After waiting in line forever to talk to a lady at the information desk, we got directions to the bus stop and lugged our packs across the street to wait for a bus. Half an hour later, a bus finally showed up and we were able to get into the center of town.
The hostel provided extremely detailed directions, but many of the streets were unnamed so it was pretty confusing. We finally made it, and the hostel was really nice.
We booked a 4 person dorm room with its own bathroom-- score! Our other roommate was a nice French guy that we literally saw for 2 waking minutes during our entire stay. The hostel had a really nice kitchen and terrace on the top floor. So far, the hostels in Spain have been pretty great-- hope it lasts!
After settling in a bit, we walked through the center of town past a few churches to get to the huge cathedral in the center of Sevilla. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus's remains are buried inside! There is an old tower attached to the church called La Giralda, which used to be the mosque's minaret.
Turns out that the church was closed for some special event, so we decided to get tapas and sangria! We had a whole assortment of delicious treats-- avocado filled with shrimp and covered in orange goo, lamb chops with vegetables, a strange block of soft cheese filled with shrimp and covered in sweet sauce, and potatoes with smoked salmon and garlic butter goo.
And we got a basket of bread, which they brought to us without asking and we assumed was free, which turned out to be incorrect. Good thing it was only a Euro! To top it off, they sell sangria by the liter and is SO delicious! They definitely cut the wine with some debatable fruit juice-- we voted that it could be cranberry-- and it is full of booze-soaked oranges and lemons. Plus, it makes all of our food pictures more beautiful. Fabulous!
Once we finished our feast, we walked over to Alcazar (Sevilla's fortress/royal residence), but the line was far too long and it was far too hot, so we decided to save it for the next day. We walked down to the Rio Guadalaquivir to check out the Torre del Oro, which was an anti-climatic gold colored tower.
Apparently, Columbus's ship set sail from this river... must have been a pretty small ship. There were some giant sculptures along the river that we spent quite a bit of time crawling around, trying to hide from the sun. Jeremy and I are definitely not accustomed to heat like this-- Adrienne is doing a bit better than us but we are all very hot.
We wandered around the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza (bull-fighting plaza), but it was too expensive to get inside so we skipped it. Bull-fighting sounds disturbing anyway.
By this point, we were far too hot, so we headed back to the hostel. Along the way, we stumbled across a HUGE political demonstration/protest. We couldn't really understand what they were shouting, but we think it had something to do with the fact that Spain elected new mayors all over the country on Saturday. Clearly, they were not particularly pleased with the election outcome.
We stood and watched the protest for quite a while and discovered a funny trend-- every 10 minutes or so, a man in a suit would come out of the government building. The entire crowd would freak out and scream and bang on things while jumping around, and the man in the suit would simply stand there and text on his phone/read the paper. Then he would go inside and another one would come out 10 minutes later! We decided that the politicians were simply taunting the crowd. Very effective. I'll try and post a video at the bottom of the blog. Sorry for all the jerking around... the crowd was pretty excited.
We took care of a bunch of business in the hostel-- showered, skyped Jeremy's family, sent a bunch of emails, wrote the Madrid blog, organized pictures, etc. It is so amazing how tired being hot/sort of sick can make you. Plus, the sun rises before 6 AM and sets after 10 PM, so our days are pretty long. It was very nice to relax in such a nice hostel.
Our tapas lunch was sort of expensive and it was still pretty hot outside at 9 PM, so we decided to make dinner in the hostel and hide until the sun started to set. We were pretty unwilling to make an elaborate meal, so we steamed some asparagus and boiled a dozen eggs.
Delicious! Then we walked along Calle Alfalfa, which is one of the more happening streets in central Sevilla. There were people of all ages (mostly locals) EVERYWHERE, including children playing in playgrounds. Mind you, it was about midnight at this point. Spain definitely runs on a different schedule than the US. We took a bunch of pictures of the streets and buildings then returned to the hostel to sleep so we could get an early start the next day.
