The Grand Tour: Part 5 — Styles of Seville

IMG_5222SEVILLE, Spain — “You are so lucky with the weather.”

We must have heard that a 100 times during our time in Seville. We had been warned that temperatures would be in the 90s at this time of the year, and as Seville is a “walking town,” we were warned. As it turned out, an unseasonably cool front kept the temperatures around 80 degrees, the absolutely perfect temperature to explore this old city.

I am glad it is a walking town, because the minimal driving I had to do — getting in and getting out — proved to be a challenge. Every street is one way, probably due to the fact that the winding streets were not technically wide enough for a car! OK, slight exaggeration, but only slight.

A view of one of the narrow streets of Seville

A view of one of the narrow streets of Seville

The narrow streets and alleyways are a real delight. The town has a strong Moorish influence and one can imagine the twists and turns filled with market stalls. The multiple cafés have outdoor seating and for the people watcher, it is a perfect place to enjoy a tinto verano or another cool beverage and relax.

A late night flamenco party on the streets of Seville.

A late night flamenco party on the streets of Seville.

One small warning about Seville, and Spain in general. They take the concept of siesta seriously. Even in a city like Seville, finding a café with an open kitchen between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. requires some detective work and not a little luck — or before 11 a.m. The main meal of the day is usually around 2 p.m., followed by a siesta where a lot of shops close down. But come the evening, the city bursts into life again, it not being unusual to be wandering around and enjoying the sights well after midnight.

Arabic custom dicated that the utside walls of a house should not be ostentatious, so most signs of wealth are hidden with the walls. However, the number of millstones embedded in the foundation wall of a building were a subtle way of letting passers by know how many mills were owned. This house, with 18 millstones, must have belonged to an ancient Bill Gates. Photo by Ramona Young.

Arabic custom dicated that the utside walls of a house should not be ostentatious, so most signs of wealth are hidden with the walls. However, the number of millstones embedded in the foundation wall of a building were a subtle way of letting passers by know how many mills were owned. This house, with 18 millstones, must have belonged to an ancient Bill Gates. Photo by Ramona Young.

If one is following not-Latin food schedules, this can be a little disconcerting, but it doesn’t take long to get into the swing of it. Thinking about it, after hitting plays or rehearsals or art openings around Southeast Texas, supper at 9 or 10 p.m. isn’t really that unusual anyway.

The skies, we were told, were not as blue as normal, but they were plenty blue enough for me, although when the sun did decide to really shine brightly, the city was bathed in an orange glow as the light reflected off the buildings.

These Roman columns sit away from any fanfare in the garden of a house in Seville.

These Roman columns sit away from any fanfare in the garden of a house in Seville.

One interesting thing about Seville is it’s use of “recycling,” as our host Catalina Castillón puts it. Over the centuries, the city has absorbed Roman, Arabic and European influences in its architecture. One sees old buildings incorporate old Roman columns, so that the city is a mishmash of styles. Not just in adjacent buildings, but within the buildings themselves.

It is not unusual to see a house that is European in style with an Arabic stone wall propping up one side. One wall we saw literally had two walls overlapping. Far from being hard on the eye, this gives the city a unique charm and style.

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The Seta. Photo by Ramona Young.

One controversial building is the Seta, a giant modern structure dubbed “The Mushroom” by the locals. It is a beautifully organic, flowing white structure that looms over a square in the old part of the city. I understand that some who embrace Seville’s architectural history might find such modernism jarring, but surely, in this city, built on an evolution of styles and influences, there is room for “The Mushroom.”

The Seta at night.

The Seta at night.

In 200 years, visitors to Seville will probably find a futuristic construction where a guide will proudly tell tourists that it was built using part the Seta as a foundation, with a few Roman columns and Arabic walls thrown in for good measure.

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