Quick stop-over in Sevilla, Spain
Hello from Portugal! I'm sitting on our hotel room balcony with the sound of the Atlantic in the background. Now we just need the sun to come out! We drove here today from Sevilla, where we spent the past two days. And it was hot, hot, hot - 90 and sunny everyday!
We arrived in Sevilla Friday evening on a direct flight from Zurich. The first surprise was the ridiculously long line to get a taxi from the airport. Apparently those "in the know" book one in advance. We didn't know. But soon enough we were on the road to our cute boutique hotel. We stayed at the Casas de Santa Cruz, which was super cute, but nothing fancy. We somehow missed the memo that reception was at another building, but luckily some other guests saw us waiting at the door like stray dogs and pointed us in the right direction. The location was great though, and we could easily walk to the Real Alcazar (royal palace) and the Cathedral - the two main sights I wanted to see.
First, Seville is beautiful! Little winding cobble-stone streets with brightly colored tile everywhere. And May/June is a great time to visit, since all the Jacaranda trees are flowering this amazing purple color. Literally, almost every tree lining the street was bright purple; it was so cool! And since it's so far south, all the architecture has a Moroccan / Moorish influence. I loved it!
Our first tourist visit was Real Alcazar, which was built by Muslim Moorish kings and is still used today as a royal residence when the King and Queen of Spain are in town. We went first thing in the morning and waited about 15 minutes in line to get in and we also opted to follow the audio tour provided. The rooms are gorgeous, with intricate stone carvings and tile work, but it's the gardens that won me over. I could spend all day there. With numerous fountains, a hedge maze, palm trees, flowers and even peacocks, it was stunning. And immediately when I saw it, I realized it was one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones. In fact, all the "Dorne" scenes were shot within the palace and the gardens. I wish I lived there too. Or that I at least had a garden.
Next we headed across the street to the Seville Cathedral. I've visited quite a lot of cathedrals across Europe and they're all super impressive. But this one is MASSIVE. Apparently it is the largest gothic cathedral and third-largest church in the world. It's also where you can find the tomb of Christopher Columbus! We waited about half an hour to get in, but once you're in, it hardly felt crowded, due to the immense space. There are tons of little rooms and chapels to explore and of course the Giralda bell tower. We climbed the 35 ramps to the top, where you get a great panorama view of the city.
We spent the afternoon wandering along the river and through the Maria Luisa Park and the Plaza de Espana. The Plaza is pretty cool, with (of course) gorgeous tile alcoves depicting every province of Spain. There's also a great fountain where you can cool your feet after walking around all day, and no one yells at you :-)
The other cool thing about Seville is, that there are orange trees everywhere. And I mean everywhere. According to the region's website, there are over 14,000 orange trees within the city and they outnumber any other type of tree. I've never seen so many huge orange trees in the middle of a city, and they were all overflowing with huge oranges. It seemed like such a waste actually! So many just fell to the ground to be eaten by birds. But apparently they are very bitter and thus not great for eating anyway, but they give the whole city an enchanting orangey aroma (and I was craving fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning.)
You also have to be prepared for late nights in Seville. The normal dinner hour is around 9pm, which is my normal bed time. I made sure we were back at the hotel around 6pm for my pre-dinner nap. But the food is worth the wait. Tapas are of course the specialty, along with fish, iberian meats and paella. I wish we had more time in Seville just to try more restaurants! I never even got a churro!
We also never made it to a Flamenco show, which is really embarrassing. Again, if we had more time, I would have loved to experience this traditional spectacle. At any rate, it's a reason to go back! Now to enjoy a few days on the Algarve Coast before it's back to reality!