Overnight in Seville
We’re back out exploring the southern Spanish Andalusian region this weekend with an overnight trip to its capital Sevilla. We still have the small 5-seater Skoda hire car and the abridged version of our family – with two children in London and two children on the road trip. We head out on the same motorway as yesterday – the north bound A-45 towards Cordoba, but change to the A-92 west bound to Sevilla.
The drive there is a unique landscape of various crops including olives (of course), oranges and wines. Wind turbines rotate in the distance and a scattering of solar panels show up alongside us as we zip past at 120km/h. However, I do manage to click a photo or two with my lightweight mirrorless LUMIX G7 camera. As we enter the outskirts of the sprawling city of Sevilla, groups of tall apartment blocks replace the rich agricultural landscape and on top of each roof is an antenna. The sight of hundreds of antennae – long spindly sticks reaching up high off the apartment roof and all facing the same direction looks more like something out of an alien movie.
It’s Sunday and we are pleasantly surprised to see the malls closed. We pass these ghostly concrete jungles and realise we have unintentionally made the best decision to arrive into a city with a population of 690,566 on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The four or five lane roundabouts are fairly empty and as we follow our TomTom mate James’ directions we soon find out how hard it is to navigate and find your way around these crazy one-way narrow streets.
The drive to Seville from our home base Malaga takes just over 2 hours, but the drive around these streets finding our accommodation takes over an hour! We have the TomTom working, Google maps and none can really get us to where we think we need to be. We go around back over the same streets and intersections, trying to navigate which street we can actually go up. We resort to me jumping out of the car and running up different streets to locate the number we require. We need to find San Vicente No. 12 for the garage and then No. 4 for our accommodation. James nearly finds himself out of the window on a couple of occasions. Let’s just say we finally found it, and breathed a big sigh of relief.
Steve booked a lovely centrally located apartment in Seville with a pool and spa on the roof top so that’s the first place to visit to freshen up and reinvigorate our weary travelling heads. Next it’s out to explore Sevilla with what remains of the day.
Day 1 Sevilla – afternoon and evening
We decide to leave the more out of town tourist spots until tomorrow when we have more time to explore. So today is exploring close to our apartment. And we’re in luck.
1st stop: Metrolpol Parasol
We walk up the street to the Metropol Parasol located in Seville’s Old City District. It’s hard to miss with a very unique looking umbrella-caterpillar-shaped structure. Apparently it’s classified as the largest wooden structure in the world designed by German architect Jurgen Mayer-Hermann. The birch wood was imported from Finland and its construction (with delays and changes) caused much controversy here in Seville at its exorbitant price tag – 50 million euros! It is an amazing piece of architecture and lovely to photograph. We didn’t get to climb it, but apparently it’s a pretty outlook at night looking out onto the lights of Sevilla.
2nd Stop: Alameda de Hercules
After finding a café for a drink and a bite to eat – with Dacey ordering the largest kebab with large diced pieces of succulent Iberian pork with eggplant, red peppers, and onions – it was next to Alameda de Hercules or simply La Alameda. It was built in 1574 and was originally a promenaded public garden named after Alama trees that grow here. At the southern end where we enter are two Roman pillars with statues atop of Hercules who according to legends was the founder of Sevilla, and Julius Caesar who visited this former Roman settlement.
We are instantly taken by the Bohemian atmosphere here and sit down at an outdoor table at one of the many cafes and tapas bars lining its perimeter and look towards the Roman pillars. I know how to order my favourite drink in Spain (thus far) – uno vino blanoc secco or one dry white wine. We sit, breathe it all in and just gaze.
3rd Stop: Puente de Triana
It’s time for dinner, and we are crossing the nostalgic and romantic bridge Puente de Triana at sunset which is popularly known as the bridge of Isabel II. We have been told to head here to have a dinner down by the calm Guadalquivir River. It’s absolutely beautiful and we spend a while just looking out onto the water and the two towns on either side of the bridge.
It’s a bustling night out for many people, and many of the café-restaurants are full. We walk down San Jacinto and finally see a group leave from an outdoor table. The four of us sit down and decide to order a range of tapas and tasters from the menu to share. As you can imagine they are delightfully tasty and filling – roasted potatoes, croquettes, moussaka, salmon, Greek salad, olives and bread plus a beer for Steve and vino blanco for me. We sit with Ash and Dacey and have an amazing conversation about all things travel and life in general. It was great.
We slowly wander back and take a quick look into the authentic Spanish restaurants serving fresh seafood, then over the bridge and happily observe people walking past, playing the piano accordion, and we look for a place to buy some ice cream on the way home.
