The Alcazar of Seville
The Alcazar of Seville was one of those places that sprang out from the pages of the guidebooks as we planned this particular road trip.
We’d put off visiting for a couple of days, largely because every time we passed the entrance, there were queues.
As Friday was our last full day in Seville, we couldn’t put off visiting any longer, so it was up early, shower, dress and head for breakfast before joining the queue to get in.
When we reached the front, we realised why there was a queue to get into this World Heritage Site – airport style security with both walk-through body scanners and x-ray machines to examine the contents of day bags, hand bags and camera pouches.
There’s plenty of buildings to wander around, but there are also some impressive gardens to walk around. I’m not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but even I was impressed but the way in which the gardens were planted, laid out and kept spick and span as people entered and gradually dispersed themselves around the numerous arrays of plants, lawns, ornaments and fountains.
Words can’t really do justice to what we saw during our time in the Alcazar (Lonely Planet’s Andalusia guide devotes almost two pages to describing the complex), so here’s a few pictures selected at random from those taken as we wandered around…
After a few hours in the Alcazar, it was time for refreshment and a chance to rest our feet. The cafe was rather busy and customers were being treated to grand displays of feathers from an obliging local peacock. Who stopped when I got my camera ready….
If you are every in Seville, you really must bite the bullet and join that queue at the Alcazar. Words can’t really describe it as there is so much to take in as you wander around the buildings and the grounds.
Although the complex is right in the centre of Seville and is bordered by main roads, it’s very peaceful and the only audible intrusions came from the sounds of sirens on a couple of emergency service vehicles as they headed off to do their stuff.
Yes, there were quite a few people visiting the Alcazar on the day of our visit, but once we’d left the buildings and the start of the garden area behind, we had sections of the gardens to ourselves and weren’t being bothered by selfie stick toting phone owners.
We’ve already said that we are going to go back to Seville for another visit and that will be including return visits to the Alcazar because this was one enjoyable way of spending a day just wandering around on our own and exploring the site without a guide or a guidebook.
And without a tour guide marching us around in record breaking time in order to get the party back on the bus to get to the next stop along the way!
Next up – Cordoba!
If it’s Thursday, then it’s time to get thee to a flamenco club.
Now we’d seen what the admission charges were for some of the flamenco shows, but we’d heard about a club in one of the back streets when reading a Kindle book on Seville (Seville for Free 2016 by Lynne Knightly) before we headed off.
The same club – La Carboneria – was also recommended to us by the owner of the pension we were staying in as being one of the best places to go – and he was right.
My earlier confusion in trying to find the club was understandable as we’d found out after seeing that notice near the original entrance on Calle Levies which pointed in the direction of the new entrance a few hundred metres away on Cespedes.
As we’d taken our time over the tapas, we arrived at La Carboneria around 9.30pm and wandered in.
The club was already busy, and there weren’t any seats to be had. So beer beckoned and a couple of camas of Alhambra ordered in my best Spanish (I was getting the hang of it, honest!).
At €2 per glass, it wasn’t going to break the bank, but one guy standing next to me came rather unstuck when he came to pay as he presented a card to pay for his drinks. The problem he faced? No cards, so he was given directions to the nearest ATM…
There was a sense of deja vu as I looked around La Carboneria as it brought back memories of heading out to clubs to see bands in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Unlike Riverside in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, La Carboneria wasn’t a standing venue as there were long tables and benches on the lower and upper levels of the club.
The audience was a good mix though – old, young and of different ethnic backgrounds too (very reminiscent of those attending gigs at the Harambe Africa festival). You could spot the tour parties though – students with one eye on their friends and the other on the screens of their respective mobile phones.
The music started around 10pm though. Guitars first and then the essential combination of guitars and dancer.
Whilst there were two musicians, there was only one dancer, but was there passion in the dancing? Oh yes…
From where we were standing, we could only see the hand movements and the facial expressions, but there was so much intensity in those movements and expressions that seeing the feet moving wasn’t necessary.
As the intensity rose, the dancer’s hair started to move too and it wasn’t long before hair was falling into the dancer’s face.
Fortunately that happened on the last song/dance of that particular set. That passion contented as the night wore on in the other two sets we witnessed from the same players and dancer.
As the night wore on though, we became conscious that we’d been up for a long time and that as good as the night was, we really did need some sleep, especially as we had a long, good Friday planned.
It was to be our last full day in Seville and there was a lot to do, especially as we had planned on an early start to get in the queue to take a look around Seville’s Alcazar.
