“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.
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.
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.
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.
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