The drive from Lisbon to Sevilla (Seville) took about five hours, one hour longer than if we had used the toll roads. While not a difficult drive, particularly as much of it was on two lane highways out in the country, it was still a bit tiring. We arrived at Camping Villsom and by the time we set up camp it was past 6:00pm. On our drive in we spotted both a Carrefour and a Dia, but the other thing that had caught our eye was a Burger King.
Yes, you heard it right. A Burger King. By this point in the trip we’d been on the road 40 days and 40 nights, about the amount of time it rained on Noah and his ark. It’s just about that point in the trip where you hit the wall, when you’ve been diligent about consuming the cuisine, and nothing but the cuisine of each and every country you visit. Did I mention it was later in the day and that we were tired? That the thought of going to the market, buying the food, returning to camp and cooking it was a bit more than we could face?
So we went to the damn Burger King, ordered Whoppers, Fries and Cokes and let me tell you, they tasted quite good. And at 11.70 Euros, a bit more than in the good old USA, still a boon for the budget. The next day we walked down to the bus stop and made our way into town, the last stop depositing us on Avenue Portugal, just outside the Plaza de Espana, site of the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.
From there we walked less than ten minutes towards Cathedral de Sevilla, stopping along Avenue de la Constitucion for a bite to eat at Taberan El Papelon, a local chain featuring fresh made ciabatta based Panini’s and other delights. We ordered and enjoyed two café con leche’s, a Jamon con queso Panini and a mixed desert plate featuring three each pieces of chocolate, a mild cheese spread with honey, and a fig or date based jelly; just the kind of snack to provide sufficient fuel for high intensity sightseeing.
As usual with our first day in town, we relied on a Steves guide walking tour of the city center, starting at the Plaza Trifuno, we walked around to the east side of the Cathedral to view its impressive tower. Like just about every other Cathedral in Spain, this one was built on top of a mosque, torn down after the Spanish drove the Moors out of Spain over a seven hundred year span of time.
From there we walked over to the TI to gather some information, then entered the Barrio Santa Cruz, next to the Alcazar, formerly the Jewish quarter of Seville. A district of narrow streets and passages, which are often referred to as kissing lanes because you could literally lean out of a window on one side and kiss someone in the house across the lane.
We worked our way down to Plaza Refinadores, a small square between Plaza Santa Cruz and Calle Santa María La Blanca, with its statue of Don Juan Tenorio, one of Seville’s most famous literary characters. We wandered around some more and then spent a somewhat frustrating 30 minutes or so trying to track down an outlet that sold multi-day passes for the bus. When we finally located one, a tobacco shop across from the old tobacco factory (now a university), it of course was closed.
So we returned to camp, then ventured out to the Carrefour to pick up ingredients for dinner and to restock our dwindling supplies on hand. We spent the rest of the evening in the quiet and comfortable lounge of the campground. It became our spot each night, as different crowds of fellow campers would settle in each night to watch the one World Cup game being televised that night.
We decided to venture out on the bikes the next day, to ride into town to pick up a few miles. The road into the outskirts of town had a wide shoulder and before long, we picked up the green painted bike path that ran along the road towards the center. We passed a Trek Bike store, closed on Sunday, that we would return to later, and kept cycling until we neared the turn-off for the Cathedral.
It was a gorgeous day and at this point the path ran along side the river, full of folks out on their bikes enjoying a fine Sunday afternoon. So we just kept riding, eventually passing the Puente del Alamillo bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava and whose sibling we’d seen in Redding, California in 2007 as we returned from Colleen and Brian’s wedding. We rode until the path ended, then turned around and returned to camp.
Our plan was to go back into town to see a flamenco show at the Museo del Baile Flamenco. We cleaned up and jumped into the car to drive into town (the buses would not run late enough for us to return) with the intent of finding a good (meaning easy and free) parking place and walking to the venue. We programmed the address into the GPS and soon thereafter, our nightmare began.
Little did we realize that the Museo was deep in the heart of the old part of town, and the deeper you drove into it, the smaller, narrower, and more convoluted they became. We’d passed some decent parking spots, but not knowing how far from the destination we were, just kept going. We spotted the Museo on the left and turned down a very narrow street, made a right turn and discovered that we were in a dead end street, not much wider than the car itself.
Fortunately, there was just enough space at the dead end to execute a multi-turn reversal of direction, but it just got more difficult to drive as we tried to find a way out of the maze. These are streets so narrow, that the tires on each side of the car were rubbing the curb and we had to pull the exterior mirrors in to keep them from hitting the walls as we passed. Honestly, we made some turns around some narrow corners that we would see later in the visit that to this day, I couldn’t believe we got the car around them.
But we did prevail, getting to the outskirts of the center and finding a place to park. We were about fifteen minutes late for the 7:00pm opening of the box office so we made haste to get to the Museo to buy tickets, only to find out when we arrived that the performance was sold out. Discouraged, and yet thoroughly relieved to have survived the drive in, we decided to get a bite to eat since the unexpected detour had derailed our plans.
We’d been talking about the fact that we hadn’t been truly participating in the Spanish lifestyle by enjoying a meal out of doors at a café; so decided that this would be our chance. We walked down a street or two towards the Cathedral, that area featuring many touristy but inviting choices. We finally settled on the Bar Antiguedades as it seemed to have the most character, where we enjoyed a nice combination of tapas accompanied by a very, very refreshing pitcher of Sangria.
It had been an interesting day, the kind you often experience while traveling. A number of highs and lows, made memorable by a finish that allowed us to laugh at ourselves while enjoying the beauty of a Spanish city in the early evening.
Plaza de Espana: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_de_Espa%C3%B1a_(Seville)
Taberna El Papelon: http://www.tabernaelpapelon.com/
Spanish Reconquista: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconquista
Puente del Alamillo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puente_del_Alamillo
Museo del Baile Flamenco: http://www.flamencotickets.com/museo-del-baile-flamenco-seville
Bar Antiguedades: http://www.tapassevilla.net/es/bar-antiguedades