Got up at 7.00am to find the Queen Victoria slowly manoevring her way through the buoyed channel and into her berth in Cádiz, Spain. We had last been to this historic Spanish city on the Queen Elizabeth in 2010, but today we would be travelling further afield to explore the Andalucian city of Seville or, to give it its Spanish name, Sevilla (say Sev-ee-ya).
After having a good breakfast in the Lido Buffet, we returned to 5123 and made sure we had our cruise cards, tour tickets, Euros and our cagoules packed in the rucksack. Then we made our way to Deck A to disembark the Queen Victoria, and we were directed to our coach in the nearby row of waiting tour buses. We would not be on an actual guided tour today; the coach would drop us off in Seville and we would be left to do our own thing.
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “Seville”? Two things come to my mind; the famous Seville bitter oranges from which marmalade is made, and Rossini’s famous opera The Barber of Seville. We looked forward to our day in this historic city.
In the meantime, we had a coach journey of around 1½ hours ahead of us, which was a nice time either to relax, read or look out of the window at the passing scenery and tableaux of daily Spanish life.
Around 10 o’clock the coach parked up and we all alighted. The courier on the coach said we could either go off and do our own thing and return to this spot at 2.50pm (giving us nearly five hours to explore) or she would accompany us for a short while and point out any landmarks or places of interest. However, as it was a fairly large crowd and the busy street we were on was noisy, we couldn’t really hear was she was saying anyway, so we decided to go off on our own. In any case, Google Maps is very useful, not only for finding your way around but for looking up anything of interest.
As we walked along the streets, lined with trees bearing their bitter Seville oranges, we soon came to a large, ornate building built mainly in red and yellow, but with an ornate stone portal above which hung the flag of Ukraine, showing Spain’s support for this war-torn country.
Looking at the building through Google Lens, we learned that it was the Palacio San Telmo (Saint Elmo’s Palace) and had been built in 1682 to serve as a marine academy, training ships’ pilots, navigators and high-ranking officers; Saint Elmo is the patron saint of navigators. The academy then became a royal palace, and after that a seminary and a hospital. The palace fell into disrepair in the mid-20th century, but was refurbished in the 1980s and today is the presidential headquarters of the Junta de Andalucia (the regional government). Apparently King Charles (then the Prince of Wales) had visited in 2011 with Camilla.
Continuing on our way, we soon came to a wide thoroughfare (Avenida de la Constitución) with trams running through the middle. There seemed no way to distinguish where the road ended and where the pavement started, particularly in view of the many motorcyles, pushbikes and electric scooters that wove their way in and out of the strolling pedestrians. If you looked hard, however, you could discern two rows of metal studs placed at intervals the length of the road; this marked out the cycle lane. We needed to move out of the way! 🙂
The streets were already decorated for Christmas and, as in La Coruña, the coloured lights twinkled despite the bright sunlight.
Soon we came to a cathedral; like many cathedrals in Spain it was massive and richly ornate. This was the Seville Cathedral, better known as Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (St. Mary’s Cathedral). Completed in the early 16th century, it is one of the largest cathedrals in the world. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, as was its bell tower La Giralda. The bell tower is 343 feet high and its square base is 23 feet above sea level 44 feet long per side. The Giralda is the former minaret of the mosque that stood on the site under Muslim rule, and was built to resemble the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. It was converted into a bell tower for the cathedral after the Reconquista, although the topmost section dates from the Renaissance.
What an interesting city Seville seemed to be so far! We had noticed, in squares and other open pedestrianised areas, a number of flamenco dancers making the streets their stage in return for money from the toursts. In fact, Seville is considered the birthplace of this particular style of dancing, where it found its beginning as an expression of the poor and marginalised. Seville’s Gypsy population, known as Flamencos, were instrumental in the development of the art form. While it began as and remains a representation of Andalusian culture, it has also become a national heritage symbol of Spain. There are more flamenco artists in Seville than anywhere else in the country, supporting an entire industry surrounding it and drawing in a significant amount of tourism for the city.
