Seville, Mi Seville
Published: 09 November 2017
The thrill of a last-gasp, late-summer-early-autumn European city break “somewhere still warm”, and the threat of Hurricane Ophelia looming at home, booking a three night stay at the charming Hotel Melia Colon in Seville, the capital of Andalusia, with temperatures forecast to reach 85F, was an option hard to resist for my wife Shila and I.
What a surprise
After a pleasant flight, a short transfer to the hotel and a welcoming cup of tea and cakes, we set upon to unearth a charming “old town” by walking through some stunning, narrow cobbled streets with rows of charming Gothic buildings. You could not help but notice the leisurely pace of the locals - couples, young lovers and families basking in warm sunshine, shopping, stopping at pavement cafes over a drink and tapas in endless animated conversations. The walk to Seville Cathedral, a 16th century Roman Catholic Church and a UNESCO heritage site, after a refreshing drink en route (people-watching being a favourite pass time for any tourist) was a joy to behold. The stunning Cathedral, a former mosque rebuilt in 1248, is the largest Gothic Church in the world. The Cathedral has 80 chapels, in which 500 masses were said daily, as reported in 1896. It looks exquisite both during day and night. After a tiring walk through awe-inspiring architecture and works of art in the Cathedral, all steeped in history, an al fresco dinner of fresh pasta and green salad with a welcome glass of rouge by the river-side at sun-set beckoned.
Hop On Hop Off
A sure-fire way to visit any city for instant orientation, a hop on hop off bus is a boon. Ours took us through rustic church and civic buildings, regal in their architecture, several bridges (a tasteful mixture of old and new), scores of monuments and piazzas, modern shopping precincts, churches and religious landmarks and amazingly formal gardens, making us wonder if we were ever going to fully take in all the sights and their buzz during our short stay. A stop-over to visit Alcazar of Seville (the Royal House), a regal palace by any standards and a UNESCO World Heritage site, was a sound choice. Formally a Moorish Palace built in the mid-14th century for Muslim kings, re-sited close by, refurbished, extended and rebuilt with a mixture of Moorish and Spanish architecture, well into the 19th Century, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Spain. Its upper levels are still to this day used by the Spanish royalty as their official residence. With its tiled walls, beautifully arched windows, courtyards, pavilions, galleries, fountains and lavish tropical gardens blooming with exotic trees and flowers with a fitting pond makes the Palace well worth a visit. A long walk, criss-crossing two separate bridges and finishing late in the balmy evening at Mercado del Barranco, located next to the Triana Bridge overlooking the Guadalquivir River, made a fitting end to the day. Formerly a fish and wholesale market, this substantial structure was built in 1883. The Marcado (No 3 in the visitors’ stakes) houses various stalls serving a myriad of drinks, delicious food, afters and beverages. Call it a clean, modern, friendly food hall or a food market, it was a real tonic watching the sun go down over the river, with a cold beer and a substantial selection of tapas. (PS: Shila is a vegetarian and had no trouble finding suitable meals/snacks so far!). The walk to the hotel, with another stop for coffee and a port by one of what seemed like a million alluring street cafes was the end of another fabulous day in Seville.
Our last day
Having criss-crossed the City by bus twice, taking a leisurely boat ride up and down the river and refreshing our memories of the various tourist locations from the comfort of the boat, was a tantalising prospect. A pleasant boat ride both ways, looking at some of the places like Plaza de Espania, the Giralda Tower, the site of Expo ’92 (now housing Isla Magica, a popular theme park) the city’s famous art galleries, Plaza de Toros Maestranza (the 12,000 capacity Bull ring where alas! Bull fighting is still permitted), left us wondering when we will be back to see them up close and personal - there was still so much to see and do in Seville, one will never tire!
After a late afternoon visit to El Corte Ingles, the Spanish Department store, to buy some gifts and a welcome gelato (ice cream like mama never made!) and a quick visit back to the hotel to freshen up, we headed for Tablao El Arenal for an evening of exhilarating flamenco dancing accompanied by a hearty four course meal and wine. Flamenco, of course, is Romani music and dancing dating back to 1774 and is said to have originated in Andalusia. UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010. The show was vibrant, the artists’ facial expressions intense and the energy, passionate. Our visit here was a fitting finale to a most memorable trip.
We had a lovely flight home with very pleasant memories, our hearts longing to go back one day. There was so much more we could have explored. Yet, we had seen so much in the way of history, shared so much of a unique culture and had thoroughly enjoyed the city’s culinary delights that prompted my wife to refer to this magnificent city as Seville, Mi Seville (Seville, my Seville).