Seville - The Most Beautiful City in the World
Day 5 – December 23rd 2014
We set off early for the long drive from Granada (see separate hub) to Seville. Our route took us along the A92 through some spectacular countryside ranging from mountains, rolling hills, orange and lemon groves to miles and miles of olive trees. We passed through Loja, Archidona, Mollina, Estepa, Osuna, Arahal and finally in the mid-afternoon the beautiful city of Seville.
Seville is the capital of Andalusia and is located on the banks of the River Guadalquivir. The Seville harbour, positioned 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean, is the first and only river port in Spain. In fact, Christopher Columbus sailed from the port of Seville on his voyage of discoveries. Back then Seville was the only major port in Spain. It is also the hottest metropolitan area in the Western Europe, with average summer high temperatures of more than 35 °C.
The city, which dates back to 712 was built under Muslim rule. After the discovery of the Americas the city became the economic and trading centre of Spain. In the late 17th century the power of the city declined as Cadiz became the foremost trading port in Spain. It’s old town, which is the 3rd largest in Europe has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites designations. The Alcazar Palace, The Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.
Our hotel was situated somewhere in the centre of Seville on a large square. We managed to find the ring road and drove around it till we came to the River Guadalquivir by the Puento del Alamillo. There we turned into the old town section of Seville and headed towards Hercules Square where the Corner House Hotel was situated. Parking was very difficult but after twenty minutes of driving around we found a safe free parking space where we could leave our car for the six days we would be in Seville.
After unpacking we ventured out into a fairly chilly evening and started to explore our surroundings. By then it was dark and we were hungry so we looked for a restaurant on the square our hotel was on. We decided on Arte y Sabor where we could sit outside warmed by gas fired overhead heaters. After the meal, we walked away from the square towards Concordia Square passing many shops, restaurants, jazz clubs and coffee bars. The streets were bedecked with Christmas lights and all the shops looked very festive. Especially Duke of Victoria Square which was ablaze with a ceiling of lights.
Day 6 – December 24th 2014
As our hotel was room early we had to breakfast in one of the local snack bars. Just down the road was Plaza Chica Seville and it was there that we breakfasted on most days. After breakfast, we headed towards the cathedral. On the way, we passed through the Concordia Square, Duke of Victoria Square and on to Constitution Avenue and there before us was the Cathedral of Saint Mary in all its grandeur. It is a roman catholic cathedral which is the largest Gothic church in the whole world and the third largest church on the planet. It is a world heritage site, designated in 1987 by UNESCO. It was completed in the 16th century and at that time replaced Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the world. It is here that the discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus is buried. It took 5 years to construct the cathedral and it was completed in 1511. The dome of the cathedral has collapsed three times since then and it was only in 1903 that the last dome collapse was reconstructed. The interior of the cathedral is 42 metres high and the bell tower, which is on the site of the minaret from the mosque that originally stood there, is 105 metres high.
Behind the cathedral are the wonderful Royal Palace and its gardens (Real Alcazar de Sevilla). The palace was originally built and developed by Muslim Moorish kings and is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful palaces in Spain. Even today the Spanish Royal Family use the upper floors as a residence. It is the oldest royal palace still being used as a residence in Europe. In 1987 it was designated a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Being so close to the Cathedral of Seville and the impressive building of the General Archive of the Indies it compliments an area of immense architectural historical brilliance.
The main entry to the Alcázar (Lion Gate) takes its designation from the 19th century tile-work mosaic above it, a crowned lion bearing a cross in its claws. The name, The Courtyard of the Maidens, refers to the fable that the Moors demanded 100 virgins each year as tribute from other kingdoms in Iberia. The lower level of the Patio was built for Peter Ist and includes engravings re-counting Peter as a "sultan". Numerous lavish reception rooms are positioned on the sides of the Patio. In the centre is a large, four-sided reflecting pond with recessed gardens on either side. Historical evidence shows the gardens and the reflecting pond are the original design and have been restored thus. The House of Trade was built in 1503 by the Catholic Monarchs to control trade with the colonies of the new world, after the finding of America. The Casa controlled the governmental policies of Spanish exploration and colonization, and therefore dealt with legal quarrels regarding trade with the Americas. Its administration buildings were positioned near the Patio de la Monteria and comprised the chapel where Columbus encountered with Ferdinand and Isabella after his second voyage. The chapel today houses paintings of some of the most celebrated voyages of the discoverers.
Most of the palaces of Andalusía have garden groves with fruit trees, nursery produce and a extensive variety of aromatic flowers. The gardens not only provided food for the palace inhabitants but had the appealing purpose of giving pleasure. Water was always present in the form of irrigation networks, runnels, jets, ponds and pools. The Mercury Pond takes the shape of a big pond, located at the acme of the palace and therefore higher than the rest of the gardens, the reservoir is headed by the statue of the god Mercury, designed in 1576 by Diego de Pesquera. He also designed railings with shields depicting lions at their corners and eighteen balls with pyramid like finials neighbouring the pond. All these were initially gilded, but now only traces remain of the coating. The background is the "Gallery of the Grotesque," which was created on an old Almohad wall. It entails rustically worked stones of diverse kinds that feign marine rocks. These stone shapes give quadrangular spaces, and at the central point the walls are dyed red to seem like red marble. The walls also display mythological beings and unusual birds. The top of the gallery is adorned with spires in the form of castle crenulations. In the forward-facing part of the pond, there is a cascade with a newly reinstated water organ from the seventeenth century.
