Two days in Seville with my group:
When Lonely Planet recently ranked the 10 cities that everyone will be dying to visit this coming year, guess which city occupied the coveted No.1 spot? That’s right – No.1 was Seville (pronounced ‘seveeya’ by the locals), regional capital of Southern Spain, situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, and abundant in flamenco dancing, Gothic architecture and mouth-watering churros.
After checking in to our fabulous hotel, we went walkabout in the town-centre, ogling a crazy piece of architecture, shaped like a massive mushroom/waffle and ranked as the world’s largest timber-framed structure. We rode a lift up to the top of the sculpture for some panoramic views of Seville, then rearranged the seating at a ground-level cafe.
We began our day 1 exploration of this lovely city at the Real Alcazar (Royal Palace), a Christianised Moorish fortress, where Spain’s monarchy often kicked-back on holiday. We checked out the dazzling dome of the Ambassadors’ Hall, the cool gardens and patios, and the State Rooms of Charles V.
We focused next on Seville’s Gothic Cathedral (with its incredible gold-leaf altarpiece, Capilla Mayor) – the second largest cathedral in Europe after St Peter’s in Rome, built, as often happened back then, on the site of a 12th century mosque. La Giralda, the bell tower, still looks like a minaret, and we joined the youthful hordes all clambering to the top for some panoramic views.
The next day, for something a little different, we followed our guide around a local morning market – enjoying displays en route of delicious olives, fruits, cheeses, plus traditional jamon de bellota, the finest ham in the world (according to Seville-ites). It comes from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during their last months of life. The exercise and diet of these black Iberian porkers has a significant impact on the flavour of the ham – which is cured for 36 months.
With that knowledge under our belts, we then lined up at a cooking class – where we learned how to make a cold, creamy tomato soup, a chickpea & spinach combo, and a delicious chicken paella – tucking in for lunch, accompanied (of course) by wine.
In the afternoon, desperate for more walking, we were led by our beloved Sandra (our Tour Manager) along the riverbank to the Plaza de Espana – the most famous square in Seville – where, after a wander and meander, we did what you do in Spain: drank more wine!