Time stops in Seville

I still had two more full days and a morning left of my holiday in Andalusia. I had thought about using one day to take the car and explore the nature reserve of La Donana, which has wild flamingos, boar and lynx – but a great laziness came over me. I simply liked Seville too much, and spent all my time here.

I had breakfast on my terrace, listening to the church bells in the cool morning air………

A nice way to start the day

Then I would visit something before the heat of the afternoon set in and before the tourist crowds arrived. Seville’s Golden Age was in the 1500s, just after the rediscovery of the Americas, when all Spanish trade with its new colonies passed through here. In the 1600s Seville lost its monopoly on trade, its river silted up to make navigation harder for ships, and Cadiz became the new centre of trade with the Americas. Still, the Golden Age left Seville with a very large historic centre and many beautiful buildings.

One day I visited the Casa de Pilatos, a typical mansion in the old town……..

The Casa de Pilatos

And on the other I went back to the Alcazar gardens….

A return to the Alcazar gardens

After a morning of sight-seeing I would find a shady terrace for tapas for lunch – the choice of places was huge.

Never hard to find a place for tapas in Seville
Fans preparing for one of Spain’s matches in the Euro 2021 competition. It was noon…..and the match didn’t start until 5pm

After that I did like the Sevillanos and went back to my flat for a siesta and to write my blog during the heat of the afternoon. Refreshed, I would then head out in the late afternoon for more sightseeing………

The bullring – pretty, whatever your opinion of bull-fighting
Another view of Seville Cathedral
The original “El Giraldillo” weather vane – the one now on top of La Giralda is a copy.

…..and then buy ham, wine and cheese for dinner on my terrace.  I didn’t do much, in the classic tourist sense of visiting things – but I felt great. Time ceased to have importance, and the first day blended into the second without me noticing.  I was getting to really like Seville, and think I could have spent another week there doing very little.

I remembered just in time that for my return to the UK I had to do a Covid test here (day 1) and then book yet more tests in the UK (three more tests!!) and fill in a bunch of forms online. The form-filling was day 2’s afternoon activity in the cool of my flat.

On the third day I was due to leave. I spent the morning pottering around Seville’s old Santa Cruz quarter and could feel the heat already – the last two days had been fairly cool, but today they forecast temperatures would reach 34C in the afternoon and that it would stay hot for the next few days.  It was definitely time to go, and I drove back to Malaga airport in the cool of my car’s aircon. I made a quick stop in Osuna, yet another pretty old Spanish town.

The “Duke’s House” in Osuna

That’s all for now!

I will be back to Andalusia– in the autumn or spring next time, when it pleasantly warm, and in some happy future where there is no Covid and no face masks. Next time I will visit Jerez and La Donana, maybe head across the Portuguese border to the Algarve – if I don’t get waylaid again by the charms of Seville and spend all my time there!

Back to Seville – La Giralda from every angle

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.

A pretty church in the old town of Jerez

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.

La Giralda, the tower of Seville Cathedral

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……..

View from La Giralda over the cathedral and to the Alcazar

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.

Inside Seville Cathedral – the roof, tall columns, the tomb of Columbus and an intricate wooden altar

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.

I deserved a drink after climbing up La Giralda

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.  

La Giralda at night (OK, I admit, taken from somewhere a bit closer than my balcony)

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.

Hooray! It’s cloudy! A day exploring Seville

I never thought I would celebrate cloudy weather in one of my travel blogs.  I woke up and went onto my balcony to see clouds covering the sun and feel a refreshing morning coolness on my fur. Today it would be possible to explore the city on foot, without roasting!

Relief! It’s cloudy. My kilt isn’t really suited to sunny weather, I need to buy some new clothes.

I decided to see some of Seville’s less popular attractions to the north of the historic centre.  First I explored my local area, the Triana, which is famous for its many ceramics shops.

Ceramics shops in la Triana

Next I strolled along the banks of the Guadalquivir River,

The path along the side of the river

……..before crossing over one of its bridges to reach the area called Alameda de Hercules.  The streets were narrow, and I enjoyed the sounds of a city waking up – friends chatting noisily in neighbourhood cafes, someone practicing guitar on an upstairs balcony……It was a charming insight into the real everyday life of the Sevillanos, with not another tourist in sight. There were pretty churches and tempting cafes everywhere.

Street in the un-touristy area north of the historic centre

Despite the large number of cafes, I found it hard to find a place to sit down for coffee.  Every time I saw a nice place outside, it was either full, or someone would beat me to the very last free place. I finally found a good table near the remnants of the old Moorish city wall.

The old city wall

I then carried on my walk, stopping to photograph yet more churches. I popped into most of them, and found that in the majority, a mass was being celebrated. Religious life is still very active in Seville.

Churches in Seville

I then made a surprise discovery, stumbling across the Palacio de las Duenas, a beautiful villa built over the 15th and 16th Centuries, and home to the Alba family, one of Spain’s oldest aristocratic families, for several centuries. The Alba family married a Scottish noble family in the 20th Century, and the current Duke of Alba, the wonderfully named Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martínez de Irujo, opened the palace to the public in 2016. He still lives in private upstairs rooms that are closed to tourists.  The villa was not in my guidebook, and there were very few other visitors. Often I would find I had an entire garden, courtyard or room to myself.  I spent a happy couple of hours enjoying the atmosphere and taking lots of photos.

The beautiful Palacio de las Duenas

When I had finally finished my visit of the Palacio de las Duenas, I walked back through the busy city centre, finding yet more pretty churches…………

How many churches does one city need?

………before reaching my flat at around 2 o’clock. I sensed the sun was about to break through the clouds, meaning that the temperature would soon shoot up, so I spent the afternoon in my flat writing my blog and enjoying being lazy.

That evening I headed out for a typical Seville evening – dinner in three different places. First, I had tapas at a restaurant on the Guadalquivir River, with views over to the cathedral and bullring in the historic centre……….

Dinner venue No1 – by the side of the river

Next, I tried a trendy bar with upmarket tapas in an old mansion………….

Dinner continued – a trendy tapas bar in La Triana

………before finding a simple street bar located in front of a huge, imposing church for a last beer.

Dinner continued again…in front of a beautiful church

 In Seville, it would be very tempting to skip sight-seeing altogether and just wander from one beautiful bar to another.

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