LIVING in Almeria it is easy to forget what a large place Andalucía is. It is easy to understand why for generations Almerians have felt more closely aligned with neighbouring Murcia rather than the far west of the country around Seville which is the administrative capital of Andalucía.
Seville has the largest historic quarter in Europe and well worth a visit especially for culture vultures.
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I have a house on my books near Baza and the owners have a donkey which they got from a sanctuary located at junction132 on the A92 motorway to Seville and so on the way we diverted and visited El Refugio de Burrito where over 70 donkeys live in comparative luxury. Very friendly docile animals it’s hard to understand how anyone could mistreat these hard working beasts. Some miniature donkeys there had been rescued from a zoo in Naples in Italy. I suppose the next step is to adopt a donkey and I picked up the form.
Close by is the Fuente de Piedra lagoon, the second largest salt water lake in Spain and it is home to a huge population of flamingos. The breeding grounds here are the biggest in Spain and the second largest in Europe with 6000 chicks hatching last year. There is an information centre but if anyone unable to read Spanish will be out of luck. Take a long lens camera and binoculars to see the flamingos at their best. The lake did not dry out this year and so the population has stayed. Salt was extracted here from Roman times right up until 1951.
Onto Seville and being the third largest city in Spain it is surrounded by industry but the ugly views soon give way to wide boulevards and there are glimpses of the Guadalquivir River. The cathedral in Seville is absolutely colossal being the third largest in the world. It is also the biggest gothic cathedral in Spain and construction started in 1401 after a large earthquake in 1356 damaged the mosque that stood on the site previously.
The designers apparently said the following before building “Let a church so beautiful and so great that those who see it built will think we were mad”. According to the minutes of that day, the new church should be: “a work such as good, which like no other.” One of the only parts of the mosque to remain is the huge bell tower which is easily climbed.
More impressive however is the Real Alcazar located next door. This started life in the ninth century as a military fortress but had a change of use under Abd al Rahman II and was converted to a royal residence. In 1364 King Pedro of Castile who was keen to use existing Moorish buildings had the palace extended and cleverly used a mixture of Christian and Moorish artisans and the result is the finest example of Mudejar architecture in the world. Room after room of beautifully frescoed walls, huge tapestries and stunning gardens. The whole site is easily a rival to the Alhambra Palace in Granada and for my money is actually more impressive.
The Plaza de Toros is the oldest in Spain with construction starting as long ago as 1749. Whatever views anyone has of the sport of bullfighting it’s an impressive building and should be seen. The annual Feria de Seville is held here each April and is one of the best known bullfighting spectacles in the world. By coincidence a bullfight was organised the day we visited with two of the most famous in the business booked to appear so I got a photo of Diego Venturas luxury tour bus.
For shopaholics Seville is heaven with street after street of shops that for us living in the Almerian backwaters can only marvel at. Take plenty of money as something will surely tempt you. For ice cream aficionados there are many stylish places to indulge in the guilty pleasure and I had the best chocolate ice cream ever. Then I had one the next day just to make sure.