Strolling the Streets of Seville

After dropping our bags at the hotel, and watching the sunset our balcony, we decided to head out for an evening stroll on the streets of Seville. The Old Town of Seville is considered to be one of the largest in Europe and contains 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Alcazar, Seville Cathedral, and the General Archives of the Indies.

Introduction: Spring break in Spain
British Airways Club World DFW-LHR
British Airways T5 Galleries South Lounge @ Heathrow
The Westin Palace Madrid
Renfe Preferred Class Madrid-Seville
Renfe Preferred Class Lounge – Seville St. Justa
Hotel Alfonso XII Seville
Strolling through Seville
Sights and Sounds of Majestic Madrid
Iberia Business Class Lounge Madrid Barajas
Iberia Business Class Madrid-Barcelona
The W Barcelona
Exploring Gaudi’s Barcelona
The Hilton London Heathrow Airport T5
American Airlines New Business Class LHR-DFW

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In case you missed it in my previous post, here is what the sunset looked like from the balcony of our room at the Hotel Alfonso XII:

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Day 1: Evening Stroll in Seville

Owing to the location of the Hotel Alfonso, everything in Seville was within a 10 minute walk from the gate. The light was fading swiftly when we finally made it out the front door. Though it wasn’t the coolest of Seville nights, it was still rather cold given that it was early March.

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We walked toward the fountain in front of the hotel and the Seville Cathedral with really not much of an aim. Most of the museums and attractions are closed by 6 pm and so it was just a stroll to enjoy the city in the twilight.

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We tried to get a bite to eat, but most of the restaurants were already full or had a long wait. So it’s definitely good to have a reservation if you are heading out after dark.

Giraldi Tower was especially charming at night especially when looking down Calle Mateos Gago.

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We had maybe walked for about 20 minutes, when it got a little windy. Instead of heading inside or walking faster to warm up, my dad thought that getting on a horse drawn carriage was the way to experience the town. And so here we are on the horse drawn carriage:

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It’s needless to say that this ended up being a much more chilly experience than when we were walking. The coachman was nice enough to offer us a blanket, but it smelled it a bit too much like horse for our liking :D. Of course, I thought the weather was fine (after all it was only 50 degrees outside), but my parents and sister felt like they were freezing.

The carriage took us alongside the river and pretty much all the way around town. By the time we arrived at the Plaza de Espana, we were eager to hop out of the carriage. I wanted to take some pictures, while the others just wanted to warm themselves up. The Plaza de España is definitely one of the highlights of Seville, especially at night, with it’s abundant lighting and magnificent fountains.

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After we took a couple of pictures at the Plaza, we got on the carriage for what I thought would be a long ride back, but ended up being only around 5 minutes. At this point we were ready to call it a day, so we just grabbed some hot chocolate at Starbucks and returned to the hotel.

Day 2: The Alcazar, Cathedral, and Plaza de Espana

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and went to the Alcazar. Since we had not purchased the tickets for the attractions beforehand (meaning 24 hours before your scheduled tour), we had to stand in line for the tickets. Lucky for us, March isn’t peak tourist season in Spain and so we were able to get tickets in a matter of 5 minutes.

The Alcazar is supposedly the oldest royal palace in Europe, which is still in use today (by the Spanish royal family). It was here that the beginnings of our part of the world happened. It was here that Columbus met Isabella and Ferdinand to gain their support for his expeditions which would end in the discovery of the “new world.”

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The palace is a perfect example of the blending of Muslim and Christian architecture and the history of the Spanish state before the final Christian takeover of the region. The palace and gardens are easily one of the most photogenic sites in Europe. More recently, people recognize it as the Kingdom of Dorne in the popular tv show Game of Thrones:

Below is a shot of the symmetric main courtyard of the palace:

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The hallways are full of murals with arabic art work and arched ceilings more in line with that of Catholic cathedrals.

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And of course there’s the beautiful “Water Gardens” of the Alcazar, which are full of orange trees, ponds, fountains, and more breathtaking architecture.

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Though the flowers weren’t in full bloom, the garden and its many mazes of bushes were in immaculate condition.

