Thursday 15th May 2008, off to Seville
We had to get up early, ready for the train trip to Seville. Unlike the UK, the train station and train were spotless and all in all a very pleasant experience. Leaving in rain, we arrived in Seville a few hours later basked in sunshine. The station is in the new town but it was only a 15 minutes walk to the heart of the old town and our hostel – El Buen Dormir. Although the title is hostel, like many in Spain, it just means it's a family run hotel and like the one in Cordoba, the room and the hotel were small but comfortable and spotlessly clean.
We were soon unpacked and outside ready to pound the pavements and see what Seville had to offer. We had decided to leave the main sights for another day and instead followed a 90 minute walk (as described in our guidebook) to explore some of the lessor known sights. We walked around central Seville which was quite pleasant and then across the river.
While crossing the river we also saw a vulture flying high over us.
The 'other side' of the river is supposed to be a fairly rundown area of town but it proved quiet and very pleasant.
The main reason we came here was to visit the pottery shops. However we had mistimed it – they were having the famous Spanish siesta in the middle of the day and they were all closed! Previously we had found that the siesta is not now observed by most Spaniards but here it obviously was. We sought solace in a drink by the river and enjoyed some tapas – anchovies and cheese on toast.
The next day we saw the highlights of Seville, the cathedral and the Royal Palace, which are conveniently situated together in the centre.
Although the Cathedral officially didn’t open to tourists until 11 o’clock we strolled by at 8.30am to find the doors open and the place deserted. According to a small certificate on the wall, accredited by the Guiness book of records, it is the biggest cathedral in the world by size – and I could quite believe it – the inside was amazing, made even more impressive by its dark partially lit interior.
Unfortunately the tower, the Giraldo, wasn’t open until the official opening at 11.00. The Giraldo was the minaret of the original mosque which stood on this site until it was demolished to make way for the cathedral. It is easily the biggest minaret I had seen - especially its girth. But there was a reason for this - there were no steps on the inside but a ramp all the way up, apparently wide enough for a horse. Not surprisingly there are great views over the city from the top and we were also lucky enough to see the kestrels which roost in the tower.
Back down to earth we joined the tourist hordes in the cathedral and they had actually now turned the lights on – great to see all the artistry of the various carvings, screens, treasures and icons but the overall eerie feeling of ancient holinesss of the place was gone.
Just like other cathedrals there are some impressive gargoyles
At night the tower is no less impressive
Opposite the cathedral is the Real Alcazar – the Royal Palace. Built around the same time as the original mosque, it has undergone many alterations since. Most notably those made by King Philip and Queen Isabel, famous themselves for funding Christopher Columbus' American explorations. It is an amazingly beautiful place, both because of the tiles and stucco work but also the layout of the rooms and courtyards built around attractive and contemplative pools.
On our third day we did some more walking around the main town. One of our main objectives was the famous Church of the Macarena where we were fortunate to be witnesses to a wedding.
It must have been an opportune day for a wedding as we were to see a few more, including one in this rather impressive church.
As night descends on Seville the tourists and local alike come out to gather in the cafes and restaurants huddled around the cathedral. We went a bit further out to a quieter area in search of a more local atmosphere and found an excellent little bodega serving the usual variety of tasty tapas. Not being very PC I ordered the veal kidneys which were amazing. I think they tasted even better washed down with some Manzanilla sherry. Suddenly the bar became rather full – and strangely enough with women and men wearing flamenco costumes! We went outside and Jackie was almost run over by two enormous bullocks pulling a cart laden with some huge ornate silver contraption! We had happened upon a local fiesta - we never knew what it was for but we happily joined in the procession as it wove its way through the streets visiting a few of the local churches.