Seville, on the river Guadalquivir, was once the main port for ships travelling to and from Spanish America (The New World). To control customs and stop pirates who often plagued the seas around the southern Spanish coast, the ships would sail up the river to Seville. It wasn’t until the invention of canons and guns that the Spanish could protect their coast and the port was moved south. This invention, even still, influences the employment and industry of Seville. It’s main industry now is tourism. And for good reason, it’s stunning. It’s filled with an eclectic mix of imposing gothic cathedrals, Moorish palaces, baroque churches and packed restaurants and flamenco clubs.
Seville is like stepping into an episode of Game of Thrones, but with ice-cream and salami. In fact, the Alcázar Palace is the filming place of the water garden palace of Dorne, and as we skipped between the fountains and well-trimmed shrubbery we did in fact feel like Dornish princesses, just without all the blood and gore, and dragons, obviously. Star Wars was also partly filmed at the Plaza de Espana in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the locations clearly chosen for their stunning cinematic qualities.
I find it sad that monuments, palaces and gardens, which have existed for sometimes hundreds of years, are first announced by the tour guides and signs as locations for films and TV, before the real history is told. Though in saying that, being a location scout seems like a damn fine job, where can I sign up?
When in Europe it’s imperative to live by your ABC’s (Another Bloody Church) and visit as many as possible. For the most part, they’re amazing structures of remarkable craftsmanship and centuries of history. Not all of them. We had been told that if we visited the Iglesia de San Pedro, a much quieter church, we could easily get tickets for the much larger Cathedral of Seville. As we entered and started looking closely at the murals and artwork on the walls something severely unnerving presented itself. It was full of gilded, creepy-staring, blow waved hair, naked, porcelain babies, always watching, always terrifying. It took two minutes for me to turn to my buddy-buddy and say, “nope, this is messed up…nope…Ang out.”
We moved onto Cathedral de Sevilla which did not disappoint, with an exquisite blend of Moorish influences and catholic gothic style it is the third largest Cathedral in the world. It was also built on the site of a mosque, like the Toledo Cathedral. Seville and the Andalucía region have been influenced by Roman rule, Moorish invasion’s, Jewish settlements, Christian rule and the French, so it’s architecture is varied and extravagant. The Alcázar Palace which is only 100 metres from the Cathedral is full of rooms lined with mosaic tiles and frescos, and it is up there as one of the most beautiful human made things I’ve ever seen.
After a mind-stuffing, cultural and historical brain-filling week in Toledo and Spain we decided on a couple of chill out days in Portugal, cause, why not?
We road tripped down to the Algarve area on the south coast to an Airbnb overlooking the ocean. Turns out there are direct flights from England to Faro. You can spot the English tourists a mile away. Sun burnt to oblivion, first time wearing a singlet or short shorts, gold chain necklace and loud drunks at the disco with smoke machines and bright coloured cocktails that probably look disturbingly technicolour on the way back up.
You can also spot an Aussie a mile away when travelling, usually drinking, in board shorts, with a hearty laugh that makes people turn their heads and wonder what’s so funny. They often wear pun filled t-shirts, like this legend. My Dad has his own collection with great nuggets such as “you don’t scare me, I have daughters” or “I’m not weird, I’m a limited edition.” I think he’s prouder of those Best & Less bargains then he is of his children.
So, we avoided the tourist areas and found ourselves a nice little beach, tucked between some cliffs, sailing boats going past, sun shining, crystal-clear water. You know, the usual.
We swam and lay on the sand all morning and I amused myself with my book of 100 Paginas. I find it’s always good to travel with 100 Paginas, it keeps you occupied on the beach, at a restaurant, on a train, plane or automobile. I don’t leave home without one.
Nugget of Wisdom
Embarrass your friends by saying the word “pagina” over and over in a restaurant.