Seville, Spain: home to beautiful landmarks, amazing tapas, and the most relaxing atmosphere one could ever hope to find. After visiting the city last week during the second of our two nine-day travel breaks, I can confidently say that it has quickly become my absolute favorite place to visit – and one that I would recommend to anyone looking for a true getaway from everyday life.
Seville’s culture (and the culture of Spain in general) is drastically different from that of the United States. The day begins with a cup of coffee at an outdoor café, followed by a late lunch of tapas or paella (which are easily two of the best foods ever created) that takes place anywhere from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. After lunch, many people take a siesta – a two- to three-hour break from the day to go home to rest or spend time with friends or family, during which many shops and restaurants are closed. The city comes back to life a few hours later, with dinner typically being served anywhere from 10:00 PM to 12:00 AM. And, somewhere in between all of this relaxation and eating, the people of Seville find time to do a little work. Quite a change from the U.S., right?
Some may think that this lifestyle seems too relaxed – especially compared to the rushed, work-oriented style of living we’re used to in America. After having lived in this carefree way for a few days during my stay in Seville, however, I feel that everyone could benefit from the slower, less frantic routine of its residents – and I could definitely get used to it myself.
As soon as we arrived in the city, my two travel companions and I set off on a journey to find tapas – one of the most popular foods in Spain. Tapas are essentially small plates of appetizers of all shapes, sizes, and types, and they are truly the perfect culinary idea: you can order two or three different tapas for yourself, or several plates to share with a group (or, more likely, several plates to eat by yourself). We were walking down Seville’s colorful, winding streets when we stumbled upon a little restaurant that was packed inside and out with people eating and enjoying themselves. Though I never actually found out the name of this restaurant (it was literally unmarked – though that clearly didn’t stop the locals from frequenting it), the mini chicken hamburger tapas I ate there will be forever ingrained in my mind as some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.
For the next two days, we spent our time doing basically every relaxing activity known to man: perusing the city’s quaint shops, drinking coffee and people watching at outdoor cafés, eating more tapas, and lying in the warm Spanish sun. In between all of this relaxation, we managed to find time to experience some of Seville’s cultural attractions: the Seville Cathedral, the Barrio de Santa Cruz (a beautiful neighborhood that once served as Seville’s Jewish Quarter), and the Metropol Parasol (a giant, abstract wooden sculpture that is as interesting as it is large). We even attended a flamenco show that was recommended to us by the staff at our hotel, which was held at a small bar (and didn’t begin until 12:30 AM – another testament to Spain’s unique sense of time). The show was led by two guitar players and a percussionist, who played their instruments while a wide, interchanging assortment of people sang and danced to the music. The flamenco show was, to me, a truly authentic Spanish experience, and I loved the freedom and passion with which the musicians and dancers performed.
One of my favorite moments of the trip, however, was our visit to Alcazar, the royal palace in the city where the royal family lives when in Seville. The castle was absolutely beautiful, with intricate architecture and grandiose rooms, but the true beauty of the palace was stored in its gigantic, labyrinthine gardens. There was an indescribable feeling of peace that permeated throughout the huge area, with its fragrant flowers, tranquil fountains, and winding paths. Simply standing in the garden made me feel content, and I think I could have spent the entire afternoon there, admiring its beauty.
While every city I have visited has boasted gorgeous sights and delicious food, it was Seville’s carefree atmosphere and sense of calm that set it apart from any other travel destination I’ve seen thus far. I loved the way that the residents of Seville seemed to truly appreciate the little pleasures in life, and I think that I will be taking a piece of that lovely Spanish mindset back to the United States with me.