Sevilla is kind of difficult to leave. Like, really difficult. It sucks you deep into itself and leaves you flustered and winded. It is a smallish city that moves at the pace of a big one. Its thin streets and alleys open up towards the water to become elegant boulevards on whose arms impressive facades were built. These things take your breath away, pull it from your body into balloons that you practically float on as you finish the day lost in the labyrinth.
The neighbourhood of Santa Cruz, or the Jewish Quarter, is an exaggeration of the rest of the city. The “kissing street” is so narrow that the Spanish balconies, slightly jutting out from the windows with their wrought-iron castings, are almost touching. There is an endless collection of sad stories ground into the cobblestoned streets. There are betrayals the likes of Romeo and Juliet (but with Susona and her cruel lover), where people die and then others, women obviously, from the devastation, commit suicide. There are also the stories, enshrined in squares where synagogues should have stood, of love, of kings being shown up by homeless women in middle-age poetry slams, taking them as their wives and planting a city full of orange trees just to satisfy their new wife’s need for snow (as when the orange blossoms bloom, their flowers are tiny, white, and floating down, cover the city in a blanket of ‘snow’).
There is an uncountable variety of cafes and tapas bars, with seniors (politically correct, or no?) who hang out in the warming morning sun with their zuma de naranja, cafe con leche, and toast with mantequilla y marmelade. In Canada, or at least where I live near Toronto, older folks gather in droves in Tim Horton’s, buying small coffees and hot chocolates, being more raucous, sometimes, than the teenagers that drop by post-partying late into the night. There is something more accepting in Sevilla about this, something expected and necessary and comforting. Like the city has made room for its wisest inhabitants openly, instead of sentencing them to cordoned off areas where they won’t disturb the general populace, which, I find, is the mindset behind the building of old-age homes in North America.
My tour guide told us that the way people behave here is mainly show, seeing as how unemployment is at about 35% city-wide. But do people ever show! Wow. Never have I been in a city better dressed than Seville. The women are immaculate at every time of day and night, donning thick, high heels without an ounce of wobble, carefully tailored (and tight) dresses in all the fashions and colors of the rainbow, and an air of confidence that made me, in my baggy shorts and flip flops, slink back into my head and pretend I was one of them. Alas, living out of a backpack, even one as heavy and densely packed as mine, cannot possibly be as glamorous as these women’s grubby slacks, as if they ever had such a thing. I could learn something from them in my real life though, which is that there is never an occasion too unimportant to not dress up for. I.e. always dress up, and own it!
Finally, there is flamenco, and tapas, and a completely surprising mix of cultures that I would never have gleaned were I not to visit Spain or read about its history. The Cathedral’s minaret and orange tree garden used to be part of a mosque, and the beautiful, peaceful fountains were used for cleansing Muslim’s bodies before prayer. Cultural heritage, invasions and defeats and exploration, these things befuddle me when I think about how rampant racism can be in certain countries. How can it possibly exist when we are all so historically, currently, and unexceptionally linked to one another, not only in “multicultural Canada” but everywhere across the world?
Until next time, when I’m hoping to summarize some thoughts on Granada and Valencia. Bizou!