Seville is everything that Spain shouldn't be. It's everything that is cliched about Spain, everything that we should see as tacky and garish. Yet, Seville manages to throw all those attitudes back in your face with colour and vibrancy and arrogance. Bullfighting, flamenco, tapas, sherry, whitewash and sun. I suppose it is because they constantly evolve that they stay relevant, the food, the wine, the dance and music. The food, compared to, say, Barcelona or the baroque intricacies of Bilbao or San Sebastian is pared down and inextricably Spanish.
In the oldest bar in Seville we ate spinach and beans with a beer. Our bill was chalked up on the bar itself and the place quickly filled up with workman and suits, the legendary smoke of Spanish bars now consigned to a separate room (and gone completely from many other bars and restaurants). It was here we plotted our strategy for eating but it seemed that no one could agree on the places that were best. The list of bars grew and grew with very few of the guide books or newspaper articles agreeing on anything. We decided that after visiting a few historical oddities we would just go with the flow. So after "El Rinconcillo" we hit upon E.Morales, a slightly dingy space dominated by enormous clay urns that had been used for fermenting sherry and where the sherry is served out of label-less bottles, ice cold in small shot like glasses and the jamon is wafer thin and beautifully presented on wooden boards.
We had been told a great deal about a bar called Casablancas, but where disappointed to find that it was closed for refurbishment so a little dejected we strolled down the street and looking at the various establishments. "I think this place was in one of the books", says I. Enrique Bacerra's was a bit of revelation. Ram packed virtually everytime we subsequently walked past it featured a stunning slow cooked pig cheeks, giant butter beans in tomato sauce, drippingly tender meatballs, roast garlic potato tortilla and a selection of beautiful finos.
You are never far from its Moorish past in southern Spain. About 30 kilometers outside Seville is Carmona, a beautifully preserved medieval town. After strolling around and working up and appetite we drank a couple of Cava's in the courtyard of a 14th Almoad century fortress now turned parador. A fountain constantly whispers in the middle of the courtyard and the sun beats down on the mosaics that adorn the floor and in that winter heat you can imagine that that place hasn't changed in eight hundred years. In many ways that's the attraction of somewhere like Seville, the history lives and breathes around you, spaces have not changed usage in hundreds of years and yet it feels alive and relevant, not a theme park but real lives following the same patterns, eating, drinking and dreaming in the shade of an orange tree.