“We are in the Spanish south. The castanets click from coast to coast, the cicada hum through the night, the air is heavy with jasmine and orange blossom… the girls have black eyes and undulating carriages.” – Jan Morris – ‘Spain’
The walk back towards the Cathedral was along cobbled streets where the houses had balconies with flowers spilling over the sides and it was full of the sights and sounds of postcard Spain and it was lunch time now so we found a traditional bodega serving sherry and tapas and went inside for lunch.
According to legend, the tapas tradition began when the King of Castille Alfonso the Wise visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry. There was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the drink from getting dirty. The King liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first.
This evolved into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus conveniently increasing their alcohol sales at the same time.
The menu was entirely in Spanish of course and that made it exciting, ordering items from the list with little or no idea what they might be. Thankfully we didn’t get any shocks and a couple of the dishes were so good that we ordered seconds. It was a great place and it felt as though we were eating in a traditional way and not in a place created for tourists.
We returned to the Cathedral square, the Plaza del Triunfo, and had to make a choice between visiting the Cathedral or the Palace and because of Micky’s aversion to churches we chose the Palace. It was a good choice because the fourteenth century building was a jewel box of patios, halls and gardens. It has been the home of the Spanish Monarchy for seven hundred years and the upper floors are still used by the royal family today as its official Seville residence.
When we paid the entrance fee it was still overcast but by the time we had been around the interior the sun was out again and we had a very enjoyable hour walking around the extensive gardens and the wall top walks. When we had finished we left and walked back to the Cathedral and then into the network of narrow streets to make our way back to the car park. The map was a little confusing and I managed to take us the wrong way, which could have been a problem because we strayed into an area of shoe shops by mistake and only just made it through before credit cards were drawn and used in a shopping frenzy.
We wanted to stop for a drink but the bars were all full to overflowing with people who had just finished work and it was only when we were out of the centre that we found an unattractive back street sort of place where Christine used the men’s toilet by mistake and Micky had a short conversation with a young girl trying to cadge a cigarette. He dismissed her brilliantly with the one liner ‘I don’t smoke and I don’t know what you are talking about, I don’t even speak Spanish.’
Back in Carmona we rested and changed and went for a pre dinner drink in a lively family bar called the Forum and joined the residents of the town out for an evening and noisily watching a football match on a big screen TV.
Later we returned to the Bar Plaza and ordered paella but there was none so instead we had a very similar meal to the previous evening. We were the only customers in the place and the owner must have been glad of the company. Actually the Plaza was the only place open and we worked it out that because it was out of season the owners were probably operating a cooperative rota system and we thought that was clever.