Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sevilla - A Charming Spanish City

Next stop on my itinerary was a couple day trip to Sevilla in Andalucia, the southern part of Spain. It was a quick and cheap flight from Barcelona; one of the benefits of Europe are the cheap flights allowing you to easily visit different destinations.

I was welcomed to the city with some rainy weather, not quite what I anticipated as it is typically a warmer, sunnier climate, and rain was in the forecast for the remainder of my time in Sevilla. Wonderful!

I made my way to my hotel (a quaint little place in the heart of Barrio Santa Cruz) just in time for a siesta and decided to take advantage.

When I woke I decided to take part in an evening paseo (stroll) per Rick Steves' recommendation. At first I couldn't quite figure out the streets and where I was going, the rain picked up, so I popped in a cervezaria at a nearby plaza for a cerveza and studied the map. I went back out to the streets, which are narrow, cobblestone lined streets, some are meant for cars (super tight squeeze) and some aren't.  I found the heart of Barrio Santa Cruz. It was a charming and lively street lined with orange trees, shops and restaurants. At the end of the street was the Cathedral. I instantly fell in love with the city. Below is a picture of my first impression of the street.

I wandered around and then popped in a local establishment for some tapas and sangria. It's tough to order tapas for one person; I wanted to try a little of everything but knew three or four orders would be too much for one person. So I settled on two, which were still a bit much but good. I then ventured to a little bodega (Las columnas) with a bustling atmosphere, filled with locals and tourists (another one of Rick's recos).

The next morning I woke and ventured back to Mateos Gago street (same street as the previous night) for desayuno (breakfast) and planned my site seeing adventure.

First stop on the adventure was a visit to the Cathedral, which is the third largest in Europe (after St. Peter's at the Vatican and St. Paul's in London). Previously this was a brick Mosque that had been torn down in 1401 by Christians to build the cathedral. The most interesting thing for me to see was that tomb of Christopher Columbus carried by four kings located at the front of the Cathedral. While There, I was stopped at one point by the Sacristy (where the priests get ready) for a procession of priests coming from the Royal Chapel to the Sacristy, there must have been a mass that just took place or something. Next I made my way to climb the Giralda Tower (the bell tower). It is about 330 feet up and offers great views of Sevilla. It was also a way to avoid the rain a little longer. It was a pretty cool view and not a bad climb since it was a ramp taking you up vs. stairs. The rain had settled and I made my exit through the court of orange trees. I love all the orange trees in this city.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Alcazar, originally a 10th century palace for Moorish governors. Today, it still operates as a Royal Palace, one of the oldest in Europe. The design and decorated halls have an Islamic style that seemed familiar to some of the sites I saw when traveling in India. I spent a good deal of time wandering the halls and gardens. The gardens were really pretty. I also loved all the mosaic tiles. When the rain picked up, I stopped by the cafe for a quick read and snack.

Since I knocked out the main tourist attractions and must sees, I decided to spend my last day wandering around Plaza Nueva and Plaza Encarnacion (a square with a bold, modern architectural design). I wandered through the shopping area and over to the bull fighting ring, waited out the rain at a cervezaria with my kindle and a cerveza, took another paseo. Once the rain finally cleared I grabbed an outdoor table for some vino and tapas. I took in the lively atmosphere, people watching. My favorite little game I liked to play with myself was to guess the nationality of passerby's, trying to guess their language. After a little while of sitting there (meals and such are definitely not rushed like they can be in the states) I made my way back to The hotel for the evening.

All in all it's been a lovely couple of days spent in Sevilla. The city is charming and I felt safe at all times. There also was a bit of a romantic feel to the city. I would love to make it bake for a visit and to add Cordoba and Granada to the agenda!

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