Filled with oranges you can't eat!
01.02.2013 - 12.02.2013 18 °C
A 2.5hours train ride on the fast train from Madrid and we were in Seville. Everyone we've talked to has said that Spain is meant to be cheap. Haven't they been wrong!! Train tickets especially are a killer. Our train ticket from Madrid to Seville cost €85 each one way: that's $110!! Our other 5 hour trips have cost us over €50 each!! So much for Spain being a cheap place to go for holiday. We arrived at our apartment for the week which happened to be the old Swiss Embassy building. It was really beautiful inside and by the time we had to leave it felt like a shame to go. We'd found our local bodegas and tapas joints and the local churros joint so we were set.
We did a bit of sightseeing today. We started at the Cathedral then just strolled around for the rest of the day, taking in the atmosphere. Fortunately for us it was much warmer (and drier) here than in Bilbao so we were loving the warm sunshine. After lunch we made our way to Plaza Salvador to find it packed with people. It is a saturday.. and there was about 200 people standing around (right in front of Salvador church) having a drink at 2pm. Since our Cathedral ticket included a visit to the Salvador church, we popped in to have a look. Apparently it has the grandest interior of any church in Seville. It was also built on one of the muslim world's holiest sites (mosque of Ibn Addabas).
Cathedral of Seville
This cathedral is the 4th largest in the world and you can tell. It took us 10minutes to work out how to get into the thing! In the 12th century it was Seville's main mosque which was built by the Moors. 300years later, after the christians reconquered spain they turned it into a Cathedral . The Giralda (the bell tower) was later added on in the 1500s. Apparently it resembles the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech (Morocco). We paid our dues (still not sure of the religious logic of the church charging people to enter...) and made our way in. The church itself is beautiful but we've seen quite a few recently so the magic didn't really capture us this time. We did find Christopher Columbus' tomb (not that it was lost I guess...). Seems like he travelled around the world as much after as before his death! He died in Spain, then had his body moved to the Dominican Republic, then Cuba then Seville. We hadn't realised but it looks like he didn't acknowledge that he had actually discovered the Americas. He just kept insisting till his death that he'd made it to the East Indies.
This church had its own square tower (the Giralda), so we made our way up the ramps to the top. The view of the city was beautiful, and we were lucky that the bells didn't ring as we would have come out deaf. We made our way back down and we sat in the orange grove in the could It was really nice to sit in the orange grove in the church courtyard and look up at the Giralda tower.
The sight outside the Salvador church on a Saturday afternoon:
Michelle had written a small walking tour for us but we got a bit bored halfway through (after the 7th church) after we somehow managed to end up at a 'mushroom' looking plaza. We decided to call it quits and pulled out the map to work out how to get home. Turns out we were staying only one block away .
After a quick siesta we decided to head out to a 300year old tapas bar called El Rinconcillo and have a quick tapas and our first Manzilla before dinner. We went really early (about 7pm) so the place was pretty empty but the taste of the dry sherry (Manzilla) and the tapas gave us plenty of reason to stay. They tasted way better than they looked- spinach & chickpeas (the bar's speciality) + bacalao (cod fish) with tomato:
We had a sleep in. Then went to Santa Cruz area for some tapas for lunch. Yummy yum yum.. some fried whole anchovies (boquerones) , pork in whiskey sauce, meatballs and Blake scoffed his face with some semi-melted goats cheese.
We made a quick stop at the Bullring while walking along the river. Unfortunately the season hasn't started so we could only tour the museum and look through the arena. The tour guide mentioned that the bull fights a group of matadors and if it has fought bravely the crowd or the matadors can petition the president for a pardon. If the bull is awarded this it goes back to the ranch it came from and is put out to stud (not a bad reward!)... The guide also said that the meat from the bulls that are killed is used to feed the homeless or dogs (not really the same thing?!?!) so It doesn't go to waste. I'm sure that won't satisfy any of the hardcore animal rights crowd but at least nothing goes to waste...
Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza: Bullring
The royal box (Prince's Balcony)- used by the royal family; The mother of the bull that killed the most famous Spanish bullfighter in Cordoba; Bullfighter's costume; The fighter's entrance into the arena..
We spent the morning chilling out in a traditional Turkish bath house (Hammam)!! Blake had organised this surprise a couple of days before.. Thanks Blake. We had a 30 minute massage and a 90 minute session in the baths.. We couldn't take any photos inside but the whole complex was underground and the main room was a large room with a cold, warm and hot bath. A room with a spa, a salt bath and a steam room that smelt like mint. The cold bath literally had ice in it. What a way to spend the morning.. After that we slid out of the hammam and tucked into some tapas.