More on Monday!
More from Spain…
Five days in Northumberland
Five days in North Norfolk
More thoughts on packing
Bits of news
Some silly stuff
Books, films and television programmes
And links such as the one below…
We’ve used and mentioned Osprey Farpoint packs a few times on wisepacking, so we’re pleased to see that there’s a new variation on the theme – the Osprey Fairview range.
They’re ladies packs and more info can be found here…
Malaga – not what you might expect!
“Why are you spending so much time in Malaga?’ was the comment Caroline’s eldest made when he found out that we were spending three nights in the city – two at the beginning and one at the end of our recent trip to Andalucia…
The answer was simple – we’d spotted comments years ago that Malaga was an interesting place to visit and to wander around.
There are arty connections, museums to visits and sights to see – providing that a) you’re not planning on going on a Monday and b) it’s not raining….
Although we’d left the house and started our journey around 9am, we didn’t actually check into the Ibis in Malaga until after 10pm Spanish time.
Our plane was leaving Manchester Airport in the afternoon, but by the time we’d factored in getting a bus to the railway station, getting to Manchester Piccadilly and then transferring to the replacement bus service to Manchester Airport, we thought we’d better leave early, just in case.
The RyanAir flight went smoothly on the way out as we’d reserved seats on the plane and had opted for Priority Boarding so we knew where we were heading towards once we’d boarded the 737 and that we could have our packs in the locker and be sat down and resting way before the rest of the passengers got onboard.
At the Malaga end though, we had to wait until we could actually get off the plane, hit passport control and then find the railway station to get a train into Malaga – to the end of the line as that was apparently about ten minutes walk from the Ibis.
Getting the tickets was easy. Getting the train was easy. Using the printouts from Apple Maps wasn’t, but fortunately Caroline spotted the Ibis lights and that put us in the right direction – almost.
Pavement works meant that there was a detour to take rather than using the direct option, but we got there in the end, checked in, dropped the bags in our room and headed down to the bar for drinks and a snack or two.
Getting the breakfast option in the hotel did save some time (but not money!) the following morning before we headed out to explore Malaga on foot.
I’d booked the Sunday flights before I’d looked closely at the opening times for the places we wanted to explore – big mistake as most of our potential destinations were closed on a Monday according to both of the guidebooks we’d used to plan the trip.
So we wandered around, aimlessly at first and then with a little more purpose as we found Teatro Roma, spotted the Alcazaba, famed tapas bar El Pimpi and stumbled across the Museo Picasso as we strolled up a side street.
What was unexpected was the fact the the guidebooks were wrong and the Museo Picasso was open. The other surprise was that the admission charge was less than that quoted in the guides as the number of works on display had been reduced.
With Caroline taking two spins around the museum, I headed to the cafe after one to sort out where to go next and to partake in a coffee and the second beer of the day.
One thing we didn’t use on our strolls around Malaga was our map. Yes, we were misplaced a few times, but it all added to the fun as we explored!
We’d found a cafe for lunch, a couple of places for coffee or orange juice and had bought one or two things too – Caroline had bought a leather belt and had had extra holes punched into it whilst I’d bought some Axe deodorant (aka Lynx in the U.K.) plus some bottled water (we’d heard about the quality of the tap water in Malaga – allegedly!) and some wipes for those times when finger food beckoned and there wasn’t a wash basin in sight.
The other place we’d stumbled across was the Mercado Central – a market the likes of which I haven’t seen for years.
Bread, cheese, cooked meat, fish, fruit, olives, raw meat, seafood and food of all kinds to go (along with drinks too) made for a wish that we’d booked into a hostel rather than a hotel.
Our evening meal also led to furthering that thought. After mooching around looking at menus, we settled on a small place where we were the only Brits among the customers.
The menu was in English though and whilst I picked a favourite meat dish, Caroline went for the tuna option. The pork & veg and accompanying beer went down well , but Caroline and I hadn’t realised that the tuna was going to be served raw.
It was well presented though and it went down the same way as the wine, even though Caroline would rather have had it cooked than raw – her youngest son is the sushi fan, not her! Or me…
The walk back to the hotel was interesting, because we ended up walking for more than we we needed to in order to get back to the Ibis.
A stop was made to stock up on bottled water and to get a bar of chocolate, before we spotted the Ibis once more and headed back, but not before taking a look in the window of the local KTM dealer.
I’m not a biker, but Caroline’s youngest is and whilst he’s expressed a few interests in KTM motorbikes in recent months, he’s still got his 650cc Suzuki.
