Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Spain Day 6: Walking Tour, Cathedral, El Real Alcazar and Plaza de Espana

Giralda Tower
Under normal circumstances being somewhere by 10:30 wouldn't be much of a problem. However, holidays aren't quite normal circumstances and so far on our trip we hadn't left our apartment before midday, so it felt like quite a lot of pressure to be at the meeting point for the walking tour we'd booked. Luckily we rose to the challenge and got to the specified meeting point in Plaza Nueva five minutes early.

The walking tour was an excellent way to get orientated with the city, learn a bit about the culture of Seville and to tick off some of the major tourist in just under two hours. Our softly spoken guide - a Betis fan who wasn't at all happy to see Seville win the Europa League the night before - took us round the district of Santa Cruz.

We started off in the main shopping streets of Sierpes and Cuna, stepping inside an amazing Gothic church, through a district of shops selling flamenco dresses and learning about the fiestas which are the major cultural event of the year for Seville residents.
Becks relaxing in the window of Casa Roman
Visiting the cathedral wasn't part of our tour, but as we passed through the Plaza de los Reyes our guide explained some of the history the cathedral which is the largest in the world and built on the site of a former mosque, the tower of which has been integrated into the tower.

After a quick rest in the square it was into some of the small pedestrian streets at the heart of Santa Cruz. There were some great views of squares filled with Seville orange trees and blossoming jacaranda trees rising up between buildings.
Orange trees in the courtyard of the Cathedral
After the end of the walking tour we headed to Casa Roman for a drink and to re-charge our batteries. We nabbed a prime window seat and were able to people watch those in the square outside as we sipped on our canas and nibbled on plates of manchego cheese and fried cod.

Recharged, we headed to headed to Seville's main event, the Cathedral. You read horror stories about the queues but we luckily only had a short wait to buy a ticket. A good job too as the heat of the sun was searing down on us as we waited.

The highlight of the cathedral for me was the Giraldi tower. The tower is over a hundred meters high and it is ramped all the way to the top. Originally donkeys carried visitors up the tower, but we had to walk with the ramp giving the calves quite a workout. From the top there were some great views of the city and not too many crowds.
Bells in the Giralda Tower
After the cathedral we headed off in search of somewhere to print our Ryanair boarding passes to avoid the scandalous charge for them to print it at the airport for you. You'd think finding an internet café would be a doddle, but they don't seem to exist anymore. Luckily Tourist Information were able to point us in the direction of a commercial printers that was able to help out.

Tickets in hand we strolled through the Jardines de Catalina de Ribera up to the northern end of the Santa Cruz district where we stopped for a couple of tapas at a small bar run by the sister of our guide. The bar was closing as we left, close to 4 o'clock, for the afternoon siesta which seemed a lot more prominent in Seville than it was in Madrid.
El Real Alcazar
After lunch we headed for the second major attraction in Seville, El Real Alcazar. Originally a Moorish fort the palace is a mix of styles with the old fort flanked by some more modern buildings. The Moorish parts of the building were the most impressive by a margin with incredible tiles on the walls and floors.

With the heat (or could it have been the early start ?) getting to me we headed into the gardens for a rest under the shady trees. We spent a good half hour lying under the trees and it was only a group of noisy school children eventually drove us on.

After our break we walked round the more formal part of the gardens and finished visiting the remained of the palace, but I have to admit my heart wasn't in it.
Inside the Alcazar
Leaving the palace we had to decide whether to push onto the Plaza de Espana or risk missing it all together as we were unlikely to be visiting that part of the city again before we left. Despite how tired I was pleased that we made it. I was expecting a nice square, something as grand as Trafalgar Square would have been a bonus, but the Plaza de Espana took thinks to a whole new level.

Built in 1929 the plaza is an enormous semi circle of Renaissance Revival buildings. Truly grand, although I'm not sure if the buildings had much purpose other than to look good and as a place to promenade.
Plaza de Espana
As we walked home to our apartment half of the city appeared to be travelling in the opposite direction for the victory parade of the Seville team to show off their trophy. As we approached our flat we saw a group of men carrying a float in practice for the Semana Santa fiesta next Easter.

1 comment:

  1. Well described walking tour on Spain. Cathedral is best and then El real Elcazar & Plaza de Espana. all 3 places are in top 10 in Madrid.
    europe road trip