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Trip Report Splashing through Sevilla: A Week of Wandering and Wading

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This was supposed to be a Portugal trip. DH and I talked about, we discussed it, weighed pros and cons, proposed alternate destinations, and we both agreed to have an extended stay in Portugal.

We would stay for a month in Lisbon and then go road tripping through the country. It made sense to start by heading south as we would be there in early May and it would be warmer. So the planning started. Evora, the Alentejo, the Algarve…. But every time I looked at the map my eyes would wander east of Tavira… to Seville!

But we had agreed not to go back to Spain. Why? Three out of our last three vacations had been in Spain. The world is too big and full of wonders to keep going to the same destination. It is only sensible to go elsewhere. But we like Spain. We really, really like Spain. We just spent 3 months in Valencia last year. We needed to stick to our Portugal decision.

Still, Sevilla beckoned. So tantalizingly near Tavira. We had 3 months (actually 89 days for all you Schengen sticklers!) so why not steal a single week from Portugal and go to Seville? It would still be a mostly Portugal trip.

Of course, as all of my FB Friends know by know, this would later cascade to include a few other lesser known destinations in Extremadura, but we will talk about that in the future. Ah…. And then on top of that, an impromptu mid-trip change of plans would add even more days in Spanish soil. But I digress, the matter at hand is Seville.

In our very first trip to Spain, more than 10 years ago and pre-Fodors, we had spent 3 wonderful days in the city. But I had been unprepared and there were many things I had not seen then. I could easily fill in a week of sightseeing at a leisurely pace without even breaking into a planning sweat.

DH did not even put up much of a dissuading argument when the case was presented. We would spend the first week of May in Sevilla. ¡Olé!

Planning milestone reached, time to work on the next objective: choosing where to stay. I will admit that this part did get a bit overwhelming. For a week we certainly wanted an apartment but did we want to go for tourist-central in Barrio de Santa Cruz or go slightly off the beaten path and stay in Triana? Then even more options came up; the more residential areas of Macarena and surroundings.

I will not bore you with a blow by blow recount of the hours spent AirBnB-ing and posting questions. We finally settled on an apartment, a few minutes walking distance from the Metropol Parasol (a.k.a. Las Setas; ‘The Mushrooms’) in the direction of the Alameda de Hércules. An area just slightly off the main tourist drags.

Eventually it was finally time to stop planning and actually go traveling! Anyone interested to read in obnoxious details about this part of our trip, this is the TR link:

http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/lazing-it-in-lisbon-notes-and-rambling-thoughts-from-and-extended-stay.cfm

Though for various reasons the Lisbon stay was far from a perfect, the week that followed as we made our way to the South of Portugal, was sheer joy; this is the TR link:

http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/from-evora-to-tavira-a-week-of-wildflowers.cfm

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And now that the stage has been set, let’s talk about our week in Sevilla....

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    Friday, May 6th : We are Back in SPAIN!!!!!

    We started our morning in Tavira, Portugal. Due to the constraints put by rental companies to cross-border car drop-offs we were ‘forced’ to go back to Faro in order to ditch Rental Car #1. We could have actually kept the car for the week as we would have to go BACK to Faro again to pickup Rental Car #2, but then we would have had to park the car (and pay for parking) for the entire week anyway. Not practical either.

    I had ‘misread’ the timetable for the bus between Faro and Sevilla…. I sort of, kind of… entirely missed the summer/off season scheduling differences. The bus that I had planned to take did not run in May. Ooops.

    Error Level: Travel Rookie.

    The natural consequences of this small oversight were (a) a longer than expected stay in Faro under a torrential downpour where we could not even go sight see as planned, (b) we had to take a non-express bus making a gazillion stops in tiny towns where not one was waiting for the bus or getting out of it, and (c) a much later than expected arrival to Seville.

    Anyone wondering if this is a doable transfer, the answer is a wholehearted yes. Just read the small print carefully. The bus was 100% on time, very clean and with more comfortable seating than the average airplane in coach class. Just show up a few minutes before in the bus station and buy the tickets either from the teller or directly from the bus driver (this statement is only valid for off-season, don’t know how busy it gets in the summer).

    We (finally) arrived to the Sevilla Plaza de Armas Bus Station at 8:00pm, walked down to the taxi queue and all within 15 minutes we were by the apartment.

    For once, I would enthusiastically recommend this mid-budget apartment for comfort, convenience and location (to anyone that can deal with the steps! Oh, and with the bedroom ceiling being very low), so here is the link to it:

    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5483603

    It is still located within the 'Centro' Barrio of Seville but on its northern border, towards 'La Macarena'. I will go ahead and say outright that we loved it. Even the travel-related decoration was mostly to our taste. The layout is funky but surprisingly efficient and well designed. One caveat: this apartment is not good for babies/toddlers as there lots of places there could potentially fall through.

    I had not paid much attention to the kitchen, something that is usually of the outmost importance to me, because we would only be there for a week and I was not really planning on cooking (Ha!). At this time I will limit myself to state that the kitchen was supplied with the basics and, though tiny, perfectly functional.

    Upon arrival, we had to be dropped off a few meters before the door as the street was so narrow the big SUV taxi would not have been able to fully open the doors to let us out. Even making it that far was a testimony to high precision driving, and only feasible by pulling in the sideview mirrors. The departure taxi was even more –ahem!- interesting, but we will get to that… eventually.

    We met the host, got the Apartment 101 lecture, dropped our stuff, checked things out, and were soon ready to head back to an area which we had been totally unfamiliar with before and had only spotted because of the taxi ride: the Alameda de Hércules. The arrival delay worked out perfect anyway, we hit the streets around 10:00pm, just when things in Spain start to get into swing.

    The Alameda de Hércules is a long urban park, the perfect kind for promenading on summer evenings. Which this was not of course, just a cold and wet spring night; the first of many more to come during the week. Thankfully at least it was not raining.

    The park has an area for smaller kids and little fountains that the older kids (and teenagers, and dogs) can run through. It also serves as doggie park and I must say that most owners did pick up after their pets. There were dogs everywhere! Most off-leash but all seemed to be well behaved and able to follow verbal command. The owners all seemed to step in as soon as any dog started to act up.

    But the Alameda’s main feature is that it is completely surrounded by restaurants and bars. Dozens! Anything you want from white table cloth restaurants to hole-in-the-wall music joints. All the sidewalks tables were filled with bundled up people (at least the ones next to the heaters!). The ambiance was electrifying.

    This was a Friday evening, and this meant that the Sevillanos were out in full force and ready to party. High heels, short skirts, full makeup, hair flat-ironed into submission…. Yup, we were in Spain!

    DH was hankering for pasta (huh??) and he wanted to sit in the inside of a restaurant so we did not have to rush when the imminent-looking rain started. After the initial scouting loop we settled into one of the few available tables inside Al Solito Posto.

    We seldom go out to eat Italian (pizza being the one big exception!) because I can cook a really good pasta dinner at home. Any Italian place will be judged against high standards. This was a good meal. Not excellent, but it certainly hit the spot.

