Seven Days In The South Of Spain

by Johnny

Sevilla is stereotypical Spain, in a good way.  It’s overflowing with Flamenco, bullfighting, art, history, spontaneous festivals, colorful churches, noisy plazas, tapas bars and sangria.  It’s exactly how I pictured Spain in my head…only 30° hotter.  We’re lucky the apartment we rented for a week had air conditioning, because the city is pretty unbearable from about 3:00pm until 9:00pm this time of year (ah, so this is why I got the low season rate).  Not to be deterred, Anna and I took full advantage of the cooler mornings to see the tourist sites and the evenings to casually wander the city.

Our air conditioned apartment Orange trees line every street and plaza
We stumbled onto many random celebrations Colorful Sevilla

We checked out Sevilla’s most famous attraction, its cathedral, which is the third largest church in Europe and the largest Gothic church anywhere.  It’s got some pretty interesting things going on inside, including Christopher Columbus’ tomb and the golden Retalbo Mayor, but Anna and I thought it was more impressive from the outside, especially at night.  We also liked the cathedral’s courtyard filled with orange trees and its tower with one long, continuous ramp going up so that horses could climb it.

Outside of the cathedral Christopher Columbus’ tomb
Lots of gold in the cathedral View of the bullring from the cathedral’s Giralda tower

As far as Sevilla’s tourist sites go, the Alcázar takes the cake.  It is probably the most impressive building we’ve seen so far on our trip.  It was built in the 10th century while Sevilla was under Muslim control, so the Moorish style architecture and elaborate tilework were unlike anything we had seen in France.  The entire place was a maze of hallways, rooms, patios and gardens, each more elaborately decorated than the next.

A courtyard in the Alcázar
Alcázar ceiling Doorways in the Alcázar
Ancient baths under the Alcázar gardens Alcázar architecture
One of the incredible gardens at the Alcázar

Obligatory tourist attractions aside, Sevilla is a great city just to wander around and lose yourself in.  Its Barrio Santa Cruz, the old Jewish Quarter, is a maze of tiny streets, dubbed “kissing lanes” because they were built so close to each other to maximize shade.  There seem to be hidden plazas around every corner, each lined with orange trees (again to maximize shade, as they keep their green leaves all year long).  And don’t even get Anna started on all the colorful tiles all over the city.  They’re everywhere…park benches, floors, ceilings, doorways and even on the underside of balconies.  As a recent effort to “green up” the city, Sevilla has made itself much more bicycle friendly.  Anna and I took full advantage of Sevici, the city’s community bicycle program where you basically grab a bike at one of over 200 kiosks located throughout Sevilla and drop it off at another.  This let us see some areas of the city we wouldn’t have otherwise, and it saved us from long walks home in the mid-day heat.

Sevilla is probably best seen at night.  It was easy to lose track of time with so many people out and about.  Plazas that looked like ghost towns at 3:00pm were packed at 2:00am with parents eating while their kids played soccer.  Most nights Anna and I would grab a late dinner before sitting on a bench in the shadow of the cathedral listening to Flamenco guitar players for hours on end.  The city even smells like oranges at night…it’s really amazing.  One night we even caught an actual Flamenco show at La Carbonería, which is basically a sangria beer garden.  It was a free show, and most Flamenco enthusiasts will tell you it isn’t the real deal, but I think you’d have a hard time finding a dancer more passionate than ours.  It was serious business.

“Kissing lane” in Barrio Santa Cruz
Colorful plaza Biking across the bridge into Triana
Tiles And more tiles
If this was our last stop, Anna would have filled her suitcase with as many of these as she could
No shortage of tapas in Sevilla Plaza in Triana
The scene in Alameda de Hercules at 1:00am
Cathedral at night Flamenco!

The highlight of our week, and probably the biggest unexpected surprise of our trip so far, was an overnight trip to Ronda, one of Andalucía’s largest white hill towns.   Anna and I knew nothing about Ronda before we went (I think I just googled “day trips from Sevilla” or something), but we were both blown away by the beauty and history of the place.  For starters, the physical setting is unreal.  Ronda’s old town and new town straddle a massive gorge connected by a bridge that will make you say, “How the heck did humans build something like this?”  Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls was inspired by the tiny prison cell in the center of the bridge, where prisoners would be sentenced to death by jumping into the ravine below.  And while Sevilla carries on the tradition of bullfighting today, the sport (or art form, as the Spanish like to call it), was invented in Ronda.  It was an incredible place, and Anna and I both agreed we’d love to go back one day.  Unfortunately I got a little antsy uploading our pictures and instead deleted them all (oops!), but we still got some good ones on Anna’s camera.

Ronda’s Puente Nuevo
View from one of Ronda’s parks Valley below Ronda
Houses built to the edge of the ravine
Our B&B in Ronda Adios Spain…Olá Portugal!
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