Cruisin’ in Santa Cruz

Leida's courtyard

Leida’s courtyard

We were walking through the Judería, a warren of narrow alleyways that made up the ancient Jewish Quarter in Sevilla in the centuries before the Inquisition. Not surprisingly, it’s located in the oldest neighborhood of Sevilla, the Barrio de Santa Cruz. We were quietly talking as we walked, just minding our own business, when a young woman passed us, turned and looked at us, and asked “Where are you from?” We could tell by her accent that she was Spanish, yet her English was perfect.

Surprised, I replied, “Los Estados Unidos (the United States).”

“Would you like to see a typical Sevillano home? I live just up the street. It’s quite beautiful.”

Marcus and I looked at each other and replied in unison. “Yes, that would be very nice.”

She continued walking, and we hurried to keep up. About 30 feet ahead, she stopped in front of a large wooden door in a stucco wall, inserted a key, and stepped through the doorway. We followed. We were standing in a covered entryway. In front of us was an iron grillwork gate. Beyond it, a mass of vegetation. She unlocked the gate and motioned us inside. The courtyard was full of flowering plants and fruit trees – oranges, grapefruit, figs…so many that it was difficult to see to the far end. In the center was a trickling fountain surrounded by white metal benches. Very Moorish; the Moors loved fountains, not only for their cooling effect on scorching summer days, but also for the calming visual and aural aspects.

She paused. “My name is Leida,” she said.

“Cindy.” “Marcus.” We extended our hands, and then continued to admire the garden around us.

In true Andalucían style there were several residences facing inward toward the courtyard. Three floors on the left; three floors on the right. We asked Leida if all the residences were occupied by her family. “No. Three different families live on the left side of the courtyard, one on each floor. And three families live on the right side. My family lives on the second floor on the right side.”

“Has your family lived here for many years?” I asked.

“Yes, so many years that I don’t remember how long.” She smiled. “But come with me. There’s something I want to show you.” She led us through the courtyard. On the back wall was something completely unexpected – an old arched niche flanked by peeling murals. “It was part of a house built for one of the queens,” she explained. I could believe this. This old residence was practically next door to the Alcázar, the ancient royal palace.

built for a queen

built for a queen

Marcus asked Leida what she did for a living. “I’m a lawyer,” she answered. Only 24 years old and most likely freshly out of law school, she is an intern in the field of criminal law. We thanked her profusely for sharing her family’s treasure with us. She saw us back out to the street, said goodbye, and disappeared back into her private oasis. All told: 20 minutes.

Marcus and I looked at each other. Until that moment, we hadn’t had a chance to talk about this unexpected opportunity; it had all happened so quickly. We both laughed. Words failed me. “Well, that was interesting!” was all I could manage, and we continued on our way.

I wonder what the rest of the day holds for us.

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