Day trip to Jerez
We caught the train to Jerez. It took an hour to get there which wasn't bad. We usually have problems trying to find the tourist information centre, but this time round we were smarter.. we had it all mapped out on our phone. So when we got there we went straight to the info centre. We'd read that we could fit in a visit to Jerez and Cadiz in the same day but I'm glad we didn't as we ended up spending about 7hours there! It wasn't the most interesting place around but it had a nice atmosphere and wasn't too busy. The lady at the tourist information centre was really interested that we are Australians and said that not many come by which was a real change. Unfortunately as it was winter the hours for a lot of the tours had been reduced so that pretty much all of them kicked off between 11am and 2pm. We managed to squeeze in the Alcazar and the Gonzalez Byass tour (the makers of the "famous" Tio Pepe dry sherry) so we were quietly happy with ourselves...
We started at the Alcazar de Jerez. Followed by the camera obscura (which was in Spanish only at the time we wanted to visit)- we pretended we understood Spain.. at least we got to see the 360 degrees view of the city. It went on far longer than we thought and we missed our 1pm sherry tour by 5minutes!
Blake trying to pray in the mosque:
Luckily there was a 2pm English tour at Tio Pepe which went on till 3.30pm. We missed our 4.15pm train back to Seville (wasting the money we spent on that ticket) and just chilled out with a coffee. Anyhow.. at least we could enjoy our 4 sherries and tapas without rushing.
It cost €5 to enter the Jerez Cathedral, so we just admired it from the outside. It sounded like it took a few hundred years to build so it has a bit of a mix of styles (or so we think as the guide was speaking spanish and we were guessing)
Over the last week we'd noticed there was a LOT of rubbish piled up at every corner of the street. We figured that the south of Italy was a bit dirtier in places so maybe the south of Spain would be similar? Turns out the garbage collectors were on strike for the whole time we were there. Anyhow.. The northern part of Spain is still cleaner than the south.
Nothing much exciting happened today, just did some shopping and had some Japanese for lunch. It was kinda nice to do the non touristy thing (i.e. no churches, monuments or museums).
We started the morning visiting the craft market at Plaza Duque- it was a lot smaller than we expected. But luckily the plaza is surrounded by Corte inglese department store buildings (its like Myers). So we went shopping... Michelle bought another handbag, think thats one for every day of the month now .
In the evening we went and saw a Flamenco dance. Flamenco song/dance is from Andalusia, so it was only fitting that we saw it in it's capital. The guy was amazing good but the girl was slightly unfit unfortunately. The guitarist was amazing and the singer was very loud.. the song was very arabic (sounds like muslim prayers). But we still enjoyed the show, even if the girl was puffing and panting most of the way through.
We pretty much just shopped & chilled out at home.. and had more churros at our local cafe.
After checking out of our apartment, we had to hang around in the morning before moving into another bigger apartment where Blake's parents joined up with us for a holiday. Blake was pretty excited about finally seeing his parents.. We were slightly worried they wouldn't show up because we haven't heard from them for days since they arrived in Spain, so when they showed up at the apartment we were pretty relived and Blake was very excited (like a little kid). We showed them around Seville since we've already been here for a week. We took them to the Plaza de Espana to chill out followed by a walk around town.
Day 10: Day trip to Cordoba
We were actually suppose to go to Cadiz today to check out the Cadiz Carnaval. But unfortunately there weren't any tickets at the last minute to Cadiz. So we had to settle with Cordoba- only a 50minute train ride away.
Cordoba cathedral/mosque: This is the mother church of the diocese (whatever that means..). This place is basically just a big competition between Christianity and Islam. Its been a church, then a mosque then a cathedral in a mosque. I guess it's kind of a compromise at the moment as it looks like both. After the cathedral we found a really busy place next door and got some patatas bravas, salmorejo (originated from Cordoba.. and tasted so different the rest we have tried.. and Yes it was very good) and tortilla with a beer to wash it down. The tortilla was bigger than my head!
Looks like we didn't miss out on the 'Carnaval' festivities. Cordoba had a parade too.. The people in inflatable costumes were hilarious. They were about 10foot tall and when the person inside ran and stopped it looked like they were going to topple over!
We nearly forgot about this place. The gardens and exterior were some of the best we'd seen and there was a water and light show on later but unfortunately we had to miss it to make our train! Dad got to see some massive Koi which he got really excited about... The rest of us just seemed to wonder what they might taste like.
Had some dinner when we got home.. unfortunately what we ordered wasn't what we actually got served.. Instead of stewed mussels we got it fried; instead of anchovies in vinegar we got fried anchovies-pretty disappointing. So we decided to head to another place for a plate of Jamon & lots of cheese to make up for our disappointing dinner.
Rest day.. just as well because Mum wasn't feeling too well. We checked out the Real Alcazar de Sevilla: built during the 10th century over the remains of the islamic quarter. It is one of the oldest royal palace of europe that is still in use. It was absolutely stunning inside!
Day 12: Day trip to Cadiz
Michelle's turn to get sick but still made it to Cadiz. We started of with a hop on/off bus around Cadiz. The view from the bus was great but nothing really jumped out at us so we just cruised around and listened to the audio tour. Once again it cost money to go inside the Cathedral, so we gave that a miss. We did see an old excavated house that dug down showing us the different layers of civilisations that had lived there. I think we were all a bit worn out that day but Cadiz looks like a place that might have been worth more of our time.