February 10, 2020

Turkey and Spain - Part 5 (Seville)

Whereas Granada is hilly and has lots of Islamic influence, Seville is flat and home to flamenco dancing and bull fighting. While we didn’t watch either, the Andalusian capital of Seville still has lots to offer. The Catedral de Sevilla and Real Alcazar are impressive, while foodies will fall in love with the tapas and churros con chocolate. Most importantly for this blog, we were impressed with the cycling in Seville to a point where I could almost say, “Watch out Amsterdam and Copenhagen!” Seriously! 😊
The Catedral de Sevilla's Giralda is Seville's most easily recognized landmark

Cycling in Seville

What makes Seville’s bikeway network stand out is their 80 kilometre core network was built within 18 months and we’re not talking slapping some paint on the road! Seville’s bikeways – existing on most arterials outside of downtown – is as close to best practice as it gets with raised cycle tracks as well as the use of barrier curbs or closely spaced bollards for protection.
Seville's bike paths are well designed at intersections
Even the intersections are protected à la Dutch. Not necessarily with traffic islands, but by deviating the bike path to allow short crossings at a right angle for improved visibility and raising the cycle track around the corners.
The protected bike lanes extend beyond Seville into this suburban town of Camas

The protected bike lanes continue outside of Seville, though discovering the full extent would have to wait another time. One gesture I appreciated is the use of wheelchair symbols for accessibility, as well as others to identify conflict zones (exclamation marks), turns, traffic signals, and when to slow down.
Downtown streets are slowed to 20 km/h with pedestrian and cyclist priority
Downtown Seville only has cycle tracks along the river, while the tram line also accommodates people on bikes. Even so, downtown streets are narrow and signed for 20 km/h with pedestrian and cyclist priority to ensure safety. Riding on cobble stoned roads is not the smoothest experience and there are certain times of day (around 19:30) when there are too many people walking to make biking practical. A good problem to have when making a city for people, while we appreciated seeing some downtown roads closed to cars when pedestrian volumes are high.
Seville's bike share is a good size but needs a one day (or one ride) option
As with Montréal and parts of Vancouver, many of Seville’s protected bike lanes are bi-directional and can be slightly narrow. Something which can trigger endless debates with urbanists like Mikael Colville-Andersen dismissing them as not best practice. The Sevici bike share with 2500 bikes is a good size, but there needs to be a one day (or even one ride) option in addition to the €13.33 for one week. Instead, we rented Dahon folding bikes from Rent A Bike Sevilla in Santa Cruz. (€28 for three days)

The high altar inside the Catedral de Sevilla shows the different scenes in Jesus' life
Our first day brought us to Catedral de Sevilla. Given its popularity, we booked our tickets online, though you can also get them at Iglesia del Divino Salvador. There is so much art and architecture to take in no wonder why Lonely Planet doesn’t recommend visiting both the Cathedral and Real Alcazar in one day.
View of Seville from the Giralda
Columbus’ tomb, the organ pipes, and the high altar were some of the cathedral’s highlights, while the long line to go up the Giralda’s 35 ramps was worthwhile to enjoy the views of Seville and the tower bells. The plaza outside of the Cathedral is also nice.
We frequently passed by the Metropol Parasol during our stay in Seville
We passed by Metropol Parasol – the large mushroom-shaped wooden structure – on the way to the Cathedral and several other times during our stay. Another frequent destination was the Santa Cruz neighbourhood which has lots of interesting small shops.
At least an hour is needed to thoroughly enjoy Plaza de España
The second day took us to Plaza de España and Parque de María Luisa. At least an hour was needed to enjoy the Plaza’s architecture including ceramic maps and coats of arms from all parts of Spain, bridges with ceramic railings, and a small waterway where boats can be rented. The Hospital de Los Venerables wasn’t worth the ten Euros, while biking across the river lead to some pleasant surprises in Triana. Not just for their well known market, but the west bank has an old ceramics factory. We ended that day with a visit to the Basillica de la Macarena near our Airbnb.
There is a bit of an Islamic vibe inside the Real Alcazar
When we got to Real Alcazar the next morning, there was already a huge line for those who did not get tickets. Thank goodness we got ours in advance, though access to the royal chambers was sold out. The Real Alcazar uses tiles everywhere as with Topkapı Palace. While Topkapi has higher quality tiles, Alcazar has better gardens. The arches give a bit of an Islamic vibe, while parts of the palace – and lots of homes in the city – were painted red and yellow which matches the Spanish flag.
The gardens at Real Alcazar along with some red and yellow painted buildings
Our final day was more laid back, but we did walk past the bull fighting ring and some shops selling some bull fighting attire. Beer drinkers would be pleased drinking alcohol in public is tolerated there (unlike in Toronto). Meanwhile, the one thing that annoyed us about Seville was the siesta when many shops and restaurants closed for a few hours in the afternoon.
Seville's bull fighting ring (Plaza de Toros)
A Foodie’s Dream

No blog post on Seville can be complete without talking about their food! One popular breakfast (or snack) is churros con chocolate which costs two to three Euros. The Cafeteria La Reunion Desayunos Y Meriendas gives you five large churro pastry sticks, while their hot chocolate is so rich you can dunk the churros in them. North American hot chocolate doesn’t even come close.
Tapas at La Brunilda - The grilled foie and pears in red wine is at the bottom
La Brunilda wins hands down for the best tapas! There may be a line to get in and the dishes are more expensive, but the quality is top notch with a fine dining vibe. The risotto is a big hit, as is the grilled foie with pears in red wine. Sal Gorda was also decent, while Bodega de Santa Cruz was the cheapest.
Gold croissants, pudding, and hot chocolate at Dulceria Manu Jara
Pastry lovers (other than Churros) should check out Dulcería Manu Jara in Triana. Their gold croissants with chocolate inside are to die for, while their puddings are also very good. For something unusual, we found a cereal bar near Alameda de Hercules. One final food and drink observation I noted was groceries were slightly more expensive than in Toronto, while alcohol was cheaper with one 500 mL can of Cruzcampo beer costing €1.50; the same as Coca-Cola.

Final Thoughts
Seville is a very relaxing place overall
While I don’t see myself being on vacation for almost a month anytime soon, visiting Turkey and Spain was a great experience and worth doing again. Who wouldn’t want to take another Turkish bath in Istanbul or eat more delicious tapas in Seville? Not to mention, there remains more to explore in both countries. In any case, it’s now time to think about where to travel next.

Rob Z (e-mail)

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