On our way to Portugal we stopped for two nights in Seville. The sad reality is that Spain’s public transport really really sucks so we couldn’t just take a train and wham, bam we’re in Portugal. From where we live to Lisbon would be a 6 hour minimum trip and that would be if we drove there. Unless you’re going from Madrid there isn’t even a train line that goes across the border. Having lived in Germany and been able to get to any country we wanted in under 6 hours this is very surprising and a constant upset to us.
So for us to get there we had to take a train as close as we could get to Portugal (Seville, Spain) then take a bus across the border. Weird. Of course you add in problems like the main train leaving from Jaen at X time and the bus being only twice a day so we would have to have spent the night anyway.
Since we’re leaving Andalusia next year (ooh spoilers!) we want to see as many famous cities in Andalusia as we can. So we made the best of this strange travel situation by having a day in Seville.
We arrived in Seville just after dark and would leave early in two days. That gave us one full day which we thought was more than enough to see it, honestly.
We bought tickets online for the Alcazar, and thank goodness we did as the line stretched almost a block and a half away. Yikes.
The Alcazar is an old Moorish castle from before the reconquista. This is the second most famous Alcazar under Granada. Alcazar means a royal house or palace- which interestingly enough it still serves as. The Royal Family (yes Spain has that) live in the upper floors. So it was and still is a royal palace. This is obviously very different from the Alcazaba we saw in Almeria which was a walled city.
The thing we are really starting to love about Spain’s mixed up past is how the Moors would build something then Spain would come in and say that’s heathen and would put a Catholic church over it or around it (or in it). Then the Moors might come back and change things around. Things turn into a huge mishmash of the World’s two biggest religions quickly. This makes things really beautiful and elaborate as sometimes they’re trying to outdo each other. They also turn into mazes really fast because everyone would just add things where they saw fit. Its easy to walk around in circles or completely miss a whole wing/room and not even know it was there to miss.
We opted not to pay extra to see the gardens. Though we could still see a lot of gorgeous garden-y areas and greenery.
What has really struck us as amazing is the sheer detail that all the Moorish places have. The details are everywhere – in paving stones or on windows. Everything had a lot of effort put into it. Nothing is too small for detail, a baseboard, a wall, a corner, or the ground. It all must have details.
And like the Alcazaba (which had so many movies filmed inside of it) the Alcazar was in Game of Thrones, Lawrence of Arabia and Kingdom of Heaven (which if you haven’t seen you really should).
We also chose not to pay extra to go into the royal family’s rooms. This was fine as we spent half the morning here just walking around and looking at the walls and ground.
We were famished. And living in a pueblo means we don’t have fun things like fast food or imported groceries. So while we could’ve paid for crappy tourist paella and sangria or sought out real Spanish food, we decided to just go to Taco Bell.
We had an amazing view of the city.
Some interesting things you should know about Taco Bell abroad.
- They’re gorgeously decorated. Most fast food abroad is – they aren’t like the eating troughs we’re used to. In Europe, McDonalds has really tried to market itself as a fun cafe hangout for teens. This Taco Bell had a fountain and was decorated to look like the Alcazar.
- They can serve alcohol. Again, most US fast food places in Europe serve beer. Here though they were advertising boozy pina coladas.
- They have crazier things than the US ones. The Taco Bells and McDonalds in the USA got busted with childhood obesity and Super Size Me movies and had to tone things down (just a bit). Here they’re like whatever, you came here, you know what we serve and how we do things.
So while portions are smaller they have ungodly things like McFlurries made with extremely dense high-calorie turron. This Taco Bell had a kitkat chocolate quesadilla. They were advertising a Christmas meal deal (for one) that had a quesarito, french fries (Taco Bells have french fries here), a drink and that kitkat chocolate quesadilla.
So we had a good time.
Afterward we walked around. Just across the street from the Alcazar is the famous Seville Cathedral.
This thing was huge and gorgeous and elaborately done. It had a line around the block, just like the Alcazar and no tickets online so there was no way we were going to queue for hours. So we didn’t go in. It’s a small shame as Christopher Columbus’s final resting place is inside. Incidentally the Alcazar across the street was where people met to plan his voyage – so what goes around comes around. But not really since he never actually went around like he intended and pretty much died thinking he had made it to India. But whatever.
We headed to the insanely famous Plaza de España. This was built in 1928 for the World’s Fair.
As you walk around it there are little inlets (below the arches) that showcase tile art representing all the provinces and major cities of Spain.
Yes under every arch (and this picture only shows half of the plaza) there is a small sitting area and place to look at your hometown/home province.
We of course headed to Jaen.
Seville is famous for its tile. In museums in Lisbon we saw a bunch of famous expensive tile in museums that came from Seville. So this is a really cool way for Seville to show off it’s talents while showcasing the whole of Spain at the worlds fair.
Now it’s a great touristy place. There are street buskers dancing Flamenco for money – the first time we’ve seen it.
You can walk around the whole outside and see all the provinces. Then there are bridges all over that cross a moat (a moat you can actually rent a boat and paddle around in).
The inside of the plaza is a place you can get a horse ride or ride a bike or just walk around.
It was just a place of beauty – all the tiles were beautifully done. It’s one of the top rated things in Seville and being free makes it all the better.
It’s also worth noting that Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was filmed here. And Lawrence of Arabia which was filmed all over the darn place in Spain so that’s not a big surprise.
Choosing not to wait in 3 hour lines meant we were a little more limited in things to do. So we went to the Museum of Fine Arts. This was built in an old covenant which we’re finding pretty common anymore. Half the museums we’ve been in have been in old covenants or old Moorish buildings.
There was an absolutely gorgeous painted ceiling but we couldn’t take any pictures in that part. What we did get a picture of was this fine piece of art – a wooden carving of the decapitated head of San Juan Bautista aka St. John the Baptist.
So yeah. This is pretty typical in Spain – Catholic icons and art, that, while pretty, has no meaning to us.
Thus ended our mini-trip to Seville. We don’t regret doing the big wooden thing or waiting in line for the church. We walked around loads and saw many things we enjoyed.