called on the beautiful city of Seville last week. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania
Cruises, I wanted to share some experiences from my recent shore excursion, Heritage of Seville.
We docked in Cádiz on a bright, sunny morning, and the trip
through the scenic Spanish countryside to Seville was a treat on its own. We
drove through vineyards, olive and orange groves and farms where Spain’s bulls
and horses are bred.
As we arrived in the city, we were greeted by altogether
different but equally impressive scenery. Lavish mansions, ornate churches and
elaborate government buildings lined the streets. Lush green palms and
flowering bushes seemed to sprout from the sidewalks. I was instantly charmed.
Our first stop was the stunning Palace of San Telmo, currently
the seat of the presidency of the Andalusian Autonomous Government. Constructed
in 1682 as a school for orphaned children of sailors, it is a gorgeous example
of Sevillian Baroque architecture.
One of the more captivating aspects of the building is the
Churrigueresque entrance, which was completed in 1754. This Spanish Baroque architectural
style features extremely elaborate sculptural ornamentation.
The 12 sculptures on each side of the balcony represent the nautical arts and
sciences, and the figure at the top is Saint Telmo, patron saint of sailors
– an appropriate saint to pay homage to while on a cruise!
As we continued through the city, we had the chance to see
the lovely Hotel Alfonso XIII. It was completed in 1928 for the Ibero-American
Exposition of 1929, a world’s fair held in Seville.
Finally we reached the destination I had been most eagerly
anticipating: the Alcázar. The oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, the Alcázar
of Seville is an ornate Moorish citadel that has been the residence of Spanish
royalty since the Middle Ages. The outer walls and portions of the interior are
part of the original Moorish fortress.
The stunning Hall of the Ambassadors, one of the main rooms
used for public events and affairs of state, is one of the areas remaining from
the original palace, so the walls date from the 11th century. This
is the room where Ferdinand and Isabella welcomed Columbus upon his return from
his first voyage to the New World.
I was mesmerized by the intricately detailed mosaics and the
interesting mix of Moorish and European styles throughout the palace.
The Courtyard of the Dolls is the focal point of the private
section of the palace, and the patio leads to bedrooms and private halls. The
hall is surrounded by a gallery with marble columns and Arab-influenced lobed
The gardens surrounding the Alcázar are just as enthralling
as the palace buildings. Our guide clearly recognized that this was the perfect
place to enjoy a beautiful day, and she gave us some free time to stroll
through the gardens at our leisure.
From the Courtyard of Flags at the Alcázar, there is a
perfect view of the Giralda, a minaret that was converted into a bell tower for
Seville Cathedral, the next stop on our itinerary. Completed in 1198, the tower
is over 300 feet high and was one of the most important symbols of the medieval
The largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the
world, Seville Cathedral was completed in the early 16th century. Along with the
Alcázar, the cathedral is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is
the burial site of Christopher Columbus. The astonishingly large building was
constructed on the former site of a grand mosque, parts of which were
preserved, including the Giralda and the Moorish entrance. Both the size and
the stonework are truly breathtaking.
At the end of the excursion, we were given time to explore
on our own, and after all the walking around, I was ready for some jamón Ibérico!
I found a delightful little café and enjoyed the afternoon sun and a taste of
Spain. As I sat completely sated after an incredible day of sightseeing and a
delicious meal, I couldn’t help but think that Seville is my newest favorite
place in the world.