Once again we are off on our travels, this time its a special occasion for my dear wife’s 60th birthday. Our first stop is Barcelona, for three nights then onto Seville by train for three nights. Have never visited either city so I was really looking forward to this trip.
We arrived safely and everything went according to plan, after all we were flying Ryanair. We had not arranged any onward transport from the airport to the city as it was decided that after reading our trusty Lonely Planet guide the bus would be a good option, so after collecting our luggage we headed off to get our tickets for the journey. There are a few option to get from the airport to the city firstly there is the obvious choice of a taxi, which will cost approx €30 plus a charge for each item of baggage. Secondly there is the Autostrada bus service which costs €5.90 single or approx €9 return, and thirdly the is the national train service Renfe of which we took as after standing in the queue for our bus tickets we overheard some other travellers chatting to the woman on the information desk, and the cost for this was only €3.90, bargain. The train takes you into the city centre where you can easily get a metro connection, metro, tickets are priced at €2 for a single journey or you can purchase a 10 trip card for €9.80. Well enough tips for now back to the city itself. After dropping off our cases in our lovely apartment for our stay, which incidentally overlooked the magnificent Sagrada Familia. Our first port of call was the well publicised La Ramblas which is a very long tree-lined boulevard which eventually ends up at the sea it has many shops, restaurants souvenir stalls and some beautiful flower stalls which it appears are under threat from the local government’s axe, to probably make way for more tacky souvenir stalls. La Ramblas itself is in my opinion does not live up to its hype, personally its like any other shop filled street in any city, but it does have some worth while attractions like the huge undercover market which with its many stalls selling all kinds of interesting food. Also worth a look is the Plaça Reial a beautiful square with a magnificent fountain as its centre piece, with many lovely restaurants around its edge. But in my opinion the best area around Las Ramblas is the Gothic Quarter which is the centre of the old city of Barcelona, lots of narrow streets quaint little shops and many small interesting restaurants, and the prices are slightly cheaper than around Las Ramblas. Well after a long day it was time to head back to the apartment for a well-earned rest as our next on our itinerary was Sargarda Familia. Now Sargarda Familia is probably Barcelona’s biggest tourist draw, its architect was Antoni Gaudi he started construction in 1882 and the cathedral is still be constructed today with a proposed finishing date of 2026, words cannot describe this magnificent structure, you could stare at the building for hours and notice something new at every new glance. Now as you can imagine Sargarda Familia attracts tens of thousands of visitors and the queues are sometimes around two hours long, so a top tip to get around the long queues is to book your ticket in advance online to save yourselves a lot of time queueing, the official website for this can be found by clicking this link. Tickets. I would also recommend paying a little extra and add a trip up one of the towers on your visit and also take the worthwhile audio guide. Another place of interest we visited was the Palau de la Música Catalana which is a very elaborate music venue with performances that range from symphonic and chamber music to jazz and Cançó (Catalan song), right up to modern-day bands. The facade at the main entrance is magnificent, and if you do visit take your time to look up at the entrance facade and take in the amazing ornate stonework, the main entrance incidentally is not entrance in which you enter but down a small side street, so have a look once you finish your tour. Once inside the opulence continues, lots of lavish decor, stonework and ornate tiling. Your entrance tickets does include an informative tour but the entrance fee was in my opinion too expensive €17. It might be an option to look into taking in a show which we discovered in some circumstances was not a great deal more than the stand alone tour. Next stop Seville.
As this was a two centre trip it was decided to fly to Barcelona, take the fast Renfe train to Seville, then fly back to the UK from Seville. The journey to Seville was some 600 miles from Barcelona and the journey took just five and a half hours, with speeds reaching 300 kph a very swift service indeed. We arrived in Seville early afternoon and made our way to our accommodation for the next few days Apartamentos Murillo which were very nice indeed. Now as this trip was to celebrate my wifes 60th Birthday I had arranged for our daughter to fly out and meet us in Seville as a surprise for my wife, so after settling in to our apartment we took a stroll to the bar where I had pre-arranged to meet our daughter. Now prior to us flying to Spain my wife had spoken to our daughter and said that it would have been nice if she came to Spain with us, but my daughter told my wife that she could not get the time off work but, so understandably my wife was disappointed but understood, so when she turned up in the bar as arranged you can imagine the suprise on my wife’s face, so after lots of tears of joy a good time was had by all.
Our first full day in Seville was spent walking around the magnificent Alcazar palace and its huge grounds. The Alacazar Palace was originally a moorish fort, and it is the oldest palace still in use in Europe. In 1987 it was listed as a Unesco world heritage site location, a good few hours was spent taking in the magnificence of the palace and its beautiful grounds. Next stop was the equally stunning Seville cathedral. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world, a really must see. After soaking up all this amazing architecture it was time for a nice relaxing carridge ride, you see, all around the centre of Seville you can find many horse-drawn carriages and there drivers plying their trade to take you on a tour of the city, they cost around €50 for an hour-long ride which can be a little expensive if there is only two of you, but as there was five of us to split the cost it was not to bad. The tour takes you around the city and through the Maria Luisa Park with a stop at the stunning Plaza de España a great way to spend a relaxing hour. Now like I said the trip was to celebrate my wife’s 60th birthday so I asked the very helpful chap on reception of our hotel that if he could, one recommend a good restaurant and two, a good traditional spanish flamenco show and he came up trumps on both counts. The restaurant whose name escapes me was over the other side of the river from the old part of Seville situated on the corner of Calle del Corro and San Jacinto. When we first approached I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting something a bit special for my wifes milestone birthday but once inside although it was quite plain the whole experience was excellent. We were shown to our table by the really friendly staff, the chef came out in immaculate chefs whites to point out the specials of the night, and to welcome us to the restaurant, and when the food arrived it was absolutely delicious. Next stop was the traditional flamenco show, but first let me explain how the guy on the reception at our hotel described what was an amazing night, he told us that there were plenty of shows in the old part of town which last for about an hour but these are quite expensive and are just there to cater for tourists, but if we wanted the really traditional flamenco we should take ourselves off to Calle Castilla, he said in broken english that “the venue is a bit underground” which intrigued us but said we would enjoy it, he directed us to a second-hand book / comic shop, which was a bit difficult to find down a small street in Seville “Calle Castilla” once inside we purchased our tickets at the shops counter and were directed up a staircase to the second floor where there was a small stage, low lighting and many small tables and chairs dotted all over the place. Drinks were purchased by paying a lady sitting at a table with just a small cash box, who in turn gave you a ticket which you handed in at the bar in exchange for your drink. So we found a nice little spot overlooking the stage and settled down for the evening. The venue started to fill and the atmosphere was amazing. First a guy came onto the stage and introduced the musicians, then went on to explain the story about the dance we were to see, all with great passion and plenty of hand clapping from the audience. But as it was all in Spanish we did not have a clue what the story was, but we clapped when everyone clapped and just joined in. Next the dancers entered the stage and we were treated to the most passionate and heart-felt flamenco dance that I have ever witnessed a truly brilliant night.
As we had only one day left in Seville the rest of our trip was taken up with just soaking up the atmosphere of this amazing city, a true jewel in Spain’s crown and one location I will defiantly go back to.