The last stop in in our tour of Andalucía took us to the historic city of Sevilla, the capital of the autonomous community. We were joined by Jesse’s aunt Harriet(first time in Spain!) and her daughter Hannah, who visited us in Gijón and Bilbao back in 2021. Having family along for a trip makes it more fun (like our recent trip with Jesse’s Aunt Sara, Uncle Mark and Cousin Madison to San Sebastián), and this time was no different.
Jesse and I were actually in Sevilla for a few hours two weeks earlier; we had rented a car during our stay in Frigiliana and had made the six hour round-trip drive to see our friend Utkarsh and his mom who was visiting him from India. It was Semana Santa, and there were barracades and tons of people ready to celebrate the holiest week of the Catholic year, and marked by the maroon covers placed over balconies throughout the city.
For our actual trip to Sevilla, we stayed right down the way from the Sevilla Cathedral, and that became our beacon; the roof of our rental apartment even provided a spectacular night angle of Cathedral in all its’ lit up glory.
Our first full day we decided to wander the city, and headed away from the Cathedral and busy areas. We saw a tall, skinny structure jutting out into the sky, and some kind of huge arched structure off in the distance, so we walked toward it.
We found ourselves crossing one of the few large bridges (Puente de la Barqueta) in town across the Guadalquivir River, walking toward what appeared to be a theme park (on the right of the picture above). That is Isla Mágica, a theme park, which was closed, but right next to it we found a massive park, which was ill-kept and seemingly abandoned. We liked the peace and quiet of the park, which was well shaded.
We eventually found ourselves under the large tower, which, near the base, had what appeared to be a revolving observation area; we imagined that it must have provided some great views back when it was built. There was also a group of school kids running around near it, and from what we could tell was a daycare or school of some kind. It was all very bizarre.
Then we saw the manhole covers, with the picture of a checkered globe with the words Expo ’92 on it. Further research led us to the Sevilla World Expo in 1992, and then everything clicked into place. We were walking around the abandoned Expo grounds.
We continued our leisurely walk through the park, before coming upon a long dock that we walked upon, next to the river, until we reached a gate that was locked. It had seen better days, and a couple of the panels had been taken out; we squirmed our way through the opening, getting a little dirty but none the worse for wear.
Nearby we wandered into the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, or Contemporary Art Museum of Andalucía, which is housed inside the Monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas, dating back to the 15th century.
Inside the gates there is a cafe, restaurant and gardens. There is a nominal fee to tour the museum, which mixes old and new art in very clever ways. There is also an extensive art gallery, gardens, tombs, and a lot of excellent tile work; which makes sense, as in the 1800s the site was purchased by a Brit and turned into a tile manufacturing plant.
A very impressive space, outside of the popular areas in town, and perfect for our pace. We ran into few other visitors during our visit, and even got to rest our weary feet as we watched an informative video on Spain and Africa and how people have moved between the two from olden times to today. Highly recommended if you want a break from the hustle and bustle of the area around the Cathedral.
Our next day began with a tour to the Italica, which is a town that was originally founded by the Romans who were ruling Sevilla, but wanted to live outside of it. They had the remains of whole homes, a dilapidated roman amphitheater where gladiator games and other types of entertainment were held, the remains of more than a few Roman homes, complete with some excellent mosaics still mostly intact.
For a Roman history buff like myself, it was a very cool place to visit, and recommended. The other stop on our tour was the nearby town of Santiponce and the San Isidoro del Campo Monastery. Dating back to the year 1301, the Monastery had some very impressive wall art and tile work, still mostly intact and an inner courtyard that had been designed in the Moorish style, among other interior rooms that are worth seeing.
We boarded the bus and returned to Sevilla, very hungry. We went to eat at one of the oldest restaurants in the city, El Rinconcillo, dating back to 1670. The food was quite tasty, as were the deserts, that we all shared.
Fully satiated, we walked to our last site of the day, the Setas de Sevilla. Setas is the word for mushrooms in Spanish, and the idea is that this wooden architectural marvel, which looks to me more like tan waves high above the plaza, looks like mushrooms. In any case, as a tip, the entrance is actually below the plaza. After going down we walked back up more stairs to the top, allowing us to see the city from all angles. It truly is a remarkable view, any which way we looked, and must be done when visiting Sevilla.
Stay tuned for Part 2 featuring our visit to the Cathedral, the Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla, and more!