February 11-19, 2018
Our first order of business was to go to the Real Alcazar. Everything I had read online suggested that tickets could (and should) be purchased online ahead of time. But based on the crowd that we saw yesterday at what I considered “prime viewing time”, I figured that if we just got their early, we’d be ok. First stop: breakfast pastries!
Morning view of the cathedral
The line was already roughly fifty people long when we got there and as I stood in the morning sun, eating my breakfast, I realized that there were actually three lines. Our line, for people without tickets; a second line for people who had bought tickets ahead of time; and a third line dedicated to tour groups. All-in-all, the line moved fast enough and we were only waiting for twenty five minutes before we were able to buy our tickets and enter the gates to this historic Palace.
Waiting in line
The first thing I noticed upon entering were the parrots. I had mentally noted the number of people who had parrots on their balconies but now I realized that I was in error. They weren’t pet birds, but wild parrots that flew about the city as they liked. I later learned that they are not a native species at all, but are Rose-ringed Parakeets.
Here is a male Rose-ringed parakeet
We had neglected to grab a site map upon our entry so we really didn’t know where to go, nor what we were looking at. We meandered aimlessly from room to room, admiring the intricate architecture and details. And unfortunately for us, we still didn’t know what we were looking at, as we found that there were very few informative plaques located within the Alcazar. And the ones that we did find often lacked important information, such as dates.
The tour groups – they were the worst. I would be standing in a room, admiring the ceiling, or the tile work, or the floor and in they would swarm. Dozens of people all at once, crowding into the same room at the same time, all huddled around their tour guide. At least the more individual tourists didn’t commandeer a room like the tour groups did.
in addition to the lack of signage, there was also a lack of furnishings. This meant that vast halls were barren, leaving us to decide for ourselves what might have been in there in its heyday. Or even what use a room might have been put to.
Big, empty rooms
Our tour of the rooms eventually led us out the back door and into a variety of gardens. This is where we finally sat down and checked out the Wiki page on where we were. We learned more in that ten minutes than we had the entire morning.
I give up!
The gardens included a number of very small fountains, a half a dozen peacocks, winding paths and not-yet blooming plants. We were quite early in the season to enjoy the full splendour of what the gardens undoubtedly had to offer once summer hit. Oh well; I’d rather have fewer flowers than more people to contend with.
Oddly missmatched tile work
The map tapestry was fascinating to study
It is easy to overlook the details of such masterful work
Baths of Maria De Padilla
We had seen what we wanted to see here and decided that it was time to leave. We exited the Alcazar grounds and looped around to the other side, on our way to check out the very large Parque de Maria Luisa. I had seen some postcards from this area and it looked very interesting to me. But first, some more shots of the city as we explored our way to the park.
How do Vespas manage to look like an ad, just by being parked?
We wandered by the University of Seville which was a surprisingly uninteresting building, although it is impressive to consider that it was founded in 1505. From there, we made our way to the other side of a very large and busy roundabout. Now I knew where all of the horse and carriages raced off to when I saw them depart from the Cathedral grounds: horses trotted at a quick pace in the road, the drivers confident that the machines on the road would make room for them.
Maria Luisa’s park was huge! Large trees dominated the landscape while finely formed pools and ponds added another level of beauty. There were limited flowers in bloom at this time of year but even so, the park represented a quiet oasis in an otherwise bustling city. And when things got too quiet, all we had to do was head towards Plaza de España for some more excitement!
The Plaza was massive, with a gentle arc of a canal dividing the plaza from Palacio de San Telmo, the current seat of the regional government’s President.
Plaza de España
Boats for rent in the little canal
Amazing details were seen throughout the grounds
The Plaza is also famous for the murals that line the curved wall beyond the canal. There are 48 alcoves, one for each province of Spain. Each alcove contained colourful azulejos (painted ceramic tiles) with a relevant tableau and map. The design of these murals were individual for each province and the maps had a whimsical look to them.
The hands of the clock were indicating that it was lunch time, and our stomachs were beginning to agree. Dan had scoped out a top-rated lunch spot and we made our way there, crossing to the far side of the city in order to get there. We cut off a little bit of time by taking a very short tram that seems to exist purely for the tourists, as it has a very short route that links two of the major attractions in the city.
We eventually arrived at Eslava –
and just in time. While we had just missed the last available table, we were the first ones to take a seat at the bar. This was probably even better than a table, as we got a clear view of the hustle and bustle of the staff as they poured drinks, ran plates of food to the tables and rang up the orders. And within another ten minutes, the bar seats were all full and the lead waiter was making a waiting list. The last I had heard, there were nine groups in line for the next available table!
The wait was worth it. Eslava had both excellent food and service. We ordered half a dozen tapas, including their top-rated, award-winning dishes. We enjoyed a variety of food, perfectly timed as we finished one that another one would appear. When our last dish was served and consumed, we decided that there were others who would appreciate our seats at the bar and we made our way back into the streets of Seville.
