Sevilla is the heart of what we think is Spain; The red flamenco dresses, the flat black hats with flat rims, the painted fans women use in the the extreme heat, the music with the strong vocalist and the lighting speed guitar. Yes, this is the Spain we see in movies and it is real. This is also the Spain that keeps stricter siesta hours and your options become more limited for everything between two until eight in the evening; things really just start going at about ten at night.
We did see the cathedral in Seville, the third largest, after St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s, and largest Gothic church in the world. It was large but not quite as ornate as some of the other religious sites we had already seen in Spain. We were surprised to find the tomb of Christopher Columbus inside the cathedral. The tower was impressive and was worth the thirty-five floor climb to the top. The bells of various sizes were all connected to ring with a single pulley system. The view of Seville was outstanding from the bell tower.
We also visited the Alcazar, which was a palace built in the fourteenth century by the conquering king. It is still a residence of the King and Queen of Spain while staying in Seville today. The tile work inside the residence and the gardens were the highlights of the palace visit.
Our favorite parts of Seville were the cultural entertainment and a late night buggy ride in the lighted parks and surrounding buildings of old Seville. The first night we had our introduction to flamenco. From the lighting fast tapping to the stomps that would kill any bug. The flamenco dancer is in charge and getting “egged on” by the palmists who cup their hands in a way that sounds like additional stomps of the feet. The vocalist commands out to the dancer and the dancer plays out the song. Together they tell a story while the skilled guitarist looks up and smiles at the scene.
Several styles of flamenco were demonstrated. The single male, straight back, with feet so quick that his body appeared to vibrate. The single woman in a fitted dress to the hips and ruffles to the floor demonstrate strength and grace. Every limb and every finger in complete precision. Next a woman with a fan, flinging and snapping the object into submission. The woman with a scarf danced in another style while the most complex seemed to be the woman who danced in a dress with a train behind her. When she turned or twisted she had to fling the skirt around to the desired position with a kick of the foot without missing a tap of the dance. Finally the female balladeer describing with her facial gestures as much as her words the meaning of her pain. This prepared us for the event we were very lucky to attend the next evening.
Every two years, Seville holds a flamenco festival where the “stars” of flamenco preform. Since the website for the event was only in Spanish and there were not advertisements on display I had a feeling that it would be tricky to get tickets. We were very lucky to obtain two of the last balcony tickets for a performance. The company of Mercedes Ruiz took every part of the dance we had seen from the night before to the next level. Mercedes Ruiz preformed the entire event with a few short costume changes. When I was in college a professor once told us that standing ovations should be saved for the “out of the ordinary” or a performance that is the culmination of a life’s work. I thought that this would be a performance that warranted such an ovation. After the performance the crowd clapped in a uniform way that sounded like unified stomping back to thank the performer. Cheers echoed in the theater. In all my life I have never experienced such an ovation.
Finally the theater itself was quite spectacular. There was floor seating but most of the upper seating was in individual balconies that circled the theater. The usher escorted us to door twenty-one on the first balcony. She unlocked the door and there was a small room with a mirror on one side and a coat rack on the other. Below the coat rack was a small bench. Directly in front of us was a second curtain, parting this curtain to the side we found two seats and our individual balcony. What a wonderful experience. When you come to Seville, remember to take a siesta, stay out late when the city comes alive and attend at least one cultural performance during your stay.