Tag Archives: Seville

Favourite Places in Spain, Antequera in Andalucia

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When planning a road trip in Spain at least for one night I generally like to find a place to stay off the usual well beaten tourist trail.  I have had great success with this and in picking places like Carmona, a few miles east of Seville in Andalucía, Pedro Bernardo in the mountains of Castilla y Leon and Almagro on the Ruta de Don Quixote in Castilla-La Mancha.

I was optimistic that Antequera was going to be added to the list of good selections.

Because of geography, tradition and culture Antequera is called the heart of  Andalucía and was once considered as a suitable candidate for the regional government to be based but it eventually and inevitably lost out to Seville.

My instincts proved to be correct and I was not disappointed.

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Top Ten Posts of 2018

As we leave 2018, please excuse my annual self-indulgent post to begin the new year as I peer through the keyhole to look back over the last one.

Ireland Inch Beach

The top ten most visited posts on my Travel Blog always surprise me but then I don’t pretend to understand how search engines work.  I say visited pages rather than read because I am neither so conceited or sufficiently naive to claim that a visit equals a read.  I know that a lot of people will arrive here by mistake and swiftly reverse back out via the escape button!

No. 1

Top Tips for Visiting the Giant’s Causeway on a Budget

Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland

With 1,790 hits this post remains at the no. 1 position in my top ten for the third straight year.  I am always reluctant to do posts with travel tips because it is difficult to find something to say that hasn’t already been said several times by others.

At the Giant’s Causeway I was astonished at the cost of the entrance and car parking charges so I put these tips together on how to visit for free.

No. 2

Mount Vesuvius

Naples and Vesuvius

I first posted this in March 2010 so this one has been around a while and with 1,375 hits and a ninth year in the Top Ten is becoming a stubborn stayer.  A bit of a surprise to me really because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only ever achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 3

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi and me

This is the fifth successive year in my top ten for my post about the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.  After I had taken a look at the official Twelve Treasures of Spain I thought it might be fun to draw up my own personal alternative list.  I included Antoni Gaudi in a general rather than a specific way.  I posted this in March 2013 and this year with 1,314 visits it has risen one place to number three.

No. 4

Royal Garden Party

Cakes at Royal Garden Party

First posted in June 2009 the post has1,210 hits in 2018, almost double the previous year and staying in the Top Ten for the tenth successive year which by that measure makes it my most successful post.

In total it has 21,900 visits which makes all time second after my post about  Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings at 24,675.  This one has been around for a long time ( since June 2009) and has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 5

Malta, Happiness and a Walk to Mellieha

Mellieha Malta Postcard

I have written several posts about my visits to the island of Malta, I consider some of them much more interesting than this one but where they have sunk without trace, this one just keeps on attracting hits.  850 hits in 2018 and third successive year in the top ten

No. 6

Catalonia, In Search of Norman Lewis

Guardamar Storm

I must confess that I am rather pleased about this one.

I posted this in July 2013 and it first made the top ten in 2015 before dropping out the following year so I am glad to see it back again.

There are some posts that I have written that I would like people to read and this is one of few that have achieved that. Before visiting Catalonia in 2013 I read the book ‘Voices of the Old Sea’ by Norman Lewis which is an account of the Costa Brava in the 1940s and the approach of mass tourism.  In this post I attempted some research and some interpretation of the book and the area.  It has recorded 515 visits and in this case I like to think that this is because of the subject rather than the pictures.

No.7

Ireland, Ring of Kerry and I Temporarily Overcome My Fear of Dogs.

Angry Man Skelligs Viewpoint Kerry Ireland

Also returning in 2018 after a two year absence with a surprising 435 visits and no convincing explanation as to why that should be.

I visited Southern Ireland in June 2014 and wrote several posts that I personally would consider more interesting than this encounter with a grumpy street entertainer and a worn out old collie dog.  Once again, and rather disappointingly, I suspect it isn’t the words but the picture that grabs attention.  It was a map of the Ring of Kerry which I noticed displayed on the front of a shop.

No.8

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

Benidorm Bar 1960?

I posted this in March 2010 and it finally made the top ten in 2014 it has remained there ever since. It has stayed in this year with 420 visits.   It is actually one of my personal favourites  and is a story about the Spanish seaside resort of  Benidorm inspired by some photographs that I came across of my grandparents on holiday there in about 1960.

No. 9

Twelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral

Seville Street Musicians

At no. 9 for the second year with 382 visits is a post another of my Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain and is about my visit to the Spanish City of Seville.  I have written posts about several Spanish cities but it is only this one that gets the hits.