An unassuming front to a delightful restaurant
That’s not a cigar, that’s an award-winning tapas!
The Pillars of Hercules was right around the corner so we wandered over to check it out. I am sure that this is a happening place in the summer, but today it seemed empty and rather boring. In doing a little bit of a search for more information on the area, I found Roberts69’s TripAdvisor review, which appears to be incredibly comprehensive, so here it is in its entirety:
“The Alameda de Hércules (Hercules mall), is a garden square or mall in Seville. Built in 1574, it was originally a promenaded public garden, named after the eight rows of white poplars trees (álamos in Spanish) that fill its central part. Located in the north half of the city’s historic centre, between the Guadalquivir River and the Macarena neighbourhood, it was the oldest public garden in Spain and Europe. In the late 19th century, the Alameda was a meeting place of the upper-classes, with many elegant theatres and kiosks. However, after the Civil War, the Alameda began to suffer a progressive deterioration, and became one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Seville, troubled by prostitution and drugs. A slow recovery began during the early 21st century, then public redevelopment funded by the city council totally renewed La Alameda in 2006-2008. Road traffic was limited, and a number of kiosks, benches and fountains installed. The promenade was also restored with the planting of many white poplars and European hackberry trees. La Alameda is now one of the main nightlife centres of Seville. La Alameda has 2 columns at each of its southern and northern ends. The 2 columns at the southern end of the square are from an original Roman temple, whereas the northern columns are modern reproductions. The 2 sculptures atop the 2 southern columns are of Hercules (mythological founder of Seville) and Julius Caesar (referred to as the restorer of the city during Roman rule.)”
The original pillars at the southern end
Always road construction somewhere…
I had joked that Dan needed a haircut and since we were in Seville, he should get his hair cut at the Barber of Seville. I didn’t expect him to agree with me, but we found ourselves in search of an open barbershop that afternoon. Dan checked out the top rated shop and we made our way there.
Unfortunately, the shop was closed and there were no hours listed in the windows. Dan went online and made himself an appointment for thirty minutes later. We went a few blocks away and spent our time people watching as the sun slowly warmed up the scene. For as interesting as the people were, I didn’t feel compelled to take any pictures of them. I did, however, shoot the church across the plaza from us.
Church across from our people-watching seats
Dan looked at the stained glass and guessed it was a dolphin; I used the zoom lens to find out what it really was
Mural of the old city
I love the colorful tiles in the city
I proposed that while Dan got his hair cut, I would grab a ticket to the cathedral and go check it out while he was busy. He wouldn’t miss seeing the inside, and I didn’t need a lot of time to view it. I popped into Salvador church, on who’s steps we had been sitting, as I had heard that you can buy a “combination ticket” here for both churches, and thereby skip the longer ticket lines at the Cathedral. I asked the woman for the combination ticket and she asked “For tomorrow?” I was confused, but thought she had asked that simply because it was fairly late in the afternoon. “No,” Then she continued: “The Cathedral is closed today” Well! That took care of that idea!
However, when Dan and I went back to the barbershop at his appointed time, it was still locked and empty. We gave up and headed back towards the Pillars of Hercules where there was another barbershop listed. And lo and behold! It was actually called “The Barber of Seville” – perfect! And even better, they had time to take Dan in right away.
More fun tiles
Two famous wine regions, illustrated with style
Throughout our explorations in Seville (all of Spain, really) we were impressed with the economy. It was much better than we expected, considering the crash of 2008 had sent out rumors of disused airports, empty apartment buildings and neglected infrastructure. Instead, we found signs of a healthy economy and well-maintained buildings. Of course it wasn’t all perfect, just better than expected. And safe, too. Of course we were in the city centers, but we never felt any unease in our explorations.
I made it my goal to get us from the Barber shop back to the hotel without use of our tourist map or Dan’s cell phone. I had a general idea of the direction to head, but was quite pleased with myself when we turned a corner and found ourselves near Plaza Nueva. Perfect! We had stopped at one of the few grocery stores we’d seen in our time in Spain and now passed by a small protest as we crossed the open space.
That evening we walked down the block and had dinner at La Azetea. Based on the sheer volume of sea delicacies displayed on the counter, I could see that they specialized in seafood. But tonight I wanted a steak. Our waiter was cheerful and friendly and got us squared away immediately. It was a lively place with people chatting at the bar and others coming and going. This led us to some amusement, as the sliding doors to the restaurant were not motion-activated, as one would expect, but required a button to be pressed. This caught us off guard when we had arrived and now we watched it continue to befuddle others. Especially those leaving, as the door button was suspiciously close to the main light switch. After enjoying a delicious steak, and Dan’s seafood dish, and a good glass of wine, we returned back to our hotel to plan for our next day.
Link to Day 4