One of the things I love doing when I get to a new place: get a map of the area, scrutinise it, take note of whatever points that are of interest to me, then chuck the map aside and go out (and get lost, literally).
I love getting lost whenever I’m travelling.
I probably should include a disclaimer here though, before people read this at face value and think I’m giving nonsense tips. I got to this stage of being comfortable with not having a planned route because and after I’ve done my research, and also because I have confidence in my street and survival skills. These skills can be harnessed and built upon – I’ll write more about this in another entry. (:
But let’s go back to Sevilla, shall we?
I arrived in Sevilla at night (with a little adventure, no less) and the next morning I was happy to just roam around. The hostel receptionist cheerily informed me of a free walking tour* that was to start very near the hostel at 11am – I thought, why not?
One of the things I noticed about free walking tours is that… nearly all the guides are non-locals.
My guide for the day was Ania, a bubbly spirit from Poland who’d lived in Sevilla for a few years. It was interesting to hear/learn more about a place from someone who is a visitor too. A similar set of lenses, you know?
This is known as the narrowest alley in Sevilla – aptly named the kissing alley cos hey, all you need to do is lean forward and you can kiss your neighbour across the balcony! >.<
Now, talking about kissing…
One of the things I learnt about Sevilla that stuck with me was something that involved a man…
Don Juan is know as as a wealthy, seductive libertine who devotes his life to seducing women, taking great pride in his ability to seduce women of all ages and stations in life. His life is also punctuated with violence and gambling.
Don Juan is used synonymously for “womanizer”, especially in Spanish slang, and is often used in reference to hypersexuality.
Apparently this balcony was where a famous scene of Don Juan’s sexual pursuits took place. >.<
Ahhh, now who would have thought this legend originated from Sevilla?
On a less controversial note (hahaha), another thing I really liked was how Ania got us through Barrio Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter (or juderia) of Sevilla. When King Ferdinand conquered the city from Muslim rule, he concentrated the city’s Jewish population in this single neighborhood.
The Barrio de Santa Cruz is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys dating back to the old judería. These narrow streets provide protection from the oppressive sun of the Sevillian summer. Scattered through the neighborhood are several plazas or squares.
This neighbourhood is lovely! One can easily get lost in its narrow and winding alleys, then pop out to find interesting cafes or…. like what I did, peep into small doors and admire the beautiful patios inside.
Like many other Jewish juderias, it has its fair share of gruesome and bloody stories, with massacres of the Jewish community and gruesome murders of individuals. But let’s not go there. Let’s talk about something happy instead!
Ania sat us down for a short break in a courtyard and brought our attention to the orange trees around us.
Did you know that Sevilla is the orange capital of Spain?
Legend has it that one of the wives of one of the Sultans terribly missed the snow from home. In a show of love to her, the sultan had orange trees planted all over the city because when these trees blossom….
Don Juan and orange trees – Sevilla turned out to be a place of love!
I didn’t take many pictures during the free walking tour. I was too absorbed by Ania’s stories and upbeat personality. Taking photos became a hindrance to fully enjoying the experience, so I simply stopped taking them.
I’m glad I did because not taking photos meant I was capturing more in my mind and allowing my senses to fully experience Sevilla. Till this day, I can still remember Ania’s stories, her voice and the beautiful alleys of Barrio Santa de Cruz.
Sometimes we’re so caught up with taking photos, in hopes of capturing memories and visuals to remember by in the years to come. But maybe, just maybe, we should consider taking one day, or heck, even a few hours, during our trip, to just… be. Experience, activate all our senses, connect with people and put memories purely in our individual memory banks.
Personal, contextualised and special.
*For more info on the free walking tour, click on this link: http://panchotours.com/tours-Seville/SEVILLE-FREE-TOURS-.php
Lots of love,