Sevilla. Tapas, Sangria and Flamenco

Assuming reincarnation is both real and available, I’d like to come back as a Flamenco dancer, and whilst the floral frocks, bright make-up and large earrings worn by the ladies are really super, I’d still prefer to be the male lead. I mean, how many jobs allow you to wear seriously cool, noisy shoes, shiny slick suits that would never pass modern fire safety regulations and display a complete indifference to razors, scissors or shampoo? I’m simply bewitched by those exotic, emotive movements, the petulant stamping, the guttural dialogue, reciting tortured tales of love, betrayal, Brexit and shopping. I love the way all the characters interact throughout the performance, and the shifting focus upon whom you rely to relate that particular chapter of the story. There is an egalitarian spirit throughout, such as when the more visible members of the cast leave the humble guitarist alone, allowing him his own moment to shine, kind of like the bits when Keith would play those awesome riffs whilst Mick was doing his thing. In all, we’ve spent more than a month in Andalusia and always watch a couple of shows each week we’re there. Easily amongst the most enjoyable musical events I’ve ever been to.

Pics of the Cathedral

This trip, we’re staying with some English friends and are in the Feria district of the city. The apartment is stunning, obviously someone’s actual home, rather than a bought for airbnb unit where the agency throw in ugly, unbreakable furniture usually used at CIA rendition sites. The façade of the building is a beautiful pink and ochre, and above the exterior windows, Sevillan tile mosaics have been set. There are paintings, objet d’art and the coolest vintage mirror that takes up the entire back wall of the living room. The quartier is full of churches, quirky bars and restaurants, vintage clothes stores and as it’s approximately a fifteen minute walk from the Cathedral, it’s not as noisy, or busy as the center of the city.

Cantina restaurant in Feria.

There’s an excellent fresh fish-meat-vegetable market a few hundred meters from the house, and we’ve taken to eating lunch at the Cantina restaurant within the market, one that hugs the side of yet another church. The food is very rudimentary. Deep-fried Prawns, deep-fried anchovies. Iberian Loin, which is cured pig, that’s been finely sliced. A potato and sweet pepper salad doused in olive oil. No garnishes, just the item, but absolutely fresh and properly cooked. They also do the best Sangria we’ve drunk so far. The place is packed on the (consecutive) days we’ve come, and there are usually a dozen people waiting for tables. The place is tasty, cheap and cute. I guess that’s a successful formula.

Alcazar of Sevilla

The first cultural stop was the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alcazar of Sevilla. Absolutely spectacular. Following the start of the Spanish Reconquista, Gothic and Romanesques elements were added, along with Islamic ornamentation and decoration. There were later Renaissance additions. The tiled arches and carvings are truly humbling to see. We simply don’t create work like this anymore. I suppose it would be prohibitively expensive. There is an interesting passage from Left-leaning French economist, Thomas Piketty in his crushingly ponderous, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that was given to me by my best friend who is also an economist. Piketty writes, “Without inequality, it would have been impossible for a very small elite to concern themselves with anything other than subsistence; in a sense, a minority were chosen to live on behalf of everyone else, thus extreme inequality is a condition of civilization.” The extraordinary Alcazar of Sevilla, along with many of the other buildings in the city will have fallen into that category.

La Isla Restaurant

We had lunch at La Isla which is a few streets back from the Cathedral. The best tables are on the street and are set against a handsome brick wall with flowers hanging above the tables. Firstly, great Gin and Tonics. This is really my litmus test for a good restaurant/friend and his house. Trendy mixologists with mandatory braces, beards and colour-rimmed glasses seem determined to add as many incongruous ingredients to a G& T as the witches in Macbeth brewed together as they chanted ‘double, double, toil and trouble’. So, along with eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing, some mixologists are actually adding bunches of Rosemary and chopped fruit. For the love of God, it’s two shots of Tanq, two large ice cubes, two crushed juniper berries, a slice of orange or mandarin and topped up with regular Schweppes tonic water in a large glass. You don’t improve on this, it’s like doing a re-make of Casablanca with Lady Gaga as Ilsa. Anyway, this restaurant gets it spot on. We work through the tapas menu. Tasty tuna salad, anchovies on toast, cured meats, deep fried prawns. Potatoes in olive oil with lashings of ground black pepper. There is a very intense shrimp paella. Great lunch.

