The Alcazar and Barrio Santa Cruz

CollageCredits:  Template by J Sprague Photo collage; Paper by Scrapmuss Designs

After a night of soulful music and dancing, elated from the cultural assimilation, we were back on the street the next day for more. The Santa Cruz district, also known as Barrio Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarters, is just a hop away from our hostel.

Best known for its small plazas—Plaza de Santa Cruz, Plaza de los Venerables,

plaza-alianzaPlaza Alianza
plaza dona elviraPlaza Dona Elvira

Plaza Alianza, Plaza de Dona Elvira among others—hidden around the lively labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys awash with shops not only of touristy souvenirs

shopSangre Espanola–burnt my MC here.

and bars indulged too by locals,

bars

it is a natural gathering of visitors and the community alike. Picturesque lime-washed houses added to its charm.

And in this district stands 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites:

cathedral-from-triunfoThe Cathedral from Plaza del Triunfo

the Cathedral and its Giralda, the Archivo de Indias (which we failed to enter), and the Alcazar.

On the southeast side of the Plaza del Triunfo stands the Real Alcazar, supposedly the oldest European palace still in use.

alcazr-from-triunfoThe Alcazar from Plaza del Triunfo

Walking through the Alcazar is like walking through the history of Seville.

alcazar-collage

Art and architecture designs throughout the palace are marked by the diversity of cultures starting in Moorish times to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Baroque, and the XIX century.

Before it became the royal palace of Christian Kings, it was once a Moorish fortress. Today, it is still used as a part-time residence of the Spanish royal family, although only a few rooms are closed to the public.

alcazar-2

Built by Moorish architecture, the structure standing today still has details of a medieval fortress.

gardens

The gardens are outstanding, but I say that the picturesque Patio de las Doncellas, the Ambassador’s Hall,

patio-de-los-doncellas-2

patio-de-las-doncellas

patio-de-los-doncellas-3

with its tranquil pond that reflects the Mudejar plasterwork will transport you to another time. The intricate carvings and mosaic will leave you in awe.

The castle is huge, which took up half of our day. All the walking left us craving for tapas. And my notes tell me that Bodega Santa Cruz is the place to be when in the area.

bodega-santa-cruz

The bar wasn’t swarming with people yet, as it was only half past 11, so we easily found a table at the corner, in plain view of our bartender who wrote our orders down in chalk.

Bodega-sta.-cruz-dishesLeft to right: pringa, berenjenas con miel (fried aubergines with honey and salt), lomo chipiona

One by one, he calls out our orders, pringa, lomo chipiona, alitas de pollo, berenjenas con miel… all good that left us gratified.

And after wandering through the barrio, we were back for more tapas, al fresco this time.

Cafe-Alianza

We settled for Café Alianza at the plaza of the same name.

Restaurant-Alianza

Satisfying early dinner in a lovely square, a great way to cap the day.

Useful Info:

Bodega Sta. Cruz
Calle Rodrigo Caro, 1A
+35 954 21 32 46
 
Café Restaurante Alianza
Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 9
+34 954 21 76 35
 
Royal Alcazar of Seville
Patio de Banderas
+34 954 50 23 24
 
Sangre Española
Calle Santa Teresa, 4
+34 954 22 72 26

Our Flamenco Fling

I took a leaflet. “This is better,” the lady at the counter recommended a different one. “If you don’t mind, it’s at the outskirt of Sevilla. You will be picked up,” she added. “It’s €38 per person and comes with drinks and tapas.”

plaza-del-toro

And so, there we were in front of the Plaza del Toro a quarter before eight as instructed. At exactly eight, a van stopped in front, a lady came out greeted us and off we went.

Maria introduced herself as the co-owner of Flamenco Esencia, the company on the leaflet. They promised an authentic flamenco performance in an intimate setting. Not that easy to come by today, so I heard. Most performances are produced with tourists in mind. Maria, being a flamenco dancer herself (and respected one in the industry at that), had thought to revive flamenco performances the way it was intended to be: up close, spontaneous, and unplugged.

artists

With her influence, she has established and upcoming but promising flamenco artists on stage together resulting in performances that vary in style and temperament, depending on who are performing. We were awarded an outstanding, heartrending performance.

countrysideWe had a glimpse of the Sevillian countryside on our way to the venue in Salteras, a small village 10 kilometers away from the city center.

saltero

In a narrow street, we walked into a high 19th-century bodega where we were greeted with a glass of wine.

seating

stage

It is a small space with a high ceiling that has seats only for a limited number of people, I estimate about 40. Aside from the eight of us, a few more people arrived; I assumed were regular enthusiasts and friends.

tapas

A flavorsome choice of tapas, which included freshly carved Jamon Iberico, cheese and mouth-watering patatas tortilla, followed after the impressive, soulful performance.

jamon

The informality and friendliness that was shown the entire evening evoked a sense of genuine hospitality that I suspect isn’t felt in a regular show in the city.

