It was over 90 degrees today. And I did not like it. Not one bit. Seriously, this trip has been so much warmer than I anticipated. Seriously? 90 degrees in Spain at the end of October? Crazy. Looking forward to getting to some cooler climes, but not before a visit to the beach!
But I digress. I had to take a 6 hour bus ride to Seville from Lagos because there are no trains that run in southern Portugal (or southern Spain for that matter). It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I had my own seat(s) the whole time. I didn’t have breakfast and only slightly worried about being hungry, but I slept most of the first 4 hours (I woke up when I realized we had stopped and there were police officers on the bus requesting passports!), and then we stopped for 20 mins so we could eat. It was perfect.
I took a cab to my hostel and was initially disappointed that I could not buy my bus tickets to Tarifa at the same bus station (that bus leaves out of a different station), but then I found out that station was less than a 10-min walk from my hostel. Nice! Once I settled in I decided to walk to the bus station to figure out where it was and get my tickets. Then I walked through Prado de San Sebastian (a park) that was having a Festival of Nations (Christy!!). Unfortunately it wasn’t very happening. Lots of booths were closed, but I had a nice time just browsing.
Then I went to Plaza de Espana, which was just across the street from the park. I don’t know how this did not make it onto my itinerary, but holy cow. So beautiful. I mean, stunningly beautiful. It’s a large horseshoe-shaped building (that contains offices and military stuff now) that has tiles of all of the provinces of Spain. There were several stairways into the building, which were dedicated to different rulers over the years…I took a photo of the Aragon one. Ah, Catherine of Aragon!
On the front side (I came in from the back), is a large courtyard with a giant fountain in the middle. Also running in a horseshoe-shape is a canal (the lady at my hostel called it a lake. No. Just no.). There are decorative bridges over the canal at several locations and towers at each end of the building. And it’s all decorated in tile. I can’t do it justice. It’s so gorgeous!
I then just relaxed for awhile before trying to find dinner. At 7pm. My bad. I know Spanish people are on a later schedule than we are, we saw that in Madrid. But it’s even “worse” here. Most places weren’t even open. I was looking for some tapas, but couldn’t find many with an English tapas menu and the ones that did didn’t appeal to me. I walked for ages and ended up getting lost in a little neighborhood. I now know it was Barrio de Santa Cruz. It was so lovely! I got lost in there. It was tons of tiny lanes and alleys with lots of shops and restaurants and cafes. I loved it. But I was so hungry and couldn’t find my way out (its Wikipedia entry has a section called “The Labyrinth” and says it’s a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys…yup!) that I forgot to take photos! Good thing I went back tonight! Apparently, this is the main tourist neighborhood, but I had no idea. It is also the former Jewish quarter.
Eventually, I made my way out and as I was about go home without dinner, I decided to walk in a different direction. I was still coming up empty, but I found a small place that worked. I ordered what I thought was a chicken sandwich, but it was the weirdest chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. It was a weird kind of chicken, plus bacon, plus an egg. The menu said “egg mayonnaise” without a comma. I have seen some mayos referred to that way, so I assumed that was what they meant. Nope. A full on fried egg on my sandwich. Whatever, I ate it! Plus some real tasty sangria and a small ice cream cone!
I thought I was lucking out and getting a room to myself, but alas, after 10pm three girls came in. They’re from the Netherlands and couldn’t be nicer. They wanted to know what I did in Amsterdam. They were happy for this horrendous weather because they said it was cold and rainy in Holland. It was cold and rainy when I was in Holland, too!
This morning I got up and had churros for breakfast again. Much cheaper this time, but they’re just not growing on me. Then I went to the Cathedral and was bummed to see a long line. But then a staff came around and said that it wasn’t opened yet, so it was the ticket line. I was about 10 mins early (from it opening…it didn’t open until 11…this is my kind of culture!) so once it opened the line moved quickly enough.
The Cathedral. Man, I just can’t describe this, either. It was ginormous, first of all. I am pretty sure I spent more time there than I did at Notre Dame last year (not counting Mass). It claims to be the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and I think it just might be. 23,500 square meters. And it has a bell tower. I walked up 34 “ramps” and then 17 steps to the top. It was a great view of Sevilla, but I was so sweaty afterward!
The different chapels were amazing and gorgeous. But the high altar was probably the most decadent I have ever seen. It’s all gold. Just gold, gold, gold. There are gates in front of it, so I hope my photos turned out. It was difficult to get a good shot of it. It was unbelievable. There was a silver altar that was pretty, too, but couldn’t hold a candle to the high altar. So this Cathedral also has one big thing it’s famous for…Christopher Columbus is buried there. Or his tomb is there. They said it’s been verified or something. It’s enormous (like most things in this place), so they’re making a big deal out of it!