    We shared a salad of arugula and white beans (excellent), DH had Taglierini Vongole e Porcini (Good, but he thought the pasta was not cooked enough, but it really was, he just likes it mushy. And then he complained that it was cold. But he always wants to take ALL the shellfish out of their shells before he even starts eating) and I had Chef’s Ravioli stuffed with and smothered in a caramelized onion sauce (Meh. One of those cases where too much of a good thing…)

    There was a big reserved table next to us, a huge family came in to celebrate Grandma’s 85th birthday. And boy, did Grandma look good! Four inch heels (square, not stilettos, I guess concessions MUST be made with age, lol), perfectly tailored purple suit with a soft pink silk blouse, and laden with heirloom quality gold. I can only hope to look that awesome when I’m in my 80’s.

    The restaurant owner made the rounds several times to make sure everything was to the customers liking and he greeted a few group enthusiastically so I guess some were regulars. Overall rating was ok, recommended IF you are really, really hankering for Italian food in Seville.

    When we left the restaurant the rain had taken a break so had one more drink at an outside bar where we marveled at the feats of balance and skill that the waiters displayed while pouring drinks on heavy trays filled with glasses and handing them out correctly to tablefulls of customers.

    Only after midnight, and probably not quite sober, did we make it back to the apartment. The hour difference between Portugal and Spain really worked on our favor, we were able to merge seamlessly into the later dining hours.

    Yes, we were loving Seville. Rain and all.

    Next: We actually go out and do stuff in Sevilla

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    oh, margins - nice start - and I appreciate your confession to the rookie error so that the rest of us can hopefully learn from your mistake; heaven knows I've made enough of my own [and confessed to a few of them too!]

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    A Few Notes About Our Stay and Our Style

    There are several things that I want to clarify about our stay in Sevilla, in case anyone wants to stop reading right now (if anyone is reading along, that is, lol):

    - Once in a while we caught a glimpse of blue sky during the week, but it was yucky-with-a-capital-‘s’ weather throughout our stay. The rain ranged from a soft mist to ‘blasting sideways in gale-force winds’ and the temperature never went above 65’s (°F), even at midafternoon and smack under those scarce rays of sunlight. At night it was always in the 40’s (°F).

    - We had lots of plans for sightseeing during the week; even a potential daytrip or two had been considered. At least 50% of planned activities did not happen due to the weather. I did manage to complete my must-do list, so not all was lost.

    - Setting out to go for dinner in the cold rain is not fun. I did not even go to a single one of the restaurants I had so carefully researched. 99% of our eating and drinking decisions were made by having to duck into the nearest café / bar/ restaurant to escape a sudden downpour. The rain played a significant part in our decision to just stay ‘home’ and cook in the warm and cozy apartment.

    - We do not shop for anything that is not food or wine related. Skip this report if you are looking for shopping tips.

    - We love to eat. I love to cook. DH loves to eat what I cook. Food is a big thing for us. However, we do not necessarily seek out renowned restaurants. If they happen to be around we are happy to oblige but we are big fans of discovering hole-in-the-wall places. Ah… and we love wine. We drink a lot of wine. By this I mean A LOT of wine. But we are not wine snobs.

    But still, just being in beautiful and vibrant Sevilla…. Made our hearts sing! (or clap…to the beat of Flamenco.)

    So… back to the reporting of our very slow and wet week.

    ----

    Saturday, May 7th : A Day Spent…. Wandering and (Mostly) Food Shopping

    Having slept blissfully and completely ignorant of the deluge taking place outside our window, we woke up to flooded streets and even more severe weather warning. Okaaaayyyy… as if a month of rain in Lisbon had not been enough.

    But we had to procure ourselves some breakfast (well… technically brunch by now). Umbrellas in hand, we followed the flow of people (learning and perfecting this basic technique is crucial for any self-respecting Wanderer) and in less than 90-seconds we found ourselves in a pedestrian street full of all kinds of stores, including bakers, grocers, cheese mongers and wine stores. Things began to look a little brighter even if the sky did not.

    After dropping the purchases in the apartment we retraced our steps and continued wandering until we came up to the Espacio Metropol Parasol. This monumental sculpture/roof was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer and completed in April 2011 (naturally millions of euros over budget), and claims to be the biggest wooden structure in the world. It is better known in Sevilla as ‘Las Setas’ (The Mushrooms). Having hopes for a break in the weather sometime later in the week (Ha!) we opted not to go up to the viewpoints at the top.

    Now, what I did not know and is the REALLY important thing (at least in my opinion) is that at ground level of the setas is the Mercado de la Encarnación, Seville’s Central Market. I only found this out because we had plunked down to eat in a small restaurant for a bite to eat and kept seeing old ladies walking with their grocery carts.

    After enjoying a ‘light’ lunch of 2 glasses of red, 2 glasses of wine, 2 servings of fried calamari, 1 serving of Patatas Bravas and 1 ‘Pavía’ (fried battered codfish) for a grand total of €16.75 we made a beeline for the market.

    OoooMmmmGgggg! Yes! We had found the Food Motherlode! I cannot describe the joy and ingredient pride that exudes from most Spanish Food Markets. The colors, the smells, even the sound of the happy bantering between vendors and customers. YES! We were back in the Spain we know and love.

    Being a Saturday morning we did have to ‘battle’ the old ladies as they stood in a tight group around their favorite vendor. Some of the bigger stands had a numbering system but in most you just have to ask the group ‘Who is Last?’ and then wait for your turn.

    The produce! Anything (in season) that your heart (or stomach) desires. Fruits and veggies were beautifully arranged by size and colors… my heart just melted. A stand that just sold eggs: chicken, partridge, geese… Oh, and the Caracol Stand with live snails of every size trying to escape their bins.

    Then the butchers with beautiful chunks meat just waiting to be perfectly cut to your exact specifications (but only after discussing with the butcher how you planned to cook it and debating the merits of his recipe against yours).

    And the fishmongers! Enough shellfish to make a girl swoon in ecstasy, still alive in their beds of ice. The fish all had their eyes gleaming and had their tags stating the location where they had been taken (down to a particular area or cove) accompanied by dates and times where they had been finished, prepared and received by the distributor. Less than 24hours for most of them.

    We walked out with enough foodstuffs for two dinners. Yeah…that restaurant wishlist was fading away fast. Another trip back to the apartment to unload.

    Still happy we set out again, this time the rain had stopped and spent the afternoon wandering around while retracing our steps from our 2001 trip.

    One thing we did not remember was the monstrous lines to get into the Cathedral and to the Alcazar. What?!?! There must have been at least 300 people in each. Take note people, these sites are certainly Pre-Purchase worthy. That queue time will make a big dent into anyone’s actual sightseeing time.

    The Plaza del Salvador was mobbed in this Saturday afternoon. The bars in this area do not close for lunch and it seems to be Stag Party/Bachelorette Central. This is a very common thing in Spain. The wedding party picks a theme and they all dress up to go partying through town in varying degrees of costume. Captain Girl and her Sailorettes, Cupid and his Bowmen, Mother Superior and her Sexy Students… all gathered together in a riot of color, drinks and fun.

