Here we are, on June 16th – just one day after our trip to Córdoba. Originally we had scheduled one day of “rest” between the two trips but due to the train operators’ strike and a booking for the Cathedral of Seville we had to go today.
If you have ever been to Seville you know that the waiting lines in front of the ticket office (1) tend to become endless – especially in the mornings.
That is why I had booked four entrance tickets online at the Cathedral’s official website. Even though the whole booking process is far from what you might be used to from sites such as Amanzon or other booking systems – it is worth going through the process as visitors with pre-paid tickets get admission through a separate gate (2).
We would be taking the car this time. It is a one hour drive “door-to-door”. Affordable public parking is available at 300 meters from the Cathedral and all the major sites. Feed your sat nav with Avenida Paseo de Cristiana. You cannot miss the Parking sign reading “Avenida Roma” – this is a bit unleading but you enter the parking from Paseo de las Delicias through Avenida Paseo de Cristiana.
Like Cádiz, Seville is a must-see when you are in Andalucia. Manfred and I visit her every time at least once, often twice. The city never gets boring and offers a lot.
If I am not mistaken, it is the city with the highest density of World Cultural Heritage Sites, but also beautiful museums, places just to stroll through or gardens just to get away from the heat of the city.
Like Córdoba, Seville can become VERY hot in the summer – if you are lucky or unlucky even you get hit by temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius. And the temperature is a common and very popular topic of conversation – actually in summer:
Oju, Qué Caló
is the most used expression in Seville. (Trans.: Gee, What a heat!)
Weather forecast for today though showed that we’d only be facing mild temperatures in the mid-20ies.
The heat is one reason why to visit Seville early in the morning.
This time we left the hotel at 8:30 – AFTER breakfast and took A4 from Jerez de la Frontera until the gates of Sévilla. Coming this way you leave the high way at Sévilla Oeste and after what felt like 2,000 roundabouts you hit Paseo de las Delicias which is the main entrance road and which gets you right in the middle of things.
M. and B. had visited Sévilla with us three years ago when Manfred and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. Back then we had visited the Alcazar of Sevilla, Plaza España, and General Archivs of the Indies and the Parque Maria Louisa.
We did not get a chance to visit the Cathedral in 2013 – so this was top on our list for today’s visit.
My suggestion is, dear reader: If you stay a week or even longer in this part of Andalucia, don’t try to pack too much into one visit to Seville. Manfred and I at least go twice, selecting one or two specific activities.
Taking the highway in Andalucia is delightful – wouldn’t there be the toll (EUR 7.20 one trip per car). We arrived around 10:00am and before entering the parking, I dropped my fellow travellers and asked Manfred – armed with the online booking – to head for the Cathedral.
The city was still quiet and in stoic (should I say Andalusian) anticipation of the masses of tourists that would swarm around the sites and streets. I guess a city that coped with invasions of Visigoths, Romans and Umayyads cannot be impressed by bus loads of Germans, French, Japanese and Chinese.
Leaving the parking – there it was, “La Giralda”, the bell tower of the cathedral and a World Cultural Heritage Site on its own. You may have guessed, it used to be a minaret in muslim times.
Walking up the street, I admired yet another time the buildings,
stopped at my good old friend, the General Arives of the Indies, to take a picture of the doves (yes they were alive) on the fountain in front of the building.
When I paged Manfred to find out their whereabouts, I learnt that trying to be “the early bird” will not exactly work, if one does not verify that it has the expected benefits. In other words, the Cathedral would not open before another hour.
Well, dear reader – I know – what kind of travel guide am I? Being smart enough to purchase the tickets online but not diligent enough to check the actual opening hours. Fair point.
I met the others in front of the main entrance, which was still closed and devoid the masses of tourists I had expected to line up there.
We had one hour to kill – so, why not prepone one of the “agenda items” for today and visit the “Judería” rather now than later. Said and done:
We immersed ourselves in the maze of small and narrow streets in the former Jewish Quarter of Seville which seems to have more significance here than in Córdoba.
While it was quiet in front of the Cathedral the “Judería” was swarming with groups of Japanese tourists – I guess they all killed the time until the Cathedral would open its gates to the public.
Quite an enjoyable walk – despite the tourists – and we made it back on time – well, 15 minutes to the hour and were the first, litterally the first to set food in the Cathedral that day. The glitch with the missed opening hours was forgotten and forgiven.
