The queues for the cathedral yesterday were spectacular. I hadn’t booked a ticket but I did book an early morning ticket for the Alcazar today.
Early and early. It’s 9.30. Barely early.
Having seen the queues at railway stations (people arriving 30 minutes before the train) and, of course, I learned from the free entrt experience at the Queen Sofia Gallery in Madrid… I thought I’d arrive at 9am.
At 8.57am, there were already nine people ahead of me in the queue. I did find myself wondering, at what point an additional 150 would materialise between me and the gate to the Alcazar.
With six minutes to go, there were still only nine people in front of me and 300 behind me.
The family in front of me, incredibly smartly dressed with Dad carrying a large Primark bag (I was intrigued) were there, as I discovered (and the Primark bag contained props) for Holy Communion photos of their little girl.
I’ve been in a number of cities where you find the landmarks ‘colonised’ by queues of wedding couples waiting for the perfect (there was just us there, honest) photo. In St Petersburg they seem to walk for miles between ALL of the different landmarks.
Here, it’s seven year old girls. (Seven? Five? Nine? When do you get confirmed? Or take Holy Communion? Spot the heathen. There’ll be a thunderbolt along in a minute).
At the Alcazar… this was the family to lurk behind… without looking creepy about it! And to be fair, I didn’t because my whole reason for being there early was to get shots before the crowds. (Which I did!) But I quickly found that the family’s hired photographer was marching them at breakneck speed to the best rooms and corners of gardens to take photos of their daughter.
I began to pay attention to where I spotted them out of the corner of my eye, even as far as going back to rooms I’d already passed through. Well, the photographer would know what he was doing.
It was another day of wandering around – Sundays are busy and, with yesterday being Father’s Day in Spain, every restaurant was filled with families celebrating. The men were all wearing very smart suits and I assumed that wasn’t a regular Sunday occurrence… though of course, it could be.
Plaza de Espana was heaving, and I decided to head down to the river where I knew there would be a cooler breeze. A good decision.
Triana, the left bank, was as busy, if not busier than the centre of Seville. Every bar and restaurant was doing a roaring trade. People spilled out of the bars, perching at tables and stools… and if there were none free, they sat on the bonnets of parked cars.
I once visited a Spanish friend for a christening and her Grandma asked me what was the stereotype of Spanish people. I thought long and hard, eventually replying: “If there’s a doorway, you’ll block it; and if there are steps, you’ll sit on them… usually in groups of twenty.”
She thought this was hilarious: “Oh, we do. We treat the street like it’s our living room.”
And why the hell not. From my perspective, having often been asked about safety while travelling, it can seem that there is a attitude that women shouldn’t really be unaccompanied in the public realm.
From a Public Health perspective, how you feel about the public realm (and your right to be in it) has an impact on social connections. Donald Appleyard looked at this in the US in the 1960s and it was repeated in the 2000s in Bristol (UK) by Joshua Hart with very similar results.
Appleyard’s work in San Francisco looked at three streets, which had different levels of car traffic: one with 2,000 vehicles per day, the others with 8,000 respectively 16,000 vehicles per day. His empirical research demonstrated that residents of the street with low car traffic volume had three times more friends than those living on the street with high car traffic.
Hart’s work found: “The results confirmed that Appleyard’s findings are applicable to the UK in the 21st century; specifically that the number of friends and acquaintances reported by residents was significantly lower on streets with higher volumes of motor traffic. The extent of people’s home territories‟ also diminished as motor traffic increased.”
It’s not that Spain doesn’t have traffic but wandering around Seville, I noticed more cooperation between drivers and pedestrians where vehicles took to the narrow old streets. There was no angry horn-tooting, no frustrated gesturing. People made eye contact with eachother – drivers and pedestrians. In Seville at least it feels that streets are for people not cars.