Wednesday, March 5

Morocco-Andalucia, Day Eight: Savouring Seville

Ah, Seville.

Okay, full disclosure here: I hadn't even heard of the place before a friend mentioned it on hearing I was visiting Andalucia. In fact we probably would have missed it out altogether if my travelling companion hadn't been flying into the place. It just goes to show how jammy I am with these things, since it turned out being a wonderful place to have spent some time in.

We started the day much later than the 8am I had grown accustomed to. I didn't mind much - my early starts had me finishing the sights before lunch so perhaps a lazier pacing would be more suitable anyway.

Our first stop was the Catedral - apparently the largest in the world. It certainly seemed so with its massive floor plan and looming internal expanse. Being built atop the foundations of a mosque, I did feel sad, poignant and even a bit frustrated, but at least there were some reminders of the Islamic heritage around.

The Giralda (or bell tower) for instance had been adapted from the original mosque's minaret and kept much of its flavour; and for some reason it was very familiar to me. This wasn't surprising really: I didn't realise it at the time but I had just unwittingly completed the visitation of the "big three" Almohad towers, the other two sisters being the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech and the Hassan Tower in Rabat.

Our next big attraction was Alcazar, a fortress-cum-palace built after the Muslims had made their exit from the region. This made it all the more interesting since it had clearly kept some major Islamic influences; I could almost imagine being back in Fes actually. Yet another reminder of what the landscape once looked like.

We aimlessly hung out a lot here in Seville, surfing cafes and people watching. I don't think I've seen as many hot women anywhere let alone over the past few weeks' travels as I have here - it's like they're everywhere we look, and we were both enjoying the vibe tremendously (I had taught my friend The Calling Game just to keep us occupied on the streets). It's funny because I hadn't noticed this during my stay in Barcelona a few years back; it must be an Andalucian thing.

Toward the late afternoon we accidentally crashed the University of Seville. This turned out being one of my favourite parts of the day; it was nice pretending to be both native and a student and mingle with the crowd on a ground level. We weren't even fooling just ourselves, as a (young and female) student approached us and asked us something in a fast and undecipherable Spanish. To be honest we weren't much help.

It was then back to the hotel in order to pick up the car and our luggage. On the way out we managed to get stuck in the elevator which was fun for a while; we even became "oh, those guys" for a while. We made sure we made the most of our four star hotel's facilities as we got the concierge to book us tickets for the Alhambra on Saturday. Surprisingly (for us anyway) there were no tickets available, this a good three days before we needed them. Although I had been told to book I didn't realise we needed to do so with more than a couple of days in hand.

Our only option was to make it to the head of the queue on the day in order to get in on the thirteen tickets they said they'd have available for those who hadn't booked. Thirteen! We decided then to get there for 6am. In some kind of consolation we also got the concierge to find us numbers and addresses for Fiat dealerships in Cordoba and Granada. I still had to fix the car after all.

On the way out of Seville, we stopped off at the Plaza de Espana. The Plaza was a stunning, tranquil place and totally understated if the lack of mention in guides had anything to do with it. A good thing perhaps; part of the charm was the lack of tourists visiting it with us. Blatantly romantic, it was a total waste on the two of us.

But it was finally time to move on to our next destination. We eventually got to Cordoba at around 11pm: another late arrival, another late check-in, another late dinner, and in all likelihood, another late start tomorrow morning.