Jeanette Winterson was not, of course, using the title of her 1985 novel as a statement about the diversity of orchards and citrus groves. But as I inch around the edge of the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes on a warm afternoon, I begin to doubt her suggestion that oranges are not the only fruit. They are everywhere in this pivotal Seville square, to the seeming exclusion of anything else organic, the trees – under whose limbs the city’s famous horses and carriages pause to rest – dotted with swollen baubles of tangy fertility.
Their aroma fills the air. Harvest is nearing, with all its promises of juice, pulp and marmalade, and the scent of oranges on the verge of ripeness ripples – so much so that, six minutes later, when I have gained the rooftop bar of the adjacent Hotel Doña María, it still reaches my nose, four floors up. At a table overlooking the plaza, a group of friends is slipping through a woozy Saturday with wine and short sleeves while, opposite, the Giralda, the inimitable Unesco-listed bell tower of Seville Cathedral, bathes in a wash of sunshine. I check my phone, and the date, again. It really is November.
Pay a visit to Andalusia towards the end of the year and you might wonder whether its capital bothers with winter. The coldest season is rarely apparent in the 11th month, the temperature clinging to a fine and pleasant 20C. And even if it drops a little, to a still-gentle 16C, between December and February, it has usually regained its glow by March.
But then, this is no outlandish announcement. Popular perception might view Seville as defined by its Moorish past – the Alcázar palace singing of the five-century period (712-1248) when southern Spain was ruled by North African sultans, and the size of the Giralda being partially an attempt to disguise the fact that it was once a minaret. Yet the city is shaped far less by its Arabic heritage than it is by its relationship with the sun. It has learnt to cope with the anger of a celestial tyrant whose ire can crest 40C in midsummer. It cowers in corners, begs mercy of shadows – to the extent that, even in November, it hides from the heavens.
In any other city, the idea of a vast installation blocking out the sky in a significant public space would surely cause howls of disgust. In Seville, it just seems an act of pragmatism. The clue is there in the name, because the official title of the modernist masterpiece that spans much of Plaza de la Encarnación (the creation of German architect Jürgen Mayer) is the “Metropol Parasol” (even if Sevillanos tend to call it “Las Setas”, meaning “Mushrooms”). It stretches out as a slatted-wood canopy 230ft wide and 490ft long, a daring fragment of 2011 thrillingly out of kilter with the 16th-century Iglesia de la Anunciación, which watches, unamused, from the south-west flank of the square. In July and August, the city shelters underneath it, grateful for the respite it provides from the incessant heat.