It’s 42 degrees Centigrade here in Seville.
“Hotel Casas de La Juderia por favor Senior.”
This small hotel in heart of the old Barrio of Santa Cruz, near the Alamedas de las Cruzes, the magnificent cathedral, the Iglesia Santa Maria La Blanca and San Bartolome, lays on a street called La Juderia — the old Jewish Quarter –from a time when Jews, Muslims and Christians all lived in Seville with no major difficulties.
It is installed in a palace from the 1600’s once owned by the Duke of Beja, a great character in the history of Spain’s aristocracy and known as the patron of Cervantes. Within easy walking distance of the cathedral and other sights, the building has been a hotel since 1991. It’s now one of the best places to stay in Seville.
The taxi driver stops and I see no hotel. He then wakes me up from my thoughts and shows me the way through a very tiny street where I am supposed to go with the suitcase in my hand as he says, the car does not fit. I venture by myself down the almost nonexistent small street indicated by the taxi driver, a little apprehensive, exactly like every time around the world I “Invent” new places to stay.
My thoughts are immediately interrupted by the noise of water running. I look everywhere and finally discover a small gate with an interior Spanish patio with a Moorish Style fountain pouring never-ending water like there is no tomorrow.
Wow! What a pretty place out there, but where is my hotel? Suddenly I hear a man’s voice behind me… “Senorita!….Hola, Buenos tardes, la entrada es por aqui. Bienvenidos en la Casa de a Juderia, mi nombre es Xavier, la ajudo.” He has the deepest brown eyes and the most courteous smile I have never seen.
There are twelve houses altogether, surrounded and interlaced by small internal gardens and patios, some with fountains, some with art work, old terracotta pots and painted pebble mosaics. Every house is a three-floor Moorish style small building whose entrance wall carries carved in wood or sculpted in iron the family name of the former Sephardic Jewish owners. From the reception to my room in the Casas de los Padillas, Xavier just tells me, I should go through a curious Roman style renovated underground tunnel, (so I can stay fresh he says) where a small synagogue happens to be there for centuries and whose blue, wood encarved Magen David motifs doors are today certainly locked. I absolutely have no idea how I am going to transit between the house of the Padillas, the Mizrahis and the Molinas.
It’s Friday night. Since I am at the Juderia, after lighting my Shabbat candles, I could go to the service at a synagogue and then to the Casa de la Memoria Sefarad to watch today’s Flamenco performance of the Summer festival. I ask my Spanish – El Cid – butler- commander Xavier, about the directions to the synagogue I had heard was in Santa Cruz, close to the hotel; and the time of the service. Xavier answer is “Yes, actually Senorita is right,” he says. “There WAS a synagogue, but this was three thousands years ago. It eventually became a church, called Santa Maria Clara, very pretty Senorita, and if you still need to go, it would be my pleasure to walk you there.”
Reflecting with a kind of uncertainty, I find myself regarding the site of my religious observance. I decide to get out of the last courtyard of the twelve encountered from the Padillas house, including the subterranean tunnel to the reception. I finally see another taxi at the end of this oasis-like ghetto.
“Senor? Casa de la Memoria Sefaradi por favor.”