Monday, January 26, 2015

Three Reasons Why I Love Seville, Spain

I've done quite a bit of traveling in my 26 years of life. Not as much compared to others but a lot. Since I've traveled a bit, I have come across cities that I absolutely love and dream of going back to again. The city I have chosen to write about its no different. I'm currently teaching English in Northern Spain for one school year but there is a city in this country -and a time in my life- that I will never forget. A city that I love to come back to visit again and again. One that I still dream of visiting countless times as I haven't seen everything there is to see it in it. That city is Sevillaaaaaaaaa....



Orange trees near the Alcazar de Sevilla in winter



Now, without further ado, the three reasons why I love Seville are:


1. The Passion


Intense flamenco performance at night at La Carboneria




One of the things that I love about the entire region of Andalusia is the passion. Nothing is done half-heartedly by the people that call that region home. They feel emotions very strongly and are not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. In fact, they wear them proud just as proudly as they wave their green and white striped flags on Dia de Andalucia on March 1st every year. I was not a very open book when I first visited Seville in 2010 but this city flipped me open and exposed my soul to todo el mundo at times and changed the way I expressed my own emotions, not once but countless times. 

One day in the first few weeks I was studying there, I passed a man on a street who had tears streaming down his face. It looked like he had just lost his best friend or said goodbye to the love of his life. I will never know the answer and neither will you as I didn't approach him and ask what was the matter. I think it's better to leave it up to our imaginations and wonder what would make a grown man cry and show his tears  without shame. I'll always think of that man as very brave but he (and other sevillanos) might not view himself that way.

Nevertheless, the Sevillians' passion and love for life can best be seen in their dance and festivals. The flamenco is a powerful and fiery dance that exposes the very soul of everyone who performs it. If you are in Seville even for just one night, I would definitely recommend that you go to a flamenco show and witness this passion on the stage. If you're a passionate person too, it will move you. If not, you may just enjoy a good performance and the skills of the dancer and guitarist. They train very hard and practice for hours and hours a day so that their audience -and themselves- will not be disappointed come show time.



So much emotion and intense passion on one single man's face!


Feria de Abril (in mid-April but sometimes early May) is another time that Seville shines and the passionate nature of the people are most dazzling. The party lasts all day and all night and the city comes even more alive than usual. Horse riders and their ladies dressed in traditional dress will show off their skills during the day while flamenco dancers of all ages will amaze their audiences with their pasos de flamenco and sevillianas in their gorgeous casetas by night.


                                     


Seville is a very lively and passionate city all year round but especially in the spring and summer when the temperatures really heat things up!



2. The History: the way the sights speak to you without words


Hand painted ceramic flower pots scattered around the gardens of the Alcazar



Andalusia: The smell of orange blossoms wafting into your nose from the street, the delicious Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine you can find in a tapas bar, the ultra-smooth sounds of the Spanish guitar played by musicians on the back streets and the sight of the captivating Moorish architecture and tile work all around you. These are some of the things that people first think of when they think of the South of Spain. These same things come to my mind as well but there is so much more to Seville than the tapas, orange tress and flamenco, though all three are rich in culture and history.

The major sights you can see in Seville are numerous: Catedral de Sevilla, los Reales Alcazares, Plaza de Espana, la Torre de Oro, las Setas, Plaza de Toros, Archivo de Indias and the list goes on. You can go into these places of interest and join a tour group or buy an audio guide but I like to observe the sights as they are and Seville lets you do that. Of course, it's always fun to hear the interesting facts and tidbits from a guide or a local person but you don't necessarily have to in order to enjoy the city. The sights themselves are enormous and have such a powerful presence. In my opinion, it's truly as if the history of Seville speaks to you as you walk down the street or stroll in the open plaza near the Cathedral, the Alcazar and main avenues.



One of the tiny narrow streets in the Barrio de Santa Cruz

Sevilla's Cathedral: the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe!

Las Setas: adding a modern flare to an already classy city


Seville is a city that beckons you to learn and discover all that you can about it, whether you are physically in the city or not. It will also, if you let it, take a hold of your heart and mind and keep you dreaming of coming back. The tiny streets and tapas bars in Barrio de Santa Curuz awaken the adventurer in you. The guitar or accordion players on Avenida de la Constitución play songs that serenade your soul. The Plaza de España dazzles your mind and senses in all its grandeur and the thousands of intricate hand-painted tiles seen around the palace.


La Plaza de España as seen just before sunset.


Hand-painted tiles as seen on the Puente de Aragón (Plaza de España)


There is nothing small about this city and I love that.


3. The Diversity: discovering the differences and similarities of the culture

So many cultures have existed in Seville that you would think that the local culture would become distorted but it has not been. In fact, the local culture and its people are even more strongly represented today as they have had to fight to preserve their local culture and customs to survive over many centuries by its Jewish, Muslim and Christian invaders.

While the local culture and its people may come off a bit strong to some visitors, to others it will be a breath of fresh air. Seville will rip you out of your comfort zone and provide you with the opportunity to experience the many cultures that have called the city their home. It will also afford you the chance to examine and share you own culture and personality. It might even change you if you let it.

I love that there are so many things to discover in this city and so many local experiences to be had. Some of my favorites are: watching a tile maker paint freshly made tiles (azulejos) in his shop, strolling alongside the mighty Rio Guadalquivir and then stopping for a tinto de verano or cerveza and last but not least, finding a tapas bar or restaurant in the Jewish quarter that has seating so outdoors, you're practically eating in the street! (And it's an amazing dining experience, by the way.)


Sunset over the Rio Guadalquivir facing Triana

I could write pages and pages of tips, things to do and places to see in this vibrant capital of Andalucia but I won't. I will leave you with a saying I once heard about this magical city. I feel it describes the experience one can have there perfectly.

It goes like this:

"Tú podrás irte de Sevilla pero Sevilla nunca se irá de ti" - Un sevillano
 ["You may leave Seville but Seville will never leave you."] -A Sevillian
Two Americans (me, center) and un sevillano (right).

If you have a chance to visit this charming and enchanting city in Southern Spain, go. And go back as many times as you can. Seville allows you to write and re-write your story each time you visit and entices you to discover its treasured sights and delicious tapas again and again. You'll always uncover something new about the city and perhaps make a new discovery about yourself.

See you for the third time during Semana Santa, my dear Sevilla!

This post was written as an entry to the "A Tale of Three Cities" contest sponsored by Accor Hotels. Click here for more details and to see the prizes and voting periods. Good luck to all of the other participants. Happy traveling!

2 comments:

  1. I was on the roof deck of Casa 1800 hotel in the vicinity of Barrio de Santa Cruz one late spring afternoon. There the Giralda and the enormous cathedral towers loom like a movie set, the sky purple with a golden hue, the air ripe with the fragrance of orange blossoms, a glass of red wine in my hand. Suddenly the strain of a flamenco guitar is heard and all is magical. Seville captivates.

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    1. Thank you for sharing one of your memories from visiting Sevilla, Jambro! You couldn't have described the setting or ambiance better. I felt like I was sitting there with you on the rooftop bar of that hotel. I'll have to check out the Casa 1800 the next time I'm there! Sevilla IS captivating and I carry it with me wherever I go. :)

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