As we passed by the impressive and imposing 15th century Ayuntamiento de Sevilla (Seville Town Hall), stopping to take photos of this amazing edifice. Tourists were allowed inside, but only by prior appointment.
Afterwards, we meandered along the streets, as ever looking in the souvenir shops and savouring the smells coming from the pork charcuterias and the pastry shops selling their delicious and tempting ranges of cakes. As it was nearly one o’clock now, we decided to go and find somewhere to have something to eat, as well as the inevitable cold beer. 🙂
Browsing around the streets, we came to an attractive little café that sold tapas, sandwiches, beers and wines so we went inside. After ordering “tres cervezas grandes y una cerveza pequeña, por favor“, the proprietor brought our drinks as well as four menus.
I chose a cheese and ham toasted sandwich while Trevor opted for tuna; I can’t remember what Billy and Carole had. The beer was cold and thirst-quenching and we sat there, enjoying the ambience of this lively bar. The sandwiches too were good, and it was tempting to have another drink afterwards; we decided we’d wait and go somewhere else later. By now, we only had about an hour and a half until we had to be back at the coach pick-up point. How the time had flown!
We enjoyed our leisurely stroll back to the coach. Passing monuments and buildings we’d passed on the way, it allowed us to have another look (you always notice something the second time that you didn’t spot at first). We arrived back at the bus stop before the bus did, and we had about 20 minutes or so to wait. In the warm sunshine, that wasn’t such a hardship.
Once again, we had an enjoyable coach ride of around 90 minutes before returning to the port.
We arrived back at Cádiz and the Queen Victoria around 4.00pm. When we got back to stateroom 5123, beautifully cleaned and tidied by the dedicated Edison, we found a card on the bed headed “Cunard World Club”. Oh good, we thought; this will have details of when the World Club cocktail party will be. Instead, it said that a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine had been placed in our fridge. Looking at the sparkling wine (which had a screw top…. a SCREW TOP!!!) it was a brand I’d never heard of. A quick Google told me it could be purchased online for £5.98. What? WHAT? No Captain’s Cocktail Party and now no World Club cocktail party either! Cunard are slowly, but surely, stripping away all those pleasant little freebies; the little parties that made you feel as if you were a member of an exclusive club as you sipped your gratis drinks, ate your gratis canapés and enjoyed a stimulating chat with your fellow loyalty club passengers while listening to the live music in the grand Queen’s Room. Cunard, what are you playing at? 🙁
As time was getting on and I wasn’t really very hungry anyway, I decided to skip dinner in the Britannia Restaurant tonight; I told Trevor I would join him and B & C at the coffee and liqueurs stage. Instead, I read for a short while and partook of one of the glasses of cheap plonk, then got washed and changed. I wore a plain black strappy dress with a black lace bolero, yellow footless tights and a pair of “knock-your-eyes-out” Irregular Choice boots. 🙂
I decided I’d take my laptop and go and sit in the Chart Room with a drink while I wrote up some of this blog. On the way, my boots predictably elicted many comments and compliments. 🙂
I arrived in the Britannia just after 7.00pm which was perfect timing, as Trevor had already ordered a coffee for me and a glass of amaretto.
Still no sign of the captain, his senior officers or any lobster. 🙁
Afterwards, we went along to the Royal Court Theatre and took our regular front row seats for tonight’s performance by the show company, called “One Way Or Another”. A couple of ladies sitting a few seats along came over to have a closer look at my boots! 🙂
Once again, we enjoyed the singing, dancing and colourful costumes, but we agreed that it wasn’t the best show we’d seen on board a ship. Afterwards, we made our way to the Golden Lion and met up with Billy and Carole for a few drinks and to listen to “It Takes Two”. Once again, we didn’t want a late night as we had to be up at 7.00am once again for tomorrow’s excursion from our next port of call – Málaga.