Cas­tanet to Seville

Rutherglen Reformer - - Reader Travel -

If you didn’t know any bet­ter, you’d think ev­ery sec­ond fe­male in Seville was a Fla­menco dancer. That was the first im­pres­sion my wife Linda had when we vis­ited the An­dalu­cian cap­i­tal re­cently. What we didn’t re­alise right away was that it was La Fe­ria, a six-day an­nual fes­ti­val that takes place two weeks af­ter Easter and sees the lo­cal fe­male pop­u­la­tion dress­ing up. The city streets were full of young girls, teenagers, el­e­gant ladies and ma­ture women all kit­ted out in a glo­ri­ous show of fab­u­lous, Fla­men­can fin­ery. At the Fe­ria show­ground – more than a thou­sand case­tas (can­vas tent pavil­ions) host vis­i­tors – horse and car­riages con­tain­ing mem­bers of Seville so­ci­ety pa­rade up and down and an amuse­ment park called Hell Street adds to the fun. Our first stop in the city was to Seville Cathe­dral built on the site of ninth-cen­tury mosque and said to be the largest Gothic cathe­dral in the world. Mas­sive col­umns, in­tri­cate carv­ings, huge vaulted ceil­ings and the tomb of Christo­pher Colum­bus all made for a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Close by, the Real Al­cazar are a group of royal palaces that were the cen­tre of power for more than 1000 years. There is a sur­prise at ev­ery turn and so much to see we could have spent a day there. The var­i­ous gar­dens, with many foun­tains and mile-high palm trees, were a joy to wan­der in. From there, we headed to the mag­nif­i­cent Plaza de Es­pana, a semi­cir­cu­lar sweep of build­ings with a Venice- style canal ( and bridges) sep­a­rat­ing them from a huge square. All round the rim of the build­ings are ce­ramic tiles rep­re­sent­ing each of the Span­ish prov­inces. The next day we took the 45-minute train trip to Cor­doba, once the cap­i­tal of the Moor­ish king­dom of El-An­dalus. The city was re- con­quered in 1236 by the Chris­tians, who were so taken with the 10th cen­tury- Great Mosque that they built their cathe­dral in the mid­dle of its rows and col­umns, re­sult­ing in the vast, breath- tak­ing Mosque- Cathe­dral, which com­bines Moor­ish and Chris­tian ar­chi­tec­ture. Close by the Guadalquivir River, the Al­cazar de los Reyes Cris­tianos is a for­mer Ro­man fortress and home of Chris­tian kings, which over­looks sump­tu­ous gar­dens. Our jour­ney back to Seville was on a high-speed train from Madrid, so we hit an ex­hil­a­rat­ing 155mph and ar­rived five min­utes early. On our last morn­ing, we wan­dered around Seville’s nar­row streets, popped into the im­pres­sive Museo de Bel­las Artes and had lunch on the Plaza del Duque, dom­i­nated by the mas­sive El Corte In­gles depart­ment store. On then to Granada, a jour­ney split be­tween rail and bus as there is rail work go­ing on near Granada (no sur­prise there, then). If we thought the streets in Seville were nar­row, Granada’s beat them hands down, with pedes­tri­ans forced to jump into shop door­ways to avoid pass­ing taxis and mo­tor­bikes. We’d tried to book tick­ets on­line for the Al­ham­bra (the world-fa­mous “red or crim­son cas­tle”, a fortress, palace and city all in one), but they were sold out. This meant we had an early-morn­ing trek up what seemed like a never-end­ing hill to the box of­fice for on-the-day tick­ets ( join the credit card queue, it’s far quicker). Our early rise gave us time to have break­fast at the Al­caz­aba, one of the old­est (mil­i­tary) parts of the Al­ham­bra, with ter­rific views over the city. As our timed tick­ets for Nas­rid Palaces were for 11.30am, we made a bee­line for the Gen­er­al­ife, at the other end of the com­plex to stroll through the gar­dens, de­signed to be the place where the kings of Granada could get away from the wor­ries of rul­ing. The Nas­rid Palaces com­bine three palaces (Mex­uar, Co­mares and Palace of the Li­ons) from dif­fer­ent time pe­ri­ods and proved yet an­other fas­ci­nat­ing jour­ney through his­tory. Back in town, we headed along the side of the Darro River and, through a maze of nar­row al­ley­ways – jump­ing out of the way of roar­ing scoot­ers – and ended up in the Al­baicin area, full of Moor­ish traders with colour­ful clothes, bags, herbs and spices. On the way back to our ho­tel, we popped in to Granada Cathe­dral. An­other build­ing cre­ated on the site of a mosque, it’s full of mas­sive thick pil­lars that seem to reach to the sky, and or­nate de­signs and carv­ings. But if there is one last­ing mem­ory be­fore we headed for the bus to Malaga and flight home, it was the baroque St John of God church, cov­ered in gold, carv­ings, sculp­tures, paint­ings and re­li­gious or­na­men­ta­tion. As­ton­ish­ing.

Tomb of Christo­pher Colum­bus in Seville

The gar­dens at The Cas­tle of the Chris­tian Mon­archs, Cor­doba

Women and girls at La Fe­ria

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