A moving feast
Long before the procession comes into view, I hear the banging of drums and see clouds of incense swirling into the night sky. Then they appear — altar boys in white surplices clutching big crosses, a phalanx of drummers and trumpeters, plump women in lace mantillas and officials in their best navy suits.
Emerging behind is a gigantic statue of the Madonna on a silver platform, its bearers concealed beneath velvet hangings. I’m wondering how they know where to go when I notice two men walking beside the platform, whispering instructions.
I can’t take my eyes off this pageant, which is especially thrilling because it’s so unexpected. According to our Spanish guide, David, it celebrates the coronation of the Virgin and we’re lucky to have chanced upon it.
We are walking towards Seville’s Triana district on the other side of the Guadalquivir River for dinner, because David is on a mission to take us to tapas bars where the locals eat. By the time the procession is over it’s 10pm but this is Spain and no one hurries for dinner. The streets are so crowded with vivacious, well-dressed people you’d think it was a holiday. Couples are embracing, bridesmaids singing and kids running all over the place.
Our first stop is the food market. Many stalls have closed and, as we sit at a simple wooden table in the passageway, cleaners are sweeping, sluicing and mopping around us. It doesn’t look promising but the tapas surpasses the setting. There are crimson slices of freshly cured tuna, chicken with tomatoes, marinated cod, salmorejo, and capsicum stuffed with mackerel. We wash it all down with a local red.
Meal over, I navigate my way past children whizzing around on tricycles and rollerskates, and chat to three little girls. Ten-year-old Daniela surprises me with her good English, and introduces her grandfather, Jose. As soon as he hears we’re Australian, a stream of voluble Spanish ensues. Daniela translates that he loves kangaroos, because they are “jummy”. Does she mean jumpy? She shakes her head, and mimes chewing. Ah, yummy. Jose wants to know if my partner Bert likes wine, women and Spanish food. Obviously satisfied with the reply, he kisses me on both cheeks and wishes us a good holiday.
Then we head for David’s favourite tapas bar but he warns us that “Spaniards like to eat shoulder to shoulder”. Las Golondrinas is indeed packed to the rafters and the place is buzzing. We manage to squeeze in near the counter and watch amazed at the speed with which platters emerge from the tiny hole-in-the wall kitchen where two women in red kerchiefs are immaculately made up and smiling despite the heat, the late hour and the pressure of producing food non-stop.
As soon as we order a drink, we receive a complimentary tapas dish, an endearing Spanish custom. Standing at the counter like the locals, pouring wine from a jug, we then order grilled pork slices, mushrooms filled with garlic and avocado, and marinated spiced carrots. Then we order the same again.
David has one more treat in store — a drink at the oldest bar in Seville. El Rinconcillo opened in 1670 and still draws the crowds. It’s an attractive bar with decorative tiles and a polished timber counter above which hangs an array of smoked hams. It’s easy to enjoy a glass of verdejo white wine and soak up the lively atmosphere.
Seville is one of the cities on this 12-day tour of Spain and Portugal organised by Wandering the World. I had expected flamenco, fiestas and Moorish palaces, but