La Paloma Amarilla

In Plenary, Presentation on November 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

La Paloma Amarilla

Like all drunks, we wake up laughing.

Then we lie there for a long time, not moving.

“I don’t want to move,” says K. “I’ll find out how drunk I still am.”

The day presents us with its first demand. It requires a decision of us – breakfast in or out. Out will mean more movement and negotiation of human affairs than can currently be imagined. In will involve twenty-four quid.

“It can’t possibly be twelve per person,” I say. “For bloody breakfast. Have you checked?”

We’re both looking at the ceiling. It isn’t interesting but it’s reassuringly plain and white and motionless. Anything else I look at has a tendency to slip and slide in an alarming way.

“Yes, I’ve checked,” says K. “It’s twelve per person.”

“Ridiculous. We’ll go out for a tostada.”

We don’t, of course. Preparing to haul myself out of bed, I lean over to kiss her but she turns away.

“It’s not you,” she says. “It’s my own stench. I can still taste the papas alioli.”

I laugh again, hard and for a long time. When it comes to words, stench has to be one of the all time greats.

There’s no such thing as a hotel breakfast worth twelve euros but it’s pretty decent and with the price at the forefront of my mind I more or less vandalise the buffet. We get eggs and bacon too, and good coffee and begin to feel better in the soft light of an Andalusian patio. I’m not suffering any memory loss this morning but even if I was I would be able to tell you exactly where the night ended.

It ended where it always does in this city – on a doorstep in Calle San Pablo with my greedy face in a large whisky. It’s what I always do after we’ve been to the tabanco there, known far and wide for dishing up southern Spain’s best tortilla and known in our house for never having any left. This is how the conversation goes every time:

“Do you have any tortilla left?”


In fairness, we always leave it till after midnight to pitch up and there is always the consolation of the chicharrones. And the aforementioned patatas alioli. And a very decent amontillado. On this particular occasion we’d arrived from a cerveceria where I regularly give K the opportunity to watch as I savour (guzzle) a hideously overpriced craft beer.

Before that it was El Paisaje where the flamenco was in full swing and the wine was a distinctive semi sec called Amoroso, a very apt descriptor for the evening itself, or me, or K, or the city.

Before that it was queso bosqueño at the wonderful Guitarrón, an oloroso we hadn’t come across before and a new amontillado, and before that we danced in Damajuana. There’s nothing quite like starting a tapas crawl by throwing a few shapes to a very tight live rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. The cheese wasn’t bad either and neither was the wine; leaving, we were already well oiled.

I’d passed an hour or so before that in the quiet hotel bar while K was getting ready, with a glass of Alvaro Domecq’s Alburejo and in the company of the dueña, a cultured lady who had come here from Vienna some years previously. She knew what she was talking about and let me taste a VORS. We spoke about the city and its wines, the fragrance of them that wafts from a bodega window on every other street here, the bodegas themselves (Maestra Sierra, Tradición, Fernando de Castilla), the muy viejos, the palo cortados and so on.

Although it didn’t take me long to exhaust my knowledge I realised I may have picked up a thing or two along the way. I realised as well just how much of what I have come to love about Spain is epitomised here. We swapped notes on places to eat and when she needed to attend to another guest I rejoined K and we went out.

As always then, a litany of bars and sherry wines, live music and winsome handholding beneath the laden orange trees. Conversations that lilt and swell to fit the future in. Dreamy scheming. Easy breathing.

Business as usual.

Except that this place always seems to produce a surprise. Yesterday, not for the first time, the surprise had wings. We had begun the afternoon shopping and were sitting outside the Gallo Azul with a coffee. It’s a great place to watch people and I had momentarily allowed my eye to drift upwards to the unassuming but elegant balconies of the city centre.

And there it was.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Here he goes again, off on one of his flights of fancy. He’s seen an off-white pigeon and he thinks it’s the most amazing thing ever. How very lyrical and more than likely symbolic of something or other.


Listen to me.

This thing was the same shade of yellow as the reflective strips on my running shorts. If you could catch it, you could sellotape it to the front of your bicycle. You’d feel a lot safer cycling at night. It was ludicrous. It was just wrong. Neither K nor I could quite process what we were seeing.

“You don’t think someone sprayed it, do you?” I asked. As it took off and flew over our heads, we got a good look at its underside.

“If they did, they really got it from every angle,” said K. “They’d have had to hold it down or something.”

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. A subsequent google search hasn’t thrown up anything remotely like this fella.

That’s Jerez for you.

After breakfast we wander down to the rastro, held each Sunday outside the Alcazar. It too is routine for us now. In amongst all the tat we find a gitano selling incense and nazareno shaped incense burners. Incense is a bit of an obsession at Casa Alotofwind.

“Do you have anything that doesn’t smell like a church?” I ask him.

I get a lecture on how important incense has been to all the religions, but it turns out he does have something and we also take a nazareno and a very appropriate, tio pepe-shaped burner. As we turn away he calls us back and gifts us a little stick of palo santo – a resin-rich, fragrant wood to burn that has been revered since the Incas. Even without the blue blossom of the jacarandas, it is beautiful here as the dome and bell tower of the cathedral peek through the trees at their Moorish forebears.

Bags collected, we wheel them along Calle Porvenir on our way to the car. It’s a somewhat ordinary street but I love it. We almost always get a room somewhere around here so I don’t believe there’s a street in the city I’ve walked more often. It has the requisite bodega and orange trees but very little else of note except, for us, a hint of melancholy – bitter sweet because we always arrive by it, but also leave.

Porvenir means ‘the future’ and I wonder if there’s something in that as we pass a father pushing his little boy’s buggie. We seem to notice children more these days. Smile at them more. This one’s got a bubble gun and he’s just deployed it so when we’ve passed them by we walk into a cloud of crystal clear orbs that bob lazily in the air, backlit and sparkling in the low noon of November.

  1. You don’t really need any comments to this piece. You must know how good it is.

  2. Thanks so much. Tell your friends. All of them 😉

  3. Robin , enjoyed! After 3 months travel came back to Tarifa briefly and moved on to charming small apartment in centre Sevilla seeking isolation and inspiration to finish my next book ( finished last night at 3 a.m so feeling very chuffed!) today therefore real vacation and I,too, am people watching – 3 truly beautiful young Sevilla mothers with 3 truly immaculate babies( they must have Philippine nannies at home) and 3 glasses of Cava, are all changing nappies – what a great advert for Pampers! Keep writing! Zoe

    • Good to hear from you, Zoe. Enjoy Sevilla – I love it there when the weather is crisp. And well done on the book – I’m few months away from that feeling…

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