As I’ve mentioned before, the following morning was a washout for wandering around as the heavens opened and we ended up killing time in the hotel lobby before getting a taxi to the bus station in readiness for our bus to Seville and tapas, breakfasts in a local cafe plus flamenco, time on the Parasol, chats with religious types from the state of Georgia and possibly the best ice cream, sorry – Gelato – we’ve ever had.
To Seville – and beyond!
Now the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes work.
And sometimes they don’t!
With the dates, flights, accommodation and travel set in stone, there were a few misplaced problems to overcome.
Like certain places being closed on a Monday – the day we had planned to spend a full day wandering around Malaga.
Fortunately we found out the easy way that the times quoted in the guidebooks for the opening hours of the museum dedicated to Pablo Picasso were wrong, as we discovered when wandered aimlessly up a side street and unexpectedly found it open…
We did fill up the day though and thought that we could take a wander around the other places we’d thought about on either Tuesday or when we got back to Malaga on the Wednesday at the end of our trip.
Er, wrong in both cases. As you may have seen from the photo on Monday’s posting, it was raining (and then some!) on Tuesday so we stayed in our hotel reading and drinking coffee rather than trying to find out info on the iPad Mini as guess what – we couldn’t get onto the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, no matter how hard we tried…
With the weather against us, we also abandoned plans to walk to the coach station in Malaga and opted to take a taxi instead, a wise move when we saw how the deluge developed as we waited for our bus to Seville.
Although we’d planned to take that wander around the missed sights in Malaga on our final full day in Spain, that didn’t happen. We checked into the same hotel, dumped our bags on the room floor and turned on the TV.
Which revealed that there had been a major incident in London at places we’d only walked around in February.
With CNN being the only English speaking option on the hotel’s TV and that lack of Wi-Fi, a trip down to the lobby for a coffee and accessing the BBC coverage via the lobby computer was the only way we found out more about what had happened.
And so rewind a bit to our arrival in Seville. Which is where we actually wished that we had a decent street map to find our accommodation for the next four nights. I’d printed off three sheets of differing scales from Apple Maps that should have got us there, but didn’t.
After much scratching of the heads, we found one spot that almost correlated with the printouts and we took it from there using nous rather than the map.
Our Pension owner was welcoming, took our details and payment, showed us to our room and then gave us a much better map of Seville and a couple of recommendations for a flamenco club and a good tapas bar.
With the weather in Seville being distinctly better than it was in Malaga, a mooch around led to us doing a bit of a circuit for a while before we found a different tapas bar just up the street from where we were staying.
The fine weather continued for the rest of our stay in Seville, a factor that led to me taking a lot of photos in a short time. As we wandered around a market in a park, the space on the SD card finally ran out.
“No problem” or so I thought as I had another SD card in my camera pouch. On swapping them over however, I discovered that what I thought was a fresh card wasn’t – it was a full one!
Fortunately we were within a few metres of the main branch in Seville of El Cortes Ingles – a big department store along the lines of John Lewis here in the UK. I found their photo department, the memory card section and a 16GB Sony SD that was duly bought and installed – with a 3000 + shot capacity, I suspect that it may last me a while, even at my shooting rate!!!
Sod’s Law however did give this one a bit of a sting in the tail. I got back to the hotel, went into my charger pouch to get the camera charger and I remembered something.
That there was a new 4GB SD card in the pocket of the charger bag! D’oh!!!
Yes, it exists – photographed before the SD card cried ‘No more!’…
Could this be our new back garden getting the first set of visitors?
No, it’s part of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristanos in Cordoba…
Even The Alhambra in Granada needs some TLC from time to time.
This is part of Palacios Nazaries complex as is…
Palacio del Partal which is also undergoing some restoration work…
More on our Andalusia jaunt next week!
- Sunscreen, even on slightly overcast days
- SPF clothing such as shirts, trousers etc for extra protection
- Long sleeved shirts and long trousers for sacred sites
- Stay hydrated, especially when temperatures start rising
- Insect repellents, even in cities such as Porto or Lisbon*
- Business cards for your digs re; walking or taxis back etc…
- Spare specs if you wear glasses or contact lenses
- A torch – either a pocket option or on your phone
- Personal medication, condoms etc. You know it makes sense!
- Notebook and pen for directions, running costs, notes
* Little bar stewards had free meals off me in both of these cities – not as nasty as the oft encountered caber tossing Highland Midge though!