Sunday, January 16, 2011

What NOT to Order for Lunch in Sevilla


We´ve been in the beautiful, amazing, friendly, historic, energetic city of Sevilla for nearly three full days and it has been full of surprises.  One thing that is not a surprise is that my Spanish language skills are weak.  Added to my poor Spanish is my lack of self-confidence when speaking it.  But, it has only been a few days, so it will get better.

In my defense, I do have to tell you that on our second night here, I was able to go into a Vodaphone store (think Verizon, AT&T, etc.) and -- entirely in Spanish -- purchase an inexpensive phone and a short-term contract.  The salesperson was a real sweetheart and when I thanked her for her patience at the end she told me that my pronunciation was perfect! Now I just need to improve my vocabulary... and my grammar!  I decided this morning to stop trying to speak in the proper tense (hopeless, anyway).  It´s much easier to make myself understand in the present tense (I usually know those verb forms).

I am sitting in an internet cafe right now.  The modem jack for our apartment is not Mac-compatible.  The owner of the apartment is trying to get what we need this week.

Friday morning we stumbled upon a great place for breakfast.  Great because they had a signboard that read "Desayuno Especial" (Breakfast Special) €4, which made it easy to order.  "Dos especiales por favor."  Two specials, please.  Well, we didn't know our little breakfast place isn't open Sundays.  So, this morning, we had to find someplace else and I actually had to say more than "dos especiales por favor."  To my surprise, it was a breeze.  Jerry found us a table on the street.  I walked up to the counter and ordered our breakfast sandwiches (thin-sliced Iberian ham and mashed-up tomato that looks and tastes like jam), coffee, orange juice, PLUS two chocolate "napolitanos," for here... with some other conversation added.  I was relaxed and all went well.  And instead of paying €8 for the two of us, I paid €4.95 total!  And the juices were large instead of small.  Chocolate napolitanos, which we didn't "need" by the way, don't come with our breakfast special.  What a deal.

The First Mistake
We have had one major restaurant disaster.  Yesterday afternoon, Saturday, we walked a few blocks in our neighborhood to find a place for lunch.  Now, there are dozens of options, but we have no idea what to look for.  Obviously, if a place is mobbed, we figure it's a good place to eat. However, if a place is mobbed, we feel a bit overwhelmed and out of our element.  We stopped at one place that wasn't mobbed hoping to be able to order a couple of simple sandwiches.  They didn't have sandwiches (bocadillos) and we couldn't understand all but two items on the menu.  Besides, the place felt a bit seedy (which may have been nothing more than our ignorance at work).

We left and continued on to a beautiful place with lots of tables outside in the sun... and lots of people (but not mobbed).  We sat down at a table, ordered drinks, and then picked up the menu in complete confusion.  My Spanish vocabulary is especially limited in the "food" category.  I recognized the words for chicken, lasagna, shrimp, vegetarian, and salad (maybe a couple of others but not in connection with the rest of the words in their descriptions).  Jerry and I had both read about Ensaladia Rusa, although neither of us could remember what it was.  I recognized vegetarian lasagna.  So, we ordered an Ensaladia Rusa to share and two vegetarian lasagnas.  The waiter was very nice, but spoke not a word of English.  He looked at us oddly and I was feeling too insecure/embarrassed to ask for help (last time that's going to happen), so the order was placed.  The Ensaladia Rusa came out a short time later.  A huge HUGE -- have I mentioned it was HUGE -- bowl of what turned out to be a potato salad with peas, carrots and some other things, smothered (as in choking to death) in mayo and cheese.  Rich does not begin to describe the sweet, heavy, density of this potato salad.  Jerry ate some but held back (not something Jerry usually does).  I felt obligated to eat as much as I could, so finished the bowl, which really was enough for four people.


Then came the first plate of lasagna.  We had confirmed with the waiter as part of our order that we wanted full plates and not tapas.  We were wrong!  Another waiter who brought out the first plate of lasagna gave us a chance to retract our order for the second, but we were too dense to pick up on it.  So out came PLATTER number 2.  So on top of our sweet, heavy, dense, creamy salad, we now had not one but two platters of sweet, heavy, dense, creamy vegetarian lasagna.  It was smothered in the same cheese sauce as the salad.  Oddly, Jerry continued to be more rational than I, only eating a little.  I ate about half of one platter before I could barely stand myself anymore.  We paid and hobbled home.  I´m sure the wait staff and chef are still talking about us.  I´m still feeling the effects of that lunch more than 24 hours later.  Two teensy little plates at a tapas bar along with a glass of wine each was all we could manage for dinner last night.

Tomorrow we head to Jerez de la Frontera for a couple of nights.  Sevilla is an absolutely amazing city, but we're pretty sure it's larger than we're looking for.  Jerez is about one-fourth the size.  We'll see how it feels.  More walking tonight.  Sevilla comes alive around 10 p.m.  We've been sleeping in and then wandering the town until the wee hours.  Just like grown-ups.  Entire families are out in the public squares at night.  It's warm, exciting, and spectacular.  We have felt safe and comfortable no matter where we've been and no matter the time of day. 

And the history is amazing.  Our first day here, we looked out our apartment window to discover a gigantic ancient ruin next door -- a huge empty courtyard surrounded by a spectacular, arched Roman ruin.  It's not visible from the outside being behind the street-side building (the entrance is on the back street).  We had tapas with our host our second night here and asked about the building.  He told us it's the oldest convent in Sevilla.  It's going to be preserved and then condos are being added.  Work was about to begin, but the recession hit, so it's been on hold and will soon start.  He matter-of-factly mentioned that it hasn't been occupied for a little while... two centuries!  I'll post a picture soon.

Although I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at times and ashamed of my poor language skills, I have to remember we've only been here a few days.  Sevilla is even more beautiful and welcoming than I expected.  I can't wait to tell you about Jerez.


  1. Welcome to Europe! Sounds like you're making your way. Best of luck in the hunt!

  2. Thanks for the welcome, wcs! It already feels like home.


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