DAILY MAIL - Escape City Guide
Escape to Seville
The south of Spain is hotting up and the Andalucian home of Carmen makes for an intoxicating weekend break with its palaces, elegant boulevards and the scent of orange blossom hanging in the air. Stroll along the riverbank, wander through the tiny, whitewashed streets of the Jewish quarter or sit in one of the beautiful squares and bask in that sunny atmosphere. But what makes Seville so special are its riotous springtime celebrations. No wonder the locals are always smiling says Tony Jeffries.
The Giralda tower is Seville's symbol and you can see it from all over the city. It may be attached to the world's biggest cathedral but it started out as a minaret for the royal palace mosque when the Moors ruled southern Spain more than 1,000 years ago. The climb to the bell tower, 250 ft up, is made easier by a ramp and the rooftop views of this beautiful city are worth the effort. Entrance is via the awe-inspiring cathedral and admission for both is a well-spent £4.
The city wears its most pious face for Holy Week, with daily processions of robed and hooded penitents from the 57 different "brotherhoods", slowly bearing huge, ornate floats, carrying the Virgin Mary or Jesus from their church through the crowded city. Come Easter Sunday, though, the mood changes. The faithful throw themselves into an all night street party - and one that goes on for a couple of days. Hot on its heels comes the city's world famous April feria, or fair. The flamenco dresses are dusted down, horses are groomed and the whole city decamps to the fairground, where row upon row of marquees are set up and everyone drinks all day and all night for a week. You need an invitation to one of these casitas, but a smile and a thirsty look should secure entrance to the liveliest party you'll ever see. Holy Weeks is from March 20-27 and Seville's feria runs from April 12-17.
Hot to trot
The best way to get to know your way around is to hop on board one of the hundreds of beautiful horse-drawn carriages that throng the city centre. The pace is leisurely, and the sound of hooves acts as a fitting backing track as you trot past Moorish castles, carefully planted gardens and the city's legendary bullring. Early evening, when the heat has gone out of the day, is the perfect time to take a ride. Drivers are regulated so expect to pay around £21 for greatest hits tours and £28 for the more leisurely version.
On the tiles
The Maria Luisa Park is a perfect place to spend a peaceful afternoon in the heart of the bustling city. It's full of shady lawns and tranquil, meandering paths and there are a couple of excellent cafes. But the Plaza de España is the highlight. This mock-Moorish semi-circular fantasy in brick and tiles formed the backdrop for part of the film of Lawrence of Arabia and encloses a moat and a circular plaza. The building contains tiled niches representing every province of Spain, complete with multi-coloured, tiled depictions of a moment from Spanish history - just right for sprawling across on a warm afternoon.
Seville has given many things to the world but the best has to be tapas. The city has thousands of bars, from ultra-smart to super-scruffy, but you'll find tasty morsels in every one of them. The Jewish quarter of Santa Cruz near the cathedral is a great place to follow the tapas trail. Start in Calle Mateos Gago and just follow your nose through the winding alleyways and leafy squares. The range of dishes is vast but if you want to eat like a local, stick to jamón Serrano (ham), prawns, olives and stews. As for drinks go with cold beer, or better still, bone-dry fino sherry or glass of Spanish wine.
British Airways flies daily from Gatwick from £138 return (www.ba.com) Ryanair flies daily from Stansted from £75 (www.ryanair.com).
Where to stay
Casa No. 7 Hotel(Calle Virgenes 7. www.casanumero7.com) has six rooms set in a gorgeous old palace in the Jewish Quarter. £150+