M. was keen to get up “La Giralda” as he wanted to be there “first” – my advice was to visit the Cathedral first while it was still empty and climb the Giralda later. Here is the logic behind it: Most people want to see the inside of the Cathedral, least of the visitors really feel like climbing up the ramps of the Giralda – in other words, it is never really crowded up there, but it gets crowded really fast in the Cathedral – and then you have hordes of tourists obstructing the views onto the precious altars and other sights.
Here is my advise: If you do have the luxury of being the first in the Cathedral – benefit from it and visit the Cathedral in realitve peace and quiet and take all the pictures you want rather undisturbed and climb the Giralda on your way out.
Well, there was no stopping M. – actually I have never seen him run this fast as long as I have known him. As a good travel guide I had to follow my “client”.
There are no actual stairs up to the top of the tower – as I said earlier, there are ramps rather that “back then” could be used on the back of a horse – approx. 104 meters high.
The way up allows interesting views through the narrow windows.
And certainly the top of the tower awaits the visitor with some rewarding views onto the beautiful city of Seville.
While the tower originally was the minaret of the mosque, it became the bell tower in the course of the history. Different religions have different ways to call their believers to service – I suppose.
Manfred, M. and B. being busy taking photographs I climbed down. Arriving in the Cathedral it was as I had described earlier – groups of tourists congregated around the main attractions of the Cathedral, the altars and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
As an interested reader you have certainly been reading the entry about Córdoba and you most certainly recall how taken I was by the beauty of the Mezquita, now I must say – the Cathedral of Seville has the same effect on me, being the biggest Gothic-style Cathedral in the entire world, besides being a World Cultural Heritage Site.
I guess, it really does not matter where spirituality dwells and to which higher instance it is directed to – if one is a mindful human being.
I strolled around ignoring the buzz created by less mindful people around me.
As it became more and more crowded I fled into the Patio of the Cathedral, admiring the building from outside – it sure looked as impressive from here than from inside.
When I got back inside I met the others, M. and B. captured by the beauty of “La Catedral” – if figured that it would take a while to release our fellow travellers from their trance-like state. I informed Manfred that I would wait outside in a café until our friends were finished with their visit.
We all had noticed quite some noise outside the building, penetrating through the thick walls – drum beats, whistle blowing and the ear-piercing sound of horns operated on compressed air.
When I got outside I got confirmation for what I had suspected: A large group of protesters marching in the street along the Cathedral – the right place to draw attention to one’s cause.
I must admit, witnessing demonstrations, seeing the crowds, listing to their rallying cries and all the other protest sounds, evokes strong emotions in me – a strange mix of feeling sympathic and aggressive… Well, being a psychologist I should be able to explain why I get launched on these things.
I decided not to pursue the thought but to get something warm to drink and a quiet place where I could wait for the others.
Now, when in Rome – I usually do as the Romans – forgive me the moment of weakness when I walked into a café belonging to a Seattle-based company and not into one of the local pavement cafés. I…
- …was longing for air-co
- …wanted standarized quality
- …wanted free WIFI to check mails and to plan our next moves (I needed to avoid that we ended up standing in front of closed doors again that day)
People, a travel guide deserves a treat every now and then (even though he did not get the opening hours of the Cathedral straight)… and here I was having an extra large cocoa with extra whip cream.
My fellow travellers joined me half an hour later – M. and B. were very satisfied with their visit and their photografic quarry. I was pleased that they were and that they started to develop an equally strong attachment to the city as Manfred and I had.
It was around 1:00 pm and unlike me – my friends had neither rested nor did they have any carb intake since breakfast.
Opposite of “El Archivo” there was one of the restaurants that offered food and “bocadillos” with ham and cheese or a combination of both. Manfred and I – usually reluctant selecting food places too close to tourist attractions – had visited this place during one of previous trips and had rated it: OK.
We went in and had a platter of various ham and cheese as well as a tostada (for me) – lots of aqua mineral CON gaz and cerveza.
Manfred and I speak Spanish well enough to place a simple order (Manfred had passed the DELE Intermedio) – the waiter – the insolent bastard, pardon my French – pretended not to understand us, and addressed us in English even though we had spoken to him in Spanish. What an Andalusian show-off.
In a previous travel journal I had devoted an entire chapter to Andalusian men working in the service sector – a sad chapter I should say.
But the day had worked so well so far that this rather poor service experience could not taint the overall experience. Food was good by the way and the price reasonable.
Over lunch Manfred and I discussed the next visit options:
We could either go to “Plaza de España” and “Parque de Maria Luisa” again, which they had introduced to during their visit in 2013, or take one of the narrow shopping streets down to Calle Alfonso XII on which we would take a left turn and visit one of my favorite museums of all times the “Museo de Bellas Arte de Sevilla”.
