This tower is the iconic symbol of Seville
The Most Gay-Friendly City in Spain
Story and photographs by Richard Frisbie
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.
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
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 (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
opened. Now we share it with them."
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!
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 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
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.
in Seville, Spain; I'm
Not a Barber, But I Am in Seville; TAPAS:
Opposite Sides of Madrids Culinary Coin; A
Food & Wine Tour of Alcala; Savoring
Seville As We Wave Adiós