El Mercadillo el Jueves

Vengaaa, José, I prefer to lose a little money on a friend than sell it to someone who won’t enjoy it as much for far more.”

Luis sells books every Thursday morning at the Jueves flea market, and I flicked through his offerings on Spanish war planes for the Novio a few weeks ago. José is a repeat customer who bargains him from 20€ to 15€, snagging an EADS-issued encyclopedia on Air Force machines.

I met Raquel at Casa Vizcaíno one Thursday morning to browse the stands at the mercadillo, not having anything in mind to buy but bringing Camarón just in case.

My father would disappear every Sunday morning to swap meets when I was a kid, always looking for a bargain and spare car parts. The first time he took me, promising an elephant ear and new pogs, I was overwhelmed at the amount of stands, spread blankets and objects being sold.

El Jueves gave me the same feelings, just with no fried dough. There’s de todo un poco: old books, a version of my first cell phone, paintings, flamenco dresses and even trajes de luces.

In the end, I bought an old school BINGO game for the academy, bargained down from 5€, and five lapel pins for a euro each. I didn’t sift through much junk or feel pulled towards splurging on any one item (except for maybe a bust of the Virgin Mary), but I think I’ll be back.

As Raquel’s boyfriend said, they find new things to hock every week.

If you go: El Jueves takes over the southern end of Calle Feria between Calle Castelar and Calle Correduría every Thursday morning. Things begin to get started around 10am and last until around 1pm. Be sure to bring small change and watch your belongings.

Have you ever been to el Jueves? Know of other famous swap meets in Spain or beyond?

Spain Snapshots: My 2014 Spain Wish List

The great thing about living in Spain is that I have an entire country to explore. Although I’ve been to each of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, there are still so many more places that I’d like to visit.

2013 had me in various new places in Spain: Calpe, Avilés, rural Galicia as I walked the Camino de Santiago, and I have one trip booked for 2014 to Tenerife. There are several other places I’m hoping to visit this year:

Trujillo

Cradle of the conquerors, Trujillo is a medieval town crowned with castle ruins near Cáceres. I’ve seen it a dozen times from a car window, at the A-5 highway passes nearby, but have never been able to stop in Pizarro’s birthplace for so much as a coffee, much less a walk around. Plus, they have an entire festival to CHEESE.

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Thankfully, I’ll have the chance to see Trujillo later this year, thanks to winning a contest through Trujillo Villas for writing about my most memorable meal in Spain.

Jaén

Despite my major allergy to olive blossoms, I’ve always wanted to see Jaén and its rolling fields of olivos and enormous cathedral. In fact, it’s called the city of liquid gold, due to the immense amount of olive oil that’s produced here.

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While in Jaén, I’d also like to visit the Renaissance villages of Úbeda and Baeza, which are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and perhaps visit Cazorla to hike. It’s moments like these when I’m thrilled to have a car.

Ceuta

Ceuta is an autonomous Spanish enclave in Morocco where both Spanish and Arabic are spoken. I have a few friends from Ceuta, and I’m interested in seeing how a Spanish city on the African continent lives its day-to-day life. And the food clearly interests me!

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While not in mainland Spain, Ceuta is reachable by ferry from Tarifa and Algeciras. The Novio’s friend Ana has a boyfriend living there, so we really have no excuse.

Mallorca

Laugh all you want – I have never been to Mallorca, save a few airport visits (I have, however, partied in Ibiza and lived to tell the tale…if only I could remember!). Mallorca is famous for its beaches and calas, island culture and Rada Nadal.

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I skipped my chance to go to Menorca with a friend last summer, and have regretted it ever since. Who knew water could be so blue? Air Berlin flies directly from Seville, so there are plenty of chances each week to escape.

What are the places you’d like to visit in Spain? Have you been to any of the places on my list and have places to suggest to eat and sleep?

Disclaimer: these photos are clearly not mine because I have never been to these destinations. If you are the author and would like the photo removed, please contact me directly.

Seville Snapshots: Christmas Lights in Seville

Seville is the type of gal who doesn’t really need to get gussied up – she’s stunning enough on her own.

But La Hispalense (she even has a fancy name) loves to gets glitzy at Christmas time. As soon as the long December weekend beings, the city center is bursting with shoppers, a number of handicrafts markets pop up in Plaza Nueva and the Alameda, and police controls tighten up, thanks to the number of merry markers drinking at all hours of the day.

But as soon as the lights are turned on, I feel like Christmas really begins.

