Spain’s high speed AVE trains are pretty slick and feel like a step up compared to the other trains in Spain. In my case, the AVE train took me from Madrid to Seville – one of the major cities of southern Spain. Like Madrid, there was an air of familiarity when I came out of Seville’s train station and into town. My hostel was located near the large white structure that sort of looks like a grove of trees. Locals call it the mushroom, which would probably be a more accurate description of its appearance. As I normally do, after settling in, I took care of business for when I was going to leave by walking all the way down to the southern bus station and purchasing a bus ticket to the next city. When that was done I went over to the Alcazar (royal palace) to take advantage of the afternoon free entry that day. The line was already long when I got there at around 3:40pm, and by 4:00pm I couldn’t see how far it extended behind me. I got around 4:15pm and worked quickly though the Alcazar on the assumption that the staff would kick everyone out at 5:00pm when the Alcazar closed. Thankfully this was not the case and I was able to linger until around 5:30pm. Normally such a short visit would be undesirable, but I had visited the Alcazar back in 2012 and it appeared to be exactly the same as back then, so I wouldn’t have felt bad if the staff had been more strict with the closing time. However, I did stumble upon a part of the gardens that I had missed the previous time, so I can say that I saw something new. When I left the Alcazar I took a long walk along the river, passing by both the Torre Del Oro and the bullring. During Spain’s golden age, Seville was a major port connected to the Atlantic via the river, however these days the river has silted up and is too shallow to take large ocean ships. Before returning to the hostel I bought some food, including a jar of hazelnut chocolate spread. It was similar to Nutella, but had two different types of chocolate swirled together. I remembered having some back in 2012 and being addicted to it like crack cocaine. There are similar spreads you can buy in America, but I generally don’t purchase them because I already do enough without them to sabotage my fitness goals.
The next day I started my sightseeing at Seville’s Fine Arts Museum. It’s not the biggest collection around, and certainly can’t compare to the Prado in Madrid, but it was interesting enough to keep me there for just under and hour. I then went to the Church of the Savior. The church houses one of the major floats used during Seville’s Passion Week parade. The church also also has a number of ornate chapels and altars, and if the Seville Cathedral did not exist, it would probably be Seville’s lead church. I next went down to Plaza San Francisco and was standing near the city hall when it started getting really warm outside. There was no rush for time, so I walked back to the hostel and stored my jacket and then came all the way back to the plaza. From there I continued on to Seville’s cathedral. The cathedral is the third largest church in the world (after St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London) though depending on what criteria you use, it can be argued as actually the largest church in the world. It also on the site of a demolished mosque, which is common thing in Spain. As the Moors were slowly pushed out of the land, it was usually the case that in a conquered town the Moorish mosque would get torn down and a church would get built on top of it, which was meant to be symbolic of the triumph of Catholic kingdoms over Islam. I got lots of photos of the interior and the courtyard and then went up the bell tower. Instead of stairs, the tower has an interior ramp that you climb to the top. The ramp makes the ascent to the top easier and was actually a Moorish idea; the idea being that by having a ramp instead of stairs, a person could ride a donkey to the top. The view from the bell tower is good, and because Seville doesn’t really have much of a modern skyline you can see far on a clear day. After coming down the tower I explored the church grounds for awhile longer before leaving. I decided to go to Plaza de España next, but somehow found a “scenic” way to get there. Despite having a map and general idea of how to get there from my memory of the last visit, I still managed to lose the route. I got to Plaza de España eventually, and took in one of my favorite spots in Europe. The fountain was turned off for maintenance, but even so, the place is still very beautiful and a masterpiece of artistic design. It’s tricky to describe, so go to Google Images some time and look it up and you’ll see what I mean. Interestingly enough, Spain’s military has an office in the building on the plaza, which seems really out of place. After some time walking all around the plaza and getting photos, I crossed the river to the west side and walked all the way out to where Seville holds its annual spring fair. The fair grounds were empty, of course, but I was curious enough to make the long walk out there to take a look. I returned to the east side and made my way back to the hostel. Dinner was followed by uploading photos to social media and later in the night I went for another walk around town. Again, I somehow found a way to get lost on the way to Plaza de España, and found myself instead passing through some sort of community fair that was going on. At the plaza there was hardly anyone walking around, though a few runners did pass by me. By the time I got back to the hostel it was after 10:00pm. The hostel staff had prepared some pasta and there were some leftovers that they let me have. Combined with the meal I had eaten earlier, I went to bed very full.
In the morning I woke up with a strong sense that the end of the journey was closing in. I had known this as a fact just by the steady advance of the calendar, but this was one of the first times where my return to America felt near. My bus was in the early afternoon so I didn’t rush the morning. With my time before departure I checked out the Triana neighborhood on the west side of the river. Triana used to be the bad part of town, but now it’s doing as well as the rest of the city. I noted a bicycle shop – a sure sign of hipster gentrification. There was also an indoor market and a church with another one of floats for the Passion Week parade. Before returning to the hostel for my backpack, I took one last look at Plaza de España. Then I walked to the hostel, got my stuff (and checked email), and walked down to the bus station. I was moving even further south, down to the southern coast of Spain. The next city was Tarifa.