An hour after nightfall, we arrived in downtown Sevilla, and began navigating to our hotel located in the labyrinthine old neighborhood of Santa Cruz. Little did we know that, in some places, the streets were only inches wider than the car, and hairpin turns were around every corner. After an hour of the most stressful driving experience of our lives, Judy managed to park the car like a pro, and we made our way to the hotel a few blocks away.
A bit shaken, we decided that we simply could not end our first night in Seville on such a silly note, so we began researching places to see the city's famed flamenco in action. Our search inevitably led us to Triana, the gypsy district, and the tiny bar called Casa Anselma, where we were told flamenco occurred genuinely and spontaneously. Immediately after arriving, we found it to be true, as a small band played flamenco classics in the corner while the packed bar sang along, and whoever felt the urge would set down their drink and saunter up to the front to dance in a space scarcely larger than a phonebooth. Anselma sashayed around, swinging her embroidered shawl, jovially taunting and teasing her guests - her deep and raspy voice overpowering the bar-chatter. Moments later, the entire bar went dark and Anselma herself led all in a sung prayer to the virgin - a small icon on the mantle which was lit by electronic candles. Afterwards, many of the patrons filed out of the bar, which allowed us to squeeze our way to the front and take a seat next to the band. For the next few hours we sat transfixed by the energy, and time seemed to dissolve away without our knowing. By the time we left, it was well past three in the morning, and it was only then that we realized how exhausted we were from the day's travels.
The next morning, we decided to wander through Seville without any real destination in mind, and soon found ourselves enchanted by the unique nature of the city - from it's ornate gardens and parks, to its magnificent architecture. We took in such sights as the famed Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (the largest Gothic structure in the world), and the Alcázar, enjoyed the scent of roasting chestnuts, and even stumbled upon a flea market in a small courtyard.
We also explored Seville's bustling downtown area, where modern department stores and clothing chains are intermingled with classic storefronts selling handmade clothing and antiques. We even had a food fight with some cheeky girls in a cafe, before exchanging notes (which we wrote in Spanish, and they wrote in English) as impromptu language practice.
That night we decided to witness the other end of the flamenco spectrum, and purchased tickets to a performance at La Casa de la Memoria - the venue widely considered to show the best flamenco in Seville. Shortly after six, we filed through the front door and into a beautiful 18th century courtyard, dimly lit, and overgrown with ivy. There were only about seventy seats in two rows around the perimeter of the courtyard, with a ten-foot square stage in center of the room. Once everyone was seated, a singer and a guitarist entered the room, sat down behind the stage, and began to play. After a few songs, a female dancer entered the room and took to the stage. For the next hour, our eyes did not move from the stage as she danced, later accompanied by an equally skilled male dancer. Together, they cultivated an atmosphere unlike anything we'd ever felt before, each working in perfect unison with the others.
Shortly after the show, we walked to a nearby restaurant, Vineria San Telmo. Each of us ordered three tapas, shared a bottle of wine (all for less than fifty euros), and concluded before it was even over that it was the best meal of our lives. So good in fact, that we extended our stay in Seville until the afternoon of the next day, just so we could go back for lunch.