Day 2 Sevilla – all day | Happy 18th Wedding Anniversary to us
It’s our Wedding Anniversary today! Congratulations to us. It’s been an amazing journey with my life partner and man of my dreams Steve and I couldn’t have wished for a better location to be in to celebrate the 18 amazing and at times whirlwind years we’ve shared together. Today we’re in the city of Sevilla with our two children in tow Ash (#2 daughter) and Dacey (#4). It’s whatever we want to do today right? Hahaha! Let’s see how that one plays out! Anyway Steve and I have rain checked our celebratory Spanish night out for when we’re back in our home base town of Malaga where we will thoroughly enjoy a tapas crawl.
But for now it’s game on for exploring Sevilla.
Check out time from our comfortable Seville Museo Tempo apartment is at 11am, and we have already arranged to keep the car in their underground carpark until we finish exploring Sevilla in the late afternoon. We need to leave Sevilla in time to collect the returning London travellers at 9pm in Malaga.
One look at the foldout Seville map and we realise there’s a lot of walking to do. Or bright idea strikes how about we hire bikes and ride beside the scenic riverside and make our way to the main tourist sites. Good idea. After working through a teen meltdown about riding bikes (see it can never be as smooth sailing as we plan) we adjust the bike seats and are on our way. Navigating on a bike though through narrow cobblestone one-way streets are a testing start, but I manage to get us all through and without incident with a car and make it to the dedicated green painted concrete bike paths that snake around the perimeter of the city of Sevilla.
1st Stop: Torre del Oro or Bury Al Dahab which means The Golden Tower
It’s not really a stop as such, but more of a passing. We ride along the Guadalquivir River on our bikes and pass the Torre del Oro which a cute (if you can call a defensive structure that) 13th Century construction that is currently used as a Naval Museum.
History tells us that this river was a successful one in the maritime trade which offered ships greater protection than more traditional European ports did. According to my research, a heavy chain was strung across the river from this very tower to protect the city from seafaring invaders. It was given its name ‘The Golden Tower’ due to the golden glow of the tower’s reflection that spread itself across the river or another reason was due to the upper part of the tower being covered in golden tiles which reflected the sun and could been seen from far away. Either way it is a cute historical structure along the river as we ride past it.
2nd Stop: Plaza de Espana
Getting to this place on a bike sounds much easier than it actually is. Especially when you’re holding a hand held map that has at least 12-fold out sections. The unfolding of this map never seems to end! Anyway navigating with it on a bicycle for me is a disaster. Plus, the street signs here in Sevilla are not as clear as I would have hoped for and the way Siri has turned instantly into a fluent Spanish speaking guide takes me off guard. So I listen intently to the Google maps app, but I’m no juggler in a foreign city on a two wheeled bike. I give up as memories of our TomTom James comes flooding back as we continue to get lost with each pedal. Ash and Dacey are of course are not quite enjoying the stop-start pedalling routine that is unfolding on the bike track exploration tour of Sevilla. We forge on…just so glad the view is magnificent on the bicycles and those beautiful Jacaranda trees are a treat too!
We stop to ask a number of passer-by people, many who couldn’t understand a word of English and even using the best tourist hand gestures ie. pointing onto the map and saying “where now on map?” using language from both English and Spanish didn’t get us as far as we had hoped for. But the funny thing about being a lost tourist is that mostly locals are more than happy to help as best as they can.
I’ve now lost count how many times I’ve stopped suddenly in the middle of the bike track and either Ash or Dacey just missing clipping the back of my bike. One of two children is a lot more patient and understanding of what I’m trying to actually achieve here and happy to let the near hits go. The other not so happy-go-lucky and let’s me know it at every stop. Anyway it seems my two bike riding daughters are not the only one’s I’m frustrating on this riding tour of the city.
I’m causing some Spanish pedestrians to burst out and express their grievances at my unstable bike riding on the footpaths while leading the pack and trying to navigate exactly which direction is north or east…and where the hell anyway is Avenida de Portugal? I’m constantly saying, “Sorry; I’m lost; I’m a silly tourist!” And I’m not sure how it happened but we stumble on a magnificent garden and opposite an entryway to what looks like a busy tourist attraction. So we decide to try our luck and get off the bike riding path and chain our four bikes to the nearest stable fence we can find so we can explore on foot.
Luckily for us we have actually arrived finally at where we actually wanted to be Plaza de Espana. We walk down to the gates and enter a site that surprises us. This is the 1914 construction by Sevillian architect Anibal Gonzalez in preparation for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition which was a showcase of Spain’s role in history, industry and technology. Some of the exhibits included manuscripts written by the Spanish explorers Columbus and Cortes. This plaza is located in the famous Santa Cruz area and is today used as government offices. It’s pretty impressive as many sites seem to be here in culturally and historically rich Sevilla.
We walk all the way round the semi-circle structure and discover tiled monuments with a tiled picture depicting a moment in history dedicated to the area or city of Spain. We look for our Spanish ‘home’ Malaga and Ash finds it half way around the semi-circle. We sit there in the shade for a while as the sun is starting to bear down a little too hot now. Steve and I climb the grand staircase and look out at the plaza below us and the canal with bridges and boats that can be hired for a short ride.
