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.

Hot (a return to Andalusia)

The Bear is Back!

Now that I am able to travel again, I am taking full advantage, and this time I am off to Andalusia in the south of Spain. Every experienced travelling bear knows that the hot month of June is not the best the time to visit the south of Spain, but for reasons I won’t bore you with, I could not choose the date of my visit.

My itinerary was centred on Sevilla, but the only direct flight was with Ryanair leaving at 0700 from Stanstead so instead I took BA to Malaga. I arrived to an easily bear-able (sorry!) 26C and picked up my hire car. Instead of taking the direct route along the motorway, I opted for a scenic drive across country, passing through the pretty “white town” of Alora before heading into the mountains to El Chorro, the starting point for the famous “Camenito Del Rey” walk. 

Mountain scenery on the way to El Chorro

The 8km path clings to the side of a sheer cliff with spectacular views down into the gorge.  When planning this trip, I had been disappointed that all the tickets for this popular walk were already sold out, but when I stopped to take pictures, I soon changed my mind.  Walking for two to  three hours in the afternoon heat would have been very unpleasant, and it was much nicer to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of an air-conditioned car.

The start of the Camenito Del Rey walk

The road left the mountains and headed across rolling hills, planted with olive trees or grass.  The open views and empty, fast roads gave a sense of freedom and being on holiday. I accelerated across the empty landscape to join the main motorway leading into Seville.  I found my flat easily, and more importantly found the underground parking next door – parking on the street in Seville is impossible.  My apartment was in the Triana district, just across the river from the historic centre.

The view from my balcony

After checking in, I hurried straight to the Alcazar, a fifteen-minute walk that felt longer in the 35C heat.  I noticed that almost everyone I met was wearing a face covering. I checked on my phone and indeed, this was required by law in Spain, so I reluctantly slipped on my own mask – which of course made walking in the street even hotter and sweatier.  

Fortunately the Alcazar was worth the effort – it is a palace built  for the Christian kings of Spain from the 14th century onwards, over a period of 500 years.  Many architectural styles were used in its construction, but the most beautiful parts copy Moorish architecture.

The entrance to the Alcazar

I tried to dodge the intense sun beating down onto the palace’s courtyards, spending my time in the beautiful Moorish reception rooms……….

…..before heading for the famous gardens.

Even though it was now seven in the evening, the sun seemed even stronger than in the mid-afternoon.  In the afternoon, my hat protected me, but now. whenever I had to leave the protection of shady trees, the sun hit me with a ferocious broadside that roasted my whole body and soon had my fur drenched in sweat.

I left the Alcazar Gardens at closing time, and walked backed through small, winding and shady side streets to the centre and the cathedral, a huge structure that dominates the city and which I planned to visit another day.  I stopped briefly for a well-deserved drink in a small traditional bar, decorated with typical Andalusian tiling, before heading back to my flat. There are very many bars and restaurants in Spain, which spill out onto welcoming open-air terraces on the street. The law allows people to take off their face masks when sitting down to eat or drink, making an already popular pastime even more widespread amongst the Sevillanos than usual.

On my way I saw an ice-cream seller and could not resist ordering some to try to cool down.  I soon realised my mistake – the refrigeration unit was not up to the challenge of the heat. My two scoops of vanilla and strawberry were already melting, and streams of sticky liquid ran down my cone. I had to gulp it all down quickly before the whole thing disappeared, and got my paws and arms covered in gooey liquid.

I was relieved to reach the cool of my flat, where the air conditioning had finally kicked in to offer a welcoming 21C respite from the heat.  I rested for a bit after a hectic day before heading out for a pleasant dinner of tapas at a neighbouring bar. The Triana area was very busy, with the streets full of people sitting on terraces and talking animatedly. It was still hot, but now – at 10 in the evening when most locals go out – pleasantly so.  It was a nice way to unwind after a very busy day. 

Seville street life in the un-touristy Triana district

Sorry, no photos me today – with my sticky sweaty fur I didn’t feel very photogenic. An internet celebrity like me needs to carefully manage their online image!

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