Imagine bright. Imagine colourful. Imagine vibrant. Imagine every street corner coming alive with performances by talented but undiscovered flamenco dancers. Imagine the summer sun warmng your back, and a breeze that carries the fragrance of orange blossoms. Imagine small narrow streets lined with orange trees, and a city with magnificent architecture that will continue to haunt your thoughts long after you’ve left. Welcome to Seville (pronounced “Seviya”) – the capital and the heart of Andalusia, the quintessential Andalusian city that has a blend of Moorish and Gothic architecture.
Seville was a whole new experience after Barcelona. While Barcelona was a big city, crowded, and often impersonal as is the case with most big cities, Seville was just the opposite. It welcomed me warmly into her small, homely atmosphere, captured my heart and soul, and gave me memories and experiences that have continued to linger on long after I came back home.
I stayed at the Petit Palace Canalejas. It was a quaint and cosy hotel, and its central location made it easy for us to walk to every part of the old city. There was no need for any public transport too. On the first day, I walked around the central town, walked past the small narrow streets, stopping by cafés that smelled heavenly from several feet away. My friend and I began our exploration of Seville by digging into the traditional Paella and some orange juice. The orange juice in Seville was tangy, unlike the sweet orange juice that we had earlier enjoyed in Barcelona.
After a rather heavy lunch, we walked to the Alcazar, Giralda, few lovely parks, and the enchanting town centre Barrio Santa Cruz. Barrio Santa Cruz is a colourful and bohemic part of the old town, the former Jewish quarter of the medieval city. Situated right at the centre of Jardines de Murillo, the Real Alcázar, and Calle Mateos Gago, this neighbourhood has many of Seville’s oldest churches, including Cathedral of Seville. The Barrio de Santa Cruz is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys dating back to the days when it was primarily a Jewish quarter. These narrow streets serve to provide the residents shield against the overbearing Sevillian summer heat.
After exploring this colourful Jewish quarter to our heart’s content, we walked back towards our hotel, to go explore the other side of town. Our walk was interspersed with stops to watch dime-a-dozen performances and street artists who seemed to be the life of Sevillian culture. Every street corner had a flamenco dancer, or a guitarist, or a painter who painted lovely portraits of your dog. These artists were earning money to fund their own travels around the world, and the artist we met spent a few days in every city, painting portraits to take care of herself, and buy her her next ticket. I don’t think she knew what a 9-5 corporate job felt like, lucky girl!
After having our fill of flamenco performances, renditions of melodious songs from the Titanic, and getting a picture of my friend’s dog painted, we reached our hotel to get a breather before we set off for the night. The plan that night was to watch an informal flamenco performance at a bar. This was a suggestion by friends we met at Paris. They suggested that we might enjoy an informal performance more than a traditional, formal one. This turned out to be a great decision. We reached early, got our share of Sangria and nachos, and settled in and for the performance to begin. It was an hour or two of entertainment that showcased the old and rich culture of Spain, and to add to our unique experience, we got to watch a male flamenco dancer, which is quite a rare sight.
The performance ended late at night, and as we made our way back to the hotel, we couldn’t help but compare the city of Seville, as it looked in the night, to a scene out of a fairy tale. Well-lit mellow-yellow streets, narrow cobbled paths, streets quite filled, cafes ringing with the sound of laughter and music, and street artists playing their hearts out, Seville was truly breath taking at midnight. By now, we were enchanted with Seville, and just did not want to move on.
The next day promised to be bright, and warm, typical Spanish weather. We walked to Maria Luisa park, and reached the magnificent and spectacular Plaza de Espana. Nothing had prepared us for this sight. Built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition, a fair held to showcase Spain’s industry and technology exhibits, this plaza is a landmark example of Renaissance and Moorish architecture. Today the Plaza de España mainly consists of Government buildings. There are tiled Provincial Alcoves along the walls of the Plaza de España, each alcove representing a different district of Spain. The plaza also boasts of water canals and cute tiny ornate bridges that make the place look like a mini-Venice. The Plaza de Espana, was truly the architectural highlight of our entire trip, a place that captured our imagination, and held our romantic hearts captive for a long time to come.
We spent our afternoon at the neighbourhood of Triana, formerly known as Seville’s gypsy neighborhood, drooling over the colourful ceramic pottery, and window shopping to our hearts content, yet buying just the right amount that we could manage to carefully lug around with us for the remaining 8 days that we had left on our holiday. Being surrounded by exquisite, local handicraft stores in different countries are the few times that I find myself wondering if back-packing is really the best way to travel!
The rest of our time in Seville was spent walking through the narrow alleys, shopping for quaint souvenirs, having our fill of Paella and orange juice, and deciding whether we preferred Sangria or Tinto de Verano. Tinto de Verano is a mix of wine and Sprite or Fanta, while Sangria traditionally consists of red wine and chopped fruit, and other ingredients such as orange juice or brandy. I think I prefer the white Sangria that I would later taste in Lisbon, or maybe it’s time to go try them all again and pass the final judgement!
When it was time to leave Seville, we just didn’t want to move on. A city of great food, an enchanting atmosphere, rich culture, and spectacular architecture, Seville will always remain a top-favourite, quintessential European small city – a city that stole my heart.