I visited Carmona briefly when I was here earlier this year but wanted to go back to see more of it and I’m glad I did as it is often neglected as everyone rushes off to ?Cordoba – at just 30 minutes drive from Seville it makes for a great half day visit or a bit longer if you stay for lunch (remembering that lunch is usually 2-4pm).
First stop was the Roman ruins just outside the old town – they feature remains of an amphitheater in not great condition but also a necropolis (Roman burial ground) which is quite large and worth a wander – and free too.
The city itself is surrounded by cliffs and is the only town in Spain that has never been invaded as it is virtually impenetrable. There is only on city wall entrance and that is two sets of very thick walls enabling a lot of spear and hot oil to be hurled down at marauders before they get anywhere inside. It has had sophisticated water retaining systems so could not be sieged either. Like many places in this part of Spain it was inhabited by the Romans (note impressive original mosaic floor), the Visigoths, the moors, the Jews and then the Catholics. The views of the valley show how high up it is and why it would be impossible to attack – also you could see anyone coming for miles.
Ok I’ve tried very hard to ignore it but I have reached the point where I can no longer deny that it is that time of year again. And while we often think of the Northern European take on the festive season they do make rather a big splash with it in Seville too – and the main craft market doesn’t even open until next week! So what does Yuletide look like in Seville?
Nativity scenes at every turn and a nativity market where as you can see there are even babies for sale – had me in stitches. (Barbara – I can see you already sending me an email and asking me to pick up a few samples!)
Decorations are a must – they look great during the day
And at night – with sudden influx of crowds but only for one weekend and sanity has resumed again!
And then there are the shop windows and things that appeared in the hallway of my apartment block
So that’s the only acknowledgement – I think – unless I see anything as funny as the babies……. Have a good one however you spend it xxx
The nice thing about staying in a place for a month is that you get time to visit the less obvious places in and around the city – so that’s what I’ve been doing a bit of while in Seville.
Still beautiful weather so decided to do the tourist one hour boat on the Guadalquivir River and see the sights from a different angle.
This shows the theatre and bull ring and also the rather odd and singular skyscraper in Seville. Nothing is supposed to be taller than the Giralda Tower but somehow this one got through a few years ago – very controversial. I assume some money changed hands somewhere along the way?
Until relatively recently there was only one bridge across the river – so the boat men made a killing – but now there are 7 of them. Top right was designed in the Eiffel school style – the others were build for the 1992 Expo.
The Golden Tower by the river seems to have many myths attached to it including that it once actually housed gold. I don’t think so. As you can see it is certainly not made of or covered in gold. I think the second pic has the answer as when it is reflected in the river it looks like liquid gold.
Thanks to my friend Sue I found a tucked away monastery – which actually is full of nuns – but anyway it was a delightful place that I nearly missed. It is called the Monasterio Santa Paula and has a church, museum, peaceful garden and the nuns sell their cookies and jam – very common in Spain and much prized. Yet another nice quiet corner in Seville
Also took the bus – yes really I am becoming very good at them – to Cadiz – 1.45 minutes from Seville. At last I got to see the sea -seems strange to be in Spain for this long and not to see it. It has a nice cathedral (simpler than most but no pics allowed) and it was pleasant to stroll along the beachside waterfront. It also has the remains of a Roman amphitheatre. I ate some great tapas but other than that – not the most exciting spot.
On my return from Cadiz, Seville was in mayhem as a million people appeared to have descended on the place – turns out it was St Nicholas Day Night – so lots going on plus this is a holiday weekend for constitution Day so no doubt more to follow but here is a taste.
And finally it is hard to go anywhere without seeing a bit of flamenco. I was especially taken with this lady – her dancing and her dress
If you’ve ever contemplated a long weekend in Seville – and you absolutely should – here is what my friend Sue and I managed over the last three days. It was great.
First up – a walking tour of Hidden Seville – which involved heading into the old moorish quarter of the city. Once a no go zone and while still gritty become more gentrified as more tourists start to visit. A real community spirit here too with a lot of communal living and focus on music and the traditional arts.
