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Posts from the ‘Monuments’ Category

Seville | Noche en Blanco (sleepless night) 2015

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“Noches en blanco”, literally meaning Nights in White, but here used colloquially to mean sleepless nights, have become increasingly popular around Spain in recent years, including here in Seville, where the fourth annual Noche en Blanco event will be held on the evening of Friday, October 2, starting around 8 pm and continuing into the small hours of the morning. It’s organised by the Association Sevillasemueve in conjunction with many of the city’s monuments, museums and theatres, as well as tour companies and guides, with the purpose of promoting Seville’s rich cultural life to as wide an audience as possible.

The night visits and tours allow you to see monuments and museums in a different light (both literally and figuratively), and some will give access to parts of buildings normally closed to the public. Among this year’s top attractions are guided tours of the Cathedral, Los Venerables, the Archives of the Indies, the Antiquarium, Saint George’s Castle (headquarters of the Inquisition), and the Triana ceramics centre and museum, as well as exhibitions at the Casa de Murillo, Casa de la Provincia, Contemporary Arts Centre and Santa Ines Monastery.

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Musical events include flamenco at the Casa de la Memoria and Casa del Flamenco, and a rock concert at the Mudejar Museum.

If you want to know more about Seville there’s a wide range of themed walking tours through the night time streets that will introduce you to aspects of the city you didn’t know existed.

The full programme of events can be found here.

If you’re coming to Seville on holiday, renting one of our apartments will give you the flexibility to stay out as late as you like. Have a good weekend.

Seville | The Church and Plaza del Salvador

For many tourists the main reason for going to the El Salvador church is to buy a joint entrance ticket to the Cathedral, so that they can get in without having to endure the, often rather long, queues at the Cathedral. Now this is fair enough, and it’s a useful trick to know, but can mean that the El Salvador church itself is often overlooked. This is a bit of shame as it’s an important historical and architectural site in its own right, and the area immediately around it has a good claim to being the original heart of the city.

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Principal Facade of El Salvador Church

La Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador, to give it its full and proper title, is the second largest church in Seville, only the Cathedral being larger. The present building is in the baroque style, which is relatively recent (as these things go – it’s still old), having been completed in 1712 after nearly forty years of work. Like the Cathedral the interior is gloriously (or ostentatiously, depending on your point of view) ornate, with a major league gold altarpiece, and important artworks. These include the two statues of the Christ that are used for the Semana Santa, El Cristo del Amor by Juan de Mesa, and Jesus de la Pasion by Martinez Montañes (there’s a statue of Montañes in the Plaza outside).

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Moorish Arches in the Church Courtyard

But my favourite parts of the church, which also show us the long history of the site, are to be found outside. In the courtyard you can still see the arches that date from the Moorish period, when the Old Grand Mosque (built in 893) stood here, and also the minaret that forms the bottom two thirds of the bell tower (the bells were added later). Although replaced as Grand Mosque in the 12th century (when the new Grand Mosque was built where the Cathedral is now) it remained a Moslem place of worship even after the Christian reconquest of 1248, only being converted to a church in 1340. Eventually, having fallen into ruinous disrepair, it was demolished to make way for the new building.

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Minaret and Belltower

In Moorish times the area around the Mosque was an important commercial centre, particularly the Plaza Jesus de la Pasion, popularly known as the Plaza del Pan (bread), and the Alcaiceria del Lozo (the pottery market) and the Alfalfa. Even in modern times there is a row of small shops built into the side of the church in the Plaza del Pan.

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Shops behind the Church

But the history of the site goes back even further, as the original building here was the Roman Basilica. The Plaza del Salvador has probably been a civic space since the building of the Roman wall (which ran along the side of the square opposite the church) in the time of Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. The Roman forum was just a short distance away in what is now the Plaza Alfalfa.

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Los Soportales

Other things to look out for include the Iglesia del Antigua Hospital de Nuestra Señora de la Paz (now San Juan de Dios) on the opposite side of the square to the El Salvador (in the 16th century it was a plague hospital), the Cervantes plaques in the Plaza del Pan and Alcaiceria (places mentioned by him in his novels), and Los Soportales, the columns supporting the houses in one corner of the square. This is a building style that has virtually disappeared, but was once common. Finish your explorations with a cold beer at one of the popular bars here.

