Life Travel

Thursday 28 August 2014

Travel: Seville - Golden treasures of a cultural oasis

Arlene Harris returns to Seville after a break of two decades, and explores a wealth of attractions to stimulate the senses and soul

Arlene Harris

Published 24/05/2014 | 02:30

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Plaza del Triunfo
Alcazar Palace courtyard

Of all the cities I have visited , if there is one place that makes me sigh wistfully at its memory, it's Seville. This Andalusian city is home to tapas, Flamenco and, of course, oranges. While just a mere two hours away from Dublin, it feels like a completely different world.

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First impressions

I first visited Seville in my backpacking days and had always vowed to return as an adult, when buying more than a bread roll wouldn't seem extravagant. After 20 years, I got the chance. We arrived in the evening and, as soon as we stepped out into the warm, scented air, I felt at home. With my teenage Spanish dusted off, I navigated my way into the centre, where the bright lights, beautiful architecture and enticing smells of sizzling dishes of food awakened all my senses. It was good to be back.

Accommodation

We stayed in two very different hotels. First was the Barceló Renacimiento, a modern hotel with minimalist design, a fabulous outdoor pool and a wonderful garden restaurant. While very relaxing, it is quite a distance from the heart of the city, so be prepared for a 40-minute walk along the river, or a taxi ride to get to the main attractions. Second was the Alfonso XIII, which in contrast is located in-the-middle of the old town, next to the famous Alcazar. Built in 1929, the décor is as far from modern as you can get. It also had a small, but deliciously cooling outdoor pool and relaxing area. The service in both hotels was efficient but friendly.

The food

Eating out is one of Seville's main attractions. With 4,000 tapas bars in the area, every establishment offers something in the way of food. With most plates costing around €2.50, you can't go wrong. We spent our evenings flitting from bar to bar trying different dishes including Pulpo a La Gallega (Galician octopus), Pimiento relleno de Bacalao (Grilled pepper stuffed with cod), Rollito de Mero y Gambas (Grouper and prawn rolls) and more. When deciding where to eat, it was best to look for bars with fewer tourists because the food was more authentic.

What to do

For a weekend break, Seville is perfect – small enough to get around on foot, yet big enough to keep you busy. For those who feel guilty about not soaking up enough culture while abroad, the architecture is so stunning that just walking around felt like an historical tour. It was seriously hot when we visited (up to 40°C) so if you can't stand the heat, it is best to wait until later in the autumn.

There is always something to see – from the Alcazar and the Cathedral to the Macarena or a leisurely cruise down the Guadalquivir – so the hours just melt away. Andalucía is the home of Flamenco so taking in a show is a must. Once again, we avoided the tourist traps and headed for the Museo de Flamenco, a tiny intimate venue with seating for less than 50 people to watch a breathtaking performance of both traditional dance and song.

Our last evening was given over to an hour-long horse and carriage ride around the city, stopping at several attractions including the exquisite Plaza de Espana, built as the centrepiece for Expo '29 and today the home of local government.

THE KNOW HOW

The bottom line

I would recommend this city to anyone for a weekend break. The weather is fantastic and the food and wine is phenomenal. Throw in the architecture, culture and music, and it adds up to a great destination, one which I hope to return to in the not-too-distant future.

Flights to Seville from Dublin cost from €37 per person one-way (ryanair.com). B&B at the Barceló Renacimiento costs from €129 per room (barcelo.com/seville. B&B at the Alfonso X111 costs from €315 per room (hotel-alfonsox111- seville.com)

Highlights

Flamenco (museoflamenco.com); river cruise (elpalacioandaluz. com); Royal Alcazar (alcazar sevilla.org).

Favourite tapas bars

1. The Casablanca Tapas Bar

(bodeguitacasablanca.com)

2. The Bodeguita Romero on Calle Harinas 10

3. Bar Alfalfa, Calle Candilejo, 1

4. Casa Morales, Calle Garcia de Vinuesa, 11.

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