We woke up early for breakfast then headed out to check out the cathedral and Alcazar. Unfortunately, we forgot AGAIN about Sunday mass, so we could only go halfway into the cathedral.
It was still really cool though, and we have seem more than a few cathedrals, so we were satisfied. Then we spent the rest of the morning/afternoon in Alcazar, which was one of the coolest things we have seen so far. Adrienne and I took almost 600 photos between the two of us just in Alcazar... the Alhambra should be even more ridiculous. The Alcazar was originally a Muslim fortress in 913 until it was taken over by Catholic Monarchs in the 1480s.
We started by walking through some really beautiful hallways, then spent quite a bit of time cruising around the gardens. There were beautiful purple flowers everywhere, which made our pictures much more colorful.
The Muslim style of architecture is so different from anything we have seen so far-- nice contrast to the baroque! Then we sat near a little pond/pool thing that had GIGANTIC fish in it. Adrienne pulled out her fancy zoom lens and took a bunch of cool bird/fish/children pictures. I'll post the winners at the bottom of the blog.
Then we wandered around the inside of the palace, which was decorated with really ornate carvings and lots of colorful mosaic tiles.
The lighting was really interesting inside the palace because it was very open to the outdoors and thus affected greatly by the direction of the sun. The sun was SO bright-- I was really glad to have my new UV lens cover! Unfortunately, I don't really understand how the UV cover works yet, so some of the pictures have strange artifact in them... feel free to ignore the big white blotches!
It took us a while to get through the inside of the palace because we had to wait for breaks in the crowd in order to take people-free pictures. Luckily, it was a Sunday and it was hot as hell, so I think most people were at home and not at Alcazar. They should have been at Alcazar though, because it was very cool and only 2 Euros to get inside.
We tried to go back to the cathedral after leaving Alcazar, but they were having ANOTHER mass! So we did what we did yesterday when the church was closed-- got more tapas and sangria!
This time, we just ordered one of the pre-decided tapas menus, which included marinated beef with vegetables, potato salad (sort of), calamari, potatoes with cheese and grilled vegetables, a strange custard that was drenched in anise liquor, and more sangria!
We still don't really understand how the tapas work. These plates were way smaller than other tapas we've gotten, and we apparently had to sit outside to be allowed to order tapas. First, we were seated inside at a table in the corner.
Then, they asked us to move because they had seated us at a table that had a reservation. When we tried to order, they had us move outside to eat our tapas... whatever! As long as the outside tables are in the shade, we couldn't care in the slightest.
After lunch, we walked back to the hostel and collected our backpacks to trek back to the train station. The walk from the hostel to the local bus station was only about 5 minutes and was almost entirely in the shade, so it wasn't bad at all
. Once we made it to the local bus station, the locals took care of us from there. A nice old lady walked up to us as soon as we got to the station and asked us what bus we were looking for.
We told her and she took us to the line for the bus and explained (in rapid Spanish, of course) that we needed to stand in our spot.
We stood there for about 10 seconds before the other locals told us that they knew where our spot was and that we need to sit in the shade because it was too hot and we were going to burn.
Apparently, the three of us don't look very Spanish-- shocking, I know. When the bus came, the nice lady made sure we all sat together then pushed the "stop" button, told the bus driver to stop for extra long so we could gather our bags, and motioned frantically when our stop arrived. Very nice!
Because we were worried that the local buses would run really infrequently on Sunday, we left the hostel far too long before our train left. So we sat in the train station for a while and people-watched like usual! The train from Sevilla to Granada takes 3 hours and goes about half the distance of our last Spanish train, which only took 2.5 hours. Maybe we will be able to get better picture out the window from the slower train. Will post about Granada in a few days. Chao!
We arrived in Sevilla (Saturday 6/11) and wandered around the train station for a while trying to figure out where the local buses stopped. Sevilla's bus station is located about 2 kilometers outside of town and it was 98 degrees, so we were pretty unwilling to walk the distance with our backpacks.