May 29 and 30
Last time we were in this area, we docked at the seaport in Cadiz which is at least a 2 hour drive to Seville – so we never actually explored Seville. We were surprised to learn that this time we would be traveling about 5 hours up the river to the port in Seville! It is the first time this ship has done that, and it is another advantage to sailing on a small ship.
We decided to have breakfast with Robert and April in the Terrace Cafe – I brought the Baileys to have in our coffee and we enjoyed the scenery as we traveled on the river. Kat is here with her sister in law, Suzanne, who is our artist for the next 2 segments. We know them from our last world cruise. Kat is a well known flutist and she entertained us at breakfast with one of her instruments. If my memory is right, she owns over 200 instruments from all over the world. She will be giving a concert later in the cruise, and I know we really enjoyed it last time. She also often plays during Suzanne’s art classes.
The scenery was beautiful. Who knew they grew so much rice in Spain? At first we weren’t sure what we were seeing were rice paddies, but indeed they were! The river is the Guadalquivir which in Arabic means “big river”.
We saw just a few houses until we were closer to Seville but we did see a huge flock of sheep!
A couple of small villages and other scenery along the way.
There was some type of lock we had to pass through, interesting that we think it is really for flood contol as the water level didn’t seem to change.
As we reached Seville, we had to time our arrival when the small bridge was going to open and the Captain decided to sail in backwards so he would be able to get out easier the next day. The tides are a real issue here and we have to leave right on time, at noon tomorrow.
At that point we were watching from our balcony!
The first picture is of the site of the 1992 Expo, the same year that Barcelona hosted the Olympics. It was a big year for Spain and much of the new construction of bridges, highways and other infrastructure took place that year. Now they are celebrating 25 years since those events. The last picture is looking back on the two bridges, one we can pass over and the other is the one that lifts up.
Notice the beautiful jakaranda trees – they are everywhere!
We arrived a bit late due to the bridge schedule and we quickly left for our excursion of the day – The Secrets of Basilippo Olive Oil.
Our guide was Virginia and our bus driver was Rafa (no, not that one… I wish!) We learned that Seville is the 4th largest city in Spain and has a population of 750,000. Airbus has a large manufacturing facility here for military jets.
We were met at the 18th century hacienda – Hacienda Merrha, in Carmona, by Isaac, one of the family that owns this olive grove and produces the oil. He took us through the groves and we learned how the olives are grown, harvested and processed in the mill. Their extra virgin olive oil consistently wins international awards for its distinctive taste.
They have 6000 olive trees on this estate and they only employ 12 workers year round and add another 24 during the harvest.
The olives are harvested in the fall (they are green until December and then are black and fully ripe) and you can see that now they are still very small. Isaac says that one of the secrets of their success is that they pick early which produces less oil but higher quality. After mid-November the olives cannot be used for extra virgin olive oil. And when they pick, they need to start processing right away or the fruit begins to ferment. It is a labor intensive and time sensitive process. They use the rake you see him holding to shake the trees into a large umbrella like apparatus that fits around the tree.
After seeing the plant, we went to the tasting cellar where Isaac shared the secrets of tasting olive oil. One huge surprise was how we tasted their orange infused olive oil. He put a drizzle on top of chocolate gelato! Delicious.
We learned so much about olive oil and will definitely be better informed consumers.
On the way back to the ship we saw many fields of sunflowers!
We had just a short time to relax before our evening special event for the world cruise passengers, an evening at traditional Seville Fair. We left the ship at 8 PM – and it is still very sunny at that hour.
Our young tourists were definitely dressed for the occasion! Here they are with our chief housekeeper Vanja.
We arrived at the Andalusian estate and were greeted with singing, carnations and horses!
The Spanish dishes were wonderful and they included paella, veal stew, all sorts of salads and tapas along with the prized Iberian Jamon, served by special jamon masters with their artful carving skills! We had our choice of drinks (sangria for me, red wine for Norm) – and the last picture shows how they pour the sherry after getting it fresh from the barrel.
After dinner, we saw a horse show in the estate’s own bullfighting ring. Those horses can really dance and entertain. Video can’t be posted here because of slow wifi but will show it at home.
We moved into a large room for a flaminco show – amazing – what energy!
The evening was topped off with a spectacular fireworks display and then we headed back to the ship – at 12:30 AM.
Had to get up at 6 for our next day excursion, so we had a short sleep and had room service for breakfast!
And on day 2 – May 30
We headed out at 7:15 for our Seville and Alacazar Palace tour. Our guide was Beatrice.
Seville was founded (according to myth) 3000 years ago by the Greek god Hercules.Its history includes Roman occupation for 7 centuries, 2 centuries of Visigoth occupation and 6 centuries of Arabic occupation. The styles of architecture here reflect all of those periods and it makes the city so beautiful. We learned that many words start with “al” which indicates Arabic origin.
We had a bit of a panoramic tour before setting out on our walking tour. We passed the 13th century Gold Tower which was originally built to control river traffic and defend the port. It got its name, though, from the storage for the gold and silver brought back here after the discovery of the Americas! It is a museum now. It is in the background of this picture.
The 1929 exposition was held throughout Maria Luisa Park where pavilions of the countries still stand along Plaza de Espania and are repurposed as museums, universities and other official uses.
We wondered about the minimal traffic – and Beatrice told us the taxi drivers are on strike!
Their bullfighting ring holds 14,000. Even if given the chance, I don’t want to go, I saw one and that was enough for me.
On our walking tour, we went to the Barrio Santa Cruz, the Jewish quarter with its narrow streets. This one is called the “kissing street” because you could lean out of the balconies on either side and give your neighbor a kiss!
Beatrice told us that Seville is a very religious city. There are 60 “brotherhoods” and each has it’s own Virgin and Christ. They insult each other’s calling them “ugly”!
The Catedral de Seville opens at ll, and we needed to depart right on time at 12, board at 11:30, so we only saw the outside. It is one of the largest churches in the world and the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. It is an architectural wonder of Gothic design. They are constantly cleaning so you often see different colors of stone here.
One of the highlights was the Alacazar de Sevilla. This wonder was rebuilt in the 14th century on the ruins of a castle of Moorish kings – and altered and expanded many times since. The royal apartments are tiled with brilliant mosaic designs that modern archeologists have still not been able to replicate. The outside of the palace is made up of three different styles. You will see that in the pictures below.
Beatrice says the summers here are “hell” and can reach up to 50 degrees celsius ( 122 fahrenheit) and this is reflected in the 9 foot thick walls that protected the kings from the summer heat.
The Alacazar is still the official Seville residence of the royal family. The gardens are also beautiful and something to see.
We saw the statue honoring Columbus. And, there are orange trees everywhere, but they are bitter oranges, mostly exported to UK to make marmelade, or just lying on the ground and decomposing!
Lots of other beautiful sights made us want to come back to Seville and spend more time.