Deja Vu and Duende

June 22, 2007

Inspired by this post on Lonely Planet’s Thorntree messageboards:

Have you ever arrived in a new place and felt that you’ve been there before?  I’ve been to lots of places that I thought were special, that were magical, that had a certain something that set them apart from the more prosaic cities that surrounded them.  After all, there’s a reason why places like Paris and Venice are such major tourist destinations.

However, I’m talking about something slightly different – a sense of deja vu, a feeling that you’re at completely at home in what should be a strange city, a feeling that you’ve spent time there before. 

I’ve had that feeling – in Seville, the city of gypsies, of flamenco, of so much history that it makes U.S. cities look like mere blips on time’s radar screen.  From the second I stepped off the train, I felt completely at ease.  First of all, I never once got lost in the winding maze of the medieval Old Town, even after enjoying a pitcher of sangria or tinto de verrano.

Secondly, I managed to find all sorts of hidden treasures during my wanderings, like little hole-in-the-wall cafes where guitarists still play traditional Andalucian music (and don’t give a damn about catering to tourists) small weekly markets where farmers still come in from the countryside to sell their delicious tomatoes, olives, oranges, and jamon, and little shops that sell colorful fabrics and outrageous trims meant for flamenco costumes.  Of course, I’m always trying to seek out places off the beaten path, but I was particularly successful in Seville. 

Everything I did wasn’t cultural in the traditional sense, however; I had a hell of a time a Real Betis game with some newly made Sevillano friends.  The Spanish have the Americans beat at one thing – they really know how to celebrate when their team wins (or maybe it’s just been so long since Notre Dame won a really big game I’ve forgotten how it feels)

Granted, none of these things add up to a particularly unique experience on the surface, but it’s difficult to explain the deja vu – it’s the kind of thing that when you feel it, you just know.  Perhaps I’m a little bit crazy, or maybe I lived in Seville in a past life – it would certainly explain my predeliction for oversize earrings, intricate embroideries, and dramatic ensembles fit for a modern day urban gypsy.

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