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The Flying Dutchman

Super Sunny Sevilla!

SPAIN | Tuesday, 9 February 2010 | Views [958] | Comments [1]

Special Guest Writer: Alice Berents!

We had heard that the train system in Spain was not very good, however our first Spanish train experience was the best yet. We were checked onto the train a lot like at an airport, found our luxurious seats and sat back and relaxed as we began our (super) high-speed journey to Sevilla. When I say super high speed, I mean SUPER high speed. There was an electronic panel in the carriage that told you information about where you were, the temperature and how fast you are going amongst other things. At one point the speed reached 300km/h. THREE HUNDRED! (sidenote Neil: I got excited and thought I would take a picture, which was awkward when the whole train was illuminated by the flash which hadn’t been turned off.)  Luckily we weren’t going so fast that we couldn’t enjoy the scenery and the beauty of Spain did not disappoint.


We have learnt that the less major the city, the further out the main train station is from the city centre. Seville is no exception. We trekked through the streets of Spain’s hottest city wishing that it could be less awkward to remove layers of clothing with ginormous backpacks on as we had officially arrived in our hottest city yet. Unfortunately, somewhere between Italy and Spain I caught a cold. No big deal, but my immune system is not very friendly and I did not want to get any worse. So we had a highly successful conversation with a pharmacist in Spanish, and I returned home with tablets before jumping into bed for my first Spanish siesta. What is there not to love about a country that has a culture of naps? After a siesta we found the supermarket and bought food for dinner. We also found the kitchen of the hostel, which was on the top floor of our hostel and had a stunning outdoors terrace. We watched the (delightfully warm) sun set over Seville before making some dinner and retiring for the night.


The next morning we tossed up the idea of wearing shorts, but decided that it might be a little bit cold. Plus, all the locals were still wearing parkas – we would DEFINITELY not have looked like locals in shorts. So we settled on t-shirts and headed out to explore. It seemed a lot of people we knew had been to, and loved, Sevilla so we had been given suggestions all over the place. After stopping at the supermarket for some meat, cheese and bread (sidenote Neil: pretty much all we have eaten this trip - other than pasta - but what more could you want?)  we headed towards Seville’s biggest park; Maria Luisa. We walked through and past numerous cute little fountains and under hundreds of orange trees with oranges just shouting out to be picked. We picked a couple of oranges and made our way up to a pagoda overlooking the park. We enjoyed most of our picnic lunch, except a couple of painful bites into definitely-not-ripe oranges (sidenote Neil: I wisely tasted a drop of the juice, but I guess Alice was hungrier because she unfortunately just dove right in). We decided maybe we had chosen a bad orange and we would have another go later.


We made our way out of the park to the Plaza de Espana. Like a lot of places in Europe at this time of year, the plaza, and its associated buildings, were under construction. Luckily, they had gone about the construction in such a way that we were still able to walk through and see the beautiful buildings. It was on our next stretch of walk that we saw a temperature sign telling us it was 21degrees! Definitely the hottest weather I have experienced since October.


Our time in Sevilla was short so we continued on our whirlwind tour through the city and made our way to the cathedral. Sevilla’s cathedral is the third largest in Europe after Notre Dame in Paris (which we unfortunately didn’t have time for) and St Peter’s in Vatican city (check!) – I think we are doing the cathedral tour of Europe. This cathedral did not disappoint. I particularly loved the amazing, large stained glass. We ran away from the numerous noisy school groups in the cathedral and made our way up the bell tower to get, you guessed it, our regular vista of the city. Sevilla looked amazing, and the beautiful, warm, sunlight just made it that much better. From the bell tower we could see the Alcazar; something that we were informed we had to see. So we made our way down and headed towards it.


Sevilla was the first place we encountered where they truly appreciated how poor students from all around the world actually are (in a lot of instances they will only give discounts to EU students). The cathedral was super cheap and the Alcazar was FREE! So we splashed out and paid for the audio guide; definitely the best decision we ever made. The Alcazar is the palace that the royal family still resides in when in Sevilla. It is interesting because it is a combination of (go neil, go!) (sidenote Neil: thanks for the lead-in Alice.  It’s a unique combination of Islamic style architecture from the middle ages, Renaissance-age Catholic style, and later baroque additions.  Very few places in the world have this kind of mixture of styles, and it was interesting because it told the story a time in Spain where the Christians, Muslims, and Jews, all lived in harmony with one another, and collaborated on massive projects like this.  That’s all I got)  The gardens of the Alcazar were also beautiful. We went to the very end of them where we found a maze of orange and lemon trees. Our friends from Belgium that we met on the Cinque Terre had told us that homegrown lemons smell phenomenal and Neil would stop at no lengths to acquire one to appreciate. One lemon for Neil and one orange for me later we begun to consider if the king would cut off our heads for stealing his fruit (sidenote Neil: There was way too much religious symbolism for me not to worry about the consequences of picking the forbidden fruit from the garden.  From this I concluded that we would merely be kicked out of the garden). Luckily we exited the Alcazar with heads still intact. Unluckily, we hadn’t just chosen a bad orange earlier, all the oranges in Seville were apparently just bad.


We returned to the hostel to rest before going out for our first tapas. Tapas are a Spanish invention that begun when bartenders used to cover drinks with little dishes to make sure the flies didn’t get in. They then began to fill the dishes with little snacks like olives and the tradition of tapas began. All this started in Sevilla so we felt obligated. We checked with the front desk for where to go and headed out on a tapas adventure. Some real patatas bravas, croquettas and paella later, we decided that we were big fans of the tapas tradition. We headed back home, hoping that more rest would do my cold, which still had not left, some good.


We had the morning to kill before we had to get on our train to our next exotic location. We spent it drinking delicious coffee and walking by the beautiful river. While a definite tourist location, Sevilla never really gave off a touristy vibe. We could simply walk by the river as rowers went by on the water and their coaches sped by on bicycles barking orders into megaphones. It was somehow very peaceful.


We discovered what people had meant by the train system not being very effective as we embarked on our next train journey. We were going from Sevilla to Tarifa, the southern-most town in Spain. Two trains, two buses, six hours and a measly 200km (the road signs coming into Tarifa told us that was how far away Sevilla was) later we arrived into Tarifa in the pouring rain. Tarifa is known for being the furthest south point in Spain, but also for it’s insane wind. Luckily, my pack has it’s own raincoat so the rain and wind was not a big issue for me and I decided that I would rather be a little damp than fight an umbrella in the rain. Unluckily for Neil, his pack does not have it’s own raincoat. The ten(ish) minute walk to the hostel was nothing but hilarious for me. Neil’s 3euro umbrella was NOT doing him well, especially as the rain was basically coming vertically into our faces. Neil was walking along holding both edges of the umbrella over his face and pack desperately hoping that the thing did not turn inside out. At one stage he informed me that he could only see where he was going by following my feet, so some quick sidestepping was added to the equation. We made it to our cute little hostel in the chilled town of Tarifa and relaxed while drying out and decided which day trips to another country we should do the next day (don't hate us!).



Tags: alcazar, alice berents, maria luisa park, neil loewen, seville, spain, tapas, tarifa



I wanna hear about Africa! Now!

  Alexa Feb 11, 2010 5:39 AM



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