10 Days in Andalucia: Seville and the Real Alcazar

I planned our whole trip from start to finish, and I knew after four days on the road, we’d be ready for a little break. We’d heard wonderful things about Seville from friends, so it felt like a natural place to spend a couple days.

Rather than a hotel, I got us an apartment this time. It was about the same cost as a hotel, but we had so much more space! We were on a pedestrian thoroughfare, so there was a lot of good people watching from our balcony, and a very nice view.

Plus, we had a kitchen so we could have some meals without having to brave the heat. That also meant a trip to a Spanish grocery store. It was here in Seville that we learned the secret behind the shrimp scampi from Cadiz, and ran into an old favorite in a new form.

“Tinto de Verano” was a drink my parents and I discovered during my first visit to the region. It went on to become a staple in our summer time drink menu because it’s refreshing, but easier to make than sangria. Like sangria, you begin with a red wine (that’s the tinto part), then you add some sparkling beverage like Sprite (which is called lemonade in much of Europe) or an unsweetened sparkling water. So basically sangria without needing to cut up a bunch of fruit. If you’re going to try it at home, try to find a fruity red or rose because the dry ones get bitter when chilled.

In this grocery store, we found it in a 2-liter bottle and couldn’t resist trying it…and we should have. It was nowhere near as good as what you get in a restaurant or making it at home! Which isn’t much of a surprise considering it was only 1.48 Euros. But we get decent enough wine back in Freiburg for that price, so we were optimistic. This was the only bad red wine we drank on the whole trip, and we drank plenty (Spanish reds are hard to come by here), so I suppose one stinker was inevitable.

Many Times Thwarted

After a chill night of pizza and bad wine at the apartment, we were ready for our next adventure. Unfortunately, we were somewhat thwarted by “the Coronacene.” (Our nickname for this period in human history.)

I’d consulted our guidebook about getting into the various Seville attractions, and though getting your tickets online could save you some time, you should still be able to queue and get tickets. Nowadays, ONLY online tickets are accepted, and the number of people is limited per day. We had planned to see both the Seville Cathedral and the Real Alcazar, but the Cathedral was completely sold out for at least a week to come. By the time we got our Real Alcazar tickets booked, we had to return in the middle of the scorching afternoon.

We decided to visit the church we could see from our balcony instead, but alas, it had been closed since the first lockdown. The guidebook had several recommendations for places to eat and drink in the area, so we decided to track them down. The first was clearly completely closed, all but boarded up, despite the Google page listing opening hours. The second was closed until 1PM and the third, an ice cream parlor, wouldn’t open until like 5PM. So that was not the best way to spend the morning, but we did successfully kill time until our entry to the palace.

The Real Alcazar

I had visited the Alhambra before, so I knew a little bit of what to expect from this palace and garden complex. The Mister, on the other hand, was in for a delightful surprise. The site has a very interesting history going back to the 900’s and earlier, which you can read about here. The most important factoids are that Seville became the seat of power in the region for a long time, and much of the palace you can see today was built in the 1200’s. It is a conscious meshing of Islamic and Christian artistic styles. Here, you see geometric tile work adorning the walls and floors and fantastic archways covered in Arabic writing. But you also see frescoes in the Christian style and dark, carved wood on the ceilings.

One striking contrast between the Real Alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada is the amount of color. The Alhambra is largely beige and cream, but at the Real Alcazar, there is a ton of pigment still on the carvings. And an upside of visiting during the Coronacene is that there were not that many people in each room, so we got a great viewing experience.

Like many Islamic palaces, there was also an extensive garden with numerous water features. We took a stroll around most of it, taking shade breaks often. The temperature was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We had a good giggle over the “English Garden” section, which was basically lawn with some benches. But there were peacocks, peahens, and peachicks wandering around there, so that was fun to see.

After our visit, it was time to go back to the ice cream parlor. I made the mistake of getting something chocolatey and dark, which made me even thirstier. (Meh, who am I kidding? Chocolate is NEVER a mistake, really.) The winner though was The Mister’s combo of one scoop mint/lime and another of orange/ginger. So refreshing and delicious!

We had a really lowkey night and almost didn’t bother going out for dinner, but when we Googled the top restaurants in the neighborhood, it turns out one of the top three was literally 50 meters from our door. We had a fabulous tapas dinner on the square, complete with a street musician.

The next morning, we bid Seville adieu and headed off toward Cordoba, but not before taking a detour to visit a completely alien landscape in Huelva Province and a fun museum in Riotinto. Come back next time find out all about it! Did you miss previous posts in this series? Check ’em out. 

 

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