Next stop was to go inside the architectural sculpture that is the Metropole Parasol. Controversial when it opened less than 10 years ago it is not a must see in Seville and it is different again once you are inside and walking around it. Definitely the architect was influenced by Gaudi.
An evening walk into Triana – over the bridge was next on the agenda. The walk involved tapas tasting in some tiny and authentic bars as well as a flamenco show (no pics allowed). Excellent evening.
Day 2 and the first stop was a tour of the Alcazar Palace and adjoining Gardens and for Sue the Cathedral too. The two most viewed buildings in Seville and for good reason. Try to book a timed ticket for early access to avoid crowds. Like many buildings in Andalucia all the artwork and design is mudeja- Muslim design and architecture including mosques which were subsequently taken over by the Catholics who rather than pulling them down (thank goodness) added a cross and bell tower above the minarets and a few coats of arms around the place – and then declared them Christian! Excellent decision in my view and great example of recycling and using skilled local artisans.
After an excellent Middle eastern meal, day 3 started with a tour of the bullring which has been around since 1760. This is a well used arena right by the Guadalquivir River which is used about 30 times a year for bull fights. The tour also includes access to a museum.
Then as the weather was so lovely – a walk though Maria Luisa Park to the Plaza Espana originally designed for the 1928 Ibero-American Expo and still in amazing condition. Each tiled alcove represents a different province in Spain and the key is to find one that matches what you are wearing and then take a photo!!
So for anyone wondering – yes it is worth coming over for a long weekend. Definitely.
Thanks Sue for making it extra fun
It is an easy day trip to visit Cordoba and Carmona from Seville. The main tour was Cordoba and included the Alcázar and gardens, the Jewish Quarter and finally the unusual mosque/cathedral. I really wanted to like Cordoba but maybe the combination of a rainy day, too many tourists and a tackiness in the trinkets sold as well as a really bad guide wrecked it for me. I have since been advised that once you have seen the mosque/cathedral – which is amazing you need to head to the medieval part of town where there are far less people and genuine artisans to be seen.
Anyway, not everything is perfect:). These are the gardens in the Alcázar – as ever in Southern Spain they are impressive.
I liked these statues. Two show Chrstopher Columbus asking the King and Queen of Spain for money so he could go exploring. The rest as they say is history. The column is Roman and shows how this city was built on Roman ruins – like many places in Southern Europe
Then on to the Jewish Quarter which has a number of memorial to some of the Great Jewish philosophers and writers and contributors to the city.This is Maimonides the Jewish philosopher. Cordoba is also well known for its flower pots on the sides of walls. Very pretty.
Then to the Mosque which was turned into a cathedral after Catholicism became supreme following the ousting of the moors.
On the way back we made a stop in Carmona – a place I would have liked to have seen more of as it is the oldest of the key cities in this part of Spain and is devoid of tourists! We visited the parador (Spanish state run hotels in interesting old buildings – would love to stay here one day – spectacular views)
Coming to the end of this trip so crammed in two more museums. First the Hospital de Vererables Sacerdotes in the Old Quarter. Quite a few Murillo pieces and a Velazquez in here but my favourite bit was the church that is part of the house as it would have been easy to not even know it was there as it was behind a large closed wooden door. Luckily I always push down doors!
Then to to Lebrija Palace which is another private house which is special because the countess who owned it was an avid collector of Roman mosaics and medieval tiles which she displayed very lavishly in the house. Pretty cool.
And then a visit to the Spanish Pavilion (Plaza Espana) building put up in 1929 for the Expo at that time. You can’t go inside but the outside is pretty splendid and right in the middle of the park. There are seating areas made from mosaics which cover every area of Spain. A good spot to stroll or relax with a book.
One of the top places to visit in Seville is the cathedral and this is for good reason. It is the largest Gothic style cathedral in the world and third overall for size only to the Vatican and St Paul’s. Apparently the mandate was “let’s build the biggest cathedral in the world and everyone will think we are crazy to try”! You get the idea – it is impressive both from the outside and the inside (if you enjoy a dose of OTT) .