I love this place – not only because of great pieces of art being exhibited there, but more for the fact that the museum used to be a monastery before – with all the patios and the arcades inviting the visitors to rest and to contemplate. Makes the museum visit quite an intense experience.
The dice were cast – and the latter of the options were chosen by M. and B.
So leaving the restaurant we turned left and walked down “Avenida de la Constitución” along the tracks of the Sevilla tram past the Gothic prodigy known as “La Catédral de Sevilla” admiring beautiful buildings along the street.
In front of us the “Ayuntamiento de Sevilla” – the Seville Town Hall.
Sevilla as a city is laid out very generously and spaciously. The Town Hall is located on a vast “Plaza” where a lot of city life can take place.
As we were there a group of young and talented muscians gave a street concert which captured us and even made us donate some Euro.
We dove into one of the narrower shopping streets with all the “tiendas” and pavement cafés, some of them covered with canvas to protect the strollers from the piercing Andalusian sun. (We were lucky this day. The UV index as well as the temperatures were bearable)
At the end of “Calle Sierpes” there is a real trap, called: “Pastelería La Campana”. Having eaten ham and cheese (OK, I admit I had a tostada) you could not really say that there had been too much carb intake really… well, I stop trying to make excuses – the will was strong, the flesh however was weak.
B. and I went in and got ourselves an assortment of “meringues” with various flavours – I had picked a cinnamon-flavoured one for me. Before I could protest, the “meringues” – which were meant for immediate consumption – found themselves professionally packed and wrapped with a properly knotted string around it. Surely very handy if one was to carry the delicacy home.
B.’s and my plan however was to actually enjoy them right now, right there and that is how we ended up like two addicts with severe withdrawal symptoms desperately trying to untie the knot without harming the fragile content.
It took us more than five minutes to get there – very much to the amusement of M. and Manfred.
“Meringues” in Spain are much softer than in Germany where they are as dry as powder, so eating them while walking made somewhat of a mess, but they were delicious nontheless.
We arrived at the “Museo de Bellas Artes” by the time we were finished indulging and went in.
Now – in Spain, very often in museums that received or receive funding from the EU, European citizens get free admittance – provided they can produce an official ID.
Manfred and I – of course – had our ID on us. M. and B. did not. Tough luck, that is what I call it. Playing by the rules they had to pay for the entrance.
Here are tow important pieces of advice:
When trying to pay with a Credit Card in Spain, produce your ID – they may not accept your card if you cannot
Carry your ID if you plan on visiting cultural sites such as museums, exhibitions etc.
As I had mentioned earlier, this museum is a real gem. A bit away from the main attractions of Sevilla, in a former convent.
Beautiful outside – packed with significant art from the past. I am not an art buff, nor could I “read” any of the pieces in the exhibtion. However I do enjoy walking through the exhibition halls every single time we are in Sevilla.
The real highlight of the visit though is when you leave exhibition hall IV and find yourself in the former central nave of the covent’s church.
Even though no longer a church you can still feel a certain spirit in it – the pictures being the altar today. I can wonderfully relax just sitting on one of the wooden benches admiring the things that surround me.
We “only” explored the ground floor with M. and B.- the entire art exhibition extends over two vaste floors of the building.
Outside again, we decided to go back to the car, so we headed towards the Guadalquivir to walk back to the parking along the river side.
However – a couple of “café solo”, “acqua mineral con gaz”, and “caña” needed to be consumed, which we did in a small pavement café close to “Plaza de Armas”, where we sat outside – the afternoon traffic on “Calle Marqués de Paradas” in our backs.
Time to finally return to the car. Walking alongside the river Guadalquivir passing “Torre del Oro” (Gold tower) which houses a small maritime museum. We had visited the Torre on one of our previous trips and have marked the museum as insignificant and not worthy of a visit – that is why it only appears as prop but never as a major agenda item. It has its roots in the era of the Almohads in the 13th century and was one of the defense mechanisms against the “reconquistadores” who were trying to “liberate” or “cease” (depending on your point of view) on the river.
Crossing the “Paseo de las Delicias” we entered the public parking, where the car has waited for us patiently. We had paid approx. EUR 6 for the parking (8 hours).
Reversing our inbound trip we arrived back “home” at 5:30pm – time enough either to put the feed up, to do some shopping at Mercadona or to pay the beach a visit.