For somewhere to stay in this fascinating ancient part of the city try one of our range of city centre holiday apartments.

Seville | El Centro

Often overlooked for the more obvious tourist neighbourhoods around the Cathedral, El Centro, the commercial hub and main shopping area of Seville, has a surprising amount to offer the visitor. It starts with the shopping, of course. Seville’s two main shopping streets, Sierpes and Tetuan-Velazquez run parallel from La Campana (the bell) to Plaza San Francisco and Plaza Nueva. They tend to be dominated by international names these days, but Sierpes still has a number of “Sevillano” shops like Juan Foronda, where you can pick up a nice handmade fan or shawl, and SohoBenita around the Metropol Parasol is the up and coming area for trendy boutiques. At weekends browse the street markets in Plaza del Duque or Plaza de la Magdalena. And of course there are always lots of shoe shops.

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The limits of El Centro are set in a rough triangle by three of the city’s most important buildings (after the Cathedral and Alcázar). The splendid and ornately carved (on one side) edifice with plazas to either side at the end of the Avenida de la Constitución is the Casa Consistoriales, which houses the ayuntamiento (city council). The original casa was built in the early 16th century along the outside wall of the Franciscan friary, which occupied what is now the Plaza Nueva, and gave its name to Plaza San Francisco. The archway at the end of the building was originally the entrance to the friary. When the friary was demolished in 1840 to create the new square a new facade and main entrance were built. The sculptures by the archway include the figures of Hercules and Julius Caesar, the “founders” of the city.

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To the west of El Centro is the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum). This is one of the most important collections of (mainly) classical age art in Spain, housed in the lovely old Merced convent. Outside is one of those pretty plazas that Seville is so good at, where you can relax in the shade of a pair of enormous fig trees. It also has a local art market on Sundays. Buy a painting, put it in your attic, and who knows – in a few hundred years your descendants might suddenly become very rich indeed.

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To the east is Seville’s contribution to modern architecture, the Metropol Parasols, the world’s largest manmade wooden structure. Completed four years ago, after a long period of gestation (the old Encarnación market that stood here before was demolished in 1973), there was a lot of controversy about both the design and the cost of its construction, but now it’s done it’s one of my favourite places in Seville. Come here during the day to visit the market and the Roman ruins in the basement, and take the lift up to the walkways on top for a bird’s eye view of the city. Come after dark to see it lit up like a scene from Close Encounters.

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Other things to see in El Centro include the Motilla Palace (you won’t find it in the guidebooks as it’s still a private residence, but it’s the Italian style palace with the tower on the corner just down from the Parasols), the elegant Baco 2 and the Casa de la Memoria just across the street, the Casa Palacio of Lebrija and the El Salvador church. This was built on the site of the old Grand Mosque (and the Roman basilica before that), and still has original Moorish archways and minaret (now the belltower).

Veoapartments have a wide range of apartments in this central neighbourhood that cater to all budgets and numbers, and give you an excellent central base to explore the historic centre of the city.

Seville | The Real Game of Thrones

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You don’t really need any additional excuses to come to a city as beautiful as Seville for your holidays, or to visit its top tourist attraction, Los Reales Alcazares (the Royal Palace), but this amazing place is now being brought to a wider audience, courtesy of the block-busting TV series, A Game of Thrones.

In series 5 of the adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s books, A Song of Ice and Fire, the Alcázar plays host to the exotic Water Gardens of Dorne, seat of House Martell and the southernmost of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Here are played out the intrigues and plots, murder and mayhem of the great houses (actually I’m just guessing as I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m betting they don’t just sit around knitting and playing whist).

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But the subtropical greenery, pools, fountains and lavishly tiled courtyards aren’t the only reason why the Alcázar is a fitting choice for the location of the high drama of A Game of Thrones. Still an official residence of the Spanish royal family, this is the longest serving palace in Europe, and has seen its fair share of drama and intrigue over the years.

