Thursday, July 21, 2011

She Acts Like She Owns The Place

Last night, we had dinner at Carmela, a restaurant in the plaza Santa Maria de la Blanca.  We chose Carmela because, even though it was past 9:00, it was still extremely warm outside. Carmela takes up a very large area in the plaza and there were wonderful breezes coming from all different directions.  Every time we've walked by the restaurant, it's been busy.  Also, the tapas specials looked really good.  I chose not to carry my camera with me.  Poor choice.  And, having a temporary local mobile phone, I no longer carry my iPhone (maybe I'll get a new SIM card to use it here or maybe I'll upgrade my phone when I get my permanent service), so I didn't have that as a fallback camera.  You'll just have to use your imaginations this time. And I'll have to carry my camera in the future.


We ordered Mojitos.  We LOVE Mojitos.  These were our first Mojitos Sevillanos, and they were absolute perfection (they might even have been the best we've had).  While we enjoyed our drinks and waited for our food, a woman arrived with an entourage and took over a couple of tables in the plaza right near the restaurant's service bar.  She then went and took a table from inside to add to her collection of tables.  There was a bit of a discussion with the waiter and he then carried the mismatched table out for her.  She then "stromped" around the plaza collecting chairs.  "Jeez," we both commented, "She acts like she owns the place."  We couldn't believe how pushy she was.  The place was mobbed and, when we arrived, there were only two servers.  This pushy woman would call out to them and get up and ask for things, never giving them a break.  Our food arrived (it was delicious) and we briefly forgot about the grande dame.

Soon, though, Jerry noticed her picking up empty glasses from her table and carrying them up to the bar.  He then commented, "You will NOT believe this.  She just walked behind the bar.  I think she's washing a glass."

"Wait a minute," we both thought (we're not THAT slow).

She walked from table-to-table picking up glasses, and taking them into the kitchen.  Then, she started busing tables.  She picked up our empties and — warmly, graciously, and kindly — asked us how everything was.  So, not only did she ACT like she owned the place, she DID own the place.  In addition, she wasn't above some hard work while hosting a night out with friends.  That'll teach us!

We ended our meal with tartas chocolates con helado hierbabuena — chocolate "tarts," that were a cross between chocolate pudding and chocolate cake, with mint ice cream.  Dessert was so good we moaned as we ate it.  It was an exceptional place for food, drinks, fresh air, and people-watching.  And it was not at all expensive.  We can't wait to go back.

We looked at two apartments yesterday afternoon.  The first was very large and very grand — but very tired and rundown.  The second was two stories, smaller and quaint, but exposed to the street and the other apartments in the courtyard.  Seeing what's around for the price really helps us make a more educated and enlightened decision.  I am still exchanging emails with the agent who's handling the pink palacio.  She is extremely pleasant and we're hoping we'll be able to smooth out the kinks in the deal with the owner.  So, we might still end up in the pink palacio.  We meet with the agent and the owner Monday morning.

I am truly enjoying speaking Spanish.  But, dealing with rental agents and bankers requires me to communicate at a level beyond my abilities.  I can make do with rental agents and we know where to get assistance with contracts and agreements.  But, we definitely need to open our local accounts at a bank that has someone who can work with us in English.  We did our research and found the bank that offered the best services for us but, until today, we could not find a branch that could help us.  So, after breakfast I walked over to the main branch.  It's located near the cathedral, which is where so many English speakers do their business.  Success!  We have an appointment with an English-speaking banker Monday evening.

I'm sure it's a challenge at times to understand me because I know I'm creating my own words (soon there will be Mitchellisms).  But, it is clear that the locals appreciate my attempts to communicate in their language.  Quite often I notice that I receive a very cool welcome in a store only to depart feeling like a friend.  Sevillanos seem to take great pride in their amazing city and our love for Sevilla clearly pleases the people we meet.  Today, I stopped at a small pharmacy to pick up some sunscreen (for my ever-growing forehead).  I had a wonderful visit with the initially cool pharmacist.  When I paid the cashier — after telling them both about our retirement, our apartment hunt, our plans to live permanently in Sevilla — the cashier asked me if I was from France.  (Have I mentioned how happy it makes me that my Spanish doesn't immediately brand me as American or English-speaking?)

I've ended with a photo I took yesterday of a Common Swift.  We see them and hear them (a very sweet, not unpleasant or sleep-interrupting sound) outside our hotel window every morning.  Difficult to get a clear picture.  I did mention they're called "swift."


