Travel: A Royal Day Out

Full set of photos

It was another sunny, sweltering day in the south when I awoke, and I was glad to have pre-purchased my ticket for Real Alcázar so that I wouldn’t have to be queuing in the heat. I headed over to the Alcázar, which apparently is the oldest royal palace in Europe that is still in use. It’s a striking mudéjar palace and quite unlike any palace I’ve been in. The stone and tile work was ornate and beautiful, with elaborate gold ceilings that I spent much time craning up at. The famed Courtyard of the Maidens, which is perhaps the most representative image you’ll see of the palace, was beautiful–though unsurprisingly well-trafficked by the throngs of tourists. I strolled through the various halls, enjoying the interesting mix of elaborately decorated and striking simplicity. 
Real Alcázar de Sevilla
Real Alcázar de Sevilla

I eventually made my way out to the gardens, which were lovely and relatively peaceful to walk through. I loved how common bougainvillea is here, as it just adds a gorgeous blast of colour. Sara was mentioning that these places are free for Sevillan residents to enter, and that she often comes to just relax in the gardens. I could see that being a nice way to escape from the heat. I wove my way through the well-manicured hedges, past fountains and tour groups, and took one last look through the palace before heading out.

on the grounds of the Real Alcázar de Sevilla
on the grounds of the Real Alcázar de Sevilla

I was just around the corner from the old Jewish quarter, which I had walked through briefly while on my food tour, so I thought I’d take another jaunt through to see if I’d missed anything. By chance, I happened to pass right by another one of the spots on my list, Hospital de los Venerables, which I’d read could be difficult to find and hard to catch when open. I took the opportunity to pop in, paying the rather steep entrance fee (it was only a euro or so less than seeing the Alcázar!). It was blissfully empty, and for a time, I was able to enjoy it in peace. A former residence for priests, the church of Venerables was the real draw, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I don’t think I’d ever seen a church painted with such elaborate, colourful murals. The churches I’m used to are much more like Seville Cathedral, all somber stone and gold leaf. I sat for a time in one of the pews, soaking in the silence, before continuing my explorations. Ultimately, there wasn’t a whole lot more to the place, with the exception of a small Velasquez exhibit, so it wasn’t long before I was on my way in search of lunch.

church at the Hospital de los Venerables
church at the Hospital de los Venerables
My Devour food tour was nice enough to send home with us a little restaurant guide for the city, with a few of their recommended spots, so I decided to head off in search of one of them, ConTenedor. It was about a 25 minute walk from my apartment. I was definitely feeling the heat at this point, so I kept to the shade as much as possible. I did enjoy meandering through the relatively quiet streets, as I got further and further away from the tourist centre of town. I managed to arrive just as the restaurant was opening for lunch (about 1:30 pm!), so I was their first customer of the day. The place was charming–had a kind of hipster, eclectic vibe. They didn’t have menus but portable blackboards with the selection of dishes (which my waiter was kind enough to go through, as it was all in Spanish). I was surprised to learn that they didn’t really do tapas but was more of a traditional style restaurant. I ordered myself some nice Iberian pork with sweet potato and apple puree. These days, I don’t tend to make pork very often at home (not really sure why), so I was relishing all the delicious pork I was eating in Spain. The meal was very good, though I was reminded how much I love the sizing of tapas, as it was a big portion to get through. I ultimately caved and ordered an apple cheesecake dessert, per my waiter’s recommendation, which was also excellent.
Iberian pork with sweet potato at ConTenedor
Iberian pork with sweet potato at ConTenedor
I didn’t have any major plans for the rest of the day, and I was waiting to hear back from Sara as to the possibility of meeting up later in the evening. So I headed back to the AirBnB for yet another blissful siesta. I do sometimes have to remind myself that when on vacation, I don’t actually have to be out on the go all the time. I remember I use to feel guilty if I were just lounging around my hotel, watching movies, doing things I could just as easily do at home, instead of being out and exploring a new place. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to slow down and strike a balance between relaxation and exploration. I eventually heard from Sara who invited me to see a free circus performance around 9 pm on the riverfront, not far from my apartment. Before meeting her, I walked across the river in search of a bite to eat (I’d actually hoped to visit the Mercado de Triana, but they had closed for the afternoon). I downed a split of cava and some croquetas and baked goat cheese before walking down to the Torre del Oro to meet Sara. She eventually came whizzing in on her bike, and I was happy to be re-united with my newly-made friend. It was great to have someone to hang out with for the evening (one does eventually get tired of one’s own company). We managed to snag a couple seats at this circus event, unsure of exactly what to expect. With the sunsetting behind us, we were treated to a avant-garde, Tim Burton-esque performance. It was a bit slow to start, but eventually there were amusing and impressive feats (juggling and balancing and all that good stuff). Certainly enjoyable for being a free show!
free circus performance in front of Torre del Oro
free circus performance in front of Torre del Oro
From there, we grabbed a drink at a nearby outdoor stand, exchanging life stories, tribulations and adventures. We slowly walked towards La Alameda, where we’d be meeting friends of hers and where she lives. I got the impression La Alameda has a kind of Brooklyn feel–young, hip and up-and-coming–with lots of bars and restaurants. It was after 11 at this point, and the square in La Alameda was alive with people. I met her friends, who were lovely and welcoming. I even got to practice the traditional 2-cheek kiss greeting, a practice that is very foreign to me, but I was happy to play my part and make like a local. We stood on the outside patio, enjoying our drinks, people-watching (everyone seemed to know Sara, coming up and greeting her effusively), and conversation, which was a mix of English and Spanish. As the hours passed, Sara talked about wanting to go dancing, and there was some debate amongst her and her friends as to where to go. One place that her friends wanted to go to was relatively close, but Sara was reluctant because she wasn’t a fan of the music. When she asked if I’d come along, I said was game for anything, so she decided that we’d head over to a farther spot (which had music more to her liking).
Sara and I out on the town
Sara and I out on the town

Since she only had the one bike, and it was a bit of a hike, she convinced me to ride on the seat while she pedaled. It was a giggly and rather ridiculous ride (I at one point temporarily lost my shoe), as I was clinging on to her, trying not to slide off the seat. Mercifully, we made it intact. Now, I haven’t gone dancing in a night club in close to a decade, so it was kind of surreal to be entering a darkened club, feeling the music thumping in my chest. But, as anyone who knows me will know, give me music and a dance floor, and I will dance my heart out. It wasn’t super packed when we arrived, much to Sara’s dismay, but it eventually filled up. After a good deal of dancing, it was about 4 am when I decided that sleep would be a good thing. I was amazed at how late a night out typically goes here (apparently the club closes around 6 am), and that at 4 am, things were as lively as ever. Saturday night Spaniards are troopers apparently! But I also had a flight the next day, so Sara kindly found a cab for me, and we made our goodbyes with promises to keep in touch. It was a truly wonderful evening–such a great opportunity to meet new people and get a sense of a place and a culture as it is really lived by locals. A perfect send-off for a fabulous 3 days in Seville!

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