I love travelling with my kids – taking them on adventures, opening their eyes to wonderful new sights, exploring exotic flavours – but isn’t it also amazing to travel without having to bring colouring books!
And so it was when I managed to persuade my parents to enjoy a weekend with their adorable grandchildren, while Anja and I endured the hardships of a weekend in Seville.
I am currently trying to learn Spanish (Habla Espanol?), which influenced my decision to visit Seville as soon as I realised that we had a free weekend to play with. What also helped was the fact that the weather in Seville is marginally better than the weather in Bristol and we both liked the idea of enjoying a nice cold beer with our tapas in the sun.
We arrived on a glorious Friday evening and made our way to our hotel, through a crowd of Seville football fans on their way to a home game. I was already feeling impressed with myself for having negotiated the taxi ride without having to resort to English or pointing at my guide-book.
Our hotel looked lovely, but we decided to make a quick turnaround when we arrived, so that we could make the most of our first night exploring Seville. We were still on “normal” mealtimes at this stage and feeling hungry by around 7pm, so decided to tackle our first tapas bar. Now was the chance to see whether my Spanish could navigate the menu, at least well enough to avoid ordering anything too outlandish.
A few slices of ham and cheese (really sticking to basics at this stage), and a small tumbler of beer later, and we were ready to really get going. We were staying in the centre of Seville, in the Santa Cruz area, which consists of a maze of old streets and picturesque little squares. This of course meant that we had absolutely no clue where we were going as our map was next to useless in the middle of this labyrinth, but it did at least mean that I could have a night off from being chief holiday map-reader, and so we just wandered.
It was evidently perfectly normal for families to be out together, with kids of all ages, taking a stroll through town and eating an evening meal, at what to me was already approaching bedtime. It didn’t take us long to adjust to the Spanish meal times, where lunch is usually eaten around 2-3pm and dinner can be anything from 10pm onwards, and it seems to make sense to eat a little later when the weather is very hot in the day, but I am still puzzled as to how anybody manages to wake up for work or school in the morning when kids are buzzing around eating ice-cream at midnight.
We hadn’t been to Seville before, so alongside baffling the locals with my mangled, beginner’s Spanish, we also had to make sure that we didn’t miss any of the major cultural highlights:
Seville Cathedral & Giralda – just around the corner from our hotel, so we headed here first thing on Saturday morning and got instantly nabbed by a tour guide. This turned out well, because it meant we skipped into a shorter queue and had a much more informed visit than I was planning. Definitely worth a visit just for the sheer scale of the cathedral and the views from the top of the Giralda. The Giralda is the bell tower of the cathedral, and instead of having steps to reach the top, there is a long spiral ramp, which was built to allow horses to carry people to the top – this wasn’t on offer today though.
Alcazar -this is a moorish built royal palace and UNESCO world heritage site, with amazing geometric patterns and impressive gardens. The gardens alone are worth exploring, providing some peace and tranquility within the centre of the modern city.
Metropol Parasol – at the other end of the spectrum and across town, is what claims to be the world’s largest wooden built structure, which was completed in 2011. Known locally as the mushrooms, you can climb onto the top of the parasol for great views across town.
Flamenco – we couldn’t visit Seville without seeing a flamenco show. Los Gallos was hidden down a maze of back streets in Santa Cruz, not far from where we were staying, but still only discovered after numerous wrong turns and a few surprised directions from helpful passers-by. Los Gallos were running two shows a night, which required booking as the small room was packed. We both enjoyed the show, although not sure we really had much clue as to what was happening.
Alongside the cultural highlights, the real beauty of Seville was in the maze of back streets and tapas bars, which we wandered endlessly to find our next meal. One place we kept returning to was the old fish market – mercado lonja del barranco – which was alongside the river next to the puenta triana. The market contained around 20 different food and drink stalls, selling everything from fresh mussels to fried eggs, but the simple potato tortillas were my favourite, washed down with a cold thimble of cerveza.