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SpainWhen in Sevilla, check out the golf, but don't forget the tapas

 SEVILLA, Spain - Sevilla's legendary reputation endures - it is "Spain's eternal city," and there are few who walk away from it unmoved by its liveliness and dignity.

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If, however, the place is not already an irresistible destination by virtue of its monuments, shopping, tapas and sheer love of life make it your base for a sortie into southern Spanish golf. Three courses are within 20 minutes of the city, and there are at least six more less than an hour away. Attractions within the city include one of Europe's most exciting theme parks (Isla Mágica), a huge zoo, wondrous gardens, horse-drawn carriages, museums, and a nightlife that carries on well into the wee hours.

San Roque Golf CourseSightseeing should be done on foot. Cobbled lanes are everywhere, so sensible shoes are mandatory. Leave the car behind except for forays outside of town. Buy a copy of La Guia Verde to use as your city guide, one of the best city guides in Europe.

La Giralda, the city's symbol and most representative of past Islamic presence, is loftily predominant. Just down the block is the largest Gothic church in the world - the Cathedral - covering almost 12,000 square metres and into which several churches could easily fit.

The Alcazar, the bull ring and, of course, Carmen's ancient tobacco factory (Fabrica de Tobacos) are all within the same area. Plaza de Espana, a magnificent and grandiose gesture, is nearby. Sevilla's parks are as impressive as its buildings; lush examples are the Reales Alcazares Gardens and Maria Luisa Park.

Sevilla claims to have invented the tapas custom. Excellent options include "Casa Blanca" on Plaza Nueva, packed at lunch and worth the sardine squeeze. The Triana neighbourhood is famous for tempting tapas after sunset, and there are certainly worse things than finding yourself comfortably ensconced on a Gaudalquivir riverside terrace, drink and snack at hand.

As a university town, Sevilla caters to all pockets and tastes. There are three Japanese restaurants (the most elegant in Hotel Alfonso XIII, the most economical across the Triana bridge) and varied international fare throughout. La Albahaja in Plaza Santa Cruz is a fine restaurant. Restaurants around the Cathedral are plentiful and give a good glimpse of Sevilla's character.

Two five-star hotels are outstanding: Alfonso XIII, C/San Fernando 2, Tel: 34+ 954 222850 and Hotel Colón, C/Canalejas 1, Tel: 34+954 222900. A range of cheaper hotels is available; visit any Tourist Office for information. The ultimate in lodging luxury can be found at Hacienda Benazuza 20 minutes up the Huelva motorway: C/ Virgin de las Nieves, Sanlúcar la Mayor, Tel: 34+95703344. Wonderful kitchen, great setting.

Another way to see the city is to take a cruise boat up the Guadalquivir River. Their departure point is the Torre de Oro. This languid option is especially enticing in the summer. Some prefer to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood, and in this way discover Sevilla's layers of personality. Each of the town's barrios has it own traits, and although the Barrio Santa Cruz (home of most of the above mentioned monuments and of the university) is the most famous, Barrio Triana and Barrio Macarena exemplify the variety to be enjoyed. The former lies across the river and is one of Andalucia's cradles of flamenco, while Macarena boasts churches of distinction.

Sevillanos love to shop. All is meant to entice; the efforts are largely successful. Try Sierpes first. Cervantes said that Calle Sierpes was where, "all the social classes of the city came together." It is perhaps because the appeal of Sierpes is universal, having more to do with the spirit than affluence.

Stroll down the "serpent" (so called for its meandering twists) with an eye alert for surprises, for here you will find more treasures to remember than money in your pocket. Discover the classics: "El Cronometro," a timekeeper's paradise - has been in the family and on the street for more than a century - the best of state-of-the-art boutiques, art galleries and one of Sevilla's liveliest theatres, the "Teatro Imperial." "La Compana," the city's most deliciously decadent pastry shop, is set at Sierpes point of origin, and it defies resistance.

Valderrama Golf ClubOn a good day, you may find that shopping is accompanied by music from the Russian National Orchestra, which performs full concerts for contributions dropped in a violin case. On a bad day, you may be regaled by the clatter of one castanet in the hands of a worse-for-wear drunk. It's the luck of the draw. The golf, however, is not and play in Sevilla is consistently satisfying.

Real Club de Golf Sevilla is, despite a "royal" appendage, open to the public and has been played by Sevillanos and visitors since inauguration in 1991. José María Olazábel designed the course, which neatly dovetailed with EXPO '92 festivities. Because Seville's topography is basically plains, the layout is flat but planted with some 12,000 trees for interest and perhaps, more importantly, shade. The 6th and 15th are considered the most difficult; the green on No. 3 is surrounded by water and brings mixed emotions. Club facilities include tennis and squash courts, a swimming pool and stabling for 50 horses.

La Alcaides Golf CourseA commission to design Zaudín Golf brought Gary Player back to Spain in the early '90s, where his course is thriving. Great views of nearby Sevilla add to course attractions. Two lakes are features on several holes and the parkland layout meanders through palms, olives and oranges. Player is particularly pleased with the 17th, a dogleg right with a green almost completely surrounded by water. Zaudín has 70 bunkers, creating a counterfoil to generous sized greens. A hacienda clubhouse is well equipped and affords a glimpse of typical Sevillian architecture.

Twenty minutes drive to the west of Seville is Las Minas, whcich is set among the pine forests surrounding Donana National Park. Raised greens alleviate the general flatness of terrain and are protected by bunkers. Olive and orange trees are colourful, and shady and although the course has just nine holes, it is popular with horseback riding and shooting as additional sports. The club restaurant is noted for good food.


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