In the year 913, by the order of the Arabic Caliphs who ruled Spain from their seat in Córdoba, the southernmost Roman-Visigothic suburb of the city was demolished, and a new palace for the governor of Seville was constructed in the area of the Plaster Courtyard and Patio de Banderas. In the 11th century, after the collapse of the Caliphate, the Almoravids, a Moorish clan from North Africa gained control of the city and extended and refortified the palace area. More buildings were added by the Almohad dynasty in the 12th century, including a covered way from the palace to the new Grand Mosque that allowed the rulers to avoid coming into contact with the common people.

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Apart from the impressive outer walls of the compound in the Plaza del Triunfo, little remains from this period – just a short section of wall between the Lion Gate and the Patio de la Montería, and the Justice Room and Plaster Courtyard to its left. The Gothic Palace was the first to be constructed by the new Christian rulers shortly after the reconquest of 1248. The palace was badly damaged in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, and parts of the original ground floor were filled in and a new upper floor constructed. Some of the best views of the gardens, which you can see in Game of Thrones, are provided by the big windows in the upper galleries.

Also featured heavily is the tiled magnificence of the principal Royal residence, the Mudejar Palace, built for Pedro I (the Cruel) in the 14th century, mostly by those Moorish craftsmen who had stayed in Seville, and who are responsible for the “Arabian Nights” romantic appeal of its architecture and decoration, especially the long pool and sunken flower beds of the central Patio, the Patio of the Maidens

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Other favourite places which do (or should) appear, include the Baños de Doña Maria Padilla (actually rainwater tanks beneath the Gothic palace), the Pavilion of Charles V, and the Gallery of Grotesques (originally part of the city wall, but extensively remodelled in Italian renaissance style by Philip III), as well as the main gardens and garden courtyards in various styles.

For a place to stay while you’re here have a look at one of our wide selection of apartments in the neighbouring Santa Cruz, with its picture postcard streets and squares.

Malaga | A Postcard from Malaga

 

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Hi Mum, Hi Dad

Well, here we are in sunny Spain (yes, even at this time of year, though it can be a bit chilly in the mornings), and having a whale of a time. I was a little worried it might feel like an out of season beach resort, but it’s not like that at all. Lots of things to do here. There is a beach, of course, but we haven’t actually been hanging out there, though yesterday we took a long walk out along the coast road to the old fishing villages for a fab seafood lunch. Looks like St Tropez or one of those places, palm trees all the way along and little bars on the beach. There’s even a rather dilapidated almost Victorian bathing resort place that has a kind of rustic charm – tres romantique.

First morning, though, we went up to the old castle at the top of the hill to enjoy the view over the city. It was a bit of a climb up – should have taken Luke’s advice and taken a bus or a taxi, but it added a certain relish to the cold beer we had when we got there. And you really can see everything from up there, from the bullring to the harbour, the Cathedral – and lots of gardens. And the sea, of course. My first time on the Med! Hard to believe I’m really here.

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Afterwards we went down to the Alcazaba. That’s the old palace and fortress where the Moorish rulers used to live. It’s half the 1001 nights and half, well, a fortress. Towers and walls and whatnot.

In the evening I had my wicked way and we did some shopping in Larios, the main street in the old part of town. Not John’s favourite thing, but I didn’t spend too long or max out the credit card. Picked up a nice pair of shoes and a gorgeous handbag though, so felt I’d had a stab at it. And today he gets to get his own back and drag me round the Automobile Museum. But he still has to take me somewhere nice for dinner afterwards. Plenty to choose from, the food scene here is much more lively and varied than I expected.

What else? We’ve done quite a lot of just wandering around. Found some weird street art and the Roman amphitheatre, and an amazing old bar like a labyrinth. I still want to go to the harbour and have a drink looking across the water.

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Our apartment is really cute, and has everything we need, and feels much freer than staying in a hotel. And there’s one of those great fresh food markets just five minutes away. I’ve never seen so much fish and seafood in one place.

Well, that’s about it for now. The holiday seems to have gone really fast, but I’ve a feeling we’ll be back.

See you soon

Lots of hugs and kisses

Jenny