Miguel and I decided at the beginning of this month to take a trip to the south. I’ve been living in Spain off and on since I was almost 17 and in all that time have never been farther down than Toledo which for him was unthinkable. My first instinct is airbnb and guidebooks (I’m also a closet Rick Steves fan) while Miguel’s first instinct for just about anything in life is to call a family member! His aunt and uncle readily agreed to host is in Coronil, their village in the outskirts of Sevilla. Miguel was excited to introduce me to his extended family but I was nervous about being able to understand them. Impressing your boyfriends family when they speak a rural version of the notoriously incomprehensible Andalusian accent is a perfect example of the many hurdles I face in this country. In fact people often ask us how we understand each other (fyi, I speak Spanish and Miguel speaks great English) though we still have miscommunications: this would be the big leagues for me linguistically. I quickly surrendered the fact that it wouldn’t really be a “touristy” vacation either but a unique opportunity to see things with locals.
6 hours in the car later, I realized that small-town southern life basically revolves around locals: if nobody recognizes you, good luck getting service! We had lunch at a Peña: a bar/restaurant that serves only members, nothing fancy just a place for people who know each other and have something in common (for example, supporting a football team or being from Madrid) to eat and get great service. They are ubiquitous and line the streets in Coronil! Miguel’s Tío Pepe and Tía Titi introduced me to a southern staple food: snails. I was apprehensive at first but I’m an adventurous eater so went right for it – the caracoles were chewy and have pretty much no flavor but the broth and rice were fabulous. Luckily in all of this Miguel was helping me comprehend what people were saying to me and Spanish people generally use enough hand gestures and facial expressions to get any point across! We drove that afternoon to some castle ruins in the middle of the sunflower fields and took tons of photos.
The next day we woke up late and I drove us (for the first time in Spain – buckle up!!!!) to Sevilla city center. Miguel knows I’ve been driving since I was 15 but helped me figure out road signs and rules. It was blazing hot and I had to put on tons of sunscreen before we took the oh-so-touristy on a horse and carriage ride through Parque Maria Luisa. See? You can have the best of both worlds! This was a super short trip but worth every minute: my new favorite drink is tinto de verano (wine and sweet fizzy water) and by the end of the stay I could understand incrementally more of what Tío Pepe said than the first day (win!).