As I was exploring Seville, I kept intoning Amy Schumer’s production tag in my mind — ‘It’s so easy!’
After running around Barcelona trying to see as many galleries and Gaudi buildings as possible, the South of Spain was just super relaxing. Nothing much opens before 10am, and the soporific heat makes siestas necessary; around 2pm everyone starts moving like sloths through jelly. Even the Giralda Tower climb – the one bit of strenuous activity I was prepared for – was breezy. I’d geared up for 34 flights of stairs (and pre-emptively cashed in my carb and gelato points) but was instead met with a series of gently inclined ramps (originally a mosque, this allowed the muezzin to ride a horse to the top of the tower to do the five-times-daily call for prayer).
That said, we did some serious sun-baking in the hectic cathedral line. Which was warranted given that it’s the largest cathedral in the world. And houses Chris Columbus’ tomb. So like, kind of a big deal.
Seville’s other main drawcard is the Alcazar, the royal palace originally built by the Moorish Muslim kings. It is seriously beautiful, with its intricately-carved stone lacework and patterned tiles characteristic of the ‘mudéjar style’ (a symbiosis of western and Islamic elements; the one architectural term I picked up. And which I intend to troll out authoritatively for years to come to sound in-the-know, as I do with ‘Iznik tiles’ after one visit to Istanbul and ‘Haussmann buildings’ after visiting Paris). The Alcazar is redolent with history and romance. You can just picture the palace intrigues and imbroglios as you wander about the rooms (including the secret passageway which lispy Prince Pedro, notorious for distrusting his own mother, put in as a quick getaway route). The gardens are lush and peacock-filled; there are verdant pools and shady palms, and the gallery of grotesques offers a gorgeous view of the Mercury fountain (and many a cranny for romantic trysts).
We stayed at the Hotel Murillo, which is perfectly situated with terrace views of the Giralda (though, to be fair, you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere in Seville that isn’t a good vantage point for this imposing structure). After ticking off the main attractions, we spent time exploring the winding passages of the old town, and sampling incredible tapas at the many bodegas. We became experts in queso de cabra con mermelada (rounds of goat cheese baked to gooey perfection and smothered in piquant pepper jams), crispy speck-speckled croquettes, soft Iberian pork cheeks slumped in rich sauce, cheesy tortillas packed with almost translucent potato, tiny grilled squids, and dishes of garlicky spinach and fat chickpeas. And of course the sangria…so doused with brandy that even one glass made the post-prandial walk back to our hotel more of a heavy-lidded meander.
Seville being the home of flamenco, it behoved us to attend a performance. Casa de la Guitarra put on an intimate concert of soulful guitar music, traditional song and flamenco (none of this glitzy ‘dinner and a show’ business; we were packed in like marinated anchovies). I read once that for women to prevent osteoporosis they need to stomp more. I would prescribe flamenco over grumpy walking or calcium tablets anyday. Turns out, it’s a beautiful (and violent) combination of something like slap dance, tap dance, ballroom and maybe even river dance. I was blown away that anyone could muster and project such passion, pride and scornfulness in the Sevillian heat (but possibly that says more about my laziness than flamenco as an art form…)