SEVILLA is another world, and in high summer that world is a beautiful and lonely inferno.
The locals flee to the coast (mostly Huelva) while a few foolhardy tourists run rivers of sweat on the tapas bar terraces wishing that they had heeded the warnings of what August is like in Europe’s hottest city.
After 20 years of visiting, I am a little more used to it now, and actually enjoy the peace and emptiness.
One learns to siesta or read in cool darkness and only venture out before midday and after darkness falls.
It was on one such semi-sweltering evening that I stumbled across my old friends, Ignacio and Gola, husband and wife, sitting in the cafe in front of their emblematic hotel, Las Casas de la Juderia, in Barrio de Santa Cruz.
I used to see them weekly when they hosted a tertulia – a sort of political and literary salon – in one of the hotel’s drawing rooms to introduce me to interesting people when I was writing about Sevilla for the UK press.
The hotel is an elegant antique labyrinth, although it does not compare to their other properties like Ignacio’s childhood home, the most beautiful palace in Spain, Casa Pilatos.
Ignacio is the Duke of Segorbe and son of the 18th Duchess of Medinacelli, who was the second most titled woman in Spain after the late Duchess of Alba.
His mother was born Princess María de la Gloria de Orleans-Braganza y de Borbón-Dos Sicilias, descendant of the last Emperor of Brazil, no less.
Years ago, I bumped into Ignacio at the very same table where he was busy decrying the fact that he had been forced to put Casas de la Juderia on the market for ‘financial reasons’.
We stepped into his hotel bar to finish the evening with ‘one last drink before I sell her’.
However, after that final gin and tonic, he ended the evening with a smile.
“Oh, I did have some good news,” he said, bringing out his phone with a photo of the front cover of an Italian newspaper that day. “they have confirmed one of the sculptures we have is a Michelangelo.”
Given the last time a Michelangelo went up for auction it was merely a sketch on paper and it fetched $20 million at Christies, one can only imagine what a life-size young John the Baptist sculpture might go for.
It meant he could somehow avoid selling the hotel after all, and now it is being managed by his daughter.
I almost regretted offering my sympathies for his financial plight that night, but then I remembered that everything is relative, and as I said, Sevilla is another world.