A DAY IN SEVILLE: THE AMAZING ALCÁZAR AND THE PATRON SAINT OF SAILORS
We docked in Cádiz on a bright, sunny morning, and the trip through the scenic Spanish countryside to Seville was a treat on its own. We drove through vineyards, olive and orange groves and farms where Spain’s bulls and horses are bred.
As we arrived in the city, we were greeted by altogether different but equally impressive scenery. Lavish mansions, ornate churches and elaborate government buildings lined the streets. Lush green palms and flowering bushes seemed to sprout from the sidewalks. I was instantly charmed.
Our first stop was the stunning Palace of San Telmo, currently the seat of the presidency of the Andalusian Autonomous Government. Constructed in 1682 as a school for orphaned children of sailors, it is a gorgeous example of Sevillian Baroque architecture.
One of the more captivating aspects of the building is the Churrigueresque entrance, which was completed in 1754. This Spanish Baroque architectural style features extremely elaborate sculptural ornamentation. The 12 sculptures on each side of the balcony represent the nautical arts and sciences, and the figure at the top is Saint Telmo, patron saint of sailors – an appropriate saint to pay homage to while on a cruise!
As we continued through the city, we had the chance to see the lovely Hotel Alfonso XIII. It was completed in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, a world’s fair held in Seville.
Finally we reached the destination I had been most eagerly anticipating: the Alcázar. The oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, the Alcázar of Seville is an ornate Moorish citadel that has been the residence of Spanish royalty since the Middle Ages. The outer walls and portions of the interior are part of the original Moorish fortress.
The stunning Hall of the Ambassadors, one of the main rooms used for public events and affairs of state, is one of the areas remaining from the original palace, so the walls date from the 11th century. This is the room where Ferdinand and Isabella welcomed Columbus upon his return from his first voyage to the New World.
I was mesmerized by the intricately detailed mosaics and the interesting mix of Moorish and European styles throughout the palace.
The Courtyard of the Dolls is the focal point of the private section of the palace, and the patio leads to bedrooms and private halls. The hall is surrounded by a gallery with marble columns and Arab-influenced lobed arches.
The gardens surrounding the Alcázar are just as enthralling as the palace buildings. Our guide clearly recognized that this was the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful day, and she gave us some free time to stroll through the gardens at our leisure.
From the Courtyard of Flags at the Alcázar, there is a perfect view of the Giralda, a minaret that was converted into a bell tower for Seville Cathedral, the next stop on our itinerary. Completed in 1198, the tower is over 300 feet high and was one of the most important symbols of the medieval city.
The largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world, Seville Cathedral was completed in the early 16th century. Along with the Alcázar, the cathedral is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is the burial site of Christopher Columbus. The astonishingly large building was constructed on the former site of a grand mosque, parts of which were preserved, including the Giralda and the Moorish entrance. Both the size and the stonework are truly breathtaking.
At the end of the excursion, we were given time to explore on our own, and after all the walking around, I was ready for some jamón Ibérico! I found a delightful little café and enjoyed the afternoon sun and a taste of Spain. As I sat completely sated after an incredible day of sightseeing and a delicious meal, I couldn’t help but think that Seville is my newest favorite place in the world.