Andalucia, Spain – a different part of the Mediterranean and another beautiful experience for the memory card. Quintessential Andalucia – Cool inner courtyards intricately decorated with colorful spanish tiles, tapas treats like serrano ham, manchego cheese and Spanish red wines, quiet flower-scented plazas by day that turn into vibrant nightlife venues dancing with energy. And punches of COLOR everywhere!
When we heard that there was a military hop going from Souda Bay to to Moron AFB, Spain, we jumped at the chance to spend a few days in the intriguing historic city of Seville. We boarded the roomy cargo aircraft with only one other passenger and 4 1/2 hours later we landed at Moron, which is approximately 45 minutes outside of Seville.
Our first stop was to one of the ”white towns” (Pueblos Blancos) of the hill country where we stayed at a restored convent (Hotel El Convento) in the little village of Arcos de la Frontera perched high on a cliff overlooking the green Andalucia fields and farms.
Arcos was a delightfully sleepy little village with a handful of shops, restaurants and museums that were sporadically open. (After all, it was October – not exactly peak season.) The town itself was very small so our leisurely exploring only took a few hours.
The next day we were ready for our city experience so we hopped on a bus to Seville. As soon as we arrived in Seville, we were immediately attracted to its unique essence. The VRBO rental accommodation was disappointing but the location was stellar – 1 block off the bustling Alameda de Hercules – a busy gathering place by day and one of Seville’s liveliest spots at night. La Alameda is a long tree-lined plaza flanked on both ends with Roman pillars (genuine on the south end) and boasts many open cafes and restaurants.
As is customary for us, we toured most of the city on bikes – compliments of the city bike hire project – Sevici. Seville is the perfect city to explore on bikes so no wonder it has quickly risen to the top as Spain’s most bike-friendly city. As we pedaled through the streets we quickly realized that Seville is a real treat for all the senses. The historic city area is filled with architecture reflecting past Moorish influence, and the Giralda Tower is an example of this influence. The ornate top is the Renaissance addition to what used to be the original Muslim minaret.
The Cathedral (third largest in Europe next to St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London) and the Alcazar (now a part-time royal residence) are stunning and extravagant.
But we most enjoyed snooping around the cramped, magical old Jewish quarter (Barrio Santa Cruz) a picturesque neighborhood of narrow streets and white washed houses.
Finally, we finished off the afternoon daylight with a ride out to the magnificent Parque de Maria Luisa, my favorite place because of all the gardens! This giant park could easily engulf you for an entire day with its trails, green lawns, fountains, flower gardens and the beautiful architecture of the Plaza de Espana, most impressive for its miles of ceramic tile work integrated into everything from floors to banisters.
Nightlife in Seville wouldn’t be complete without taking in a flamenco show. Just as beautiful art should evoke an emotional response, this passionate display of music, dance and story moved me deeply and unexpectedly. I found myself getting lost in the world of elaborate costumes, complicated rhythms and graceful yet deliberate choreography. The venue was a small courtyard and the flamenco performers totaled only four – two dancers, a singer and a guitarist. The singer was accompanied by the guitar and the dancers moved in rhythm, their bodies and facial expressions mirroring the passionate words of the story – sometimes slow and gentle then suddenly changing to angry and emotional but always with passionate intensity. The performance ended abruptly to a thunderous applause and the spell was broken but never forgotten.