Seville, or Sevilla as it is known is Spain, was a complete surprise. I wanted to go because it evoked images of old culture. Shakespeare and Rossini’s singing barber. I expected the architectural and cultural history detailed in online and in my trusty travel books. Tickets were booked online for the Reales Alcazares. I expected exceptional art, exceptional food and exceptional wine from my curated introduction to Spain by my daughter in Barcelona, Bilboa, San Sebastian and Madrid years ago. What I didn’t anticipate was to fall in love with this city. Our hostess at “Espectacular Casa en el Corazon de Sevilla” can be partially credited. She introduced us to Andalusian culture by graciously sharing her home and her life. Breakfast amidst her art, pictures and stories of equestrian tradition with full costume complete with braided horse hair, flamenco, and recommendations for her favourite restaurants made the stay amazing. And then there was a completely unanticipated delight!
We dropped off the rental car at the Marbella airport and made our way to the train station. We got off at the San Bernardo train station to make our way to our Airbnb near Plaza Venerables. We joined the other joggers, commuters, shoppers, and travellers in the city with a purposeful forward motion. The clattering of our travel wheeled suitcases on the stone walkways announcing that COVID lockdown was lifting and the travel season had begun. We’d sneak onto the bike path for a smoother pathways but there are many stations to rent bikes and you had to frequently make way.
Just as I was wishing that we had taken the recommended taxi, we arrived in [Plaza de Dona Elvira]. I’m not certain if the sight of trees with trees with glossy green leaves that are loaded with oranges or the smell of the tiny white orange blossoms hit me first. It hit me like a warm hug from childhood. As a little girl, my favourite aunt sold Avon, like many other women struggling for ways to make extra money. I spent hours smelling product from her special blue tapestry Avon case. Sweet smells. Perfumes. Bath oils. Creams. Lily of the Valley. Roses, Roses. Peach. My Mum’s favourite was Honeysuckle. My favourite scents were in my collections of Avon dolls. The gel scents would go into special plastic pins and give me something to do during class. I had a plastic gingerbread man whose head would pop up to reveal the little pots of sweet scent. Very handy. I could apply my scent of choice as a diversion. during class. The girls would look on with appreciation and some boys would always whine,
“Not again! That stuff stinks!”
My first response when I arrived in the courtyard was to stop and take a big breath in.
“Oh my gosh, it smells like honeysuckle. It’s beautiful.” I murmured.
“It’s the orange blossoms,” replied a smiling girl walking by with hand in hand with her boyfriend. Clearly she was also someone who also delighted in the smell.
The oranges look very different than the ones we are familiar with eating. It’s like they have been coloured for a Hollywood movie. They are a bright orange. Yellow-orange in the Crayola box of crayons. And the skins are very rough, dimpled and knobby. There are always several on the ground that have been opened for sampling but flew look eaten. The skin is very thick and the inside flesh is quite pulpy and very bitter.
The Sevilla oranges were not just unique to this square. They were everywhere, heightening the sensory experience of outdoor cafes, ruins, and strolls through the narrow winding streets, along with the bells from the Seville Cathedral that emerged from the original mosque in the city. It was magical. And in that Sevilla was experiencing more rain than usual, the smell was particularly acute when the sun would come out. The smell of rain mixed with orange blossoms. Clearly, I am a true Vancouverite, in that the smell of rain also floods me with warm memories of home.
I have done some homework and these Sevilla oranges are not like other eating oranges. In fact, I unlocked a long-held secret of why my marmalade is always disappointing. I’ve been using the wrong oranges. These oranges, a cross between the pomelo and mandarin, were introduced from Asia in the 12th century. More than 14,000 bitter orange trees now line the streets of Seville as part of the urban landscaping. Although the Sevilla oranges are bitter to eat, the skins provide the sharp taste of all the best marmalades. In fact, most of these oranges are exported to England to be processed into flavourful marmalades. On my latest trip to the grocery store, I paid attention. You don’t have to pay exorbinant prices for specialty marmalade, you just need to look for product made with these special oranges. I bought lots. Not just for toast but for melting over cream cheese or brie during wine tasting endeavours. Now Sevilla orange marmalade triggers happy memories of childhood, wonderful memories of Sevilla and the impulse to plan my return to this amazing city.
HoodooQuest ( https://hoodooquest.blogspot.com ) was my very first blog. I started it in 2008 when I went to China to teach teachers. It catapulted me down the rabbit hole of blogging to which I have continued to delve deeper and write and write and write.