If Sevilla was a woman, and I was a man, she would be the elegant and perfect wife I would cheat on by hanging out in Madrid or Barcelona for a bit of excitement, or I’d have an exotic, foreign fling with London or New York or Rome.
Sevilla is, without much doubt, the prettiest city I know, and she is so tourist-friendly it almost hurts.
This was my second visit, and the only plan Maria and I had for our long weekend was to see Cirque du Soleil and then the idea was to soak in the atmosphere, mainly wander and stop wherever took our fancy, and avoid anywhere which involved spending too much money. The only other “must” was to see some Flamenco in its homeland, although our budget was going to limit what we could see. We arrived in an autumnal heatwave. We’d expected it to be a bit cooler than at home, but it turned out to be even hotter. I found myself short of hot weather clothes, having packed for an onward journey to a chilly England, based on Ryanair’s ridiculous weight restrictions.
My memories from my last visit, over ten years ago, were of a city of light and great beauty, and this trip did nothing to change my impression. Even with temperatures in the high 30ºs it seemed easy enough to find narrow, shady streets to explore when the going got too hot.
Through gates and ironwork in the passages we glimpsed cool courtyards where pretty fountains glugged and we smelled faint perfumes of herbs and flowers. Mainly we smelled jasmine. Sevilla smells of jasmine, the sweet and lovely perfume of the faithful wife. Sometimes it’s just a waft as you pass a walled garden, and other times it tumbles over railings and snakes up the walls of houses. I might always think of Sevilla when I smell jasmine now. Most days Maria plucked a small flower to put in her hair, which, even when spent the next morning still smelled sweet.
It’s a great city to get lost in. Dodging the heat into alleyways or detouring through a green park you come across peaceful squares, or stumble onto a historic site almost without warning, and yet we always managed to find our way around without that panicky feeling of being truly lost. The way you would feel secure in a good marriage.
When the streets aren’t the narrow alleyways of yore they are wide and handsome, with well controlled crossings, and around the tourist hub by the cathedral the trams glide like ghosts. This also has to be the most bicycle-friendly city in Europe. I know that Amsterdam used to claim that title, and it’s years now since I was there, so I don’t know how time has tempered the claim, but in Sevilla it seemed as if everyone was on two wheels, from rent-a-bikes to fold up bikes, from middle-aged mums to hip young guys. I’m not great on a bike, but it really made me want to ride around the sights on one! There were tricycles too!
Maybe it was the profusion of bikes which make it such a quiet city by modern standards. Oh, I realize that away from the tourist heart it’s a bit noisier and harsher, but essentially it’s well-behaved and correct.
I’ve yet to find a Spanish city I didn’t fall in love with, and Sevilla is no exception – it’s beautiful, it has bags of history, it’s clean (hmm maybe the dog doodies could be cleaned up better – it’s a very dog-friendly city too), the food was fabulous, and the pavement cafés like nowhere else, and the weather was great, even small shops like the one below were pretty and colorful – yet, it doesn’t grab me and excite me the way rougher or uglier cities do.
Was it me? What was missing, or what was I missing? Then I read this post on Sunshine and Siestas blog – note the adjective “stuffy”? – and I knew that it wasn’t just me. Without knowing why, I completely understood that adjective. I don’t mean to criticize Sevilla, she might even be perfect – except, and I think now I understand, she lacks the energy of other places, and it’s always the energy which draws me to cities. For tranquility and peace I’ll choose countryside or deserted beach, but in a city I thrive on the energy, and Sevilla, for me, relies on her beauty and history.