No.10

Poland (Wroclaw), The Anonymous Pedestrians

Anonymous Pedestrians Wroclaw Poland

A new entry and this is another post that I am happy to see in the top ten with 360 visits.  I wrote this in March 2014 after visiting the Polish city of Wroclaw and finding the street statues of the Anonymous Pedestrians.

The statues are a memorial to the introduction of martial law in Poland on December 13th 1981 and the thousands of people who disappeared (‘went underground’) in the middle of the night courtesy of the militia. In a symbolic statement the fourteen statues were erected in the middle of the night in 2005 on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the introduction of martial law.

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year are:  Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi after four years and Malta, The Silent City of Mdina after only two.

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 2,390 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

Total visits in 2018 – 71,420 (nearly 200 a day)

Total visits all time – 947,600

Countries where most visitors come from – UK, USA, Australia, Spain and Canada

Most viewed picture in 2018…

A little disappointing, I like to think I have posted one or two good pictures of my own during the year but most clicked is a postcard map of Gran Canaria that I scanned in from my collection…

Gran Canaria Island Map postcard

To make matters worse, the most clicked picture that I have taken myself and posted is of a tea towel with a map on it…

Puglia T Towel Map

Maybe I should just do a blog about maps!

I would be interested to know about other people’s most popular posts in 2018 and the possible explanations why?  Comment and let me know.  I’m a sucker for statistics!

Travels in Andalucia

Travels in Andalucia

 

Travels in Spain, Roman Ruins and a Bodega in Carmona

Carmona Street 01

“For almost the first time I felt I was really in Spain, in a country that I had longed my whole life to visit. In the quiet back streets of I seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that dwells in everyone’s imagination. White sierras, goatheards, dungeons of the Inquisition, Moorish palaces, black winding trains of mules, grey olive trees and groves of lemon, girls in black mantillas,  cathedrals, cardinals, bullfights, gypsies, serenades – in short, Spain.”  –  George Orwell

I have seen Roman ruins advertised before and sometimes they can be quite disappointing so I didn’t have high expectations of those in Carmona but they turned out to be a real surprise.  It wasn’t the Aqueduct of Segovia or anything of the scale of Segóbriga  or Mérida of course but there were extensive excavations and a museum with an informative film about the Romans in Andalusia and the significance of this place.

It was principally an ancient Roman burial site or necropolis near the Seville road that was discovered in 1881 and there was also the site of what had been a rather large amphitheatre.  The best part of all was that there was free admission and we spent well over an hour to look around the site.

It seemed that we had underestimated the town of Carmona and there was a great deal more to do here than we had originally thought.

Close to the fortress gate there was a little bodega that we had picked out earlier for lunch.  The Abacería L’Antiqua was full to overflowing and heaving with activity and just as we were pondering whether or not to stay a table became available and we elbowed our way through the wall of people and made ourselves comfortable. The food looked good and the bar was doing brisk trade so we selected some items from the tapas menu and waited for our food to arrive.

All around the bar there were barrels of sherry and this is something else that Andalusia is famous for.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez on the coast. In Spanish, it is called Vino de Jerez and according to Spanish law, sherry must come from the small triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.  After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy and because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol.  So now you know!

The food arrived quickly and it was delicious and we enjoyed it so much that we ordered second plates of those we liked best and more drinks.  The bodega was a vibrant and effervescent place with people of all age groups and whole families enjoying their Sunday lunchtime gathering and we enjoyed the garrulous atmosphere and just being a part of it all.

But we couldn’t stay all afternoon because there were still things to see.

At the fortress we fished around in our pockets for the admission fee only to be told that today the entrance was free, so how glad we were that we hadn’t visited yesterday.  It wasn’t a big castle but it was a good place to visit with commanding views in all directions across the Andalusian plain.   This place had been chosen well as a castle of strategic importance.  It had been restored and modernised of course, some time in the 1970s, but that didn’t spoil it one little bit.  The sky was blue and it was warmer today so we had a good time climbing the towers and taking in the breathtaking views

I especially wanted to retrace our car journey of the first evening and we found the very narrow street and wondered just how we had managed to negotiate it without adding to the cars dents and scratches.

Practically every car in the town had some form of damage either from scraping past walls or from other cars squeezing past and a very high proportion of them had had their wing mirrors removed and were now only kept in place with sticky tape.  This wasn’t the sort of place to live if you are at all fussy about the appearance of your car.