Next we are walking out the site and are getting a photo taken behind a Spanish prop. It’s a photo board of three women and one man dressed in traditional Spanish clothing. We perch our heads just over the cut out neck area and the proprietor places a scarf around my neck and pulls my hand through the small opening on the side and tells me to hold the hat. It’s a bit of fun and amazingly with only four of the family in Sevilla it’s works out to be a perfect line up for the four of us.
We’re standing waiting patiently to get a seated, or more to the point waiting for people to finish their meals and drinks and move on at one of the cafes outdoor areas that is shaded by lovely trees but it takes too long so we move to another café where we order and enjoy a coffee and cold drinks before we jump back on our bikes and hope to get to our next stop in one piece.
3rd Stop: Alcazar of Seville or Reales Alcazares
We get to the next stop after a couple of stop-starts and redirection, and we find ourselves riding into an open square that has plenty of pedestrians, cars and horse drawn carriages using the square. Plus…bicycles. We think how much Australian OH&S would have a field day here!
We have read that the Alcazar of Seville is a must-see destination but often in peak summer season, it’s a difficult place to get into due to the large queues it attracts. But right now there’s no queue and we walk through easily. This is probably the fourth Alcazar (royal palace/citadel) we have visited while we’ve been living in Spain so an icy-cold slurpy drink from the café on the corner near the Alcazar works a treat. The kids both sip and cool their bodies down which assists us with a much more uncomplicated entry into another Alcazar.
This is apparently where the discussions and planning took place between Christopher Columbus and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella II around bankrolling his exploration efforts in finding an alternative westward trade route through to Asia. Instead he stumbled on the Americas.
This site forms a group of palaces, patios and gardens and for a thousand years it has been the centre of power and royal residence in Seville. Today it is still used by Spain’s royal family on state occasions and is categorised as one of the oldest European palaces still in use today. The Moors built the palace on the site of a 10th Century fort which was converted into a Gothic style structure in the 13th Century. 100 years later King Pedro hired Moorish craftsmen to rebuild and expand the palace in Mudéjar style and today it is one of the best samples of Mudéjar architecture in the world. Mudéjar refers to a style of medieval Iberian architecture and decoration, particularly of Aragon and Castile origin which is strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship.
The large separate buildings of this historical palace make it more of a unique visit for us all. But again the intricate details of the decorative buildings and the immaculately maintained gardens were a pleasure to be in.
4th Stop: Seville Cathedral and The Giralda
This Seville Cathedral site was built over Almohad Mosque to demonstrate Seville’s power and wealth after the Reconquista which was completed in the 16th Century. It is the third largest church in all of Europe but the biggest in volume. It’s an eerily looking place with Gothic architectural features that remind me more from the scenes out of Batman in Gothic Gotham City.
We do not go in but admire it from walking around its perimeter and looking up the impressive walled structure. There seems to be some kind of filming about to take place out the front of the Cathedral: a Flamenco dancing duo or similar maybe as a woman and man dressed up in costume and heavily made up are waiting for the director’s orders of action.
The significant part of this church: the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Wow!
The Giralda looms high above the cathedral at 103m in the blue sky and was the highest building in Seville for over 800 years. It is the last remaining structure of the 12th Century mosque that was torn down to make way for the cathedral. The Moors built the minaret with a series of ramps so that the guards could ride on horseback to the very top. It is now part of the bell tower of the cathedral. The name Giralda means “she who turns” as girar is to turn in Spanish, after the weather vane on top of the tower, a statue representing faith called El Giraldillo.
It’s time to get back on the bikes, I don’t know which way exactly as I struggle to comprehend what Siri is telling me – head north along San…something….aghhhh where are we?….It’s once again a little more time consuming getting our bearings right, but I hand it over to Steve who soon finally finds the where-am-I-now-bearings as I sit to the side and curse Siri. But not long after we’re pedaling back along the river in the glorious warmth of Seville’s afternoon sun.
On the way we stop by under the shade of a big old tree in a public square that has attracted a crowd and watch a street performer dancing the Flamenco for a couple of minutes. It’s a rigorous dance. We then ride down the main street along the tram tracks and discover that there are actually trams operating in the heart of Seville and the bike regulations are quite relaxed as we ride on the tracks dodging people and trams and prams. Watch out people! Again I get a few stares and cross shakes of the head from passer-by pedestrians as I try and record the scene on my iPhone.
It’s time to relinquish the bikes and stretch out the legs (and bike bum). We’ve taken another two hours than we hired the bikes for and we are prepared to pay for the extra time, but the young man at the Info Centre shakes his head and lets us off.
That’s a wrap. Seville has been a pleasure to explore and get to know (except for getting lost on the bicycle track bit) and we would love to return one day and stay longer and visit the outer areas of Seville including the mountain areas where friends Graham and Sandra Stewart lived for a year back in the day – Cazalla de la Sierra (90km north of Sevilla).
Maybe we will venture back…one day…with them.