Flamenco was an expression of denial, a means of escape of the persecuted gypsies back then. It was a mockery of paradoxes, which symbolizes their way of life evident in the supercilious dancers in bright costumes, the intricate rhythm set by hand clapping and foot stomping, and the raspy wail of singers echoing the Muslim’s call to prayer. And for at least 200 years, Flamenco has existed and has become an important part of Southern Spain’s cultural heritage with Seville as the center of this performing art.

Exploring Seville’s City Center

I found Anton at the front desk chatting with the guy in charge. He seemed impressed that Anton could pretty much carry a conversation in Spanish. Here’s a tip: if you can speak even just a bit of the local language, try to use it to the best of your ability not only to impress but because it is the fastest way to a local’s heart. This was actually how we found our way to Casa Jimio for some interesting tapas.

Calle-Jimio

Front desk guy pointed us there; it is only a short walk from our hostel, La Casa de la Luna and a stone’s throw away from Plaza Nueva. From there, he said, we could hop from one excellent tapas bar to another. Following his lead, we got ourselves a table at La Flor de Toranzo, also known locally as Casa Trifon.

lunchLeft to right: Salmorejo; olives; Jamon Iberico “bellota”

Apparently one of the more famous bars in Seville, it offers a traditional menu with specialty tapas like foie gras, marinated turkey breast, anchovy rolls…

sandwiches-of-La-Flor-de-Toranzo

Anchoas con leche condensada (anchovies with condensed milk) sandwich caught our eye and suffice it to say that we were so blown away with the flavor combination, we got another order even if we were attempting to do a tapas bar crawl, a time-honored tradition that has Spaniards walking, drinking, and nibbling almost daily.

Seville. This beautiful Andalusian capital sitting on the lower reaches of the River Guadalquivir oozes with charm.

The-Adriatico-BuidlingThe Adriatico Building

As with most European cities, historical monuments are scattered around but what sets Seville apart is its seductive atmosphere—starting with the Seville orange trees found in every corner perfuming the air with its blossoms, its passion for flamenco

condetria-fillelia

and its love for food.

One thing Seville does not have little of, is its tapas bars and restaurants. Being a city of eaters and drinkers, tapas joints abound in Seville.

food-lovers

A day for a true Sevillano starts with a pre-breakfast snack (around 7am), then followed by the real breakfast at 10am. A beer or a glass of vino accompanies lunch at 2pm and at 5pm, the Sevillano head to the bars to tide them over till supper at home, usually around 9pm.

With our bellies full from a very satisfying lunch (we only managed 2 bars),

people

we headed to Avenida de la Constitucion, taking in its vibrancy—people of all kinds (locals, tourists, students…)

old-and-new

fill the street, historical monuments and buildings share space with modern shopping malls,

tram

modern trams ply the cobbled avenida, and adding to the gaiety, music filled the air from a guy playing Besame Mucho in his accordion…

accordion-man

madness in a good way is what this major thoroughfare is.

The Cathedral and the Giralda

The-Cathedral-along-Avenida

The largest Gothic building in Europe sits in the heart of the city on Avenida de la Constitucion. The Seville Cathedral, its flamboyance an expression of the city’s wealth during the 15th century.

grandeur

Replacing what was once a grand mosque of the Almohad Dynasty in the 12th century, it dominates the city today with its splendor and size. The astonishingly large building breaks several size records, making it the largest church in the world when measured by volume.

cathedral-interior

I was filled with awe at the massive size of the cathedral, at its sumptuous simplicity: the ceiling is about 13 stories high (42m) at the central nave and gilded in gold.

high-ceiling

The huge interior has a large collection of artworks from Murillo, Zurbaran, and Goya among others.

Its bell tower is called the Giralda. It was the large and beautiful minaret of the mosque, built to resemble that of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech in Morocco.

giralda-2

Not only is it now the bell tower of the largest church in the world and the tallest landmark in Seville, it is also an excellent example of the cultural blend that molded Spain into what it is today.

giralda

It stands 343 ft. (105m) tall above sea level and instead of steps, a series of ramps were built so that the person calling the faithful to prayer (when it was still a mosque) could easily ride a horse up to the top.

view-from-the-giralda-2

Do make your way up the ramps because when you reach the top, you will be rewarded with panoramic view of Seville.

view-from-the-giralda

view-from-the-giralde

And after walking up the tower, we did as the Sevillanos always do; we found our spot and had an afternoon snack.

afternoon-meriendaUseful Info:

La Casa de la Luna
Calle Mariana de Pineda (near Puerta Jerez)
+34 954-218-389
 
La Flor de Toranzo
Calle Jimio 1-3
+34 954-229-315
 
Seville Cathedral
Avenida de la Constitucion