Traditions die hard in Andalusia, the second-largest autonomous community in Spain. The SI Swimsuit crew learned that on several occasions during our 12-day stay -- and as a result, the photos were overflowing with touches of local flavor. When we pulled some strings to get a bullfighter to pose with Julie Henderson in one of our shoots, we were introduced to Antonio Miguel Escobedo. A retired matador who now serves as a mentor to younger bullfighters, Antonio nevertheless agreed to don the traditional el traje de luces, or "the suit of lights."
But he wasn't content with playacting; he was going to make sure we got a genuine experience. Antonio cut his beard on the spot, then delivered a performance of such beautiful intensity that many on the crew were moved to tears.
Similarly authentic experiences followed with flamenco dancers in Plaza de España and horses at an equestrian school in Seville, Andalusia's nearly 3,000-year-old capital.
In the heart of the old city lies the Gran Meliá Colón, a recently renovated hotel that opened in 1929. A favorite haunt of matadors -- and Ernest Hemingway, who stayed there after the Spanish Civil War -- the five-star hotel features a subtle bullfighting motif. The top floor offers dazzling panoramic views, and the hotel is located near the city's museums and shopping districts. While there is plenty to do -- and plenty of tapas to eat -- in Seville, day trips are easy to plan. Cadiz, with its famed white villages, lies on the coast 75 miles south of town.
However you choose to spend your time in the bustling region, one thing is certain. You'll come to understand the allure of one more Spanish tradition: the siesta.