Up and out early today (7:30 a.m.) as it was a long ride from Cadiz to Seville (1 1/2 hours). Nice bus though, new and comfortable and a good driver as well -- smooth and not too fast. Horrible weather though. Cold (upper 50s) and wet. Definitely not in the tropics anymore. R and I have visited Seville once before, on a bus tour of Spain 10+ years ago. I wanted to see the place again to refresh my memories but I have to confess that with the early start and the poor weather I was beginning to question the wisdom of our decision.
Once we arrived in Seville we were dropped off several blocks from our destination--the Alcazar or Royal Palace. We arrived at the Alcazar at precisely the wrong time. The palace doesn't open until ten a.m. and we got there at around 9:30 just in time to be the last group in the very long group entrance line. There were two other lines; one was for people with reservations (apparently not us though you wouldn't be wrong to think that it ought to have included us) and a third line for singles without reservations. Eventually the lines started to move. Scratch that--eventually the two other lines began to move. The group line remained stubbornly in place. For ten minutes. Then twenty minutes. All the while the singles line is moving along at a quick pace. But not the group line. "Unprecedented," says our group leader, Sergio, a handsome thirty something who is sporting a rather unfortunate comb-forward hairstyle. "Never has it taken this long". Well, eventually the line starts moving ever so slowly. The reason for our hour plus delay is never explained but necessitates a revamp of the schedule.
The Alcazar is absolutely amazing and I am pretty sure we didn't visit it the last time we were in Seville even though I find this hard to believe. Still, I would have remembered the exuberant Moorish decorations including a partly-sunken interior courtyard garden, stunning tile work and elaborate stucco work. The place was unsurprisingly crowded but fortunately we were not rushed through in order to make up time.
Christopher Columbus tomb (?)
After a brief walk through the Jewish Quarter (narrow alleyways and small, picturesque courtyards) we headed for the Seville Cathedral. The Cathedral was built on top of a mosque. It is quite large with twenty(?) side chapels and a very high ceiling. The style is a mixture but it felt mostly Gothic to me but again I could be wrong. The gold altarpiece was huge, elaborate and impressive with a ridiculous number of carved figures from the Bible while the silver altar was "simpler" (it's all relative) but still big and showy. The Cathedral also contains the remains of Christopher Columbus which our guide said had been confirmed through DNA testing but he also admitted that they had only about half of his remains and that the body has been moved hither and yon many times so I am skeptical.
After the Cathedral it was time for lunch. We took the bus to a hotel where we were served a proper meal (as opposed to the usual buffet) in a large but strangely empty (except for us) dining room. The shoppers in the group had to settle for the hotel's gift shop as shopping was I believe jettisoned from the schedule after our Alcazar line disaster (though perhaps shopping was never on the schedule).
Once outside we discovered that it must have rained hard while we were enjoying lunch so that was a lucky break. Our final stop was the Plaza d'Espagna. This semi-circular building complete with colonnade, two big towers and a water feature with four bridges was built in the 1920s (I think) for an international fair that was held in Seville. Earlier in the day we had driven past (and dutifully photographed) numerous other buildings that were constructed for that very same international exhibition. The Plaza d'Espagna was by far the nicest and largest fair building that we saw. It included gorgeous tile work that featured the various regions of Spain and this, in combination with the guitarist who was playing in the background, left little doubt of where in the world we were.
We made good time driving back to the ship but still arrived a half hour later than we were supposed to. The "sail away" was bittersweet as we bid farewell to Europe for the second time in less than a year. This time it was a bit harder than the previous time because I don't know when I will be back. But be back I shall -- no doubt and you'll come with me ;)