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Seville & Granada, Beauty & Wonderment

This past weekend, a good old friend and I met up in Seville, Andalusia Southern Spain, for a weekend of general exploration and wonderment. Many years ago, I did a week-long driving tour through Spain, starting in Madrid, heading South through the alpine villages of the Alps, wondering the market towns of the Franco-Spanish border, admiring the natural beauty of the Costa Brava and taking deposit of cultural enrichment in Barcelona and its museums. It was an experience I loved and haven't forgotten and so, when I had the opportunity to go back nearly 10 years later, it was an easy decision.

On the first evening in Seville, we headed to a tapas bar in the old town for some beers and the local fare. It was a vibey little spot, full of locals (always a good sign) and did not disappoint on the food either. We ate well and went to another little bar afterwards which was full of Spanish charm, but around midnight the lights came on and following a recommendation, we ended up around the corner at another little spot, where to my delight a Flamenco performance was taking place. What struck me about the place was the lack of ceremony and society. At the bar could be found vivacious young women, next to old men staring longingly into their beers, next to scruffy looking workmen and all were happy and friendly and enjoying the music, without attitude. It was a breath of fresh air, or would have been if smoking wasn't permitted almost everywhere.

The following morning we walked around the town a bit, taking in its beauty, before catching a train for the 3 hour journey (made shorter by a well thought out train picnic) to Granada, another beautiful town in the region. That night we dined well at a restaurant (the name of which I cannot remember) overlooking the Alhambra, the main attraction of the area and a sight to behold at night, all lit up and imposingly beautiful on the opposing hilltop. I'll remember fondly the foie wrapped in shaved melon with caramelised sugar, the tomato salad - so simple and delicious, the fillet steak with foie (yes I know, a lot of foie went down) and the richly satisfying oxtail stew, accompanied by a Rioja just the way I like it, with a long vanilla finish.

That night we stayed at the Alhambra Palace Hotel (highly recommended) and after slightly too short a sleep, due to not being able to book tickets for the Alhambra, we were up early and queuing at the ticket office. Going all that way and missing out would have been tragic indeed but we managed to get tickets and the exploration began. The Alhambra, a World Heritage Site, which literally means "the red one" (perhaps due to the hue of the towers and walls that surround the hill ), was built during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada and this influence is still vividly preserved. It is vast in its proportions and it took the better part of the day to see everything. It is almost impossible to describe the amount of detail put into the Alhambra. Every part of every building, every ceiling, every tile, every wall and door an example of exquisite craftsmanship at a time when hands were the only means of construction. There are only so many times one's jaw can drop in wonderment and I quickly surpassed that limit, eventually being rendered speechless by the things to be seen there. It was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip and the images captured there will linger long in my mind.

The following day, back in Seville, we checked out the Palace (Alcázar), the Cathedral and took a horse carriage ride (well worth it) around the city, viewing other local attractions such as the Torre del Oro and the Plaza de España. All of which were beautiful and impressive.

Thinking back to that week driving through Spain, I never imagined its position in my mind as a consummate experience would ever be eclipsed; things in the past are often unassailable in that way, but this weekend may already have blacked out its sun, even without the glossy veneer of time and the sweetness of reminiscence. Hopefully it won't be another 10 years before the next time.

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