Given the extreme difficulty I had in locating my room, I decided to take all necessary precautions when I left it at 8.00am yesterday. I packed enough victuals into my backpack to last a day and, singing Keep Right On To The End Of The Road by Sir Harry Lauder, set off confidently from my room. I learned a trick or two when trekking in the Kallahari desert – e.g. using a ball of string and noting landmarks. I did get lost on a couple of occasions but successfully emerged in the piazza opposite for breakfast.
We made a late start to our sightseeing. We did not fancy queuing for the cathedral but instead went to the Royal Palace – the Alcazar – built originally as a palace by the Moors, it was refurbished by the Christian king Pedro the Cruel for his mistress. It showed the moorish influence of mosaics. We especially liked the large gardens but the whole place was well preserved. Needless to say the signage was inadequate and the chap we asked who worked there suffered from Down’s syndrome. It’s commendable they give employment to such sufferers, the only problem being we could not understand one word of what he said. You do not have to travel far in Seville to find a pretty courtyard with a fountain and there was one such in a side street by the Alcazar where, stopping at a cafe, I refreshed myself with a fresh lemonade. A dreadful busker in a goalkeeping shirt broke into a version of I Will Survive, the sort of singer you would pay to shut up.
Seville is one of the hottest cities in Europe, the temperature can exceed 50 degrees in the summer. Even now it was over 30 degrees. I took my normal siesta to avoid the harsh sun. However at 5.00pm, as we walked to the river past the university which was once the tobacco factory where Carmen worked, it was still blisteringly hot. We saw the famous Maestranza bull ring. In a shop nearby a pretty dark girl, an aspirant matador, was being kitted out on a black costume. She looked very dashing. We made our way back to the cathedral area. The Spanish eat late but – having had nothing since breakfast – we decided to eat at the earlier hour of 7 when most others were drinking.
We ordered a gazpacho, a cold soup to which I’m partial. In England this can be no more than tomato put through the blender with some garlic. This one was orange in colour, arrived chilled and was the best I have ever tasted.
Six plump oysters followed and then pork meatballs in red wine sauce. My companion had the gazpacho and fresh salad with two beers, two wines and the bill was modest 50 euros. I was beginning to see why Sevilla has such a reputation for haute cuisine.
Over coffee I was joined by an old friend Ramon dela Torre whose family go back to being once adventurers on the Spanish main. Ramon explained that Seville, with a population of 700,000, is the fourth largest in Spain. He was especially proud of the football team and it may not be too long before we have another correspondent alongside Stefano Ursilolini in Florence and Michel Di Vacri in Nice. The big political issue is the banned referendum on Catalonian independence this Sunday. This is why, Ramon explained, so many Spanish flags are being displayed from buildings. The Catalunya regional government still seems intent on having the referendum exposing wounds of the Civil War which appear not to have healed.