Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rediscovering Seville with Friends

I often gain a greater appreciation for where I live whenever people come to visit and this was certainly the case in Seville. My two best friends from UM B-School, Vera and Allison (with her husband, Tom) came out to spend 4 days with us. Other than my folks and Suzanne’s mom, the only other people to actually come out to visit us were Eric Steeb and his wife Susan during our second week in Spain and our good friend Kim who met us in Florence for Christmas. Many promised, but few actually delivered! So it was a welcome treat to have someone else brave “la crisis” and head across the pond to come share part of our adventure. After 2 weeks of more or less laying low, we went back to being tourists. The challenge was to put more of a local spin on things. I needn't have worried - as it turned out, one of the highlights of their trip turned out to be simply hanging out on our terrace and catching up while drinking some nice Riberos and enjoying the views of the Giralda / Catedral. Hard to believe after 2 weeks, our view had become an "everyday" experience here, and it was nice to be reminded just how amazing it really was. We spent a particularly nice day with them back at the Alcazar (this time without tired kids), the site of an amazing network of palaces and gardens. While slightly smaller in scale than the Alhambra in Granada, I would say this definitely rivaled that in terms of spectacular moorish architecture. We took a decidedly slower pace this time, soaking in the sites and not trying to rush things. For me, the absolute highlight of our time together in Seville was at La Carboneria - a small beer garden tucked deep into the Barrio de Santa Cruz, which put on low-key, but intense flamenco performances late at night. I felt the performances were as good as any of the more "canned" touristy shows in town - and all for only a 2 dollar cerveza! After the performance, the tourists all headed out and we stuck around for a while to talk. We heard guitar music from an adjoining room where a few locals were gathering around. Suddenly, an older man sitting at a table burst into a song and the place started to pick up. Over the next hour (around 1:00 am) people started streaming into the bar and sitting around as the old-timers would get up and sing different flamenco songs to a raucous cheer from the crowd. They were clearly well-known and respected in the Seville community and it turned things into an amazing, fun and passionate evening, shockingly devoid of tourists. The show ended when one of the local elders got up and headed to the exit, ignoring the pleas from the crowd to stay a bit more. I heard him muttering as he left; "No, I'm going home now, I have to work tomorrow at 8 am!" One of those wonderful, authentic spontaneous moments that make a trip and one that we will all remember fondly for a long, long time.

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