So we're on the comfortable train to Seville in the non-smoking car despite our seat assignment with the nice conductor's blessing. There is an electronic bulletin board that flashes the final destination and the expected arrival time. At 11:12 am which is when we are scheduled to arrive in Seville, lots of people start gathering their bags and preparing to depart. We follow their lead. My friend and I have our bags on top of other people's so we make a beeline for them and depart the train. My sister is sauntering along and the doors close in her face- she is stuck on the train which keeps on going. And we are stuck without our Spanish speaker! The shock on our faces and hers and the "Oh my God" exclamations are something out of a Buster Keaton movie.
It turns out that WE got off too soon, this was not the Seville station at all, but Dos Hermananas (2 sisters-how ironic), which is quite a few stops away from Seville. Luckily we figure this out in just enough time to catch the next train to Seville where my sister was waiting for us THANK GOD! Besides the momentary terror of "now what?" and having to drag our suitcases up and down stairs twice to get to the right side of the platform, this mishap was almost worth it for it sent us into gales of laughter for the rest of the trip whenever we thought of the expressions of disbelief on our faces when the doors shut on my sister. Lesson learned: Always ask if this is the right stop before disembarking.
That adventure behind us, our short taxi ride (10 minutes and about 5 Euros) was easy. We stayed at the Les Casas de la Juderia Hotel Seville, which I can't say enough good things about. I had stayed at this charming 3 star hotel on my last visit and was looking forward to my return. It is located on Callejon Dos Hermananas (those 2 sisters again) in the Jewish quarter, on the edge of the historic Barrio de Santa Cruz, 5 minutes from the Cathedral. In other words-a perfect location. Charm abounds here, with a beautiful flowering courtyard, fountains and a piano bar. The staff is first rate and the breakfast buffet is outstanding. The rooms are very spacious, with AC, terrific bathrooms and comfortable beds. I booked it through Accommodation Online, which I think offers better rates than booking through the hotel directly. I think a double is in the $140 Euro range and worth every penny!
I wanted my sister and friend's first real view of Seville to be a walk through the Barrio. Now this was the Spain we had been waiting for! A maze of narrow, charming streets with colorful buildings with many shops. Plus it was finally HOT at 70 degrees or more. First stop was lunch at Modesto, Cano Y Cueto, 5, 2 blocks from the hotel. I had dreamed about the coquinas (tiny baby clams with a garlic sauce) since my last visit and we were not disappointed.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the Barrio and walking down the main shopping street Calle Sierpes which is west of the cathedral. On this street you can buy fans, mantones (Spanish shawls), ceramics, and jewelry and we did. More details on purchases later.
We had seen flyers about a "Carmen tour" posted about town that took place at 6 pm. This was basically an actress that took an English speaking group on a walking tour of Seville following the Carmen story line and singing some songs from the opera. Her payment would be in tips at the end of the hour. She was a bit over the top for us so we dropped out after a short while.
After a short nap, we decided to go check out the Plaza de Espana around sundown. This square was built for the 1929 World's fair and the Spanish Pavilion has beautiful azulejo tiles that show historic scenes from every province of Spain. It is quite impressive though a bit run down.
Dinner on our first night in Seville was in the picturesque Plaza de Los Venerables, at Hosteria del Laurel in the Santa Bario Cruz. This charming and inexpensive hotel has a very nice restaurant where we ate some great grilled fish in the Plaza under the stars. The gazpacho was excellent too (but then we didn’t have a bad gazpacho anywhere in Spain). Finished dinner by midnight in the Spanish fashion and called it a night although lots of people were out and about.
Our second morning in Seville, which was a Saturday, was to be our scoping out ceramics morning. We had read that the Triana section of Seville across the river (which is more of a working class part of town) had a "street of the potters" where we would find good quality, inexpensive ceramics. Unfortunately, several of the shops were closed on Saturdays but of those that were open our favorite was Ceramica Aguamanil, C/Antillano Campos 5, local, izq., 41010 Triana. We bought a few small items.
After we had checked out many ceramics shops throughout our stay in Seville, it turned out that our very favorite was in Barrio de Santa Cruz, just north of the Cathedral. El Azulejo at Mateos Gago, 10 had the nicest selection of really beautiful pieces at reasonable prices for the quality. The lovely owner will ship but as this really raises the price considerably, we all selected pieces we could carry home in our carry-ons.
On the way home from the Triana district, we stopped by the Plaza de Toros (the bullring), which is the second oldest in Spain. We weren't up for the guided tour but it is supposed to be quite good. Here we had the adventure of meeting Ramon, who was hawking bullfight tickets for the next day.
We had not previously discussed whether or not we wanted to see a bullfight. None of us were too happy about the brutality of a bullfight, but were interested in the culture of the event (and let's face it seeing some cute matadors).
Anyway, we did not want to get ripped off by Ramon, so we put him through hoops to prove that his tickets were official. He was an elderly man and very sweet. He brought us to the ticket sign to prove the tickets were the same price as those that would be on sale tomorrow and that they were in the shade (a crucial component). To further convince us he was legit, he brought my sister (the negotiator) across the street to a bar to have the owner vouch for him and tell her they were good seats. He had gone to such lengths to sell us the tickets, we finally bought them for 26 Euros a piece. We were going to a bullfight! Of course if my sister didn't speak Spanish, we would not have been able to accomplish this transaction.
We had tickets for the early flamenco show that evening, so we thought we'd have a big mid-day meal. We had very good paella at Hosteria De Dona Lina, c/Gloria 7, set in another beautiful courtyard. This was the best sangria of our trip.
After lunch, we visited the Real Alcazar De Sevilla. Though nowhere near the size of the Alhambra, this is a very impressive 10th century Moorish palace and it still functions as a royal palace when the royal family comes to Seville. Because it is not as old as the Alhambra, the tiles are more colorful. It is strikingly beautiful, has lovely gardens and is definitely worth touring. A little more exploring of the Barrios and our daily cappuccino before resting up for the evening's event.
The last time I was in Seville I saw a flamenco show at Los Gallos in Plaza de Santa Cruz and it was excellent but I thought I'd try another show this time. I had read about EL ARENAL, Rodo 7, in the NY Times so reserved ahead of time by email. with a credit card. They confirmed in Spanish and accepted the email without a problem. They have 2 shows per night at 9 and 11 pm. You can opt for a dinner or just a drink and the show. This option was 31 Euros and worth every penny. It was just fabulous and the highlight of our trip. Their moves, the operatic songs filled with pathos, the foot work, the expressions on their faces as they dance and sing, the sexy costumes of both the men and women, the fans, and the way they use hand clapping as an instrument is beyond fantastic. We just had the best time and couldn't imagine missing this experience.
Before turning in we had a nightcap of some local sweet sherry at an outside bar near our hotel. The streets were once again filled with people being social-it was great fun to be a part of.
Next - Bullfight and a Spanish Saint!