With so many activities to choose from on La Noche en Blanco here in Sevilla, it was hard to know which to pick. As I was meeting a friend who lives nearby, we decided to start out at the aljibe (water tank) in Plaza de la Pescaderia, in the Alfalfa part of the old city.
This a Roman cistern which dates from the second century, and was discovered during the refurbishment of the square – this is now a large pedestrianised area with many benches and ample space for outdoor tables of the restaurants which line it. The tank was being opened just for this night, so Sevillanos can see their city’s extraordinary history under their very noses.
The cistern consisted of a huge tank of 45 x 20m, divided into three sections of 41 x 5m each; we saw half of one of these, which was enormous. You can still see the Roman bricks above the archway which led from one part of the cistern to the next.
It was amazing to be inside a structure which is 1800-odd years old, whose walls have lasted all those centuries, the last one centimetres below the rumbling wheels of motor vehicles – there are lights in the ceiling which illuminate the space from the street.
Our next stop was a few minutes’ walk to the other side of the Setas, or Metropol Parasol. Wabi Sabi is a shop/gallery, which has vintage and contemporary clothes, excellent modern art, furniture, books and many other delights. As their contribution to Noche en Blanco, they had live painting on the theme of “Caminos, Ciudades” (Paths, Cities), accompanied by poetry. There was also free wine – I tasted the white, and it was excellent.
We had to leave before this surprisingly enjoyable performance (eat your Hart out, Tony) finished, to head off for another: back across the Setas to La Importadora, a similar, smaller space which sells an interesting and eclectic mix of items. This time, we were entertained by music – cello and violin.
La Importadora is one of the shops in the Soho Benita area, which is a group of independently-owned shops on and near Calle Perez Galdos. With a creative and innovative edge, they’re mostly owner-designers who sell their own products and offer workshops and courses.
Across the road from La Importadora is Delimbo, which had an exhibition on in its space, which must be one of the most delightful small spaces in Seville, with its columns and alcoves.
We finished up in the evening in the only way you should in Seville: by sharing some tapas – the innovative variety, in distinctly contemporary surroundings. These are more to my personal taste than traditional, had-it-a-thousand-times-before little dishes in inhospitable tiled, strip-lit, spit-and-sawdust type spaces.
The most important ingredient of the evening, and key to Noche en Blanco’s success, had nothing to do with the venues, the performers or the organisers: it was that uncontrollable element – the weather. After days of heavy downpours and fierce storms, the rain stayed away and it was a warm, dry evening. The streets were busy, the atmosphere was buzzing, and it was creative, sociable, beautiful Seville at its cosmopolitan best.