~ Feverish Flamenco, Arabic Baths and Dancing in Fountains ~
Sevilla, Andalusia, Spain.
City of domes, fountains, arches and spires; home of Flamenco; collide of two great continents ~ Europe and Africa. The pride of the West fixed atop the exotic grandeur of the East. Seville bewitched my senses, enriched, seduced and beguiled me. I was completely caught in its vivacious siren chant… my odyssey broken, caught blindly in its stern and elegant bearing.
We shared a rhythm, a drive, a convulsion to move, feel; to dance through the adversity of a fierce history, to sing wildly through the weight of a crown of thorns, to paint with the colours of heartbreak, love and obsessive passions. To colour walls and skies with the beat and vivid palette of the restless and intense spirit.
To live freely and fiercely, beyond the frail and cursed body, and embrace the mercy of an absolute beauty ~
As I arrived in the city a great Sahara sandstorm blew across the skies, rose, and then held – winds whipping up a huge golden swirl – which slowly fell over the course of a few warm and hazy days. I was sitting on one of the city trams when an elderly lady struck up conversation with me, complaining that her coat was covered in sand from the falling storm, which came down intermittently with light rains. I had many of these such conversations with locals – they speaking to me in Spanish, me responding in Italian. It worked well enough. I got around the city just fine, day and night.
Seeing the skies gilded by Sahara, and the strong presence of middle-eastern architecture combined with more typically-European baroque and renaissance styles – minarets transformed into imposing bell towers, Gothic spires, classical pillars and domes, vibrant ceramics and Moorish fountains adorning every crossing and corner, and then the air – fresh, warm, gentle on my war-torn sinuses – it was clear I was being ushered into another strange and enchanting paradise. Where ages mix, bloom and muddy like blood.
I was happy to leave Northern Europe behind. My time spent in Madrid had been just as cold, brash and uninviting as England. I needed fire. To burn again. In Seville I didn’t need to find my warmth in friendship or song as in Madrid. I loosened my tight winter layers, felt rich fabric swish by my ankles as I walked new streets somehow faintly familiar, swirled through the layers and ages of another great city, bathed in sunlight as if for the first time after years of hibernation and hiding. I simply fell into that great dancer’s poised arms… gave up, and embraced… feet firm, tiptoed, yet supple… as she took my hand and lead the way through secret places…
I took a tour of the cathedral. Walked across ancient stone, my hands running along the edge of crumbly walls I kept close to for fear of being pulled up into the great vaulted space, such magnetic heights, above. Awe held me down, yet lifted me slightly off the ground…
I laid my fingertips on the final resting place of one Christopher Columbus, the Great Explorer, and wondered what kind of man he really was in life, one so celebrated in death.
The vision from the top of La Giralda turned within me. Such a sight.
And yet the climb to the top of the tall tower felt much more exhausting than it should have. Too difficult for a fit young man.
I sat in the gardens, took deep breaths, listened… felt.
The next morning I awoke in a a sweat, cold and hot all at once, deliriously fatigued and feverishly high… the winter blues catching up with me once again, even here. Thought I’d left all that crap behind in England...
I sat on the balcony, looking over Seville below, my body aching head to toe, sun beating down intensely yet somehow a bittersweet relief, wondering what all this illness was about… my mind flickering between thoughts of flying, and the swallowing void left behind by my little boy.
I sat, sweating – wishing never to travel again; to move away somewhere peaceful and to hide from the world, rest and meditate, no more fighting for freedom; just paradise and relief. Then I looked across at the spires of close-by Plaza de Espana pricking the sky, hard and alluring, whispering seductions unheard but deeply felt pangs of longing, that feeling of a child missing the party, irrepressible tingling, caressing my feet to move, pulling me, with this absurd conviction, electric, fire burning somewhere at the core, writhing ecstasy to dance away all the rushing pain and desire to sleep through my own story – screaming to me life, life, LIFE, louder than the intensity of my apparent decay.
Life was waiting, wouldn’t move on without me.
