The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
Discovering Seville

The Route We woke up today with the hope that the weather would finally have broken and we would see some relief from the oppressive midsummer-like temperatures. Morning was just about perfect ... and then the weather woke up, realized its mistake and retaliated with another scorcher.

Being from the Pacific Northwest where temperatures in the 90s are 24-hour news, we are definitely not used to this kind of heat. It just drains the life out of us. We came in May specifically because the seasonal high is normally in the mid to upper 70s.

There is no way we will be able to see or do all we would like in Seville but it feels like a great town to hang out in and just be a temporary local for a week or two. Maybe we'll to that someday.




The morning was still comfortably cool so we took advantage of the break. First it was a nice breakfast in one of the neighborhood plazas, then we started wandering. As the heat started to build up, the cool green of the Murillo Gardens had a magnetic pull. It is a lovely cool spot with some interesting trees we couldn't identify. There were several like this one that tried to eat Margene. The trunks are huge and seem to grow by sending down runners with a root section at the bottom that steadily expands the trunk. You can see two of them coming down just above Margene's head.

The back alleys of Barrio Santa Cruz are full of surprises -- cool little parks, interesting restaurant spaces and horse-drawn carriages seemingly everywhere. The horses provide an interesting counterbalance to the growling engines of the cars that race through the narrow streets ... but they do mean you should pay attention to more than just the traffic when crossing the street!

What to have for lunch? I know, how about tapas?!! Yes, once again a cold beer and little plates of succulents win the day. This time we went for atmosphere and picked a funky bar along Mateos Gago, that tree-lined strip I first talked about yesterday. Somehow a look like this seems more in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and the historic buildings. There are a few sleek modern interiors that just seem cold and out of place to me. Maybe I'm just too old to understand. Anyway, fried (fresh, whole) anchovies were my big winner of the day's tapas competition.

The big attraction in Seville is the Alcazar, a 10th century palace built for the governors of the local Moorish state, it still functions as a royal palace -- the oldest in use in Europe. The Moorish tile work is magnificent but as the areas open to the public are devoid of furnishings, you have to use your imagination as to what each room might have looked like back in the day. It was delightfully cool inside with some surprising breezes, even though there was no such breeze outside.

The palace is decorated with a mix of Islamic and Christian elements in a style called Mudejar. It is a thought-provoking glimpse into a Moorish world that might have survived its Castiliam conquerors ... but didn't. I thought is was interesting that this is essentially a Christian ruler's palace built in the Moorish style rather than a Moorish palace built for a Moorish leader.

The spirit of southern Spain is expressed in dance ... and that dance is the flamenco whose origin, we learned, can be traced back over 3,000 years. You can find flamenco is typical tourist shows (not our thing) and in some local bars in the wee hours of the morning (more organic but a little late for us geezers). But a subscriber told me that the Flamenco Dance Museum held a nightly performance for a small group of those who knew to look for it. We knew, we looked and we found one of the unexpected hightlight of the trip!

You sit around the edge of a small stage while small troupe of varying flamenco all-stars give back to their craft by performing. The soul of it is the guitarist, then there is a singer and two dancers. There was obviously an order to the program but much of it appeared to be improvised on the spot ... and was all the more authentic for that. Watching them perform was an experience of seeing people simply disappear into their music. They became the dance and the dance became an expression of them. Mind-numbing and very moving!

I am SO glad I had this experience and recommend it highly. (They have very cool sinks in their restrooms, too!)

As we left the flamenco performance, we heard a band playing a block or so away so we went to check it out. We ran into a crowded square where some sort of religious procession was just beginning. Whatever it was for or about, it featured an exquisite madonna figure propelled by dozens of men hidden behind a "skirt" under the float. Not being a Catholic, I don't quite get all this but the crowd was obviously into it and it appeared to be an important event in their annual order of things.

We stopped for a couple of tapas and a bit of riojo on the way home. I liked the rattan roll-up shades over the bar we stopped at. Across the street on a now warm-but-comfortable evening, it looked like Cancun during Spring Break. The (mostly) young crowd had spilled into the street and the vibe was incredible. Even the little bodega around the corner from our pension had picked up an impromptu group of singers who drew a crowd both inside and in the street outside the little place. Yes, life is good in Sevilla!

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