Sevilla, Cordoba, and the White Villages of Andalucia
"Sevilla doesn't have ambience, Sevilla is ambiance." -- James Michener.
Anddd it's been another three months since my last post about Granada. At least it's up within the same year that I went?
The last of my Spain posts comes from Sevilla, the capital city in Andalucia. We stayed in Sevilla for four days, and used it as our home base while we visited nearby Cordoba and the white hill villages and Ronda. We took a 3 hour bus from Granada through the Spanish countryside (while I read The Queen's Vow, a novel about Isabella of Castille, very fitting) and arrived in Sevilla, which was immediately warmer and had a more relaxed, convivial atmosphere. I had previously booked tickets for that morning to the Sevilla Cathedral but booked the wrong time, so after a quick delay meeting our Airbnb hosts we rushed over to see if they would still let us in. Thankfully they didn't even look at the time of our tickets and we waltzed straight in with no line.
Sevilla Cathedral is the third-largest church in the world and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Not uncommon in Moorish held southern Spain, the church was actually built upon a prior mosque after Sevilla was reconquered by the Spanish. It is also famous for the burial grounds of Christopher Columbus. After we strolled around inside, we walked out into the famous courtyard and found the Giralda tower, which you can climb up for the highest view over the city.
Oh hey Christopher Columbus
Courtyard of the Sevilla Cathedral
Giralda bell tower
View from the top
The Giralda bell tower stands some 300 feet above the ground, and we quickly joined the line of people climbing up to the top. Instead of stairs, we climbed gently sloping ramps which seemed to be never ending. In the past, the bell tower used to be the minaret of a Mosque, where some poor guy rode a donkey up the tower five times a day to announce the muslim call to prayer. At the top, there was a huge crowd and we were barely able to see anything before the hoards of people forced us to go down the tower again.
Walking past Plaza San FranciscoWe walked back to our Airbnb (centrally located on Serpentine Street) and washed up for dinner. But not before stopping for gelato at my favorite Amorino Gelato.
Loving the warmer weather and lively atmosphere of Sevilla
Try as we might to make it away from the touristy area for dinner, we couldn't resist eating in one of the perfectly atmospheric little tapas bars lining the main tourist street right across from the Cathedral. All of them seemed pretty similar with similar pricing, and we randomly dropped into one. The place we chose (unfortunately I don't remember the name) ended up being my favorite meal in Sevilla. We started off with Sangria (of course) and then had a dish that would trigger an all out obsession for the rest of the trip, salmorejo.
Salmorejo is an Andalucian specialty, a a thicker chilled tomato soup than gazpacho. Gazpacho is typically served in a cup to be drank and salmorejo is typically served in a bowl to be eaten with a spoon. I loved dipping bread into it, only to find out later that it's thickened with bread. So I basically ate bread dipped in bread lol.
Next up was pulpo. We had seen it a few times on tapas menus but this one ended up being super affordable (only about 5 euros) so we sprung for it and it was beautiful and delicious.
Gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic butter)
Sevilla is also famous for its salted cod -- bacalao (I loved saying the name)
The Sevilla Cathedral lit up at night
The main touristy area of Sevilla was very compact, so we didn't need to venture far to see the dozens of restaurants, bars, churches and attractions in the city. We had a nice little stroll after dinner and saw the Cathedral all lit up.
The next morning, we headed off to Cordoba for a day trip. It was an easy 1 hour train ride, and following Rick's instructions we walked about half an hour from the train station down to the famous Mezquita. The famous Mosque-Church of Cordoba also has a mix of Muslim and Christian features, and is famous for its domed roof.
Finished with the main tourist attraction in Cordoba, we sat down to a big breakfast with the usual bread and tomate with OJ.
Spain in a nutshell
That night, we walked slightly farther out to a "famous" tapas place. It was good, but we had to pick up our own dishes at the bar, an exhausting feat after long journey.
We walked around the lively town square of Sevilla where we bumped into random dinner parties and Spanish guitar performances.
The Royal Alcazar of Sevilla was the setting for the country of Dorne in Game of Thrones, and the water gardens were featured prominently in season 3. I liked it even better than the palace itself. It represented a garden oasis for all the past Kings and Queens who lived here in the past, including Isabella and Ferdinand of Christopher Columbus fame.
Seen in GOT
After we finished touring the palace, we quickly changed and booked it to the Plaza de Espana, a beautiful park constructed for the Sevilla World Fair of 1929. It was also featured in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. What looked like a small distance on the map required us to cross major highways and parks, and it was a scorching day. If we knew how long the walk was we would have taken a bus or taxi!
We then quickly walked back to the Sevilla Cathedral to treat ourselves to Italian food (taking a break from Spanish food for once) before a Flamenco show!
No photos were allowed during the show but they did allow us to take photos/videos at the end.
The next day, we took another day trip (bus tour) to Ronda and the white hill villages on the way to Ronda. Ronda is famous for a large bridge dividing the old and new town, and had some nice views. But personally, the tour wasn't that exciting or exceptional so if I had a choice, I would have stayed an extra day in Granada rather than alotting a whole day for a day trip. But nonetheless, we did get to see some of the quaint villages of Southern Spain where time seems to have stood still.
Famous sheep cheese - "poyo"
The next day, we got one last pan y tomate for breakfast and then flew to Madrid. We had about a 5 hour layover for which we were hemming and hawing about whether we had enough time to go out of the airport after getting our bags, storing them, getting back through security, to go into Madrid. As luck would have it, we ended up in the exact right terminal we would need to take the metro into the city, and at the last minute we decided to risk it. It took us about an hour and twenty minutes but after we arrived, from the airport straight into Madrid's busiest shopping plaza, we had the greatest feeling of accomplishment. We sped through Madrid and did Rick Steve's two hour self-guided walking tour of Madrid in only 45 minutes, and had time to have lunch!
We made it to Madrid!
We spent about 2 hours in Madrid before having to go back to the airport to catch our next flight back to Barcelona. We ended up staying close to the airport and had dinner at a boisterous, very local Catalan outdoor bar (where the menu was in Catalan with no Spanish translation so google translate did not work so we had no idea what we ordered. Watch the vid below if you're interested ;). And then we were off. What an exciting last day to end our trip to Spain--breakfast in Sevilla, lunch in Madrid, and then dinner in Barcelona! Adios Espana, til we meet again!