“Tenéis que olvidar el Inglés”
We finally find the kind of restaurant that we have been searching for in Sevilla for the past two and a half months. It is exactly where you would expect it to be– down a dark alley, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with only one lit sign proclaiming its existence. "Casa Chari", the sign says, and this is where Heather has been sent by one of her professors back home to play 'capture the flag'.
Inside the bar we find Chari herself, a slight woman with a strong Andalucian accent whose smile lights up the room as she watches you over her half-moon glasses, observing you with those knowing eyes while dispensing cold beverages and sage advice. Her very movements seem filled with the joy of life as she bustles about behind her bar and in her kitchen, managing to makes us feel welcome even as she's waiting on other customers. When she isn't waiting tables or working the bar, she sits at a small round table where a copy of Isabelle Allende's latest novel rests on a bookstand, and she reads until her attention is diverted back to her customers (which is always a moment or two before they even realize they need anything). She tops off your beer, just to make it "más bonita", and she poses for a photo with three American college students that she has never met before, just as she has doubtless posed for thousands of photos with unknown travelers from all over the world.
Chari keeps a running guestbook– as soon as one is filled, she starts another. She opened her restaurant back in 1988…I sign a page dated November 17th, 2006. We look through several of the guestbooks, each filled with notes of thanks, currency from foreign countries, business cards and student IDs, and above all, praise of Chari's "world-famous" paella…
It’s the kind of bar that fills up with neighbors by 10 pm and stays packed all night, but where you never feel forgotten or neglected. Even better, it's the kind of place where a lonely exchange student can find a little bit of home-cooked love from a Spanish woman whose heart is so big, she adopts everyone who walks in her door, and makes sure that they don't leave until their stomach is full, and they have a smile on their face.
and just as a side note…November 17th was my fifth day smoke free. As of today, I have been smoke free for 1 week!