Vejer de la Fronteria

Vejer Vejer (map) is what is called a “White Villiage”. Perched on a hilltop, the buildings cluster and pile upon one another, and are all painted white. It is a small town, but it is dense, the city is folded upon itself; the streets and alleys twist and writhe, climbing from layer to layer. Many streets are too narrow for cars, even some of the ones people drive on. It is breezy up here, mitigating what would be a harsh sun.

From the roof of the place I am staying one can see a long, long, way — all the way to Africa, in fact. Beyond a shimmering stretch of Atlantic rise the hills of Morocco.

The bus deposited me here during Siesta, so there were only a few places open. I wandered for a bit, up and down the steep streets. There were few other pedestrians, but there were kids roaring around on scooters and atv’s. Occasionally a car would have to wait while I trudged up a road to a place wide enough for me to get out of the way. Once siesta was over I walked back down to the tourist office, found where an Internet shop was, and sent Cassius and email telling him where I would be. Then, there was nothing for me to do but be there. I sat on the sidewalk outside the bar. (Inside was crowded and smoky — there was bullfighting on the TV. I was curious, but I needed to keep an eye on the plaza.)

I was sitting by one of the only two-way roads in the old part of town, but the downhill side was blocked by illegally parked cars. There seemed to be an unwritten rule among the illegal parkers, however, to leave occasional gaps long enough to allow downhill cars to duck out of the way when they met an uphill car. This worked 80% of the time, but more than once the downhill car would have to go into reverse and back up into the plaza to make way for the uphill car. If someone was behind the downhill car, they would have to back up as well. If someone were behind them… well you get the idea. A parade in reverse. The two locals who were out there with me would heckle and call out to friends as the cars did their delicate dance.

There is a big parking lot at the edge of town. There should be a big sign: “Welcome to Vejer. Leave your car here, for the love of Pete.” If it could handle the steep hills and paving stones, this may actually be a place where owning a Segway would make sense.

Once Cassius found me we settled in and went out to a place he knows nearby, then stopped into another that he had never seen open before. The first was nice, the second contrived and tacky, which gave us plenty to talk about. Most of the people in the second place were speaking English, few in the first place were. Fun was had by all.


Two things to know when you visit Seville: first, on the ubiquitous tourist map, north is not up, and second, don’t take anything personally.

I didn’t realize the thing about the map on the first day, simply because I didn’t really care where I was anyway. I set out in the correct direction relative to the train station, got to the center of town, got lost, found a hotel, and hung out. It wasn’t until today, when I had a specific place to be, that the map caused problems. As a result, I spent a couple of hours I could have been seeing cool things being lost. Oh, well.

As for “don’t take it personally,” I had been warned ahead of time that the residents here can be downright rude. I met a couple of very friendly, helpful people, but there were a couple of times I experienced the true Seville welcome. I think there is a dictionary of the looks they give you that I don’t know. I went into a little place to buy a bottle of water. There were other people there, so I set the water on the counter. The girl behind the counter stopped what she was doing and looked at me. To me, the look meant, “What do you want?” Apparently the look meant “You need to stand there a bit longer.” I opened my mouth to say that there was nothing besides the water, and she interrupted with “Just a moment.” Fine. She took money from the guy standing next to me, gave him change, and stopped. She stood, unmoving, looking at me. “This is—” I started. “JUST A MOMENT!” “Ok! Ok!” I said, waving my hands. She stood longer, waiting to see if I would say anything more, then very, very, slowly started to fill the other guy’s order, pausing every now and then to stare at me.

Not long after that I was in an electronics store, and the clerk looked past the people standing in front of me and hit me with a stare. Were it not for the fact that the others moved out of the way for me, I never would have recognized “May I help you?”

But that, I suppose, is Seville.

The city itself is impressive, and I regret only scratching the surface. The city center is one of the largest pre-car warrens of alleys I’ve ever seen, and it is great fun to just wander around. There are beautiful gardens and parks, and that Mediterranean sun just can’t be beat. But while I’d like to stay, Vejer calls and I must answer.