I start early, taking leave of the orange grove I slept in, and cycle to the next town, Palma del Rio.
I meet Rosa in a café. She orders me tomato on toast with aciete and sal - a classic breakfast, and so perfect, with a coffee of course. Though freshly carved, the jamon was merely gilding the lily. A better breakfast for 2€ could not be had.
She tells me of how she moved from Mexico, and is now trapped in this town.
“There is no life here. I am bored. There is no cinema, no Burger King. Nothing happens. There is no one here who I can speak English with – sorry – I forget so much. It is too hot in the summer, and there are flies and mosquitos and cockroaches. Too many bugs. I like the cold. I want to move to Sweden, or Finland. I have a Panaderia two streets away. I have bread, sweets, drinks...”
She gave me her number, and a contact for her friend in Malaga, if I pass through there.
I thanked her by visiting the Panaderia, where she spends 13 hours a day. “I have no life.” The bread was excellent, though that must be little consolation.
I cycle on through orange groves smelling of Copydex, then through mixed agriculture, on quiet backroads following the river, flanked with eucalyptus.
I pass through villages the tourist coaches never see. In Guadajoz people sit around on plastic chairs in midday sun, tied dogs bark, breaking the lethargy. Dust rises as I pass through. The ceiling fan slowly rotates in the station café, “Uno Euro” her face remains bare of emotion as she serves the pastry. The atmosphere is one of despair. All they have is their community – the greatest commodity, but a little more money would not go amiss.
I’m getting used to conversations now.
“Con grupo de quattro o cinco, ci.... SOLA???”
“Muy valiente! I couldn’t do that!” (Not picked up the Spanish for this yet, but it’s what everyone says at this point.)
“Ci.” I slap my thigh hoping it’s muscles rippling rather than fat flubberling...
I surprise myself how soon I hit Seville. A 100km before 3pm – not bad - assisted by a low lying landscape, tarmac, and limited photo stops.
I follow a recommendation for a hostel. I scrub myself down and head into the city. I get lost. Only when I realise the hostel map isn’t aligned North can I start to navigate the winding alleys of the old town.
I should be impressed with Seville. I am told it has much great beauty and history to be sure, but it is so hard to see through the racks of kiss-me-quick postcards and imitation flamenco dresses that I can’t be sure. I was meant to be impressed with Las Setas – the largest wooden structure in the world, an interlaced omeba-ous platform on gargantuan legs, covering a few bars and restaurants. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood to wowed, or maybe it just felt devoid of character, a set piece foil of Modern Design to generate profit for the bars beneath. Awesome.
Rating company over photos of overpriced food, I opted for homemade chicken stroganoff in the hostel. 30 people perched on stools, sofas and armchairs, sharing stories, tips and dreams of travel. Itchy feet come as standard.