Andy Mossack, a well-known British travel writer and the creator and presenter of BBC Radio’s “Where in the World is Andy” travelogue series, describes his visit to Seville, Spain, home of the flamenco, in his latest installment for Fly.com. Be sure to check back in for other insightful reviews from his travel exploits.
I was, it must be said, within spitting distance. The front row of Cristina Hoyos’ School of Flamenco nightly show put me up close and very personal with two of the most intense flamenco dancers I have ever seen.
It left me quite breathless. For the first time I was able to finally understand the sheer majesty and moves of flamenco performed at the highest level. The dancing and guitar playing was stunningly impressive, and made all the more so after touring Hoyos’ museum, which charts the colorful history of this flamboyant dance.
Seville is the home of flamenco, its roots firmly entrenched in the Moorish culture so evident all over the city. From the incredible Alcazar palace, where Columbus himself walk the halls and plotted his route to the New World, to the fabled Seville oranges whose trees and scent decorate the city wherever you go. That said, you wouldn’t want to eat any of them (although it’s perfectly acceptable to pick them off the trees) as they’re destined to be for marmalade. The bitter taste would put off even the most hardened of orange admirer.
Seville is a city and region steeped in history. It is, after all, over 2,000 years old and the cultural, financial and artistic capital of southern Spain. It was the exclusive entry port for goods from the New World and enjoyed an enviable reputation as the home of royalty. Horse-drawn carriages still rattle around cobbled streets as they did many years ago, although nowadays the price is a little steeper and the only passengers are tourists.
Much of this former glory is still in evidence throughout the city, with the Alcazar palace together with its sensational gardens and the gloriously gothic 15th-century cathedral the undisputed highlights. But there is much more to enjoy in this delightful place. It is a city designed for walking. Just wander around the old town, mix with the locals and lap up the atmosphere.
There is the Guadalquivir River, its shimmering waters splitting the city in two and providing the perfect canvas for bridge architects over the years. Standing in the middle of Triana Bridge, one of Seville’s most famous, you can ponder the timeless scene before you. It’s also a city that unashamedly celebrates food; it is said that tapas was created here, after Seville’s citizens took to covering their wine glasses with pieces of bread to keep flies off the wine. They say the city stops for lunch and that could well be true, because it is a very serious business that will stretch for hours on end.
Seville also offers you a chance to savor the Andalucían flavor of its countryside outside the city, with its rolling hills and olive groves. Visit Cortijo El Esparragal, a former monastery and now one of the largest and oldest farmhouses in Andalucía and a pretty impressive hotel to boot. Its thousands of acres are used today to breed Spanish horses and bulls, and there are regular events held there to show off these magnificent animals. The restaurant is well known locally for its authentic regional cuisine.
So authenticity brings us neatly back to flamenco and my front row seat. The dancing, outstanding; the magical hands of the accompanying guitarist sensational. Just be on guard for any overzealous salivating singers whose enthusiastic efforts may bathe you unexpectedly.
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