I bade Grenada goodbye at an early hour for a 3-hour bus ride to Sevilla and found Pension Cordoba with relative difficulty, and it is amazing what desperation can lead one to say despite an immensely flawed command of the language. It is a lovely hostal in a quiet side street, and is in itself, a renovated home, with a colourfully central, square patio. The owners’ West-highland terrier Otto (though ageing and quiet by now) sniffs and inspects the guests as a detective would.
I have 3 days here, and will instead spend hopefully, the whole of tomorrow in Cordoba, yet another Moorish stronghold that houses the Mesquita. The argument begins when people cannot agree upon which city forms the heart of Andalucia.
Orientation around its twisted streets became a chore, and a heart-pumping experience when one gets lost in nightfall. But I accidentally wandered into El Centro, the haphazard, modern pedestrian centre in which designer stores sit next to run-down hardware shops and pizzarias. Is it any wonder that the hoards are drawn to them?
And have I mentioned that the fashion is amazing? Though housebrands such as Zara and Mango carry near un-wearable apparel back home (no apologies made to fashion aficionados and trend-setters), some look remarkably decent over here. There is of course, a deceiving price tag that convinces you the piece of garment is really half the amount that needs to be paid.
I watched a Flamenco show earlier, in an 18th century square courtyard that doubles up as an exhibition/cultural hall during the day and when the proprietor feels like it. But at night, it is appropriately transformed into a soiree-esque small but simple stage (hollow for stomps and tap sounds) with candles and flowers.
Rooted in the wandering brusqueness of the Roma-people, the flamenco up close is more roughly hewn and spontaneous than I thought, my only measly experience with it being the highly stylised Firedance. Its history is more complicated to recite, save to say that its scales resemble Arabic music rather closely.
Rhythmic taps of the shoes, snapping fingers, handclaps, interspersed with yells of “ole” and hard, fast turns characterised that hour-long performance, and…amidst the work of the nimble fingers, the bell of the cathedral sounded, earning a grimace from the audience, and a wry chuckle from the guitarist.
I appreciated the fact that they took the trouble to stage this simply, in its traditional manner, minus the jazz/R&B, rock element that seems to pervade most modern music these days. Instead, there were alternating dreamy interludes meandering through the escalating rhythm and claps that came as the performance wore on.
The dancers stole the show, or rather, it was typically the young, hairy, sexy goateed Spaniard dressed in a two-toned maroon shirt and striped grey pants that garnered the most applause. He danced with a flair so unforgettable that his shirt buttons came off. But he continued dancing, holding his shirt closed – to my chagrin. It was more than his performance that was breathtaking.
Such sweet dreams.