    A few of these group take a simpler approach and the guys have T-Shirts made with semi-offensive slogans and the girls wear wreaths of flowers on their heads. All fun is good fun. Though a few hangovers must have NOT been fun on Sunday morning.

    Though we had visited both before I did want to return to them at a leisurely pace. I thought I would return during the week, when the line was shorter. (Spoiler: it never did!).

    We meandered through the Barrio de Santa Cruz until we found the hotel that we had stayed and absolutely loved 15 years ago, Casas de la Judería. Wonderful to see them thriving and even nicer than before. Probably out of our budget by now, lol.

    As we were having a drink (under a heater) in the café across the street I spotted a little church that I had not seen before. Of course we had to go in.

    DH will ask why is it that I have to go into each and everyone of the churches we come across. THIS was the answer, because you NEVER know what may await inside. It was breathtaking. The church of Santa Maria la Blanca might not look like much from the outside but not only was the interior impressive enough, it was decked out in full regalia for a custom formerly unknown to me called the Besamano de la la Virgen.

    Most people are familiar with the Semana Santa processions that are part of the Andalusian tradition and might have had an experience with the fervor that believers/participants exhibit during these ceremonies. The religious statues that are taken in these processions preside over their ‘home’ churches during most of the year and are celebrated in special ways on their feast days.

    Another Catholic tradition, also profoundly embedded in Andalucía, is gifting the Virgin of your devotion with jewels or ceremonial clothing (these statues are covered with robe, cape and/or mantle) to thank her for favors conceded. Jewelry can come in the form of crowns, scepters, rings, earrings… whatever the donor can afford. BTW, this goes back to the middle ages, it is not a new thing. The famous emerald and diamond set that was gifted to La Macarena virgin by a famous bullfighter are a good example of this type of offering in modern times.

    Having said all that, a girl needs a special occasion to show all the fancy baubles her suitors have showered her with. Here comes in the Besamano. Directly translated as ‘Kissing of the Hand’, it is the term used for the protocol salute / greeting line that takes place in formal occasions.

    Anyway, Santa Maria la Blanca was decked out with all of her best jewelry and outfit. It was a dream of gold and white. The church was covered from floor to ceiling in white roses and perfectly illuminated to bring out the baroque white plaster moldings in the ceiling against their golden background. It was a beauty!

    There was actually a photo shooting of the virgin taking place. Full professional crew with shades and everything to take the pictures that I guess will be used in their ‘estampillas’ for the next year.

    Ah...and you could go, if so desired, to actually kiss the virgin’s hand (over a handkerchief).

    By now we were getting hungry for real food so we headed back to the apartment to enjoy the making of our evening meal.

    We had fillets of Rosada (a white fish DH likes), sautéed zucchini and green rice, all washed with a delicious young red wine from Extremadura. It was heavenly. We did not even care (much) that the rain had started again.

    Next: Visiting an Old Time Retirement House

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    DH will ask why is it that I have to go into each and everyone of the churches we come across. THIS was the answer, because you NEVER know what may await inside.>>

    how i agree with that, marigross - they are just treasure troves, aren't they? We loved walking round them when we went to Seville in September a few years ago, and discovered that there were quite a few churches that were celebrating something - it was a bit like I imagine Semana Santa to be without the sheets! There were processions of the virgin, the priests, the candles, and most surprising, the brass bands! Who knew? I felt quite at home [though cornwall is a bit lacking in orange and lemon trees]

    I'm also loving your descriptions of the food and the wine - a woman after my own heart.

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    I keep very very fond memories of Sevilla, as I studied Spanish there in another life. I have been back on a number of occasions as it is still very close to my heart. I have yet to see the setas, as they were still being built last time I was there. I was unaware of the market below, although I did hear that the lines to get in the cathedral and Reales Alcazares are getting ridiculous these days. It did not used to be that way. Thanks for the info/reminder. Duly noted.

    Bummer about the weather though ...

    (A propósito ¿has leído el libro La piel del tambor por Arturo Pérez-Reverte? Es una novela de suspense que se desarrolla en Sevilla.)

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    (A propósito ¿has leído el libro La piel del tambor por Arturo Pérez-Reverte? Es una novela de suspense que se desarrolla en Sevilla.)>>

    No. No lo ha leído ma gracias por la suggestion. [just to demonstrate to my self that I do remember some Spanish, albeit badly!]

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    Thanks to all for keeping me company!


    (No he leído esa novela -la añado a mi lista- pero llevaba pensando en Sevilla desde que leí La Reina Descalza de Ildefonso Falcones)

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    Enjoying your report and bringing back wonderful memories of our visit there a year ago! Sorry to hear about the rain, though - we so loved just wandering the city. Sounds like were able to find many other ways to enjoy that amazing city. I look forward to more!

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    Sunday, May 8th: Meandering through Santa Cruz

    The weather forecast claimed that the rain would stop (well….diminish) sometime in the early afternoon, so we took our time drinking coffee and enjoying all the breakfast goodies we had bought the day before: handmade bread, aged (a little too much) sheep cheese, jamón ibérico, paté de oca….

    I don’t even want to think about my LDL/HDL numbers. And I have not exercised at all in a couple of weeks. The jeans are tight already…. Oh gawwwwwwd. Just thinking about that first week back in the gym gives me the shivers.

    Actually, I had all the good intentions of finally breaking my running shoes out of the suitcase, as Sevilla seems to be a GREAT place to run. It has lots of parks, ample boulevards, and blessedly flat streets (remember we were coming from Lisbon)that are any runner's dream.

    But not only have I not run much lately because of a minor injury but mostly because I’m a rain wimp. If I get caught in the rain, fine, I’ll keep going… but starting out in the rain? I’m not that hardcore.

    The rain did pitter out around noon (this seemed to be norm; and returning in full-force and with a vengeance at around 7:00pm too!) so we dressed up in a few layers and headed out to visit one of the items on my Must-Do List: Hospital de los Venerables.

    To get there we still had to pass by the Cathedral and the Alcazar entrance; the lines were just as bad as the day before! But given that it was a Sunday, I still had hopes to just be able to walk in during the week.

    And this was early May! Supposedly at the low season, easing into the shoulder period. I cannot fathom how crowded it must be in the middle of summer… and with the heat on top of that.

    Since the Hospital has free admittance on Sunday, I began to worry about it being mobbed with people given the crowds all around. It was not! Just a couple in front of us getting their free tickets and we were in.

    The Hospital de los Venerables was built in the 17th century to serve as a retirement home for priests. It has a large patio surrounded by what used to be the residence and a large baroque church.

    The church is a showcase for the well-known Sevillian painters of the period. It is covered in large frescoes and contains beautiful sculptures and paintings. The gold-leafed organ up in the choir is almost more of the centerpiece than the main altar. Beautiful, but the Baroque is not my period of choice…. Hence the curbed enthusiasm.

    The courtyard is considered to be a prime representation of the traditional Sevillian patio with its tiled walls and center stepdown fountain. I will not fully disagree, but there are much prettier (quainter?) patios to be found in town. This has more of a ‘cloister’ feel (and I LOVE cloisters!) than the more intimate, residential Andalusian patios that I absolutely adore.

