My Favorite Destinations: Seville
by Diana Hechler
(January 6, 2004) Even if you’ve never heard of the opera “Carmen”, Seville will permeate your soul with its dramatic possibilities. Carmen is very much a presence in the city and today, students at the University of Seville wander in and out of what was once the tobacco factory where Carmen worked.
The biggest challenge in Seville is negotiating its labyrinthine street lay-out (or rather lack of lay-out). Tiny streets stop and start, especially in the old Jewish quarter of Santa Cruz, and driving is definitely an “adventure”. Give up your car upon arrival and you and your companions will feel your mood lift. Those frustrating one-way alleys will reveal their splendor to you, the pedestrian!
The big draw in town is the magnificent Gothic Cathedral and its Moorish companion, the Giralda Tower. No elevator, of course, but a great view awaits the hardy climber. In the stunning Cathedral, you can marvel at the ornate and massive tomb of Christopher Columbus; yes, THAT Christopher Columbus! For scholars, papers and journals from his voyages are available nearby.
The Royal Palace (Alcazar), just a few steps away, is a magnificent blend of Moorish and Christian architecture that all visitors should explore. Be sure to spend a few moments in the enchanting Moorish garden afterwards. Your weary soul is bound to find solace and peace as the garden works its centuries-old magic.
One of my favorite corners of Seville is the beautiful Maria Luisa Park, even more colorful on Sunday afternoons when the locals and their children come to enjoy its splendors, too. The Plaza de Espana, built for the Exposition of 1929, will take your breath away with its sheer size and grandeur. Close observers might have noticed its brief appearance in the last Star Wars movie. Really!
On the outskirts of the city, you can find the remains of Italica, a Roman town of 2,000 souls built for veterans of the army that conquered Spain. Virtually unvisited by tourists, you might find yourself alone in the old amphitheater, free to commune with the spirits of enthusiastic spectators from 2,000 years ago. You’ll need a car to get there.
A fabulous day-trip is to the bandito stronghold of Ronda, high in the mountains south of Seville. This is the region that offered safe haven to Carmen and her unsavory crowd. The town, impregnable to “uninvited guests”, straddles a deep gorge and the view of the old bridge alone is worth the trip. Check out the Bandito Museum to understand what these mountains meant to Spain and its people.
Don’t forget Flamenco, at night!
For the Kids: Try to get a view of the new bridges crossing the Guadalquivir River. They span the river in several places, looking like giant harps suspended from the sky.