So much beauty out there

May 16, 2009


Filed under: All,Dear Diary,Travel — Josh @ 9:55 am

So, as you might have gathered from the last post, I’ve reached Sevilla at a stage in my trip when I’m a little lacking in energy. While each day I get up ready to marvel at the wonders of Spain’s contributions to Western Civilisation, my capacity to appreciate it is diminishing. And the heat here doesn’t help, it’s renowned as the hottest city in Spain and the daytime sunshine just saps the energy out of me, physical and mental. I’ve not managed to do a whole lot here and that probably colours my view of the city. Which is a shame, as there is clearly a lot to admire in Sevilla.

The obvious highlight is the Alcazar, an other Andalucian monument remaining from Moorish times. You barely notice the building from the outside, as it’s surrounded by plenty of grandeur in the old town and it’s overshadowed by being opposite the collossal cathedral. Once inside, it’s initially impressive rather than magnificent, and with my world-weary, seen it all before mindset I merely nod appreciatively at the Sala de la Justicia and shake my head uncomprehendingly at the ghastly decoration of the Sala de Audencias.

Sala de la Justicia

Sala de la Justicia

Sala de Audencias (the full horror doesnt come across here, but understandably not many people have chosen to photograph it)

Sala de Audencias (the full horror doesn't come across here, but understandably not many people have chosen to photograph it)

After that though there is a series of incredible rooms where the Moorish designs remain intact, and the building looks like the Alhambra should have done. The basis of their appeal is simplicity, lovely ceramic tiling patterns with plain white walls above. What really sets it above looking like an extremely posh bathroom though is the intricate patterns on the ceiling and the exquisite designs on the woodwork. The overall effect is … (searches desperately for as yet unused superlative) … glorious.

Patio de las Doncellas

Patio de las Doncellas



Unfortunately, some klutz then went and let the Christians capture Sevilla, and it all went terribly wrong in the interior design department. The tiling got more ornate but lost their overall appeal, the ceilings got plainer and the walls got cluttered with oversized tapestries and mediocre art. For example. Outside the gardens are substantial and pleasant. There are plenty of great trees, though not quite enough flowers to conpete with the Alhambra.

A crown on a skull? Doesnt that just make you realise the ultimate meaningless of temporal power and wealth!

A crown on a skull? Doesn't that just make you realise the ultimate meaningless of temporal power and wealth!

What else is there? Well, there’s the Museo des Bella Artes, which would probably have been OK if I’d just gone there, but after the Prado pales into insignificance. There is some Velazquez, which is all good, but probably the highlights are the courtyards dotted between the rooms, which are thrown into sharp focus when you come into a ridiculously over-blown basilica and lots and lots of Murillo’s soft-focus romantic slush (which I actually quite like, despite myself), Winner of todays over-blown symbolism award, Alonso Cano’s portrait of St Francisco de Borja.

Elsewhere, the Guadalquivir is a much more impressive sight in Sevilla than in Cordoba, the Plaza de España is very impressive and looks the ideal place to hold any fascist rallies you might have planned. The archaeological museum is a bit meh. The hotel Alfonso XIII looks great, the hotel Alfonso X less so. Take care with your bookings! The Teatro Lope Vega looks appropriately gaudy. And that’s that. The other big attraction in Sevilla is the Cathedral, the third biggest in the world, but somehow I can’t make myself go in, though I’ve got to the entrance twice. Culture overload, Catholicism overload, Crucifixion overload, too cheap to pay 8 euros to get in? Any of these could explain it.

The evenings are much more fun though. The temperature drops, the bars are full and the good times roll. The most noteworthy sight was a free concert put on by the local authority in one of the plazas. The band were rather an odd combination of violins, spanish guitar and quite a heavy snare drum beat. I wanted to like them, but it was pretty heavy-going. The interesting thing for me, from a pop sociology point of view, is  that they were singing in English. Obviously I know that lots of European bands sing in English in order to increase their chances of international success, but these guys musical style and age range both seemed to make that an unlikely prospect and it must have distanced them from their audience to some extent.

Quick trip to Cadiz next, then a beach on the Algarve for a couple of days. Woohoo, seaside!



  1. Josh you old fairy! Just cos it’s hot you can’t seriously be too short of energy to just look at some art! Try wearing less layers or getting your hair cut or something (actually, don’t get your hair cut till you’ve left Seville! :)

    Some cracking photos though – I’m almost tempted to have a bash at cycling round Spain!

    Comment by Taff — May 18, 2009 @ 8:40 am | Reply

    • Actually the heat is encouraging me to look at the art as it tends to be in rooms with nice air conditioning (it ws pretty much the only reason I went into the archaeological museum). I couldn’t wear any less layers without infringing public decency laws.

      I’m not sure about Spain as a cycling destination. The cities are fine (in fact given how narrow the streets are in lots of places they are far better way of gettin around than cars), but there’s a lot of flat, rather featureless scenery around, particularly inland. I think you’d want to give plenty of thought to your route. That said, apparently they’ve got this Vuelta thing coming up, maybe you could try that!

      Comment by Josh — May 18, 2009 @ 11:22 am | Reply

  2. I think you should allow yourself to take a break. I remember travelling in Italy in April/May and it was a killer. We spent a couple of days just chilling.

    Comment by Winter — May 19, 2009 @ 11:18 am | Reply

    • Yeah, very sensible advice. Had a couple of days on the beach and am now refreshed and ready to go.

      Comment by Josh — May 21, 2009 @ 8:40 am | Reply

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