May 10 - maps.me
did a great job of navigating us through narrow streets to our Air B and B apartment in the barrio of San Lorenzo, Sevilla. A nice little place on the bottom floor of a three floor building that was built around a central courtyard. We had a small patio but it was too hot to sit out there, although laundry dried really quickly!.
We started this trip to Spain after Easter in order to avoid all the massive Easter celebrations and associated high prices, but did not investigate other festivals so we ended up arriving in Sevilla on the second to last day of the Feria de Abril - the April spring fair which starts two weeks after Easter meaning that this year it was actually in May! This festival is pretty much a parade of sevillans in their “Sunday best” - the senoritas and senoras in TIGHT flamenco dresses and the men in suits - either promenading or riding in horse drawn carriages. The latter made the chaos of the streets downtown even more chaotic. The actual fair ground was close to an hours walk away so we elected to take the “micro bus” which did
a loop through the narrow streets of San Lorenzo to the down town area. It was wall to wall people near the bull ring - it must have been a bull fight night and it also explained why the bus was running so late. The fairgrounds themselves consist of rows of coloured casetas (marquee tents) that host private functions - a lot of eating, drinking and dancing. Navigating through the parade of horses or carriages was just like crossing any road in Asia - find a gap and casually walk through, not doing anything erratic. About an hour of watching and dealing with crowds was enough so we headed off to find some drinks and food. Our apartment host had recommended a tapas bar on Pureza street in the Triana neighbourhood - we never did find it but stumbled on a great sidewalk place right near the Puente de Isabella ll. I don’t think we are eating the healthiest but the it is all so delicious - warm goat cheese with honey is now added to the favourite cheese list along with the Poyoyo cheese (made with sheep and goats milk) of Cadiz.
First on the tourist itinerary for
our first full day in Sevilla was the Plaza d’Espana which was built as the center piece for Expo 29. The Plaza itself it 50,000 square meters. Coloured ceramics (azulejo) decorate the walls of the building, bridges, balustrades and pretty much every other surface including the 48 heavily decorated alcoves along the base of the building - one for each Spanish province. The four bridges over the canal represent the four ancient kingdoms of Castille, Aragon, Navarre and Leon. A further bit of trivia - the Plaza was seen as the Kingdom of Naboo in the Star Wars movie “Attack of the Clones”.
And then it was time for our first church visit of the trip - the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, or just plain Sevilla Cathedral - and it was totally amazing. The largest gothic cathedral in the world (and third largest church) it is massive - it covers 23,500 sq m. It was built to in 1434 to 1506 to demonstrate the cities wealth as it had become a major trading center, and the interior is just a series of superlatives everywhere you looked - including up towards the domed ceilings. Totally worth the
pensionista (senior) price of admission at a mere 4 Euros. A few years ago I read Ken Follets Pillars of the Earth and it certainly gives an oversight into the building of such a massive structure. The admission also included a visit to the Giralda, which acts the bell tower of the cathedral. It is actually the minaret of the mosque that originally stood where the cathedral now is and stands 105 meters tall. Access to the bell level is up a switch backed ramp that gets narrower and narrower towards the top - the ramp made it easy for the muezzin to ride a donkey to the top for the five daily calls to prayer. There were great views from the top and now I have a new “unfavourite” tourist type who is even worse than a selfie maniac - and this is the person who after they have taken a selfie from a prime view point, stay at that same view point blocking it for all others while they text and send said photo to ALL their friends - you are on vacation, give social media a rest for at least a few minutes! And while on the
dislike subject - smoking is so prevalent here. It is tough to get an outside table without smoke being blown in your face. And while it is not permitted to smoke indoors, it IS ok to stand in the doorway and blow your smoke in. Yuk.
The final tourist activity was a visit to the totally weird Metropol Parasol which was built as a viewing platform for the city. Pretty nice views actually plus we got a free drink with our already cheap admission. Bonus.
Day 2 was the eagerly anticipated visit to the Real Alacazar . We had purchased our tickets a couple of months before and got the first time slot of 9:30am - not buying the ticket in advance results in the risk of a long wait in lineup as there is a limit to how many are let in. Since the palace and gardens was used as the location of Dorne in Game of Thrones, the number of visitors has increased significantly. We did get there pretty early (actually first in line) and there was zero activity in the neighbourhood streets as we walked through them and zero tourists near the Cathedral or Alcazar.
That was a first. The Alacazar was first built in 923 by the moors and subsequent rulers added palaces which eventually became one complex. After the Spanish conquest in the 13th century, they wisely decided to keep the existing structures and simply added to them, so there is an interesting blend of styles - Moorish, Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. In hindsight I would recommend making a beeline straight to the Patio de las Doncellas (Maidens Courtyard) and the Salon de Embajadores (ambassadors hall) before the hordes arrive. But the whole place out beautified Granada’s Alhambra (in my opinion) - from the aforementioned rooms, to the Gothic Baths of Lady María de Padilla to the beautiful gardens and fountains.
Following that beauty overload we wandered around the Barrio Santa Cruz - this is the area that Seville’s Jewish population was confined to after Ferdinand lll beat the Moors in 1248. Narrow winding streets, made even more so by the sheer number of tour groups walking through.
Before heading back to our own neighbourhood for lunch, we briefly considered going to a bull fight - that was until we realized that they still kill the bull in Spain. There
was one more activity planned for the day and that was to visit church #2- the Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses (or simply the Church of Louis of France) that is a fine example of 18th century over the top baroqueness. We were all prepared to pay the pensionista price of 2 Euro only to find it was FREE on Sunday.
By the time we left Sevilla we had eaten in a number of different locations - some where downtown for deep fried provolone and an Iberian ham salad, San Lorenzo square where we had our introduction to Spanish Gazpacho (cold tomato soup with nuts and dried fruit) and El Sanedrin in the Plaza Gavidia for cod and spinach croquette, grilled peppers, pork and whiskey sauce, patatas bravas (decent sizes so 4 is more than enough for us to share). We ate at the latter place at 9 pm which was really late for us - and chose to sit inside as it was an hours wait for the outside tables. The only negative with restaurants here is the bread “charge” - I don’t mind paying for good bread but when it feels like it is a
day old...... grrrr.
And now it is time to move on to see what the rest of Spain has in store for us. It has been rather hot at 34 degrees and rather crowded so I cannot even imagine what it is like here during summer and during the high tourist season.
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