I have never watched an episode of Game of Thrones. However, I do know that the budget for the series is considerable and that location is everything so I assumed that the Plaza de España in Seville would be spectacular. I was right. Seville as a whole is spectacular.
It is a city of contrasts. Broad, leafy avenues heaving with pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages and tiny, cobbled streets too narrow for vehicles to pass through. Restaurants near tourist attractions that are packed during the day but empty at night whilst just a few streets away the locals spill out of their favourite bars. Streets that are empty during the afternoon, café parasols tied up, bar stools put away; at 1 am there are no vacant bar stools, the Almeida is lined with Sevillians eating, drinking, dancing and singing (sometimes simultaneously).
A walk around the city is a must. Buildings are painted in a sunset palette: yellow, orange, red and brown. Intricate balconies compete with each other. Alleyways lead to unexpected findings; a beautiful white building where each wall has been decorated in a floral pattern, a jazz quartet, a flamenco bar where the long tables are packed and there is no standing room. At the flamenco show I was struck by the energy and emotion displayed by the singer and the dancer. The dance was originally created as a means of keeping alive the gypsy culture at a time when their culture was being systematically stifled. This sense of loss is manifested in the current dance form.
The historical centre of the city is clustered around the cathedral and the Alcazar. The Alcazar is a sprawling palace complex with Moorish architecture. Beautiful mosaics gleam in the light let through by high arches and wide windows. The walls are painted in warm, earthy shades of yellow that merge into ochre. Pools of water ripple as water flows through a network of channels and vine-lined canopies provide shade and a feeling of freshness. There is an extensive network of gardens that are lovingly and painstakingly maintained; all the more impressive given that temperatures can rise above 40 degrees!
The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in the world. Christopher Colombus’ tomb is prominently displayed and the cathedral has many artefacts made out of silver and other resources discovered in the ‘New World’. The cathedral itself is an imposing building but the wide supporting columns inside reduce the sense of horizontal space and expansiveness found in other cathedrals. The turrets are heavily decorated with lattice work and figurines. 35 flights up (there are ramps), the view from the Giralda Tower is fantastic. You can see the cathedral’s orange grove as well as the entirety of Seville - the highest skyscraper is a mall (consumerism at its finest). Then again, consumerism is not new as Seville first gained prominence as the major Spanish port. The General Archive of The Indes (free entry) is a beautiful building and home to the Spanish historical archives. The documentary relating the history of Seville is well worth a view.
The mushroom-like building popular for evening drinks is Las Etas, the tallest wooden structure in the world. At night, streetlamps illuminate the buildings with a gentle glow. The façade of the City hall is highly decorated up to a point…running out of funds meant that the decorations were halted.
In Seville, life has a slower pace. The locals take their time; nothing is rushed. Waiter seemed almost reluctant to bring bills over, instead encouraging us to linger at the table long after we had finished. Glasses of sangria and tinto de Verano are clinked against each other long into the night. I love the tradition of accompanying drinks with a variety of tapas and particularly enjoyed the battered cuttlefish (chocos fritas), tortilla and fried prawns (gambas).
When a city prioritises both siestas and fiestas you know it’s doing something right. I’ll be back.