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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why Seville Was The Most Delightful Surprise Of Our Andalusia Trip

Seville in Spain

One thing I did not expect to wake up to this morning? Learning that Donald Trump is going to be President of the United States. Yikes. Let's just leave it at that.

It feels like it’s been so long since my last proper travel post that I barely dare to call myself a travel blogger anymore! In between my holiday blogging break in September and my obsession with all things fall in October, I just haven’t really felt all that inspired to write about travel, but with winter fast approaching and no trips on the horizon for the next few months, I have started to feel the need to live vicariously through my past journeys – and that means that I have quite a few travel posts lined up for the next few weeks.

Today, I wanted to take a step back in time and tell you all about why Seville was the most delightful surprise of our trip to Andalusia last year. I’ve had these pictures edited and uploaded into Blogger for months already, but back in August I accidently wiped everything from my laptop’s hard drive (story for another day), including an almost completely written post about Seville, and just didn’t have the heart to immediately re-write it again. But since Seville is one of those places that simply deserves to be talked about, I’ve decided that it is finally time for me to revisit these pictures and hopefully bring them to life with my words – and while a long time has gone by since our visit, my memories of this city still seem as vivid as they were a year ago.

Seville is truly one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. From the moment my boyfriend and me first stepped off the train from Madrid and wandered through the narrow streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz, we both felt mesmerized by the sense of history that seemed to permeate the air. Seville was different from any other place I had ever visited and invigorated by the energy of the people filling the streets and tapas bars with their lively chatter, it didn’t take me long to realize that this city would leave an imprint on my heart.

It was my first time visiting Spain since I had been a little girl and with no recollection of the country and, truthfully, barely even an idea of what to expect, the first sight of the city’s historic buildings being illuminated in the dark had been enough to make me giddy with excitement for the trip to come and even today I think back on these first few hours in Seville as one of my happiest travel memories in recent times.

Seville almost didn’t make it on our Andalusia itinerary. While I had heard people raving about Seville left and right while I was planning our trip, I just couldn’t figure out why people were so drawn to this city. Seville looked beautiful on pictures and seemed to have an interesting set of sights – but in a region so brimming with cultural delights and touristic highlights, it didn’t capture my attention and interest as much as many other places in Andalusia did. I only started to understand how vibrant and special of a city Seville was when I visited and experienced it for myself and even then I found it hard to put my sense of wonder into adequate words.

Seville appears to be a city that fully embraces the achievements of modern life, yet also respects its historical roots and the many different cultural influences that have shaped its destiny in the past few hundreds, if not thousands, of years and the architecture is colorful and multifaceted and manages to combine the old with the new so effortlessly that no building in the city center looks out of place. For lack of a better description, Seville is simply engulfed in a certain kind of magic: It’s the kind of place you long for on a cold November’s day, the kind of place that appears in your dreams when you think of centuries and worlds long gone by. And yet, through the seemingly everblue sky and the lively activity on the streets, the city never fails to remind you that it isn’t some fantastical place stuck in the past, but very much alive and thriving.

We only spent three nights in Seville, but it felt like just the right amount of time to catch a first glimpse of the city and see all of the major tourist attractions. Seville doesn’t quite have the same concentration of world-renowned sights that cities like Paris or Florence have, but there is still plenty to see and do and so we decided to start our exploration by visiting two of the city’s most famous attrations: The Réal Alcazar and the Catedral de Sevilla.

The Réal Alcazar – an Almohad palace complex that I have already gushed about here – was easily one of the most awe-inspiring places I had ever seen and I could have spent hours photographing its lush gardens and marveling at its intricate buildings. Had we stayed in Seville for longer I probably would have visited again! With its dark and somber interior the Catedral – while being the largest cathedral in the world and allegedly the site where Christopher Columbus is buried - didn’t manage to capture my imagination quite as much in comparison, but the sweeping views over the city from its famed bell tower were second to none and made our visit more than worth it.

We also went on a stroll over Seville’s Plaza de España, a huge square south of the city center that was built for the Ibero-American exhibition in 1929, but now houses part of the regional government. The square has been featured in several movies including Star Wars Episode II and almost looked too grand to be real, but while the Neo-Mudéjar architecture was flashy (some might say tacky), it was also somehow intriguing and I took too many pictures trying to capture the Plaza’s immense size. Right next to the square, the dense greenery of Parque María Luisa – also constructed for the Ibero-American exhibition – offered a welcome respite from the midday heat and we savored the quiet sanctuary it provided from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Back in the heart of the city, we walked through both secluded back alleys and busy shopping streets and sauntered along the calm promenade of the Guadalquivir river. We had a look at Seville’s Bull Ring when we found ourselves walking past it by chance, learned about the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition at the excellent (& free) Museo Del Castillo De San Jorge and stopped by inviting looking tapas bars when lunch hour struck. There were more things we could have done, more places we could have seen, but this pace of travel suited us just fine and allowed us to not feel too stressed about having to experience everything.

I think one of the reasons why I loved Seville so much was simply how different this city was from everything I knew and expected. Since I had never been to Spain (or any country colonized by Spain for that matter) as anything other but a toddler, I was so unfamiliar with the culture that everything from the food, the architecture and the Spanish way of life felt like a revelation. I have always been adamant that we never have to go far to discover something new and experience something different and visiting Spain definitely proved that theory right. And that’s why Seville was the most delightful surprise of our trip to Andalusia.

What the one place that has surprised you the most on your travels?

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