Intro to Seville – Beauty and the Beasts


How to get from Granada to Seville?  Sounds like the train is the best option, so we book tickets.

Train-Snippet

If there is a disclosure on the website that the “direct” train route requires traveling by bus for an hour or so to Anteguera, then transferring to another bus before finally boarding a train at Osuna for the last 45 minutes of the trip to Seville, I’m afraid we didn’t see it.  To be fair, it likely wouldn’t have changed our plans, because travel options from Granada to Seville are limited.

Our Airbnb apartment is in the heart of a major shopping district in Old Town – convenient to all the major attractions we hope to visit.  To gain entry to the apartment, four keys are required (the most on our trip so far):  1) gate from the street to the courtyard, 2) gate to our building, 3) door to our little section of apartments, and 4) front door.  To save time and aggravation, we create a cheat sheet detailing which key to use where and other important instructions, like whether it goes clockwise or counterclockwise to open.

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The windows in the photo are in our living room. The apartment is quite nice.

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We’ve had several entry doors like this, and we’re curious about why the doorknob, which doesn’t actually open anything, is placed so low to the ground.

Seville is indeed a beautiful city – the architecture and aesthetics of its buildings, the many statues in public spaces, numerous parks and plazas, and much more.  Photo ops are everywhere – in fact, it’s difficult NOT to feel compelled to take pictures.  A few examples:

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Teatro Lope de Vega

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Building at the Universidad de Sevilla

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Arco de la Macarena

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Basilica de la Macarena

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Residential and commercial space in downtown Seville

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Building at Universidad de Sevilla

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View of residential area in Seville from across the Rio Guadalquivir

That’s an introduction to the “beauty” of Seville – what about the “beasts?”  It’s a reference to bullfighting, which is alive and well in Seville, and yes, the bull is killed at the end as the audience watches.  Although legal in most areas of Spain and revered by supporters as a vital piece of their country’s collective identity and culture, bullfighting also has fierce critics, who believe it’s “a cowardly, sadistic tradition of torturing, humiliating and killing a bull amidst pomp and pageantry” (quote from Wikipedia).

We have zero interest in attending a bullfight, but on a whim, we decide to tour the arena, the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza (4 stars on Trip Advisor), to learn a bit more about it.  Still not interested in seeing a live bullfight, but the tour and exhibits are interesting, and thankfully, we are spared video footage or the play-by-play details of an actual bullfight.

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Plaza de España (5 stars on Trip Advisor)

Unlike many attractions we have seen so far, Plaza de España is relatively young – built to be the centerpiece for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929.  The expansive semi-circular brick building embodies Renaissance and neo-Moorish design, with a tall tower at each end.  A 500-meter canal is located in front of the building, as well as the large Plaza itself.  It’s beautiful, and we wander around to soak it all in for about 45 minutes before moving on.

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A few of the many street vendors at Plaza de España

Catedral de Sevilla & Giralda Bell Tower (4.5 stars on Trip Advisor)

At 253,000 square feet (5.8 acres), the Seville Cathedral is a little smaller than the average Ikea store.  It’s the largest Gothic-style church in the world and overall, the third largest church in Europe.  We want to see it but opt out of the self-guided audio tour in favor of a more abbreviated visit that includes walking to the top of the 342-foot Giralda bell tower.  The cathedral is so massive it defies description, and like others we have seen, no expense was spared in finishing and furnishing the interior areas.

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Looking out from the ramp leading to the bell tower

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At the top of the bell tower

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Christopher Columbus is entombed inside the Seville Cathedral, although the claim is disputed by the Dominican Republic, who believe they are in sole possession of his remains.  Results from DNA testing conducted by a Spanish team in the early 2000s confirmed that the bone fragments in the cathedral are most likely from Columbus.  The Dominican Republic has rejected those results but so far refused to allow DNA testing on its set of remains.  And so it’s an open question – who is buried in Columbus’ tomb?

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Final resting place – Christopher Columbus

Flamenco!

Flamenco is widely acknowledged to have originated in Andalusia, which is the geographic area of southern Spain that includes both Seville and Granada.  It’s a unique and energetic style of music and dance that blends cross-cultural influences from native Andalusians, Romani (gypsies), Castilians, Moors and Sephardi Jews.

Seeing a live performance is on our “must do” list, so we engage in a little online research to find an option with cultural authenticity.  Our choice is the Museo del Baile Flamenco, or Museum of Flamenco (4.5 stars on Trip Advisor), that includes exhibits along with a one-hour show.  The museum turns out to be a disappointment, but the performance more than makes up for it!  It’s a small venue with about 40 seats, so the audience gets an excellent view of the musicians and the dancers.  And the dancers are amazing.  Unfortunately, no photos are allowed, but here’s a link to the website with pictures of the VIP show that we attended.  Two thumbs up!

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Flamenco dress shop

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Shop window display of fans and castanets

Real Alcázar (4.5 stars on Trip Advisor)

The Royal Alcazar is one of the top visitor attractions in Seville.  It’s a royal palace that was built for King Peter of Castile on the site of a heavily damaged Abbadid Muslim fortress after the Christian conquest of Seville.  In more modern times, it was used as the fictional setting for Dorne on the Game of Thrones, and as a result, tourist visits have skyrocketed in recent years, along with wait times to purchase tickets.  We try without any luck to buy advance tickets on the website (U.S. credit cards apparently not accepted), so we decide to show up early and wait in line.  How bad can it be?

We arrive at 9:00 – 1/2 hour before the doors open, and we make it in at noon.  Yep – three hours in the queue!  Had we arrived even a half hour later, however, the wait time would have been as much as five hours.

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Once inside, we visit the main rooms and courtyards of the palace.  The Moorish architecture and décor is similar to the Nasrid Palaces at the Alhambra, but on a much smaller scale.

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This garden level suite once housed prisoners

Christian images are present as well.  Note the explorer theme in the photo below.

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The palace is still used today by Spanish royalty when they are in Seville.  This staircase with the beautiful tilework leads to their private quarters, which we cannot access on our self-guided tour.

20190502_123738-edited After exploring the palace, we head outside in search of lunch and a place to sit for a few minutes before checking out the gardens, where the crowds are sparse.  What a nice way to spend the rest of the afternoon, relaxing among the plants.  Our day at the Royal Alcazar has been well worth the long wait standing in line for tickets.

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If you made it all the way to the end of this long post about Seville, thank you!  It’s a wonderful city that deserves 3-4 days during a visit to Spain.  Be forewarned, however, that it’s hot in the summer (90 degrees even at the beginning of May) and teeming with tourists hoping to see the exact same things that are on your list.  Pre-plan and bring lots of patience!

Tomorrow we fly back to Portugal to spend next week exploring Porto and the Douro Valley.  Adios for now!

 

Categories: SpainTags: , , ,

3 comments

  1. I must have said WOW! 20 times….so there are lots of things to comment on…but I am going to say that in the photo of the Arco de la Macarena, I really liked the dress the woman under the arch was wearing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful pics, the moorish influence is interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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