14-20 November: A week in Seville: it wasn’t all about the oranges!

Author: Mr A

Location: Seville, Spain

“Go to Seville!”, someone suggested when we were wondering where to head for a week’s break. Embarrassingly all I could conjure up in my mind was ….oranges. Yes there is around 45,000 trees laden with a rather sour variety from this tree that line the pavements of the city. But wow..so much more!

In the heat of summer (35 degrees and up!) these beautiful trees provide welcome shade for the diners seated at the seemingly endless rows of cafes. In this gloriously cool autumnal weather, the pavements were still buzzing. After a few pleasant lunches spent beneath these trees, my imagination fuelled by a decent vino rosso or two, I wondered what the oranges on the trees would make of the contrast in culture when they finally completed their journey as a jar of marmalade and made it onto an English breakfast table?

Cobbled streets lined with orange trees leading to the cathedral

In a nutshell, or an orange peel, this was the biggest joy for me of the week, to be transported into such a different world, where mealtimes were an occasion for so much clearly passionate conversation, punctuated by peals of laughter, uninhibited by the presence of strangers at surrounding tables. It was impossible not to smile at the sheer pleasure and “all in” enjoyment being taken in sharing a meal with friends and family, and be in turn uplifted ourselves.

Well…we had to eat, didn’t we?

Of course it wasn’t all sitting around eating and drinking, well “all” is a relative concept isn’t it? There was a lot of that, but we did clock up just under 80 kilometres (50 miles) of walking in the week. I doubt that would have put us in calorie credit though, but at least most of my trousers still do up! There was definitely plenty to wander round and see.

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On the first day it was the Palace, one of the three UNESCO sites in the city. For us to see this Moorish (no pun there) architecture, was a real eye and camera lens opener.

The other UNESCO site was the Cathedral that Catherine took a tour of, and luckily she had a brilliant guide who was able to bring alive the stories behind this incredible facade.

The quiet serenity of the Cathedral’s inner courtyard
Magnificent opulence, artwork and history – ranging from Roman times to present day
A series of 35 ramps guide visitors to the top of this tower, which Catherine climbed. This was so donkeys could be ridden to the top to allow guards to watch for invasion on the river.

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But enough of that, lets get back to the food! Markets, to me, always also tell so many stories about the people and how they live. We visited the ones in the centre of the city, and were swept along in the frenzied buying and selling of the produce. Just ogling the sheer variety, with its proximity to Africa, and its history of being a city where fresh ingredients have always been so important to its culture.

Mercardo di Triana – a huge, colourful fresh food market in the flamenco area of Seville…not the place to visit when you are hungry!

We also took a boat trip down the river, and got a less than satisfying guide, so my imagination fired up again to think of all the world shaping journeys that others had taken starting on this same stretch of water. Columbus, Magelllen, the conquistadors heading off to the Americas, the Romans, even allegedly the Vikings. Oh what tales those riverbanks could tell. Seville is still an important port, but the only boat traffic we saw was a couple of sightseeing boats like ours. Rivers no longer play the central role they once did, and Seville lapsed from its position as the hub of Spain’s commerce with the old and “new” worlds.

The Torre del Oro is the “Tower of Gold” in Seville.

Along the river were built places like this 36-meter-high tower used in the 12th century as a storage place for gold brought back from the South American colonies (hence its name).

It was even briefly warm enough for bare arms!
Quite breezy on board the boat
So our trip on the Guadalquivir River gave us a very rudimentary recorded sight seeing tour in four languages!

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As a city, it is now the capital of Andalusia, and home to 700,000 people, a nice size for a city, but almost every single one of whom seem to head to the old town on a Saturday to shop, eat tapas, and drink some of their fabulous local wines. Brilliant atmosphere!

So it’s back to the eating and drinking as we settle down for a long lunch, kicked off with my new favourite aperitif…a vermouth.

A little home bar inspiration

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We did also manage to fit in one evening a wine tasting, you will be surprised to hear 🙂

We profess to barely even skimming the surface of what Andalusia has to offer wine wise, but what we sampled we absolutely loved, that intense summer sun bringing out so many flavours.

A local wine tasting at Lama La Uva

For Catherine, a smooth rjoca or occasionally a chilled alberino with seafood. I really enjoyed the drier sherries as well. More to explore there I think!

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The city does still boast a rather unusual claim to fame though, apparently the largest wooden structure in the world. We had to have a look. Nice views. nice film of the city, tick. So now lets back to the tapas and wine…only kidding.

Setas de Sevilla (“Mushrooms of Seville”)

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I have just been reminded by some photos that we did have a look round a medieval home, but then we went for tapas and wine, so I can’t tell you very much more than that!

This courtyard appeared in the movie, Lawrence of Arabia
Casa di Pilatos (Palace for the governors of Andalusia)

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Another day brought more blue skies and pleasant walking temperatures in the low 20’s, so we took ourselves off to explore the Plaza de España in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park) – originally built in the 1920s as a symbol of peace with its former South American colonies. It was mostly closed for filming when we visited – flipping inconsiderate these movie types. In the past this has been a site for Star Wars (Episode II – Attack of the Clones for the geeks out there!). It was pretty picturesque with its tiled walls, moat and magnificent arches.

Plaza de España
Plaza de España
The devil is in the detail – even the pigeons are pretty!
Avenues of tall trees surrounded by scorched earth would be havens of shade in the summertime, when temperatures above 40 degrees centigrade are not unheard of
A new lens in Mrs A’s collection gets a workout – macroscopic gets her up close and personal to plants and insects
Enjoying some peace and tranquility in the Maria Louisa Park

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Catherine visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a 15th century monastery. The buildings were as fascinating as the artwork.

Meanwhile, I went to a local’s bar and drank some beer, and ate tapas, and quizzed the barman why everyone who lives in Seville seems to be so happy. He thought it was the tapas and wine. I’m inclined to agree.

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On our final night we booked a flamenco show at Casa de la Guitarra (House of the Guitar).

We loved watching the dancing and listening to the guitarist, but I think flamenco singing is a bit of an acquired taste. All good learning and a taste of the folk-songs of Spain.

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So I think that conveys the spirit of the week right? It was great to once again be back in Europe, delving into the history, watching the people, feeling the vibe.

The spirit and colour of Seville
A mash of historical eras and architecture

We remain so glad we made this move. Europe on a our doorstep, and so many parts of the UK to see as well. Our own back door is still full of places we haven’t had a chance to see yet. Long trips in our motorhome are off the agenda for the moment – we are enjoying spending time in our home with Tassie, and feeling it’s quite enough to have a week away here and there. How times change!

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