My article in today’s Daily Mail (original as image below).
THE THRILLS OF SEVILLE
By Alexander Fiske-Harrison
Flamenco is just one way to enjoy the wild spirit of this elegant Spanish city
SEVILLE’S motto is “she has not deserted me”. In the 13th century the city rose in favour of King Alfonso the Wise against a rebellious son.
Nowadays, it’s the tourists who do not desert her. From the Gothic splendours of the cathedral to the alleys of the old Jewish Quarter, it is a place to wander and wonder.
AS THE birthplace of Roman Emperors, Trajan and his wall-building successor Hadrian, Seville’s classical origins are apparent. There are magnificent ruins, including at 25,000-seat amphitheatre, at nearby Italica.
By the 16th century Seville was at the heart of Spain’s Golden Age, due to its exclusive Royal license for all trade with the newly discovered Americas.
Notorious fictional knight, Don Quixote de la Mancha, was born here in 1597 while his creator was in prison in the Royal Jail of Seville. The country’s greatest painter Diego Velázquez was born here two years later.
SPIRIT OF SEVILLE
SEVILLE centres around its river, the Guadalquivír, and the cathedral. In the old gipsy quarter of Triana, they claim to have invented not just flamenco but the guitar. You’ll find impromptu performances in bars, most notably the singers at Bar Rejoneo on calle Betís.
Flamenco dancing is harder to find and even aficionados make do with tablao shows, of which the best is at Los Gallos in the Plaza de Santa Cruz.
On the east side of the river is the María Luisa Park, with its converted palaces and cooling fountains. The highpoint is the glorious Plaza de España, backdrop to movies from Lawrence of Arabia to Star Wars.
Seville’s cathedral, the largest on Earth, is a Gothic wonder. Once a Roman temple, and then a Mosque, it is best described by those who made it. “So beautiful and so grandiose that those that see our work will think us mad.” It also houses the tomb of Christopher Colombus.
The four great palaces of Seville – Palacio de las Duenas, Casa Pilatos, Hospital de la Caridad and Casa Salinas – offer a discounted ‘passport’ to all, with an elegant Sevillian walking route of a mile and a half mapped between them. This gives you access to a score of grand salons containing over 2,000 works of art from Murillo to Goya, ten gardens, mosaics from the 2nd century BC on and Seville’s architecture from the Golden Age of the 16th Century to fading grandeur of the 19th (casaspalacio.com).
Riding Andalusia, based five minutes from Seville airport, offers everything equestrian, from horseback day trips in Seville’s countryside, to scheduled or custom-tailored week-long treks across Andalusia’s most beautiful landscapes, including polo. They cater to riders of all abilities, including learners. ridingandalusia.com.
Booking is now open for next year, and in the meantime, they offer the same service – with even more polo – in Buenos Aires, Argentina. See sevillepolo.com for details.
The first glass of the day is best taken at Casa Matías, on calle Arfe in El Arenal, where Matías himself still sings. Around the corner is Casa Morales on García de Vinuesa, for the local beer Cruzcampo, a chilled dry manzanilla sherry or a Rioja cooled to cellar temperature.
Their speciality is lomo al jerez – pork loin on toast with truffle oil. The best jamón ibérico is up at Las Teresas on calle Santa Teresa in Barrio Santa Cruz.
HOW TO DO IT
The palatial Neo-Moorish Alfonso XIII hotel, opened in 1929, is set in pretty gardens between the river and the 18th-century Royal Tobacco factory, famous as the setting for Bizet’s Carmen and now the main building of the University of Seville. Rooms from £262, hotel-alfonsoxiii-seville.com.
While boutique Corral del Rey in the Barrio Alfalfa is more informal and central. It’s a fitting urban counterpart to their rural retreat, Hacienda San Rafael, a 45 minute drive south. Rooms from £154, corraldelrey.com.
And my old favourite, Hotel Las Casa de la Judería, a labyrinth of connected historic houses in the ancient Jewish Quarter of the city. Rooms from £120, lascasasdelajuderiasevilla.com.
Easyjet (easyjet.com, 0330 365 5000) flies from Gatwick to Seville from £99 return. Book for spring or autumn; the city empties to the coast during the formidable summer heat.
P.S. Speaking of things Spanish, if you are at a loose end in London tomorrow evening, at BAFTA is the UK premiere of the film 100 Days of Solitude, a visually stunning celebration of the wilderness of Asturias which pushes us to reconsider our relationship with nature and our place in it. Present will be director and star of the film, José Díaz, and producer (and TENT – The European Nature Trust – ambassador) José María Morales.
All proceeds from the event will be donated to Fundación Oso Pardo, to further their work to protect and restore the brown bear population and habitat in Asturias. Final tickets are available here.