“I want to go and have private flamenco lessons from an authentic instructor” announced my sister in law over a dinner in which a certain amount of wine was being consumed. I responded without a moment’s hesitation, “I’ll come”, and that’s how, in my usual speak before thinking way, we found ourselves in the land of Flamenco, Seville, for a week of dancing, walking, shopping, eating, exploring and non stop laughing.
For those of you who know Adria, from Viva Dance, will agree that she is a natural on the dance floor and her sense of rhythm and styling lend themselves perfectly to the art of Flamenco. In her classes we touch on certain movements of flamenco and have all been asking for more, so after a stop over in Gatwick for a few hours and a two and a half hour flight with British Airways we arrived in Seville, all in all an incredibly easy journey from Jersey.
The City of Seville
The airport is only a quick ten minute drive from the centre and not being a huge city everything is very central and easy to walk to. We stayed in a boutique hotel set in a lovely 18th century house with the rooms centred around a pretty courtyard, typical of many of the hotels in the old part of the town. In the mornings whilst Adria attended her dance class, armed with a map and camera I went exploring. By the time we met up I’m not sure whose feet hurt the most!
Situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, Seville grew to prominence as a port during the 16th and 17th centuries from where trade with the newly discovered Americas was centred. Over the years many civilisations have dominated the city, the Romans and the Moors have all left their inedible mark and the buildings reflect their splendour.
The historic jewish quarter of Seville, Santa Cruz, is a warren of narrow streets and shady squares lined with pretty painted houses leaning over the cobbled streets below. A lovely way to wile away the hours meandering and exploring. Many of the historic buildings hold World Heritage status, the amount of tourists and the length of queues hold testament to their popularity. Pick the right time of day and you can still avoid the crowds to a certain extent.
The Cathedral of Seville along with the Giralda, and the Real Alcázar Palace, with it’s beautiful gardens full of the scents of sour oranges and jasmine, are the two most famous places to visit but there are many others sadly we didn’t have time to visit them all.
I loved diving into the churches for a moment to reflect on their baroque decoration and enjoy a peaceful escape from the busy city life. The ongoing restoration of the ceiling in The Basilica of La Macarena was interesting to watch.
Of course we had come to Seville for the Flamenco and although a little touristy, a show was just something we had to do.
The Dance school had recommended going to ‘Tablao el Arenal’ which was a good call. Just round the corner from the bullring, in a dark street we found the white washed tavern. We entered into a large room packed full of tables positioned around the stage with diners who had opted to eat first before the show. For the next hour and a half we watched the world of colour, passion and romance that is Flamenco. The band of guitarists, singers and dancers performed in true gypsy style to the beat of clapping hands, snapping fingers and stamping feet. We loved it!
Tablao el Arena, C/Rodo 7. Show and drink 38 Euros
Shopping in Seville
El Corte Ingles dominates the main shopping area housed in several separate buildings, you can pick up most things you might need there. The two popular Spanish stores, Zara and Mango are centrally located along with a host of high street stores. If you are into Flamenco then hunt out the dance shoe shop Gallardo, C/Cabestreros 10, for a great selection of cuban heeled shoes for men and woman. It’s where the professionals dancers go.
Take a close look at the way the Sevillianos display their wares in the smaller shops, the windows packed full of colour. These figurines on sale in the Confiteria La Campana, depict the traditional costumes worn for Semana Santa, Holy Week, the outfits are designed so that those repenting for their sins can conceal their identity.
Thursday mornings a flea market is held on Calle Feria. At the top end of the street there are a few antique shops to explore then keep walking towards the city centre and you’ll pass a great fish market and veg market with housed in a lovely old building. The vendors line the street laying out their wares on the pavements. Religious artifacts, gilded decorative pieces and moorish tiles are many of the things for sale.
I spent a lovely morning wandering around this less touristy area and enjoying the atmosphere and felt very safe exploring on my own. Eventually the maze of streets opened up to reveal the Metropol Parasol, a large wooden structure built in 2011. It consists of six giant mushrooms which give shade to the public plaza and houses below a market and a museum.
Another morning I spent hours engrossed in the Casa Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija. This is a typical Sevillian stately home that was remodelled in the 19th century by the Countess. She was an avid collector and accumulated many treasures from a variety of periods. Fragments of history are frozen in time and here she spent her last thirty years, a childless widow, living amongst her treasures, a shrine to the past. Few tourists visit the beautiful building so you can get a real feel for how she spent her life.
Casa Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, on C/Cuna 8. (Entrance ticket 8 Euros.)
Eating out in Seville
It’s not hard to find a great place to eat in Seville, wine bars with Jamon Ibérico hanging from the ceiling are on every corner. We naturally tried several and our top of the tapas list was the dish ‘Solomillo al whisky’, pork medallions marinated and cooked in whisky, garlic and olive oil, with delicious crusty bread to mop up the juices. One dish we had that did not appeal to me was squid topped with angulas, baby eels, apparently a delicacy but not for me!
My favourite was No Lugar, meaning No Place, where we ate lunch on our first day and returned for our last lunch too. Filled with an eclectic mixture of antique furniture and moroccan pottery, the friendly staff made for a relaxed feel and the perfect ambiance for a long leisurely lunch.
The menu is a fusion of Spanish and Moroccan and you order a ‘raciones’, larger plates than tapas and start with a couple and keep ordering. I would recommend the Yucca fritter with cheese and smoked trout, and the Pastela de carrillada, an andalusian pork meat pie.
No Lugar, C/Trajano 16.
We stumbled across ‘Barbiana’ one evening and enjoyed a really good dinner and returned for lunch a few days later. A traditional Spanish atmosphere, it has at the front a great bar with dining on the street and large dining room at the back. Fish is their speciality and along with a very good wine list we were extremely happy. Our extremely knowledgable waiter recommended the most delicious ‘Tortillitas de Camerones’, baby prawn fritters to start with, followed by monkfish or seabass a la Plancha.
Barbiana, C/Albareda 11.
A great bar we found after seeing our Flamenco show was Postiguillo, a lively tapas bar not far from El Arena. Housed in a former 18th century fish market with it’s columns and arches, with a wooden footbridge across the ceiling from which large metal lights are suspended resembling wheels.The lovely stone walls are decorated with a fabulous collection of bull’s heads. Try the Iberian chops and the grilled artichokes.
Postiguillo, C/Dos de Mayo 2.