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SEVILLA, 19 May 2009
Today we are doing the biggest city in Andalucia, which is also its capital - historical Sevilla. But first we need a filling breakfast, so at a roadside eatery in the village of Jedula where we stay, we order what the locals are eating: toasted round bread, margarine, tomato paste and olive oil, washed down with delicious coffee. Not bad.
First a quick visit to the nearby white village of Arcos de la Frontera.
In the early 11th century, Arcos was already an independent Muslim principality.
The Gothic cathedral atop the ridge was built when the Christians captured the town in the late 13th century.
We drive closer to Arcos and below the ridge, the village is all the way up there.
We decide to take a country road, and this one is typical in Andalusia - always scenic.
It’s windy country here, and windmills are everywhere.
Note the rural road, which is not too good - I hate the high shoulder which can become dangerous if the guard railing is not there, which is often the case. If your car falls off, only a tow truck can pull you back onto the road, and probably with damaged tyres, rims and undercarriage.
Soon we jump onto the excellent expressway with spring blooms all the way. Two types of expressways in Spain: Autovia (”A”) - free, Autopista (”AP”) - toll.
Time to enter Sevilla. I hate city driving, but I guess I have no choice now. The metro area has 1.5mil people, 4th largest in Spain.
We park at the fringe of the old town, and make our way in by foot, as a bunch of Segway tourists file past.
We walk along a narrow lane in the Jewish part of Sevilla’s old town - the Juderia of Santa Cruz - as the shadow of the jagged Alcazar wall accompanies us.
The lane leads us to Patio de Banderas.
Here, some archaeological excavation is still on-going. Sevilla is more than 2,000 years old, dating from Roman times.
From Patio de Banderas, we pass a gate of the Reales Alcazar, the Royal Castle, …
… with its impressive emblem. The Alcazar was originally a 12th century Moorish palace.
Nearby, a horse carriage awaits fare at the Alcazar wall.
Beyond the Alcazar gate, the Plaza del Triunfo, with the huge Sevilla Cathedral in front of us.
Another view of the huge cathedral at Plaza del Triunfo.
The 98-metre bell tower - La Giralda - is a former minaret of the demolished Sevilla Mosque, built in the 12th century by the Moors.
Insignias on the Sevilla Cathedral, built at the site of the mosque in the 15th century. It’s the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.
Opposite the cathedral, the 17th century Palace of the Archbishop.
Another view of the square in front of the Palace of the Archbishop.
A hot day in Sevilla, and shades at the side of the cathedral are most welcomed.
In a nearby old building, a new office retains the influential and elegant Moorish architecture.
Whatever Sevilla is, the only thing that pulls me in is La Giralda, The Minaret of the long-gone Sevilla Mosque.
Intricate Moorish motif decorates the top half of this 12th century tower.
The top half again. There were ramps inside the minaret, so that the muezzin could ride his horse up the 98-metre structure to call for prayers. Imagine if on foot and doing it 5 times a day!
The lower half where it’s attached to the Gothic cathedral has plain bricks …
… but look at this juxtaposition of two cultures.
Back at Plaza del Triunfo, I try to soak them all in: La Giralda, The Gothic Cathedral of Sevilla and The Alcazar.
Ornaments atop the cathedral.
Grand entrance to the Alcazar.
We leave the Santa Cruz area and head for the Guadalquivir river, which was once a major direct route to the Atlantic Ocean. Here we see the Tower of Gold, also of 13th century Moorish built. Cables were hung from this tower to another one on the other side of the river to impede enemy vessels.
Along a major street, there’s Hotel Alfonso XIII, built for the 1929 Expo.
Artwork at the old hotel.
Next to the hotel, the 17th century Palacio de San Telmo.
Further up the road, Maria Luisa Avenue, next to the famed Maria Luisa Park.
Adjacent to the Maria Luisa Park, the photogenic Plaza de Espana, also built for Spanish-American Expo 1929.
It had been a long walk in the hot sun, and our car ended up being lost in the old town of Sevilla when I accidentally took a wrong turn (Spanish cities have this strange ‘go right to make a left turn’ at major traffic lights). Narrow cobblestone lanes wide enough for just one car with countless one-way signs, but we managed to get out by following a bus. Phew!
It is sheer joy when we find a sunflower field near our hotel at the village of Torre de la Reina.
An ocean of sunflowers, as far as the eyes could see.
Dusk, and we finally leave the sunflower farm, which is only accessible via this dirt track. It has been a tiring day.
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