We found Micky in San Fernando Square sitting on a bench in the sunshine with a red nose and flu weary eyes and looking very forlorn.  The man from Bar Plaza saw us and told us he had prepared paella for this evening but unfortunately for him we were determined to return to the Abacería L’Antiqua and so he had missed his opportunity.

We went first to the Forum Bar, which was busy and then walked to the Bodega, which was empty.  The contrast from the lunchtime bustle made the place almost unrecognisable and although other diners began to drift in the place never achieved the sociable levels of lunchtime.  We ordered some repeat dishes and experimented with some different ones and the food was equally as good and we stayed all evening before going back to the hotel for our final night at the San Fernando.

Travels in Spain, Men on Street Corners

Carmona Old Town Gate

“…anyone that knows Spain will be aware of the frequency of the marriage in which the wife is deeply pious and the husband is irreligious.  This is indeed a fairly normal situation.  The man’s sense of self-esteem conflicts sharply with the teachings of the Church, while he is irritated by its many small, fussy rules and regulations, which treat him, he feels, as though he were a child.”  –  Gerald Brennan – ‘South From Granada

Once again it rained heavily in the night but by morning it had cleared when I went out into the street to check the weather.  There were blue skies and as this was Sunday there was a church bell ringing with frosty clarity and calling people to service as I wandered aimlessly about checking the breakfast options in the little bars around the square.

The only place open was the Bar Plaza so we returned there for the fourth time and had the same breakfast as the previous day except that due to a misunderstanding we ordered way too much Serrano Ham and ended up with far more than we really needed and a much bigger bill than we anticipated.

The bad news this morning was that Micky had gone down with a nasty little case of man flu and he wasn’t feeling very good at all.  This was the strain that affects the sense of humour and social skills and after breakfast Mick invited us to go out without him.  Naturally we said we would do no such thing and then as we watched his normally stoic temperament evaporating in front of us he demanded firmly that we should go out without him and we took the hint.

We were planning to go for another drive out, possibly to the town of Ronda but this didn’t seem fair so the rest of us decided instead to stay and explore Carmona instead.  We weren’t sure that there would be enough to do to keep us amused all day so we walked very slowly from the hotel towards the eastern gate of the old town, the Puerto de Córdoba which is of part Roman construction.

Because Carmona is built on an elevated ridge overlooking the central plain of Andalusia the view beyond the gate opens to a glorious vista of the surrounding countryside which today entertained us with the drama of magnificent skies.

The welcome warmth of the sun was in contrast to the chilly shade of the street and we stayed a while and admired the view and warmed ourselves up before going back through the gate and climbing steadily towards the Alcázar Del Rey Don Pedro, which is an old castle at the top of the town that has been converted to a luxury Parador hotel.  We went inside and admired the lounges and the restaurant and the stunning view from the balcony but it didn’t seem that they particularly welcomed non-paying guests so we quickly left and carried on.

Next around the southern rim of the town and there were more good views over the plain and we sat for a while and soaked up more weak sunshine that was struggling to get up to full late morning temperature.  Our route took us now to the Alcázar de la Puerto de Sevilla, which was the western gate protecting the entrance to the old town and then we walked for a little way into the new town because I wanted to take the girls shopping but sadly on account of this being Sunday they were mostly closed.  I was desperately disappointed about that as you can probably imagine.

There seemed to be strange goings on in the main town square because it was full of men just standing around and chatting in groups and making an enormous din as they competed with each other to be heard about the great political  issues of the day or the previous day’s football results perhaps.

Mostly elderly men because  as Gerald Brennan explained in ‘South from Granada’ “…almost every Spanish peasant becomes wise when he passes fifty.”  This was obviously a Sunday morning ritual while wives attended Church and the street corners and the public squares were overflowing with men all in animated conversation waiting for the service to end.

Brennan also explains that – “At bottom the husband almost always approves of his wife’s devoutness, is aware that he is only playing truant and that, after a lifetime shrugging his shoulders at the Church, he will return to it in time to receive its last sacraments.”

Back at the Puerto de Sevilla there was a sunny pavement with café tables so we stopped for a drink before going back to the hotel to see if there was any sign of Micky.  There was none so we continued our walk around the town without him, this time back to the Roman ruins about a half a mile away back in the same direction that we had just returned from.

Carmona Wise Women

Travels in Spain, A Walk Around Seville

“We are in the Spanish south.  The castanets click from coast to coast, the cicada hum through the night, the air is heavy with jasmine and orange blossom… the girls have black eyes and undulating carriages.”, Jan Morris – ‘Spain’

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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.

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