Mary PW Chin 穷孩子

It was a a fabulous holiday. Seville, when properly spelled should be Sevilla and when decently pronounced should be "Seviya". I probably won't do it again but for a change, I went all the way by train:

Paris Metro was fine from one end of Paris to another. Just that people seemed more rushy than I'm accustomed too. Even more rushy than in London. I did walk about outside the station. There was no sign of disturbance due to students' protest against the new employment law.

It was my first time on Eurostar. Perhaps an engineer would admire its feat more. To me it was just another dark tunnel that we went through. I can't make out the difference between the Channel tunnel and other tunnels. Just got to believe by faith that the train was indeed going under the sea! It would have been more convincing if I could see fishes swimming around - but that would probably be a sign of trouble rather than anything else.

There were 4 to a cabin on the trenhotel, same gender for each cabin unless booked by the same party or family. In each cabin, two double-deckers are folded up as seats, to be opened up when the crew members come round near bedtime. Once opened up little space is left for sitting upright. There's a basin in each cabin but most passengers don't notice because it is covered. I found the basin pristine and clean on both outbound and inbound trips.

Soon after boarding, my fellow cabin-mate said we should expect a good night's sleep because we were going to be rocked to bed - I replied, "Look forward to that!" Of course, no one slept too well. But I could fall back to sleep each time this thing or other shook me up, so no problem - I count myself fit for work on arrival the next morning. Oh yes before saying night-night a uniformed gentleman came to ask for my passport, to be returned next morning! Soon after he left I started to wonder what if he wasn't genuinely a crew and beginned to smell potential trouble. It turned out to be a common practise so on my inbound trip I surrended my passport happily as soon as a uniformed gentleman appeared.

On both inbound and outbound trips the trenhotel was delayed by about 45 minutes. I was alright because the connecting journeys were well-spaced.

Bus ride

A train ride (2+half hours) from Madrid to Sevilla costs about 70 Euros, whereas a bus ride (6 hours) costs only 17.50 Euros! Lonely Planet says the train ride is very scenic; I say the bus ride was even more scenic (I returned by bus). There were rocky grasslands, plantationns, yellow, purple and red wild flowers.

The Sevilla-Madrid bus stopped halfway for passengers to wee. Coming out, I found the parking slot where my bus was empty!!! So had my bus left without me but with every bit of my every single possession? There was a bus painted in the same colours on the adjacent slot, but the handbrake looked different enough for me to conclude that it was definitely not the bus I was on. In fact a few buses arrived after that, all painted identical and I didn't even know the registration plate of the bus I was on!!! Eventually a bus drove in and it was the bus with my things on there -- apparently it went for a fuel refill or something. So, no disaster.

Weeing costs

If anyone's interested in timing their toilet visits, here are the weeing costs when I visited:

Meals: cost and time

A decent hot meal in Sevilla costs about 10 Euros. Restaurants packed with tourists were aplenty. These restaurants served meals at tourists' time, as opposed to the 3 pm - 4 pm Spanish lunch time. I found the food absolutely delicious - thanks to our host who made the orders for us, for we couldn't read the menu. Palleya, the Spanish rice, was usually served at least for two.

BBC's online Spanish lessons, which I attempted a few days before leaving for Sevilla, equipped me with a properly accented "la quenta" which was understood by every waiter without the slightest hesitance!

Even after midnight restaurants were serving food. At that hour, kids were still walking around on the streets with their parents. Life has just begun so the hour must be godly. Spanish time is amazing!

Getting lost in space and in time
I haven't seen a city more confusing. Short lanes angulated at every possible angle to each other hardly fit into the map. Under such circumstances, having a map in the hand hardly helps. The central area is mostly car-free and dominated by pedestrians. But I did find the motorcycles noisy and annoying.

Further out from the centre, souvenier shops and restaurants serving tourists are gradually replaced by simple and traditional shops selling all sorts of daily provisions for the locals. The traditional restaurants were old-fashioned enough to have individual bins under each table, which I found very cute! They reminded me of some of the oldest restaurants in Ipoh, my hometown. We enjoyed that scene of local taste, and almost got lost in time.

Local buses
Local buses did not require exact change. A bus ride from the centre to the hospital, where we had our meeting, was just one Euro. The display screen showing adverts on the bus were promptly interrupted and replaced by a map of the local area each time the bus was approaching a bus stop. Clever!
Sevillean colour

On every street and every corner I couldn't help noticing the typical Sevillean colour of brownish yellow. Buildings of this colour is everywhere in Sevilla. This photo shows an example.

Houses in Sevilla also have this typical Sevillean door, styled like doors for Castles, wooden but strengthened by metal from within, decorated with equally-spaced, nipple-shaped, three-dimensional structures.

The city was dotted by restoration works and scaffoldings. Much care is taken in selecting parts of the old building to be preserved. Back in Malaysia, the practise is to simply tear down the whole building and rebuild from scratch.

Oh yes there were horse carriages around. As with similarly fated horses in other similarly touristy cities, they are the most sorry horses I have come across. For goodness sake, why should people make a business out of this creature of unparalleled beauty?

Gipsies and Africans
At the traffic lights some gipsies insisted to clean the car windscreen for us. When we were having a meal in front of a restaurant, a gentleman tried to polish my friend's shoes (my friend said it took him a long time to get his shoes that dirty). A few others came selling this thing or other. That said, none of them were intimidating.

Some mentioned African migrants being in this line, trying to earn money on the streets, but I didn't see any. Africans are of course the most convenient to blame for any social problem, wherever there is a community striving to make ends meet. But in my mind, Africans are the ones working delegently at train and bus stations, those best workers serving with their very best.


Madrid (Spain) chants, "Juan Pablo, Segundo, te quiere todo el mundo!" and "Viva. Viva Papa!"

("John Paul II, everybody loves you!" and "Long live the Pope!" in Spanish.)

We were among 1 million faithfuls to see Pope John Paul II. It was very, very moving to see how the youth loved the physically frail man who was the Papa for all. He, whose alert and penetrating eyes repeatedly swept the cheering crowd, was the convergence of

Who said he was too weak to be effective? Who said he was too antique for the modern generation? Over the years I have grown out of Scott Peck's and Henri Nouwen's writings, but have yet to grow out of John Paul II's.