Where did I go: Seville, Spain
When did I go: March 2016
Monday 7th March
0945: Today, we are travelling from Madrid to Seville (or Sevilla). Left hotel and took taxi to Madrid Atocha station.
1000: Arrived at Madrid Atocha. The station is very grand – reminds me of King’s Cross St. Pancras in London.
1010: Bought our train tickets on the ticket machine. The machine lets to you use English as the language, and away you go, it is really straight forward. Interestingly, you have to reserve seats whenever you take a train in Spain. Even with a rail pass (which gives you almost unlimited travel in Spain) you have to reserve seats. The standard class ticket from Madrid to Seville costs about £50. Also, advanced bookings don’t seem to save much.
1015: Breakfast at station restaurant.
1045: Boarding train. Coaches and seats are clearly marked so it is easy to find our seat. Announcements and signs are in English and Spanish both. Before we get going, headphones are distributed. There are a few small screens in the carriage which plays a Spanish film. The train is busy and every seat is occupied.
1100: We’re on our way.
1200: An hour in to the journey, it’s non stop swathes of farmlands – mostly of olive trees. The on board display tells me the train is doing 232 km/h. The 3G signal on my phone is pretty good all the way too (unlike in UK where the signal drops off rapidly after you pulled out of the station). The train has only one stop between Madrid and Sevilla, which is Cordoba.
1330: Arrived in Seville on time. Taxi to hotel from station. Bit expensive at 22 Euros.
1400: Arrived at hotel – or as close as possible you can by car. Our hotel, the El Rey Moro is in Barrio (Spanish for neighborhood) Santa Cruz, the old Jewish Quarter. A “must see” area of Seville, it is a labyrinth of small passageways and alleys filled with boutique hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. Most of these are only reachable on foot (or bike or horse if you have one). It is also located adjacent to the Seville Cathedral and Real Alcazar (more on these later).
1430: Lunch at a one of the many restaurants in Santa Cruz. Fried eggs and Chorizo washed down with a glass of Sangria. The service is efficient and quick, but still friendly.
1530: Walk around Santa Cruz a little bit more, often getting lost. The little walkways are very interesting, often until you get to the end of an alley it is difficult to tell whether it’s a dead end or not. Also, orange trees are everywhere. I had heard of Seville Oranges but never expected the trees to be everywhere.
1630: At Plaza de Espana. This is a truly great Seville monument. Built in the 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition. It’s a large semi-circular structure, with moat running on the border. There are four bridges over the moat, representing the four ancient kingdoms of Spain.
It was so beautiful, I took many pictures, from different angles.
By the walls of the Plaza, there are 48 tiled alcoves or benches, each representing a different province of Spain.
The detail of the brick and tile work throughout the complex is superb. The Plaza has been used as a filming location for many films, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Star Wars: Episode II (in which it featured in exterior shots of the City of Theed on Planet Naboo)
You can also hire a row boat if you fancy a little wander down the moat, but you have to row the boat yourself.
The semi-circular Plaza faces a semi-circular garden known as the Maria Luisa Park. Lush and green, the garden is home to fountains, pavilions, benches and ponds. There are many tropical and subtropical plants that I don’t recognise, but it is hard to miss the orange trees. The garden has not fully woken from its winter slumber, but I can imagine what a sight it must be in Spring and Summer.
1800: Walk back to Santa Cruz – which is about 15-20 minutes on foot from Plaza de Espana. We also see the Seville tram. It’s unusual because this Tram is powered by super capacitors rather than overhead power lines. Apparently this is because the Tram route is set on the parade route for the annual Semena Santa de Sevilla (the Seville Holy Week), so they have to take the overhead power cables down to allow the processions to go through with religious effigies. So they have done away with the overhead cables altogether and used super capacitors instead.
1930: Dinner at Las Escobas restaurant. Situated on a side street right behind the Cathedral, the restaurant has a history dating back to 1358, which makes it one of the oldest restaurants in Seville, if not the whole of Spain. Reportedly it has also hosted many famous figures such as Alexander Duma and Lord Byron. It’s relatively quite this evening. Great service and the language barrier is less of a problem as they have English menus. Sangria, sea food paella and a really nice Oreo cake dessert.
