Siestas and Sangria: 10 First Impressions of Sevilla

Jen Aceto is a student at University of California, Los Angeles and an ISA Featured Blogger. Jen is currently studying abroad in Sevilla on a Fall 1 program.

I’ve never been a napper, but it only took two days in Sevilla for me to (accidentally) have my first siesta. It’s been almost two weeks now, and at about 3:30 every afternoon I find myself torn between that tempting post-lunch nap and wanting to go out and explore more of this beautiful city. Before I came here, the idea of returning home for lunch, slowing down, and closing the stores from 2-5 seemed ridiculous to my American self. The truth is that while not all Sevillanos take a nap (and if they do, it’s usually only 15-30 minutes), everything really does shut down in the afternoons while everyone rests and escapes the heat.

The siesta was just one of many first impressions of Sevilla– some of which agreed with my expectations, others which surprised me. Here, more of mis impresiones after two weeks in Spain:

1. Pan, pan, y más pan. The Spanish seem to eat bread with every meal: toast for breakfast and always (baguettes?) on the table at lunch and dinner (or a bocadillo—sandwich—if you’re on the go). Definitely not a celiac-friendly country.

2. Mucha café. The Spanish like taking lots of (leisurely) coffee breaks: at breakfast, between breakfast and lunch, in the afternoon… I don’t really understand how they still manage to siesta with all that caffeine!

3. Siestas are SERIOUS (see above). Like I said, almost all the stores are closed from 2 to 5 in the afternoon, sometimes later. And while I found it almost impossible to nap at home, after eating the huge mid-day meal around 2 or 3 and sweating in the heat, everyone is in a temperature and food-induced coma that naturally leads to sleep. Add that to the fact that dinner is at 10 and people don’t go out until more like 12 or 1 in the morning, and that siesta is a much-needed break in the afternoon.

Typical lunch of gazpacho, paella, and bread (pan!)

4. The buildings are just ridiculously old and beautiful. The rich history of Spain—and especially Andalucía—was one of the main reasons I chose to come here, but the pure aesthetics has far exceeded my expectations. It’s still surreal when I’m walking to class and see El Torre and La Catedral, and the amazing mix of Gothic, Arabic, and Spanish architecture.

La Catedral
El Torre de Oro

5. The Spanish talk fast and they talk loudly. I often have to ask my host mom to slow down or repeat what she says. Everything is said with passion and lots of animation.

6. People walk more slowly because they’re not always in a rush.We joke that we’re on “Spanish time” now—where everything is later and just a slower pace than in the US. Walking to class this morning, I consciously tried to match the pace of those around me rather than my usual speed-walk, and got to take in the views of the river, the palm trees, and the cafes full of people having their morning coffee (the first of many: see #2).

7. Wine, beer, and sangria are the same price—or cheaper than—water.

8. Everything is more colorful:the buildings are bright coral, red, orange, yellow, blue, white. The women wear brightly colored skirts, dresses, and shirts—everything just seems like the color has been saturated.

9. There’s less personal space.I had heard this before, and I’ve found it to be true, but in the best way. The Spanish greet each other with two kisses and conversations involve lots of affection and touching.

10. The language: after traveling in a few other countries where I didn’t know the language, it was so comforting to get here and actually understand what was going on. I love attempting to talk to our host mom in Spanish—she does most of the talking, I nod and smile a lot while I try to conjugate verbs in my head to respond—and just hearing people on the street speaking it. Hopefully by December I’ll be able to hold my own in our conversations!

3 thoughts

  1. Awesome post! Thanx for sharing!

    About the walking fast comment, it’s a “paseo” pace, like a stroll… taking in the sights and sounds…

    During my childhood, I remember exploring my neighborhood and then, as I grew older parts of the city during siesta time, on my trusty BH bicycle. Now looking back, I realize that it was a near magical time, a bit surreal, the sun up high and bright in the sky and yet everything quiet and seemingly deserted, as if it was midnight… glad to hear that siesta time (weather you sleep or explore) and those couple of hours of “magical time” still lives.

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