I’ve been to Sevilla many times before, and despite my reservations on the subject of its much lauded feria, I must confess I am secretly enamoured with the Andalusian capital. In fact, had it not been for the job I was offered before coming to Granada, I would’ve almost certainly set up shop in Sevilla following my first and rather flaky year in El Puerto de Santa María.
It’s a lot bigger than my beloved Granada, so is naturally more difficult to familiarise oneself with. But I like it that way. Each time I go, I invariably discover something different, be it another bizarrely constructed building or some jaw-droppingly delicious tapa bar tucked clandestinely down a side street. Last time I visited I was taken to a luminous outdoor club on a river island. I can’t remember its name, nor how I got there, but I distinctly recall enjoying myself a fair bit.
Someone else who enjoys themselves in Seville on a much more regular basis is Fiona Flores Watson, of Scribbler in Seville, and this month’s interrogatee for my Spanish Inquisition series. In the interview, Fiona reveals what its like to be an expat in a city with a profoundly yet decreasingly inward-looking culture, one or two of her top tips/pet hates and just how fruitful intercambios can be…
Name: Fiona Flores Watson
From: Essex, UK
Occupation: Freelance journalist, blogger, editor, content creator and social media consultant
Time in Spain: Nine and a half years
About Blog: Scribbler in Seville is about living in Spain’s most romantic city – its esoteric fiestas, multi-layered history, and quixotic inhabitants; unusual activities, and fun things to do for families, both in Seville and within easy reach of the city. It’s also about being a mum to two Anglo-Spanish kids (my husband’s from here), and a bit about expat life.
1. Complete this sentence:
“Spain is an invigorating and frustrating sort of country, filled with sunshine, great tapas and good, cheap wine. However, there is too much corruption and not enough decent cake.
2. Why did you move to Spain? Why Seville?
I was living in Ecuador, and wanted to be closer to my family in England, but still speak Spanish. Someone told me Seville was small, beautiful, historic and very hot, near the beach, and with the best fiestas in Spain. I was hooked.
3. What is one of Seville’s best kept secrets?
The Cartuja – a 15th-century monastery and ex-(English-owned) ceramics factory, on the other side of the river from the centre, with a contemporary art centre, cafe and beautiful gardens – cutting-edge video in the chapel and installations in the refectory – I love the jumble of history, religion and art. Shady walks, culture, and a haven of calm. Also, the artists’ corrales – communal courtyards with small studios and workspaces, in the Macarena area of the city. They put on flamenco and music performances – seriously under the radar.
4. How would you describe the culture there? What type of people tend to thrive, and what type don’t do as well?
Culture here is deeply, profoundly Sevillano – it is 90% inward-looking, though that is slowly changing. For many Sevillanos, their city is the best place in the world, and there’s no need to go anywhere else – best food, best fiestas, best art. To get on in Seville, you have to take their unwavering belief in their own city’s superiority with a kilo or two of salt, and join in by paying your own homage. If you don’t, they will be offended. Otherwise, if you like hot weather, going out for tapas and being sociable, you’ll do fine. There are all sorts of tribes in Seville, from the pijos (posh people) to the trendy-bohos – you’ll find your niche.
5. What have been (briefly) the best three experiences you’ve had since moving here?
I had a high old time with friends at the Jerez Feria the other week, in the Tio Pepe caseta. Intravenous sherry all afternoon – marvellous. Any day at the beach with my kids is fab – swimming in the sea, building sandcastles and not being glued to my iPhone. And seeing inside the Alhambra for the first time was pretty special. Just the most beautiful, romantic, fairytale place I’ve ever been to.
6. What has been the worst? And how could it have been avoided?
Various instances involving appallingly bad customer service, often by phone – rude, uninformed, unhelpful staff who make me want to put my fist through the nearest wall (my blog post on this topic got some interesting responses).
7. How much Spanish could you speak before you moved to Spain? What’s the best way to learn?
Quite a bit, after a year living in Ecuador. They say the best way to learn is to get a girl/boy friend – I met my husband within three weeks of arriving, and he doesn’t speak English; failing that, an intercambio with a Spanish person, where you speak half the time in English and half in Spanish – I know a few people who’ve ended up with theirs.
8. Money is a thorny issue for any would-be expat. Do you have any tips on working, saving, banking etc?
Never go food shopping when you’re hungry; always check your bank statements for sneaky hidden charges; and use second-hand websites – as recommended by you in a recent post! I also do clothes swaps with friends.
9. Finally, what’s the best photo you’ve ever taken in Spain? Tell us about it!
Always very subjective, but I like this one I took last week on El Rocio pilgrimage. I love taking pictures of fiestas here – usually sunny, vibrant atmosphere, bright colours, clapping hands, expressive faces, big smiles, magnificent beasts, picturesque vehicles. Noone does fiestas like the Andalucians.
Click here for a read of Fiona’s much commented on ‘Nine things I’ve learned while living in Spain’ post, which you may find either hilarious or mildly offensive. That’s why it’s so good.