So many of us have experienced the joy of visiting foreign countries. Often the first thing that hits you when those aeroplane doors open is the smell of that country, so different from your own. You breathe it in knowing an adventure is about to unfold. You’ve read the guide books, decided what sights you want to see, booked the hotels and you are away………but who do you share your laughter, thoughts and feelings with when you are alone. I know from first hand experience that although you will enjoy your visit it isn’t the same without someone to share that with.
You board the aircraft hoping you will be seated next to an interesting but not too voluble person, especially on a long haul flight. Of course the reality is that you are often next to someone who immediately goes to sleep, snoring loudly for the whole flight, a chatterbox who interrupts your great book or the movie you are trying to watch or they are just dull, dull, dull. Sigh!!
I should explain that I am an English woman living in Seville, Spain for the last ten years. I love to travel and don’t allow doing so solo to interfere with my plans and plough on regardless. Spain is an amazingly beautiful country and I live in one of the best places to see it’s full glory.
Seville itself is a fascinating place and the cathedral, where Christopher Columbus is entombed, is the largest in the world. Well…. that’s one of those interesting statistical variations depending on whether you judge by land mass covered, height or volume! The Cathedral’s Giralda minaret tower has only a few steps at the top so is an easy ascent for magnificent views of the city. The main ascent was ramped so horses could be ridden up. Hey, this is Spain. We like to be ‘tranquillo’. The literal translation is peaceful and calm. But in Spain it is more a state of mind.
Next to the cathedral is the Alcazar. This Palace is the oldest Royal Palace of Europe still in use. Constructed in the 11th Century it’s Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture takes your breathe away. The colours in the plasterwork appear to have been painted yesterday. The Palace gardens, although in the middle of a city, are quiet and peaceful with the sounds of fountains and peacocks the only thing to disturb your reverie.
A short walk away is the Plaza de Espana, set on the edge of the stunning Maria Luisa park. It was constructed for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929. Surrounded by intricately tiled alcoves representing each of the provinces of Spain, it’s centre is a beautiful fountain. Some of the largest mansions from the fair are now museums.
Another short walk away is the Plaza de Toros (Bull ring). Now, I don’t want to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs as Spaniards and foreigners alike are on opposing sides over this. However, built in 1761, it is one of the oldest buildings in Spain and represents a long standing tradition. Corridas (bullfights) take place from the April Fair to September and are attended by members of the Royal family. If the idea of being a spectator is too much to bear, you can take a guided tour and visit the on-site museum to gain a greater understanding of this sport.
One of the things Spain is best known for of course is the food. Tapas (literally caps) are delicious small snacks served with drinks. The origin of these is lost in the mists of time. Some say the King ordered them to be served to the university students in Madrid decades ago, to stop the drunken brawling which ensued when they drank without eating. Others say it gradually occurred by putting your slice of bread on top of your glass to stop the flies drowning in your beer, then adding a little tomato, jamon or chorizo. Then different toppings, culminated in the delicious selection we have come to know and love.
Now if you like food and you want to see flamenco, there are an abundance of places to visit in Seville. However, be prepared for a late night as dinner in Spain starts around 9-10 at night, followed by flamenco into the small hour! One of the best places I know is El Rinconcillo. A loose translation would be ‘The little nook on the corner’. It’s not so easy to translate sometimes! It was built on the site of a convent in 1670- ironic for a drinking house! Owned by the De Rueda family since 1858 and passed from son to son, it is one of the most famous inns in Spain. You need to establish yourself at the bar early and book for dinner in the restaurant area if you want to see the flamenco. The bar is slate and your order is marked in chalk in front of you for the barman to tally when you leave. The bar is surrounded by ancient bottles of port and sherry produced in Jerez de la Frontera. As an aside, a place well worth a visit for tasting sessions in the producer’s bodegas. It is rumoured that some of the bottles are the last of their kind in El Rinconcillo and they have been offered inordinate amounts of money by the producers to purchase these items but the owner refuses to let go of these dusty, priceless treasures. For they are and always have been part of the decoration. The tapas is excellent- anchovies, salt cod, wild asparagus, spinach and chickpeas and so on. Service is not always very fast but hey, this is Spain. Relax, enjoy, unwind and people watch. Famous writers, artists, celebrities and eccentrics are the norm here.
One of the best times to visit Seville is Semana Santa (Easter). Then you can see the spectacular sight of the Catholic processions through the streets of Seville. Organised by the hermandades (religious brotherhoods), enormous floats abound with ancient representations of Mary and Jesus. Members of individual churches carry these outrageously heavy floats in penitence wearing robes and hoods eerily Ku Klux Klan like in a variety of colours depending on your affiliation. Sometimes barefoot, or wearing hair shirts they struggle along, putting the float down when it becomes too heavy to bear. They are accompanied by brass bands and members with candles making an amazingly atmospheric scene. It can take up to fourteen hours to reach their particular church and various processions take place daily between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. A timetable of events is produced each year and this ancient event is followed by the Spring Fair where virtually all including some tourists are clad in traditional flamenco costume and you can see some of the best Andalucian horseflesh in the world.
Do I sound proud of the culture and history that surrounds me? It’s to be expected when you live in a place like this. I have been fortunate to live in two of the most beautiful places in the world. Firstly in Warwick, next to Stratford upon Avon, England. It has the best preserved castle in Europe on a beautiful river, in some of the most glorious countryside, close to the Cotswolds. And now here. What can I say. I have been blessed. I would love to accompany you and show you some of this fabulous country. If you are alone like me and want to visit this beautiful country, the only thing holding you back is that you don’t want to experience it solo. You don’t need to. I will take you to any of the places you want to visit in Seville or further afield. Just contact me and I can arrange a bespoke holiday just for you.