08/09/2010 - 10/09/2010 33 °C
Seville is Spain's 4th largest city. The Rio Guadalquivir flows gently through the city of Seville which is divided into four separate areas on the eastern side (with a vibrant central shopping hub) and other traditional areas to explore across the river on the west bank. It is easy to find your way. We rented a penthouse apartment for our 3 days in Seville which was within easy walking distance of the main central tourist area.
We started our adventure with a relaxed stroll along the water to get our bearings and take in the atmosphere. Within 10 minutes (or so) we arrived at Seville's famous bullring Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza in the El Arenal quarter. Built in the 18th C, is Spain's oldest. The building certainly has a strong presence as it dominates this area of Seville. While Aaron and Rikke chose to visit it, Chas and I continued to wander quietly, window shopping and looking at the ceramics, beautiful dresses, fans, mantillas and other traditional items for which the area is renown.
In the 13thC Seville was guarded by the mighty Torre del Oro (Spanish: "Gold Tower") a dodecahedron (12 faces) military watchtower, built by the Moors in order to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river. It is quite an impressive building which is now used as a naval museum.
However, it is from the Torre del Oro that the river cruises depart, and that is what we decided to do to get a sense of the city. The river is quite wide but what quickly becomes apparent are the number of bridges which span it. Obviously the river and the bridges have played a big part in Seville's history. It is the only navigable river in Spain, and still navigable up to Seville.
Two bridges of interest are the Puente de Isabel II, built between 1845 and 1852. It is an interesting design, and obviously well built as it is still in use as a road bridge with hundreds of cars crossing back and forth each day. The other is the the Alamillo bridge built in 1992 when Seville hosted the World Expo. The site for the expo was La Cartuja Island, an area of the city previously undeveloped. As a result four new bridges were built of which the Alamillo is the largest and most impressive and is now a symbol for the city. Unfortunately we didn't get a pic of it.
Back on solid ground we just wandered through the narrow back streets of the central area enjoying the sights and sounds, looking at the gardens and the houses. The houses open directly onto the street and don't appear to be very impressive until one glimpses the internal courtyards which lie behind the front doors. Cool, colourful and beautiful.
It was 33deg when we were quietly walking through the back streets with interesting restaurants, shops and houses around every corner. I found it quite amusing to see this cafe with mists of water being sprayed onto lunchtime patrons to provide relief from the heat. I had not see this before.
However, the most impressive experience was our visit to Seville Cathedral. It is massive and is the most extensive Gothic cathedral in the world and the third-largest,and also another UNESCO world heritage site. Formerly Seville's Main Mosque in Moorish times, after the fall to the Christians it was taken over with construction work beginning in 1131 and the cathedral consecrated 1218. The visiting brochure indicates 44 points of interest to visit. While it is not possible to cover even a small number of these, I must tell you of two which were remarkable. The first is the main altarpiece. It is an overwhelming work of art which portrays carved scenes from the life of Christ. This was the lifetime work of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart who spent 44 years making what you see. This photo does not capture the complete work as it is several stories high. It is beyond words to describe. You can see a full-size pic of it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre_Dancart_Alterpiece_Seville.jpg It is worth having a look. The most immense work of art I have ever seen.
Inside the cathedral's southern door stands the Tomb of Christopher Columbus. It is an elaborate monument dating from 1890s with four bearers representing the four kingdoms of Spain at the time of Columbus' 1492 voyage (Castile, León, Aragón and Navarra) which was financed by King Fernando and Queen Isabel. Interesting from an historical perspective.
On our second day we wandered through Triana on the west bank where I was able to purchase some ceramics from Ceramica Santa Ana which has sold handmade traditional ceramics since 1870. It was an adventure to browse through the store and see the amazing array of items. We also could not go home without trying tapas in an authentic Spanish tapas bar. We ordered a range of five dishes to try which of course included the Jamon serrano (salt cured ham dried in mountain air) for which the area is renown.
Having our lovely penthouse apartment was a bonus as we were all craving 'healthy' food. Yes, even Aaron, Rikke and Chas were looking for a change. We were able to prepare lovely meals, and sit outside on the terrace with a glass of red in the cool of the evening. Fantastic.
On our final day in Spain we left Seville to travel back to Faro for our flight home to Aarhus. We had an awesome time as the number of blog posts show - Ronda, Alhambra, Sierra Nevada, flamenco, fiestas, history, tradition. However I found Andalusia to also be an area of contrasts. It appears not to be economically strong in some areas with run-down, undeveloped sections. These contrast with the vibrant, lavish city centres with exclusive stores such as Cartier, YSL. I even saw Billabong in Seville along with modern 'icons' such as McDonalds Coca Cola, ToysRUs and Ikea. However, we saw several large infrastructure projects funded by the EU which I would expect are providing funds to support economical development.
Muchas gracias for a wonderful time.