After the Cathedral I then toured the Real Alcazar, a Royal Palace. Unlike any palace I’ve ever seen. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (I’ve seen a lot of those on this trip!). It was built originally by the Moors as a fort and is considered one of the most beautiful in Spain. I’ll second that. It is also the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.
The buildings themselves were great. Amazing tile work, lovely lovely ceilings (my favorite is actually featured on the Wikipedia page…yes, some info I get from there, some from guidebooks, some from pamphlets when they have them, and some from audioguides…but I generally only pay for audioguides if the entrance was free or cheap!). But the best best best part of this place? The gardens. Holy cow! They are enormous, first of all. I spent the vast majority of my time in the gardens. Seriously getting lost there. They just kept going and going and going!
The trees were amazing, so many different kinds. The flowers were so pretty and many of them still blooming. The air was so fragrant, you had no idea you were in a big city. There were ponds, fountains, and pools. It didn’t even feel so hot in the shade of the garden, but once in the sun, it was sweltering. So at one part there was water pouring out of a pipe above into a pool. I so wanted to jump in. It was gross water, I know, but I was so hot! And there were also peacocks. Everywhere. And they weren’t too afraid of humans. If you had food they came right up to you. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the feathers, though. Bummer. But to make up for it, I was sitting at a table by the café having a snack (it was taking much longer to get through this than I thought and so lunch was pushed off) and one of the peacocks came right to my table. Previous people had left plates there, one with a ham sandwich on it. The peacock grabbed the ham and dropped it on the ground. Pecked at it once or twice and then backed up and didn’t touch it again! He was not a fan.
After the Alcazar, I had lunch and made my way to the Bullfighting Ring and Museum. I had seen the one in Madrid, but I wanted to see this museum. It was a guided tour only and I had 30 mins to kill. I was parched and sweating, so I walked down the street straight into an Irish pub and got a big ol’ Magners. YES! Just what I needed. I didn’t have time to finish it though (reminding me why Loren and I switched to half pints when in Ireland!), so I set the glass on the bar and walked out. The server literally (and I mean that in the dictionary definition way) came running out of the pub after me asking if I wanted it to go. Yes. To go. She said they had plastic cups they could pour it into for me. Um, no brainer! The other server then poured it for me when we came back inside and she goes, It would be shame (to waste it). HA! My thoughts exactly!
The bullfighting museum was ok. I kind of liked the guided tour, as I learned more about bullfighting than I did in Madrid. But after having been to Madrid, Seville was kind of a letdown (the ring itself). The museum was interesting. They have the cow’s head stuffed on the wall that sired the bull that killed Manolete. Yep, they blamed the bull and therefore the cow that bore it. So they killed it and hung it as proof. Interesting!
I was definitely dragging by then, so I went back to my hostel to rest (and cool down). But not for long because I had to go find some Flamenco! I remembered seeing a place in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, so I went back and found it (right away, actually!). They were full for the 7pm show, but when she learned I was one person, she told me to come back in 20 mins and they would put me on the waiting list. She said as one person the chances were good I would get in at 7pm. And I did!
It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was good. The female was amazing. They did a dance of the male and female together with the singer (cante) and the guitar player (toque). The female was not wearing the typical dress, though, so I was confused. But then the dancers and singer left and just the guitar player stayed. He did a solo. Then the three guys came out and sat down and the female came out and danced. This time she was in the typical dress and was, again, unbelievably good. It was so entertaining to watch. Then the dancers left and the singer got his solo (with the guitar accompaniment). That part was kind of weird. I don’t really understand what he’s singing and he actually made jokes about that. That the world doesn’t understand flamenco and then he “sang” something and goes, “comprende”? knowing the answer was no! Then the female came out and sat down and it was the man’s turn to dance solo. This was kind of weird, too, because it’s not like he has a fancy dress he can use as a prop. He used his jacket a bit and it was weird. But once he got going I have never seen someone’s legs move that fast before in my life!
I then went to the place where I had churros in the morning for dinner because it ended up being the same place that Liz and I had our last dinner in Madrid. With an a la carte menu, where everything was 1 euro today (Wednesdays). I then packed up a little and am getting ready to go to bed! I need to get up in the morning and get on another bus, this time only for about 3 hours, to Tarifa. So excited for the beach!!