Hercules, the mythical, muscular hero and mortal son of the Greek god Zeus, not to mention a dead ringer for screen actor Steve Reeves, supposedly discovered HER.
The infamous Spanish Inquisition’s first auto-da-fé (act of faith by burning at the stake) took place in front of an eager crowd packed into one of HER plaza’s.
HER cobbled calle and avenidas are shaded by more than 30,000, bitter not sweet, orange trees.
And, 29 travel journalists, the “band of merry media” invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) on it’s Iberian Adventure, are about to experience HER.
Seville, the capital city of Andalusia. Home to Bizet’s fiery gypsy Carmen and Rossini’s do-everything barber Figaro. Where the sun always seems to shine and the sound of rhythmic stamping of flamenco dancers feet on hardwood floors never tires. And, where mouth-watering tapas, hanging jamones and pescaito frito (fried fish) await you inside crowded, tourist-friendly neighborhood bars.
Straight off the motor coach parked near Puerta de la Carne, one of the ancient entryways into old town Seville, we’re greeted with a warm ¡Hola! from a smiling Lidia, Insight’s local art historian and homegrown sevillana.
As she points out, “The quickest way to wrap your arms around Seville is by tasting her traditional foods.”
So, this being mid-to-late afternoon, we go native and pull up chairs under the large canopies of Restaurante El 3 de Oro‘s calenteria along the Antigua Calle del Ritiro for a classic merienda (snack).
We’re here to savor churros — deep-fried, loop-shaped, sugar-coated fluted dough — dipped into cups of doubly-thick hot chocolate. Mmmmm.
Calorie laden with a pretty good sugar buzz, we grip our DSLRs, point-and-shoots, smartphones, even a lone iPad, as Lidia guides us through the winding, narrow streets and alleyways of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the former Jewish quarter tucked away inside this city of 700,000.
With 11 calle and 11 plazas dotting this historic neighborhood, there’s loads of atmosphere to capture and plenty of elbow room for everyone to frame their shots. Or is there?
Lens caps off, you go that-a-way and I’ll go this-a-way.
Home to some of Seville’s oldest churches, Barrio de Santa Cruz includes the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, or simply Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the third largest church on the entire planet.
Built on the site of the former Almohad Mosque, who’s minaret is now the converted La Giralda bell tower, the cathedral is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Unfortunately, due to the death of María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva — Whew! — 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain, descendant of England’s King James II and Spain’s richest woman — Double Whew! — Seville Cathedral is closed to the public today, even for we fast-tracked Insight VIPs.
Dejected, we make our way at sunset along the decorative cobble to our awaiting motor coach, parked near Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza along Paseo de Cristóbal Colón, and head for Meliá Sevilla, our four-star, business-class hotel while we’re in town.
After a quick scrub, a change of clothes and a splash of cologne, I’m back outside with the rest of the “band of merry media” as we choose up sides — actually, divide into three squads — as tonight’s Dine Around Night, on Insight’s euro, to three different restaurants smack dab in the heart of Seville’s historic center. Given the choices, I opt to take my dinner inside a former 12th century Moorish bathhouse. No kiddin’.
Packed into three taxis, ten of us caravan back into the Barrio de Santa Cruz and break bread[sticks] at Restaurante San Marco, a Spanish/Italian eatery with Venetian roots. Who would’ve thunk.
Like the “do everything” title character in The Barber of Seville, I’ve become the “eat everything” character in this Insight epicurean opera. A barber I’m not, but I am in Seville. Aw, what the heck. Hit it, Maestro.
For complete information on Insight’s 112 premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, including 10 highlighting Portugal and Spain, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
See you tomorrow at dawn’s early light for a jam-packed itinerary. We’ll start off inside the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba and end the day savoring tapas inside Seville’s oldest tavern.
©The Palladian Traveler