Sunday, 4 September 2011

Next stop, Sevilla!

So, onwards to Seville… The roads once again managed to thoroughly confuse us until we resolved to buy another map (note to self: resisting maps is futile) and finally conquered the one way system to reach our destination, Hostal Jentfort. We had decided to sacrifice the ‘traditional’ Seville hostal (with patio and potplants) in the name of a good deal. Our double room was neat and a good size, with an en suite bathroom and air conditioning. Parking in the private garage was 10 euros per night, and the room was around 35 euros. The 24 hour reception desk was usually manned by Pepe, a jovial pensioner who instantly warmed to us because my boyfriend has a Spanish name, Manuel (or, as Pepe affectionately called him, Monolo).

Barrio Santa Cruz
Feeling absolutely exhausted from our late night in Cordoba and the subsequent drive down to Seville, we actually crawled guiltily into bed for a quick power nap, but this really did the trick and left us raring to go for another whirlwind city tour (with less than 24 hours scheduled for this stop as well!) A friend of mine lived in Seville for six months last year and had given me a long list of her favourite places in the city. This kind of advice is so valuable, especially when you have such a constricted time frame and therefore need to make the most of every minute! So, we made a beeline for the historic centre of Seville to see the beautiful and extremely intricate cathedral and the neighbouring Real Alcázar. Then we dove into the winding streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz, another restaurant or taberna around every corner, tiny plazas with fountains and cobble stones dotted here and there, people everywhere enjoying the (surprisingly fresh) summer evening. After making almost a full circle we spotted Bodega Santa Cruz - one of Elly’s recommendations - a bustling bodega with a wooden porch and upturned barrels serving as outdoor tables. The tapas menu was ridiculously cheap (1 – 2.50 euros) and the portions extremely generous, with 1 euro beer and tinto de verano providing the perfect accompaniment to our budget meal! I went for an old favourite of berenjenas con miel (fried aubergines with honey), and although not quite as good as the ones I often ate in Málaga, they were nonetheless very tasty and good fuel for further ambling.

Plaza de España
Next we made our way east to the Plaza de España, an enormous monument complete with moat, tiled bridges, soaring columns and 50 little decorative shrines, one dedicated to each of Spain’s 50 provinces. As night falls the effect of this vast structure, with soft lights reflecting off the water and white ceramics, is breathtaking. It is the kind if place where you find yourself feeling a sudden urge to meditate... such is the serenity of the plaza. I did in fact resist this urge, but wandering between the columns and over the bridges was a wonderfully relaxing way to bring the evening to a close.

Bright and early the next morning we set off to Triana, the gitano (gypsy) district, just across the river. We joined several gloomy looking locals at a little bar to grab a typical breakfast of café con leche with tostada con tomate y jamón (basically toasted bread with a tomato sauce and ham, often eaten without the ham, and in fact Rafael Nadal’s brekkie of choice!). The coffee in Spain is almost always served in tiny glasses with no handle, which is cute but rather impractical as it is too hot to pick up! We walked through the quiet streets, veering back towards the river. This bank is home to many bars overlooking the water and apparently (according to Pepe from the hostal) is a popular nightlife spot.


We just had time to squeeze in a tour of the Plaza de Toros, one of the oldest bullrings in Spain. Manu and I disagree on the issue of bullfighting – he accepts that it is archaic but thinks that its traditional and cultural importance renders it an event worthy of witnessing at least once, whereas I think it is barbaric and outdated; it should be remembered as a part of the country’s history, but it has no place in the modern day. The ring itself is a very impressive and indeed attractive arena, which reinforces the argument that these buildings need not lose their purpose as bull fighting dies out, but could instead be used as museums, theatres and concert venues, bringing a traditional part of Spain’s heritage up to date for the contemporary audience.

I think Seville would be a great place to stay for a longer amount of time - there is plenty going on and it is simply a pleasant place to be. There are tourist hubs but also places to escape the crowds and enjoy a more local vibe, and you really can sense the laid-back Andalusian attitude all around the city. Still, unfortunately one day was all we had, and soon we were back on the road, direction Jeréz de la Frontera...

TG xx

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