A friend and I took a trip to Spain a few years ago and had the greatest time. I had been to Spain previously and one of my absolute favorite cities is Seville so that had to be on the itinerary. Then we added places that neither of us had seen and we were off on a grand adventure.
Since we started in different cities, my friend and I met in the Chicago airport for the flight to Madrid. This very nearly did not work as my flight to Chicago was delayed by several hours and I arrived there just in time to make a mad dash to the gate. Patty was standing at the gate begging them to wait just a little longer and not shut the door. Fortunately I made it but I was very glad that we had determined we would take only carry-on bags. There is no way a checked bag would have made the flight!
In Madrid, after checking in at our hotel, we took a city bus tour to orient ourselves. This gave us a good idea of where we wanted to go and how to get there. The Plaza Mayor is filled with shops and eating establishments and a great place to people watch. The Prado Museum is one of the finest art museums in the world. The Spanish royal family is responsible for the Prado’s bounty of classical masterpieces. With art collected and commissioned over centuries, Fernando VII opened the collection to the public in 1819 in the same neoclassic building it’s housed in today.
Taking the train south, we traveled to Seville. Our hotel was located marvelously in the old city with a rooftop bar overlooking the square and cathedral. Once again we did a city bus tour to “get the lay of the land.”
During our stay in Seville, we had a particularly wonderful meal al fresco at a restaurant on the cathedral square, wandered the very narrow winding streets, visited the bull ring, and attended a flamenco show. In between, we shopped, feasted on a variety of tapas and simply explored, occasionally getting lost in the maze that is the Barrio de Santa Cruz. This neighborhood of the old medieval city was formerly the Jewish quarter. It’s bordered by Calles Mateas Gago, Santa Maria La Blanca/San Jose, the Jardines de Murillo and the Alcazar. Wandering round the small squares lined with orange trees through the improbably narrow alleys where the houses lean towards each other and admiring the leafy patios of private mansions through their iron gates, we thoroughly enjoyed Seville.
Built on the site of a former Almohad Mosque, Seville’s cathedral was constructed to demonstrate the city’s power and wealth after the Reconquista. The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. It also boasts the largest altarpiece in the world and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
The cathedral was completed in just over a century (1402-1506), quite an achievement given its size and Gothic details. The huge interior of the cathedral, with a central nave and four side aisles, is lavishly decorated. The wonderful Moorish minaret, La Giralda, is the only remnant of the original mosque and now functions as the cathedral’s bell tower.
It is well worth climbing to the top. There are no steps but instead a seemingly endless ramp, and at the top you have a dazzling view of the Cathedral and of Seville.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Seville but it was soon time to move on. So, of course, we headed for the train station to pick up a rental car.