friends with stories that begin with: "When I was living in Seville ..."

After just three weeks, I know all of this. I understand it. I'm starting to feel at home in Seville - I know where to go and I know when to go. The only thing I can't figure out is how to get there.

bengroundwater@gmail.com

The story Travelling without moving first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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