Travels in Spain, a Cathedral, a Royal Palace and a Bullring

Seville Cathedral

“Seville was dazzling, a creamy crustation of flower banked houses fanning out from each bank of the river…. A thousand miniature patios set with inexhaustible fountains which fell trickling upon ferns and leaves, each a nest of green repeated in endless variations around the theme of domestic oasis”, Laurie Lee – ‘As I walked out one Sunny Morning”

The Goya was closed this morning so we had a very similar breakfast at the Bar Plaza instead and debated our itinerary for the day and agreed that on account of the unpredictable nature of the weather that we should drive to Seville.

The city is the fourth largest in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, it is the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro with a reputation for drama, flair and theatre, castanets and flamenco, gypsies and horses and we set out therefore with very high expectations.

After trouble finding an underground car park it was quite a long walk to the old town but at least the sun was shining, lighting up the buildings with a rosy glow and casting long shadows in the narrow streets and we optimistic that it would be a warm day as people rearranged the shade of the canopies on their balconies.

The route took us along a couple of busy main streets and then following a road to the centre of the city we turned off into a tangled web of narrow streets and alleys that criss-crossed and dog legged in a most confusing way and made following the street map with any degree of certainty almost impossible.

Andalusia 196 Seville Cathedral

We were in the district of Santa Cruz, which is a maze of whitewashed buildings and alleyways all leading eventually to the centre and La Giralda and the Cathedral that is built on the site of a former Moorish mosque.  The Cathedral is the largest in Spain and the third largest in the world, after Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London.

Some uninvited grey cloud had swept in rather quickly so we were tempted to go inside but there was a long queue so we investigated the Palace Real Alcázar opposite but there was a long queue for that as well so we abandoned both options for the time being and walked down to the river through the district of El Arenal.  We don’t like queues.

After Madrid, Seville is the second most important centre for the national sport of bullfighting and after a few hundred metres we left the river and came up outside the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, which is the oldest bull ring in Spain.

Seville Bullring exterior

The origin of modern day bullfighting on foot (rather than horseback) can be traced back to here and to the town of Ronda, also in Andalusia.  It is one of the most charming bullrings in the country and although its capacity is only fourteen thousand spectators, which makes it rather small (the bullring in Madrid has a capacity of twenty-five thousand, the local football stadium, Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium has a capacity of seventy-thousand) it attracts all of the country’s finest bullfighters.

All of us except Christine, because she loves animals and can’t bear to think of them suffering, paid for and joined an informative and entertaining thirty-minute tour of the arena and the museum.

The walk back towards the Cathedral was along difficult cobbled streets where the houses had balconies with flowers spilling over the sides and it was full of the sights and sounds of postcard Spain and it was lunch time now so we found a traditional bodega serving sherry and tapas and went inside for food.

After dining we returned to the Cathedral Square, the Plaza del Triunfo, and had to make a choice between visiting the Cathedral or the Palace and we chose the Palace.  It was a good decision because the fourteenth century building was a jewel box of Moorish architecture and decoration with tiled patios, elaborate halls and extensive gardens.  It has been the home of the Spanish Monarchy for seven hundred years and the upper floors are still used by the royal family today as its official Seville residence.

Seville Alcazar Gardens

When we paid the entrance fee it was still overcast but by the time we had been around the interior the sun was out again and we had a very enjoyable hour walking around the extensive gardens and the wall top walks.  When we had finished we left and strolled back to the Cathedral and then into the network of narrow streets to make our way back to the car park.

Back in Carmona we rested and changed and went for a pre-dinner drink in a lively family bar called the Forum and joined the residents of the town out for an evening and noisily watching a football match on a big screen TV.

Later we returned to the Bar Plaza and ordered paella but there was none so instead we had a very similar meal to the previous evening.  We were the only customers in the place and the owner must have been glad of the company.  Actually the Plaza was the only place open and we worked it out that because it was out of season the owners were probably operating a cooperative rota system and we thought that was clever.

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

36 responses to “Travels in Spain, a Cathedral, a Royal Palace and a Bullring

  1. I’d have been with Christine during the tour of the bullring.

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  2. That one house looks like the face of a nutcracker.

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  3. It IS a beautiful city! I don’t know why we don’t go more often (except that Mick has too many bad memories of the place 😦 ) I love the wonderfully macho posters of bullfighting but that’s as close as I want to get. 🙂 🙂

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  4. Your first photograph is a stunner! With regard to bull fighting, I’ve always understood that the majority of Spaniards are not particularly in favour and that the “sport” is kept alive by a hard core of keen people. I would really like to see it as quite simply bull v matador, with no blood letting to slow the bull down, no drugging of the animal etc. It would be a simple contest of man v beast.

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    • I imagine more people in Spain like football rather than bull fighting but it does seem popular as a televised event in the bars and restaurants. I try to think of it as cultural rather than sporting, I get a better understanding of it that way.

      Bull fighting is no longer permitted in Catalonia and the massive bull ring there is now a modern shopping centre. Rather like Birmingham I suppose!

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  5. Pooh, Seville….on my must go list!

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  6. I saw one bull fight – never again.
    If my Santa ever gets to you, have a great holiday!

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  7. It looks fantastic. We are going to Spain in Jan but not sure if we will go to Seville. We will have car and drive around for 10 days. The Palace looks amazing and I am a sucker for the Palace, love to enter all Palaces:) Like you, I do not like queue either. hmm… paella… love it.

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  8. Top photo is outstanding, I assume it’s the cathedral? Hopefully will get to Seville one day. We visited Ronda a couple of years back and the bullring there looked rather tatty so we didn’t go inbut it’s a splendid place to visit with its gorge and bridges. It’s a hell of a place to drive to though from the coast!

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    • It is an outstanding photo but sadly not mine, it is a postcard. The streets around the Cathedral are rather narrow so it is really difficult to get a good angle for decent shot.

      Ronda is good, we stayed there for a couple of nights in 2017, it is really busy during the day with all of the coaches coming in but at night time it reveals its charm.

      The bridge is a stunner. Have you read ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and the chapter about the executions by throwing prisoners over the edge and into the gorge?

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  9. Nice pictures! Sevilla is a fascinating city.

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  10. I’d go for the dancing ladies over a bullfight, any day, Andrew! Bring em on. I’d be with Christine, finding something else to amuse myself with. –Curt

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