A Row-mantic Afternoon in Spain

You don’t have to spend a lot of time in Seville to understand why it is such a popular city. A sense of drama surrounds the Andalusian capital, from it’s extravagant Catholic churches, to the royal plazas featured in famous movies, to the way the strum of a guitar tends to start a whole room clapping. Contemporary shops, restaurants, and arts spaces line Seville’s narrow stone alleyways, and friendly locals seem to rule the day.

Seville is home to several high-profile architectural sites, but none has gotten more attention than the Metropol Parasol, an immense mushroom-like gridded structure. During our first few hours in this city, I explored this structure and was able to tour its archaeological museum, bars, and restaurants—along with a balcony with a panoramic view of the city center—and I got a free glass of bubbly sangria at the end.

Spain’s cities are characterized by large public squares almost everywhere, places that invite people to linger and to communicate. One of these squares stood above the rest, the Plaza de España! This beautiful square enchanted me. It seemed like a scene straight out of a movie and, as I found out later, it was! This sophisticated yet quirky square was featured in the most popular movie series of all time, Star Wars. It also used to be the home of a public outdoor library—until people began stealing books from the shelves and it was forced to shut down.

photo by Hannah Debeljak

photo by Hannah Debeljak

But this is not the story I want to tell. While visiting this elegant plaza, I was captivated by the swirling tile courtyard and the rainbow that appeared in the misting fountain during the afternoon sunlight. Horse-drawn carriages circled the fountain before heading off to give sightseers a tour of the city, and a little painted pony attached to a kid cart called out with high-pitched pony neighs to his friends.

Ashley, Sam, Michaela, and I decided to rent a rowboat and float around the canal. It was so beautiful! Koi and ducks intermingled around the boats, and the clip-clop of the horses and spraying of the water fountain could be heard as we rowed around the plaza; Michaela even put on “An Evening in Roma” to set the mood. We all were having a fabulous time learning how to row properly and navigate the tiny boat through the canal. I wanted to say “Row!” each time Sam and Michaela used the oars, but Sam insisted on the proper boating term, which was “Stroke!” After steering through the mass of boats for a while, we decided to just float and watch other people as they paddled by. They seemed to be even more incompetent than we were! We watched as people struggled to avoid other boats and tried to figure out how to use and hold the oars. We laughed as one guy ended up completely backward, in both the way he was sitting and the way he was paddling!

It was an extremely amusing half hour: a row-mantic afternoon boating under the Spanish sun!

—Hannah Debeljak

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