14 Sep Day in the life – Living la vida Española
Seville, is known for being a bastion of culture not just in the south but in Spain as a whole, and thus, we wasted no time in throwing our semester students into the local way of life head-first.
We chose to introduce our American visitors to the authentic Spanish cuisine by taking them to a fine-dining establishment in Seville (called Coloniales). Our local expert, Antonio, justified the authenticity of the food served at this restaurant, by explaining that the clientele is almost exclusively Spanish; thus nor the menu nor the tapas are altered or tweaked to cater for a more international or tourist-based market. Quite frankly, the food was incredible. The students were introduced to a variety of different regional Spanish delicacies, such as Patatas Bravas, Squid, Fried Aubergine and honey, the list goes on. One thing was certain, everyone was completely full by the end of the meal.
The semester students continued their immersion into the Andalusian culture by watching a live Flamenco performance. With its famous wail-like singing and use of the Spanish guitar, Flamenco finds its origins here in Seville; and like many other aspects of the city, it reflects the hybrid of religious dominance in the history of this area. For instance, the wailing style, used in the vocals, is of Jewish origin, whilst the castanets and the guitar are a reflection of the muslim occupation.
The passion and attitude so inherently emoted by the dancers and musicians gave the performance an edge that you simply do not experience whilst watching Flamenco on TV or online. Without wanting to riddle my blog with unnecessary cliches, the spectacle was indeed breathtaking.
By the statue of Don Juan, part of the Santa Cruz tour
After a few days rest the semester students completed their orientation of Seville by walking round the labyrinth-like Jewish sector, Santa Cruz, as well as paying a visit to the iconic Cathedral, which is a true symbol of the city. Antonio, our local expert and tour-guide, provided meticulous detail and information about each place that we encountered; from folkloric myth and legend synonymous with certain streets to even pointing out locations used by Cervantes in his plays. There was an enormous level of insight that one could not acquire by simply roaming the streets alone.
Our students agree, fairly unanimously, that the visit to the cathedral was a highlight. Considering it is the largest gothic styled building of its kind in the world, and the third largest cathedral on the planet, it is barely surprising. The most incredible aspect of this religious establishment, however, is that it was previously a mosque! Like many architectural aspects of the city, it reflected the hybrid of different cultures which had established themselves here in the past. The converted bell-tower, for example, used to be a minaret, evidenced by the ornamental Arabic design of its exterior.
Our semester students looking round the Cathedral
The Christian influence was immediately evident as you stepped inside this magnificent building. The interior was decorated with gold painted alters and over-arching wood-carved organs, which are even used today for mass. The Cathedral seemed to have everything you could possibly imagine side-chapels, renaissance-styled rooms, crypts and even Christopher Colombus’ grave… supposedly.
As our American’s orientation of the city comes to an end, they face a new challenge as they start their semester this week at the renowned University of Seville. Best of luck to them all.