If ever there was a place to retire overseas, it’s Seville.
Warm sunshine. Beautiful architecture. And a vibrant community of people who know how to live.
We arrived in Seville on an overnight bus from Faro, Portugal at 5am. Disembarking, we were stunned to see people milling around in the dark. But within a half hour, everyone disappeared. We realized those “early risers” were actually late night revelers straggling home from the evening’s festivities. Spainards reportedly average 40 minutes less sleep than the rest of Europe. Guess life here is worth staying up late for.
Seville is a beautiful, easygoing town with a sense of timelessness.
Here, people linger and savor the moment. So we did as well. We let the days slowly unfold before us. We visited a multitude of landmark buildings. The Seville Cathedral with its stunning Giralda, a converted minaret turned bell tower. The gorgeous Real Alcazare (Royal Palace), the official residence of the royal family. And the Plaza de Toros, an 18th century bullring, that continues to host traditional bullfighting events.
Strolling through Plaza Nueva, we made our way to the back streets of quaint Barrio Santa Cruz. We wandered among whitewashed houses and fragrant orange trees. Narrow streets known as “kissing lanes” add to the neighborhood’s charm and romance. The lanes also provide shade during hot Sevillan summers.
At Plaza de Espana, we took in the impressive pavilion buildings with their trademark ceramic tiles. Nearby Maria Luisa Park offered gardens filled with fountains, pavilions and bird sanctuaries. When evening came, we crossed the bridge over Guadalquivir River to the neighborhood of Triana,. Here, we found Lo Nuestro, a tiny bar with live music and impromptu flamenco dancing.
Historically, Flamenco wasn’t set to music. The exuberant dance relied on singing and clapping to keep the rhythm.
Like Fado in Lisbon, Flamenco is a tradition typically performed by ordinary people. Watching couples execute the intricate steps and dramatic stomps is hypnotizing. They twirl around, gracefully moving their arms into statuesque poses. They snap their fingers to punctuate the end of each music stanza. It’s easy to get lost in the world of Flamenco. Again, that Sevillan sense of timelessness.
Perhaps our favorite thing to do in Seville, and all of Europe, is the nightly evening paseo.
Couples young and old, families, friends and other groups gather to walk through town. The point is to simply be together and enjoy each other’s company. What a gift to have down time be an essential part of daily living. We reflected on the busy, insular nature of American culture and wondered, are we missing the point?
Post evening stroll, tapas bar hopping begins. This is a quintessential ritual of Andalusian life. Popular Bodega Santa Cruz offers up classic tapas dishes like paella (a seasonal rice dish with chicken or seafood), patatas bravas (fried potatoes) and manchego croquettas (deep friend cheese balls). These types of savory treats pair perfectly with an inexpensive house wine (usually Rioja) or Cruz Campo beer. We learned the mid-day siesta is crucial in order to stay awake for dinner, typically starting at 10 or 11pm.
No visit to Spain is complete without trying the infamous Churros con Chocolate. Heading home late one night, Churreria Los Especiales caught our eye, a humble free-standing café. Who needs sleep when you can eat fried dough and hot chocolate at 2am?
Like Flamenco dancing, life in Spain clearly has its own unique rhythm.
After stumbling on the largest outdoor happy hour we’d ever seen, we realized Sevillans don’t wait for the weekend to have fun. They celebrate the everyday, every day. Buying a glass of wine, we joined the square overflowing with people mingling and drinking. Seville, we will be back. Hopefully, before we retire.
Lodging: Hostal Buen Dormir (Good Sleep) | Food: Bar Gonzalo, Bodega Santa Cruz, Bar Las Teresas, Lo Nuestro, Churreria Los Especiales, Cerveceria Giralda, Cafeteria Universal | Activities: Seville Cathedral, Royal Palace, Barrio Santa Cruz, Maria Luisa Park