In Seville: a photo gallery - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

November 12, 2019

In Seville: a photo gallery

We admit it, 24 hours is not long enough time to spend in Seville.  A week probably isn’t enough, for that matter.  We get antsy fast though, and tire of walking around looking up in amazement pretty quickly.  We time boxed our visit and decided to just see whatever we could fit in comfortably in one day.

First off, a couple of thoughts about Seville in general.  Once you’re in the city itself, it is very bike friendly.  It has a network of well marked bike routes that carry you from the core to the outskirts in all the key directions, and bike/scooter traffic inside the city is significant.  We were here 15 years ago with our bikes, and it’s much easier to get around now than it was then, and there are many more bikes in evidence.  I’m sure the improved infrastructure helps, as does the fact that the city is almost perfectly flat.

Outside the city though is a different story.  We didn’t much like the ride approaching the city from the southwest, and tomorrow we’ll have an even harder time leaving to the northeast.  When we were here last time we came in from the southeast and left from the northwest, and those were both pretty awful too.  I’d be more than happy to see Seville again, but I doubt that we’d bike into it.

Once you’re here though, what an amazing, charismatic place it is.  There are the big two monuments it’s so famous for - the cathedral, which is the largest gothic cathedral in Europe; and the phenomenal alcazar.  Take those two away though and it’s still a fantastic place with one striking structure after another popping up as you wander the twisted streets of the old city.  

We didn’t plan our visit in advance well enough.  We made reservations for a flamenco show a few days ago, which was wise because the one we wanted was sold out when we arrived and turning people away.  Then, last night over dinner it occurred to us to see if we could reserve admission to the Alcazar, which we could - but not at our preferred time.  And this morning we checked into the cathedral and found we were out of luck.  Which was fine, because we wouldn’t have had the legs to see both of them in one day anyway.  If you want to see both, you should book slots in advance unless you want to wait in a long line; and you’d probably have a better time of it if you stayed an extra day and split up the experiences.

I would have said the alcazar was the highlight of our visit if you asked me late in the afternoon, as it was for our first visit fifteen years ago.  We were astonished by it then, and were nearly as astonished this time.

But in the end it was only the second best thing for us.  Best was the flamenco performance we attended, which completely blew us both away.  We’ve seen a pair of flamenco performances in Spain before, and they were both memorable experiences - we especially remember the first time, when we caught a dinner show and sat so close to the stage that we could feel the wind from the skirts whirling a few feet from our table.  

This show though was on a whole different level.  We did a bit of research before ordering tickets (which were 18 euros each btw, a bargain in our estimation) and selected a highly recommended venue that specializes in authentic, high quality performances.  It’s roughly a one hour performance, in a horseshoe shaped theater surrounding a square stage.  There were five performers: a male and female dancer and a three member chorus that included a guitarist and a pair of singers/percussionists.  It was a presentation in multiple acts, beginning with a performance by both dancers together that felt like a feral, exotic mating ritual, accompanied by a chorus of claps, foot taps, slaps, and chant (the combination of castanets and gyrations made me wonder if flamenco was inspired by the mating ritual of storks); then a solo guitar number; then a solo performance by the female dancer; then a vocal number by the chorus; and then a final solo performance by the male dancer.  At the end, after the performance proper, there were a few minutes of staged dancing for which photography was permitted.

We were pretty much dumbstruck throughout the entire performance.  There are so many things about it I’d like to remember - the tension and severity in the dancers faces, their brows furrowed, their mouths opening and closing and their eyes cast down or averted; the interplay between the chorus members, each other, and the dancers; the implied courtship between the dancers while one was performing and the other was guardedly watching as a member of the chorus; the wonderful syncopated percussive interplay of the guitarist, the clapping, the castanets, and the intricate staccato footwork; the incredibly elaborate costume of the woman, with its pure white mantilla that she whirled around with arms extended and eventually tossed in the face of the onlooking male dancer, to his apparent surprise; the immense blue train of her dress, that she somehow managed to keep spinning around behind her without tripping over it.

I think the thing that may stay with me the longest though was the male dancer’s solo performance.  You really couldn’t take your eyes off of him as he strutted, preened, pirouetted and stomped around the stage, snapping his fingers, looking like a bullfighter, using absolutely every inch of the space.  There’s no doubt that he knows exactly where he is on it at all times, aggressively and percussively stamping with his feet just an inch from the edge, clapping it from the outside edge even, stamping so close to the guitarist that he had to pull his own feet back.  At the end, as he worked his way off the platform he peeled off his jacket and insolently flung it over his right shoulder onto the floor, exiting stage right.

Central Seville is very bike friendly.
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And mysterious. Alleys like these are a delight to wander through, wondering what you’ll find around the corner.
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There must be hundreds of these horse-drawn carts navigating the core. I wonder how this tradition got started?
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I forget what this is, but it could have been any of a hundred places worth noting.
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There are many flamenco venues in Seville (though we highly recommend the one we attended); but you can also just enjoy a show on the streets.
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I haven’t looked it up to be sure, but I’m pretty sure this is a carob tree (shocking news: I was wrong about this). We’ve never seen them when they’re in blossom.
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Bill ShaneyfeltIn college in AZ, we had a row of big old carob trees. The leaves were compound, so I don't know what this one is.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltYou’re right. I’ll have to go back to where I first saw this tree - I think in Sicily - but I must have been wrong then too. It’s a silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa). Its distinguishing feature is its spiky trunk, like a fat rose stem.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltOh, I get it now. I found the original one, on our way to Castellamare on our first tour of Sicily. It was a kapok tree (also a Ceiba). I was confused by the similarity of the names kapok and carob when I dredged it out of my memory. So close!
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3 weeks ago
The Plaza Espana is a beautiful space, loved by everyone.
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The Plaza Espana is lined with beautifully tiled benches, each named for and characteristically styled for a different location in Spain.
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The cathedral. I’m sure it must be incredible inside, but it’s quite spectacular seeing it from the outside too.
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Our recommendation if you come to Seville.
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Everything below is from the Alcazar.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  If you’d like to know more, look it up.

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Jen GrumbyLove the street flamenco video! And your description of the performance at La Casa del Flamenco made me feel like I was there with youse! Brilliant capture of the emotion and talent of the performers.

And the photos of the Alcazar made me a little teary (in a good way!). When I went there in 1999 I was so blown away that I left with a strong feeling that "everyone should see this place before they die".

Wonderful to see that the city is bicycle friendly too!

Reading this post was the perfect way to start the day!
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3 weeks ago
Carolyn van HoeveExcited that you're back in Andalucia! We want to get on the next flight back there. We loved Seville too and could easily have spent more than the 3 days we had. We saw the same Flamenco show and equally blown away. We approached Seville from the North and had a 10km ride in on the bike paths which was pretty good, though riding through the backstreet of the outer city were a bit of an insight into some fairly desperate living conditions.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveYou saw the same show! Wasn’t that a remarkable experience though? I’d come back to seville just to see it all over again.

I don’t know that I’d come back to Andalucia just yet though. Maybe wait a month or five. You were here at the perfect time. The temperature dropped ten degrees last night, and it looks like the rainy season arrives in a few days.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThanks so much, Jen. I was hoping to describe enough about the performance that it would breathe it back to life for us years from now. Better of course would be to just come back some year, see it again, and park ourselves here For a good long spell.
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3 weeks ago
Carolyn van HoeveRemarkable! Fingers crossed for you that there is more good weather ahead to see you through!
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3 weeks ago