March 2, 2022.
Ted wanted to know if we’d be visiting the barber today. (Groan) Think about it.
We docked in lovely Cádiz this morning, beside another monstrously huge cruise ship, P&O Line’s brand new IONA out of Southampton, with a capacity of 5206 passengers and 1762 crew. No wonder it is 5 times the size of the Viking Star!
Cádiz is the oldest European city, founded by the Phoenicians (from what is now Lebanon) around 1104 BC. The area also has influences from the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and the much more recent “Spaniards”.
Our full day excursion today was to Seville (Sevilla in Spanish) to tour that city’s Gothic cathedral, where Christopher Columbus is entombed, but to get there we needed to drive 90 minutes through the Andalusian countryside.
Lining the highway in the marshy soil just outside Cádiz were lush green stone pine trees, which look like huge heads of broccoli.
The province of Andalusia (Andalucia in Spanish) is famed for its horses, but there were none visible on our route. Instead we saw the famous Palomino grape vineyards, in Jerez de la Frontera, which along with nearby cities Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María form the “golden triangle” within which the wonderful Spanish sherry is made.
We also passed sunflower fields (not in bloom in March), and olive and orange groves. This is the heart of agricultural Spain, and yet it is the poorest province. As we travel the world, we continue to wonder why manufacturing and technology are valued more than the food that keeps us alive.
The area boasts fairly intact Roman aqueducts, easily visible in the farms along the road. Slightly more modern aqueducts are still used to irrigate the land, since summer temperatures can soar to 47°C/115°F, making irrigation essential.
Interspersed with fields of crops were solar and wind farms sharing the same space, something we’ve not seen elsewhere (the solar panels cover the ground between the windmills).
And then we reached Seville. Oh. My. Goodness.
All of Seville’s glorious buildings have remained intact over the centuries, since the city has never come under siege during any war since the 13th century.
Entering the city we passed the huge bull ring, the second largest in Spain, where tickets are sold in the sun (cheap seats) or shade (pricier seats). There is a balcony reserved specifically for the King of Spain.
The architecture in Seville is beautiful beyond words, so get ready for lots of photos. We also had the advantage of a glorious day; while it was only 17°C/63°F in Cádiz inland in Seville it was a stunning 22°C/72°F.
Our tour first took us along the Avenida das Palmas (Avenue of Palms), lined with the ornate and beautiful buildings erected for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition. Each building was dedicated to a South or Central American country, many of whom were former Spanish colonies, and all of whom were invited to Seville in a grand gesture of rebuilding relationships. To say that most of these buildings are palatial would be an understatement. It speaks to the quality of workmanship that they are all still in use as museums and government buildings, and look brand new. Each was built by a different architect who used the opportunity to advertise his design skills.
From the intersection of Avenida das Palmas and the Avenue of the Americas, a road runs directly to the Plaza de España and the magnificent Spanish Pavilion, built in a semicircle to represent “open arms” welcoming all the other countries.
There really are no words sufficient to describe how beautiful this building is. I would say that it compares in splendour to Schönnbrunn Palace in Austria, although its grounds are not as expansive and it does not have Schönnbrunn’s gardens and zoo. The building, though, wowed me just as much.
We were on our own for lunch, with our priority being finding an ATM where we could get Euros. Our original cruise itinerary spent far less time in Europe, so we didn’t buy any before leaving Canada. Now we’ll need them, especially since most public restrooms in Europe require payment, often via a coin slot that takes half Euro coins.
We found both an ATM, and a tapas bar, where we stood at the counter to enjoy our Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, salty green olives, a layered “pastel de betenjenas” (eggplant cake), white wine, and beer. We were fairly sternly informed by the waitress that tables were only for people ordering full meals.
A quick lunch gave us time to wander around the city centre and take pictures of more gorgeous architecture, plus green parrots (actually rose-ringed parakeets), and lots of Seville orange trees. There really wasn’t anywhere we could look that wasn’t beautiful and unique.
Then it was time to tour the cathedral, which, now having been there, we know could take at least half a day as opposed to the hour we had. Seville’s cathedral (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede / the cathedral of Saint Mary of the Holy See) is the largest Gothic structure in the world, and the second largest cathedral, built beginning in 1402 on the site of a Moorish mosque. When it was completed, it was the largest cathedral in the world, but has since been supplanted by the Milan Cathedral.
The exterior is magnificent, with sculptures and carvings everywhere, including vestiges of the original mosque, like the orange courtyard which was the place of prayer, and the Arabic inscriptions on the doors.
It is far too large to take in with the naked eye, or a camera lens, but here are just a few of the exterior features.
The bell tower was built incorporating the original mosque’s minaret, the Giralda, the 321 foot “beacon” from which the muezzin used to issue the Muslim call to prayer – a true blending of Moorish and Christian architecture and cultures. The minaret here in Seville is the twin to that in Marrakesh.
Inside the cathedral there are 44 distinct chapels, each of them filled with sacred art, carvings, and gold. The most opulent is the King’s chapel, which is only open to royalty.
The main altar is backed by a wall 20 meters wide x 30 meters tall. made of 1240 individual wood carvings, painted and heavily gilded. We could only view it through an ornate wrought iron grille.
The Seville cathedral is also the site of Christopher Columbus’ (Cristobal Colón in Spanish) tomb, which holds just 199 grams of his remains. Since Columbus specified that he did not want to be buried in Spain (he was originally buried in Santo Domingo, and then moved to Cuba), his remains are not underground, but in the “coffin” being carried by the 4 Spanish heralds: Navarro, Aragon, Castillo, and Leon.
Leaving the cathedral, we toured the historic Jewish quarter, dating back to the 1400’s. This area is immediately adjacent to the King’s palace. At that time, the Spanish capital was not in a fixed city, but was wherever the King was in residence, which was often Seville. The city benefited greatly from valuing its mix of cultures; the royal physician was Jewish, and the royal architect was an Arab, just to name two examples.
En route back to the ship we again drove along the Avenida das Palmas, passing the “Golden Tower” (below) which dates to 1248, and which was later filled with gold returned to Spain from the New World.
After an incredible day in Seville, we returned to the ship and enjoyed Chef Thomas “Destination Menu” in the restaurant with friends Karin & Al.
Then it was time for the evening’s entertainment…. and bed.