Paused; all participating actors stood still ready for the cue, to continue.
So I put on my finest black, and gave in once again to the drug…
Some call it Wanderlust. For me it’s the very drive of my existence.
Metamorphosis; evolution; fury of movement.
Some may call that running away… I call it the Art of Going.
As soon as I entered the mosaic halls and myriad of stairways, arches and pillars of Plaza de Espana, my fever intensified, yet my spirit lifted. This was the perfect hospital for an Aesthete… my fix.
The beauty of the clean, crystalline waters flowing through the canals and fountains cooled me. I took off my boots, sat on the edge of the main fountain in the middle of the huge square. There were no police or security around. I had an idea that would really cool me down…
I gave my camera to a French tourist and stepped into the main fountain.
How could I possibly resist?
People in the square applauded as I splashed around. Fountains honestly make me very happy. Especially when I’m in them. The feel of the cold water on my feet was an absolute relief of body and mind. I couldn’t help but dance a little.
I made several visits to the Plaza during my stay, luxuriating in my place within this timeless architectural masterpiece…
And then cooling off in might of the surrounding gardens, with enormous trees that I just had to touch…
Feeling reinvigorated, I took a stroll deeper into the heart of the city.
Huge, bustling squares and avenues quickly surrendered to winding medieval streets, twisting buildings awash in pastel colours, huge wooden doorways ornamented in brass. I took refuge in the shade and solidarity of an ancient possessor, caught somewhere between a dilemma of warm light and cool shadow.
My intense search for passion lead me to the Casa del Flamenco, down a narrow alleyway in one of the oldest quarters of the city. I was early, so bought myself a front row ticket at the office, and sat in a nearby coffee house until the time came. Soon I walked across the terracotta flooring and found my seat, sweat pricking through the skin on my forehead; beads of hot viscous liquid like drops of unset glass.
The ensuing performance was one of magic, agony, brilliance of craft and ecstasy of emotion. I watched in awe as the singers, guitarists and dancers played to ambiguous rhythms of war, famine, cruelty, abuse, every heartbreak I’d ever felt, and the mellifluous melodies of love, my greatest romances and memory, complete adoration and my intense faith; every poignant image of my life flashing before my eyes. My body shook, sweated and exhaled, my mouth opened in disbelief. Never in my life had the complexity of my emotions been conveyed. I was seduced, entranced and converted in an instance. It was a madness that I witnessed.
If there is one thing to do whilst in Seville, it is to watch a true Flamenco performance such as these artists gave me. In fact, this was not just a performance at all – it was a ritual. An exorcism. I was hypnotised, and yet freed…
My fever erupted. I was exhausted; exhilarated.
This city was surely a glimpse of the first Eden, or some original sin…
My wandering the next morning revealed a series of signs – holy crosses sunken in walls, ancient pillars, secret courtyard gardens and the remains of a Roman temple lost to encroaching buildings and rising waters…
But the beauty and passion of the city had exhausted me.
And I needed the relief of those waters once more.
My feet brought me to ~ Aire de Sevilla ~
Ancient hamman baths in an old palace at the very heart of the city.
The entire place is a paradise, and I found my desired relief in its tiled hallways and deep, purifying waters…
I swam for hours between the dark, candle-lit rooms at the base of the old building. I lay on my back, drifting through this magnificent palace in hot waters, feeling my aches and pains wash away behind me, to the sounds of silence and the smells of burning spices. To cool down I simply moved across to another room with colder baths, feel the chills rise through my body.
As a treat, the management took me up onto the roof terrace.
My healing was complete.
You know, I wonder if cities like Seville really exist at all. Could this all possibly be a dream, a feverish hallucination in the life of a man, one of blessed mind and cursed body? Just another dreamed-up scene in the otherwise ordinary life of an aesthete…
With special thanks to Aire de Sevilla, Pavel Colon and Eva Vanhee for helping make this happen.
Visit airedesevilla.com to book your own healing experience.
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