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Published: August 18th 2015
Stayed in Algeciras and took a day trip on the local bus to Gibraltar. Walked across the iconic airstrip at the frontier with the huge rock in front of us. Town was super-busy, hadn’t seen so many people for ages. Had a crazily expensive coffee in the main square then started our long walk up the rock. Had lunch in the botanical gardens, part of the way up. After entering the park walked round, then up and up via the Mediterranean steps, past lots of old canon posts to the top. It was a steep climb on a very hot day, unsurprisingly we didn’t meet anyone else on the walk. Great views from the top. Found the crowds again at the coffee shop from where we took the easier route down into town again. Most places were now closed as it was mid-afternoon. Interesting visit as it is part of British history, it’s clearly still heavily used by our armed forces. We weren’t tempted by M &S or Morrisons.
Next was the great city of Sevilla. We had been told that Saturday night is the best time to see flamenco, so around 10:30pm we headed to a bar we’d read
about in the old Jewish quarter. We arrived just as the first act was starting. It was a heaving tavern, no windows, like a big cave, super-hot with fans whirring away but not making a discernable difference. With our sangrias in hand we found seats on benches right at the front. The flamenco group was 3 gypsies, not the best looking group of middle aged men ever but they gave a great performance. One man on the guitar, a singer and the dancer. Started with the guitar, then guitar and singer then some rhythmic clapping with the guitar and then the dancer began. A small man in black jeans, t-shirt and beige Cuban heals, but man could he dance. Never having seen flamenco before and associating it with women in frilly dresses this was most impressive, very expressive, intricate foot work, finger clicking and hand clapping. After a half hour break they were back again and a similar but I thought even better performance by the dancer. Really enjoyable evening.
The highlight of Seville is the Alcazar. We spent an excellent half day looking around. Started with the Royal Apartments, these are still used by the current Spanish Royal
Family and are the longest used royal apartments in the world. There is a carefully managed 20 minute guided tour through the apartments. Beautiful paintings, tapestries, ceilings, clocks and views into the courtyards of the palace and out to the lovely gardens, much is from Moorish times. The rest of the palace is wonderful too especially the Palacio of Pedro I. Really ornate Moorish Mudejar stlye plasterwork, tiles, fountains, ceilings of the royal chambers and courtyards.
The cathedral is also a magnificent building. The largest cathedral in the world, it is in a huge rectangular plan with the choir a big square in the middle. The scale is incredible, everything soaring upwards. There is the huge monument to Christopher Columbus, stunning ceilings, particularly over the main chapel area. In this area is the magnificent alter piece made of 48 sections of gilded carved wood, super ornate and well-sealed away behind a big grill. The choir has beautifully carved wooden stalls and organ. Lots of lovely side chapels with ornate ceilings, famous paintings by Murillo and others.
Also visited the Archivo de los Indios which is next to the cathedral (free). We found this a fascinating place having spent
a lot of time in the Americas. It’s a small museum with early maps and information on the ‘discovery’ of the whole area. The building itself is wonderful, the old trading house when Seville was the heart of journeys to and from the Americas, before the river silted up and was no longer navigable all the way to the city and things moved to Cadiz. In a similar vein is the Torre de Oro naval museum.
For a day out we took a local bus to the Roman ruins of Italica. They’re just a few km out of town in Santipoce in pleasant countryside on the edge of town. Impessively large site with some well-preserved mosaics, thermal baths and the amazing ampitheatre.
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