Like the iconic flamenco dancers of this city, Seville is a tantalising temptress made up to perfection. Deep red lipstick, hair tumbling in artful waves, dress swishing beguilingly, she is a flawless beauty. Every street sign here is made and displayed with care and artistry; the buildings are tiled with Moorish designs, much like Portuguese Azulejos. Church exteriors seem to be made up of paintings pinched from the Museo de Bellas Artes. The deep Andalusian sky provides the perfect backdrop for the elegantly-painted buildings – russet and ochre, white and blue, dusky pink.
I was worried that Seville was one of those places I had spent too long dreaming about, and that it wouldn’t match up in reality. But in the five minutes it took for me to walk from the bus station to the cathedral, timed serendipitously with the first rays of dawn bathing La Giralda in a pale golden light, Seville had already outdone even my most outlandish imaginings. The city had seduced me in an instant, and it was no mistaken first impression of a sleep-deprived traveller. Even after a strong coffee and a mars bar (hey, after three broken hours of sleep on a night bus, there are no rules about breakfast), Seville was still unbelievably beautiful.
The grand buildings – the gothic cathedral with the famous Giralda, its Moorish tower, and the crenellated, russet-toned Alcazar Palace – bask in the adoration of tourists’ cameras, photogenic at every angle, and they transport you to worlds beyond the confines of the space and time of the modern-day city. But it’s Seville’s ordinary streets which I find even more enchanting – stumbling upon church spires bathed in a sunset glow, or trees heavy with oranges, framing a pretty, shuttered window, or catching a glimpse of a group of giggling girls, dressed in bouncy flamenco dresses, large flowers in their hair, as they dash away to a dance performance.
I realised that Seville truly had me under her spell when I found myself in a souvenir shop, buying flamenco earrings and a fan. I practically never buy souvenir-y souvenirs, yet here I was, buying the most clichéd things I possibly could. But the lure of dramatic red earrings and a white polka dot fan was just too much. Plus, fans are essential items in Seville. On the first day of June, the temperatures were already hitting the mid thirties. Of course, as with everything else, Seville has made this most practical and necessary of objects a thing of style and sophistication.
Still, if any city was made for hot weather, it is Seville. She doesn’t swelter and sweat as the temperatures soar; she revels in them. Seville is a surprisingly green city, with lush, tropical-style vegetation bursting from the parks and gardens, bringing oxygen and shade wherever it is needed. Tall palm trees wave overhead, and flowers bloom and oranges ripen, almost before your eyes, as they drink in the sun. The city also has alfresco dining down to a fine art: parasols and awnings provide shady spots to sip a tinto de verano or a cold cerveza, and every few minutes, a cooling mist is released over the diners and drinkers – a perfect way to beat the heat.
Seville is even more alluring at night. With a flutter of her eyelashes and a tap of her shoe, the city is transformed from chic to sultry. The unmistakable chinking of wine glasses begins to chime musically through the darkened streets; monuments which were attractive enough by day are illuminated in a soft yellow glow, shining bright against a velvety blue sky. Chatter, laughter and music fills every square, every street corner where there is a bar or restaurant – which is most of them. People spill from these tapas bars onto the streets, basking in the balmy evening temperatures, balancing drinks and plates expertly. This casual, social atmosphere is a part of Spanish culture that I love, and Seville does it with panache. In fact, Seville is party-ready every single night, yet she still wakes up every morning fresh-faced and beautiful.
Seville is accomplished in the art of seduction – it would take a hard soul indeed not to be beguiled by this city. I know that this is one place which will draw me back time and time again. A single visit is just not enough.