Flaneur in Seville

Some cities are made for simply wandering around in. Amsterdam is certainly one of them and so is Seville.

In part it’s to do with the size of the place I suppose. It’s quite a compact city so it’s easy to move across it.

I’ve been doing a lot of wandering here. It’s one of my favourite pastimes. I guess that makes me a flaneur. I enjoy watching people just going about their business on the streets. I enjoy walking aimlessly and coming across some unnoticed aspect of a familiar place.

In Amsterdam this happens to me quite often. I have a fixed route that I run over the canals and along the river.

It’s so familiar to me that I think I could run that route blind. Every crack in the pavement, every hidden tree root waiting to fell me, every loose paving stone, is known to me.

And yet every so often I’ll look around and notice something new, something fresh. Little statues of herons hanging over doorways, a memorial plaque to some long forgotten city hero, a fancy door handle.

Small things, that surprise and delight you because you don’t notice them at first, so spotting them feels like a discovery, feels like you are the first person to uncover them.

Here in Seville of course, I am not as familiar with my surroundings, but I am still delighted by this sense of discovery.

Close to where I’m living there is a little square, the Plaza San Lorenzo. It’s a lovely little place. At it’s heart is a wonderful church, a huge yellow edifice with rococco touches and clamoruing bells.

The square itself is surrounded by trees, sycamores (I think) and palms, which offer some welcome shade to the people that sit on the little benches. There are a couple of cafes are on the corners, but that is more or less it.

At night it is a fantastic place. The whole neighbourhood it seems turns out there to just hang out and chat. Tiny kids run around and play freely under the watchful eyes of parents and grandparents.

I suppose it’s the Spanish equivalent of that mythical English place the village green.

I love it!

The other day though I was sauntering to school and noticed that the church was open. It was a Thursday morning but mass was being said, so I wandered in and just took a peek.

And what a gem! This place I have been passing everyday is a treasure.

At the back of the church they have these little chapels dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Elaborate concoctions, with gilded and bejeweled statues of the virgin at their heart.

They’re strangely lurid these little chapels. The walls of one of them was draped in a lavish, but very sensual and velvety red, a choice of interior normally associated with a different aspect of womanhood than virginity, at least in my mind.

Here though I suppose it represents love and passion – in their holiest senses.

As I wandered around, the low voice of the priest filtered up from one of these small chapels. A quiet resonant voice that commanded respect and made me lower my eyes, even though I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

It all left me rather subdued, this little morning excursion. A little awed I suppose. Churches tend to do that to me. The smell of the incense, the voices, the stautues (especially those melancholic, doleful ones of the virgin) all of this tends to put me in a contemplative and quiet state. Which I suppose is what is meant to happen.

As a start to the day though, I must admit I don’t think I’ve ever had a better on in a city.

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