    The ground floor also houses the Diego Velázquez Center where a few of his paintings and some of his contemporary artists, including Murillo, are showcased. His Santa Rufina and Immaculate Conception canvases are worth the price of admission by themselves.

    Happily having checked off the first item off my list and buoyed by that sense of accomplishment we went back into the narrow, mazelike streets of Santa Cruz, made even more treacherous by the puddles all around. Of course, that did not stop hordes of Sevillanos and Tourists alike to go and hang out on a Sunday afternoon as is the God-given privilege and duty of any Spaniard.

    The Tourist Office offers a map in which a recommended walking itinerary of the barrio is routed. Well, good luck following that one! I would just recommend wandering around, taking every turn and drinking up the sheer exuberance of BEING in Sevilla. If you get really lost, eventually you will come to a major monument or street where you can regroup and recalculate.

    But it was time for ‘refreshments’ and we headed back to the Venerables plaza and managed to snag an outside table (next to heater and deep under the awning). This visit was somewhat sentimental as we had sat in this very place at Casa Román 15 years ago. We ordered our glasses of wine and two tapas: croquettes and stuffed mushrooms.

    I have a big thing for croquetas, I’m in an eternal quest to find the best one ever! The ones in Casa Román were really good; they had a slightly crunchy exterior and a deliciously unctuous ham filling. The mushrooms were between ok and meh.

    And then it started raining and we were stuck there for quite a while. Lesson learned: we might as well have ordered the bottle of wine, not just the glass. Much more cost efficient.

    Without further comments on our state of sobriety, we were ready to keep wandering when the rain stopped. Strolling through the Judería we unexpectedly came into the ‘back entrance’ of the Patio de las Banderas (technically part of the Alcazar) and then we moved on past Main Entrance of the cathedral. As we walked by, I noticed an open, rather discreet (well, compared to its surroundings!), entrance into an area of the Cathedral we had not seen before. No need to guess, of course we went in.

    Back in 2001, the Catedral de Sevilla had been undergoing massive restoration and many areas were closed off. This is the only explanation I can come up with for having entirely missed the Iglesia del Sagrario, so massive that it cannot be considered a chapel though it is part of the complex and it is open to it (through a 'herrrería' gate).

    Remember when only a few paragraphs below I said that Baroque was not my thing? Well, I can still drool when I come across a masterpiece of any style. I swooned.


    Every detail is worth discussing but I will limit myself just to mention the incredible sense of architectural space imparted by the eight colossal structures of the Church Fathers and the Evangelists looking down sternly from above the high tribunes. Almost more Mannerist than Baroque.

    The effect is somewhat diminished by the netting placed at frieze level to prevent any piece of the crumbling plasterwork from falling down into the church (or churchgoers for that matter). Or maybe not, having the net ’interrupting’ at that level gives the eye a reference height level that can ‘humanize’ the size of the building and the sculptures themselves. Visit it, and let me know your opinion. If you happen to find it open, that is.

    After that we called it a day. Returning to the apartment we picked up a few bottles of that wonderful red wine (it did not even have a real label, just a tag around the bottle neck!) and had an outstanding meal of braised veal shank served with green beans and potatoes.

    All made without an oven and in a two burner gas stove with 18” of counter space next to it.

    Next: More Churches and Some Flamenco

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    Marigross,

    I'm so enjoying your report in advance of our trip to Seville next March. Thank you for taking the time to do a write up. I'm sorry it was so soggy though. We were in Italy (Umbria and Rome) during the same period and also encountered a lot of rain. We visited the same area last year and had nothing but sun--so it was a bit of a disappointment.

    Given your comments about longs lines at the Cathedral, I thought it was worth mentioning that with a combined ticket purchased at the Church of El Savador, it appears you can bypass the worst of the Cathedral's lines--or at least that's what we're hoping for purposes of our own trip.

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    Monday, May 9th: A Busy Day of Churches, Palaces and Dancers


    Once again we followed our lazy morning routine of indulging in a high-quality yet super caloric and fat laden breakfast. We did set out earlier than usual when we realized that, even though the sky was an alarming shade of gray, it was in fact, not raining (at the moment).

    I have not mentioned anything about this but I had actually enjoyed looking into clothing store windows in Sevilla. The area where we mostly walked was full of haute-couture ateliers showcasing simple and elegant gowns and dresses, some of which I could actually visualize myself wearing. Well, at least in an alternate universe where I have the big bucks AND the occasions to wear them to. Those store could keep an interested shopper occupied for days.

    But the real eye catchers (for me) were all the Sevillana dresses and their associated paraphernalia. Did you know that the Sevillana dress is the only folkloric ‘costume’ that is still subject to fashion trends? I learned this trivia bit on this trip. This means that you should not wear your friend’s dress from 15 years ago when you get invited into one of the tents during the Feria de Abril. Anyway, the dresses could be seen everywhere and they were drop dead gorgeous. Even wedding dresses in Sevillana style.

    I did had a very simple agenda for the day but somehow it turned into probably the busiest one we had during our stay.

    As we wandered through these streets we came across the highly recommended Casa de la Memoria, a flamenco venue. I told DH that sometime during the week I wanted to go see the show.

    Him, being what I call a Slow-Motion-Type-A Personality (he takes his sweet time coming into a decision but once it is reached it has to happen immediately) and seeing that the ticket price was quite reasonable (€18pp), said ‘OK, let’s get tickets for tonight’. Okaaayyy. I did not see that one coming. We got two tickets for the 9:00PM show.

    Just a couple of doors down the street was another of the places on my must-see list: the Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija. It opens on limited hours during the weekend (10:00 - 14:00) so we had not realized that we had walked in front of it several times. The ground floor can be visited ‘freely’ (€5 but free on Mondays) but the upper/family floor can only be seen with a guided tour (€8, no discount for the lower level being free on Monday), which -of course- we had just missed.

    The next tour was just too long to wait it out and too short to actually go and do something else. We opted to skip and come back later for the second next once we were done with the destination I had had in mind to visit that day.

    - Travel Error Level: Medium (You have been on a Plane and Posses a Passport)

    - Tip to Overcome: Get the d@amn ticket when you have the chance.


    Our first ‘real’ stop was the Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador, aka ‘El Salvador’ for short; another one I had completely missed in 2001. We had to queue for about 10 minutes to get in, but this worked out greatly to our favor as we found out during that time that we could buy a ticket COMBINED with entrance to the cathedral that would not have a time assignment and could be used any day up to 7 days after purchase. Score!

    No Travel Expert Points gained as I should have researched this and known beforehand about the combo, but you go ahead and singlehandedly plan a 3-month trip and then we'll talk about it, lol!

    El Salvador is the second-largest church in Sevilla and had several periods of glory and decline since its initial consecration in 1340. As common with a lot of churches in Andalusia, it was built over a mosque dating back to the 9th Century.

    My first thought entering this church was ‘And here is all of the blood gold and silver that came from the conquest of the Americas for the glory of the Motherland and Church’. In case there is any doubt, this is not a happy thought. It is quite the opposite.

    The Main Altar and the two Side ‘Retablos’ are a cascade of gold from ceiling to floor and quite impressive in their beautiful workmanship. Breathtaking even. Wow!