More pics of the Cathedral

Off to the cathedral for our three-thirty slot. I don’t remember booking the first time I went inside this beautiful building, but we had to this time. Along with hundreds of other people, we climbed the tower and were rewarded for our efforts with great views of the city. Inside the church, the paintings, carvings, altars are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. When one thinks of the billions wasted on the abortive NHS IT system, the even more billions thrown at the pandemic, or worse, the billions spent on Kardashian products and other equally criminal acts of profligacy, then the devotional art of Catholic Churches seems like a sensible use of taxpayers money?

Some dishes from our terrace

Most evenings are spent on the terrace of the roof of our rented apartment, where we start with a half dozen tapas, before the meal concludes with a grilled meat or fish, salads and my new favourite, saffron and smoked cayenne flavored potatoes. I take small potatoes, peeled, then heat a frying pan wide enough to take a single layer of potatoes. Heat some olive oil, add butter, allow to caramelize then add the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and the smoked cayenne pepper. Once coloured, add the saffron and turn the heat down, turning every five minutes. The tapas include anchovies, more anchovies, cheeses, chorizo and hams. I love these skewers called Gilda(s) of olives, anchovy and hot peppers that they make in the markets. The ubiquitous marinaded sweet peppers that are everywhere in the town. My English pal Andrew and I are drinking Verdujo and Ribero del Duero for dinners. After dinner we like to take a walk to the Ice Cream shops by the cathedral and between the four of us, work through their extensive repertoire of Sorbets and Ice Creams.

Plaza de España

The Plaza de España is another beautiful building in this extraordinary city. Only built in 1928, it is in Spanish Renaissance Revival and Spanish Baroque Revival style and beneath the colonnaded façade are tiled alcoves representing the regions of the country as well as a pretty water feature cris-crossed with ornate bridges. The building is in a sprawling garden which is also worth exploring.

Other bits in Sevilla

Our penultimate evening and we’re at the Casa de Tigers in Feria. Really cool spot where every male diner is in a blazer and shirt, every female diner in a long dress. They have some great tapas that we haven’t tried before. A Tortilla of Salted Cod. A mini Brioche filled with Bacon and artery-clogging cream sauce. I’ll deal with the consequences later. There were no Tigers to be seen.

We walk back home along Feria which is virtually bar, after bar where all of Sevilla seems to go out to socialize. You read horror stories about ‘loneliness’ and ‘alienation’ in our dystopian societies, where too long is spent on-line with imaginary friends, but in Spain -as well as our experiences in Italy and France- this couldn’t be further from the truth as four generations of families socialize on what seems to be a daily basis.

Sevilla Museum of Fine art

We spent a lazy morning walking to the The Sevilla Museum of Fine Arts that houses a great collection of Murillo’s and Zurbaran’s. The museum itself is really attractive, though so many are in this town. Another trip worth a visit is the Casa de Pilatos, a example of Italian renaissance and Mudéjar -the Muslims who remained in Iberia after the Reconquest- architecture. It’s yet another stunning building and garden. I changed into my gym clothes and took my mat, but nobody seemed to doing classes?

Casa de Pilatos.

On our last night in Sevilla we retrace our steps to a square we discovered the last time we were here. We have to wait as every table is occupied, with friends, families, tourists, enjoying the balmy late summer evenings. Sevilla is a truly remarkable city, with a unique history and a genuinely kind and friendly population. We’re already talking about another visit.

Street Scenes on a Friday evening

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