Exploring the labyrinthine old city of Seville, Spain, might give you a clue as to how Sevillanos in the 1500s developed the skills to become masters of global navigation. Even with today's GPS apps, finding your way through the maze of narrow winding streets can pose a challenge. But you'll know it's worth the effort when you glimpse a plant-filled patio with a trickling fountain or stumble upon a lovely plaza alive with people enjoying drinks and tapas.
Seville offers plenty to see and do. First there are the adapted Moorish gems and the Gothic and baroque trophies erected during the centuries when the city was a dominant commercial hub. Then there are the sights maintained from the two international fairs hosted in the 20th century when Seville reclaimed its place on the world stage. And if you're lucky enough to witness a Semana Santa procession, or see Sevillanos decked out in their flamenco finery at the Feria de Abril, or catch a whiff of orange blossoms and jasmine, then you'll truly understand what it means to be in the capital of Andalusia.
In the Plaza de Espana, the 48 ceramic banks represent 46 Spanish peninsular provinces (Sevilla has a different representation) plus two insular ones (the Canary Islands at that time was only one province).
Bones of contention: For more than a century both Seville and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic have claimed to hold the remains of Christopher Columbus. A Spanish forensics team compared the bone fragments in the tomb in the Seville Cathedral, positively matching the traces of DNA to bones known to be of his brother and his son. Authorities in the Dominican Republic remain unconvinced and refuse to allow the bone fragments there to be exhumed and DNA tested.
One of Spain's most tabloid-friendly celebrities, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, also known as the Duchess of Alba, resided in Seville's Palacio de las Duenas. No stranger to controversy, the duchess made headlines in 2011 when she married a businessman 24 years her junior (she was 85). She was an avid fan of bullfighting and held more titles than anyone else in world—no less than 40.
Numerous films and television series have been filmed in Seville. The most famous have been Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones, Game of Thrones and Lawrence of Arabia.
Andalusia renders a bounty of high-quality meats, fresh produce and seafood that is showcased in Seville's restaurants. In fact, dining out is one of the best things about visiting Seville. Other cuisines, particularly Italian and some Asian, are available, but the overwhelming emphasis is on local and regional specialties.
Some of the most common meat items on the menu include jamon de jabugo (air-cured ham from black Iberian pigs), rabo de toro (stewed oxtail), solomillo al whisky (pork tenderloin in a whiskey sauce), albondigas (meatballs) and chuletas de cordero (lamb chops). Chacinas are cured meats, such as jamon or lomo, along with sausages, such as chorizo and salchichon. Morcilla is black pudding. Ropa vieja, literally "old clothing," is made with shredded meat, and pringa is a dish with slow-cooked meats that is usually eaten with bread.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of el tapeo. Enjoying tapas is practically an institution in which the line between dining and nightlife is often blurred. For instance, you'll find tapas bars, or bodeguitas or cervecerias, where you can enjoy a full meal, and more formal establishments that reserve an area where tapas can be enjoyed. So, a tapa doesn't have to be a mere snack; several different tapas, or larger portions called raciones, can be ordered, making them a filling lunch or dinner.
In Spain, it is common to exchange kisses on the cheeks or shake hands when meeting. Kisses are almost always exchanged between friends, or when introducing one friend to another, or when any two women meet. When a woman and a man meet for the first time, it's usually left up to the woman to decide between a kiss and a handshake—the man should wait for her to offer her cheek. Kisses on the cheek are also sometimes exchanged between two male friends or family. In most situations, though, men shake hands. Children are always kissed. At the very least, the cheeks should softly touch. Lead with the right cheek and then rotate to the left cheek.
When you're clinking glasses for a toast, it's important to look the other person in the eyes.
If you don't speak Spanish, try to learn at least a few phrases well. Spanish culture is always a good topic, as is Spanish literature if you are knowledgeable. Sports and travel are good topics. Better to avoid talking about bullfighting, politics and religion. Be aware that, in many regards, Spain is still a country of regions: Many people will identify more strongly with their local area than with the country as a whole. Be prepared to answer questions about how things are done in your own country, as well.
Dos & Don'ts
Don't eat those pretty oranges growing on the trees. Seville oranges are very bitter and are only used to make orange marmalade, which is popular with the British but surprisingly not so popular with the Spanish.
Do take Spanish classes if you have the time. There are many language schools in Seville offering a wide range of instruction, but keep in mind that accents and dialects are different from other areas of Spain.
Do try to adjust your schedule (and stomach) to Spanish dining hours. Lunch is usually served after 2 pm and dinner usually starts after 9 pm, or even later in summer. If you eat lunch at noon or dinner at 7 pm, you're likely to be the only one in the restaurant (if one is even open).
Do get lost in the historic center of Seville, one of the largest in Europe.
Don't go outside from 2-5 pm during summer months, as temperatures easily reach 104 degrees F/40 degrees C.
Do try the delicious gazpacho, a cold soup made with tomato, green pepper, cucumber, garlic and olive oil.
Passport/Visa Requirements: Canadian and U.S. citizens need a passport, proof of onward passage and sufficient funds. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure. The maximum stay in Spain is 90 days. Carrying travel insurance is recommended.
Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic).
Time Zone: 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+1 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.
Telephone Codes: 34, country code; 954 and 955, Seville city codes;
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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