Reading this post months later is going to be especially strange for two reasons. Firstly, it’s the day after the UK’s general election and 57% of the country are miserable. As result of the first, by the time this post goes up, Britain will have likely left the EU and this will be the last holiday I go on as an EU citizen. Don’t know quite how to process all this at the moment, so it’s a good thing that – despite still getting over the flu – I’m here in Seville.
Considering how Riga last year got to lows of -6, the idea of being somewhere in December and it being 16 feels utterly ludicrous. This is what the next few days in Seville will bring, albeit under a carpet of cloud. I somehow managed to get us a great deal on a snazzy hotel near all the main landmarks, so the Hotel Becquer is going to be a brilliant base of operations for this trip.
By the time we were checked in and prepared to get about our way, it was 3 in the afternoon. Given it was just a first day and we didn’t want to put too much pressure on it, especially as I am recovering from the flu, we started out with just two things that were next to each other on the itinerary.
To get to the first on the list, the Plaza de España, we opted to walk along the river and just make our way leisurely there. On the way we went by the beautifully coloured university buildings and the Torre del Oro. We didn’t opt to climb up it for reasons I cannot quite remember (maybe we’ll do that later if we have time) but it was impressive to look at and reminded me a bit of the tower in Belém, just on a smaller scale.
This was a nice gentle welcome to Seville that didn’t prepare me for the beautiful clusterfuck of the Plaza de España. I have never known a place quite like it, it may very well be the most beautiful plaza I have been to. If not the most beautiful, it’s top three. It’s one of places which is like the sky at night – beautiful at first glance, but the more you look at it the more you see. This is how we ended up spending two hours investigating the plaza.
The plaza itself was designed as a centrepiece for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition and is awash with little details that you cannot take in on first blush. First you notice how beautifully grand the main buildings are, then you see the u-shaped canal around the square with people in rowboats, then you notice the bridges and how there’s blue tile being used. Oh more tiles. Even more. Even the guttering is clad in tile.
It’s one of those places that feels like it was designed to be beautiful from every angle, and I think after walking around it for hours we pretty much tried them all for size. One thing I especially loved was that, around the inner circumference, there’s tiled murals for all the Spanish provinces done in different styles and still with the tiled side towers originally used as bookcases. I was pretty shocked at how many Spanish provinces I’d heard of.
Now, I was fully prepared for that to be the end of the unexpected beauty – then there was the surrounding Maria Luisa park. Walking in, it felt like a regular park. That’s when you notice a building within the trees and it turns out to be a small pavilion or a columned area surrounding azure blue tiled water features. The way this park is laid out is like a breadcrumb trail of beautiful areas, once you find the first one you are led on to the next one.
I don’t know if it was because of where we began, but the ante of beauty within the park kept being upped until we got to an area where behind us was a lovely tiled frog fountain and in front of us was a pavilion on a hill with a waterfall, more tiled pools and masses of manicured orange trees. I think we could have spent longer in the park, but we’re due back here eventually for one of the museums – so the rest of the explore will wait until then.
Now, the reason we came to Seville was because it came recommended as a city that does Christmas well. As such we made the walk out to Nervión Plaza to one of the two markets deemed as essential (the third market opened a week later than the previous year, so we’re missing it). There is no way this is essential, it’s pretty bleak and that’s pretty much all I am going to say on the subject.
To try and salvage things, we opted to head to the other of the essential markets near the cathedral. We’re planning to do it again tomorrow anyway, but I think we just wanted the Christmas win. The moment we entered the Santa Cruz area, things felt like they were getting there – then we came face to face with the giant that is Seville Cathedral being lit up at night. More on the cathedral tomorrow as that’s when we plan to go in, but it is a stunner when lit up at night. So too are the surroundings, like the orange trees all decked out with lights.
We had a cursory look at the nativity scene themed marked, but we’re back here tomorrow and we hadn’t eaten for 10 hours, so things were getting a bit desperate. Thankfully we found a nice tapas place nearby and proceeded to order eight plates including pork loin in whiskey sauce, goat cheese rolls and tope shark. It was gorgeous and we rounded it off with the official drink of this holiday: Colacao. I know that to Spaniards that probably sounds a bit basic, but this hot chocolate is gorgeous and we’ve already bought some to bring back to the UK.
By the time we were done with dinner the stalls were closed up, so we went further in to have a look at the Christmas lights. Well, this might be the best Christmas lights ice seen up in a city. The giant bell lights and the walk through Christmas tree were nice enough, but then the angels.
These giant light angels are hard to photograph to get a decent scale, but they’re massive and just so beautiful to look at. I don’t even know what the surrounding buildings are or even where I was particularly when I saw them, but I hope I find them again tomorrow when we aren’t rushing to find a supermarket that isn’t closed and also sells toothpaste. This city may not have the markets, but it sure has the lights.
Tomorrow is going to be the big Seville day where we visit the Alcazar (the city’s entry in the Lonely Planet list) and get to properly know Seville Cathedral and the rounding areas. I hope I find a nice Christmas decoration and a gorgeous lunch sandwich too.