My friend who lives in Seville says that she’s never seen as much rain in the city as fell in the 5 days I was there recently. My trusty DMs broke right across the sole and so I had to wear multiple plastic bags over my socks to prevent gangrene. Being wet, mostly lost and with unprecedentedly noisy shoes did not, however, decrease the glory of this be-tiled Andalusian town of food, many churches and sometime terrifyingly heavy rain.
Once my friend managed to convince me not to eat the oranges (these are the special Seville oranges, very bitter unless boiled down with sugar into delicious marmalade) she told me the fable of the Orange Trees. It goes a posh man in Seville, a nobleman or something similar, had a girlfriend who wanted to move to Granada where it snows. He didn’t want her to move to Granada and so asked her to wait until the Spring. In the meantime he went on a planting spree and planted Orange Trees LITERALLY EVERYWHERE so that by the time Spring came he took her outside and shook an Orange Tree’s blossom on her and pretended it was snow. Apparently she moved to Granada alone. Someone else told me she stayed, I think this person might have been in denial.
Seville is a city of limited resources and incredibly bloody history meaning that with every new civilisation (first Islam, then Judaism, then Christianity) the buildings of the previous settlement were kept and re-appropriated. The main tower of the cathedral is still very ostensibly a minaret. It also is 17 storeys tall and has a grand total of no steps, it is instead ramped so that the bell ringer can reach the top on a donkey as opposed to his own feet. Another good place for exploration is Triana: the gypsy village relegated to the other side of the river where their colours, dancing and general cackling couldn’t disturb any of the conservatively Catholic locals. They set up their settlement with such joyous vibrancy, however, that in the end Seville decided they’d quite like to be friends but were satisfyingly refused by these lovely gypsies.
And now for the food! Although familiar with Gazpacho, I had no idea about Salmorejo and even less idea about how to pronounce it. It’s Seville’s special recipe Gazpacho, still cold but much creamier because bread is blended into the soup! It is so delicious, you’ll find it served with egg and jammon atop and the best place I found to have it was in a little cafe called Génova where the waiters preternaturally aware of when you’ll need your next top up of beer. If instead you’re in the food mood for a whole fried goats cheese well then, my friend, you need to head over to La Bodega Santa Cruz on the Cathedral Square. It’s technically tapas to be shared but the other tiny forks on the cheese plate went into my companions’ hands if they tried to get anywhere near it. You can get whole deep fried anchovies (boquerones) at this Bodega and the thrill of seeing your tab written out on the bar.
A less lovely thing about Seville was The Spanish Inquisition who were so insidiously present that they trained people to smell the breath of the converted Jews to see whether they could smell pig fat. Knowing that traditional Spanish cooking calls for lots of lard and that Jewish people would prefer not to use said lard, these Secret Sniffers would pally up to people at church and attempt to catch a whiff of vegetable oil in order to denounce them. Nicer Pork stories can be found in Aracena, the small town in the region of Huelva where, as a Spanish friend told me, ‘all the pigs grow’. As well as boasting the tastiest pigs in Spain, there are also the Gruta de las Maravillas, caves with icy 10m deep lakes and ‘the chickpea walk’ where the stalagmites are so teensy that it really does look like a can’s been emptied all over the floor.
The one place you must see is the Alcazar. I arrived on my final morning and wished I’d turned up on my first morning with a tent and set up camp there forever, even despite the biblical rains. It is palatial and beautiful with gardens, history and an astonishingly riveting tile museum. It’s the combination of all the separate culture’s palaces all built into each other and it probably best enjoyed wandered around with a cool cerveza and dry feet.