This was my second visit to Seville and it is fast becoming one of my favorite cities. It is a very cozy, walkable city with wide pedestrian areas, horse drawn carriages acting as taxis and a rich history of cultural tolerance, music, dance and architecture. Plus they have awesome gelato! What more could you ask for?
As is common in Europe, they don’t tear down old historical buildings. Instead they renovate them. Our Hotel Convento La Gloria was just that; a converted convent sandwiched between a small restaurant/bar and a flamenco theater. While the rooms were very simple, the entire hotel acted as a museum of sorts with relics from the 15th century convent days, intricately beautiful mosaic tiles and a sense of quiet peace just off the busy main street. Modern amenities like internet access only worked in the lobby or the bar next door 🙂 and the staff was kind and gracious. I felt like we were staying in their home instead of a hotel.
Now, I am an avid Game of Thrones fan. I read the books when they first came out (okay, I’m old) and I love the HBO series. So when I had the opportunity to return to Seville and tour the Alcazar for the second time, I was secretly in search of the Sand Snakes and the locations seen in the series as part of the Dorne empire. Unfortunately, they weren’t filming while we were visiting but it was fun to recognize some of the locations from the show.
Regardless of the Game of Thrones connection, this is a palace that must be explored. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe and a wonderful example of the mudejar architecture, blending Moorish and Christian styles. Take your time here, walk the second story outside and wander the gardens. It’s big, it’s beautiful and the history is fascinating.
Building things BIG is on full display throughout the city. The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. It is also the burial place of Christopher Columbus. Originally built to display the city’s wealth, it does that in spades. Stuffed to the rafters with ornate pieces it is almost too much to take in. While this isn’t my favorite European cathedral, it is worth the visit and the climb to the top of the Giralda bell tower is spectacular.
The Giralda bell tower, a former minaret of the mosque that occupied this land originally, is also not to be missed, especially at night.
Speaking of building things big, Seville is also home to Plaza de Espana designed and built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair. This is one of my favorite sites in Seville; a huge beautiful plaza with intricate tiles and dedicated alcoves for every province in the country.
Walking through this plaza and into the beautiful Maria Luisa Park, you get a sense of honoring time; time to craft detailed mosaic tiles, time to build immense buildings that last centuries, time to stroll through a park, sit next to a water fountain and get out of the heat. Time to also enjoy a good meal!
I am convinced there is a business model to proofread European menus but until I figure that out, indulging in the specialty of “jamon y melon” always sounds like a great idea.
Seville is also home to many musical art forms. Bizet is said to have been inspired to write the opera Carmen here.
And catching an intimate flamenco show is a time honored tradition.
Even new artists make their way on to the streets of the city.
The tempo of this city lulls you into a slower pace. Whether it’s the heat or the lure of a cold gelato or just plain sore feet from cobblestone walking, sitting on a bench and watching locals pass by provides a small glimpse into life in Seville. A patient young mother and father enjoy watching their very active young daughter chase pigeons around the plaza, content with nothing more than the delight of seeing the birds take flight. The horse carriage drivers take time to wash the harnesses and care for their horses with open tenderness and affection. A homeless woman (the only one we saw in our 3+ days) with her two dogs and a cat (on a leash), washes her shirts and carefully dries them on the fence. A group of elderly women sit at what appears to be their usual table, dressed quite stylishly for the outing, clearly enjoying the warmth of the autumn sun and the company of life long friends.
I came to Seville searching for the Sand Snakes but maybe what I was really searching for was time to disconnect, sit, and remember the joy I get from simply being present in the world.