13 – 14 August 2011
There was one more Spanish city on our ‘to visit’ list before leaving Spain’s shores - Seville. We had the option of a) taking Balvenie up the Guadalquivir River which snakes its way nearly 60 miles inland to Seville, or b) leaving Balvenie in the marina at Cadiz and taking the train. We decided to go for Plan B, so once the strong winds had eased and we had cleaned the layers of dirt off Balvenie, we organised our next ‘citybreak’
It was another long hot walk to the train station in Cadiz, but we allowed time for a quick cafe before catching the train. I have to add that the Spanish Train System has been exceptional, the stations are all clean and well presented, timetables are displayed and the staff helpful (we always try in Spanish, they often answer in English), all the trains we travelled on were quite new, comfortable and clean, and they all ran on time. It’s just under 2 hours by train to Seville, the scenery wasn’t anything special but pleasant enough. We walked to the Hotel Alcantara in the Barrio de Santa Cruz area of the old town, its tucked away in a tiny lane, within a maze of similar lanes, but amazingly Skipper the navigator found it first time.
After dropping our bags then frequenting one of the local tapas bars for lunch we were off to hit the sights. In honesty Seville is just one big sight to behold, it is truly a beautiful city. Hours can be spent just wandering the streets and tiny lanes and taking in the magic of it all. It is full of handsome buildings, the outstanding Cathedral, bullring, riverside walk, the impressive Plaza Espana and the glorious Alcázar, to just name the main ones.
We joined the short queue for the Alcázar, a “must see” with origins back to the 10th century. Having visited the Alhambra in Granada over winter, an outstanding example of Moorish architecture and craftsmenship we weren’t expecting to be quite so impressed. This was every bit as spectacular as the Alhambra and I actually thought the interior of the buildings were in far better repair and displayed such fine examples of tile work, engraving, panelling and carvings. Everywhere you look is an absolute masterpiece, they certainly knew how to design and build to last all those centuries ago. We wandered from room to room, very impressed with each one.
We explored the large shady gardens - small private areas with cooling pools lay hidden between the hedges, knarled old trees make you wonder if they have survived the hundreds of years since the first plantings in the 16th century.
Back inside we discovered the Casa de la Contratación, it is written that it was here that Magellan’s exploration of the world was planned. Hanging on its walls are enormous tapestries, produced from the explorers charts, it took us some time to work out the Mediterranean one as it is depicted upside down and really didn’t look quite right!!
We did a quick tour of the Cathedral enroute to the hotel. There was a church service on so we did not spent much time in there. I have visited it before and it is surely up there with the best, and it definitely it up there with the biggest being the 3rd largest in the world.
Seville by night is just as impressive as by day. All the major buildings are beautifully lit, street performers gather crowds on corners, evening diners spill out into the cooler evening air; it is just lovely. The walk from our hotel into the main Cathedral Plaza was about 400 metres, yet within that short space - on a direct route - there must have been about 30 cafes, well it just would have been downright rude to just walk on by. And so the tapas and wine tastings began, very pleased to report that they were all excellent.
We managed to find our way back to our hotel by 10pm, but no – not for an early night. Next door was a Flamenco Dance Show at La Carboneria, and we had bought tickets for the hour long performance. We had enjoyed our flamenco show in Cadiz and were eager to see another. This one was quite different, the setting was more atmospheric however it was a little over subscribed and visibility wasn’t as good as it should have been. Because there is alot of foot work in flamenco dancing it really is important to be able to see those feet flying around the dance floor. Still we managed to see everything (by sitting on our chair backs!!!) and it really was an excellent performance. Again there was a guitarist, a solo singer and two dancers. First the male danced alone for about 20 minutes, then they had a very short break then he danced with a female partner. I found the atmosphere electric between the performers, the dancing was superb and it seemed to have quite a story to it, of perhaps a lost or forbidden love. It really was very good and I thought it better than the show in Cadiz, whereby Mark preferred the Cadiz one – just as well we went to both!
On Sunday we walked a little further afield, along the river, past the bullring and the Torre del Oro. At one time it was supposed to also be the Maritime Museum but it seemed well and truly closed up. We continued on through some lovely shady gardens, the Parque Maria Luisa and ended up at the Plaza de Espana. Every Spanish village, town and city has a Plaza de Espana but Sevilles is really something quite special. Much of this spectacular collection of buildings were built for the Hispo-America Fair back in 1929, there is a colourful array of tiling depicting all the different regions that were represented at the fair.
It was time for an early tapas lunch so we headed back to the Barrio de Santa Cruz area. The Cathedral doesn’t open until 2.30pm on Sundays so that was left for our last stop. At 2.30pm we wandered over to the entrance, the queue must have been about a mile long, in the sun. We decided that our short visit into it the previous night had been adequate and crossed it off the list! We spent the extra time just wandering aimlessly through the little lanes and alleys, discovering hidden treasures, ornately carved doors, brightly tiled entranceways, internal courtyards crammed full of lush palms and tiny plazas. Seville has it all and showcases it in its natural splendour.
We caught a late afternoon train back to Cadiz, did our regular walk from the train station to the marina and were back onboard Balvenie well before dark. It had been an excellent citybreak in a stunning city.