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.

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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