My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.

Seville (map) intoxicates, that’s for sure. Its temperatures blaze for most of the year, alongside its passions for two of Spain’s most iconic – and controversial – traditions: bullfighting and flamenco. While polka-dot dancers reserve their castanets for the tourist crowds, you can find the stomp of real flamenco in bars across the city: fierce-eyed dancers driving their feet into the stage, men wailing in song to the guitar notes that incite them. Dried ham, jamón serrano, hangs from the ceilings in smoky tapas bars, alongside bull head trophies and framed photos of matadors arching backwards, swords poised for the kill.

The spectacular flamenco performance at the Flamenco Museum.

Then there’s the heat. The tightly-knit streets of the Santa Cruz barrio criss-cross together to drive out the sun and locals block every window with thick-slatted shutters during the day. The horse-drawn carts, orange trees and flowering courtyards create a romantic atmosphere, the smells of the summer drains do not.

That’s when you need a velvet escape. A cool breeze or a sheltered retreat.

A cool retreat in Seville

Try the Real Alcázar, a former palace and series of courtyards, whose curious geography reminds me of a collection of Russian dolls. In its heyday, the Alcázar served as a Moorish palace, decorated with intricate carved arches and gentle fountains. It then housed arguably the world’s most powerful people at the time: Isabella and Ferdinand, the catholic monarchs who funded Columbus’s expeditions from within these very walls and then catalogued the gold and silver that returned.

The arches and tilework inside the Alcazar palace in Seville.

That’s the attraction of the Alcázar, but for a true velvet escape walk on through to the Royal Gardens. Landscaped palm trees and figs, pavilions and waterways unfold from the central buildings, pathways branching further and further away from the crowds. Finally the air smells fresh and the heat soothes instead of sears. Shady spaces beneath the old walls are usually deserted, except for a few strutting peacocks, tails fanning open in an explosion of blue and gold. In flamboyant Seville, even the birds put on a show.

The gardens of the Alcazar Palace.

Read more about things to do in Sevilla and the historic architecture in Sevilla.

About this week’s guest writer
Abigail King is a professional writer with a passion for travel. She left a successful career in medicine to circle the globe, camp in the snows of Kilimanjaro and Patagonia and track down tigers, turtles and panda bears. She then had a hot shower and embraced the city life of New York, Rio, Paris and Tokyo.

Read more about her travels at Inside the Travel Lab, a blog on the art and science of unusual journeys.


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