Andalusia is as close as Europe gets to Africa, and the region’s capital, Seville, embodies Spain’s rich blend of Latin and Moorish traditions. Its name originated as Al-Andalus, Arabic for “land of the West.” From 711 to 1492, Andalusia was part of the Moorish world. Situated on the Guadalquivir River, Seville is Spain’s fourth-largest city, with a population of 700,000 people. A compact low-rise metropolis, it is a place of vibrant plazas, whitewashed residences festooned with scarlet geraniums and a pedestrian culture that invites exploration. (Although some parts of the city — I’m thinking of the barrios, with their narrow, winding streets — require good map-reading skills and attention to where you are going.)
Hotel Alfonso XIII
Due to a succession of airline delays, we arrived in Seville at midnight, tired and out of humor. But the sight of Hotel Alfonso XIII, dramatically illuminated so as to highlight its arched windows and towers, lifted our spirits. Dedicated in 1929 by King Alfonso XIII, the hotel was part of the Ibero-American Exhibition that thrust Seville onto the world stage. A five-story rococo building, it is a remarkable amalgam of Spanish and Moorish architecture. The lobby is particularly impressive, with its hand-painted tiles, marble pillars, gilded coffered ceiling, arabesque accents and stained and leaded glass. Much of this splendor is the result of a $25 million renovation, completed in 2012.
Our room exhibited a wonderful interplay of materials and subtle colors. Elaborate plasterwork ran the length of the high ceiling, and the spectacular floor featured a herringbone pattern of black, white and tan marble surrounded by a border of diamonds and triangles. Period photographs decorated the walls, while handsome furnishings included an ample desk, a credenza and an elaborate wooden bed. The bath, though on the small side, with a combined bath-shower, came with striking walls of white and copper-glazed tiles. The lighting around the double vanities was unusually effective.