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It was also the first time I recollect seeing palm trees in Europe. I sometimes forget just how far south Spain is when compared to the rest of Europe.

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Underneath the palace are the Baths of Maria De Padilla, which is perhaps the most photographed location in the palace itself.

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The walk through the palace is a whole day affair if you really want to do it justice. I just targeted a few places I wanted to take pictures of and left the rest for another day. Besides as the day progresses, the crowds do build up.

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The symmetrical nature with which everything was placed is clearly apparent wherever you go.

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Seville Cathedral

After we finished our tour of the Alcazar we headed over to the Seville Cathedral for a  look at Christopher Columbus’s tomb and of course the rest of world’s third largest cathedral.

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The gold adorned facades were jaw dropping as were the enormously high ceilings.

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My favorite room of them all had to be the Congregation Room, or the meeting room for all of the church leaders.

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The Giralda

On the northwest corner of the cathedral are 35 inclined ramps leading to the top of the bell tower called “Giralda.” Though the hike up is a bit tiring, and required a little pushing the family along on my part, the views from the top are spectacular:

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It also helped that the ramps featured an abundant number of windows at the ends, which made for a valid excuse to stop :D.

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Here is a panoramic view from the top:

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Lunch at L’Oca Guiliva 

All that walking made us really hungry so we headed to a local Italian restaurant “L’Oca Guilava” for lunch. The restaurant often ranks as one of Seville’s top eateries and service was extremely prompt and courteous. Something I found to be the case in Spain more so than anywhere else in Europe.

The decor and ambiance of the place was extremely homely and elegant at the same time if that makes any sense. The menu featured an abundance of clearly marked vegetarian items, which was a pleasant contrast to the meat oriented nature of Spanish restaurants.

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Interestingly enough there was a bike hanging from above the entryway.

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We started off with a Pizza Vegetariana, which was perhaps some of the best thin crust pizza I’ve had anywhere.

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My sister got the Spaghetti pomodoro fresco e basilico, which was according to her the most flavorful spaghetti she had anywhere.

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I was a bit full after having the pizza so I decided to get my “Ravioli fatti in casa con ricotta e spinaci alla bolognese” to go along with a pizza for my parents. (My dad had to run back to the hotel for a few work phone calls).

I ate the Ravioli later on the train and wished that I had ordered more food at the restaurant before I left 🙁

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Most importantly, I was surprised at how affordable the meal was in the end, at around $40 all in (including tip). This goes for my experience in general. Spain was by far the most affordable European country I had been to especially if one wants to eat at restaurants. Meals like this cost more than this even in the United States given the status of the restaurant. So overall, an amazing experience and is easily makes the list of top 10 Italian restaurants I’ve been to.

Adding insult to injury, my sister bought some macaroons at the French bakery next door. Since there was pistachio among the ones she brought, she couldn’t eat any (she is allergic to pistachios, almonds, peanuts, cashews etc.). Guess who finished the lot? ;P

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Plaza de Espana during the day:

After lunch, we had a few hours left before check out time and our return train to Madrid. And so we took the streets once again. The weather at this point was just spectacular at almost 70 degrees.

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We decided to revisit Plaza de Espana given how magical it looked at night. No horse drawn carriage rides this time 🙂

As we walked over, I noticed that the Seville bike rental stand was actually located right across from the Hotel Alfonso.

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Plaza de Espana was as charming by day as by night. We also got the chance to see a rainbow of a sort over the water fountain.

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Many locals were enjoying the afternoon sun on boat rides through the canals. It was an absolute picture perfect day.

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And after this quick stroll, we made our way back to the hotel to check out and make our way to the train station for the train back to Madrid.

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That pretty much caps our short jaunt to Seville. That carriage ride looks a lot more delightful with the sunny weather.

Bottom Line:

Seville is one of the must visit destinations in Europe IMHO. The Alcazar is perhaps the most unique royal palace of any still around and the city is absolutely charming in every possible way. The city centre and old town are very walkable and the restaurants are quite affordable when compared to other cities of similar size in Europe. There is no questioning why the directors chose to film Game of Thrones here.

Stay tuned to hear more about Spain……

Next up: Madrid