Sevilla, ¡Por Fin!

After a flurry of farewells and last-minute WhatsApp exchanges, I was on a Cercanias train back to Madrid with all of my enormous luggage–a burdensome state that I had certainly not missed.

At the Puerta de Atocha train station in Madrid, a large and bustling transportation hub, I enjoyed a quick lunch and then boarded a high-speed train to Sevilla. Having requested a seat with a quiet car, I was soon settled in a comfortable seat hearing only the muffled rush of air outside and the occasional open and closing of the car’s doors. The exhaustion of the last few days–and hours–began to catch up with me. I stared out the window at a parched summer landscape and watched olive and citrus orchards whiz by, occasionally feeling my ears pop from the pressure change as the train soared through a tunnel. I was unconscious after not-too-long, and awoke with a start to a clambering of suitcases as we came to a stop in Sevilla’s Santa Justa station.

A high-speed train or AVE awaits passengers at Santa Justa on the day of my arrival.

I stepped off the train and hurried outside into brutal summer heat (for most of the week, and the next week, it was above 100F/37C), then caught a bus to the neighborhood of my temporary home for the next two weeks, an AirBnB in the Northern part of the city. My host, Nayma, met me at the bus stop and helped me with my preposterous equipaje as we made out way to her apartment building. The cozy apartment was perched on the top floor of its building and had a gorgeous view.

The gulo that accompanied me on my journey enjoys a birds-eye view of Sevilla


Despite the urban setting, I was nonetheless  welcomed by the natural history of Sevilla. Just like back home in New England, cicadas buzzed in the oppressive heat of the late afternoon from the trees lining the streets. Unlike the ones to which I was accustomed, however, they had a higher-pitched, more electronic sound, which had me wondering at times whether I was actually listening to an alarm of some kind. I noticed the sounds of these fascinating insects emanating only from a few tree species–notably, never the palms, conifers, or omnipresent lemon trees–but never managed to spot or capture one.

A Pallid swift (Left, photo credit to David Shallcross) and Chimney swift (Right, photo credit to the National Audubon Society)

Vencejos (Pallid swifts, Apus pallidus) swooped, shrieked, and cavorted in stunning aerobatics throughout the day, sometimes not more than 6 or 7 meters above the street. Preparing for their fall migration, they were in larger, more boisterous groups than usual. I was impressed at how much lower they tended to fly than the much smaller Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica) native to my home.

Sevilla’s arid environment is suitable for plants that thrive in drier climates, like palms and citrus trees, which are found throughout, making a very novel botanical landscape. This picture is from Parque Alamillo, near the office where I work.

I spent the following weekend exploring the city, its buildings and parks, and trying to begin tackling the many logistics ahead, among them opening a bank account, getting a new cell phone plan, and finding an apartment. For the moment, though, I admired Sevilla’s distinctive, elegant, and powerfully baroque architecture. It’s impressive. It’s different. And as many Spaniards had told me in Madrid, Sevilla is in many ways as España as it gets. The pictures below are as good a sampling as my hurried walkabouts and phone camera could muster, but needless to say there will be much more of Sevilla’s beauty in posts to come.


The following week, I would at last begin work at my host institution, Estación Biológica de Doñana. Between errands and sightseeing walks, I was sure to take my afternoon siesta when the heat was at its worst, to catch up for the start of my academic tenure in Sevilla.




























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