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Saturday, June 7th "Umbrete; Real estate; More page work"

Last night we spent the evening in Umbrete, a pueblo about 14 km outside of Sevilla. Both a sister and a brother of my girlfriend are buying houses there, as the price in Sevilla for apartments has risen sharply with the Euro over the last few years. Had I the money in 1996 I would have purchased an apartment in Sevilla. The dollar was strong against the peseta and prices had just started to rise. A few years before the switch to the Euro (2001) people were scrambling to find ways to get their "undeclared" (i.e.: black market) pesetas into real estate. The result was a very difficult buyers market and rising prices. Over the last 3-4 years property values have increased almost 60% here. If you want to live in the center or even the city for that matter you are often looking at $200,000-300,000 for an apartment, and in general not a very big one. The good (and sometimes bad if you ware walking around) is that many of the buildings in the center are being rehabilitated. Sevilla should look even better in the next 2-3 years, but as many say Sevilla está siempre de obras - they are always working on something here.

Back to Umbrete. It was nice to get out of the heat in the city - I think there is a difference of 3-4° C between the pueblos and the center. With the small streets the air tends not to circulate and the heat from the day radiates off the pavement and buildings well into the night. Umbrete, a town of some 5,000, is what they would call in the U.S. a bedroom community. Most who live there work in Sevilla and make the 10-15 minute commute into town.

We made a quick tour of the center and got a good feel for what life was like in a pueblo. We saw more than a few houses where people set up seats outside their front door to watch others pass by. In passing one house with the door open we saw a couch with three of the largest women I've seen here. They were all knitting and watching television while the younger people in the family stood outside. The people in pueblos like to eat, I was told. We also saw a few teenagers trying to break into an abandoned house next to a plaza. One stood watch for cars while the others tried to pry open a window, although they didn't seem to stop what they were doing when we passed by. We then passed a small, dirty bar with an entrance like a garage where I was informed they made some of the best arroz (rice) around.

We ditched the car and enjoyed walking in a place where the air was actually moving. Unlike the U.S., pueblos the size of Umbrete do have a fair amount of bars and restaurants. Getting a table outside of one proved to be a bit of a problem on a Friday night, as most folks seemed to camp out once they had one. After a tapa in a small bar we finally made our way to a restaurant with a free table around 11:30 and ate very well. Walking back to the car around 1am we noticed it was almost too quiet. By the time we got back to Sevilla with la marcha in full swing the contrast was even greater. Pueblo life has it's advantages and disadvantages, but I think I learned I am more of a city person when it comes to Spain. If you dropped me into a house in the mountains here with plenty of land around me, I may just change my mind, though.

Last but not least I have been making significant progress on this page. I'm trying as hard as I can to keep the personal feel, but slip into tourist speak in some of the sections. Right now I have too many "Coming Soons" in these sections, something I hate to see on a web site. I will be trying to correct that over the next few days, as well as revise my photos albums some. Some links for today:

Fútbol: The Depression hits when teams drop to 2nd Division

Los Ultras -