Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sensational Seville

While most people think of Barcelona and Madrid when they think of Spanish cities, or perhaps Valencia if they are a fan of Calatrava, Seville does not get quite as much attention. But it should. Because for those who have spent time there, it is one of the most sensational cities in Europe.

Seville has a very different feel than the other cities...perhaps it's the more southern climate, the Moorish influence, or the fact that at one point in time, Seville was perhaps the wealthiest city in the world. It shows in the oppulent buildings and the historic areas that can best be described as mazes. Despite our best efforts, we were always getting lost in Seville, especially around Santa Cruz, the former Jewish Quarter near where we stayed, and in the streets of the other historic areas.

Seville has the Real Alcazar Palace, which was built over many centuries, and the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe. Both are spectacular. It also has fascinating neighbourhoods such as La Macarena and Triana, which are best described as 'edgy'. In fact, much of Seville is edgy.

It is also a progressive city which is trying to be 'green'. It has a pedestrianized centre which bans automobiles, and a recently constructed tram line that links into the underground Metro system...priority is given to taxis and buses...there's a bike share program and an extensive bike path network.The more recent development of Seville has been influenced by two world fairs...the 1929 Exposition and the 1992 World Fair which I will briefly describe in another post.

One of the highlights of the city was experiencing Flamenco and wandering around the various tapas bars including El Rinconcillo, founded in 1670 and still in operation, where we spent part of our last night. Here and elsewhere in the city, it is customary to keep tab by writing the price of food and drink in chalk on the countertop...something I had never seen before. Like the toothpick system, it seems to work!With its lively narrow medieval streets, grand squares and magnificent buildings with diverse architectural styles, Seville is one place we do hope to return to one day. We were there 5 nights but needed more time to really get to know the place and do some serious shopping. (There are some fabulous stores selling leather goods, custom made shirts and outrageous ladies dresses...We'll go back for more flamenco and to try out more Andalusian food...although we may pass on the fried calamari....we seemed to have just a bit too much this time around!

ps there's just one thing I'm not too sure about...this newly completed architectural structure that creates a covered space, and incorporates some Roman may make a wonderful ruin itself one day!

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