Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla

La Giralda  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |

(Still in New York, but catching up on overdue posts.)

After our time by the beach and jaunts into the hilltop specks of white, we were ready to head back into a city. Sevilla, built along the curve of the Guadalquivir River and fused into a welcoming, harmonic whole from its Roman, Moorish, and Castilian origins is a gorgeously mystic place where we spent 4 days this past September. On our way there after leaving Conil de la Frontera we stopped for a walk about Jerez (and a sherry, naturally), bringing us to Sevilla around 2PM.

We had booked a hotel in the oldest part of town, right around from the spectacular Giralda, the tower of the cathedral that serves as a beacon to prayer, a landmark for woefully lost tourists (which we of course became), and a reason to stop ten times a day to stare up in wonder at her brilliance.

While we could easily pick her out, and we knew we were in the general vicinity of our hotel, the only problem was that we couldn't actually find it. Try as R did to maneuver our teeny rental car through the seemingly even teenier streets, the higgledy-piggledyness of Sevilla's Old Town streets streets rendered our GPS useless and our map reading skills were apparently not up to par. Surprisingly, we didn’t turn on each other (I’m sure the snack and sherry helped), but finally we decided to pull over while R waited with the car in a clearly marked no-parking zone and I went on foot to find our hotel.

Of course it was on the one little streetside niche we had circled around at least 6 times previously, but hadn’t actually ventured into. Once I found it on foot, it was easy enough to direct R back by car.

Sevilla City Hall / Ayuntamiento de Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Seville Cathedral / Catedral de Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Plaza de Santa Maria / Royal Alcázar of Seville /  Real Alcázar de Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |

As soon as we settled in we headed right back out to have a proper wander. The mysteriousness of the unfollow-able streets, the breeze blowing through all the plazas and the ornateness of the architecture made it the perfect town for meandering about in.

For our initial poking about we focused on the historic area, not following a map, just following the interesting looking streets until we happened upon the Cathedral, the Giralda (whose presence stunned me into silence when we first found ourselves directly in front of it on foot), the National Archives, Bishop's Palace, etc.

When we were ready for something to nibble on we parked ourselves at a table straddling a restaurant and its sidewalk for a plate of mixed cured meats, olives, the Andalucían specialty of spinach and chickpeas, and some local wine. Of course R became pals with the bartender / waiter whose two brothers both live in Sicily. Leave it to him to find his countrymen…or at least a tenuous representation of them.

Satiated by our late afternoon snack and tired from our drive and walk, that evening we just had a drink on our hotel's rooftop terrace to enjoy the stunning view of the Giralda.

Plaza de Santa Maria / Royal Alcázar of Seville /  Real Alcázar de Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Plaza de Santa Maria / Cathedral of Seville /  Catedral de Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Fontecruz Sevilla Terrace View of the Giralda  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |

One morning we took the Isabel II / Puente de Triana bridge across the river to see Triana, the neighborhood that used to be the workers' district. It wasn’t as enticing as I thought it would be, so we weren’t there long before crossing back over into Sevilla proper.

Bridge to Triana, Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Bridge to Triana, Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Triana, Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |

On another afternoon we took a 30-minute drive slightly north-east of Sevilla to Carmona. But of course my favorite day in Sevilla was my birthday, where R planned everything perfectly for me.

Every day in Sevilla started with a walk around the corner to break our fast at Gusto, our replacement for the lovely breakfast we found in Marbella, which we happened upon on our second day and proceeded to go to every morning after, including on my birthday.

After coffee and a walk we went to AIRE. That’s right—after trying out and becoming semi-regulars at the newest (and first American) outpost of the Spanish underground baths in Tribeca, we headed to one of the first locations in its home country. We did our usual routine: 30-minute massages and the bath rituals. While it was something special to be in one of the birthplaces of the Moorish water wonderment, I have to say that the Tribeca one a little more magical for me. More inviting and atmospheric. Of course we still enjoyed our afternoon because what's not to love about some pampering?