    But still….From somewhere deeply embedded in my genetic makeup, my Taíno heritage screamed in outrage and pain: ‘This is what we died for. This is why we were made slaves. This is the reason we were obliterated.’

    As much as I love Spain and everything Spanish, I’m still American (please note the term is not only used to refer to US citizens -which BTW, I also happen to be- but to the ENTIRE continent of South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean). The Spanish Conquest is celebrated in Spain, commemorated in a few (Latin)American countries and abhorred by the remaining nations, mostly where the Native American population managed to prevail.

    Anyway, the church is a beauty and well worth the visit. Google it for a more accurate and less emotional description.

    The museum also contains clothing and jewelry articles of outstanding workmanship. At one point we might talk about my obsession with old weaving and embroidery work.

    Back to the Palacio we found that the tour we had wanted to take was sold out. What!?!? This place is THAT popular? Of course we had not bought the ticket beforehand, we wanted to be ‘free’ in case we took longer than expected. What to do but get tickets yet the next timeslot and wait it out with a nice glass of wine in hand.

    The Casa Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija was a 16th Century Mudéjar palace that was bought and restored by Doña Regla Manjón y Margelina, Condesa de Lebrija (don't you just love that name?), in 1901. She had a passion for Roman archaeology and acquired from –ahem- private collectors (I’m sure all legally) ancient mosaics and sculptures to decorate her new home.

    The ground floor looks like you might have mistakenly wandered into a rich house in Pompeii or Herculano. Of course, then you would notice the intricate stone ‘lacework’ in the Mudéjar archways and the outstanding tilework and know that you could not be anywhere else than Sevilla.

    The Condesa was an avid collector and the artwork is extensive. Greek statues, Etruscan vases, Louis XV furniture… you name it, she probably got it. Google her, she seems to have been quite a remarkable woman.

    The upper floor (no pictures allowed; ugh! Hate that!!!) is a journey into the lives of the early 20th Century 1%. A little somber and heavy on religious artifacts, but this is typical of Spanish residences when compared to Italian or French palaces of the same period.

    I could have spent at least twice at long admiring the 1000’s of objects, furniture and artwork displayed. I despise guided tours.

    Of course, by the time we were done it had started to rain. As in ‘you will be soaked within 20 seconds no matter if you have umbrellas’ pouring. We looked around for potential escape routes and opted to just dash across the street to the El Patio de San Eloy restaurant.

    We soon realized that this is a chain/franchise place. It also has one of those menus filled with pictures that are mostly aimed at tourist. We were a bit skeptical but, hey, any port in storm! (quite literally). We ordered wine, a ‘ración’ of black squid rice (almost good) and some kind of spring rolls filled with oxtail (meh). For €26 we thought it was not exactly worth it. Could have had 2 full ‘menu del día’ somewhere else for the same amount.

    But as we sipped our wines, we contemplated the rest of the evening under that deluge. We had tickets for the 9:00pm show. That left us at least 4 hours to spare. Go back to the apartment? Ok, but then we would have had to come BACK. Getting soaked on the way home is an acceptable risk, but on the way to sit in a theater… certainly not.

    I waited for a break in the rain and dashed across the street, back into Casa de la Memoria. They were able to change our tickets for the 7:30pm show without any problems. Now we only had 2 hours to spare.

    We nursed our wine glasses for a while and then went over to the El Salvador Plaza and had two more at the crazy-busy bar La Bodeguita. Yes, we do drink a lot. We are ok with that.

    The recommendation for the Casa de la Memoria show came from lots of sources but particularly important to me was the one from Fodorite Kimhe, a passionate fan of Flamenco. This show had been described as an intimate venue that comes as close as you can to a ‘real’ Flamenco experience in a commercial show setting.

    I have seen a few flamenco shows, so I did not really ‘need’ a big show with dozens of flashy dancers and 25 costume changes. I will say that this show was absolutely perfect. There was a big emphasis on the music with the female and male dancers coming out and doing their thing in between. I loved it.

    That is, except the idiot guy that was sitting next to me and clapping along. WHAT?!?! As an audience member you do NOT clap along, the clapping by itself is part of the music and a full art form, the body of the dancer and the musicians turns into a percussion instrument. This is like humming loudly at the Opera along with the soprano. He got a few pointed looks from all sides (including the stage) but he carried along happy as a clam.

    We had had a long day so we headed back to the apartment after the show, thankfully dry, and had delicious leftovers for dinner.

    Next: The Big Church, finally…

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    marigross - I'm sorry that there were queues at the Cathedral and the Palacio Real - in September a few years ago we experienced none at all and thought how uncrowded Seville was; it was one of the reasons that we so loved the Palacio Real because we could wander around without the hoards that descend upon the Alhambra.

    Perhaps it was the time of year, or perhaps even in 4-5 years, it has become even more popular.

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    ann, I did not remember those lines either! We did manage both so, no harm done. And once you are inside the space is so massive that the crowds dilute and you can enjoy yourself nevertheless.

    indy, we found that 'shortcut' by sheer dumb luck. :)

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    I can see it before my eyes, "the idiot guy that was sitting next to me and clapping along" at the flamenco performance. And of course you are absolutely right, it's just "like humming loudly at the Opera along with the soprano".

    That's the huge risk of seeing otherwise great flamenco together with people who have no clue. Flamenco is so much about communication, both between the artists and between the artists and the audience, and the clap-along could of course ruin everything for everybody. But, I cant't help smile, and you'll never forget those "anti-flamenco" moments either. At least it reminds you how little seperates a great flamenco experience from something quite akward. There's no such thing as ok flamenco, it always balances on a very thin line, and that's part of the excitement, whether it takes off or not.

    Next time in Sevilla (or elsewhere in Andalucía or in Badajoz (Extremadura), Madrid or Barcelona), see this site for updated schedule for all kinds of flamenco performances - from small clubs to huge theaters - with mostly a local crowd. http://www.guiaflama.com/

    Here are three very different examples of the power of flamenco communication (you don't want any clap-along here;-) ):
    - David Peña Dorantes and Joaquin Grilo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOjtXiPl8Rk
    - Eva Yerbabuena and José Valencia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clCZYH5VNWw
    - Rocío Molina and Fernando de la Morena: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQpoEFuEQb0

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    Kimhe, I loved the intimacy of the show, and being so small it was easy to see the communication between the dancers and musicians. Even the raised eyebrows from the guitarist when one of the dancers went seemingly offscript in an extended and very forceful performance. It was great. Worth every penny and then some.

    Also, my sister saw my pictures from the show (taken at the end!) before she was heading out to Spain and Seville on a standard tour. She cancelled the Flamenco show she had booked with them, the 3 of them could go to Casa de la Memorial for less than the cost of a single ticket with the tour! And she loved it while the tour mates were 'ahhhhhh-not-so-thrilled' with theirs, complaining about the big push for drinks and food during the show.

    Bedar, yes I did! ;)

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    Tuesday, May 10th: The Big Church and the Missing Naranjos

    The highlight of the morning was a return to the La Encarnación Market where we purchased an almost indecent amount of razor clams and mussels for our dinner that evening.

