Travels

Seville

After the Americas were discovered, Seville was the economic center of the Spanish empire, because its protected up-river port had the monopoly on trade. These new riches helped Spanish culture flourish in the 17th century.

Most of the major sites are within walking distance of the city center. The enormous cathedral, originally a mosque built by the Almohads (Moors from Morocco) in the 12th century, is best viewed from a rooftop somewhere — while you get a sense of the size as you walk past it, seeing its top outline takes your breath away. It’s the third largest cathedral by footprint (1- St.Peter’s in Rome; 2-St. Paul’s in London) in Europe and the largest by volume. Its bell tower was originally a minaret; in the 1400s the Muslim ornaments were changed to Christian symbols.

We toured the Real Alcazar, the royal Palace, commissioned by Pedro I to be built within the palaces that were originally constructed by the Almohads. Pedro’s palace was completed in two years; later monarchs e.g., Ferdinand and Isabella, Charles V, Philip II, added their own grand touches. It’s still used today when the Spanish royal family visits Seville. Water — fountains, ponds — is everywhere, symbolizing the greatest Muslim gift you can give. The bright tile work, carved ceilings and grand marble wall carvings are astounding. You don’t see this moorish influence anywhere else in Europe and it’s gorgeous. The grounds are also spectacular; some 5 acres of plants including a labyrinth, and several walking paths. We ran across two new packs of ducklings on our walk.

Seville’s main green area is the Parque Maria Luisa, formed by former palace grounds. We hung here for a lot of Sunday – along with thousands of joggers, bikers, scooters and a bunch of people who just finished some sort of race. We also caught some terrific flamenco in Plaza de Espana, a pretty tile-laden square in front of the old palace. Sunday night we went to a Corrida de Toros (a bullfight) — no doubt the most controversial tradition in Spain, but one very ingrained in Sevilla culture.

People go to Sevilla for the city vibe. Bizet’s Carmen was from here. Sevillans know how to have fun, as evidenced by the gazillions of girls’ weekends and bachelorette parties touring all the sites. Tapas are the only food game: eat one or two, have a beer and move on to the next spot. It’s simple food designed for quick stops. Lots of beef and pork, fried fish galore, and the tastiest spinach and garbanzo dish ever. We left Seville in the rain in search of the next mosque-cathedral just an hour north.

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