by Caroline Frankenfeld
(Zara lovers… this one’s for you.)
As I walk out of my apartment this morning and zip up my new down coat to brace myself for 21 degree weather (don’t worry… it feels like 11), I couldn’t help but think back to my summer paradise – the wonderful city of Sevilla, Spain. Last summer I had the pleasure of calling Sevilla “my home away from home,” where I was able to spend 7 weeks studying abroad and living with a host family. It may be sizzling from heat in the summer (around a 105 degree peak every day and no AC), but the aura of coolness that this city has to offer is unmatchable. So hope on board, and join me as we take a quick viaje to the colorful and sunny Sevilla, Spain.
The first thing you should know is that while Sevilla is a modern and cosmopolitan city, it is rich with culture and history. Sevilla is located along the River Guadalquivir, which was historically a very important port. Today, it is important for its touristic appeal, and the beauty it offers by running through the city. Sevilla (as well as many Southern Andalucía cities in Spain) has a very heavy Muslim influence, which is greatly seen in the Muslim architecture including the famous and breathtaking Alcázar (many Game of Thrones scenes have been filmed here as well!)
One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Spain is soccer (or should I say, fútbol). Sevilla is home to two soccer teams: Sevilla FC and Real Betis. Although originating from the same city, these teams have quite a rivalry. I was lucky enough to attend a soccer game between Real Betis and Atlético Madrid. Us Americans hopped on the bandwagon and decked out in green in our support of Real Betis and pretended to be true Sevillans. Something that I love time and time again about Spain in general is the passion that is found in this amazing country. In the soccer stadium the sound of the cheers and anthems of the teams are deafening, and you can’t help but smile to be surrounded by an atmosphere of passion and love for not only sports, but their great country.
Although I would consider myself a massive fan of soccer, my talent lies more in dance than it does in sports with more physical contact. Sevilla has an extreme presence of Flamenco dancing, particularly Sevillanas (a special style of Flamenco). You can purchase tickets to go and watch these dancers in professional shows, take classes yourself, or simply walk the streets in the heart of the city and see locals dancing on their own for the enjoyment of others. Sevillanas is one of the most passionate forms of dancing I have ever seen with powerful and forceful movements accompanied by a guitar, singer, or a combination of the two.
Now onto some of my favorite places in Sevilla that are an absolute must to check out if you get the chance to go there. First, the Plaza de España is, in my opinion, the most beautiful plaza that Spain has to offer. Every city in Spain has a plaza, but Sevilla’s is one unlike anything I have ever seen in my travels abroad. With a heavy Muslim architectural influence, this semi-circle shaped construction is teeming with colors, mosaics, and even a small river flowing through the middle (great for a boat ride!).
Next, attached to this magnificent plaza is the Parque María Luisa. Named after the Duchess of Montpelier Luisa Fernanda, this massive park offers a nice walk close to the major parts of the city but away from all the building and shops if you need some green in your life. While I adore our beloved Zilker Park here in Austin, Parque María Luisa appears to be more of a glorified Central Park. Found in these gardens are sculptures, elaborate fountains with beautiful mosaics, a special bird section (where birds don’t fly away at the approach of humans), and romantic gardens full of colorful flowers. The perfect romantic getaway into a more quiet part of the city.
One of my last recommendations that I can’t stress enough: attend a bullfight. Sevilla is well known for their famous bullfighting arena, known as the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. The act of bullfighting is somewhat of a controversial topic throughout Spain, and it has actually been banned in some parts of the country. Fear not, the tradition in alive and well in Sevilla, and it is even considered a renowned act to take part in some regions. Bullfighting is truly an art which takes years to perfect and do with grace. I myself was flinching at every move as I feared for the men’s lives who were participating, while they were executing every move with ease and a grand performance. Now, regardless if you enjoy the bullfight after all, the atmosphere at the bullfights are one of a kind. This might have been a tourist attraction for us, but Spaniards treat this tradition with utmost importance and dress their best, with women wearing nice dresses and men wearing sports coats and nice pants. A step above the spectators, the bullfighters themselves are adorned in the most spectacular of style. As much as this is a competitive sport, the presentation is equally as important. My attempt at explaining their jeweled attire won’t suffice to their beauty, so I hope you gawk at the included pictures to the degree in which I still do to this day.
On the note of style, style is something that I believe all Spaniards, and Europeans in general, take very seriously. I attended Spanish classes at a local university in Sevilla, and one of the main differences I noticed was the manner of dressing on a daily basis. Now, this isn’t at all a cut to the way Americans dress, because many students I see on the Forty Acres dress to impress every day. However, I know that I am guilty of having a few too many “lazy” days where I sleep past my alarm and opt out to go ahead and put on leggings and a sweatshirt. By observing Spanish friends on campus and by chatting with them across the pond, their lazy days are more restricted to an actual lazy day at home where you plan on seeing no one. The statement “dress well, test well” holds true in the Spanish culture for girls and guys alike. I would describe the Spanish look at a style that is effortlessly cool. Their style is more minimalistic and nothing over the top, yet they always have an accent piece (this summer’s trend with the metallic platform shoes and sandals) that brings it all together to make them effortlessly trendy. As the cherry on top, Spain is the birthplace to the store that I swear by… Zara. Being that Zara is from Spain, the options that Zara has to offer are far and wide, and may I say, significantly less expensive. Zara’s in Spain are like Starbucks on every corner of New York City… We always expect them, yet we are still so happy to see them during our times when we need some fashion support.
I consider Sevilla a second home to me, and although I was able to spend an extended amount of time there, I could have doubled my time and still have only taken a small stab of all the things the city has to offer. Foodies, fashionistas, and adventurous souls alike can find a home in this city. Buen viaje! •
Caroline Frankenfeld is a sophomore at the University of Texas double majoring in Spanish and PR with a minor in Business. This is Caroline’s first year writing for Spark, and she loves finding inspiration from her travels abroad and from the big personality that Austin brings. When she’s not in class, you can find Caroline dancing, hanging out with friends at Lucky Lab Coffee (her personal fav), or shamelessly watching The Office re-reruns.