    After dropping our precious cargo in the apartment we headed out, but it was really yucky weather. I even wore a baseball cap to go out; yes, it was THAT bad. But the only thing that nasty weather like that is perfect for is the eating of that Spanish breakfast or late night snack: Churros con Chocolate.

    We purchased a ‘ración’ at Kukurucho, a churro joint established in the Virgen de los Reyes street since 1875. Had to wait until the guy rewarmed the oil and set the whole churro-maker contraption.

    In case you are not familiar with this food item, churros are long sticks of fried dough. Sort of like funnel cake. When they are perfect, they should be crispy on the outside, fluffy in the inside and without a trace of the taste of the frying oil. The cakey interior is crucial so that they can meet their intended purpose: soaking up the hot chocolate.

    Now, this chocolate is not what most people would expect. It is not really meant to be drunk. Though you certainly can, possibly with the aid of a spoon. Spanish 'breakfast' Chocolate is thick to the point of being more of a creamy ganache. On its own it would be too cloying and thick, but it is just perfect for coating and being absorbed into that hot churro… It was heavenly.

    (Still actively trying to ignore the tightening of the jeans here!)

    Armed with the ticket combo we had purchased the day before at El Salvador and umbrellas, we then proceeded to attempt to go to the Cathedral under the light rain.

    There were general flood warnings for almost all of Spain, but specifically targeted for the South and particularly strongly worded for Sevilla. We remained naively optimistic, confident in the puny umbrellas in our hands and rain ponchos in my bag.

    When a deluge of biblical proportions unleashed over Sevilla, we had to just run into the nearest available shelter. Thunder, lightning and gale force wind, amidst the torrential rain; this was SO not what we thought we were signing up for with a spring trip. By this point we were just sick of the rain. (Ha! And there was yet so much more to come….)

    The pedestrian street in which we were was completely flooded in a matter of minutes. Shop owners looked at the raising level with escalating concern but the severe downpour did not last long enough for the water to actually get in over their stoops. But even with raincoat/ponchos we got our legs soaked…while taking cover. Did I mention that the temperature was in the mid 50’s (°F)? Not nice to walk around with wet socks and shoes.

    The 10-minute walk from our apartment to the Cathedral lasted at least a good part of an hour.

    The entrance for the Caterdral de Sevilla visit might be a little confusing. There is a (very obvious) line for people without tickets; which today shorter than in the past days, but still wayyyy too long. That must had NOT been fun, trying to hold out your place in line under the torrential rain!

    Then there is a different entrance for groups and people with reservations just next to the Giralda tower. From there, and easily missed because people seem to gather or bunch up in front of the sign and entrance, there are two separate lines to go in. Individual Ticket Holders do not have to wait in the same long-though-fast-moving line as the people entering as part of the group, they can entirely bypass the queue and head straight to the door. After clearing up the confusion, we were inside within a few minutes.

    I know, still no Travel Expert Points earned, I should have known this as well!

    There are enough internet resources available so I will not go into a full description of all the marvels held within this magical space. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world (if you get technical about what is a Cathedral and what is not) and the third largest in the world.

    This church was built with one purpose: showcasing Spanish power after the Reconquista. It was made to impress. And it indubitably does.

    Construction started in 1401 and continued…. well, almost forever as they had several of their domes collapse through the years.

    The choir is a masterpiece! We sat there drinking it in for a while (ok, DH just kept me company and people watched while I gawked). One more time I am grateful for independent traveling. There must have been at least 15 different tours being herded by in the time we were there. They barely had time to snap a picture!

    We also took our time going through the museum pieces and admiring the amazing metalwork and jewelry treasures. The incredibly rich and ornate relic containers are always interesting, yet a little bewildering, to see. The kind of things that make you realize first hand that Luther did have a few very good points, lol.

    We had been up to the Giralda on our trip before (and got caught in full bell ringing. It was LOUD!) so we decided there was no need to go up again. I guess we have gotten to the age where you start to really consider in which towers you will ‘invest’ your knees.

    The Patio de los Naranjos was basically one big puddle. And there was not even a single Naranjo (orange) left in the trees! I guess the rain and wind had taken care of all of them. Still, the smell of the beaten leaves still filled the air with their delicious perfume.

    When we exited, we noticed that the line to the Alcazar was surprisingly short. OK! I thought excitedly. Now is the time to go in! We got in line, and maybe 15 minutes later we got to the ticket office door where it was clearly advised that the gardens where closed for the day due to the bad weather.

    WHAT? Wouldn’t that be better located somewhere actually visible from the queue?!?

    Now, that was a problem! Because one of the main reasons I wanted to go back to the Alcazar was to leisurely visit the gardens which we had almost entirely bypassed the first time due to time constraints and tired feet.

    I guess it was time to just give in and purchase tickets online while hoping for better weather. I dislike giving out my CC to websites if there is a reasonable way to avoid it. There was not.

    It was still early but we both had damp, cold feet so we made our way back home, having to duck into a bar or two to avoid yet more episodes of rain. You know, really, what else can you do?

    After warm showers, turning on the portable heater, and bundling into cozy clothes we were ready to indulge ourselves in shellfish. I debearded the mussels and took the razor clams out of the fridge, rinsed them in cold water to take out the sand…. And they all started moving! Squirting out of the shells and bobbing up and down. These things were not fresh… they were ALIVE! Not for long though.

    I will only say that we might have incurred in the Capital Sin of Gluttony but we are hoping that all the church going we have been doing will be counted in our favor. Those things were delicious!

    Next: Visting Cayetana and a dash to Triana

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    Wednesday, May 11th: A Long Story, One More Palace and then Across the Bridge

    Yet again, the rain pounded against the windows this morning. The weather forecast was bad enough to bring tears into my eyes, nothing but solid rain until Friday (when we were leaving, of course). I looked at my ‘Sevilla Wish List’ and resolutely crossed out anything that was not an Absolute Must Do.

    Growing up I was exposed to Spanish culture by my travel-loving non-traditional Grandmother. When I was 2yrs old and my mom underwent a difficult and semi-scandalous divorce, my grandmother’s response was to take us both to Spain so that we could all ‘get a grip on our new life’. I have no idea how many times she visited the country, but we always had Spanish-bought big jars of Nutella and knitted knee high stockings from El Corte Inglés.

    My grandpa worked for PanAm so she was able to fly for almost free; though he never ever boarded a plane as a passenger. This was his choice, he happily stayed home and took care of the kids and household. Also because he was much better at this than she was… but now I really digress.

    Why do I bring this up? (Please, bear with me a little here!) Because part of her Spanish obsessions was the ‘reading’ of the weekly glossy magazine ‘¡Hola!’. Well, you can ‘read’ it if you want but all it really is about is the pictures of international celebrities and royal families. I might even willingly admit to having purchased a copy or two during my adult life.

    Now, and approaching the actual point to this rambling, one of the Spanish Semi-Royal Celebrities that was regularly featured in the magazine was the always interesting and many times controversial socialite, Doña María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, (among her many other titles). I was fascinated by her! So imagine my joy when I read early this year that her beloved Sevillian residence, the Palacio de las Dueñas, had been opened to the public! (See, I did have a travel point to make with all this!)

