Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 12 - Wednesday, Nov 13, 2013 - Cadiz, Spain (tour to Seville, Spain)

Cadiz (pronounced ca-dith) is a very short distance (we guessed less than 50 nautical miles, but since the Captain for some reason didn’t give us a briefing as we were ready to leave, we don’t know exactly) from Gibraltar, so we arrived sometime in the night.  By the time we got up, we were docked and looked out of the window and had this amazing view:

We had joined a Top Day Tours ( group that had been arranged by others on Cruise Critic.  We were scheduled to depart at 7:45 am.  We got off the ship, met the tour guide (Javier) and boarded the bus with nine other people for a total of eleven (three people didn’t show up).  We left about 8:05 am and drove through Cadiz on our way to Seville, about 120 kilometers to the north.
The terrain that we drove by was basically very flat with a few hills.  Lots of agriculture was visible.  There were a few towns that we went by, including some that are from the days of the Moores, which were all white (to reflect the sun) and narrow streets (so there is shade all day except when the sun is directly overhead).  On the way we learned that Cadiz is a very ancient city, originally founded by the Phoencians in 1200 BC.  Our guide told us an interesting story about how Napoleon was going to capture Portugal and worked an agreement with Spain to allow them to cross Spanish land to get there.  On the way, he apparently changed his mind (or had intended to do it all the time, the guide didn’t say) and attacked Spain.  All of Spain fell except for Cadiz.  It never fell.
Eventually we arrived in Seville.  Our guide told us about a “World Exposition” that Seville decided to put on back in 1929.  Their goal was to create a number of exhibits by the countries in the Americas and Portugal - essentially all those places that Spain ruled at one time or another.  Each country that participated had a large building created for them that housed their exhibits.  Our first stop was at Plaza de Americas that housed several buildings.  At this point we met our Seville guide - Carmen.  She told us about the buildings and the gardens that they had created for the exhibit.

After that, we boarded the bus for the few minutes to the exhibition building for Spain.  It was very unassuming from the outside, but once we got into the courtyard, we were absolutely blown away.  These pictures try to give the area justice, but it is very hard to do.  There are two giant towers on each side of a massive courtyard.  Then there are buildings arranged in a large half circle around the courtyard.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  The place has been undergoing refurbishment (it is completely out in the open, so difficult to protect), but was amazing.  The details on the tiles, the architecture, everything blew us away.
These three pictures show the tower, and two more parts in the half circle.  Together they make up about half of the entire pavilion.

This is our guide Carmen speaking in front of one of the murals.

After that, we then boarded the bus again for another short drive to the main central area (the old town).  This area was over 1000 years old and as you can see was intertwined tiny streets and three story buildings.  It was extremely clean and very well maintained.  The houses in the area leave their doors open so you can take a peek into their inner courtyards.  It was very impressive.

A picture for our daughter:

Note - we didn’t see a single Barber Shop in the whole town (our guide said that there are no Barber’s in the town, but did relate that Figaro was based on a real character in Seville).  [:) :) :)]
Eventually we made it to the main central area where the Cathedral of Seville and the Alcazar Palace is located.  We headed into the palace.  It dates back to the 1300’s and is currently an official residence of the King (although he very rarely uses it).  The architecture was fascinating as it attempts to merge Islamic and Christian parts into a coherent whole. 

There was also a very nice garden.

After that, we had about 80 minutes of free time.  We decided that instead of finding some place to sit, relax and eat Tapas (stupid us), we decided to visit the Cathedral.  It had an 8 Euro fee per adult and we went in and walked around.  It is simply huge (they said it was the third largest cathedral in the world following St. Peter’s in the Vatican and St. Paul’s in London).  It was massive (look at the size of the support pillar).

We came across the tomb of Christopher Columbus, which was quite lavish.

We wandered the place, looked at all of the amazing art and artifacts.  We then climbed the massive bell tower which has a series of ramps that are used to climb to the top (instead of stairs).  The bottom two thirds of the tower was made by the Muslims (originally a minaret) and the top two thirds by the Catholics.
(As an aside, our guide told us that there are no longer any synagogues or mosques left in the city.  They had all been purged away a long time ago.)
There were 34 ramps and it was 17 stories to the top, viewing area.  It was quite a hoof up to the top, but the views were well worth it.  You could see for miles and miles.  Seville is a city of about 800K inhabitants, doubling to 1.6M if you count the suburbs. 

We exited the cathedral, stopped at a shop or two and made it back by the appointed 3pm meeting hour (everyone else made it back on time as well).  We walked a ways to the bus and then drove straight back to Cadiz arriving at a little before 5pm.  
All in all, it was a great tour.  We thought that Seville was definitely one of the best cities that we have ever visited (and we have visited a lot of cities).  We would definitely use Top Day tours again (two for two on tours with them this trip).  Also, they were quite reasonable in price, costing us 70 Euros each.  The ship had a bus transfer only trip to Seville for $80, so we paid only a little more and got the full tour experience.  Well worth it.

Our ship was not scheduled to leave until 9pm, so we went for cocktails at the Palm Court and then dinner in the dining room.  Bob had the cheese ravioli and it was just to die for.  Wow.  After dinner, we strolled by the Crystal Cove and the orchestra was setting up, so we sat down and enjoyed the music.  At 8:30 we got ready to go to the show (it was scheduled to be Dwight, the piano player from the Avenue Saloon doing a Motown show).   Unfortunately, the show didn’t start at 8:45 like we thought, it was scheduled to start at 10.  We decided to get a DVD from the Library and watch a movie in our cabin.

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