Tuesday, July 31, 2018


August is a traditional vacation time for Spaniards (really most of Europe). Sevilla is a net exporter of vacationers at this point (i.e. more people leave Sevilla for their vacations then come to Sevilla for their vacations). Shopkeepers also hit the road at this time. For example:
Rolled down shutters were definitely more common as we walked around town today. An interesting tradition among shopkeepers is to paint their shutters with some representation of the shop. In honor of the August vacations and the closed shops, here is a collection of some paintings that I saw on closed shop shutters.

I don't know what kind of shop this was, but it had lovely scenes from around Seville painted on its three shutters:

 This is the shutter of a "gift shop for men":
 The shutter of a photocopy and office supply shop:
 A produce stand:
 A pharmacy. This one I really don't get. It's like the Caduceus, but around a martini glass and then pills. What's the message here? Or am I just supposed to laugh. I'm kinda laughing:
 I think this is an office furniture place:
 A luthier shop:
 A hardware store, not sure why the venus is there, but maybe offering to fix the missing head and arms?
 A bakery, pretty much nailed that:

Two last items, we received our bike share cards in the mail today. Not sure of their practical value, since we've both already memorized our access numbers. But, it's nice to have something official I guess.
And, I liked this selfie that I took while taking pictures of store fronts today:

ATMs The Definitive Word

Having explored the ATM situation here in Sevilla extensively, for the good of the internet, I summarize our findings here. First, the winning combination: 
If you come here to Spain from the US and all your assets are in USD and you want euros cheap, before you leave, get an ordinary CapitalOne 360 checking account with a debit card and put some money in it. When you get here, look for a BankInter ATM machine (locator), go to the nearest one and withdraw some euros. At some point, you'll be given the option to conduct the transaction in USD or euros. Do the transaction in euros. There is no fee and the exchange rate will match the day's rate to about 3 decimal places. Basically, free currency exchange.
Now for a bit more detail. The option to do the transaction in dollars or euros comes up a lot here with both debit and credit card transactions. Choosing the most advantageous option is complicated and depends on the card issuer.

Some cards charge a foreign transaction fee. In this case, doing the transaction in euros will result in an additional charge from your card issuer (your US-based bank or credit card company). Sometimes the fee is a flat rate, sometimes it's a percentage of the transaction. It's really difficult to figure it out sometimes and you maybe should just call your card issuer beforehand to get the details. There are some cards that don't have a foreign transaction fee (e.g. CapitalOne cards, and a few others). But a lot do, especially if you're just using your local bank.

If your card issuer charges a foreign transaction fee, then you should consider doing the Spanish transaction in USD. But, there's a catch there too. In that case, the Spanish vendor may charge a transaction fee for working in USD. Now you really have to work. You've got to compare what the Spanish vendor is going to charge to what your US card issuer is going to charge and pick the cheaper. When you're standing at an ATM machine on a busy street in Madrid with 4 Spaniards lined up behind you waiting for the same machine, you have to be prepared. I recommend taking your phone and snapping a picture of the screen that gives you this option USD or euros and canceling the transaction right away. Then, go off to a discreet location and do the math.

This is no fun (and I'm a mathematician). By far, the best approach is to get a card(s) with no foreign transaction fees and do all of your transactions in euros while in Spain (or elsewhere for that matter). Both our credit cards and debit cards are CapitalOne so we do credit and debit transactions in euros.

Even here, however, there is one last catch. There are still the old ATM fees that have nothing to do with currency exchange. Your card issuer might charge a fee for not using one of their machines, and the Spanish bank that owns the ATM might charge a fee. This is why I'm happily writing this blog post. The BankInter ATM does not charge a fee and CapitalOne doesn't charge a fee for using it (so I guess it must be in their ATM network somehow).

Monday, July 30, 2018

Absentee Ballot

My absentee ballot for the WA primary arrived today:
 The primary is Aug 7th. I mailed the ballot back this afternoon. I hope it gets there in time.

Another clear day. I walked south along the river this morning. Much like Miami, Sevilla has a feral cat population. Here's a few of them hanging out down by the river this morning:

They're all really thin. I imagine they spend a lot of time hungry.

I walked far enough south to see the really big bridge:
There were also the usual rowing teams working out:
And the usual worker doing repairs to cobblestone streets:
Near the end of my walk, I took yet another picture of the Triana side of the river:

We went to the grocery store at noon. The grocery store is always crowded on Mondays. I guess it's because of the pent up demand of everything being closed on Sunday.

I had a good afternoon with math.

The weather is supposed to get much warmer.

The city seems a little less busy as August vacations approach. Or maybe it's just my imagination.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday in Sevilla

The unusually mild summer continues here. I went out for a run this morning and it was so clear and almost cool. The sun on the riverside buildings was pretty striking:
I was out a little earlier than usual because we had a 10am breakfast meeting with Mario and Palma (the folks renting us the apartment). We worked out the details of our remaining stay in their apartment. We also had a good, wide-ranging conversation, mostly in English, about schools here in Spain, both high school and college, Palma's parents, August in Sevilla (how it mostly shuts down) and their impending trip to Germany for vacation.

