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Seville Seduction by Michael Portillo

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I happened to travel on British Airways to Faro from Gatwick the other day with some of our clients and I must say, I had forgotten how pleasant that could be after having got used to the frugal ways of our good friend Stelios.

Spacious cabin and free eats and drinks really do smooth away the couple of hours flying time. I was browsing the High Life magazine and came across this article by Michael Portillo on Seville.

We are familiar with the usual travelogue about Seville being the birthplace of tapas etc, but I thought he captured the passion of the city, which is often overlooked, well so I have reproduced it below with thanks to BA.

Famous for flamenco, Carmen, fine food, Moorish architecture and dark eyed beauties, Andalucian city Seville quite simply seethes with passion and in spite of its midsummer searing heat, Conservative MP Michael Portillo, a regular visitor to Seville, can't resist the lure of this vibrant Spanish city.

Sometimes when in Seville, it's hard to believe I'm in Europe. In August the city's a frying pan, and the heat drives all life from the streets. Even mad dogs and Englishmen frantically hug the slender shadows cast by the buildings. The trellised brickwork of La Giralda, the bell tower of the cathedral, tells you that its architect was an African and the Christian makeover doesn't disguise that it's designed to be a minaret. Those throaty laments of the flamenco singers surely cannot be from the same continent as yodelling and Morris dancing. Nowhere else do women ride on grey stallions, wearing flowing dresses of crimson and polka dot, with burning eyes, heaving breasts and an expression of absolute distain. Any one of them could echo the operatic Carmen "If you fall for me beware!" Carmen it was who in Seville seductively rolled tobacco on her bare thigh and was stabbed outside the bullring by a man demented with jealousy.

I love to be lost in the narrow streets of the Santa Cruz quarter. Occasionally a mother's piercing yell calling her children shatters the siesta, but as it echoes off the whitewashed walls, it's impossible to pinpoint its origin. Most houses are shuttered against the heat. If there are crimes of passion in this city, we don't see them. But now and again, through a gate of decorative ironwork, there's a glimpse of a patio, with marbled floor and wall tiles in orange and blue and white, and a fountain, and geraniums. It's a world built against the heat, a private existence that the tourist can never know, but which haunts our minds after we have left.

I do my best as an outsider to enter that world. I stay at Casa No. 7, a charming Seville townhouse built around a courtyard with just six bedrooms, owned by a sherry aristocrat, who speaks perfect English, like the BBC in 1940. From the roof you can look across the cupolas, bell towers and washing lines, that together make up Seville's skyline. I eat dinner under a spreading vine by a well in a courtyard called Corral del Agua. Or at the restaurant Modesto, sitting outside on a wide pavement, I let the waiters inundate me with varieties of seafood beyond number. Or in order to study those beautiful wall tiles close up, I go for a Tio Pepe sherry at the wonderfully opulent, gloriously dated, Alfonso XIII hotel.

You must do battle with the heat as the Sevillians do, seek out the fountains. There's a beauty by the cathedral from which the horse drawn carriages take you clipping and clopping through the din of the traffic into the shady tranquillity of the Maria Luisa Park. Fountains abound in the gardens of the Reales Alcazares Palace, and the very sound of tinkling water brings you relief and refreshment. The palace itself is of almost hypnotic beauty, with its delicate woodcarving, gilded ceilings, sculpted plasterwork and patios of serenity and peace.

You can't tire of Seville, but I usually can't resist visiting Cordoba. It's just forty minutes by high-speed train. La Mezuita is a mosque half-heartedly converted to a cathedral. Walking among its columns and arches is like exploring a forest, with unexpected avenues and vistas. It humbles me to think that La Mezuita dates from the Eighth century, and that so long ago those invading Moors were inspired to create such calming beauty.

On Seville and Cordoba's hottest days every living thing scurries for shade. But hidden from view the energy is sizzling; and the intense rawness of the flamenco betrays the true character of those whitewashed cities. They smoulder in the heat and beckon everyone who has a pulse, and whose veins run with something thicker that water.

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