February’s #Take12Trips inspired jaunt was supposed to involve lots of snow, a few days’ snowboarding, plenty of sunshine and copious amounts of drinking at high altitude. Thick clouds, cold rain and decidedly unskiable conditions in Granada’s Sierra Nevada ski resort, however, ensured that was not to be. Arse. Emergency strategy needed.
I had been before – several times actually – but at least there I could be sure of plenty of sunshine and copious amounts of drinking, despite a lack of high altitude and overabundance of CruzCampo lager. Besides, the #Take12Trips pledge, at least for me, isn’t necessarily about seeing a new place every month; it’s more about advocating the idea of frequent, short-term travel, no matter what the destination. And it just so happens that Seville is an absolutely wonderful city that I’ve never blogged about, neither here nor on my Spain expat blog. So here I go.
As the capital of Andalucía – Spain’s largest province – Seville is invariably trafficked with tourists on a day-to-day basis, though not quite as insufferably as Granada – probably due to it being much bigger. In any case, I find that there is a lot more elbow room when swanning about the city centre, and tourists are able to blend in with the locals a little less conspicuously when off the beaten path. A tour of Seville should by no means be rushed; there is too much to see, of what there is to see must be properly appreciated and to rush anything or anywhere in Spain is just plain wrong. There’s normal speed, and then there’s Spain speed. Slow (in case that wasn’t clear).
On this particular occasion, I
forgot neglected to take my camera with me, but just as Seville had saved my #Take12Trips pledge, my smartphone (and Instagram) saved my trip to Seville.
In Seville, all roads lead to its famously and architecturally grand Cathedral. It is impossible to miss, and will almost certainly leave you shaking your head in disbelief. The detail in the building’s exterior, particularly its façade, is as mind-boggling as Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia. Though Gaudi’s lifetime achievement might be regarded as the ultimate example of ingenious architecture in Spain, Seville’s Cathedral is without doubt the most staggering in terms of sheer size. Beside the Cathedral is the Alcázar de Sevilla – the royal palace and gardens – which is still used by the Spanish Royal Family from time to time. I spent my 24th birthday wandering around the Alcázar, soaking up the fascinating history whilst trying to figure out exactly how many mes would be there with me if one of me had been born every 24 years since the Alcázar had been constructed. I never did figure it out.
Come lunchtime, the choice of tapas bars is quite overwhelming. Do you go for the cheap, cheerful but untowardly bland 100 Montaditos, or the pricey, elaborate but undersized upmarket stuff? My advice is neither. If you’re close by to the centre and keen on doing as the locals do, seek out the buzzing Santa Cruz Bodega on Calle de Rodrigo Caro, a mere 5-minute walk from the Cathedral. You’ll probably have to stand up but the ambience inside and out is well worth the effort, even if you’re knackered from a morning of non-stop ambling. The staff in here move at 100mph, ducking and diving between punters guzzling back their plates of jamón ibérico and Manchego. You can’t help but get the feeling that it’s like that every day, true Sevillano style.
After lunch and maybe a pot of gelato from one of the many heladarías nearby, you may want to escape the noise and crowds. For something that departs radically from the traditional Seville vibe, head to El Parasol, known popularly as Las Setas (wild mushrooms). This is a new wooden construction, claimed to be the largest in the world, which was initially opposed by many a Sevillano due to its ultramodern design, despite the designers’ efforts to make the structure resemble the vaults of Seville Cathedral. Some call it vulgar, unbefitting of a historical city such as Seville, others call it innovative and a symbol of forward-thinking. Personally, I am of the latter lot; it adds character and offers respite from the same old buildings, impressive as they are.
Back to traditional Seville, a wander around the city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the magnificent Plaza de España. Here, a massive, curved building features its own moat, giant fountain, numerous bridges and two looming towers at either end. Along the walls of the building are painted and tiled shrines to every Spanish city, depicting maps and significant events in each city’s own history. Horses, carts and of course tourists abound here, but the views on a clear day are breathtaking. In front of the plaza are the María Luisa gardens, a maze-like area filled with fountains, ornate statues, lush-green trees and the famed Pavilion of King Alfonso XII. Again, another afternoon could be easily lost lazily strolling through this part of the city.
As my weekend drew to its close and daylight turned to dusk, I stumbled upon this mighty and brightly coloured beast, with a similarly hued and psychedelic knight perched on top. Seville’s subtle nod to gay rights? Probably not. Just another vulgar designer having his say.
Have you ever been to Seville? Where have you been in February? Jump aboard the #Take12Trips bandwagon!