I talked to my mom and later Rachel. We also did laundry and other weekly cleaning chores.

This evening we went out for a short walk. It was again breezy and cool-ish. This guy is always on the main drag in Triana, mostly nuts and roasted, salted beans:
 These two were sound asleep and not really a parent in sight, but I'm sure it was fine, haha:
 This is the front of the bread store on the main street, it's actually closed with the big metal doors rolled down. Traditionally, the metal doors on stores around here are painted with representations of whatever the store sells:
 This is the bottom of our bridge (the best bridge):
 Here is the cobblestone path along our side of the river:
 This statue is very strange, also along the river, couldn't get a shot from the front since it's too close to the river:
 Finally, back home, I realized I don't have a picture of the front of our building, our flat is on the 2nd floor (remember in Europe, floors are: ground, first, second, in the US our flat would be said to be on the third floor).

Saturday, July 28, 2018

River Walk

Laura and I walked north along the river path down to the Parque De San Jeronimo. I run this path quite often, but Laura hasn't been on it to the north very far. We saw the homeless guy in his regular spot with all of his belongings. His bundle is so big, that I think he's kind of bound to that spot now, but it seems to be working for him so far:
We saw folks fishing along the river:
Finally, we made it to the end of the path and the park. Therewe saw the Huevo de Colón (again for me):
The park itself is lovely. There were a few visitors. The trees provided welcome shelter from the sun (which can be fierce here):
Laura and I pulled some bikes out of a nearby bike station to head home. Along the way, this piece caught my eye (I don't know why):
This afternoon we trekked to our usual grocery store to get food in for Sunday (when everything is closed). Recently, we've been taking a side street that parallels the busier main street to the store. I noticed this hostel for the first time:
This evening, we went across the river to check out a bookstore that carries Spanish language instructional material for English speakers:
This narrow place had 4 floors (and no elevator). The English language stuff was on the top floor (obviously):
Laura did find a couple of useful texts. Also on the way over, we saw this couple driving an unusual vehicle:
and there was also this pretty yellow trike, haha.

On the way home, we hit a gelato shop on our street. I had mint chocolate chip in a chocolate dipped cone. I'd show you a picture, but I ate it before I remembered to take a picture.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Lunar Eclipse

When I went out for my run this morning the take down of La Velá de Triana was well under way. The stage was gone with just trash in its wake:
The temporary beer & tapas tents were mere skeletons of their former selves:
Not to worry though, the 6 billion other brick and mortar beer & tapas places will be open, business as usual, tonight.

Fun surprise, this morning we heard what sounded like a multi-piece brass band playing:
Turns out a few enterprising young brass players were busking out on the main street here. They were "doing it their way", with police approval, or at least police indifference:
 They played for about an hour and were pretty good. God knows it's hard to find a good trumpet player.

After that, pretty typical day. Me math, Laura language school. This evening we went to Domino's of all places for pizza:
It was pretty good and not too expensive, just 6 euros for this medium pie that was enough food for Laura and me. We got drinks too, but we didn't really need to because outside the restaurant there is some "potable water":
We went home after dinner, but went back out to see the lunar eclipse. Lots of other folks here had the same plan. You can see them all lined up for the view along the bridge:
It was pretty. I managed few decent shots with my phone and its new tripod:

From the day-late-and-a-dollar-short desk, here are last night's festival videos. Some traditional style Andalusian music:
and the same performer accompanied by some traditional flamenco dancers:
This person was clearly very popular. There were young kids in the audience singing along getting every word. I think the performer's name was Maria de la Colina.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hose It Down

This boat floats around the river in the morning and rinses off every wall, walk, bridge piling and embankment it can reach with its water cannon:

Really, the city does a great job of keeping clean. They have a massive workforce taking care of trash, streets, trees etc. The folks I've seen all seem to take pride in their work. Heck, here it's probably a living wage job (as it should be). Coupled with a national health care system, you see little crime and little homelessness.

Among the other things I noticed this morning as I walked around, this crocheted artwork hanging along the brick embankment on the Sevilla side of the river:
I liked the look of the old bricks in this wall so much that I decided to make them the background image of the blog:
A little further along the river, you meet La Torre del Oro (the tower of gold):
complete with a few palm trees.

I took the trash out this evening and checked on the moon (there's supposed to be a lunar eclipse, but perhaps not visible here, turns out it's tomorrow evening, thanks Kath). Regardless, it was a full moon and very pretty rising above La Torre del Oro:
I also noticed some folks feeding the ducks and geese below the bridge:
 As promised, a day late, here is a video of last night's performers, a band called Alameda. They were pretty talented musically, leaned towards a kind of rock, but with interesting guitar and non-traditional timings. Here's the one song I recorded: