I’m not going to go all out and say I enjoy self-flagellation, but for some reason I seem to be spending a lot of time at the moment torturing myself with thoughts of holidays. Not so much the cancelled ones that I know we won’t get this year (although, those too) but the ones we had and took for granted.
Seville, then. February 2020. Just a quick break, sneaked in cheekily ahead of the year’s main travel events. No one was really talking about Covid on the news yet, but they were certainly talking about storms, and there was some uncertainty over whether we’d be able to get on the plane at all for the SkyScanner bargain flights I’d managed to secure us. It was fine, though. The plane took off, and 3 short hours later we touched down in Seville.
The weather at home had been cold and bleak and windy, so just the fact that I didn’t need a coat when we got off the plane was a huge treat. At the airport we did the usual passport control shit (standing in a massive queue of people without a mask or 2m gap in sight – how retro!). And then we were out in the mild – albeit cloudy – Spanish weather, trying to find the bus stop.
It’s easy to find, as it goes. Out of the airport main door, turn left, and there’s a clearly marked “Aeroport” bus stop, where big blue air-conditioned buses leave regularly for the city centre. I was very pleased to note firstly that it was very cheap and secondly that we could pay for our tickets with a contactless card because, as usual, I didn’t take any euros in cash. (Never do – a pre paid Starling card is the biz). It took about 45 minutes to get to the city centre and all the while, things got prettier and prettier.
Our hotel was in the shadow of La Girola, the famous cathedral, and to get to it from the bus stop we took a meandering walk through the Gothic quarter and its beautiful cobbled streets. The sky was still cloudy, but the city was stunning. Also, it was at this point that I started to realise why Seville is so famous for its oranges. (Yeah, I’m really not about the deep pre-holiday research or, tbh, the use of logic). There are orange trees everywhere. They line all the streets, they stand in the centre of the town squares, and the cobbles are pocked with sticky patches where the juice fruits have fallen and burst. It’s magical. It smells beautiful, too.
The hotel was a booking.com potluck, which is my usual MO (who wants to prepay, ffs?!) and it was great. It was clean and airy, with a little balcony overlooking a busy tapas restaurant and making us feel all foreign-holidayish. We dumped our bags and headed straight out to explore.
Seville is not a big city. It’s easy to traverse it on foot if you’re into racking up the holiday step count (I very much am. Won’t lie, I feel cheated if I’m on less than 30k a day). It’s bisected by the wide, tranquil River Guadalquivir, which has clear cycle- and footpaths on each side, so it’s a great way to get between different districts. We meandered from the Gothic quarter, past the flamenco school and Plaza de Toros bullring (barbaric concept, obviously, but the building is imposing and unmissable). Then we got tapas at Abaceria del Postigo, which is a tiny little bar tucked away close to the cathedral. We’d read great reviews, and everything lived up to them. I discovered right then and there that in the main, Seville tapas beats Barcelona tapas hands down.
After dinner we did more wandering, marvelling at the way all the pale stonework looks like marble in the streetlights, wondering how and by who it gets cleaned, and buying tiny pots of ice cream from one of the many gelato stalls alongside the river. It was a strong start for a city break by anyone’s standards.
Day two, and we went all-out tourist. The weather was glorious – sunny and clear and just the right temperature; about 23 degrees, not too hot to sightsee. Again, we navigated on foot. There’s always a shortcut across a pretty park, after all.
We crammed in the Plaza d’Espana and the Royal Alcazar Palace, all knitted together with much ambling down endless avenues of general prettiness. (Apparently the Royal Alcazar was the backdrop for some Game of Thrones scenes. I’m not a fan, but this was mentioned to me a lot by various people during the day.) I was surprised by how much sightseeing was completely free. The only place we paid to enter was the palace.
And then in the evening we had more tapas, because really, why wouldn’t you? This time, a bistro two doors away from our hotel called Mama Bistro. It was a bit spennier than anywhere else we’d been, but it was Valentine’s Day, so we thought sod it. And it was a win. The tuna tartare was the nicest thing I’ve eaten in years – absolutely gorgeous.
The next day was our last full day so we decided only to see one sight. We went to the Parasol Metropol, which is an incongruous and enormous wooden sculpture, on the opposite side of the city to where we were staying. As we walked we passed lots of little antique shops in side streets; these places make a feature of selling old maps of the area, they all had racks and racks of them outside for about five euros each. We bought one as a souvenir. It’s very pretty and all, but getting it framed once we got back cost a fucking fortune because of the weird sizing. Just a word of warning there for anyone else feeling clever in their souvenir game.
But the Parasol Metropol was breathtaking. You pay five euros and then you can clamber about all over it. We spent ages there, looking at the city from its blustery heights and drinking tiny cappucinos in the balcony cafe.
After lunch we did more wandering, discovering that this side of Seville was very different to the Gothic bit we’d wandered in the day before. These streets were wider and the area had a more bohemian feel. We found the river again, and wandered back into the centre along its banks. It was the hottest day so far.
After all those steps, we spent a couple of hours that afternoon lying on a big marble bench in the park near our hotel with some weird Spanish crisps, our books to read and a bottle of supermarket sangria, and it was a genuine holiday highlight. What can I say?! I’m classy as all hell.
And then in the evening, we rang the changes on our last night with some more tapas. This restaurant was actually the only food fail we had all holiday. We’d saved it til last as it was number 1 on Tripadvisor, but they were resting on their laurels, and both the service and food were very sub-par. Bad show, Meraki. Very bad show. Never had a more flaccid gyoza in all my days. It’s now dropped to number 20, and I like to think my scathing review played some small part in this.
The next morning, we were up early to catch a bus from the tower by the river, and then by tea time we were back in England and bowling up the M11 towards home. Inevitably, it was pissing with rain and blowing a gale. It was the eve of our 17th wedding anniversary.
Seville is perfect for a short break, and it’s stunning. It’s obviously not unheard of, but I do think it’s underrated compared to its glam cousins, Madrid and Barcelona. As soon as travel gets underway again, I’ll start boring on about it to anyone who’ll listen, because I genuinely do think it’s well worth a visit. And it’s surprisingly good value, too. We spent a fraction of what we’ve spent on some mini-breaks, and we weren’t particularly trying to keep costs down. Hard recommend.