Hey fellas, a quick (?) post to update you on our Bank Holidays break (not the latest one though, we’ve been a bit slow). We had a tough time deciding where to go once we found out we could have gone away for 10 days with only 3 days off work, courtesy of the Easter weekend and the Royal Wedding before the Bank Holiday. We had originally thought about going to Turkey, doing a bit of a cultural trip between Istanbul and the western coast. Then we thought about a round-trip of Morocco, but the unrest in Algeria, Egypt and Lybia kind of made us change our mind.
We opted for the South of Spain, mor precisely for Andalusia. We had both been to Spain briefly in the past, but never in the area, so it seemed like a good choice. After some research we decided to fly into Sevilla, move on to Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and then Sevilla again to catch the fly back to London. And, despite threats of a strike in those days, we actually made it.
We flew from Stansted into Sevilla on Good Friday, and arrived in Seville around 8ish in the evening. The airport is not far from the city centre, we jumped on a bus (4.80€ one way, for the two of us) and in less than 30 minutes we were in town. We walked a bit to the Barrio Santa Cruz, which sits right at the heart of the old town, with narrow streets and a bit of rain, of course, to welcome us to the city.
When we got to the Sevilla Inn Backpackers we met Marco, an Italian guy who had recently moved to Sevilla and invited us to join him on a bar crawl around town. Needless to say we accepted, so we joined a group of about 10-15 people who were staying at different hostels, and enjoyed an evening of chatter, beer, honey rum and caramel vodka. London looks like a huge city where it’s difficult to bump into familiar faces… but here we go, first round of tapas and drinks and we immediately met a lady who worked with a collegue of mine at the FT! I’m shocked, as far as you travel from London you will always find a connection or a friend.
The city itself is beautiful and vibrant, of course not as hectic as London but, maybe because of the Semana Santa (which is the biggest celebration of the year in Andalusia, likely the most religious region in catholic Spain) there was loads of people around. We managed to avoid the most crowded streets during the processions, so overall it was much more manageable than we had originally thought.
The two most iconic landmarks are without a doubt the Cathedral and the Real Alcazar, both impressive remains of the Moorish dominance in the region. At the Alcazares I bought an amazing neroli parfume called “Agua de colonia – Flor de azahar”, the only souvenir from Andalucia. Seville and Andalucia smell of orange flowers and olive oil; trying to bring home those parfumes was the best souvenir ever and I’ve now got it in London… every morning.
Less Moorish but equally impressive was the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, the oldest bullring in Spain, where on Easter day the bullfight started for the year. The tour was very interesting and we learnt about the way bullfights developed, about the fact that cats used to be thrown in the arena, that one or two ears of the bull go to the toreador at the end of the fight, and that the bull always die and the beef is then sold in restaurants and markets. It may sound like a stupid comment but you know it is a bit of a cruel show and I’ve never wanted to know the truth, hoping at least some bulls managed to save their lives. Apparently toreadores are really wealthy and when they become popular they get to earn up to 150.000€ per show.
One of the most amazing things was the Aire de Sevilla, the Moorish baths: we had booked a 2-hour session. After reading a not too good review about the banos arabes in Granada we decided to opt for the Seville option which was better rated, and I can now say that was a brilliant idea. If you ever go to Andalucia, stop for 1 hour and a half to experience the baths and enjoy the athmosphere. All in the shadow we experienced the pools in complete intimacy, we felt like it was been reserved for the two of us and that was magic. No loud people chatting, no crowded pools, herbal tea when we wanted. For about 24€ we came out brand new and super happy. I strongly reccommend this one, there’s no contest with the one in Cordoba.
We finished the evening with more tapas and beers just enjoying the movida around us where it looked like, no one could stop eating, just like us.
Before leaving Seville we decided to visit the Archivo General de Indias, with all its maps, travellers’ stories and the history it hosts. It is an extrememly fascinating place to visit, and it collects all accounts of conquers, trades and people from what used to be one of the greatest empires ever.
It was free to enter and we could have spent ages reading about everything, but the archive was closing so we had to leave quicker than we wanted to.
After 3 very busy days, we left for Cordoba!