Seville. My memories of this part of Andalusia can be summed up in three words. Sweaty, Savory, Sexy. Three words that have no business being side by side, but as anyone who has dared to adventure to Sevilla in the dead of summer can tell you, the combination makes perfect sense.
Summer is when all of my major trips take place because it is when I have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. I get two blissful, joyous, Godly MONTHS off from my career. August is the perfect time to visit some places in Spain (flashback to returned to my hotel in Ibiza at 6a.m., getting kicked out shortly after, and going back to sleep on the beach.) It is unarguably the worst time to visit the south of Spain. The average high weather temperature is 96 degrees Fahrenheit and the air is humid. Enter, sweat. There was no attempt made at looking nice during the daytime in this city. I constantly looked as though I had jumped into a warm, stagnant pool every day I spent there. I smelled like my flight over had been in the under-belly of a plane where only live cattle was kept. If summer is the only time once can visit Seville, would I recommend it anyway? Hell yeah. After all, heat, fire, passion. These are the blood cells of the city. Seville conjures up images of impossibly bright red tomatoes pounded into fiery, garlicky, gazpacho. The mind creates pictures of the crimson skirts and dance shoes of Flamenco dancers, who also sport red roses or carnations in their hair, stomping their feet wildly, forcefully with a furrowed brow while a guitar player sings not only with his voice, but with his heart, or what is left of it after singing a heartbreaking or passionate yard. I myself think of the dry red famed bullring, the Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla where one feels the radiant energy of both the strong bull and the gallant contender entering the arena to face each other, the fighter knowing and the bull sensing that blood will be shed.
When I quickly think back to the top three food destinations I’ve been to, Seville, like a burning, crackling, flame quickly following a trail of gasoline, leaps onto the list without question. The sights are favorable, the music is marvelous, the food and drink anywhere in Seville is exceptional. One cannot say they’ve eaten the best meal of their life if it was not eaten in Seville, Spain. Moorish and Middle Eastern influence suffuses nearly every aspect of the history, architecture, and namely, the cuisine. One definitely feels as though he or she is in Spain, but if someone dropped you in the city and did not tell you of your location, Morocco, or other parts of North Africa would not be a far off guess. I remember most vividly on my tongue and in my nose the orange blossoms. This uniquely sweet, tangy, and smooth taste is found in drinks, such as the famed vino neranja or in many foods such as the gelato at the Gelateria Artesana La Fiornetina where the owner was trained in gelato making in Florence and where a host of famous folks have visited. Every tapa ordered has the taste of it having sat in its own marinade and tended to lovingly for hours. Olives taste richly of oil and salt. Beef cheeks are tender, dripping with heavy brown gravy like sauce that melts on your tongue faster than a communion wafer, no need to chew. I recall late one evening, my best friend and I ducking into an establishment with blue, bleacher like steps reserved for eating and drinking. We ordered a simple meal, cheese and jamon with glasses of orange wine. The old men behind the counter called us beautiful in a grandfatherly way as we paid and although they were closing soon, did not rush or speed us along, but instead engaged us in a conversation about our lives and the city. When our plate was brought out to us the combination of food and drink was so exceptional that I was afraid I would begin log rolling down the steps on which we sat, singing in ecstasy. 24 countries and countless cities later, this is still one of my most happiest moments of travel. Another day, we sat at a cafe and indulged in homemade churros. Dipped in chocolate? Ugh, that is so Madrid-ian. We were taught to dip ours in powdered sugar followed by coffee. When I was told that this is a somewhat typical breakfast of Sevillanos, I damn near packed my bags and left my life in New York. That day rounded off with spicy patatas bravas, comforting followed by, so-good-I-need-to-laugh-and-smile tortilla espanola, and to finish, creamy, indulgent, gazpacho.
Seville, above all things, is sexy. A traveler only needs to visit one of the famed Flamenco shows and see the swift hip action of the dancers shooting smoldering looks at the audience while the guitar player sings with his heart in a gritty, sincere, and passionately booming voice to feel the sensuous nature of the city. While the relationship between the large Roma gypsy population and the Spaniards has been disagreeable to say the least, the mysterious and bold culture of the gitanos thrives within the city. If you can imagine a scene of the old caravan gypsies, singing loudly, playing guitar, drinking good wine and smoking seductively while talking closely in some beautiful dark brunette’s ear, you can imagine Seville. While Barcelona and Madrid’s voiced promises of fun and merriment are inescapable and loud, Seville whispers seductively, stay the night and perhaps, a little longer than that, even.