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A Spectacular Sojourn in Sunny Seville

A day or more in the southern Spanish city of Seville (Sevilla) is a true traveler's delight. The city is bustling, immaculate, safe, friendly, and vibrantly colorful. It is large enough to offer all types of accommodations (from the incredibly opulent Carlos V to charming B&Bs such as Casa 7 or Taberna del Alabardero), and the food choice is positively overwhelming. Undeniably, tapas reign supreme. From whole fried fishes to an array of varied olive types to other delectable meats and seafood, you cannot go wrong by ordering a sample in any restaurant or bar off the beaten path. Remember to eat a real afternoon lunch in Spain as dinner is eaten quite late. In the evening, restaurants will not be crowded until 10pm or later.

"Hear, silver trumpets will trill, in the Arabic streets of Seville,
Oranges roll in the gutter, And you pick them up"
- - Tart by Elvis Costello,  When I Was Cruel album - -

When to Go

The best time to visit is spring or fall. Seville is often called "the frying pan of Europe" during the summertime. Two famous festivals that you may want to avoid or experience (depending on your desire for crowds and dancing), are Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Feria (a festival usually during the latter half of April). No matter when you go though, Seville is pure enchantment for the senses.

A Day in Seville

What follows below is an efficient itinerary for a long but highly enjoyable day in Seville:

Begin your day at the main entrance (Prince's gate) of the Plaza de Toros or bullring. This is one of the world's three most prestigious bull rings (the other two are Madrid and Mexico City), in which a bull fighter must make a kill to be considered "world-class." Even if there is no fight going on that day, it is quite interesting to learn about the sport and all of the players involved (the famous Toreador doesn't actually kill the bull until the animal has been made 'ready' by others). There is a museum which displays many beautiful fancy costumes, trophies, and assorted paraphernalia.

As you leave the bullring, walk towards the water and notice the Torre de Oro - an octagonal "gold tower." The tower is located by the river quay. This current naval museum used to be covered in gold tiles. Now, pretend you seen Columbus sailing up to present his New World treasure to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Next, make your way to the famous Alcazar, a huge and fantastic Arabian palace complete with hedge maze, scented orange groves, and lots of Moorish architecture. The Alcazar is actually better preserved than Granada's Alhambra. There is still an abundance of colored tiles. Notice how the Moors only used rounded shapes in their decorations. This was meant to depict the unknowable true nature of Allah. There are no straight lines with beginning or end points. The Alcazar houses three separate areas from different time periods. You will see the spot where Columbus begged for money to finance his trip, the beautiful room in which Carlos was married, the Patio of the Dolls, and other stately apartments. There is even a secret door which allowed the royals convenient escape into the city center in case of danger.

Directly across from the Alcazar is the Cathedral. This is supposed to be the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The outside is stunning. It is truly overwhelming but the inside does not necessarily give one a high feeling of reverence or intimacy. Attached to the northeast corner is the Giralda, a minaret left from the old Moorish mosque that used to stand there. Climb up the ramp for a wonderful up close view of the bells, gargoyles, and panoramic views.

By this time you will be hungry. Make your way to the Barrio de Santa Cruz. This old Jewish neighborhood is a labyrinth of charming streets. It also has myriad outdoor cafes providing delectable food in a gorgeous setting. Be careful not to get lost inside Santa Cruz. The streets were built in a circular arrangement to discourage thieves from attempting to steal from the traditional money lenders. There is one calle that is so narrow that locals call it, "the kissing street." Teenager lovers could actually kiss each other while standing on opposing balconies!

After lunch try to find one of the few convents nearby (try the Convent of San Leandro). You usually enter through a gate, and then ring a bell located next to a door in the cement wall. The nuns only speak Spanish and are not permitted to be viewed by outsiders. However, you may ask to purchase some sweets (dolce to include cookies and marzipan) that they make and sell to the public through a revolving door. Muy delicioso!

The next must-see is Casa Pilatos on the eastern edge of Santa Cruz. This outstanding palace was intended to be a copy of the Roman home of Pontius Pilate. The setting, inside and out, make this stop favorite of many. When you first enter the courtyard (if it is springtime) you will notice a profusion of bougainvillea cascading down the walls. Inside it only gets better as the palace combines Renaissance and Classical architecture with Moorish motifs. There are stunning vibrant mosaics from floor to ceiling. There are also genuine ancient artifacts and statues taken from Rome and dated as far back as 2BC. Casa Pilatos must be seen to be understood. It is an uncrowded tourist spot, and a frequent venue for local weddings.

Finally, late afternoon is a good time to make your way to Maria Luisa Parque and Plaza Espana. The park is a large grassy area complete with ponds and horse and buggy rides. Plaza Espana is a wonderfully colorful showcase of local tile work depicting every city in Spain. The entire effect is a feast for the eyes.

I would end your day with an evening Flamenco show in one of the many theatres down by the water and bullring. Flamenco is a wonderful exhibit of soulful movement and singing performed by gypsies. You can enjoy the spectacle with or without dinner. You will remember it for a long time afterward.

Conclusions

The above itinerary only barely scratches the surface of Seville. The city also offers art museums, shopping, riverboat cruises, and more gritty neighborhoods with superb people watching.

P.S. Don't Eat the Street Oranges!

As delectable as they look, DO NOT eat the oranges that grow along the streets. They may smell heavenly but they are incredibly bitter! They are not the same oranges from which your morning juice is squeezed. (See the song quote at the top of the page!!)


 

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