After our hikes in/around Ronda, we drove back to Seville, returned our rental car, treated ourselves to a warm shower (remember, we were soaking wet from La Garganta Verde), and then set out to explore Seville and enjoy some tasty tapas.
Our evening started with dinner at a highly recommended (thanks Alan!) tapas joint: La Brunilda. This spot doesn’t take reservations, and we’d read tables fill up quickly, so we were the first to arrive for the dinner service. About 5 minutes after we arrived a line began to form. Once inside the restaurant was completely full and a short line developed (though it moved pretty quickly). Here we shared some beers along with some inventive and tasty dishes. I think this was our best meal in Seville.
After dinner we decided to take advantage of the lack of rain and see what the Cathedral and Real Alcazar look like at night. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but the Cathedral is absolutely HUGE and stunning. What was more notable, though, was we saw tons of women walking toward the river (it was International Women’s Day). After exploring a few squares we made our way back home to get a good night’s sleep before our Cathedral tour in the morning.
The next morning we treated ourselves to some fancy coffee (well, I had an orange/mango smoothie) and pastries at Torch Coffee Roasters. It was the perfect start to our morning explorations. From there we made our way to the Cathedral and picked up our audioguides.
La Cathedral de Sevilla is the third largest cathedral in the world (St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London are the only two larger…though there’s also that St. Peter’s replica in Africa, but that wasn’t mentioned in the audioguide…so technically it’s the fourth largest cathedral in the world) and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Having walked around the perimeter in the evening and again in the morning – this does seem like one of the largest in the world. IT was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1987.
Inside, the Cathedral is quite majestic with high pillars, domed archways, beautiful stained glass, as well as ample paintings/artwork. Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t get many photos from the interior to turn out (it was pretty dark in there).
There were a few areas that really caught my attention (photographed below), but the two most impressive aspects of the interior (in my opinion) were the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the altarpiece.
Columbus’ tomb is by the door of St. Christopher (how appropriate). I confess I have not seen many tombs, but this is amazing/breathtaking. In the photo on the left (below) you can see a tiny Pomegranate that has been pierced at the foot of the gentleman in the front right. Christopher Columbus is a big deal in the United States, and (obviously) he would also be a big deal in Spain/Portugal, but it’s interesting to share that aspect of history with other areas of the world.
The altarpiece is also astounding. I believe the audioguide said it depicts a number of scenes from the Bible, though regrettably I don’t remember more specifics now.
Our last stop was the Giralda or Tower. You can climb up to the top (more like a walk up ramps). It was pouring rain while we were there, but along the way you’re rewarded with some gorgeous photos of the city. My favorite photo shows the Orange Tree Courtyard (below). No trip inside would be complete without a walk up to the top of the Giralda.
Unfortunately, this also marked the time that I started to feel sick. We made our way back to the hotel and (sadly) I did not make it out again for the rest of the day. Not exactly how I imagined we’d spend a Friday in Seville. Jim was able to break away for a late lunch (and trip to the Pharmacy and to pick up crackers and water for me) and dinner.
The next morning we had early tickets to Real Alcázar. I was still feeling a little sick, so Jim became the primary historian as I found myself short of breath and prone to long sits on benches. Regardless, the Real Alcázar is spectacular. Taken from our guide, “The Royal Alcazar of Seville is the oldest Royal Palace still in use of Europe. Raised over the first settlement foundations of Seville, it has its origin during the XI Century AD. Since that day until today, ever civilization, ever culture that has dwelt the Iberian Peninsula used the Royal Alcazar of Seville as capital of its kingdom, thereby leaving eternal memory of its time in the architecture and in the immaterial heritage of this outstanding monument, declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.” For Game of Thrones fans, you might recognize many of the gardens and interiors as Dorn.
Above are some photos of the Sala de la Justicia, Patio del Yesa, and Patio de la Monteria. As you can see from the third photo – we had pretty intense rain for our tour. Most of which was indoors, and all of the gardens (even a hedge maze) were closed due to the rain and wind conditions. I was completely bummed, as I had most wanted to tour the gardens. With that said, though, the interior did NOT disappoint. Where we thought the Alhambra was impressive we saw more careful restoration (or upkeep) here with the lapis, cinnabar, etc (more on that in photos below).
We were also able to stand in the room where they approved Columbus’ voyage to the Americas (photos below) I know I’ve said this before, but there’s something really cool about standing in the exact place where something like that happened. It’s wild to think about how it might’ve looked then. It’s wild to think how incredibly interesting it would be to visit Europe in middle and/or high school, when more of the historical studies are fresh on your brain.
We were also able to tour rooms full of tapestries and maps, which were entirely more Christian in motif/design (see photos below).
As well as our attempts to capture some photos of the gardens. As you can see there’s a lot of standing water as well as heavy rain.
After our tour of Real Alcázar, we went back to the hotel to rest up a little bit before lunch. Luckily the rain stopped and the sun came out just in time for us to visit our second recommended tapas bar (thanks, Zoe & Kara!) – Eslava. This spot is tiny and incredibly popular. We got there during prime Spanish lunch time and ended up waiting about an hour or an hour and a half for a table (if you go there, go inside and put your name down…we think seats at the bar might be first come, first serve), but the tapas proved to be worth the wait.
After lunch we decided to explore some of the plazas in Seville. Most specifically the Plaza de España (photos below). The skies had cleared and it turned out to be a relatively nice day. On our walk there we passed some impromptu flamenco dancers as well as other street performers (my favorite). Unfortunately, Plaza de España was closed for the day due to wind/rain. This was a total bummer, as it looked absolutely gorgeous from the gates, but wasn’t too surprising as the parks in Toulouse are often closed on windy days out of fear that the old trees might fall down and injure someone. Such is life. Now we have double the reason to return.
We decided to walk around a bit before our flamenco experience that evening at Casa de la Memoria. If you are looking for an authentic flamenco experience, this is the perfect spot. The venue is small (cozy), so each patron is more or less guaranteed a great view. We were treated to one Spanish guitar player (he was amazing….played for the entire hour), one singer (she had the hots for the male flamenco dancer), and a male and female flamenco dancer. This might’ve been my favorite thing that we did in Seville. Flamenco is similar to jazz in that much of it is improvisation and the artists working together. For example, the guitarist will start playing, but based on the various dance moves of the dancer (lifting her skirt, for example) will signify a change in tempo or request for the music to be sped up. I was also blown away by the endurance of all the performers, but especially the dancer and guitarist. My favorite dance move was the little shuffle (lots of small steps). If I lived in Andalusia, I would 100 percent take visitors to see this as it was magical. If I’m being honest, I’d also probably want to learn.
The next morning we boarded a flight back to Toulouse thus concluding our Southern Spain vacation. Spain is quickly becoming one of our favorite travel destinations, and I’m ready to head back to Seville to see the gardens/plazas as well as to take on a few more hikes/walks in Grazalema.