Sightseeing In Seville – The Beating Heart of Spain
Seville had been on our list of must-dos since we arrived in Spain. So after we said goodbye to Andy and Moira in Conil as they were about to start the long journey back to Northern Ireland, we too headed north but only as far as our anticipated visit to Seville.
The car park come aire on the other side of the bridge from the Plaza de Espana costs €10 per night with an extra €2.50 if you want EHU (37.373866,-5.995995). We arrived mid-afternoon and there were approx 12 other motorhomes already parked.
The electric hook up points are available on the riverside spots but were all already taken. No problems for us though as the bright sunny weather was pumping more than enough electricity into our batteries from the solar panel we had installed. The car park attendant gave us a ticket and indicated we should pay when we were leaving (cash only – no cards accepted).
Across the Puente de los Remedios bridge and straight ahead is the Av Rodrigos de Cassos which leads directly to the Plaza de Espana. I’d seen so many pictures of the Plaza but nothing prepared me for the show stopping sight of this incredible building.
I just stopped in my tracks hardly able to believe that this hugely impressive plaza had only been built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exhibition in 1929. Built as a continuous semi-circular building with a cloistered walkway, it is accessed by four bridges across a moat. Rowing boats are available for hire which were busy with excited school children queuing for their chance to view one of Spain’s most famous attractions from the water.
The walls of the Plaza have many tiled alcoves, each representing a province of Spain. Spanish tourists flock to have their photos taken sitting in the alcove of their home province. In the centre of the Plaza sits the Vicente Traver fountain which just sets off this spectacular building. I took so many photographs at the Plaza – everywhere I turned was a different, more inspiring view.
Heading towards the city centre we passed the University of Seville which had originally been a tobacco factory. Both Alan’s parents had worked in a tobacco factory in Belfast, which when it was built was the largest tobacco factory in the world. As a former smoker and pipe smoker Alan had a great interest in the history of tobacco. The import of tobacco from the Americas directly into Seville was the major contributor to Spain’s wealth from the 16th century.
The 18th century building was, when it was built the second largest building in Spain. Production began in 1758 with the first tobacco auctions taking place in 1763 and employed 1000 men, 200 horses and 170 mills which were used to turn the tobacco into snuff.
Today the building is a busy cosmopolitan university filled with all nationalities of students. As soon as we walked through the main entrance, the temperature dropped dramatically. The marble floors and banisters don’t heat up in the sun making for a very calm, cool and peaceful place.
My favourite photograph was taken beside the fountain in the central plaza where students had gathered to chat and relax.
Next on our list was the Santa Maria de la Sade cathedral which is, as usual, right in the centre of the busiest area of the city. Its immense scale makes it difficult to photograph through a normal camera lens.
Trams roll past the front entrance, shops and restaurants filled with tourists sit alongside the 15th Century cathedral.
The cathedral stands next to the The Archivo General de Indias, where priceless archives of Spain’s exploration of the Americas are housed in the ancient merchants’ exchange of Seville. At night the buildings are illuminated and make a spectacular sight.
At 11,520 sq metres it is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. At its rear stands the old mosque minaret, now known as the Giraldo Tower.
As we were visiting in the week before Easter the city was preparing for the huge celebrations and processions that take place between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Large areas of the pedestrian areas were being set out with seating for dignitaries and invited guests.
Balconies were being draped with red and gold cloths and some where pinning dried palm leaves to the drapes to celebrate Palm Sunday in a few days time.
We hoped to see at least one of the processions of floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of scenes of the trial of Christ, His journey to Calvary or images of the grieving Virgin Mary. Processions are organised by religious brotherhoods- members walk in front of the float dressed in long robes, their heads covered with tall pointed hoods called capirotes which are designed to allow the faithful to repent in anonymity. The floats are carried from local churches to cathedral and back during the Easter week with a huge procession taking place on Easter Sunday.
We found ourselves still in the city late in the evening and it became obvious that some sort of event was expected. We got ourselves a seat and waited to see what would happen. Eventually a procession appeared from a side street, a huge float depicting Christ carrying the cross to Calvary was lead by men dressed in purple robes with the pointed hoods. I felt very lucky to see this event – the local people had come out in their hundreds to line the streets. Men carried the float on their shoulders, its weight evident by the fact that they had to rest every twenty or so shuffled steps. Once the procession had passed the streets emptied and the street cleaners went to work. Half an hour later you’d never have known anything had happened.
The next day we walked up the riverside towards the Torre del Oro (Golden Tower). This was a 12 sided military watchtower constructed by the Moors to guard the Guadalquaivir river.
As we headed towards the city centre we were persuaded to sample the menu del día at Casa Carmen, which is located close to the Cathedral. Arriving at this classy, modern restaurant, Alan and I looked at each other and silently questioned whether they could possible have a menu del dia for €11.95.
But we walked in anyway – what a surprise. Through the main restaurant and out onto the large terrace (Alan had shorts on and didn’t feel suitably dressed for sitting inside lol), we chose a table overlooked by a beautiful Moorish tower.
The food was amazing, the service second to none and at €11.95 a real bargain. Call me shallow but I was most impressed by the fine mist that sprayed from the terrace roof at intervals, fine enough to cool the skin but not wet the clothes. I felt very cosmopolitan lol
As Seville is the home of the opera Carmen, Alan wanted to see the statue of her which was supposedly outside the bullring. Following google maps on my phone (huge mistake) a 15 minute walk took us almost 90 minutes. We spotted the bullring eventually but no sign of the lovely Carmen herself. We walked right round the bullring looking for her and were at the point of giving up when something made me look across the four lane road behind us – there she was – behind a fence surrounded by roadworks! Not even worth taking a photograph of her – Alan was disappointed, I was just exhausted. We retired to a nearby Irish Bar where Alan had a cold pint of Guinness.
As we walked back through the city we were taken with the architecture and details of the buildings. An eclectic mix of gothic, baroque and arabic influences.
Our favourite thing to do in Seville was to explore the narrow backstreets of the old Jewish quarter where we discovered small Flamenco studios and hidden courtyard gardens with decorative entrances.
I loved Seville but we didn’t see the Alcazar, the inside of the cathedral and the view from the minaret to name just three. I can’t wait to come back.