Wednesday, March 18, 2009

al-Andalus Paradise: Seville

The Real Alcazar in Seville.

Every time I was asked where we were going in Spain and I read off the list of places, people immediately responded that we would love Barcelona and Granada. So, it's difficult to explain why Seville, the capital of Andalucia, was the most magical place for me. It wasn't that the Real Alcazar Palace was more lovely than Alhambra, or that there was more beautiful art than in Barcelona or Madrid, or a more impressive Cathedral than Sagrada Familia or Toledo. It was not the signts or monuments at all.

Almost every day in Spain I took a late afternoon siesta while Phineas took his afternoon stroll before we headed out for our evening tapas crawl. On our first day in Seville, the weather was so perfect that I left the window, which overlooked the hotel courtyard, wide open. I fell asleep to the sound of gurgling water from the courtyard fountain. As the sun began to set, I gradually woke up to someone playing classical guitar and a woman laughing in the courtyard below. It wove it's way into my semi-sleep dreams. I can't even describe how gorgeous and peaceful this sleep was. As Phineas arrived back from his walk, the cathedral bells chimed the hour. It was a perfect moment.

La Giralda, the bell tower of Seville Cathedral

This is how Seville was for me. We would be walking down a street lined with orange trees and someone would open a door - out would spill water-cooled air, the sound of a courtyard fountain and the soapy scent of jasmin. To me, Seville felt like the place where the Spanish, Catholic and Moorish merged. Bull fighting, lace mantillas, Lenten fasts and feasts, Mudejar architecture, fountains, orange and jasmin, tapas and siestas are all still part of the vernacular.

Plaza de Toros de las Maestranza - Seville's 18th century Baroque bullring

However, Seville is not solely living in the past. It is a university town with a young and lively night life. As we walked home on our last evening in Seville, we passed small bands of students sharing a last cerveza and a small army of men practising for the famous Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions throughout the city. They were practicing carrying the base of what will be an elaborately decorated wooden float, walking in unison and blindfolded. This perfectly summed up how I felt about Seville - young and old, modern yet steeped in tradition, fun and serious at the same time.


Anonymous said...

Wow...I am in awe! I will drink some jasmin green tea in your honor! I am loving your trip blog!

audrey Messer said...

ooh you captured sevilla so beautifully. I really loved my time there; ok I admit, it took me a while to warm up to the siesta thing! Not the sleeping part but the everything shuts down for the whole afternoon. I came to really appreciate it though in the spring and summer months and loved going shopping around dusk.
The giralda tower was my favorite site and I would go there with everyone that visited.