Not really. We never even found a barber in Seville. What is that opera even about? All I know is what I remember it from Bugs Bunny cartoons and here we were in Seville and Elmer Fudd is singing that song over and over in my head.
Following our stay in lovely Comporta, we were scheduled to head to the Douro (aka wine) region of Portugal. However, upon closer inspection we were booked into a hotel on the Douro River with the word Douro in the hotel name but it was in fact two hours away from the Douro Region and it looked like the kind of place where couples go to celebrate their golden wedding anniversaries with a good book and lovely wine pairing menu. This is NOT the place for a family of four with two kids who really want to hang out by swimming pools and do cannonballs. We decided that 7 nights in this no man’s land location would be too much for us all to bear and we changed our plans. We had a rental car, so the world (or at least Portugal and parts of Spain) were our oyster. We decided to head from Comporta to Seville, Spain where we could spend a couple of nights and then drive back into Portugal to enjoy the beaches of the Algarve for a few days.
This was actually a plan we really enjoyed. Perhaps we would have liked the sleepy Douro hotel, but we were very happy with our decision to can that idea and save it for another time when Mommy and Daddy were on their own.
Seville is just under four hours drive from Comporta. We had fun driving the length of the bottom half of Portugal with our newly minted Italy Spotify playlist along for the ride. The highway was fantastic and we loved seeing the changes in the landscape as we rolled into the mountains north of the Algarve. It was very dry the entire way to Seville. We saw many dried up riverbeds and the scars of recent forest fires.
We did very little research in planning for Seville but we did book into the historic Hotel Alfonso XII and a walking tour of the city. With the temperatures clocking in at around 42 celsius in the afternoons, we were glad that we only stayed for a couple of days. But we did make a note that Seville is a place to return when the temperatures get a little cooler. We had no idea that Seville was so ripe with history and incredible landmarks.
The Hotel Alfonso XII is one of the most picturesque historical hotels that I’ve ever visited. It was commissioned by the King of Spain for the 1929 Exhibition. Modelled after the moorish architecture seen throughout the adjacent historical centre of Seville, its been lovingly maintained over the years. The central courtyard is home to the restaurant and is quite a picturesque spot. We were impressed with the tile work and carvings.
Our guide met us in the lobby at 10am, perhaps not early enough as it was already quite hot. We were glad that we were headed to the Real Alcázar which was just a 5 minute walk away. A complex of palaces, the vast rooms are now a museum and sometimes a movie set. In fact it played host to the Game of Thrones crew when it stood in for the Palace in Dorne. Most interestingly, the palace is built in the Moorish architectural tradition and the tile work makes the tiles in the hotel look almost basic. It’s quite a sight to see.
Following our tour of the palace, we took a meandering walk through the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and circled our way back to the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (aka Saint Mary of the See or more commonly known now as the Seville Cathedral). The fourth largest (according to Wikipedia anyways) cathedral in the world, this church is massive. Following St. Peter’s at the Vatican, the Milan Cathedral and a church in Brazil, St. Mary of the See is not only extraordinarily big it is also the current burial place of Christopher Columbus, or so we are led to believe. Apparently according to our guide, recent DNA tests of the remains that were repatriated from the Dominican Republic proved that in fact this was Columbus. But I suppose if you ask the guide in Santa Domingo, they will tell you the same thing about the remains they claim to have buried in their Columbus Lighthouse. Regardless, someone forked out a ton of cash to create a seriously monumental tomb for Columbus that also has quite a travel history (it was initially commissioned in Cuba and eventually brought to Seville and installed in the Cathedral). Whatever the story is, we were a little sheepish that we had no idea that we would see all of this on our tour!
In fact, Seville boasts a seriously epic maritime history. Even though the city is quite a distance inland from both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts (including the Gibraltar Strait), the Guadalquivir river was the launch and return point of many explorations on behalf of the Spanish empire.
By the time we left the Cathedral, the sun was high enough in the sky that we were melting and it was time to make a beeline to our air conditioned hotel. Well after dark, we did make it out for a bit of yummy tapas at Ovejas Negras.
On our second morning, we hoped to squeak in a visit to the Plaza de España mostly because it featured as a city on the planet of Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II. We are big Star Wars geeks after all and we didn’t want to miss it, but it was already just too hot. So we decided to climb back in the car and head to the beaches of Algarve a few hours early to try and beat the heat.