Spain – Sevilla – NO8DO (No me ha dejado)
Oh, Sevilla. The romance of Sevilla engages your senses and stirs your emotions. It will be hard to leave this place. We came here for a few weeks, intending to make a couple of excursions out of town but there was no way I was going to leave Sevilla and go anywhere else. With the charm, character, atmosphere, food, culture and history that Sevilla offers, months here would not be enough. So much Spain, so little time. Aye.
Seville is the heart and soul of Andalucia. It’s home to bullfighting, flamenco, tapas and the famous Spanish siesta (more on that later). The old city, the monuments, palaces, gardens, narrow streets, restaurants, tapa bars, bakery cafes, orange trees, the beautiful Guadalquivir river with it’s promenade and the Sevillian people all draw you in and hold tight. You feel right at home, part of the culture, part of the history, part of the daily scene.
Sevilla lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, an important navigational river that launched major exploration voyages in history. Magellan left from here on his circumnavigation voyage with 5 ships in 1519. Three years later only his main ship Victoria returned to Sevilla with 18 out of 237 men aboard. Magellan himself was killed in a battle with the natives in the Philippines. Cristobal Colon (a.k.a Christopher Columbus) is buried in the Cathedral here, in the center of old town Sevilla. He stayed in Monasterio la Cartuja (monastery Cartuja) on the Guadalquivir in Sevilla while planning his second voyage. The monastery is still intact with it’s surrounding gardens and it is interesting to walk inside the old structure and gardens imagining Cristobal Colon doing the same a few centuries back.
Sevilla hosted two internation expositions, the Ibero-American in 1929 and the World Fair in 1992. Both events spurred tourism and expanded infrastructure: building of broad avenues, bridges, transportation facilities, parks, housing and more. The gorgeous Plaza d’Espana was built for the 1929 exposition and now houses government offices. Some scenes of Lawrence of Arabia were filmed there as well as a few of the Star Wars films episodes. The site for the 1992 fair was Isla de Cartuja, especially chosen as the site for Columbus preparations for his voyages, as I mentioned above.
Seville has this mysterious emblem that I had to investigate. All city vehicles and equipment displayed the letters NO and DO separated by the figure 8. It turns out this does have a story behind it. The letters and number are a phonetic representation of the phrase no me ha dejado, meaning “you have not abandoned me”. The figure eight symbolizes a loose ball of wool the Spanish call majeda and the full emblem then reads “no me ha dejado”. Legend has it that King Alfonzo X was ousted from power by his son Sancho. The old king stayed in Sevilla where he was loved and cared for by the Sevillianos until his death. The phraze is attributed to him, thanking the city and its people for not abanadoning him. This emblem appears now on the flag and shield of the city of Sevilla as well as on all city property.
Seville is the city of opera. Many famous operas had Seville as the setting for their stories. A novel about a Seville woman named Carmen who worked at the tobbaco factory in Seville turned into the tragic and fiery Carmen from Bizzet’s opera. The Barber of Seville (Rossini), the Marriage of Figaro and of Don Giovanni, both by Mozart, all staged their settings in Seville. Don Juan (Spanish for Don Giovani) carried out his early conquest among Sevilla’s senioritas and married senioras. In such a romantic place anything is possible.
Sevilla has a very definite rhythm to its life. The streets empty by 2:00 pm, as if a magic wand made everyone disappears, only to return to life at 5:00 or so when the streets again fill with nicely dressed Sevillianos, out for an early evening stroll on the popular Calle Sierpe or Calle Tutuan, ready to see and be seen. Couples arm in arm, women arm in arm, kids in strollers or beautifully dressed walking with their parents. I was tempted to take pictures of everyone but restrained myself. Very quickly we adapted to this style and loved the routine of touring in the morning, having an afternoon nap and going out again early evening to walk along the lovely streets, sit in tapas bars, have a bite, have a drink, watch people and being amazed at being in this incredible place.
Sevilla ia largely a walking city, especially if you live in the old town. It’s easy to get around the old city and to and cross any of the beautiful bridges over the river and explore neighbouring Triana with it’s lovely narrow streets and old neighbourhoods. Driving is actually not as convenient in the old town, because of the many pedestrian only and one way narrow streets. Some of the streets are so narrow that pedestrians have to pull into doorways to avoid taxis getting through to their taxi-only destinations. To make it easy for pedestrians to get around, Sevilla has organized itself as a cycling heaven. In addition to the streets there are some 70,000 miles of cycling trails around town making it safe and convenient to use a bike. To go with that they have about 300 bike stations around town called Sevici where you can rent a bike for very little, use it and then drop it off at your next destination. You see many of them in use at any time.
Sevilla is the home of Flamenco, a dance and music form that is enjoying a revival in Spain. It’s a mysterious, passionate and dramatic form of dance, guitar and song that leaves you a little bit dazzled. The clothes, dresses, the proud postures, the “don’t mess with me” look on the dancer’s faces, the hand clapping and distinct hand movements (toque de palmas), ah. The dancers and singers reveal their innermost emotions through their dramatic movements and very expressive face and eyes. They tell a story, much like opera does.
Sevilla also has a bullfighting ring, the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla is the oldest bullfight ring in the world and considered the most beautiful one in Spain. No bullfights go on until April or May. I don’t know if I would have gone to one or not. Maybe my curiosity would have gotten the better of me but it seems wrong to kill for entertainment. Talking to younger Spanish people, they won’t go to a bull fight, and the concierge at a Valencia hotel told us he would not book bullfight tickets for guests if asked. But I understand that the bullfights rings are full in season and we have seen them in just about every place we visited. It must still be a popular event.
The food here was wonderful as well. Tapas originated in Andalucia (pronounced Unda-loo-cee-ya) and the variety and styles of tapas were endless. Much of it is based on ham, beef, chicken and seafood but they have their share of vegetarian tapas as well. Salmoreja is a Sevilla specialty, consisting of gazpacho made creamy by blending it with bread. Chickpea and spinach stew is another specialty of Seville, served in small portions for lunch together with other tapas. And don’t forget the oranges. Thick peel and fragrant they are cut into quarters and poached in syrup to make candied orange segments. I kept buying those at Confiteria la Campana on the edge of Calle Sierpes at Plaza del Duque and will make them as soon as I get home. Love candied orange peel and never thought of using a quartered orange for that.
I have a few more things to twell but will keep them for separate posts. I loved our stay in Sevilla and hope to come back there someday. There is so much more to explore and experience.