Time to say goodbye to Portugal. Having neglected to write the blog up any sooner (it is May 2018 at the time of writing!) I now don’t remember much about the journey out of Portugal to Spain. We went east along the coast road as far as possible then cut up to the motorway which leads to the bridge across the river into Spain. We hoped that the 10 euros we had put on the Tollcard had not run out. (Checking online weeks later we discovered we still had a balance of €1.21.) Once in Spain the trip was mostly through scrubby, but not unattractive, countryside on the toll free motorway – which is the only road that actually goes this way. Stella let us down as we approached the turn to the aire. It is a “Spanish” left turning off an urban dual carriageway which means to turn left you have to move into a distinctly dubious-looking third lane on the right and wait for a separate light to turn left across all the lanes of traffic. Stella picked the turn before the one we needed and stranded us in a builders yard with no way out other than driving all the way back to the last roundabout and trying again. This time we determinedly ignored Stella when she tried to pull the same trick – she does not learn! Fortunately, we do. Mostly.
There is a choice of three aires in Seville and I had selected the small one furthest out of town in the river marina at Puerto Gelves. It is a secure place to park with a regular bus to the centre of Seville. We had a lovely spot on the banks of the Guadalquivir.There were boats to watch coming and going and the marina had all the facilities to look after itinerant sailors and landlubbers alike – chandlery, low key restaurant, clean toilet and hot showers.
After wandering off site to check out the bus timetable and location of the bus stop to get into town on Saturday we spent a quiet afternoon footling around the marina in the sun.
The bus came on time and for a couple of euros delivered us close to the centre of Seville. I had chosen two things to go and see if time permitted, the Cathedral and the Alcazar. Before that though we needed to acquire a local sim card for the wifi. We took passports, birth certificates, inside leg measurements etc as we knew from last year they did not part willingly with sim cards in Spain. Forty-five minutes wait in the Vodaphone shop and we were fully equipped to go! On the way to the phone shop we had seen the queue to get into the Cathedral – this is mid-February and yet the city is pretty full of tourists – and mostly not retired people like us. How does this happen? We withdrew into a narrow side road full of restaurants to eat before we queued. The platter of fried fish for two came with a jug of sangria and olives to start. A lovely meal of different types of fishy delights (which I forgot to photograph).
The queue for the cathedral moved quite fast – probably because it is immense and so can accommodate many people. It is so wide that until you get your bearings, it is difficult to recognise the traditional shape of a church. It was built on the site of a huge mosque and despite remodelling and rebuilding over the centuries some elements of it still remain. The courtyard with the merciful shade of many orange trees was part of the mosque and the magnificent bell tower actually incorporates the original minaret. I cannot do justice to all the things to see in such a renowned historic building so these few photos will have to do. Other pictures are available all over the internet.
The tomb of Christopher Colombus may or may not contain his bones: he seems to have travelled about as much after his death as he did in his lifetime, crossing the Atlantic at least twice. DNA testing against the known bones of his brother in 2006 proved he definitely may be lying at peace here.
Seville had become even hotter while we wandered around the cathedral and loitered in the shade of the orange trees so we were in two minds about going on to tackle the Alcazar, the Royal Palace. My mother remembered it fondly from a trip many years ago so I wanted to see it if possible. We joined the queue with a view to ducking out if it moved too slowly. Persistence was definitely rewarded in this case! If you can only face one major historic building per city, the Alcazar is the one to choose in Seville. It has cool arcades with delicate moorish decoration and courtyard pools,
tiled walls where rooms adjoin other rooms and pass into corridors leading from one phase of the building to another.
Pass the semi-subterranean bath room of Lady María de Padilla …
…to reach the elegant gardens and streams. Our pictures do not do the Alcazar justice….
We finished our tour with a cool drink in the garden cafe in the company of a regal peacock.A gentle stroll under the trees on the avenue back to the bus stop took us past the third UNESCO Heritage Site in this quarter – the splendid Archivo General de Indias. This holds the records of the Spanish empire east and west and is apparently “an unusually serene and Italianate example of Spanish renaissance architecture”. (Thanks Wikipedia.) Pretty splendid too. There is much more to see so we may need to pass this way next year.
The bus came right on time and whisked us back to the relative cool of the riverside. Where a surprise awaited us – no sooner was the kettle on than there was a knock on the door. Louisa had arrived! She was on her way back to Portugal after a trip around the coast south and east of here and stayed for a cup of tea and catch up. Always great to see old friends for an exchange of news and to hear about good places to stay in the vicinity. Later we popped into hers for a gin as the sun went down – a nice way to end our Seville visit.
Tomorrow – a couple of hours south east for some even older history – bronze age burial mounds and dolmens in Antequera.