Sevilla: Barrio Santa Cruz and Flamenco Dance Museum

A photograph foreshadowing my favourite part of my first (partial) day in Sevilla.
A photograph foreshadowing my favourite part of my first (partial) day in Sevilla.

I arrived in Sevilla today and was greatly troubled by a monumental dilemma of utmost urgency. Should I, in these posts, call this city Seville, as I’ve always heard it called, or Sevilla, as it’s known locally? I’d seen both in English-language sources I read in preparation for this trip. As you no doubt gathered from the opening sentence and the headline, I settled on Sevilla.

There is sound logic for this choice. As I began typing “Sevil” in this post, autocomplete offered “Sevilla,” but not “Seville.” Settled. Apple is all-seeing, all-knowing. Sevilla it is.

My Sevilla Hotel

I might have made a mistake in choosing my hotel. It’s a very nice place. And, as a loyal customer of the company that owns the brand, the hotel gave me a free upgrade to a recently renovated room and a coupon for a free welcome drink. And they left a small bottle of wine in my room. If I don’t enjoy the room, I may be too drunk to know.

The hotel is also an easy walk from the train station where I arrived in and will depart from Sevilla.

Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, never having been to Sevilla before, I’m not familiar with it’s districts. When I looked at a map and chose the hotel, the closeness to the train station was a bonus. However, I didn’t realize the hotel is near the intersection of two major thoroughfares. It is. (Fortunately, my room faces the back of the hotel, so it’s quiet.)

But that’s not the worst of it. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it on the map I looked at before I booked, but the hotel is immediately adjacent to Sevilla’s stadium. Part of the view from my room is a section of the seats. The remainder of the field of vision, so to speak, from my window is less inspiring—and does not include the playing field. If there’s a football (aka soccer) match while I’m here, I won’t be able to see the play, but I will be able to watch a portion of the fans cheer and/or boo.

Barrio Santa Cruz

A street in Sevilla's Barrio Santa Cruz
A street in Sevilla’s Barrio Santa Cruz

Unlike Madrid, which I left to come here, this was my first time in Sevilla. When visiting a city for the first time, I like to start by wandering aimlessly. However the area around my hotel didn’t look particularly interesting, so where should I wander?

Rick Steves’ Spain tour book provides a walking tour of Sevilla’s Barrio Santa Cruz neighbourhood. (Yeah, yeah. I know. “Barrio” is Spanish for neighbourhood. So “Sevilla’s Barrio Santa Cruz neighbourhood” is redundant. I won’t do it again.) He introduced the tour by saying that, because of the neighbourhood’s narrow, maze-like streets, “Getting lost is easy, and I recommend doing just that.” Perfect.

At one time, the Barrio Santa Cruz was Sevilla’s Jewish district. That was a long time ago. In 1391 pogroms killed about 4,000 of Sevilla’s Jews and chased about 5,000 more from their homes. The townsfolk gave the remaining Jews three choices: convert; be persecuted, sometimes to death; or leave. Somehow, some of Sevilla’s Jewish community remained until 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel decreed that all of the remaining Jews had to convert or leave.

A small square in Barrio Santa Cruze

Its anti-Semitic distant-past notwithstanding, I loved Barrio Santa Cruz. As far as I could see, there’s no asphalt there. The street surfaces are all cobblestone or bricks. Shops and restaurants line the ground floors of the buildings on many of the streets. The building walls are painted pleasingly plentifully and plentifully pleasing colours. Charming public squares dot the Barrio Santa Cruz. Wherever there’s space in front of a restaurant—on a sidewalk or in a square—the restaurants place tables there.

By the way, about those outdoor tables, on October 28, 2019, I walked through the streets of Barrio Santa Cruz wearing a short-sleeve shirt and no jacket. In the middle of the afternoon I was a little too warm, with a high of 24˚ or 25˚ Celsius. I had the same short-sleeve shirt on with no jacket in the evening and I was still very comfortable. To all my friends back in Canada and the northeastern United States, I don’t mean to rub your noses in it, but, na nahh, na nahh nahh.

Barrio Santa Cruz Streets

Another pedestrian street in Barrio Santa Cruz

And the streets in Barrio Santa Cruz are my favourite kind of streets. Many of them are far too narrow for cars to drive through. On those streets, pedestrians rule exclusively.

Some streets are wide enough for some traffic, with modest sidewalks on either side. On those streets, traffic was light this Monday afternoon. So, while pedestrians didn’t entirely rule on those streets, the streets were pleasant nonetheless.

Still other streets weren’t wide enough for traffic by North American standards. But the people of Seville seem to have different standards. Cars do drive on those streets. If people walk on the narrowest parts of those streets when a car comes by, the people have to glue their backs against a wall and suck in their stomachs while the car slowly passes. And those are relatively thin people. I’m not sure obese people survive the experience. To my mind, that’s not the best way to deal with obesity. Fortunately, cars were very infrequent on those streets today.

I expect I’ll come back to the Barrio Santa Cruz again this trip, particularly because a couple of the city’ major attractions are there.

(I really do love the too-small-for-cars streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz. If you ever want to be bored out of your wits—because being witless is greatly underrated—please ask me to show you all of my pictures of them. I took a lot more than appear here.)

Sevilla Flamenco Dance Museum

A poster in the Flamenco Dance Museum
A poster in the Flamenco Dance Museum

Rick Steves’ Spain tour book recommended visiting the Flamenco Dance Museum (Museo del Baile Flamenco). Steves also recommended seeing a flamenco show as an absolute-must-do in Sevilla. As one option for seeing a show, he suggested a combo-ticket that provides entry to the museum, plus a flamenco show in the same building.

When I arrived, the shows for today were sold out. At least, the normal show was sold out. Tickets were still available for a performance of a VIP show for almost twice the price. Plus, I’m not sure that was a combo-ticket allowing me into the museum. Not being a dance aficionado, I passed. I bought a combo-ticket for a show on Wednesday, which still allowed me to tour the museum today. I did that.

Costumes in the Flamenco Dance Museum
Costumes in the Flamenco Dance Museum

In my opinion, and possibly only my opinion, the smallish two-floor museum is eminently missable. The first floor tells the story of flamenco through videos and interactive displays, some of which were broken when I was there. There were also small displays of posters, dresses, mens costumes, and shoes.

The upper floor was a small gallery of flamenco-related art, including three decorated guitars.

Lovers of flamenco might enjoy the museum, but my reaction was, “ho hum.”

I don’t normally review shows. So I don’t promise a review of the flamenco show on Wednesday. Besides, they don’t allow photography during the show. So, the heck with them. What’s a story without pictures? (That wasn’t a trick question. It’s a story without pictures.)

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