The Hard Shoulder Goes to Seville on Newstalk
listen to the podcast here https://www.newstalk.com/podcasts/highlights-from-the-hard-shoulder/travel-wednesdays-seville
This week I will be chatting with Ivan Yates about Seville. It’s a big city and has a population of about 700k inside the city and 1.5 million all over and is the autonomous capital of Andalucia. Al-Andalus was the name given to Muslim Iberia governed by the Moors or Muslims between 711 and 1492. At its most powerful the domain stretched into southern France but for the majority the area from the middle of the peninsula down to the coast was the Caliphate of Cordoba for five centuries and during this time great wealth and prosperity flourished. Christians, Muslims and Jews worked together in harmony and it’s a history that isn’t always talked about but is incredibly inspiring.
Set on The Guadalquivir River it has one of the hottest climates in Spain with temperatures hitting 50c during the last heatwave and regularly over 40c in the height of summer. Winter enjoys temperatures of about 16c but it can get cold at night.
The best time to travel is in spring when the orange trees shed their fruit and the sweet aroma can be smelt all over the city as they fall on to the roads and are crushed.They make bitter marmalade and not like the oranges we eat or crush for juice. Orange trees never lose their leaves and make a pretty display all over the city. The bitter oranges can be identified by their leaves as they have a tiny split at the top of the leaf making a second leaf.
There are direct flights from Dublin to Seville with Ryanair I just checked and they are €65 each way in March. Another option is to fly to Faro or Malaga.
Transfer is easy by EA bus from the airport into Plaza de Armas and takes about 40 minutes. The price is €6 return or €4 single. Seville has a good transport system with subway and trams and buses.
What about food?
Tapas are a must try and for anyone who doesn’t know they are small bite-size portions of vegetables, meat and seafood and sometimes served on bread or rice. Tapas originated when King Alfonso 10th was ill and couldn’t eat much so he was given a mix of small morsels that made them popular
Favourite tapas are Patatas Bravas, tuna, shrimps, goats cheese, spinach and chickpeas – of course the churros are a special delight but will most likely be served with thick syrupy chocolate like hot chocolate that you would not eat on its own. There are many great places to eat all over the city and it is excellent value with glasses of wine from €2. I asked Maria Remeires, a tour guide where she recommends to eat and her favourite is El Rinconcillo in Calle Alhondiga where they serve the very best Jamon.
Where to stay?
Seville has three thousand years of history – Macarena in the north and Santa Cruz to the right of the Guadalqivir river is colourful with oranges and tapered balconies and tranquil courtyards / the beating heart of Spanish culture trace the heart of Spain in the Jewish Quarter.Seville is easy to walk and get around. Across the river the more authentic working class side of town is Triana- this is where Flamenco originated.
What is Flamenco all about?
Flamenco is an expression in many forms and can be found on street corners or in the wonderful plazas and gardens. It is an emotional mix of cords and explosion of claps, stomps and clicks. It comes straight from the heartbeat of Andalucia and usually involves – a guitarist, singer and dancers, castanets are introduced too. The singing is an evocative reminder of the call to prayer and Islamic rule – or a bit like irish seanos singers.
There are several venues to go and see a live show and they cost in the region of €20
la casa de flamenco https://www.lacasadelflamencosevilla.com/
What are the must sees?
I took a guided tour with the lovely Naomi and she brought me on a walking tour and through The Royal Alcazar of Seville… is a must do but buy your tickets online – you need to take into context the intricate history between Christianity and Islam, life in Ishbiliyya was a place where enlightenment thrived between 8-13th centuries of arts science maths and astronomy thrived with commerce and trade,
The roots of muslim rule permeate Spanish culture, the best example is the Royal Alcazar of Seville – a mix of centuries – Islam in structure and Christian in practice – the pattern and colour is in the style of the moors each scripture is a spiritual reconstruction of who we are and the world we live in. The gardens are spectacular and constructed in symmetrical layout. With courtyard and pools and hidden gardens with carp and gold fish filling the fountains.
Mudejar was a Moorish style mixed with Christian decoration. It houses The Court of the maidens mudejar below and renaissance above – it was a stark fortress and became the dolls court a stylised Arabic script of Koran verses – animals and castles and kings.
Queen Isabelle built a chapel to administer the travels to the new world. It features the most accurate portrait of Columbus. The gardens reflect a mix of cultures with palms and tropical plants.
Naomi took me through the palace and the reception area where The Game of Thrones was filmed. She told me a bit about Peter the Cruel and I nearly went on my ear so mind the short steps that are deceptive. The room is a beautiful mix of Mudejar and Islamic art
Afterwards we went for a walk through the labyrinthine Jewish quarter and followed a trail where Seville has been the home for many operas… Seville chants with characters such as Carmen and Don Juan and in a short stroll from the Alcazar through the Jewish Quarter where brass plates on the cobble stones mark the opera trail and leads visitors through the operas and of course the Barber of Seville.
Is there anything else that is a must see or do?
1.Las Setas or Metropol Parasol is the largest wooden structure in the world –
This giant honeycomb structure which is great for shading at the height of summer and lovely spot to enjoy tapas on a Sunday morning – it has the best panoramic views of the city
2.The cathedral is the second largest church in Europe – the reconquiste – the former minerat is now the bell tower the Giralda and one of the most recognisable towers in Europe
3. Expo 1929 – and 1992 Seville has been home to two world Expos leaving behind an architectural legacy that is hard to rival. The parks are especially beautiful and a great way to avoid the searing heat in summer.
Is there Anything to avoid?
Don’t bother with the river boat tour – it cost €18 and although the breeze was nice the commentary was in five languages and i couldn’t understand any of them – worse than that there was no bar open and if there’s one thing I really enjoy on a boat cruise it is cold beer. So a better idea is to sit in one of the bars along the Triana boardwalk and take in the Guadalqivir river that way.
Things to do with Kids? Say you are taking a day trip from Marbella?
For kids isla magica is a theme park that will keep the kid amused for hours and good value unlike other expensive theme parks……………much cheaper than Disney book online – great water rapids and not so expensive inside for food eg beer 2.50….entrance €24 https://www.islamagica.es/en/
STAR WARS Fans must visit the Plaza de Espana where one of the scenes was filmed.
Quirky thing to do
Get a horse and cart ride…..about €45 for one hour takes a different leisurely view of the streets
Shopping Areas are around Plaza Nueva
Plaza Nueva was founded by Ferdinand III who freed Spain of the moors – pedestrian zone shopping street
The Andalucians Preserve their traditions and in spring enjoy the three most important accessories – shawels, fans and mantilla for the festival and worn at the bullfights!
To find out more about Andalucia check out the official Spanish tourism websites. www.spain.info
Packages from Click and Go if you fancy a weekend
4* Derby Sevilla Hotel
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4* NH Sevilla Plaza de Armas Hotel
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4 / 5 on Trip Advisor – Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor