A few nights ago I went to the (re)opening party of the Alfonso XIII hotel here in Seville.
This venerable establishment, a landmark and icon of the city, the grande dame of Seville’s social scene, had received a major make-over. It reopened less officially in March, when I got to look around.
The event had a formal dress code, which meant long dresses for ladies. I dug out a 15-year-old Ghost number from the back of my cupboard and jazzed it up with an equally ancient sequinned jacket (though it was so hot, I ended up using it as a sparkly shawl).
As I walked up to the hotel’s portico, I saw the paparazzi amassed and the red carpet in place for my arrival. How thoughtful.
Then, entering the lobby, there was a welcoming committee of footmen and flamencas, holding trays with glasses of champagne, which gave just the right impression of history, tradition, luxury and Sevillano-ness.
I found my “date”, fellow blogger Sevilla Tapas, and we were the first to head out to the patio, where more uniformed staff awaited with bottles of Möet et Chandon. As more guests started to arrive, the temperature rose – it was already a warm evening – due to a shade over the patio, which prevented air from circulating. The women, in full-length slinky evening dresses, fared better than the men, suffering in their black tie jackets.
We caught up with old friends and met new ones – often known already through Twitter and Facebook, but not in person – as the champagne flowed, copiously. A beautiful, historic setting, interesting company, first-class bubbly, party atmosphere… All that was missing was some food. By this point feeling peckish, I inquired of several waiters, who assured me it would be out soon. When no sustenance was forthcoming, I cut out the middleman and went to harass a chef who was lurking nearby. He told me that protocolo dictated that no victuals could be provided till after the speeches, and that they were waiting for a Very Important Guest.
Half an hour later, this rather tipsy and, by now, extremely hungry blogger had turned into Loud Drunk Woman. The type whom most men profess to loathe. I (and they) were saved by the appearance of a (male) opera singer on the balcony, who serenaded his female counterpart as she walked among the crowd with a microphone headpiece. My normal instinct to capture this memorable scene deserted me, due to the previously mentioned inebriation/starvation situation (Sevilla Tapas, ever the consummate iPhone professional, caught it all, and tweeted it too). I think some people made speeches – the hotel’s director and the mayor, possibly – while I kept an eagle eye out for any sneaky canapés.
Then a soldier in 18th-century dress materialised and explained that food was now being served in the garden.
Outside, with fresh air now flowing, we found tables groaning with everything from jamon to sushi to oysters, grilled meats and fish, and even pizza. All this was served around the pool, with the gardens of palm trees and tiled benches floodlit, and the building itself glowing pink. The whole effect gave a very Marbella-like feel, on a lavish scale which I haven’t experienced before in Sevilla.
Flamenco dancers stomped and whooped on a stage, to the delight of the now well-fed and watered assembled great and good, including various local celebrities: TV personality and theatre impresario Jesus Quintero; one half of design duo Victorio Lucchino; model Raquel Revuelta; and a smattering of aristocrats (though not, unfortunately, the Duquesa de Alba).
On the way out, we came upon two chocolate fountains (one white and one milk). At the risk of sounding picky, I loved the fruit which you dipped in it rather more than the stuff itself, which was very gloopy and didn’t taste nice. I’m a 70% dark person, so this was like giving an alcoholic a small, weak shandy.
In all, despite my whinges, it was a full-on, first-class party, with music, food, drink and entertainment fit for a king – appropriately enough since that’s exactly who the Alfonso XIII was built for.