🇪🇸 Did someone say Seville? By request, this is our next stop on our armchair travel around the world. When I was there a year ago, I wrote that once Seville is in your heart, you feel it will never leave. A year later, and especially during the pandemic, I remember Seville wistfully and wonder when I can return. With its friendly people, a culture all its own, and sprawling orange tree-lined plazas and boulevards, I recommend it as a Spanish destination second only, perhaps, to Barcelona. The scent of orange blossoms hang in the air, as redolent as the scent of leather in Florence, Italy.
So grab yourself a Death in the Afternoon and spend a second-time visit to Seville as I re-post my time spent among the matadors and Flamenco dancers.
Regardless of my position on the treatment of animals, I admit a romanticized appeal to the idea of the bullfight – the macho toreador, the connection between man and bull, the perfection and elegance of the movement, the danger. And nowhere is more evocative of these themes than Seville with its magnificent-looking bullring, the Plaza de Toros.
Ernest Hemingway also springs to mind when I think about bullfighting in Seville, especially his novel The Sun Also Rises and a non-fiction treatise on bullfighting called Death in the Afternoon. The latter also contains a deeper contemplation on the nature of fear and courage, a theme running through many of his novels and one he frequently tested in his own life. Being one of those unfortunates who carry a gene that often leads to suicide, I have to think his curiosity about bullfighting was more personal than intellectual.
Hemingway created a cocktail called Death in the Afternoon, which, laden with Absinthe, may be related to such contemplations about bullfighting and life and death. But doesn’t it look lovely?
- 7.5 ml Absinthe
- 15 ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 7.5 ml Sugar syrup (2 sugar to 1 water)
- Brut Champagne
We are in Seville, a former Moorish city-state (“Taifa”) that rose in 1023. Abu al-Qasin was the first king of Seville; his son, Al-Mu’tadid, succeded him. Al-Mu’tadid was a great poet, and was friends with another renowned poet, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Ammar, whose claim to fame was having beaten Castilian king Alfonso VI at chess. Al-Mu’tadid was also the lover of the married future queen Itimad.
Later, after the Reconquista, Seville became an important Catholic centre and construction began of a magnificent Cathedral in 1401 that was completed in 1507. The Catedral de Sevilla quite spectacularly succeeded in fulfilling the design team’s original aim to make something “so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it will think we are mad.”
There are countless beautiful depictions of Mary:
A sliver of the 7,500 pipe organ:
In death, as in life, the higher the ranking, the more pillows under the head. This is the tomb of a cardinal:
Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) is entombed here.
The local thinking is that, even by his standards, Colón travelled more in death than in life. When he died near Madrid, one of his sons was governor of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The son had his father’s body buried on the Caribbean island (Colón had asked to be buried in the Americas), then his remains were transferred to Cuba and ultimately, in 1898, back to Spain. Santo Domingo officials still believe he is buried there. In 2006, DNA testing on the bones in Seville was compared the DNA to that of his brother, also interred in the Seville Cathedral, and they were a match. Santo Domingo, however, dismisses the Seville tests.
After a sangria break, we toured the beautiful Seville Alcazar.
Mudéjar (/muːˈdeɪhɑːr/, Arabic: مدجن ) literally meaning ‘tamed; domesticated’, refers to an architecture and decoration style in (post-Moorish) Christian Iberia that was strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship. The Seville Alcazar is considered to be the finest and most beautiful example in the world.
As sometime home of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Cristóbal Colón planned three of his four trips to America, depicted in this tapestry, at the Alcazar Palace.
The castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, was also the birthplace of Marie Antoinette. The Alcazar was used as a set for “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Game of Thrones.” A private section is still the royal family’s official residence in Seville.
Plaza de Espana
This complex was constructed for a 1929 World Fair which, because of the stock market crash, never happened. The city has a lovely legacy, though, and locals can rent rowboats and float past on a diversion from the Guadalquivir River.
These three little boys were brave, they had a page and a half of questions they had to ask someone at the Plaza in English and they were very serious about their project. They wanted a photo of me, and they returned the favour.
And this pretty young girl celebrated her first communion:
A few images from our wanderings around Seville, where the scent of oranges hung in the air:
Seville does not stand by relying on its historical architecture. One of its finest examples of modern architecture and becoming famous in its own right is the wooden Metropol Parasol designed by German architect Jurgen Mayer. One can see why the structure is nicknamed by locals “the Mushroom.”
I have previously elaborated extensively on the dance, but it is hard not to think of Flamenco when you think of Seville. And of course, we were seeing Flamenco tonight and it was amazing: the guitar players played beautifully, the singers were passionate and the five dancers were mezmerizing; steam seemed to rise up from the stage. Here’s a sample from youtube.
We had a fabulous meal of many courses before the show:
What a perfect way to end the evening, a nightcap on the roof patio of our hotel, in a balmy breeze, watching the sun go down. The only tower in Seville was in front of us, which the locals have dubbed “the Lipstick.”
“No me ha dejado”—“It has not forsaken me”
Seville’s motto is so appropriate: once the captivating Seville is in your heart, you feel it will never leave.