David dropped Ella and me off at Malaga’s Maria Zambrano train station on Saturday morning (28 November) where we boarded the 10:40 to Sevilla. I discovered during my sorti into the Renfe website that it is possible to obtain a healthy discount on round journeys of three destinations, but unfortunately, as there is no direct train line between Málaga and Jerez, I couldn’t take advantage of this offer.
We didn’t opt for the fast AVE train as it was nearly double the cost although it saved around thirty minutes on our two and a half hour journey. After passing through El Chorro gorge alongside El Caminito del Rey where I had walked a few weeks ago (you can see my video this here), we alighted at San Bernado Sevilla station and walked for around thirty minutes through the city centre to our accommodation Hotel Zaida, a Moorish property situated in a quiet area between the cathedral and the river. Very pretty, spotlessly maintained with very helpful staff, 39 euros per night for twin ensuite room.
We had time to wander around the charming streets and sample a couple of tapas before making our way to our pre-arranged city tour. But not any old tour. Having been inspired by a friend who has recently experienced a segway tour in Málaga, I booked one of the same here in Seville.
And I am absolutely smitten with this form of transport, such great fun and at last I had an opportunity to use my new and totally unnecessary GoPro toy which I strapped to my obligatory helmet. After adequate training, our group, consisting of Spanish father and ten year old daughter, and two young women from Northern Spain and Majorca, our charming guide Eddie whizzed us through the narrowest streets imaginable, dodging stray children and doddery oldies, passing by the cathedral, through the Jewish Quarter, via the Maria Luisa park to the truly spectacular Plaza España, and returning alongside the river to the city centre. I really can’t remember the last time I had so much fun standing up.
We took the tour with Ensegway after reading excellent reviews praising their guides, and I have to say that even with high expectations Eddie did not disappoint for a second, stopping regularly to deliver historical information in a very entertaining manner. I can’t praise the whole experience highly enough. Ensegway provide three tours, half hour, one hour fifteen minutes, and two hours. We took the 75 minute option for 30 euros each, which was long enough for me as my feet had started to feel a bit numb by the time we finished. Do give this form of transport a go if you get the opportunity – I’m sure you will love it as much as I did.
A glass of wine was summoning, so we stopped off at a bar before making our way back to the hotel to pick up a jacket, but en-route passed an inviting establishment at the end of the street where our hotel is located, so we walked in and took a seat just in time for a flamenco performance and some ad hoc sevillana dancing by a couple of enthusiastic ladies in the audience. More very nice tapas were consumed along with the wine and we never did make it back to the hotel until bedtime. A long and satisfyingly busy day.
Sunday morning started with a stroll down to the Alfonso Canal where I stopped off for chocolate y churros, before coming across a river cruise about to set off, so we jumped aboard and grabbed a front seat to admire the six or seven bridges we passed under. Glorious warm sun shone down on us in one direction but as we turned around a very chilly wind soon made me less smug about bagsy-ing a front row seat. We sailed past the Expo 92 site for which two or three of the bridges were built, and then returned to the starting point at the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold which according to the cruise guide was used to store gold and silver brought from America, but this theory is said to be false by Wikipedia which says it was built in 1220 as a defence for the Alcazar).
Ella went off in the direction of the bullring whilst I climbed to the top of the tower to snap a few photos from an elevated position, but she was distracted en route by a marching band and by the time I caught up with her she was supping a cerveza and tucking into a tortilla brunch whilst enjoying the rousing music from the band that had conveniently come to a halt at a small church that was opposite a bar. Although thinking about it, most venues in Seville are opposite a bar!
We made it to the bullring for a guided tour (the only way to gain access). Brief details – second oldest bullring in Spain (after Ronda), only oval shaped bullring, only privately owned bullring, seating for 12,000, has its own hospital, bulls can be pardoned a death sentence due to exceptional bravery, if agreed by the judge and torero (it happens very rarely). We also toured the museum. I thought I would cope ok with this tour, but I found the scenes depicted in some of the artwork in the museum totally sickening, most particularly the horses that blindly gave their lives to obey their riders. Horses are almost always keen to perform any task that is asked of them by their human care-takers – they trust we will look after their welfare as well as they look out for us. Wrong! Protective covering for horses was only introduced in 1928 and before this time (and probably on many occasions since) the poor trusting horses were often mutilated by the bulls. How obscene this business is.
Next stop, across to the other side of town to the flamenco museum (museo del baile flamenco), where the only flesh to be abused is self-inflicted. There were interesting art exhibits, many videos depicting flamenco through the ages, a great interactive hands-on exhibition of machines that tap out different flamenco beats – great fun. We finished in the museum just at the right time for the first show of the day at 5pm, although we were booked into a later performance.
Meanwhile we skipped across to the cathedral for a quick tour and a dash up the Giralda bell tower, just in time for the sunset. Such views of the city bathed in the gold of the fading light. Stunning.
A quick visit to the hotel for a change of clothes before returning to the flamenco museum for a show of music and dance that enthralled the small audience (small because the theatre is an intimate space with l guess around 100 seats. Excellent show, stunning performances.
The evening was rounded off with yet more wine and tapas.
What a wonderful city Seville is, we hardly scraped the surface of the myriad of options available to keep us entertained. I shall definitely be back.