This year the city has used LED lights to dress up the city’s biggest thoroughfares – Constitución, San Fernando, around the Encarnación – and even in the outlying neighborhoods. Dios, even the Alcampo next door is decked out in holiday style.

Once again, the 3-D mapping on the eastern facade of city hall is operating. According to Fiona of Scribbler in Seville, the light and music show that’s projected onto the building won an award last year. This season’s show, El Espíritu de la Navidad, will be played from dusk until 11 or 12pm on the hour until the Epiphany Day.

How does your city celebrate Christmas? Where are your favorite lights in Seville located?

Seville Snapshots: The Pabellón de Navigación

Seville’s history is intertwined with the sea, despite being inland. It was here that The Catholic Kings gave Christopher Columbus permission and a couple of big boats to go find the East, and subsequently, all of the riches from the New World came through Seville on the Guadalquivir River.

During the Ibero-American Festival of 1992, the land around the Cartuja monastery was transformed into a futuristic city, where technology merged with tradition. Sadly, the city left this corner of Seville untouched for a few decades, and is now beginning to sell buildings to be recycled and re-used – and hopefully revitalize La Cartuja.

Perched on the banks of the Guadalquivir on the southern end of the complex (just opposite the Schindler elevator erected for the Expo’92), the building resembles a capsized boat, whose hull soars over you. The space hosts rotating exhibitions, as well as a permanent exhibit about Seville’s place in maritime history and what it was like to sail the seven seas. Opened in 2011, it’s a beautiful, open space, and worth a quick visit if you’re in Seville. There are plans in motion to open a small bar and offer boat rides on the river, too.

If you go: the Pabellón de la Navegación can be reached by city buses C1 or C2, or the 6, and is a 15 minute walk from Plaza de Armas. Visiting hours are, Tuesday-Saturday from 10am – 17:30 and Sundays and holidays from 10am – 15:00.

Seville Snapshots: The Ceramic Benches of the Plaza de España

I adore Plaza de España.

It was here in 2005 that I sat on one of the ceramic benches and journaled about studying abroad. Eight years later, I’ve made countless visits to the half-moon square with visitors (inlcuding Alex, my blog media naranja from Ifs, Ands & Butts), to photograph Andrea and Carlos’s wedding, and to the dreaded Extranjería for residency issues.

Originally built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Fair, the majestic building and its ceramic tile work crown the María Luisa Park. Roma gypsies peddle fans and tourists rent boats to float around the moat. The colonnades hide several government offices, but the main attraction are the hand-painted tiles that represent each province of Spain and its place in history.

In 2005, I sat at the Valladolid bench, fresh out of my study abroad experience. Moving back to Spain had barely crossed my mind at that point, and much less so, to Seville.

Have you even been to the Plaza de España? What’s your favorite monument in Seville?

Seville Snapshots: Quiosco El Gato Negro

When I first came to Spain, I loved how the tiled-lined abuelo bars would be full of octogenarians who would spend their pension’s pennies on the loud and brightly-lit slot machines in the bar while they sipped their morning cortados. The gambling and betting has been a part of Spanish culture since the mid-18th Century when the Lotería Nacional was formed, though its modern form didn’t roll around until the early 1800′s.

It’s common to see people lined up during big weekly draws, but especially when the Primitiva hits in September, and for El Gordo, the annual Christmas drawing that is one of the largest prizes in Spain. Even watching the children of Colegio San Ildefonso in Madrid sing out the numbers is like a national holidays. I was once on a train to Madrid during the drawing and the event was broadcast over the loudspeakers, and last year watched it in a bar near Plaza Santa Ana as the other patrons clutched their tickets, hoping for a win.

Colleagues and families often buy large blocks of tickets to have better odds, agreeing to split the money por si toca (if it happens). I’m not a big player, but I have to smile when I see the old men pulling coins out of their pockets to take their chances on a few numbers.

Just adjacent to the opposing cathedral is El Gato Negro, a small storefront where people queue up to buy lottery tickets and likely Seville’s most famous quiosco. There’s an A-4 sized tile of a black cat, the universal symbol of bad luck, that patrons reach up and pet when they’ve bought themselves a ticket for good luck. You can see where the tile has been worn during years of serving the public trying to strike it rich.

I didn’t get a shot of anyone petting the kitty, but in the three minutes I creeped around, nearly a dozen people walked in and out, trying their luck.

While you’re in Spain, don’t forget to play poker at one of the many bingos, or even online, and definitely witness the people at the Gato Negro!

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