Voyage

Querida Sevilla

With its beautiful Moorish architecture, mild winters and rich sense of tradition, Seville makes a wonderful off-season break. Photography by Richard Wayman

Plaza de España
Plaza de España

One of the ways that Seville differs from Britain is how it feels on a Saturday night. Seville is a relaxed city, where people still dress well and social behaviour reflects a respect both for the centrality of family and for older people. So, Saturday night will see families, from grandmothers to toddlers, strolling around the city centre without stepping over drunks or being asked for spare change. The idea of strolling around a city centre in the UK at 10pm on Saturday night with a family would be seen as insane. In contrast, Seville’s Saturday nights are still accessible to all its citizens.

“The air soft as that of Seville in April, and so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it”

Christopher Columbus

Accessibility is a key feature of this charming city where you can buy shoes in any colour, eat at any time of day and sit on a public bench with no fear that a tramp has just peed on it. We’ve long given up on dressing well in the UK, but here there is still pride and it would seem only Royal families and the Spanish still dress their children as children rather than as little adults. Babies in bonnets and beautiful tiny booties, little girls beam in their beautiful dresses, ankle socks and wide satin ribbons in clean, bouncy hair. You will see boys in shorts, crisp shirts and polished shoes. There is a reason why Princess Charlotte wore an outfit bought by her Spanish nanny for her first appearance from hospital. This way of life is under threat as cheap Chinese imports flood into the main Spanish department stores, with ugly T-shirts and tiny jeans now being seen. You can still see the exquisite children’s clothes in the shops and on children walking with their abuelos (grandparents) in the evening warmth. If you want to know how they stay clean (and calm), Spain has the lowest confectionery consumption in Europe.

Plaza de San Francisco with La Giralda in the background
Plaza de San Francisco with La Giralda in the background

Things start late in Seville, particularly in summer time. Many people take a simple breakfast before having their desayuno in a café. Give any kind of English breakfast option a miss and go local – toasted bread drizzled with dense, fruity olive oil – add crushed tomatoes and jamón Serrano for a more substantial bite. A café con leche in a small glass (en vaso) – not a latte and definitely no foam is the way to go. Spanish milky coffees are some of the nicest in Europe and you don’t want a poor attempt at an Italian version.

Lunch kicks off around 2pm and you can expect the city to grind to a halt. Shops shut and the main news of the day is on at 3pm when people will be at home just about to have a post lunch siesta. An incredulous taxi driver once shared a tale of him going home for lunch only to see a group of foreign tourists walking around in the afternoon heat. “And these were older people!” he exclaimed in a thick Andalucian accent, “not youngsters, they could have collapsed at any moment. What possessed them to go walking when they should have been resting?” he asked me. “Total lack of awareness,” I replied. “And what is going on with the trousers? For years we have laughed at socks and sandals and now there are these strange trousers ending between the knee and the ankle. And this is on grown men!” Globally, things (trouser wise) have become so much worse since then of course, and you can see Issue 2 of Amanda Magazine for a full report.

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Outside the famous bullring

Around 6pm, people re-emerge for a pre shopping re-fuel – the merienda. Coffee or thick, hot chocolate and churros to dip in them are eaten in gossipy groups all around town. Locals love to stroll and shop in the mild evenings along the main streets of Tetuán and Sierpes – the serpent – which winds its way through central Seville.

Dinner is never early and many tourists find themselves alone in restaurants at 8pm, the lack of other diners making them wonder if they have chosen a bad spot. Locals are likely to be found in cafés and bars with a small beer (una caña) and a tapa and won’t be dining until around 10.30 in summer, a little earlier in winter. Unlike so many European cities, Seville is still reasonably priced and being able to relax and enjoy its cafés and shops, only adds to its great charm.

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This is an excerpt from Issue 3 of Amanda Magazine. Read the full article by ordering your copy now.

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