Seville is dazzling and bewitching. It’s a city of story and souls – from its flamencos, flourishing architecture and muti-layered faiths. Seville blooms at any given season, come night or day.
He could have been a converso. But he is definitely a gitano.
He has the song that echoes of his fathers. A primitive cry. A spiritual chant. Yet somewhere along the shattering jondo voice, is a flowing expression of pride, anguish and desire.
Like a call from the muezzin, the sound grows profound. The music intensifies. Between the rhythmic stamping of the dancer’s feet and the rattling of castanets, a hypnotized crowd tries to keep pace with the ecstatic strumming of Spanish guitars – all happening at once. The music reaches it climax and abruptly stops.
It’s eleven o’clock in Triana, a plebian district in Seville. The air is thin and chilly. Gas lamps cast a soft glow onto the streets. Across the river from the barrio antiguo, I nurse a bottle of cerveza. The cheers, the claps and the clanking of glasses inside the dusty tavern could signify only one thing, to the Sevillanos, the night had just begun.
It was only a week ago when my travel partner and I arrived on a cloudless November night in Seville. The dim airport managed to smile, flickered its neon lights from a distance in anticipation of our arrival. To see the letters of my last name all lit up at the top of the roof made me feel almost instantly familiar, as if I had been here before. Needless to say, it was my first time in the Andalusian capital.
That evening, we skipped the city and headed straight into the countryside. For two nights, we will be chasing the remaining elusive warm days of the Andalusian autumn while staying at an 18th century hacienda – if we know where to find it. Its exact location is marked by a sign that says KM 594.
Without GPS and having to rely heavily on the tricky road signs, I began my litanies to La Macarena, the weeping Virgin patron of the Sevillanos, in hopes that the next turn would lead us to the Hacienda de San Rafael. Prayers were uttered. An hour passed, then came a revelation. With no particular reason, we veered the car unto the right, off the asphalt, traversing the pebbled path passing a long stretch of olive groves. Against the stygian of the night and out of nowhere, a faint glimmer illuminated the unassuming guidepost of a metal cutout pointing to the entrance of the hacienda.
There is nothing as exhilarating as a road trip in the witching hour and the realization that you left the city far behind for another, entirely different world. At dawn, the Hacienda de San Rafael could not be in a more beautiful setting. We wake up to the sight of an almost endless stretch of earth, of oak trees and shrubbery from our windows. Had it been summer, the panorama will be a golden field of sunflowers basking under the copious Spanish sun.
“The Hacienda used to be an olive farm. My parents started the restoration. Then my brother, Patrick and I soon took over and began opening our doors to people looking for a hideaway transmitting rustic charm and sublimity”, tells Anthony Reid Mora-Figueroa, owner of Hacienda de San Rafael (The Reid’s brothers also run a luxury private boutique hotel – Corral del Rey, nestled in the center of the old town of Seville). He leans over on the couch and gazes out the window as if surveying his small kingdom while giving a pat to the hacienda’s pet dog Bruno.
“From here, if you continue south, you will reach Jerez and it’s easy to get lost in the town’s old sherry bodegas,” he added and with a laugh, gave a word of caution, “Just don’t get drunk!” We hit the gas and accelerated our rented Fiat 500 passing several farm tractors and fincas. Amongst the rolling hills, we dashed through the chalky carreteras.
View this post on Instagram
We reached Jerez de la Frontera by midday. One can never resist partaking a sip of the pueblo’s oldest temptation – Sherry. The kind of drink which the British have been addicted to for centuries after Sir Francis Drake ravaged the port of Cadiz in 1587 taking with him 3,000 barrels of Sherry. I had a sip of Amontillado and Oloroso and sampled Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel which were too sweet for my liking. At the end, it was Manzanilla and Fino that won me over.
Returning to Seville, we wandered through the old quarters gravitating to one of its many neighborhoods and attractions like the 12th century Catedral de Sevilla built out from a mosque. The old minaret is now a bell tower dubded as La Giralda. The Alcazar (Archive of the Indies), a UNESCO World Heritage site once housed the first caliph of Andalusia, Abdul Al-Rahman III.
At the nearby Barrio Sta. Cruz, gypsy street artists perform while children race under palms and heady orange trees. Andalusian cowboys in wide-brimmed hats swagger in 2000 year old plazas once frequented by its mostly Jewish inhabitants.
View this post on Instagram
If there’s one thing about the Sevillanos that leaves an unforgettable impression, it’s their capriciousness. Take a trip in April and witness the city’s transformation from a religious procession (Holy Week) to the gay and lively Feira de Abril (Spring Fair). To resist is futile. Just like losing your way in the labyrinth of passageways of Seville’s old town only to discover that there’s charming quirkiness in certain details.
The night is young in Triana. Parties erupt spontaneously with Sherry and cañas (small draft beers) the preferred quaff. Once again, the gitano clacks his shoes against a backdrop of claps and olé’s. His hands lost in the strum. I gulped the last swig of my cerveza and succumbed to the crowd. I got up from my seat and flung my arms widely towards the empyrean. That instant, I realized that it will all be too early for the noise to dissipate into a soft hum.
BUTTER MY BAGUETTE
This website made of love strives to produce FREE CONTENT.
Help me tell more stories and keep this website free of any advertisement by supporting Flying Baguette in inspiring more people and connecting you with other cultures and communities around the world. Donate a little or as much as you can afford to keep the magic of Flying Baguette going for years to come. Support by clicking the icons below ⬇️