Out of the three cities that Michelle and I visited during our excursion to Spain, Seville was our favorite. Located about 60 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean (where Christopher Columbus set sail), the romantic city brims with ambiance. This is the city of Don Juan (the atheistic sex addict) and Carmen.
From our hotel across the Guadalquivir River, we walked toward the center of the city on our first day. The Giralda Tower on the massive neo-gothic cathedral was puncturing the sky and the spires of Plaza de Espana were seen above the tree line.
We found our way to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See or more simply, the Seville Cathedral. Upon seeing this amazing structure, one could understand how this is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and is overall, the third largest church. The site is also famous for being where the remains of Christopher Columbus lie (or atleast some of his remains). Scientists confirmed this much through DNA testing in 2006 (read about the post-humous travels of Columbus: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/12871458/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/dna-verifies-columbus-remains-spain/)
In the Cathedral where oral tradition holds that a member of the Cathedral chapter once said: “Let us build a church so beautiful and so great that those who see it built will think we were mad.” The building certainly is a relic and it certainly is completely massive. The inside is fairly open and features elaborate space of Gothic columns extending high to the ceiling. The altar itself is huge as well but was under construction while we were there.
Standing next to the four statued kings holding Columbus’ above-ground tomb was a pretty significant, historical-perspective experience for me. Columbus died thinking he had sailed to India but he had set in motion the chain events that led to the founding of America. Although, he is obviously historically revered, I find it hard to get past the well reported dark side of him as well. History is rarely ever neat and tidy.
Michelle and I finished off our time at the Seville Cathedral climbing the Giralda Tower. The tower is the only standing monument to an ancient mosque that was on site prior to the reconquista in 1248. We read that Muslims used to ride horses up the fairly wide passageways to top of the bell tower. They would do this five times a day to alert everyone to the occasion of prayer. The tower offers an impressive 360 view of Seville including the beautiful river.
Descending the tower, we strolled over to Plaza de Espana which is an immaculate building that was built in 1929…right before the stock market crash. The Spaniards built this structure for the international fair which ended up being a kind of bust. Hard to put into words the look of this place so here is some information and pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_de_Espa%C3%B1a_(Seville).
Later on that night, we thought we would partake in some Spanish culture and attended a flamenco show at Los Gallos in the Santa Ana neighborhood of Seville. The show was performed in a very small, intimate theater that started filling up close to showtime at 8pm. There were two male singers and one guitar player. A secession of solo dancing women would come down the stairs and dance. This was a unique experience and an excellent show. We had been told that flamenco often breaks out spontaneously in bars at night. This show had aspects that were planned but they did a good job of making the event feel spontaneous.
One of the deep joys of Seville was wandering through the city at night. The Cathedral all lit up is majestic and the town comes alive. Spanish people typically eat dinner around 8pm and then go on a walk. We saw all kinds of people walking at night from families to younger people.
The next day in Seville we would experience Churros de Chocolate, an impromptu viewing of an art show (mostly paintings) in a neighborhood, and a tour of a bullfighting arena in Seville. We had made sporting connections on the whole trip from Fenway Park in Boston to a bullfighting arena.
This day, we would tour the Alcazar of Seville which is the oldest royal palace in Europe still in use. It was originally a Moorish fort. On these grounds in the early 1500s, Queen Isabella de-briefed Columbus about his new world ventures. The architecture (and mix thereof) is cool and if I knew more about historical architecture I could probably wax poetic about it. The gardens of this Alcazar went on forever and were beautiful. High walls with walkways toward the top allows visitors to walk around the gardens and look down upon the landscape.
Some of the best ice cream I have ever had in my life was outside the alcazar and next to the Seville Cathedral. I think the name of the place was “Ferretti” or something close to that. I had mangerina, pineapple and a berry mix. This gelatto (I’ll say it) was the best I have ever had. The perfect treat for what was a very hot day (probably around 100 degrees).
Being that Michelle and I were very warm and our feet hurt from walking around at this juncture, we walked to a park just up from the cathedral and alcazar. At Michelle’s request, we walked over a park fountain, sat down, removed our shoes, and place our feet in the fountain. Almost as refreshing as the ice cream. I don’t know if this was kosher in the culture or not but it sure felt good. We noticed three other couples had copied our idea with various fountains around the park.
The best moment in Seville would come later. We had eaten tapas at the Bar Santa Ana and walked down to the river. Next to the river were concrete walkways and we sat along the river watching the sun fall off the face of the earth. At night, of course, everything was lit up. The torreo del oro, the spires of Plaza de Espana, the Giralda tower which hovered over everything. Sounds of life were all around us as people ate, drank and enjoyed the evening.
The moment was bittersweet. I felt very happy sitting and talking to Michelle but saddened by the prospect of leaving in the next couple of days. The train to Madrid would be leaving in the morning and from there, the flight back to the States.