10.05.2012 - 13.05.2012
We had read in our guide book that “driving in Seville is an ordeal” but we arrived confidently thinking that if anyone can do it, Sully can.
What we didn’t factor in was Sophia’s nerves getting the better of us from the passenger seat as she attempted the less challenging role of giving directions. ‘I thought you liked puzzles’?!’ Sully asked in his attempt to pacify her. “Navigating our way through a labyrinth of narrow, one-way streets with tight bends, dead ends, impatient drivers and unfamiliar street signs in 38 degree heat isn’t quite the same as doing a Sudoku”, she replied in a panicked tone.
Whilst Sophia tried to calm her nerves and mostly kept her eyes closed, Sully had the time of his life squeezing the car through tight gaps with less than an inch on each side, finding a dead end and then reversing back out. At one point the front of the car went through a gap but the wider back end meant we couldn’t get through, it was a tight squeeze. We would have gotten out to take a photo but weren’t able to open the doors. Sophia assisted by breathing in and holding her breath as we squeezed through the gaps, it makes all the difference! Not.
Eventually, we did of course find our hostel. Whilst Sully checked in with an adrenaline induced smile, Sophia checked for the grey hairs she must have earned during the journey through the city centre. We had arrived in Seville, at last.
We spent our first afternoon doing what we do best these days; sitting outside a little restaurant in a busy square, eating tapas, talking non-stop and watching the world go by. We tried a Sevillian speciality dish called espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas) which was quite nice and another called revueltos (scrambled egg with mushrooms and garlic). We find Spanish food to be quite rich, heavy and intense in flavour so small tapas portions are just right.
In the evening we took a stroll around the old quarter of Seville where we saw the Giralda tower and baroque cathedral, the largest in the world, lit up against the darkening sky. The bell tower was particularly beautiful in design and was, in fact, once the minaret of a mosque at this site. There was a great atmosphere, with tourists eating at outdoor restaurants, young university students socialising in groups and lots of couples enjoying an evening stroll. There were horses and carts lined up too, as we had seen in Cordoba. The shops were closed but we did some window shopping and saw the flamenco inspired fashion that is so popular here.
Whilst in the city we visited the Royal Alcazar, a fortified palace complex that has been occupied by rulers of Seville since the time of the Romans. Some of the ornate Moorish designs in the interior of the palace as well as the garden complexes and fountains reminded us of the Alhambra in Granada. We particularly enjoyed the gardens here and the peacocks roaming around, it was another hot and sunny day so we had a nice relax surrounded by the scent of jasmine and orange blossom.
It was a Saturday and it must be wedding season here as we saw a number of wedding parties. The brides came to the Alcazar and Cathedral area for their photos and we enjoyed seeing the guests’ posh wedding outfits and the fancy wedding cars covered in flowers. Weddings here seem to be an extremely grand affair!
Just outside of the Alcazar we found a photographic exhibition on Cuba and Mali that was very impressive, we spent a while there, especially since it had air conditioning, and are now really keen to see Cuba some time, it looks amazing.
The rest of our time was spent roaming the streets of the Santa Cruz and Macarena districts, eating more tapas and indulging on ice-creams, including a delicious lemon and mint flavoured sorbet. We also visited the bull ring – apparently the most famous in the world - but didn’t get to see any bullfights. We finished off the afternoon with a visit to the Museo de Bellas Artes, an art gallery located in a former convent with some nice frescoes as well as an impressive collection of works.
The huge highlight of our time in Seville was the flamenco tableo we attended late on Saturday night. We knew that Seville is the home of flamenco and were keen to see something authentic, rather than a diluted version put on just for tourists. We even considered attending a performance in the private home of a gypsy lady who is well known for her dance shows. In the end, we took a recommendation from our hostel and we were not disappointed, especially as the female dancer is one of the best in the world.
We arrived at the tiny, dimly lit venue in time to grab the best seats in the house, right at the front and close enough to be hit by the flying sweat as the dancers twisted through the air! The tableo lasted for 90 minutes and included all of the elements of flamenco; male and female dances, guitartist and singer. The show was very intense and dramatic and the artists were full of energy and passion for their work. We were truly amazed by the atmosphere they created whilst stamping their feet, their outfits, clapping their hands in a unique rhythm and spontaneously shouting “olé”! We took so many photos and videos hoping to capture the true art form of flamenco, it was a great ending to our time in Seville.