Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Discovering the "Real Spain" in Seville

Plaza de Espana in Seville
Vicente Traver fountain and happy us!
Seville is only two hours away from Benalmadena. Bill and I and my two granddaughters Krishna, 22, and Daniela, 18, joined a packed bus tour to visit the city. It is the largest in Southern Spain (population, over 700,000 in the city and 1.5 million in the SMSA) and the capital of Andalusia, where Costa del Sol belongs. We were not disappointed because the bus took us straight to Plaza de Espana. My granddaughters gushed, “This is the real Spain!”

The Plaza de Espana (Spanish Square) is a landmark example of the Renaissance Revival style in Spanish architecture located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), in Seville, Spain. It was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 as a huge half-circle of buildings all around the edge accessible over the moat through many bridges. In the center is the fabulous Vicente Traver fountain. Today the Plaza de España consists of Government buildings. It was interesting to know that the plaza was used in the filming of Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars!

all we saw of the Alcazar
old map at Old Town Sevilla
After the visit to the Plaza, we were driven to the Old Town of Seville where we were turned over to a Tour Guide. She took us through the alleys of the third largest old historic district in Europe with an area of 4 square kilometers (2 square miles). It contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. We started the tour facing the fence of the Alcázar of Seville, a royal palace originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. The palace is renowned as one of the most outstanding examples of mudéjar architecture and the oldest one still in use in Europe. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as their official Seville residence, so we were not able to go through it.  

Seville Cathedral
La Giralda
We entered the Old Town at the back of the palace complex. We passed through a Spanish town of small gathering plazas, colorful businesses and intriguing edifices. At the end of the walk, we were led us to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as the Seville Cathedral. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. It is also the largest cathedral in the world, as the two larger churches, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and St Peter's Basilica, are not the seats of bishops. After its completion in the early 16th century, the Seville Cathedral supplanted Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the world, a title the Byzantine church had held for nearly a thousand years.

single largest gold piece in the world
central nave with the boxlike choir loft
Seville Cathedral was built to demonstrate the city's wealth. Construction began in 1402 and continued until 1506. The interior has the longest nave of any cathedral in Spain. The central nave is lavishly decorated with lots of gilding. The most noticeable features are the great boxlike choir loft, which fills the central portion of the nave, and the Gothic retablo of carved scenes from the life of Christ, an altarpiece that is the largest single gold piece in the world. Its  bell tower, known as La Giralda, is the city's most well-known symbol. The tower stands 343 feet high and we climbed all of 34 floors to the top. And we were rewarded with a great view of the city from the top. Construction of the bell tower began in 1184 and was completed in 1198.
Christopher Columbus' burial site
 There are other interesting things about the Seville Cathedral.  The cathedral is the burial site of Christopher Columbus. Out tour guide told us of the raging and unresolved international debate about where his remains lie, somewhere in Central America or there in Seville. She also pointed out the story of the Saint of Lost Things, St. Anthony de Padua, the second most quickly canonized saint (after Peter of Verona) due to the preponderance of miracles of things recovered and the richness of his teachings. A painting venerating him called “The Vision of St. Anthony” hangs in the cathedral. It is said that this painting was lost and found miraculously. 
The Vision of St. Anthony
Then we were on our own to have our lunch of authentic Spanish cuisine and shopping for souvenirs. It was a real treat to see the large Spanish city that Seville is, with all her majesty, mystery, and history! My granddaughters were happy to have had the chance to see “the real Spain” even without going to Madrid or Barcelona!