After a custard breakfast at the bus station, my parents and I board a Flixbus that impressively has working WiFi, plugs, air-conditioning, and a functional bathroom. When I first traveled with FlixBus two years ago, you generally got two or three of these promised amenities, if you were lucky. Even in my short time backpacking Europe, much has changed: WiFi is everywhere, nearly all straws are made of paper, and I am riding the high of a luxurious bus ride, when we pull into our EU-regulated break 2.5 hours after leaving Lisbon. I quickly begin to yearn for the untrammeled wilds, where bus drivers put their feet on the gas until the destination is reached or else sleep in shifts to make sure the bus is constantly in motion, kicking up dirt and gravel toward the beauteous destination of anywhere and making adventure out of the routine nature of riding buses. Mark my words: the world will never see a European Kerouac. There is nothing romantically gritty about clean, reclining seats and the ability to stream Netflix at 55 kph. However, backpacking in the West vs. the East is an endless discussion, and not one I wish to draw out, though I am sure the topic will re-emerge at some point.
When we arrive in Seville, after bumper-to-bumper traffic entering the city, we get to eat a dinner of tapas, perhaps the most civilized part of Spain and Spanish culture. If you ever wished you could go to a restaurant, order three appetizers and not hate yourself, then tapas are for you. The first thing I noticed is that Spanish tapas don’t even slightly resemble the ten-dollar crackers and meatballs you get in the United States. Here, tapas are cheap, small, and have quality ingredients, and can be meatballs, hummus, grilled peppers, or even small dishes of eggplant parmesan. In the night, we hop from restaurant to restaurant as we sample some of Seville’s smallest delights before turning in at our Airbnb, where I sleep happily and comfortably on the couch.
At a quarter to ten the next morning, we walk to Plaza Nueva to join a free walking tour that is to wrap up before noon. The guide takes us through the Moorish architecture of the neighborhood, but most memorably explains what Sevillians do with the fruit from the orange trees that line practically all of the old town. Apparently, these bitter oranges are picked and sold to the English for use in sour marmalades, something only Brits seem to enjoy eating. I’m not a man whose ears perk up when he hears a date or historical fact, but as a former jam maker, I believe that a city that preserves their jam history through tours and commerce is a noble one.
The tour ends in the spectacular Plaza de España, where we buy lemon slushies and bask in the enormity of the plaza from under a shady tree. In the late afternoon, we see countless churches with gilded statues and altars, a result of Seville being the entry point for nearly all of Spain’s gold imports from Latin America during the colonial period. We finally end up at a flamenco bar called “La Carboneria” where we eat cheap tapas and sangria through two sets of incredibly percussive and powerful flamenco music and dance. I am awestruck by the raw emotion and wonder how I had avoided seeing live tango for so much of my life. I retire on the couch for my last night in Seville. The next morning, my parents slipped out while I was still asleep to join a tour to Tangier, Morocco and I spent the day in a cafe writing and studying before my own North African excursion, for which I board a bus that afternoon to the port city of Almeria.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.