Our next stop was Seville. We had heard that the marina at Puerto de Gelves was a good place to stay with a frequent bus service into Seville. It was certainly a pleasant stopping place. With the river Guadalquivir on one side and boats on the other, we were more than happy.
Seville has been on our wish list for a long time and we were not disappointed when we finally got there. It is a beautiful city with fabulous ornate buildings, picturesque squares and the most amazing gardens at Plaza Espana. With the lovely Andalucian horses trotting through the streets with their carriages full of happy snappers (mostly Chinese!), street performers entertaining the visitors and students going about their daily business, there is a real buzz to the place.
The old city of Seville is famed for three great monuments at its centre, the Giralda Tower, the Catedral and the Alcazar. The Catedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and was a most impressive sight. We visited all three on day one and then the Plaza de Espana and the Setas on day two.
The Giralda Tower is considered by some to be the most beautiful building in Seville. It is named after the 16th century giraldillo, or weather vane, on its summit. You can ascend to the bell chamber for a remarkable view of the city and glimpses of the Cathedral’s buttresses and statuary. As someone who really dislikes spiral staircases, I was very happy with the inner construction. The ascent is made up a series of 35 gently inclined ramps wide enough to allow two mounted guards to pass.
Giralda Tower and views from the tower
The site of the Alcazar has been occupied by rulers since the time of the Romans. The great court of the Abbadids was built here under the cruel and ruthless al-Mutadid, who needed to house his harem of 800 women! Later, under the Almohads, the complex was turned into a citadel, forming the heart of the town’s fortifications. Parts of the Almohad walls survive, but the present structure of the palace dates almost entirely from the Christian period. Whatever its main influences, it is another very ornate, beautifully tiled and over imbellished complex. There are gardens and fountains to enjoy and a very welcome terraced cafeteria.
The entrance to the Parque de Maria Luisa was a short riverside walk from the bus and we were immediately impressed by its grandeur. The park used to form part of the vast grounds of the Palacio de San Telmo. The Palacio’s 19th century owner, the dowager duchess Maria Luisa, donated the park to the city in 1893, and they named it after her. There are tree shaded avenues, ornamental pools and various pavilions to be found here. With the horse drawn carriages bowling along the avenues, it was like stepping into an earlier era.
The Plaza de Espana was designed as part of the Spanish Americas Fair. It was to be the centrepiece of the fair, which was scuppered by the Wall Street crash in 1929. It is a vast semi-circular complex with with fountains, monumental stairways and masses of ornamental tilework. The plaza was used for the Spanish exhibit of industry and crafts and around the crescent are azulejo scenes representing each of the provinces. We were bowled over by the splendour and exuberance of the plaza.
Plaza de Espana Images
The last excitement, if you discount the flamenco dancers providing entertainment along the way, was Las Setas. We walked through the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter to the Plaza de La Encarnacion to visit the most modern of Seville’s attractions. Las Setas took 7 years to build and is known locally as the mushroom (las setas), although its official name is Metropol Parasol. It is a 150m long series of undulating wood-waffle flat topped mushroom structures on giant concrete pillars. It is claimed by it’s German architect, Jurgen Mayer, to be the world’s largest timber construction. For the princely sum of 3 euros each, we enjoyed the undulating walkway across the roof to the sky deck with stunning views across the city.
On the Saturday, we were treated to an opera singer, brass ensemble, living statues and flamenco dancers along the streets and squares. Having seen quite a bit of flamenco dancing for a donation in a hat, we decided against the very expensive venues on offer.
Apart from these most obvious attractions we were impressed with the variety of architecture on offer and had a lovely time wandering around the streets looking at the buildings.
There is a lot more to see in Seville so we will probably visit again on another trip to Spain.