Charmed by Seville
15 Feb 2012
We take the freeway (no tolls) from Cordoba to Seville. The scenery is nice, especially the glimpses of white-washed towns and villages which pass by. Seville is a big city (4th biggest in Spain) and I am afraid that if the GPS does not work like in Cordoba, we’ll find it hard to figure out. But it all goes well and we arrive safely in front of our hotel, Adriano. I spot the public parking (Eu 14 per night) that I had read of under the bullring just a short walk from the hotel.
The Adriano is a old-fashioned looking hotel and very central; I am very pleased with my choice. We soon set out to explore the city.
We stop almost immediately at the street corner restaurant for lunch (Eu 26 for two). We have the menu – a couple of the starters are vegetarian. Bapi is so pleased with the fish main course that he orders a second plate of the same! The waiter speaks next to no English but we gather that as the ocean is just 100 kms away, they get their fish very fresh each morning.
The Cathedral is just a 5 min walk away. We stop at the tourist office to pick up a few brochures and then we head towards the meeting point for our walking tour in front of the Giralda tower.
The square is very impressive with the imposing Cathedral on one side and the walls of the Alcázar on the other side.
We wait patiently in front of the Giralda tower until a young man appears with a group of other young people. I had seen a recommendation for Pancho walking tours online but I had not realised that their normal customers are from the hostels. we are about 20+ years older than almost everyone else. I feel odd and out of place for a few moments, then it doesn’t matter anymore.
Our tour guide is young Anja. For two and half hours, she regales us with legends and stories in a very entertaining way as she walks us around the Barrio Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter of the city with its claustrophibically narrow streets and surprising squares.
The statue of the fictitious Don Juan stands proudly in this lovely square.
Our walking tour finishes at Plaça Nueva. It has been an excellent experience so we decide to do the morning tour tomorrow as well, the route of which is completely different.
It has been a long day. We wander a little while in and around the Avenida de la Constitution until 8pm when we head towards the nice Italian restaurant that I had seen good recommendations for. There are plenty of vegetarian choices and their menu is extensive. We have salad and pizzas, no dessert. (Eu 50 for two with wine).
16 Feb 2012
We have coffee, tea and toast at the hotel (included in the room rate) and head towards the Alcazar. It is a Royal Palace, originally built as a fortress by the Moors.
We take the audio tour and start at this beautiful patio, Patio de la Montería or the Patio of the Hunt where Royal Hunting parties gathered before a hunt. At the centre is the beautifully decorated entrance to the Don Pedro palace (1364). We hear that the upper levels are private, still the official residence of the royal family in Seville.
The Alcazar is a gem, a beauty of Mudéjar architecture which was created by Moors who continued to live in Spain under Christian rule. The Patio de Las Doncellas is particularly beautiful with its elegant columns and decorated arches.
I listen to the audio-guide with only half an ear- I am too taken by the beauty of what I am seeing to pay attention to any facts!
My favourite room is this Salón de Embajadores or Salon of the Ambassadors. This throne room has incredibly beautiful walls and ceilings imaginable. I take dozens of pictures, but none do justice to the beauty of this room. Breathtaking!
The ceiling in this Salon of Ambassadors. I’ll love to lie on my bed and look up to this!
The Patio de las Muñecas (Patio of the dolls) is the centre of the private area of the palace. The decorations are have a delicacy which is very appealing.
After a very satisfying visit (1.5 hrs) we admire the Galería del Grutesco in the gardens outside before exiting the Alcazar.
We join the morning walking tour at 11am. This turns out to be a longer walk and more demanding on my poor feet. We start with the 13th centiury Torre del Oro or the Golden Tower which controlled access to Seville from the Guadalquivir river, an entry point for all the goods imported from the Americas when Spain ruled the seas.
The Palace of San Telmo (17th century) is the seat of the Government of Andalucia.
The semi-circular Plaza de España (built 1928) is a photographer’s dream. Built for the world fair of 1929, it is huge and impressive. I enjoyed looking at the tiled alcoves representing the different provinces of Spain.
From here we walk to the university (Tobacco Factory) which is the end of our tour. The tour guide suggests lunch at the Huelvo Ocho, partners of Pancho. where we have a light lunch of two tapas + drink for Eu 7 per person.
Post lunch, we visit the Cathedral. It is the third-largest Church in the world and the largest Gothic one. As I have visited some wonderful Gothic churches in the North of France a couple of years back, I am very curious to see this one.
History buffs like me will get a kick out of knowing that on Sept 8 1522 when the 18 surviving (out of 234) members of Magellan’s crew returned from the first expedition to circumnavigate the world, they offered thanks before the effigy of Santa Maria de la Antigua (above left). Magellan himself died in 1521. On the right above, figures on Columbus’s tombstone raise a sword and survey the cathedral in silence.
The Cathedral is huge and it is an exercise in exploration, going from one niche to another. This treasure room is lovely with priceless paintings. However, on the whole, the Cathedral doesn’t seem coherent to me, not like St Peter’s for example which though huge has an overall cohesiveness.
We climb the 36 floors (105 metres) to the top of the Giralda tower. The view from the top is marvellous.
Tired now and ready for afternoon tea, we have coffee and cake in an elegant little shop (above left). Then we wander down the shopping streets looking with interest into shop windows – at least I do, while my long suffering husband indulges me!
We walk to Museo del baile Flamenco where there is a performance every night at 7pm. It is crowded and though we are 30 minutes early, we find chairs only at the back. The performance is excellent, the singer in particular is just wonderful. We are very glad we came here and we would absolutely come back if we are in Seville again.
So our stay in Seville has come to an end. I have fallen in love with this city and it has been the highlight of our trip. Most people seem to favour Barcelona above all else in Spain; I think Seville is far more seductive. Two days has not been enough. We did not have time to see the art museum which I was particularly interested in. But its more than museums or monuments; I would like to come back and stay for a week to just enjoy the atmosphere and feel of this city. A hidden gem.