Friday, 21 May 2010

17 May 2010 - Seville Guided Tour

We joined the coach at 9am for the tour. After a short drive through the city centre we arrived at the Maria Louisa Park where we left the coach to continue the tour on foot. We had a local guide for the duration of the tour.

The park was created for the 1929 Sevilla Expo and consists of a large gardens with impressive buildings each built by a nation taking part.

One of the many buildings dotted around the park. Not sure who built this one as the local guide was more interested in her conversation with the coach guide than explaining our surroundings.

One of the many fountains, this one started as we approached it. Either it was activated by sensor, or we timed our arrival just right.

From the park it was a short walk to the Plaza de Espana. This impressive monument is also part of the 1929 Expo, and represents the provinces of Spain. It is currently being renovated, and should have been finished by April this year. Like most building works in Spain is running late, but is almost finished.

This is an example of a regional display. Valencia is still being renovated (of course) so I choose Jaen, because of my interest in Napoleonic history. In the centre of the seating area is a map of the Province, and shelves on each side for literature about the area. The coat of arms is above the seat, and an illustration of an important historical event. This one commerates the battle of Bailen, the only time that a Spanish army won a battle during the Napoleonic Wars.

The centre of the square will have a large lake, with an island in the centre and four bridges decorated in tiles. The bridges are completed, but work is still ongoing in the centre of the square.

Even in its unfinished state the Plaza de Espana is very impressive. Just our luck that the building work has taken longer than expected. Had it been completed on time it would have been even more impressive.

Back on the coach to the oldest part of Seville, the district of Santa Cruz. The metal Cross of the Locksmiths marks the spot where a convent was founded in 1576 which gave its name to the district.

Santa Cruz is famous for its very narrow streets, and its many squares and cafes. We had our own experience of the area on Sunday night trying to find our way through the maze of narrow streets to our hotel.

Our guided tour ended at the Cathedral. Most of our group went off in search of lunch, but Jan and I had a tour of Real Alcazar booked for 3pm, and wanted to have a look at the Cathedral first.

Jan worked in Salisbury Cathedral for eleven years in the visitor department, and particularly wanted to visit Seville Cathedral, which is the third largest in the world. They started building in 1401 and by 1517 it was acknowledged as the largest Gothic church ever built. However work continued until the twentieth century when it was finally completed.

The interior is a huge imposing space, with richly decorated chapels. However the large number of guided tours and masses of tourists taking photographs detracts from any impression of a church. Jan was struck by the difference with Salisbury Cathedral. They also have masses of tourists, but it remains very much a place of worship.

Despite the museum quality of the Cathedral it is hard not to be impressed by the mausoleum of Christopher Columbus. It was built in 1898, but apparently there is some controversy over whether or not it actually contains the remains of the Admiral.

My favourite part of the visit to the Cathedral was The Giralda bell tower. It is reached by climbing a ramp which was designed so that a horse can reach the top. The tower was very crowded, and we had to queue to get to the front for a view such as the above.

It was almost 2pm by the time we finished our visit to The Cathedral. It had been a long morning and we were hot and tired. So we were pleased to find the Gorki café close to the square. It offered a large selection of sandwiches and the coolest beer I have had for a long time. We had a long lunch sitting in the shade and watching the world go by.

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