Sevilla – what can I say.
We initially thought about taking La Mischief up the 55nm of Ria Guadalquivir to Savilla but the travel time would have been too great so we decided to hire car it instead. That was a petty because we’ve been talking to people since and its a great adventure.
I was totally captivated by Sevilla’s (thats how the locals say and write it) sights and its people. Stan and Judy dropped me off on Saturday morning after a quick 110km drive up from Mazagon. They left me just outside the bull ring and so the museum became my first stop.
I wanted to learn about bull fighting. Without having ever experienced it, my surface reaction was abhorance to the animal cruelty; but along side that was a curiousity about it, stemming back to childhood when we didn’t realise what happened to the bulls and instead had a nieve romantic notion of the bullfighter wnd his cape.
It is so engrained in spanish culture that it beckons to be understood – and so as to better understand the Spanish – especially the drama and bravado of Spanish masculinity – i decided to attend a fight despite the grotesque nature of the so called contest. I started with the museum tour, a one on one tour given by a demure Spanish lady, to give me some initial context for what was to come the next day.
After the museum and a coffee, I wandered the streets towards the main square with its imposing Gothic Cathedral and the Alcazar. The Alcázar of Seville started life as a Moorish fort, and is now the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe – the upper levels of the Alcázar are used by the royal family as their official Seville residence. Both the Alcazar and the Cathedral are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, along General Archive of the Indies. The Cathedral is the largest gothic cathedral in the world, and the 3rd biggest cathedral behind St Peters and St Pauls.
But enough about the history of the place – sevilla is just a great place to wander around. After a while carrying my backpack I thought id better find a hotel and stumbled across Hotel Maestranza, a gem of a place, clean with great staff, cheap and 200m from the Cathedral. But best of all it was surrounded by great Tapas bars.
After trying a few, I wandered back to the hotel where the girl behind the counter knew her tapas bars and pointed me at the best one. Had a great time there socialising with the locals. One girl was off to brisbane to work as a pharmacist and her doctor boyfriend was going out for a holiday. Suggested they go to the whitsundays. When they went, I talked to another doctor who had just graduated along with her very charismatic lawyer boyfriend. Asked her why she smoked and she said its becoming a big problem for spain. Healthcare is free and hospitals are struggling. She is trying to give up but its hard as everyone smokes.
By 6pm the bar emptied out (only to come alive again after 9 evidently). I had a Flamenco show to go to so that suited me. It was about 40 minutes walk away (which was unusual as everything in Seville is close). I took the opportunity to wander the steeets again and take more photos.
The flamenco show was very touristy but still very enjoyable. Its not a local dance but was brought here by the gypsies. Very spectacular and very skilful. Reminded me of Strictly Ballroom. Ifound out later there was a more aurhentic (free) one but I didnt really care – I really enjoyed the one I went to.
After my walk back, I dropped into another tapas bar, but it didn’t live up to expectations so off I went to bed.
Next morning it was off for my bike tour of Sevilla. We met our guide, Desiree at 10 along with 3 young guys from New York and off we went. We started over at Triana, with it yellow houses, mirroring the colour of the bullring. Here we rode along the river and to the oldest church in sevilla, a converted moorish mosque. It was a real cooks tour, stopping for breakfast, visiting the site of the 1929 world expo, stopping off to see desiree’s friends at a coffee house, seeing the world’s first tobacco factory (where the problems first started) and a hundred and one other places.
The tour went on and on, way past its alotted end time until Desiree’s boss called to say he wanted the bikes back. Then we all had photos with her boss and some other random guys that turned up, before all retiring to a few old authenic tapas bars.
Afterwards I just managed to fit in a visit to the Alcazar, and its garden, as inspiring as Versailles, but so much closer to the centre of the city. The Alcazar was built in the dark ages but you wouldnt know it. It simply stunning – evidently one of the best remaining examples of mudéjar architecture going around.
Then it was time to go to the bull fight. There were three matadores on the schedule and they had two fights each. There was a crowd of about 10, 000 there in an ancient ring. The start of each fight was interesting as the bull had a bit of a chance, but then it went downhill from there.
A lot of people dont realise but the fight only ends when the bull is killed. If the bull isnt killed then the matadore goes to jail. I won’t say much more, but it was definitely a one off experience for me. I’d been to an abbortoir as a kid and seen animals put down humanely, but there was nothing humane about this. I found the idea of a crowd watching a killing to be very bizarre and more than a little bit disturbing; and it occurred to me that there is a fine line when it comes to humanity. The celebration of Spanish masulinity as represented by the bullfight is highly engrained in the culture and will be hard to vanquish – but it certainly needs to be in my opinion after witnessing the cruelty first hand.
After the fight, I hung around for my new found friends from NY to turn up to no avail, before I decided to return to my favourite bar . This time I found some english speakers, a banker from inner london and his teacher wife (who had also been to the fight and had come away with the same opinion). As they went to leave, a couple of girls came up after hearing my aussie accent. They were aussies working in london. I was interested to find myself really enjoying socialising with australians after not seeing any for a while. They had their boyfriends with them so the 5 of us tried to find an open bar at 1am on sunday morning.
We managed to find somewhere and then managed to thoroughly upset an english couple sitting behind us with our loud australianess. They left after a while saying they never did like australians. Hope we get the same result in the cricket.
Next morning I just had time to check out the cathedral before stan and judy swung past to pick me up.
And so ended a brilliant weekend in my new favorite European city.