From Granada, we took a big bus back to the little town of Antequera, then a train ride 155 miles west to Sevilla. This is the sunny capital of Spain’s southern Andalusia region, and during our stay it was hot and humid. Mike (again) chose a very special place for us to stay: Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia. Located in Sevilla’s old Jewish quarter, which dates back to the 13th century, this hotel is a series of quiet rooms along interesting cobbled-stoned walkways, connected by peaceful courtyards. Bubbling fountains, huge pots teeming with plants, stone archways, narrow stairways to upper rooms with balconies that looked down on courtyards, alcoves, nooks….all of it created an atmosphere of mystery and romance. The Jewish quarter is located in barrio Santa Cruz, so named because the Christians expelled the Jews in the 14th century, after years of persecution.
We arrived in the afternoon, too early for dinner and too late for lunch, so we continued a recently developed practice of eating dessert first, stopping for tea/coffee and delicious pastry. We walked all over the barrio before and after dinner at 8 pm, and managed to find our room later on, in the charming maze of our hotel.
The Santa Maria de la Sede Catedral is the 3rd largest cathedral in Europe and the largest Gothic church anywhere. It was built on the site of a grand mosque, to show the power and wealth of the conquering Christians. In the planning stages, a member of the building committee is said to have commented, “We shall have a church of such a kind that those who see it built will think we were mad.” The cathedral was built in a little over a century, 1402-1506, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. We spent 3 hours here, looking at great works of art, and saw the monumental tomb of Christopher Columbus. The belfry is 341 feet tall. It was an easy climb because, instead of stairs, there are 37 ramps to the top, built so that guards could ride up on horseback. What lovely views of Sevilla!
After lunch, we walked to nearby Alcazar de Sevilla, built in the 1300s. Alcazar means a Spanish palace or fortress of Moorish origin. This is another World Heritage Site, also designated by UNESCO in 1987. It reminded us of the Alhambra, which was built by Moors and taken over by Christians. The Alcazar of Seville was built by Christians using Moorish designers and artisans. The architecture and gardens were amazing, and we spent all afternoon strolling around. Again, we hope the photos will do the talking.
After a rest at the hotel, we had dinner at a cafe across the street, then walked through the narrow lanes of the barrio to a Flamenco show. What fun! Passionate, energetic, expressive and colorful….. Flamenco includes cante (singing), toque (guitar), baile (dance), and pitos (finger snapping). It was a small venue for about 50 guests, seated in a semi-circle around the stage, so everyone had a good view. The show lasted an hour, and we were exhausted for the performers afterwards! Maybe Mike and I will take Flamenco lessons to keep fit. I just want to wear the dresses!
It was only 9:30 pm when the show ended, so we found gelato and sat in the cathedral plaza watching the street lamps come on and the horse-drawn carriages take tourists around the barrio.
On our last morning, we walked to Torre del Oro, a 13th century watchtower by the river. It is an iconic symbol of Seville, and no wonder, since it was almost destroyed several times in its long history, but the people of Seville always came to its rescue.
The train ride to Madrid lasted under three hours, and we were back in our apartment by 3:30 pm. It was good to be “home”! Next: Lisbon!