Seville: A Siren’s Song

Seville is in a world of it's own.
Seville’s voice is as provocative as the flamenco song. Photo by Kristen Badali

Her voice was dark, flowing with the fluidity of the Guadalquivir River. Her eyes were nearly closed, as if recalling a poignant memory. She sang with intensity and strength, the sound resonating, penetrating the tablao, the flamenco show.

The emotional, cultural, artistic and financial center of southern Spain’s province Andalusia, Seville’s voice is as provocative as the flamenco song. You are compelled to stick around … to meander through her cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and medieval lanes … to linger in her romantic hidden plazas, glistening with the warmth of the midday sun and soaked in the scent of orange blossoms.

So you stay.

Your days take on a soothing rhythm as you settle into your newfound Andalusian lifestyle, which has redefined joie de vivre and washed away former stresses of the modern world.

You rise late in the morning and slip into the neighborhood bar around the corner for breakfast: freshly squeezed orange juice, café con leche and a toasted baguette with a sumptuous paste of tomatoes.

Afterward, you slip out of the café and into the shadow of La Giralda, the lofty bell tower of the magnificent Cathedral of Seville, constructed in several distinct parts from different cultures. La Giralda’s Islamic core is the oldest, an ancient minaret from the Almohad mosque of Seville.

When completed in 1198, the minaret was the tallest tower in the world, at 320 feet (97.5 m). With its grandiose presence and ostentatious play of arabesque arches, it is the perfect display of Seville’s excessive nature. The cathedral is an outstanding example of the gothic and baroque architectural styles, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As one wanders through the cathedral and up the winding ramps to the top of La Giralda, the sheer immensity of the city below and beyond is breathtaking. More than 2,000 years old, Seville’s architectural landscape is as complex as she is: Roman, Islamic, gothic, renaissance and baroque.

This feeling of awe continues upon entering the Alcázar, which faces the cathedral. The Alcázar is one of Europe’s oldest palaces, developed from the city’s ancient Moorish Palace, whose construction first began in 1181. Building continued for more than 500 years.

The Alcázar is still used as a private residence for Spanish royalty. Its Moorish architecture and lush, century-old gardens serve as an ideal setting for the many matrimonial ceremonies that are performed here daily.

From the Alcázar, you make your way along the Guadalquivir, strolling through Parque Maria Luisa, a paradisiacal half-mile (805 m) of palms, orange trees, monuments and museums that was laid out for the 1929 Ibero-Americana World’s Fair.

Settling into a picnic of pan de campo (simple country bread), manchego cheese (from sheep’s milk), a few succulent slices of cured ham and a small bottle of sherry, you take in the gardens and the intoxicating scent of jasmine, and allow the lull of birdsong to sing you to sleep.

Seville (Spanish: Sevilla) is alive in the spring, and her people are preparing for their beloved Semana Santa, Easter’s holy week. Every town and village in the country will play host to processions and gatherings, but some of the most impressive will take place in Seville. People from all over Spain and around the globe will make their Easter pilgrimage here.

At night, Seville is a city of extroverts; it’s open and convivial, with good food, drink and flamenco. On this particular night you find yourself at La Carbonería, a converted coalyard in Barrio Santa Cruz, which promises live flamenco performances nightly.

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