“Take a photo of him,” she says, her eyes smoky with eyeliner, her words smudging together in the Andalucían way.
I glance up at the head on the wall.
“He’s the most photographed bull in Seville,” she explains, drawing another slab of flesh beneath her knife. “And look,” the blade gestures. “He has no ear. You know what that means?”
“It must have been a very good fight,” I say, out of politeness. If a matador performs well, he earns the right to slice the bull’s ear off and present it to his sweetheart as a trophy. This is the sort of thing I didn’t know before.
“Very good,” she drops the meat onto the scales. “A very good fight.”
It’s Saturday morning and I’m wandering through the shadows of Triana’s covered market, close to the ruins of the Spanish Inquisition. Seville has a reputation for passion, for flamenco, and the blood and dust of the bullring. Triana, on the “wrong” side of the river, is its wild and wayward cousin.
Triana prides itself on partying the hardest – and in a city that starts dinner at ten and hits the streets at midnight, that’s saying something. It prides itself on its ceramics and on its controversial place in history (the sailors alongside a certain Christopher Columbus all came from this part of Spain.) It even tries to claim both the music and dance of flamenco as its own. Yet Triana doesn’t feel like a place that lives in the past. More that it’s so alive, it hoists its history along on its shoulders.
Back in the present, Triana Market is not for the squeamish. Tongues sit stacked together and whole legs of cured jamon hang by their hoofs from the ceiling. Fish mouths gape open as a matriarch guts and fillets the rest with the slickness of a magician with a deck of cards.
I hurry past, to the frutas y verduras counter that brims with pomegranates, apples, pimientos and plenty of cartoon-shaped squashes. Wherever you are in Triana, you have to shout to be heard, be it in markets, bars, streets or religious processions. Nowhere is safe from the chopped and diced fragments of conversation.
On almost any given Sunday, to the scent of incense and the sound of a sorrowful band, floats wobble through the streets, bearing life-sized figures of Christ balanced on Triana’s strongest men. It’s a fascinating sight, with men, women and children decked in gold-trim costumes, cardigans and velvet breeches, while constantly chatting into mobile phones.
Despite this sensory overload, Triana still has a few streets that offer a moment of calm: Calle Pelay Correa, Calle Torrijos and Calle de la Pureza. Whitewashed, with a mustard-yellow trim and lines of soft-scented orange trees, they’re like the famed streets of the Santa Cruz Quarter – only without the tourists.
One of the things I love the most about Andalucia is the attention to detail: even the underside of balconies are decorated with glazed azulejos tiles. Painted in canary yellow, olive green and a decadent blue, these tiles from Triana’s workshops have spread across Seville, Spain, and the world.
By now, I’m at the edge of the Puente de Isabel II, opposite the entrance to Triana’s covered market and the curious Capillita del Carmen chapel. With my blonde hair and pale skin, I’ll never blend in here, but I can learn the language and ease into the culture.
I order a crisp, cool cerveza and gaze across the river, taking in the Torre del Oro and La Giralda, Seville’s most well-known landmark. That’s another thing about Triana; it really does have the best view.
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com