I also climbed the Giralda Tower – 37 floors – well probably only half that as they were half floors but I was glad it was an upward slope and not stairs. The view from the top was wonderful although a bit ear shattering when the bells started ringing.
Here are the exteriors including the Tower
A selection of views from the top of the Giralda Tower and also at various mid points where I was stopping to see what it looked like outside – yeah right – I mean stopping to get my breath back!
The interiors also include art by Murillo as well as a lot of gold and silver.
I liked this room the best – I think it was the Chapter Room just before you get to the exit.
An important highlight for me in visiting Seville was the chance to get stuck into some really good tapas. I have not been disappointed and particularly enjoyed my tapas food tour earlier today.
Tapas translates as “top” and originally they were invented as a means to put something on top of a glass or wine or beer to stop the bugs getting in to your drink. instead of being boring and using a coaster they started to make small food items that could sit on top of your glass and so tapas was born.
The variety of tapas bars in Seville is legendary and it is worth getting someone who knows the place to give you some ideas of where to eat. Most tapas bars offer a wide range of items including specialities in season but most also have one dish they are especially famous for so it is not uncommon to “tapas crawl” to your favourite spots. Some of the bars themselves are interesting in their own right.
And here are some of the items I have indulged in (so far).
Iced gazpacho, marinated anchovies and potatoes, croquettes and pardon peppers and somehow a very delish hot chocolate snuck in there?
And black pudding, fritters of cod in a bechamel sauce, Iberian ham (black pigs eating certain acorns only) served traditionally on top of the glass and then you sip your sherry wine through a gap in the ham to get the aroma of both and chicharrones (probably spelled wrong but high end port scratchings is the closest I can describe it)
You will see below that a traditional way of eating
Seville is a special place to wander around so this post is some of the places I’ve seen outside and in on my wanderings.
Firstly the old town or Jewish Quarter or Santa Cruz as it is known is the place to hang out day and night for lovely narrow lanes, tapas bars and people watching.
I visited the Museo de Juderia which i stumbled on in this area as my family have Spanish Jewish origins. It is a tiny place and a bit pricy to get in but for those interested in this topic, worth a visit. I especially liked reading about this lady who had a mysterious story as you can see and then they tell you three different versions of what she really did – you will have to visit to find out what they are. She is a very arresting looking woman
I always do an open topped bus tour at the start of a visit to a new place (sorry Emma!) – it helps me get my bearings and figure out where I want to go back to for a closer look. Below is a selection of monuments along the way.
A much more recent monument is the Mushroom for obvious reasons. A bit like Federation Square in Melbourne it violently split opinion when it opened but also like Fed Square people seem to have become used to it. I think it is pretty cool – especially at night.
In Seville the two traditional things to do are visit a bullfight and a flamenco. I restricted my bullfight viewing to the outside of the massive bullring but I did enjoy an evening of flamenco – that is to say the dancing is amazing but I do not like the songs that go with it – too screechlike for me after the nice tones of Fado in Portugal. But to watch those feet move at the speed they do is something that has to be seen to be believed. And yes that is Mozart below – think he must have lived in or liked Seville? Well who wouldn’t?
I am staying near the stunning Maria Louisa Park – and I walk through it every day ato get into town – perfect start to the day. I am also obsessed with jacaranda trees which are in full bloom at the moment.
Even though I am not a fan of Game of Thrones I was very much looking forward to visiting the Alcazar Palace in the centre of Seville. It is as spectacular as I expected and as I am very fond of moorish architecture and it gives the Alhambra a run for its money. It takes about two hours to do it justice and once you are in you can wander around (with audio guide) to enjoy the interiors and the Palace Gardens. Unfortunately everyone else has discovered this place so i strongly recommend you either book ahead online or get there at 9.30 when it opens. Queues to get in were horrendous by the time |I left. If you want to see the Upper Palace – definitely book ahead. It was sold out for the full week when I visited and it is not even June yet!
Here are my personal highlights:
The tiles – was missing those from Lisbon! What is that lady thinking?
The Palace Gardens