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Seville, Spain

This tower is the iconic symbol of Seville

The Most Gay-Friendly City in Spain

Story and photographs by Richard Frisbie

find it nearly impossible to sleep on airplanes. When I couldn't sleep on the overnight Delta flight from New York to Andalusia last September, I scrolled through the movies (blah) and other entertainment (double blah) until I came across the TV show "Game of Thrones". I knew of it, that it was bloody and sexy, but had never seen it. I watched more than heard (when did planes get so noisy?) three episodes before dozing off. As I found out later, it was the perfect introduction to my visit to Seville, Spain, because so many episodes were filmed there.

the gardens at Alcazar
View of the gardens at Alcázar

Movie location tourism is a big and growing travel phenomenon that I didn't understand. I mean, why visit somewhere just to see where a movie was filmed? It certainly benefits the destination. Not only do they get the short-lived economic boost from the filming, but, if the movie or TV show is popular, they get sustained benefits through the subsequent tourism. But what does the tourist get? What is the point of just looking at an old set?

another view of the gardens at Alcazar
Another view of the gardens

The medieval palace and gardens of Alcázar in Seville became the kingdom of Dorne in the fifth season of the HBO production, Game of Thrones. It is featured in the sixth and seventh seasons as well. I didn't get the point until I stood in the Alcázar gardens and saw it through my enhanced "Game of Thrones" eyes. It was a whole new perspective. Granted, Alcázar is beautiful in its own right, but seeing the garden aisle where the unsuitable suitor stole a kiss from the princess, especially seeing it from her father's vantage, and the little temple where they conspired, really heightened my appreciation of the gardens AND the show! That surprised me.

Dolls Courtyard at Alcazar
Dolls Courtyard (see the tiny carved head on the left) at Alcázar

As I walked through the palace and gardens the rooms came alive, their architectural details somehow more noticeable and appreciated, the colorful flowers in the gardens more vibrant, and I could imagine kissing the princess, or even being kissed by the handsome suitor. You see, that's the universal appeal of the show, it's sexy and also very gay.

I have a friend who's a guide in Seville. (Sevilla by Pepe) He met me for a few drinks to explain the attraction and why so many people hire his LGBT-friendly company to show them the Game of Thrones locations. As we walked through Alameda, the once all gay and now very hip, mixed and accepting neighborhood, he explained that "10 years ago this was all gay. Then families moved in and shops and restaurants opened. Now we share it with them."

the Parasol Metropol
Parasol Metropol

We rounded the corner of a narrow cobblestone street and passed from the historic district into the Plaza de la Encarnacion, which is dominated by the massive Parasol Metropol, the futuristic mushroom-like structure which is the largest wooden building in the world. It is breathtaking!

the Mentiroso
A little LGBT-friendly cafe called Mentiroso

Almost in its shade we stopped at a little LGBT-friendly cafe called Mentiroso where Pepe showed me some clips from Game of Thrones that showcase other parts of the Alcázar. As they played he told me the Alcázar was used as a set in Lawrence of Arabia and a Star Wars movie, too.

Travel agencies have been promoting location tours for some time. Pepe saw the opportunity and went with it. He said it was a big deal when the filming was going on. "There was a 25% increase in tourism tied directly to the show. Of the 85,000 people who applied to be extras, 25,000 were hired. Hotels saw a 79% reservation increase." The economic impact was indeed significant.

Besides the Alcázar, a 13th century ship-building location on the river will be used in scenes for season seven. And outside of Seville, in the town of Osuna, the Collegiate, the University, the Bullring and quarry will also be locations for the series. Pepe offers a tour of those sites as well.

view of the palace through the gardens at Alcazar
View of the palace through the gardens at Alcázar

He offered to show me around Alameda that evening but I explained I was in town for the Flamenco Bienal. That set him off on a gay Flamenco riff that was hilarious. He estimated that at least 50% of Flamenco performers were gay but afraid to come out. Flamenco is heavily influenced by the gypsies who are anti-gay. He said "Flamenco is the gayest of Spanish arts, but only the top stars dare come out because of the old-fashioned values. The others don't have the celebrity to risk being black-listed. Recently two male flamenco dancers were married, and one of the most famous male flamenco singers has a surrogate mother carrying a child for him and his male lover."

Flamenco Bienal performance
Flamenco Bienal performance

There was more, oh so much more, and I really was having fun as he name-dropped his way through flamenco royalty, but I had these very difficult-to-get tickets to a flamenco performance that evening. I promised to look him up on my next visit and spend more time.

For an insight into the gay community of Seville, which Pepe calls the "most gay-friendly city in Spain", where to be seen and where to eat, and certainly to tour the Game of Thrones locations, you could not have a better guide.

Related Articles:
Flamenco in Seville, Spain; I'm Not a Barber, But I Am in Seville; TAPAS: Opposite Sides of Madrid’s Culinary Coin; A Food & Wine Tour of Alcala; Savoring Seville As We Wave Adiós

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Let Richard know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Hey Richard - another winning series of words, all put together in your usual brilliant, and very creative format. And hey, love those glorious photos - Wow, what scenery - looks like some sort of paradise. What a super life you lead!!!

--- John Clayton, Palos Verdes CA

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I want to go there!!!!!!! Mmmmm! Yes! Love the photos and your article, Richard! Have read the book, seen the play several times and now dream of seeing these historic places. I've been wanting to go to Spain for some time. Now at 12:30 a.m. I'm heading off to bed with songs from Man of La Mancha ringing in my mind. Thanks!

--- Betsy Tuel, Rosendale, NY

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You are fortunate to have Richard on your staff. Richard is a fantastic writer and a wonderful person. Congratulations to Richard and to you.

--- Denise Dubé, New England

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Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

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There is nothing like sleeping in an ocean-front room and awakening to the sounds of waves crashing against the sand. It is one of the finer things in life. And it is exactly what I experienced recently on a memorable getaway to The Inn at Laguna Beach. The adventure began when a friend I pulled off the 5 Freeway in Orange County and took SR 133 south nine miles through winding lush hills and wilderness areas to the ocean.

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The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

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In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

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