IMG_0837CITY OF ORANGES, Roman arches, and Moorish tiles, of churches and towers and labyrinthine streets (the better to foil invaders without street maps) under ever-changing Andalusian skies.

But mostly of oranges. Charming beyond belief, colorful, civilized, I am in love with Seville, and it’s harvest time. The trees are laden with beautiful but bitter-tasting oranges that the city will export to Britain, where they’re used to make marmalade. There are orange trees everywhere — on the streets, in courtyard pots, in front of the Casa de Pilatos, below, an early 16th century palazzo in High Italian Renaissance style.

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Behind the dazzling domed and decorated halls of Real Alcazar, below, 14th century home of Muslim rulers, there are mandarins, too, and grapefruit, and yellow trumpet flowers in bloom, and orange clivia.

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Andalusian gardens are so structured, outdoor room after outdoor room, linked by archways and laid out on axes with fountains where they cross, and the climate is so temperate, that it hardly matters that it’s January. One totally gets the idea, though the magnolias and bougainvillea and jasmine climbing the walls won’t flower until spring, when it must be even more breathtaking.
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The sunken gardens in the inner courtyard of the Real Alcazar, above, were designed so that fruit could be picked from the trees without having to reach — a notion derived from a Koran passage, our guide told us.

Centuries later, the gardens were re-done in the formal French style, and so they remain, with hedges of myrtle and oleander enclosing acanthus and agapanthus, jacaranda, date palms, and other (to us) exotics, like the Argentinian ombu, or elephant tree.
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As I threaded my way today through Seville’s narrow streets (I mean narrow – see below),

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I peeked through wrought iron gates into the courtyards within nearly every house, where I saw gargantuan versions of the same common houseplants I’ve struggled to keep in dry, dark city apartments — ferns, spider plants, philodendron — thriving en masse in terra cotta pots, giving me renewed inspiration for this summer’s containers.

I’m in a hotel I can recommend without reservation (but do make reservations, should you come to Seville). The Casas de la Juderia, in the city’s onetime Jewish quarter, is a patchwork of townhouses as early as the 16th century. Below, one of the hotel’s many arched and tile-bedecked inner courtyards.

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The hotel’s central courtyard, below, has been enclosed and furnished in livable Victorian style, with a grand piano, oriental rugs, doily-draped armchairs, urns on pedestals, maps in gilded frames — and, not to worry, WiFi.

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My Sevillian home for two nights is Room 21, below, a high-ceilinged suite with cheery yellow walls, where I am comfortable and very happy.
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My drink of choice here is fino, the crisp, dry Andalusian sherry that goes down very easily with garlicky grilled shrimp and tortillas potatas (a potato and egg pie), which is what Irvina and I ate last night in a bull-themed tapas bar that in another season might be filled with tourists, but in mid-winter was just us and the locals.