Sixty in Seville.
What a fantastic break Janet organised for my sixtieth birthday. We had 3 days in
this wonderful city and, surprise surprise, the weather was almost like an English
W e were still not ready for our planned Atlantic
trip but decided that a few days off from Janet's rigorous work schedule could be
tolerated, especially as being 60 is quite a special birthday - I
think I even qualify for a bus pass in Cambridgeshire.
The travel agent in Lagos offered us 2 hotels at reasonable prices, we picked the
Hotel American which we noted was very central to the old city of Seville and included breakfast in the price. Bargain no. 1. Next
we needed a car. Luz Cars offered us a medium size car for the price of a
small one. Bargain no. 2. Then when we picked up the car we noted that it
had air-conditioning, and as this was still a further group higher we put this down
as bargain no. 3.
We had been thinking of a trip to Seville for quite some time now, and it was only
when the weather promised to be a little cooler than of late, that we said "perfect
for a trip to Seville". Our reasoning was that Seville is notoriously hot and
often windless but the forecasted cooler weather would make it perfect for us.
We left Lagos at about 0930 and by 1200 we were within the city boundaries, in fact
about 1 mile from the hotel but for the next 90 min's we seemed to get no nearer.
We had a plan and it involved only a couple of turns so at the first set of traffic
lights we were still confident. The road had 5 lanes as we approached the lights
but as soon as we stopped scooters filled all the gaps creating 4 more lanes. Worse,
we all had to get into 3 lanes within 20m. We survived and commenced looking for
the next right turn. Ha! Right turns prohibited; and so they were for the next mile
until we started to pass alongside the old city walls
which were, unless we were driving a military tank
impregnable. Eventually we nipped down a narrow street in the old Jewish part of
the town where tall buildings sat aside impossibly narrow streets meaning no sun
so no solar navigation. After about an hour of circling we passed across a lovely
square but it was almost a further hour before we emerged from the underground car
park by the hotel and recognised the square from one hour previous. We quickly
checked into, perhaps, the largest room in this 3 star hotel and then set off to
see the city.
Real Alcazar palace.
Our first stop was the Reales Alcazar palace. It's easy
to be fooled into thinking this is a Moorish palace, some of the rooms and courtyards
seem to come straight from the Alhambra. Most of them were actually built by Moorish
workmen for King Pedro the Cruel of Castile in the 1360's who, with his mistress
Maria de Padilla, lived in and ruled from the Alcazar.
The palace inside was quite stunning but for us the gardens were equally so. Fountains
and pools, and water features in general, were a sign of extreme wealth in those
days, and the kings of old wanted to make sure everyone knew it!
Real Alcazar palace gardens.
On the left, behind Janet, a huge water spout teems into this pool and flows on
into the garden. On the right an inner courtyard garden sits snugly beneath
huge Indian bean trees, all with beautiful blossoms.
Whilst we were walking through the gardens we could hear thunder booming in the
distance and, even though we were dressed in tee-shirt and shorts we were not worried
as 500 other tourist were similarly dressed and we couldn't all have got the weather
wrong. Well actually 502 people became stranded in the palace as lightening flashed
and wind and rain lashed the windows. Streams became torrents, water poured off
of roofs, none of which had gutters, and gardens were submerged beneath 6" of water.
This went on for 2 hours; the palace should have closed but even the staff must
have felt better in doors. Eventually we decided to make a break for it and luckily,
whilst sheltering under a street veranda, we saw one euro poly macs for sale in
a shop. Hastily buying 2 we went on our way, with heads down we galloped straight
into a shin deep flood but it did little to wet us further, one can only get so
wet. During the evening we ventured out again and barring the floods, the heat had
totally dried the city and so we dined royally at a pavement restaurant. It is a
joy eating out in Sevilla lots of choice and superb tapas bars.
Up at the crack of dawn (Spain is one hour ahead of Portugal) and on to the bus
tour of the city. Naturally most of the old city is off limits to buses and so the
tour is around the younger parts of the city. We saw at least a dozen palaces and
pavilions from the Iberian-American exhibition of 1929; how fantastic they must
have been 50 years ago but now some did look a little tired.
Sevilla featured the World Exhibition of 1992 and still on the site today remains
the Cartuja monastery, a technology park and the Isla Magica theme park. Coming
from Cartuja monastery the bus entered the technology park through the South Gate.
Sevilla Tecnópolis was an attempt by the city administration to attract hightech
and service industries to the deserted lands of the Expo fair but as many countries
have deconstructed their pavilions after the fair, there is a lot of open space
available. In all, its a tired area going nowhere. One good thing, the Expo
'92 fair considerably improved the Sevillian traffic infrastructure. An example
of which is Barqueta bridge, connecting the Cartuja peninsula to the center of Seville.
In the afternoon we visited The Cathedral of Seville, formally Catedral de Santa
María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), it was begun in 1402, with
construction continuing for many centuries. It is a world wonder and is the largest
cathedral in Spain and the third largest (by square footage) in the entire world.
Quite simply, its both magnificent inside and out and mind bogglingly big, in fact
new calculations, based on cubic measurements, have pushed it in front of Saint
Paul's in London and Saint Peter's in Rome, as the largest church in the world.
Christopher Columbus Monument.
Inside the cathedral is the tomb/monument of Christopher Columbus. It is carried
by four court heralds in mourning representing the four Spanish nations united under
Ferdinand and Isabella. The sarcophagus is made in bronze and enamel plates. Sadly
it only pretends to contain the remains of good old CC.
And surely it must almost go without saying, yes we climbed the cathedral tower.
The Giralda is one of the most magnificent buildings in Seville and dominates the
skyline. We ascended to the bell chamber for a remarkable view of the city, and
equally remarkable, a glimpse of the Gothic details of the cathedral's buttresses.
Most impressive of all is the tower's inner construction - no steps - it has a series
of 36 gently sloping ramps wide enough to allow the passage of two mounted guards.