    There was conflicting information in the internet at the time I looked it up. Was it really open to the public? Only guided/private visits? Even fellow Fodorites were unsure. But we were in Sevilla and this was certainly a high ranking item on my must do list. We would have to find out the old fashioned way, we had to go there. Happily we were quite close to the Palace so it would not be that bad if we couldn’t see it; aside from crushing my hopes.

    No choice but to take a deep breath, accept the facts at hand, bundle up, put on the baseball cap, and brave the rain. We had things to see.

    Well, It was open to the public! They only started fully receiving visitors in March 2016 but sometime before that they accepted guests as part of a soft opening, hence all the conflicting reports. They are now in full swing and it is a very popular destination for tourist and Spaniards alike. Even in the downpour the place was not empty.

    Entrance was €8 for me and reduced at €6 for DH (over 65 yr olds). Free on Mondays.

    BTW, almost all places (churches being the notable exception) offer senior discounts. These range from 50% to 25% off. You are usually asked to show ID/Proof of Age when purchasing. The reduced fees are clearly shown in the price list but will never be offered outright, even if you look 95 years old and a day away from the grave. You really need to speak up and ask for them as the entrance fees do add up after a while.

    Even for the online purchase of reduced tickets we had to show ID at the entrance. One of the few things the Spanish seem to be rather strict about.

    But back to our posthumous visit to Cayetana….

    Even from the entrance gate you know that you are in for a treat. The front wall of the Palacio de las Dueñas is covered from roof to garden with old bougainvilleas; in full bloom at the time they were a riot of purples and pink. Even in the rain -which made the sandy paths in the garden very slippery!- this was one of my favorite things of the entire trip.

    The palace was built in the late 15th century in Renaissance style with Gothic and Moorish influences, and is considered one of the most iconic historic homes in Sevilla.

    I just think that it is the epitome of Sevillian living, well… of the 10% that is; might as well make that 0.1% for all it matters. It has it all! The garden, the tiled courtyards with Mudéjar acrches, the artwork, the formal rooms… everything you can think of when you imagine Sevilla.

    The suggested route starts in the large garden. It was wet, miserable and absolutely lovely. Flowers in every color of the rainbow. The open roses were mostly spent as they had been pelted mercilessly by the rain, but enough buds were coming to keep the colors full. The garden is full of nooks and crannies where a young royal could hide away from the world for a couple of hours.

    Only the ground floor of the palace is open as the family still keeps private apartments there, but it is enough to keep an interested person busy for quite a while. I loved it. (I know, it’s hard to tell!) The way museum-quality furniture pieces, paintings, sculptures and decorative objects are mingled with personal mementos of the family is just lovely.

    The patio is THE prime example of Sevillian courtyards (well, of the no-budget, the sky is the limit ones). It manages to be impeccably elegant, perfectly proportioned and yet inviting and intimate at the same time.

    I’ll stop raving about this palace now with just one more thing to add: go see it! Worth every penny of admission price.

    As we exited the palace we debated about where to go next. The rain had ceased for a while and we contemplated our options. There was still so much on my to-see list! I chose to go over the Guadalquivir river and visit the Triana neighborhood, something we had not done in our first trip.

    In an almost unprecedented event, DH suggested that we take a cab! He thinks that resorting to public transportation is sort of a personal failing, he usually follows the ‘why ride when you have two good legs to walk’ philosophy. But, since the rain was holding off we had no time to waste just walking from place to place. Alright! No resistance offered from my side.

    The cabbie dropped us of after the Isabel II bridge (popularly known as Puente de Triana) and pointed us to a few must see landmarks in the area. We were nearing lunchtime and most of the churches that we tried to see were closed. Bummer.

    Once again the rain made the decision for us of where to stop for a bite. In a neighborhood known for eateries we were surprised to find ourselves in another location of the Patio de San Eloy. We had had a large breakfast so we just ordered some calamari (very good) and a ‘tortita de camarones’ (shrimp fritter; tasty but sadly on the greasy side). It was great people watching as many locals dashed in to take shelter from the downpour and eat a few bites.

    After a spin around the neighborhood, and finding everything still closed for lunch we headed back to the Mercado de Triana. I wished we had done this earlier as it looked absolutely awesome but by the time we arrived all the shops and restaurants were in the process of closing down. There was even a cooking class having their final celebratory sangrias; the slightly tipsy participants gave it an enthusiastic two-thumbs up when I peeked in.

    My impression was that though there were plenty of stalls showcasing beautiful produce, meats, and fish, the main thing for this market is not the selling of foodstuff for the home cook, but focuses instead on the restaurant/tapa offerings. There were lots of places with ample and rather upscale tasting menus. Naturally with prices to go along with the target audience.…. Waaaay up there, especially when compared to what can be had around in the area. Still, the market was quite nice and I would have greatly enjoyed having had a few glasses and people watching had we gotten there earlier.

    The rain gave us a little break and we were able to walk first along the riverside and then back into the little streets of Triana with all the ceramics and tile shops. Our wanderings led us to the entrance of Las Golondrinas, a tapas bar that I had had on my sadly neglected to-go list. The place is very cool looking and has great tilework, worth the detour even if only to snap a few pictures.

    We managed to sneak in just as they were closing after lunch and had a small ‘solomillo’ tapa. Good, but nothing to walk a long way exclusively for. I would have wanted to try other things on the menu but we were not hungry at all, the kitchen was closing, and we would be having dinner back in the apartment.

    After that we just gave up and taxied home where, after long hot showers, we cozily settled to finish up some bottles of wine, prayed for not-totally-awful weather as I purchased online tickets to the Alcazar, and cook up the gorgeous shank we had purchased. Yeah…. It was good.

    Next: Gardens and More Gardens

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    Thursday, May 12th: Wading and Wandering at the End of our Week

    It had rained during the night. A lot. And with wind. Strong wind. But as we got ready for our 10:30am timed entrance to the Alcazar and the Royal Apartments it seemed that the worse of the storm was over and only a light drizzle was falling. Given the circumstances, fine, we would take it (as if we had any choice!).

    During our 2001 trip we had visited the Real Alcázar de Sevilla but we had given it only a fraction of the time it deserves; matter of fact, we had not explored the gardens at all. The cause for this was twofold: First, we only had 2 full days in Seville with an aggressive agenda, and second but even more important, I had not yet had a very much needed foot surgery for Morton’s Neuroma; I had been in excruciating pain from walking too much at the time.

    Having purchased our tickets online the night before, (and saved them to pdf AND taken screen shots of the entire email confirmation as I did not have portable internet) we were able to bypass the incredibly long line. Once again and same as in the Cathedral, the pre-purchased ticket holder line can be easily missed as it seems to be mingled with the guided-tour line. There is a lot of room for improvement for crowd management and any second year Industrial Engineering student could increase efficiency dramatically without major investment.

    So you do need to push your way to the front and show evidence of your ticket to be allowed in. DH did have to show his ID to the entrance guard and to the ticket agent to prove his right to entry with a discounted senior ticket.