2230: Back to the hotel after a wander around the Santa Cruz neighbourhood.
Tuesday 8th March
Its our first (and last) full day in Seville. We are going on a “free” walking city tour with Feel the city tours. The tour is free in the sense that there is no set price, and anyone can come along. You pay the guide at the end of the tour whatever you think it was worth.
1015: A guide from tour company comes to pick us up at the hotel. This is the “collection” phase of the tour. He takes us to Puerta de Jerez which is the starting point of the tour. Along the way, several quick stops at other hotels to collect guests.
1030: Everyone’s gathered at Puerta de Jerez and we are divided into different groups depending on the language we want the Tour. Today, the tour is available in English, Spanish and French. We are in the English language group, with about 10 others.
1045: First stop of the tour is the Plaza del Triunfo. This is the cultural heart of Seville and is surrounded by 3 of the most important attractions of Seville. The Cathedral, the Real Alcazar (Royal Palace) and the Archivo de Indias (Archives of the West Indies).
1100: The next stop is the La Giralda. The famous bell tower of the Seville Cathedral. It was originally built as a minaret during the time when Seville was under the rule of the Caliphate of Cordoba. A renaissance style top was subsequently added following the Reconquista when the Seville Cathedral was built.
1130: Next stop is at the gate of forgiveness of the Seville Cathedral. Adjacent to this is the wall where the graduates from the University of Seville used to advertise their availability for work following graduation.
1145: Next stop at the Town Hall of Seville.
1210: On to the riverside to our next stop at Triana Bridge.
1220: Next stop at the Plaza del Toros. This is the bull fighting ring of Seville. The season starts at Easter, so it is pretty quite today.
12:40 Next stop at Torre del Oro – the golden tower, which used to be a watch tower and a prison. 15 minute break at a nearby coffee shop.
1310: Stop at the Seville University. Beautiful 16th century building, but this used to be a cigarette factory – the same cigarette factory featured in the Bizet opera, Carmen.
1330: Tour comes to an end at Plaza de Espana. On the whole, the tour is really worth it, and perfect for a city of this size. In addition to seeing all the attractions we got to hear about the history of Seville, Flamenco and many other things.
1400: Visiting the Real Alcazar (Royal Palace). Built by the Moorish kings, it is still in use by the Royal family today.
Visitors to the palace first get to see a beautiful courtyard, from which you go into a labyrinth of corridors, rooms, and courtyard gardens.
It is easy to see why this is known as one of the most beautiful palaces in Spain – the detail and the intricacy of the buildings is amazing. Inside, there are many chapels and chambers, many decorated with large and lavish tapestries.
The gardens are equally impressive, there are many exotic plants, courtyards, foot paths, and formal gardens.
1600: Coffee in the garden cafe. There are several peacocks and peahens wondering by.
1615: Off to explore the gardens some more. There are many fountains and ponds.
1700: Late lunch in Calle Mateos Gago. This street is known for Seville specialty food.
2000: Drinks at rooftop bar at hotel EME. Great views of the Cathedral and La Giralda but the drinks are pricey.
2100: Dinner at a restaurant a couple of doors down from Las Escobas. Delicious tapas.
2230: Back to the hotel after a wander around Plaza del Triunfo. The Real Alcazar and the Cathedral looks beautiful at night.
Sadly our time in Seville is over, and tomorrow, we go to Granada. Although I look forward to Granada, it is very hard to say good bye to this exquisite city. 36 hours is not nearly enough to see everything Seville has to offer, so I for one will be definitely coming back. When I do come back, this is my list of things to do:
- Visit the Seville Cathedral
- Climb to the top of the La Giralda
- See the Archives of the West Indies
- See a Flamenco show
- Have a picnic in Maria Luisa park
- Visit Triana
- Spend half a day wandering, eating and drinking in Santa Cruz (ok, we did that this time, but there’s plenty more places to visit)