Lost in Seville

I love getting lost in new cities. Not so lost of course that I start to feel vulnerable or uneasy.

But just lost enough that I feel I have to start paying attention to my surroundings.

Lost enough to have to start making a mental map.

It’s the only way to get to know a new place really. Just get lost. I swear by it.

Last Wednesday, this is what I did. Unintentionally.

We had finished the first day of school and it was time to go home, but as I had a few things to buy at the supermarket I headed there first while my flatmate went home without me.

I wasn’t unduly concerned about this, as the store is on the way home and I had already spent a couple of days re-familiarising myself with the neighbourhood.

This is my third visit to Seville, a fact which had lead me to believe I had a pretty good idea as to the basic layout of the place and of the main landmarks.

A belief which isn’t so far from the truth really.

I can navigate my way round the Cathedral area. I know where Santa Cruz is and the Reales Alcazares.

The Plaza De Espana and the Parque de Maria Luisa are old favourites and, if all else fails, it is always possible to just head for the Quadalquivir river and take it from there.

As cities go, this place has more than enough churches and squares to guide you by, and a river, well a river always helps.

So I did my shopping and left the store.

I knew in my head that if I left the store I basically had to head straight down the Alfonso XII, swing a right down the Jesus De La Velacruz and follow it home over the Teodosio to the Calle Guadalquivir.

What could be simpler? A right angle. Excellent!

In half an hour I’d be happly ensconsed in my apartment, filling the fridge with my newly acquired delicacies then sipping a beer on the balcony. Oh life is sweet!

So I walked, that was all I had to do. No need to worry or fret. Just walk and take in the sights and sounds.
Even street signs were unecessary. I mean, I knew where I was going after all, didn’t I?

It’s a comfortable thing to do, to walk round a place without worrying about where you are going. To wander withoutpaying attention.

I guess that’s part of what makes a place feel like home in some ways. The idea that it is so familiar to you, so “visualised” and “internalised”, that you carry your own personal map within you.

The place where you live, takes up a place inside of you, and that’s how you start to feel you “belong” there.
Seville isn’t my home though, so perhaps my confidence was a little unfounded.

As I walked, I was so convinced I was headed in the right direction (a route which incidentally I had only just followed that very morning on my way to school) that I paid too little attention to the direction in which I was headed, and became overly engrossed in the sights,sounds and smells along the way.

So it was that I discovered the arts faculty of the university, a truly magnificent ice cream parlour (which I fully intendto return to now that I know where it is) and the marvellously named Plaza Ponce De Leon.

It was a gorgeous walk,despite the early evening heat. So marvellous in fact, that I failed to pay any heed to the factthat the wide boulevards, the intriguing squares, the astounding architecture and the bustling streets, failed to resemble in any way shape or form, the shady alleyways and narrow quiet streets I had traversed that very morning.

At some point however, it dawned on me that I was taking in an entirely new place, that the streets I was now walking along, were very unfamiliar.

But still, STILL, I was undettered. I swung a left, based on the idea that, if all roads lead to Rome, then in Seville,at this end of town, all left turns head to the river.

Not a bad idea, in principle. As long as the principle you are basing it on (in this case that when I left the store I went out the same door I came in) is correct.

I walked and walked. Down narrow streets, past lovely little cafes, until I hit a wide, busy boulevard.

The Maria Auxiliadora.

Never heard of it. Time to get out the map perhaps.

I must admit, I didn’t want to get out my map. I was enjoying my little fantasy that I knew where I was going.

But the fantasy was over. I was lost.

I got out my map and found where I was.

Now, in my head, in my little mental map that I had been designing based on the assumption that I had left the store on thePlaza Duque De La Victoria, on THAT map, I should have been pretty damn close to the Guadalquvir.

I studied the real map. I found the Maria Auxiliadora.

I looked at it. Looked at it again. I turned the map around. I checked the street name to be sure.

I mean, surely I wasn’t so far out?

But I was. I was 2 kilometers North of the river. I was in the complete opposite end to where I thought I was in other words.

But how?! I wailed.

Stupidity is the answer to that one of course. And okay, maybe a little bit of arrogance too (I have been living in Amsterdamfor 10 years after all, so that arrognance has rubbed off on me a bit).

Damn! I thought. What an idiot.

And so began the long haul back from whence I came, this time paying attention to the street names.

As walks home go it was perhaps far longer than intended. In fact, I had managed to turn an 25 minute stroll home into an adventure of an hour and a half.

Quite a feat, when you think about it.

On the other hand, it has given me my bearings. I can now turn the city upside down in my head and still know where I am. I have landmarks now, north, south, east and west.

Okay so I will inevitably get lost again, especially when I cross the river and head to Triana, but this side of the river is now mine.

Plus, most important of all, I now know where the best and most delicious ice cream in Seville is sold! And in this heat, I’d say that’s a pretty invaluable piece of knowledge, no?

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