Today I travelled back to Seville from Cadiz. En route, I made a very quick visit to Jerez de la Frontera, spending an hour wandering around the old town and enjoying a drink at a tiny café in one of the plazas I had discovered. I liked Jerez, it was a pity I could not spend more time there. Apart from its old town and famous horse-riding school, it is the centre for the sherry industry. Lots of the producers offer tours of their facilities and tastings of their products, but since I was driving I could not indulge myself.
On arrival back in Seville I managed to find my flat’s parking space in the old town first time (no mean feat, driving in the old town is famously difficult) and then set off on foot to find my flat, which was hidden away in a maze of narrow pedestrian streets near the cathedral. It was an atmospheric place spread over three floors – the first two dark and cool, and the third one sunny with a terrace looking out to the cathedral.
Seville’s cathedral is one of the most beautiful in the world. In the 13th century, the Moors built a mosque on the site, and after the Reconquista of Seville by the Spanish in 1248 this was converted to a church. Further building took place from 1434 to 1517 to create what was then the world’s largest church (and even now ranks as fourth largest). The cathedral’s famous tower, la Giralda, is actually the minaret from the original mosque. On the very top is a statue of faith, called “El Giraldillo”, which is also a weather vane, turning with the wind. “Girar” means “to turn” in Spanish, from where the name “La Giralda” is derived.
I had booked my visit online, so could avoid the queue of people looking to buy tickets. I booked the last possible slot in the day, when it would be cooler to climb the 104.5m to the top of La Giralda. Unusually, the tower has ramps in place of stairs – there are many different legends as to why this is, the most colourful being that the first imam liked to take his donkey with him when he climbed the tower for the call to prayers. The view from the top of the La Giralda was suitably spectacular……..
Next, I visited the cathedral itself, which was incredibly beautiful, with many small passages and chapels leading off from the huge central space of the main building. One highlight among many is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Since I had booked the last time slot for my visit, the cathedral began to empty as closing time approached and I had the place almost to myself. I was almost the last to leave.
My next stop continued the “Seville Cathedral” theme. I visited a neighbouring hotel with a terrace looking out to La Giralda for cocktails. The view was beautiful, even if the sun was uncomfortably strong. Still, I was lucky – today it was only 28C, cool for June in Seville.
After I headed off to have a dinner of tapas in a local bar, before retiring back to my flat and enjoying a last beer with yet another take on La Giralda – this time at night.
It had been a great day – not only had I loved the cathedral, but I was beginning to really like the town of Seville itself, with its beautiful buildings and lazy street life. I couldn’t wait for tomorrow to explore it further.