Not every place holds the same motives for attraction. You visit some places for the history, some for the scenery, and some places you go to simply from a subconscious push that tells you that you’d be sorry if you didn’t.
For many years, I had wanted to visit Spain, since everyone I had known that had visited there had nothing but fantastic things to say about it: the food, the wine, the historical sites, and architecture—everything to tantalize even the most jaded of personalities.
It wasn’t until this year that I finally made my mind up to forsake my other current plans (I’m currently working on my first dark fantasy novel) and follow my whims. Now, mind you, when I go somewhere, anywhere, I tend to fancy destinations that are considered relatively obscure by most folks. Spain was definitely on the to-do list, but where I’d go within it remained to be seen. After a bit of research I decided on Seville.
A couple of weeks after ordering my plane ticket and reserving my hotel room, I once again found myself flying over the grand abyss of the Atlantic Ocean. The first thing I noticed was the heat after arriving at the airport, and it’s plenty hot even for someone from Southern California. Yet, I can’t recall a time in my life when sweating so profusely was so enjoyable. I was soon on my way by taxi to the luxurious Hilton Garden Inn, which was one of the best deals on lodgings in the city. One night can go for as little as 70 euros, and I felt like a small child in a large playground. I now had the whole city of Seville at my fingertips, yet I, for the life of me, had no idea where to begin. Fortunately, my hotel presented me with a simple solution: Courtesy shuttles were dropping off visitors in the middle of the historic city center, so I tagged along.
Now, to those who have never been to Europe, let me just say that among the many things you’ll have the pleasure of witnessing is a splendid blend of both old world and modern architecture. Spain, and Seville in particular, is no exception. statues, monuments, cathedrals, and even pillars and stone walls, which date to the Ancient Romans, adorned the city as far as the eyes could see. I particularly enjoyed the broad cobblestone street vistas which gave way to hacienda-style, narrow alleyways.
As I walked through the historic center I was blown away by the number of small hole-in-the-wall eateries known for a specialty cuisine I would become especially familiar with before my trip was over. Tapas, Spanish for ‘small meal’ or ‘bar snack,’ is Spain’s version of bar food. Usually enjoyed with a glass of Rioja, there are hundreds of varieties of them. Everything from goat cheese and red pepper puree, to Iberian pork cheeks and patatas fritas—the Spanish version of fried potatoes.
The flavors one can experience (for roughly 3 to 3.50 euros per plate depending on the eatery) pack a wallop as certainly large as dynamite! The core meaning behind the dishes, several flavors being enjoyed during mealtime as compared to just a few, truly attest to the culinary genius of Spain as a whole. I found my favorite tapas prepared at the La Moderna bar whose house wine, Beronia, was some of the finest I’ve ever had.
After a few hours of relaxing and indulging at the several tapas bars around the city, I decided it was time for a bit of sightseeing. I headed to the outskirts of the historic center, and I was pleased to see a park set with so many trees and ponds that you could easily forget you were actually still in a city. The Parque De Maria Louisa is as vast as a rain forest and has within its borders some of the finest examples of Spanish architecture dating back to the Moorish invasions, including the Plaza de España, whose impressive fountains and colorful murals of Spain’s past attract a great deal of visitors each year. Next, I encountered the Museum of Arts and Traditions of Seville in María Luisa Park, with its current exhibitions focusing on the fashions of women during the sixteenth century.
I finished off my first day in Seville with a visit to one of the most astounding museums I’ve ever seen. Considering the fact that I actually worked in a museum for over five years, that’s quite a feat! The Real Alcázar de Sevilla gives the outward appearance of a medieval castle, complete with a stone wall that engulfs most of the historic center. The interior of the museum is even more awe-inspiring. Inside the main gated entrance, I found both Spanish and Arabic influences in the design and structure of its framework. The halls of this royal palace had been transformed into several different exhibitions depicting everything from ancient textiles to paintings and tapestries from the Renaissance. Yet, the most fantastic was yet to come.
A garden most pristine awaited at the back of the palace. If ever there was a portal that revealed just how opulent the kings of the past lived, this was it. Row after row of red roses complimented a forested array of shrubs and trees. To add even more to the flair of the scenery, there’s a fountain that resembles a waterfall and even a labyrinth designed of only trees. Lush and brilliant, it alone made the mere 19.00 euros I had to pay to see it worth every cent.
The next day was more of the same, and it would probably be so even if I had the privilege of staying there for at least a month. As a result of my feet being a tad sore, I decided to take a bus tour around the city, which anyone can enjoy for usually 2-3 days for roughly about 18 euros. On board, I received complimentary headphones and was exposed to even more fascinating facts of such a marvelous city. The bus tour lasts about 45 minutes, and all passengers can get on or off at any of the stops included.
I then proceeded to see something that no sincere visitor of Spain can pass up. I actually went to a former bullfighting arena. Now a museum, the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza offers a comprehensive history of the tradition of bullfighting, and it also gives you full access to the stadiums where both bulls and matadores battled in the past. A guide takes you through all the preparations of every match and even lets you feel the sand of the arena under your feet. Not bad for only an 8-euro entrance fee.
There was so much to see and do in Seville that it’s no wonder my time went by like a comet. Keeping that thought in mind brings me to my only complaint: That one couldn’t possibly experience all the magic such a city offers in only a couple of days. When you really think about it, a whole lifetime might be too short as well!