    The entrance to the Royal Apartments was almost as confusing. You are told to be at the entrance at least 15 minutes before the scheduled entry time and vaguely pointed towards the entrance staircase. I could be kind and say that signage could be improved but this would be an understatement.

    We did find it and registered at the entrance counter. Then you have to put your bags through scanners and only after that step has been completed, you can store them in the lockers. Utter confusion resulting in the entire locker cabinet having to be emptied and all bags rescanned. SIGNAGE PEOPLE!!!! You cannot bring any kind of bag, you cannot have anything in your hands, and of course, pictures are not allowed.

    These apartments are still the official residence of the royal family when they attend official functions in Seville so security is tight. Groups of 20 persons are only allowed per half hour slot, and all morning tours were sold out. If you are interested, pre-purchase the ticket as there seems to be high demand.

    You are handed audio guides and then everyone is escorted from room to room by a guard. It was perfectly ok but I was expecting a guided tour, the kind where you can ask questions from a knowledgeable docent. That was not the case. The content of the audio guide is very good but you do get herded through the rooms and I would have enjoyed a more leisurely pace.

    Overall, a very worthwhile visit BUT for people that have lots of time available. I would not want to cut short a visit to the main Alcazar in favor of the Royal Apartments, even as interesting as I found them to be. A single caveat: please remember that I’m a registered Spainaholic and History Buff, others might not be as interested as I am.

    Recovering our (well…mine) bags was even more complicated because now more people were trying to get into the tile exhibit located next to the lockers, the ones in the next tour were trying to scan their bags, and yet others were mobbing the Apartment entrance counter trying to buy tickets when the whole thing was sold out for the day.

    We went through the ‘standard’ Audio Guide route and I must admit that the first time around I had missed a LOT of the stuff to see in the Alcázar, not only the gardens. DH thinks that many of the places had not even been open in 2001 because he did not remember them either. I mean, the Casa de Contratación, the Sala de la Justicia / Patio del Yeso or the Gothic Palace are hard to miss and certainly would have made an impression.

    Of course the Patio de las Doncellas is unforgettable and just as lovely as I remember. Only the Alhambra in Granada can compare (and surpass) in Mudéjar beauty. This time we took our time to admire the bounty of details and wait between tour groups to get semi-decent photo ops.

    By the time we reached the gardens the rain had stopped enough (Yay!!!!) to leisurely walk through the paths; though they were a mud pit and slippery as ice. We were certainly wading and wobbling through them. I can see why the Gardens were closed on the day of the big deluge! I guess most people opted out anyway and we were able to walk (wade) solo in the most remote areas. The Grotto Gallery, the Fuente de Mercurio, and the Tea House were absolutely lovely!

    Another place which we had not seen before, but I do believe was only ‘recently’ opened, were the , Baños de María Padilla, the ancient cisterns of the Alcázar. Oh my, what a wondrous space! One can easily imagine coming in here to cool down during the stifling Sevillian summer, every sound reflected the vaulted ceiling and the bounced on the reflective pool. The powerful presence of water is just soothingly felt in the air. Magical. No return trip would be complete without a visit to this space.

    We exited the Alcázar by the Patio de las Banderas and took the back ‘shortcut’ through the Judería into the Barrio de Santa Cruz. Of course, by then we were in sore need of refreshments and we dashed into Las Teresas for our ‘last’ tapas in Seville while we decided what to do next.

    The sun seemed to be (finally) willing to cooperate so we decided to go for one more item on my ‘Must-Do’ list. We grabbed a taxi and first made a stop to purchase our bus tickets back to Faro the next day…you know, as to not to repeat the –ahem- ‘missing’ bus error from before. Tickets in hand for the 7:30am bus, we jumped into another taxi (yeah, we were getting the hang of this transportation mode!) and told him to head to Parque de María Luisa.

    This was another ‘new’ place for us. In 2001 I had known that it was included in all the ‘standard’ tours and that even the horse carriage rides went through it, but somehow I had discarded the park and the Plaza de España as a ‘minor attraction’. In my post-Fodors-discovery stage, I had added it to the ‘Reasons Why We Need to Go Back to Sevilla’ list.

    In all honesty, yes, it sort of is a minor attraction, but only when compared to World Class sites such as the Alcázar or the Cathedral. It was absolutely beautiful, made even more so by the long awaited presence of the sun! We finally got some blue-sky pictures.

    It was a joy to walk in the plaza and look at the marvelous tiles. They certainly grabbed the theme and ran with it, lol. We spent quite some time meandering and looking at the people struggle with the row boats.

    We kept going to the Plaza de las Américas but by the time we got there we had had enough of parks and gardens. Also, the gardens in this area were not as meticulously maintained. We were tired and not really wanting to visit the surrounding museums. It was time to call it a day.

    We had dinner at Café Victoria Eugenia as it was close to where we were, we had had some good tapas there before, and we still had to finish up packing and cleaning up. We were seated upstairs and had lots of entertainment looking down to the kitchen and the bantering waiters as they hustled and bustled through the restaurant. We shared a surprisingly good ‘arroz negro’ for two.

    Our time in Sevilla had come to an end. Maybe it was because the weather had kept us from making the most of our stay, but we would have happily stayed another week, or two.

    Or maybe we wanted to stay in Sevilla because we had been forced to take it as it was always meant to be experienced: visiting amazing sites at a leisurely pace, partaking in slow afternoons of wine sipping and tapas nibbling, spending time in the kitchen mesmerized by the superb ingredients readily available, wandering through history seeped streets…. I guess even a month would not have been enough.

    Yes, we loved everything about Sevilla. And we think it loved us right back. We WILL be back. Soon.

    Friday, May 13th: Back to Faro, a night in Beja and then…. EXTRAMADURA

    I have added the story of this full day to my Southern Portugal report as it ended up in the town on Beja, so I will only add here that getting a taxi in the morning was a breeze… getting the mini-van taxi out of the narrow, maze-like tangle of one-way streets in which we had stayed, not so much.

    The driver had to back down long stretches in reverse a few times once it became obvious that the car was too wide, that was followed by a 21-point turn around which proved to be futile as we did not fit through THAT street either, at the end he wound up driving against traffic (with less than 2cm on each side) until we hit a major street.

    I will also add a plug into the report for the next stage our trip: Encountering Extremadura. I will include the link as soon as I get that going.

    Thanks to all that have kept me company during my long winded ramblings. ((L))

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    Marigross, thanks for the great report! Really like you writing style and the inclusion of so many interesting details. You really made the best of a disappointing weather scene.

    Like you, we loved Spain. In addition to the many main attractions, your report reminded us of so many little enjoyments about Seville: wandering the little streets and enjoying the beautiful courtyards in the homes, great sangrias, lunch along the Quadalquivir

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    Marigross, back again. Don't know how our incomplete message got sent. No doubt, accidentally hit "Submit".

    Anyway, back to the delightful Gualdalquivir River lunch, we followed up with a stroll in the surrounding Tirana neighborhood. We loved all the tile work and flowers.

    We've never been to Portugal, but have enjoyed TRs posted by others. We'll look forward to yours.

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