Once our time there had ended we went back to the hotel to freshen up and then set out for the evening's entertainment, but first: an ice cream snack at Bolas, a heladeria we had come across the day before. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had (even in Sicily). The couple / family that owns it was so kind to us, going out of their way to explain the different ingredients in their pure, unadulterated flavors (like Queso de Cabra con Dulce de Membrillo, or Goat Cheese with Membrillo / Quince, and Sevilla Moro, a sweetened cream run through with walnuts, candied orange peel, raisins, cinnamon and cabell d'àngel a threaded jam made from pumpkin).

They went so far as to show us the sweet bread used in one flavor by bringing out a package of it from the kitchen (no artificial flavorings there!) and then they handed it to us to enjoy. Such a warm gesture—and a useful one at that, as when we were hungry on the flight home we remembered the snack in my bag!

Plaza de Santa Maria /  Arzobispado de Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Sevilla streets  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
AIRE Sevilla  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
Casa de la Memoria Flamenco Show  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |

Armed with a delicious cone for R and a cup for me, we began walking towards Casa de la Memoria, a cultural center for flamenco with a theater for intimate shows where R had booked tickets for us. We were seated in a small auditorium, perhaps with 40 other people, while a singer, a drummer, and a male and female dancer performed. It was every bit as thrilling to me as you'd think an up-close flamenco performance would be. The music seeped in and the rhythm and frenzy of the foot stomping and skirt swirling and heel taping made my blood pound in such a way that when we emerged from the building I felt as if I had just finished doing something much more arduous than sitting before a stage.

Towards the end of our trip we were a bit tired of Spanish cuisine and in dire need of something more exotic so R found Al Medina, a Moroccan restaurant, to take me to for my birthday dinner which was one of the most loveliest dining experiences we had in Spain. I don’t remember what R ordered for himself, but I do remember the perfectly-made pastilla that I had. I’d first had the savory sweet dish when we were in Tunisia 7 years ago and anytime I have the chance to have it again, I do. Pastilla is basically a savory pie filled with chicken, almonds and cinnamon—and while it's a Moroccan dish, it's originally from Andalus, so it was a more than fitting meal.

On our last morning in Spain we finished our coffees at Gusto and headed back to the hotel lobby to pick up our waiting luggage and load it into the car. As we walked out of the piazza and away from La Giralda she began to toll the 9th hour of the day. I turned to face her for one more look, to see her serving her primary purpose of housing the tolling bells, as until then I had just been enjoying her for her Moorish beauty.

While my daily life has never been marked by the regular pealing of bells, that early morning moment, when the cobblestones were still damp and children skipped to school with their hands tucked into those of their parents, made me reminisce about Sundays in downtown Charlottesville, summers in Sicily, and one Christmas in Rome—the times I could remember when the call of a church bell was not just a pretty melody in the background, but instead directed the unfolding of my day.

There's a chance of course that the repetitive bells would eventually begin to grate on one's consciousness, but on the last morning of our Andalucìan road trip as we prepared to drive away from Sevilla, I chose to romanticize otherwise.

La Giralda  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
The beauty of this trip was that we picked a region with nice highways (a pleasant surprise!), and an abundance of gorgeous towns filled with magnificent historical sites, good food and breathtaking views. It was easy to point to a place on the map and just go. Every planned and spontaneous place was worth seeing and what I'll remember most was the freedom of that—of just going.

And yes, it was everything I had hoped it would be—helped ever so much by sharing it with the most genial of pilots and companionable of travel partners.

Sevilla NO8DO  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla  on afeathery*nest  |
*"NO8DO", Sevilla's motto, is imprinted throughout the city. It means "No me ha dejado" (Sevilla has not abandoned me). Beautiful sentiment for a much conquered land.

Other Andalucía posts:
After 9 years, 9 days in southern Spain
Postcard from Andalucía
Postcard from Andalucía: Málaga 
Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra
Postcard from Andalucía: Nerja + Marbella
Postcard from Andalucía: Gibraltar + Tarifa
Postcard from Andalucía: Conil de la Frontera
Postcard from Andalucía: Cadíz + Medina-Sidonia
Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera
Postcard from Andalucía: Jerez + Carmona


  1. Beautiful post, J. Your writing transported me there. I think I need to travel with you...your trip sounds positively dreamy. xo

  2. Thank you SO much, Amanda dear! You just put a huge smile on my face—come travel with me anytime! Xx :)


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