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Day 7 – December 25 2014
As well as being Xmas day, for us it’s ‘Bus trip’ day so off we set, taking a seat on the top of an open topped bus. Well wrapped up and wearing scarves and gloves we plugged ourselves into the back of the seat in front and donned ear buds, after selecting the ‘English’ option. This gave us a non-stop commentary which explained what the buildings were, the age and any other relevant historical information. Although the complete tour is 1 hour, the ticket lasts the day and you can hop on and off at will throughout the trip, which is what we did. We jumped off at the Plaza de Espana, a huge crescent shaped building with fountains and water features.
The Plaza de Espana was built in 1928 specifically for the 1929 Iberian/American exhibition. It is a famous example of both Moorish and renascence revival styles of Spanish architecture and sits in the Maria Luisa Park. The park is in a "Moorish paradisaical style" comprising a half mile of tiled fountains, pavilions, walls, ponds, benches, and exedras; lavish plantings of palms, orange trees, Mediterranean pines, and stylised flower beds with vine hidden bowers. Numerous buildings were constructed in it for the exhibition.
Day 8 - December 26th 2014
Off to the Bullring – despite my deep rooted misgivings, I am pleased to say that it is no longer practiced and now a museum. The history is interesting and building is beautiful together with the statues and also the costumes once worn by the matadors, heavily encrusted with jewels – eat your heart out Liberace! The evening bus trip is in store tonight, so we prepare by wrapping ourselves in as many clothes as possible, Philip dons his newly purchased woolly bobble hat and off we go! This bus tour follows a different route from the daytime one and at first it was still fairly light, but that soon changed and we travelled along the Avda de ls Palmeras, along the side of the river crossing over at the Puente del Cochorro, looping through Triana and back across the river via Puente de Isabel II Triana.
Triana is a neighbourhood and administrative district on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River in the city of Seville, Spain. Like other neighbourhoods that were historically separated from the main city, it was known as an arrabal. Traditionally it was a place for artisan, potters, ceramics and gypsies but this changes over the years, although they still have their own distinct traditions and festivals.
Day 9 - December 27th 2014
Am I seeing giant mushrooms or is it my (over active) imagination? Setas Encarnacion is a huge modern sculpture/structure – translation Metropol Parasol – made of wood located at La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville, Spain. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer and completed in April 2011.
It is the largest wooden structure in the world and its construction was carried out with the aim of renewing the Plaza de la Encarnación. It contains five levels, each with a separate purpose and accessible via lifts; We headed up to the fourth level to find the start of the walkways which lead us on to the fifth level, a magnificent view point at 28.5 meters. You meander along the top of the mushroom along a twisty turny walkway up in the sky with fantastic views over Sevilla. On returning to ground level we went to one of the cafes built under the structure for the free drink included in our viewing price.
Museum of Fine Arts of Seville or Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla is a collection of mainly Spanish visual arts from the medieval period to the early 20th century, including a choice selection of works by artists from the so-called Golden Age of Sevillian painting during the 17th century. The building itself was built in 1594 and originally a convent, but the museum was founded in 1839.
Early evening and it’s Flamenco time –Ola!! We visited the very interesting Museum of Flamenco and booked in for one of its flamenco shows. Although for only an hour it was stunning, just a guitar player and singer accompanying a male and female dancer in true flamenco – minimal flounces and the original traditional costumes. The museum also told the history of Flamenco with a stunning array of artefacts.
Day 10 - 28 December 2014
Today we venture across the river via the Alamillo Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava and built for the 1992 Universal Exhibition in Seville and is the first cable-stayed bridge supported only by a inclined mast.
It has a total length of 250 meters, with a 200 meters central platform. The mast, inclined at 58 degrees, and with an altitude of 142 meters, is made of steel filled with concrete. It hold the 26 steel cables (arranged in pairs), which support the bridge deck. The fact that the lift of the bridge is carried out by tilting the mast, without opposite wires, is what made it became unique in its days. Next port of call was the Andaulcia Contemporary Arts centre, located in the Cartuja de Santa María de las Cuevas Monastery, where Christopher Columbus' remains were interred for thirty years. We enjoyed something to eat and drink at a lovely cafe, obviously very popular with Sevillians and not at all touristy. Unfortunately, we were too late to go inside, but instead enjoyed the sculptures dotted around the beautiful old monastery.
We also visited an old ceramic works and were able to see the beautiful old traditional Andalusían tiles on display.
Day 11 – December 29th 2014
After breakfast, we packed, checked out and headed with hearts in our mouths to where we had parked our car six days earlier. Seeing it still in the spot we had parked it was a great relief because we had not kept an eye on it at all since we arrived. Our journey back to Malaga was on the A92 motorway passing through Osuna, Estepa where we stopped and had a light lunch, then onto Mollina before switching onto the A45 heading south towards Malaga.
Nearing Malaga we made a mistake and instead of switching to the M20 we stayed on the A45. Realising our mistake, we turned around and eventually after getting on the M20 we arrived at the airport and delivered our car back to the car hire firm. Their shuttle took us to the terminal where after check-in we had a couple of hours to kill before our two and half hour flight home to Birmingham Airport.
At Birmingham, a shuttle bus took us to where our car had been parked and one and half hours later we arrived home ready for a nice cup of tea.
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