Trip Report: Spain 2010

Spain featured copyWithout question, our favorite vacation destination in all this world is southern Spain.   Any time we plan a trip anywhere, we spend at least a few minutes discussing whether we should just go back to Spain instead.

In October of 2010, we again gave in to the siren song of España and headed back to the gorgeous province of Andalusia for ten days of heaven.

Alcazar palace, Sevilla

Alcazar palace, Sevilla

We started our trip in Sevilla, the first time there for our older two kids.  Since we are a family where arguments about “which vacation was the best” end up being resolved by “which country had the best cathedrals”  we knew Sevilla’s gorgeous Gothic masterpiece would be an instant hit with the kids.  My personal favorite church (followed closely by Salisbury Cathedral and Duke Chapel), this amazing cathedral is built on the remains of a Moorish mosque. Its most distinctive feature, the 350 foot tall bell tower, is actually the minaret of the 12th Century mosque and the only remaining section of the old building.

Sevilla Cathedral

Sevilla Cathedral

Our kids’ favorite part of a visit to the cathedral is climbing the 34 ramps (instead of stairs) to reach the top of the tower.  The view from the top is truly stunning, and the tower is wide enough that the climb up didn’t set off mom’s claustrophobia alarms (unlike Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand, which had me fairly gasping for breath.)

View from the top of the minaret

View from the top of the minaret

But the entire Cathedral is incredible, from the enormous solid gold altarpiece by Pierre Dancart to the collection of incredible jewels and treasures of the gothic church.

The detail and size Sevilla's gold altarpiece is beyond description

The detail and size of Sevilla’s gold altarpiece is beyond description

We happily spent hours wandering the 80 chapels surrounding the nave, and another few sitting outside each day admiring the external architecture over a snack of churros y chocolate.

Which of course, brings me to one of our other favorite things about Spain.  Spanish food.  You already know of my love and devotion for churros, but Spain has so much deliciousness to offer.  Jamón serrano, tortilla de patata, and the bread.  My friends, the bread.  Best.  Bread.  Ever.  I could eat a tortilla sandwich on that bread every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it.  It would be absolutely worth a trip to Spain for no other reason than to eat the bread.

Mmmmmm, tortilla sandwich . . .

Mmmmmm, tortilla sandwich . . .

Also, I really like the bread, in case you missed that.

While in Sevilla we also visited the Alcazar, the Moorish-style palace created in the image of the famous Alhambra in Granada.  Though much smaller, it is still beautiful, and though not as stunning as the real thing (which we visited on an earlier trip), it is a gorgeous way to spend a day without having to travel the hours to Granada.

Playing Robin Hood in the Alcazar gardens

Playing Robin Hood in the Alcazar gardens

The gardens especially are worth a long afternoon, with peacocks wandering placidly among the gorgeously sculpted shrubs and trees, the incredible fountains and rockeries, and the bizarre and fascinating “grotto.”

The rest of our days in Sevilla were spent peeking into dozens of random churches (our favorite pastime in Europe), wandering the arcades and gardens of the Plaza de España and the Gualdalquivir river, and visiting the Basilica de la Macarena, home of the patron saint of Sevilla.

Moorish Wall in front of the Basilica of the Macarena

Moorish Wall in front of the Basilica of the Macarena

The Virgen de la Macarena is Sevilla’s most revered saint, and also the patron of those local heroes, bullfighters.  Her home in a gorgeous smallish church in the “old” section of Sevilla showcases her hundreds of elaborate outfits, most gifted to her by grateful bullfighters who credited their success to her protection.  The church of the Macarena also borders the beautiful and ancient city wall, one of the last remaining vestiges of Moorish rule in Sevilla.

Photos of Basilica Macarena, Sevillephoto courtesy of TripAdvisor
 

After a week in Sevilla (staying in this highly recommended apartment rental), we took a train to Cadiz, anxious to explore the ancient island and visit some more sentimental landmarks from the years when Matthew lived in the city.

Though our motivation for heading to Cadiz (pronounced KAH-deeth) was mostly beach-related (Cadiz is home to Playa Victoria, one of the most famous and beautiful beaches in Europe), we were unexpectedly fortunate in our timing.  We happened to arrive in Cadiz just in time for the celebration of the Festivity of the Virgin of El Rosario, patron saint of the city.  The celebratory parade passed directly in front of our delightfully quirky hotel, and gave us an amazing chance to play like a local and join in the celebration, watching the flamenco dancers and musicians and following the residents to the party in the main church square.  Totally unplanned and my favorite memory of Cadiz.

Saint's Day Celebration in Cadiz

Saint’s Day Celebration in Cadiz

The kids, though, were mainly excited about the gorgeous and almost entirely deserted beaches.  Since it was October (love that Chinese holiday schedule!) the only people on the beach were a few Scandinavian families with small kids, and the kids could make enormous sand castles to their hearts’ delight.

View a famous cathedral from the beach? That's why we love Spain.

View a famous cathedral from the beach? That’s why we love Spain.

After mornings spent on the beach, we would spend the afternoons exploring Cadiz Cathedral (the older boys especially loved the catacombs) and the ancient ruins that pepper the main town.  With the Cathedral literally across the street from the beach, it made going with the flow very easy, and by evening we could always be found at the oceanside promenade watching the incredible sunsets before heading back to our hotel room for our dinner of bread (!), cheese and ice cream and an early bedtime.

Walking the promenade

Walking the promenade

I will never understand why Americans don’t go to Spain. The weather, the food, the architecture, the people, everything about it is incredible and I can’t figure out why Americans don’t get it.

All of Europe flocks to Spain every summer for their holidays–shouldn’t we join them?

Need to Know Before You Go

Visas needed? (US Passport holders) no
Best time to visit Spring and Fall
Want more? Read our other trip reports here!

 

 

 

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