My first weekend in Seville was full of kindness from the family of my friend and colleague who has arranged my stay here. In addition to helping me with every arrangement of the trip she also invited me to lunch and a very pleasant afternoon with her family. We had a nice lunch that included different kinds of cheeses (one matured in a cave) and large tasty shrimp and two courses, including my favourite chilled soup, Salmorejo, and Andalusian rice and chicken. After lunch we went for a walk around Seville and my friend and her husband showed me several interesting areas famous because of Sacred Week or Semana Santa when sacred statues are paraded in the streets and worshipped. This is a special festival in Seville and the most famous virgin that is celebrated is Macarena. We visited the church where the statue of the saint is housed. Fragrant incense was in the air and a small nativity scene was created in small detailed statues in a corner. These days, close to Christmas, there are many places where items to setup one’s own nativity scene are sold. Most shops have cute and sometimes very detailed nativity scenes and also interesting dances (for example, the ancient Seises in the Seville Cathedral) take place.
After visiting the church, we walked out to see the surviving part of Seville’s 12th century city wall. Walking along the wall we reached the centre again and finished in the city’s oldest bar called El Rinconcillo. It was packed and a small number of vigilant and expert servers attended to a large number of customers. They used the wooden bar as a tab to keep track of what people had ordered with chalk and would wipe it off later with a wet cloth! Big Jamon Iberico legs hanged from the ceiling.
My friends invited me to a family gathering in the countryside the next day. The next day was a beautiful holiday and the sun was shining in the sky. We drove to a village close to the place I’m staying and then on to the countryside where my friend’s parents live. It was fantastic to meet this kind and generous family. After a glass of pure orange juice from the fields, we snacked on olives from their fields and my friend’s father shared some stories from the time he was a diplomat in Indonesia. He had brought many beautiful folk art pieces with him that adorned their beautiful house. He also had painted interesting and detailed scenes and pictures. It was a delight exploring their home and seeing all the objects. In addition to collecting the objects, he had designed and built the house himself and was taking care of the large field with a small tractor. I was very inspired by my friend’s parents who kept serving me fresh oranges, sweets and food. For lunch, we had a beautiful Paella with seafood and a cabbage salad that reminded me of sauerkraut. My friend’s mother is a very kind and pleasant lady with many jokes. I enjoyed her energy and the translations of my friend and missed my grandmother in Iran. After lunch and a short break, we went into the field and collected many oranges and lemons that I look forward to eat in the next few days. In my experience, one of the joys of travelling is experiencing people’s kindness, something that gives us hope and strength to carry on and be sources of joy ourselves. The best part of travelling is meeting new friends and today I am very grateful and honoured for that. The Mediterranean Diet is recognized by the UNESCO as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity and I feel the goodness of the sun, earth and sea really adds magic to the food here. I think the most important and “intangible” ingredient in this diet is the family love that runs through people’s veins.