European Chronicles

 

On the 28th of December, shortly before 11am, the confirmation arrived. In twenty-four hours time my luggage had to be ready. I just did it. On December 30 my breakfast was already in Europe.

 

I had a family lunch scheduled and seven hours after arrival I was already on the road to Seville, in Spain, where my reveillon would happen. In my opinion, Spain was the best option to welcome the New Year. Despite Andalusia being the poorest region of Spain, people are very joyful and the general standard of living good.

 

From the time I was a small thing to my teens, I used to visit Spain often. As my father recently told me, I was a very popular toddler in Spain. People used to address comments to me like: “Hombre, mira que guapita! Tiene los ojos de una ratita!”

 

If I compare my impressions then and now, I sense a big gap between both. In terms of development, Portugal remains far behind Spain. This is not a surprise because Spain is a vast and rich country providing a better quality of life to its citizens. What surprises me it’s the fact that Portugal can’t solve simple efficiency matters such as luggage handling at its major international airport. Being a country with tourism tradition, that is not understandable. Listen to this part of a conversation that I overheard during the hour time I had to wait just for a simple suitcase.

 

“Portugal is the worst country in terms of luggage service in Europe!” a man at my right commented.

 

“You are too kind. Better say it is the worst in the world!” added someone next to him.

 

But lets talk about a happier subject: Seville. What a great place to say goodbye to 2007! For the first time I had a pre-reveillon night. Actually, it was a lot greater than the real thing. The unexpected usually is.

 

It started with a dinner at Rogelio Leon. As far as I could understand, in Seville dinner means 10pm. Our party was of twelve: a Portuguese businessman and wife, a Spanish businessman and wife, a Portuguese engineer and wife, two Spanish football players and sus prometidas, Paul and me.

 

Before that I had the hotel where we stayed with one of the couples, refreshing and resting after 500km of road and a long flight. Yes, only 24 hours later I had been watching a red African sunset while waiting for our plane.

 

Returning to the restaurant, a man looking like walking out of a Gypsy King gig introduced himself as our hostess. He looked at us, clearly estimating how much per capita we would be willing to pay.

 

During our road trip to Seville, someone had explained:

 

“The middle class is disappearing in Europe. Now we have 10 or 20% of rich population, depending on the country, and a vast majority better or worst surviving. In Portugal, for instance, I believe that only 10% can have the same standard of living that we do.”

 

“How much do you think that 10% spends per month?” I wanted to know.

 

“Six to ten thousand per month, at least. For Portugal, I mean.”

 

I guess the “gypsy king” qualified us in that 10 to 20% group and simple suggested:

 

“I’ll bring food and you eat what you want. Agreed?”

 

Our meal consisted of: wine, champagne as house compliment, jámon serrano with toasted bread with olive oil, croquettes, prawns, salmon, grilled entrecote and a few more treats. The most popular system of meal in Seville is picar, the equivalent word in Spanish for snack. By other words, picar is eating different kind of tapas. Our meal was a sophisticated version of picar.

 

Afterwards we went to Caramelo, one of the popular drinking and dancing spots in Seville. Despite arriving when the pre-reveillon was over, I danced and enjoyed Caramelo. Antique, another dancing place, was fine and short because of extreme tiredness. At the end of the first day, I concluded that in Spain even dogs are friendly.

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