Before reaching our final stop in Seville, we made a short detour to Cádiz on Andalusia’s “coast of light,” the Costa de la Luz. Originally founded by the Phoenicians more than three thousand years ago, Cádiz is one of the oldest European cities still currently inhabited, and the oldest one in Spain. But neither of us knew that when we were there. Sébastien wanted to see Cádiz because it was the setting of a French operetta, La belle de Cadix. And me, I was happy to get a whiff of the ocean breeze…

Cádiz by the sea

A man poses before an old city waterfront

The historic part of the city is perched at the end of a long, narrow strip of land and easily explorable on foot. Even from a distance, you can see the bell towers and intimidating dome of Cádiz Cathedral hovering over the rest of the city. Up close, its massive façade is nothing short of humbling.

A close-up of the façade of a baroque-style cathedral
A closeup of Cádiz Cathedral

In between strolls, we took time to taste some tapas—or more precisely—media-raciónes, which are slightly larger portions and the perfect size for sampling food on a hungry stomach.

Left: an ornate water fountain in front of a large tree; Right: a portion of shrimp cooked in boiling oil and garlic

Being a port town meant a palette of delectably fresh shellfish, as we discovered at Mesón La Cuesta. We filled our bellies with creamy cod croquettes (croquetas de bacalao), steamed mussels (mejillones al vapor), garlic shrimp (gambas al ajillo), and fried baby squid (puntillitas).

A sojourn in Seville

The remaining three days of New Year’s holidays went by fast in Seville. We were finally staying put, but even so, it was still a full program: the capital of Andalusia has a lot to offer!

The skyline of Seville as seen from the Metropol Parasol
The mushshroom-like wooden structure of Metropol Parasol is the highlight of Plaza de la Encarnación

We spent the days exploring well-known landmarks such as Plaza de España and its architectural antipode, Plaza de la Encarnación. Evenings were reserved for scoping out the nightlife. La Alameda de Herculés is a hip and vibrant square filled with restaurants, tapas bars, and gay-friendly pubs and nightclubs.

One evening was reserved for flamenco. In Seville, you won’t have to look far to see advertisements for tablaos, places where flamenco is performed. We booked our soirée at Casa de la Memoria, which offered an intimate show set to the backdrop of a traditional sixteenth century courtyard. I always imagined flamenco dancers to be like sultry Carmens, swaying and sashaying back and forth across the stage like in many renditions of the Habanera. But the music, song, and dance of the flamenco is a style unique in its energy and expression.

Finally, for our last day in Andalusia, I had planned a special treat: a couple of hours of pure relaxation and pampering at Aire de Sevilla, possibly the best Arab baths in town.

After a week of taking in Andalusian history, culture, and cuisine, a long soak in the ‘baños árabes’ was the perfect way to let the entire experience all sink in.

We were welcomed with a wine bath treatment: a private bath for two, drawn from a red wine mélange from Ribera del Duero and an accompanying scalp massage. This was followed by individual full-body aromatherapy massages. Skin fragrant and knots loosened, we were then treated to a spectacular skyline view up from the spa’s heated rooftop pool. As the sun started to set behind the silhouette of Seville Cathedral and La Giralda, we descended to finally begin the traditional bathing circuit through the whirlpool, thermal pools, salt bath, and hammam.

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