Seville – The Alcazar

Wrought iron window, Seville

Wrought iron window, Seville

The day of the Alcázar dawned. This is the big attraction for tourists to Seville, and with its centuries of history and diverse influences of culture, it is no wonder it is popular. It is also still the residence of the royal family when they are in town, and we were very excited by the prospect of our visit.

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It was originally a Moorish fort, but 11 centuries on with many additions and reconstructions, it is now the oldest royal palace in Europe still in use. The arches, patios, Mudéjar tiles, sunken gardens and various majestic pavilions added by the procession of monarchs make this the most interesting and glorious structure in Seville. The fact that the original resident and ruler had it built to house his harem of 800 women gives you some idea of the size and beauty of the Alcázar.

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One of the highlights of the visit was the opportunity to see the present private royal apartments. This can only be done at a designated time, and many people, not realising this, turn up at the rooms towards the end of their visit expecting entry and miss out altogether. We headed straight for this ticket booth immediately after entry and secured a spot for an hour later. This was a truly unique experience – walking through the private rooms of a palace with only 4 other visitors, an audio guide and a security guard. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, so we just savoured each and every room and marvelled at the wealth on display, and the relative intimacy of the residence. Really glad it was NOT one of the things on our list that was closed!

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In total, we spent nearly 3 hours at the Alcázar, which could’ve easily been longer, if the heat had not driven us out of the gardens. And it really was only the heat of the day that could force us to leave, because the gardens were magnificent, stunning and fabulous – complete with peacocks! There were even fountains filled with monster carp, whose puckered mouths were begging for snacks from the gawking crowds.

Lunch was had at San Marco Restaurant in the Santa Cruz area. We thought we were going to a pizzeria (as titled in the guide book), not a white-linen-table-clothed joint, below street level in a vaulted cave – perfect to escape the heat. We ordered some ‘starters’ for our meal: marinated smoked salmon and cabbage roll; avocado and prawn salad; goats cheese and honey vinaigrette salad; and grilled vegetables. We were half way through the first 2 dishes when we realised that there was no way we could handle a fourth, so we had to cancel – and these were not main courses!

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From there we headed to the Flamenco Museum for an interactive experience – electronic, not an actual person. It was a tad disappointing that some of the screens didn’t work; however, there was a nice selection of costumes and photographs charting the history of the artform.

The Hospicio de los Venerables Sacerdotes was our next stop of the afternoon. It is a 17th century mansion that was for a time a residence and hospice for aged priests. It has the most stunning patio, one of the most beautiful in Seville, and a very impressive church. We were quite chuffed with the bonus of an art exhibition with some fine religious paintings on offer. But the big draw card was the ‘Santa Rufina’ by Velázquez, which is permanently housed here, bought by the onsite Centro Velázquez for €12.5 million in 2007.

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We were tempted by another flamenco show that we saw advertised in Barri Santa Cruz, with single row seating around 3 sides of the raised floor, in an old, beautifully decorated casa – La Casa de Flamenco. The guitarist was fantastic, and the soloist singer was a standout. The male dancer, however, took a while to get going. His bearing did not have the presence of the others that we’d seen, and the second his foot stepped off the stage, he lurched the last few steps, exiting behind the curtain – he didn’t carry the character off with him. He didn’t have the open chest and thrust back shoulder thing going on, but his footwork was still lightening fast. The female dancer was fantastic, though, and showed us a range of flamenco dances, including the one with the gigantic train – that she manipulated gracefully, skilfully and effortlessly.

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After the show we walked back through Barri Santa Cruz, stopping at Bar Modesto with the aim of soaking up the vibrant atmosphere. Yeah…not so much. Ordered a white wine, which was less than ordinary and cod cakes with vegetables as a tapas. Once we had taken the thick, oily batter off the fish and vegetables, we ended up with a tiny piece of cod and thin strip of capsicum each. Quickly gave up our table for others standing by and headed home for a Cointreau and chocolate!

We stayed at Hotel Palacio de Villapanés in Seville

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About bontaks

Nic is the the ‘Bon’ part of ‘Bontaks.’ Together we are Nic and John – two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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