  1. Hello Mitch:
    It seems to us that you are settling in well with the locals already. The restaurant owner sounds like a woman not to be meddled with, but your dinner there sounds to have been wonderful.

    Our experience in Budapest would confirm yours with regard to using the local language. For, however poor our Hungarian may be, local people really warm to one when one attempts to speak in the language. And, like you, we are sure that the level of service one receives is infinitely better than otherwise.

    Well, and perhaps you will be in the Pink Palace yet?!!!

  2. J&L:
    Jerry is also working at attempting to communicate in Spanish. It's amazing how much he has already picked up (and he understands much more than he did). It is an exciting challenge and opportunity.

    Maybe still the pink palace; we'll see. We also are hoping to see tonight or tomorrow what is described as a "stupendous apartment." It's beautiful in pictures but they can deceive. As you well know, I'll keep you posted!

  3. just found your blog, and love it. new follower ;)

  4. Nick: A very warm welcome and many thanks!

  5. Mojitos of my fav. I just adore your blog, so glad to have found it....featuring you on spotlight 2morrow ;)

  6. Sounds like you're settling in and marveling at, and with, the locals.
    Good luck with the pink palace!

  7. David: You are a sweetheart. We'll have to share mojitos some day. Thanks!

    Bob: Sometimes, I'm exhausted and overwhelmed. Other times I'm beside myself with joy. What a great adventure.

  8. I LOVE mojitos too :) So when can I come visit you....Good luck on the home hunt!

  9. Caitlin: And they are filled with fresh herbs! You name the day!

  10. All that delicious food... it's good you walk of the calories.

  11. Pleased that your keen to speak in the native language, Mitch, and, by the sound of it, making substantial strides in achieving understanding as well as speaking Espanol.
    I studied Spanish for 3 years with our 'Open University' here (I don't think there's an equivalent American institution.) The first year was, I found, not as demanding as some other European languages, but after that the learning curve rose steeply. I still listen to Spanish radio stations on the internet (as well as French and German ones) and, boy, does it race along. I believe it's the fastest spoken of the major European languages, sounding rat-tat-tat, rather like a machine gun, but it is, like German and unlike French, largely phonetic. When you're in the thick of it like you are now, you're bound to have an advantage, which I'm sure you'll use. Buena suerte!

  12. Peter: Yep. We walk and we sweat. It's a very good thing.

    Raybeard: I also found the early years of Spanish easy. I studied it for 7 years, but finished a long time ago and then hardly used it. People have been very kind to slow down for me when I ask. And we do the same when we speak English -- since we have that same rat-a-tat-tat delivery. Gracias!

  13. A mojito after a hot day is indeed heaven. Best of luck with the apartment guys... you'll know the right one when you see it (and feel it, more importantly).

  14. Craig: I'm fantasizing about another one of Carmela's mojitos right now. Yep. The apartment will appear. Thanks!

  15. I´m going to be absolutely sincere with you two.
    You are doing a REALLY GOB JOB!!.Make me feel proud about our "new brand sevillanos".
    You have take the city´s pulse (and Andalusian´s life style)in a very short period of time.
    I wonder about your amazing posts in a nearly future:if you can enjoy Sevilla like this in two weeks,i can´t imagine the surprises, and good things, you are going to discover in a year...

    However your success as New Andalusians it doesn´t belong to Sevilla, is a "thing inside", (What we call: Tener Arte,--> you´ve got Art,literally)
    The reason because you are having a good time here,is because your are open-minded people, fearless to face a new culture and get involved and inmerse in it, dealing with locals in a daily basis.That´s the rigth manner.
    That "Arte" you both have is a gift, and will go with you, everywhere:Sevilla,Irvine,Sweden ....Don´t worry,you got it!!
    I´m jealous!!!

    PD: Carmela is a female name,a very Andalusian name,relationed with expressions of folk culture.
    And about the Carmela´s Owner missundestood,get sharp because you are gonna experience a lot of "wrong-but-finally-good" situations,specially in the "weird" land of Andalucia.If that happens again,count till 10 and think twice before act.

  16. I've never had a mojito. I'll have to look it up.

  17. Jaz: Thanks for all!

    Walt the Fourth: They're different every time we have them and we have been disappointed a number of times. It's all in the hands of the bartender. But one major rule applies: The mint must be muddled. They know how to muddle their mojitos at Carmela (we tried them again last night).


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