This post is part of our Inside Devour series. We work with some of the most passionate and talented guides in the country—make that the world!—and we’re thrilled to tell you their stories.
Sophie Picard ended up in Spain—and later Seville—entirely by chance.
“I applied for a summer job and requested to be sent to France. But someone—or was it fate?—had decided otherwise, and I ended up spending five months in Spain on the Costa Brava,” the Parisian writer and guide told us recently.
“When the season ended, I was desperate to discover more and see the rest of the country. I booked myself a flight to Seville, and the rest is history.”
That was several years ago. Now she’s practically sevillana herself—with more than 300 Tapas & Flamenco Tours under her belt to prove it!
So what drove her to stay after ending up in Seville practically by accident? We spent some time talking with Sophie to learn her Spain story, her top travel tips for visitors to her adopted hometown and how she became a verifiable flamenco expert.
Discovering the authentic Seville
Sophie admits it’s hard to narrow down the many reasons why she loves Spain so much. From the lifestyle to the food to the people, it’s a place that can easily capture anyone’s heart.
But if she had to pick just one favorite aspect of living in Spain? “For me, more than anything, it is the traditions, and how every region has its own distinct identity. I’ve explored lots already but I feel I have only scratched the surface. It’s fascinating.”
Earlier this year, Sophie bought a home right in the heart of Seville’s Old Town—the perfect place to experience local life here in the Andalusian capital. “I love [feeling] surrounded by historical buildings and waking up to the sounds of church bells ringing in the morning,” she said.
On a typical morning, you’ll usually find her sitting outside at a cafe, book in hand, enjoying a cup of coffee and a tostada topped with olive oil and fresh crushed tomato. When she’s not showing guests around Seville on tour, “I might meet up with friends for lunch, plan a hiking trip, or stroll around the second-hand market for a bargain.”
Becoming a flamenco expert
The first flamenco show Sophie ever saw was…well, memorable.
“I’d never seen a live show and I had very little idea of what flamenco was really about. I actually watched my very first show in Granada,” she said. “Halfway through the performance, a woman burst in from outside, ripped her shirt open, and threw herself at the singer while shouting angry insults. And I thought it was all part of the show!”
Fortunately, her later experiences with flamenco weren’t quite as dramatic. After moving to Seville, she spent late night after late night at flamenco bars, watching performances in an effort to better understand all things Andalusian.
Unexpectedly enough, a huge contributor to her now-expert status was a volunteer position at a hostel.
“Part of my duty included walking groups to the Museo del Baile Flamenco for a tour and a show. I often stuck around for both, and heard the different stories and explanations from the different staff members,” Sophie said.
In September 2019, she hit a huge personal and professional milestone, guiding her 300th Tapas & Flamenco Tour for Devour Seville. That may sound like a lot, but when you love what you do as much as Sophie does, time tends to fly.
“It’s actually hard to believe it’s been this many when every group has been so interesting and every show so different. I have enjoyed every single one.”
Part of what makes flamenco so enjoyable to watch for Sophie is watching the chemistry between the artists and how they read each other throughout the show. And as for favorite flamenco tour memories, she cherishes every moment when a guest is moved to their core.
“I remember one guest who quietly sobbed during nearly an entire show. She said the passion from the guitarist, Eugenio Iglesias, had touched her on a deep level,” Sophie said. “We found him afterwards and she got to tell him in person (and teared up again!). It’s inspiring when you witness something that can move people so deeply, regardless of language.”
Sophie’s top Seville travel tips
After so many years calling the Andalusian capital home, Sophie is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things Seville. But what’s her top piece of advice for new visitors?
Embrace the late eating schedule.
“I know it’s not always easy to change habits, but if you want to get the most out of the tapas scene, get to know the locals and have an authentic experience, nothing beats making new friends in a busy tapas bar,” she said.
Speaking of tapas, we had to follow that up by asking about her top tapa to try in Seville. Her answer: espinacas con garbanzos, or spinach and chickpeas. “On top of being comforting and delicious, it’s also the most typical dish from the city and draws on the Moorish and Sephardic Jewish influences in Southern Spain.”
And of course, you can’t come to Spain without knowing at least a little Spanish. Sure, many people speak English, but attempting to speak a little bit of the local language will help you win the hearts of locals.
According to Sophie, the two most important words in the Spanish language are “está buenísimo,” or “it’s delicious!”
“Locals love being complimented on their food. You’ll make the chef very happy and you might leave with a new friend,” she said.
And last but not least, when it comes to fully understanding the iconic Andalusian art form that is flamenco, Sophie said gaining prior knowledge is key.
“Research a little about the background beforehand to get an understanding of it. Or let me do it for you and join us on a tour! I strongly believe that the more you know, the more you can appreciate it.”
Sophie’s next goal: guiding 3,000 Tapas & Flamenco Tours. Be a part of one of them and book yours today.
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.