Seville – Lonely Planet’s #1 city to visit next year

22 12 2017

I have heard so much about Seville and how beautiful this city is. I am blessed with wonderful weather during my stay in this awesome city that makes me LOVE this place even more.

The streets were lined with orange trees or more accurately during my visit, the oranges fell onto the roads creating yet another beautiful sight. The old town is lovely with the plazas full of horse-drawn carriages, transporting one (including me) back in time to fairy tale land.

I was quite surprised when I was told that Seville (or Sevilla as called by the Spanish) is the fourth largest city in Spain. The sights are all closely gathered in the old city which misled one to think that Seville is a small little town.

The most famous landmark in the city is Real Alcázar which was the palace to a couple of Spanish monarchs in the past. The Alcázar used to be a fort for the governors of Seville in the eighth century but was subsequently converted to a palace by the subsequent rulers which resulted in a beautiful mix of Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. If you are a Game of Thrones fan or have watched Lawrence of Arabia, you will find this place familiar as it was used to shoot some parts of the shows. Apparently, the royal family still use the upper floors when they are in Seville so keep a look out for them if you do visit.

Near the Real Alcázar is the Cathedral which you surely won’t miss with its impressive architecture. The Cathedral was built in the 15th century and is the third largest church in the world. I love to read stories about Christopher Columbus and thus was thrilled to know that Christopher Columbus remains rest in the Cathedral.

Take time to wander through the cobbled streets of the Santa Cruz quarter and along the band of the lovely river. Other nice sites to visit are the lovely gardens in Casa Pilatos.

I especially love Plaza De Espana with the beautiful buildings and tiles. Visit there during the late afternoon as the afternoon sun shining on the plaza gives it a nice colour.

Tips:

– Seville is the home of the flamenco shows so don’t miss it.

– I enjoyed the bull ring tour at Plaza de Toros which is extremely interesting and informative. The tour is free from 3pm onwards but you need to arrive early to queue for the free ticket which they only start to give out at 3pm.

– See my blog on Madrid and Barcelona for add-on to your Seville trip.

Food:

1) Carrillada de Cerdo: This is one of the most traditional pork cheek stew. One word – delicioso!

2) Serranito de Lomo: This is THE sandwich that you need to have in Seville. The seared pork loin (there’s a chicken version now) is topped with Serano ham and grilled green pepper is the signature sandwich of the city.

3) Cola de Toro: Well we heard from the bullring tour that when the bull is killed, its meat is then sold to restaurants to turn them into delicacies, one such is Cola de Toru (bull tail). I am not so sure if there are so many bull meat though and this may well be oxtail. But regardless this tapas is lovely. Sorry bull.

4) Torrijas: This bread dipped in eggs, deep fried to goodness and covered with sugar syrup, sweetened milk or honey is a must have desert. Ask if they can serve this with some ice cream which makes this already tasty desert even more heavenly.

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Madrid in a day

21 12 2017

I must say my initial plan to stop by Madrid was not so much because I want to see the city but because Spain is the cheapest place to catch a flight to Morocco. I have been to Spain previously though it is limited to Barcelona and its surroundings. I mean when one thinks of Spain, the most popular city that pops up is Barcelona isn’t it? Ok this blog isn’t about Barcelona so if you are interested, you can read more in my separate blog https://thecarefreetraveller.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/barcelona/

Now talking about Madrid, the first thing that came to my mind is its football (soccer) team and of course many of my Spanish friends are from this city. I have not really researched on this city before I came as it was more of a “stopover” destination. Well I am pleasantly surprised that this city has so much more to offer than what the ignorant me has thought. Below is what I managed to cover in one full day and I surely need to go back again!

The Parque del Retiro is Madrid’s main park with the famous Crystal Palace (completely made out of glass) is a beautiful place to stroll around.

From there, you can walk to Calle de Alcalá and the Alcalá Gate, the stunning Plaza de Cibeles and Puerta del Sol, the city’s best-known square.

Plaza Mayor is another famous site. This plaza once used to have bullfights, tournaments, markets and even (scary) executions!

Another must see is the Royal palace. Though it’s the official residence of the royal family, they don’t live here and it is only used for state functions. Across from the palace is Madrid Cathedral where official state ceremonies are held. Though this may not be the nicest cathedral in terms of look, it is one of the nicest place to view Madrid’s skyline.

For those bullfighting lovers, make sure you visit the Plaza de Toros which is the home of bullfighting in Spain and arguably the world. The building is beautiful so even if you can’t get tickets to the show, it is worth a visit to see the building.

If you have the time, Casa del Campo park which has an amusement park and zoo and the Parque del Oeste where an Egyptian temple (the Temple of Debod) can be found are interesting places to visit. Too bad time does not permit me to visit these places. Next time!

Tips:

⁃ Travelling to/from the airport: There are four modes of transport – Metro, train, bus or taxi – each takes around 30–40 minutes with taxi being the fastest (and most expensive). You can ask the information counter at the airport on which mode of transport is most convenient for you to reach your hotel. If you have 4 people, the taxi may add up to a very reasonable cost for each and save you the hassle.

⁃ Central Madrid is very walkable but please wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking a lot. If you find it too tiring or is travelling a little further, the metro is a cheap, convenient and fast way to navigate around the city. They sell single tickets, a set of 10 tickets (which is cheaper) and tourist pass. Map out your route to determine how many times you are going to take the metro and you can do your sums on what works best.

⁃ If you are in Madrid on a Sunday, head to the El Rastro flea market along the streets between Plaza Mayor and Puerta de Toledo.

Barcelona and Seville are good extensions to your Madrid trip which I have separately blog.

Food:

– Do try the local speciality of Chocolate Con Churros. This is essentially long churros served with a big cup of melted chocolate which spells YUMMY!

– I am a paella and Sangria fan so Spain is a food heaven to me. The second photo is taken from the restaurant opposite the Central train station (just beside McDonalds) but I can’t remember which restaurant I had fo the first photo. Anyway I must say most of the restaurants that I stepped into are pretty good. Well it is Spain after all!