A very good friend once told me that her way to ensure quality time with her 3 children is to take them on fun trips one on one. She takes turns with her husband, and as a result, each child gets to go every 3 years with one of the parent. I love that idea, because family travel is about togetherness and the sharing of life-enriching experiences.
Amalya and I just came back from a long week end of Flamenco extravaganza in Sevilla. It was a treat for her 7th birthday, and what a special trip that was for the two of us! She’s been into flamenco since she was four years old when a sweet friend gave her a beautiful flamenco dress, which led to wanting a flamenco party for her 5th birthday, and taking flamenco classes since she turned 6th. Our three days went a bit like this:
FRIDAY / VIERNES:
We landed around 8pm, on time for a few tapas and a good night sleep at Corral del Rey. This hotel was perfect, not too small not too big, and tastefully decorated with easy going art and antiques. It’s located on a tiny street that our taxi could not even enter, a few minutes walk from picture-perfect Santa Cruz (the old jewish neighbourhood). The location in the old part of town meant that we could stop by as often as needed to have a little rest or pick up something that we forgot. We got upgraded to one of the larger rooms on the top floor, and received tons of smiles and good advice from Rocio and Marina, the lovely girls at the front desk.
SATURDAY / SABADO:
We spent a good part of the morning trying on flamenco dresses at Angela y Adela. This turned out to be the highlight of our trip. We visited their workshop where the seamstresses make beautiful traditional dresses with a vintage twist. They’re all unique pieces designed by Angela and one dress can take up to several weeks to be made. Then Amalya got to play the part in the hands of Angela’s daughter with makeup and all. She was in heaven. We left with that pair of long earrings, which I told Amalya she can only wear after she turns…16, and some professional Roberto Garrudo tap shoes to make our neighbours very happy back home.
Disclaimer: you might think that I look slightly ridiculous on the photo above and that’s OK!! Because Amalya loved it!!
After some pizzas around the corner from the hotel, we spent the afternoon visiting the city. We started at the Church of San Salvador because (tip #1) you can buy a ticket there that includes the visit of the cathedral, and bypass the queues. Did you know (tip #2) that the famous cathedral of Sevilla is the third largest in the world after the Vatican, and St Paul’s in London? . To be honest, we did not have the energy to visit the whole place so we concentrated on climbing the 36 floors of the tower. It’s not as bad as it sounds because there are no steps involved, it’s a flat spiral and the floors are not too high. Back down, we went on the obligatory horse carriage tour of the city (Eur45 for 45min of smiles) and it gave us a nice overview of the old town, the riverside and the big Maria Luisa park. (tip #3): Did you know that a Star Wars 2 scene was shot right on Plaza de España in Sevilla? Marcelo certainly recognised it when we emailed him the photo below.
Ps: does anyone have a tip to get tickets in advance for the Alcazar and bypass the enormous queues? We never got a chance to visit it.
You’d think we’d go to bed after all this …but no. We had a 6pm Flamenco lesson booked at the Museum of Flamenco, followed by a show there from 7 til 8pm. I was looking forward to the class but it turned out to be quite a disappointment because it took place in an open room where all the visitors of the museum stood by to watch us. It was terribly embarrassing for me although Amalya did not mind. So I pretended that I needed to film the lesson to avoid the ridicule… a perfect example of a conscious adult vs a carefree child. The show was beautiful, well balanced between men and women dancing, singing and guitar playing, high quality, in a lively and pretty setting, and well priced. I’d highly recommend it even though it was mostly Japanese and French tourists seating around us.
I convinced Amalya to go for a bite before bedtime. The hotel had booked Pinton (picture below), for a modern take on tapas, such as the Bloody Gazpacho served in a glass – I got scared that there really was vodka in it after Amalya tried it. I had to call the waiter to ask and got the look in return. Pinton is stylish, the seating on the terrace is very entertaining, but the waiters had a bit too much attitude. I prefer my tapas in old traditional bars, standing like you should, shouting your order over the counter. This list of where to eat in Sevilla can come in handy. We bumped into Lili from the popular French blog Ma-Recreation, having dinner with her daughter the same age as Amalya, so we headed for an ice cream all together, and called it a night. Lili wrote about her day in Sevilla here.
SUNDAY / DOMINGO:
Domingo was another adventure. We had booked a private bike tour of the city through the hotel. I naively thought that Amalya could ride her own bicycle but we all agreed it was going to be a bit risky, and especially too tiring. So I took her behind me. We started in the atmospheric Santa Clara park where the locals go for a stroll. We admired all the little boys and girls dressed in their best Sunday outfits, coming back from church. We stopped for photos at Plaza de España. We peaked at the palace/ luxury hotel Alphonso XIII, went up along the river via the Gold Tower (Torre de Oro). We stopped at the Plaza de Toros, aka the bullfighting ring, but it was not appealing to Amalya who is now a vegetarian. The souvenir shop had cute things for the boys back home though.
Amalya had an interesting question on the concept of corridas: is the bull allowed to kill the toreador since the toreador has full discretion to kill the bull? I answered Yes, but No…. We discovered the Triana district across the river, which is the old gypsy neighbourhood where Flamenco started centuries ago. And we finished in Santa Cruz, camera loaded with photos and me craving for a paella – to Amalya’s despair. She would have chosen pizza again if she could..
After a delicious lunch on the terrace of Restaurante Modesto (it carries its name perfectly), we played some Uno, did some drawings, and headed back to the hotel for a little siesta. Because we had another night of Flamenco extravaganza ahead..
In lieu of dinner, Amalya and I indulged in chocolate con churros at the end of the afternoon. Ok, truth is: I indulged in chocolate con churros and she indulged in chocolate con chips, possibly the ugliest food combination you could imagine but hey…it was her week end. Our tour guide had shown us where the best churreria was: Los Especiales, right by the Triana bridge. So we did as locals do late on a sunny Sunday afternoon. And from there, it was a short taxi ride to Los Gallos in Santa Cruz, one of the oldest tablao in town.
Tablaos are the flamenco clubs where musicians and dancers perform intimately. I had booked in advance for the 8:30pm show and we sat upstairs for a better view. It was ideal because Amalya was able to lie down on the couch and still see the stage. She loved it even more than the Saturday night show, but if I had to choose between both, I’d say that the performance at Museo del Flamenco was better quality, better priced and also better timing for a child.
MONDAY / LUNES:
After our last breakfast at Corral del Rey seating on the rooftop terrace, we headed back for the third time to the park of Santa Clara because mademoiselle really wanted to go on a boat trip. For Eur5, I rented one of the little boat and I paddled, guided by my co-pilot. I bought Amalya a flamenco skirt and a pretty shawl at one of the tourist stands because, guess what, all the flamenco outfits that we came across in real shops in the city costed an arm and a leg. They take their flamenco very seriously in Sevilla. Amalya chose a few wooden fans for her school teacher and for her good friends back home.
We quickly ordered some delicious tapas at the counter of Bar Estrella, near the hotel on Calle Estrella, before heading to the airport for our Ryanair flight back home. And Amalya fell asleep in my arms with the prettiest of smiles…
And for the background: I lived in Madrid for a year when I was a student (had the time of my life!), and two of my roommates were flamenco dancers. They introduced me to this beautiful artform. Jose was from Sevilla and ended up being part of the Ballet Nacional de España. Carolina, who was from Malta, was training to become a flamenco teacher. I have been listening to Camaron de la Isla and Paco de Lucia ever since…