Day 11 |
May 05, 2012

Cadiz and Seville

By Chris Harbard, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: N 36º 32' 01, W 06º 17' 58
Weather: Cloudy with rain, sunny later
Air Temperature: 16ºC
Wind: 2 knots

I woke this morning as the ship arrived in Cadiz harbour. It was gloomy and overcast and clearly had been raining heavily, and was still wet. Berthed alongside us was one of our Silversea sister ships: the Silver Whisper, looking so much larger. The trip for the day was a visit to the fabulous city of Seville, the capital of Andalusia, steeped in history and filled with splendour. Imogen had told us all so much about it in her excellent talk that everyone was keen to get there. Two coaches were boarded straight after breakfast and the adventure began.

As we left Cadiz, just after 8am, our tour guide, Reinhardt, pointed out that apart from a narrow strip of beach connecting it with land to the east, the whole city would be on an island. As we drove out he pointed out many features, including the imposing soccer stadium – the Spanish are almost more soccer mad than the English!

Travelling north along the motorway, the countryside was very open with largely agricultural fields, an occasional olive grove, and a forest of wind turbines towering above everything. I enjoyed the coffee break we had, just after passing through the barriers for the tool road we were on. As we came nearer to Seville, Reinhardt told us something of the history from early Moorish times, through the link with Christopher Columbus, to the arrival of Christianity and up to the present day.

Our first stop was among the many pavilions built for an exposition in 1929, and we quickly explored the Spanish Pavilion, which contained splendid architecture. Then we drove further into the city where we were all dropped off for a walk through the old Jewish quarter. The rain was pouring down at this point, which somewhat dampened our enjoyment and we headed rather quickly towards our next destination and some drier conditions. The Alcazar is an old Moorish fort that became a royal palace and is filled with exquisite architecture. I found the detail of the carvings and sculpture quite breathtaking, and our local guide gave us lots of interesting details. The walk was made more interesting and slightly confusing by the groups from the Silver Whisper, who were also walking round with Silversea umbrellas and guides with Silversea signs.

After this we walked a short distance to Seville cathedral, which was built in the 15th century and is regarded as the third largest in the world. I could not believe the sheer size and richness of decoration that greeted us as we entered. Everyone was impressed and we had time to see only some of the 50+ altars that were there. I was especially interested to see the 'tomb' of Christopher Columbus, whose true son was also buried in the Cathedral. It seems that Columbus's remains were removed several times from other burial places and only some of them now reside in Seville, housed in a very imposing structure consisting of four pall-bearers carrying an elaborate coffin. Words cannot amply describe the true splendour of this building, which held us enthralled for too short a time as it was soon time for lunch.

Close to the Cathedral was a restaurant that offered us some typical Spanish fare from mouth-watering tapas, to a main course of delicious meatballs and a sumptuous dessert. The food and drinks helped everyone to forget the wet weather and by the time we emerged it had started to brighten and blue sky was visible.

The last event of the tour was a visit to the Museum of Flamenco dance and a performance that was stunning. The guitarist and a singer appeared first on stage and began with some music, then two dancers appeared, she in red and black, he in black and white. The rhythm and passion of the dance was simply incredible, coming in waves, with crescendos of melody from the guitar and percussion from the shoes of the dancers. The sheer intensity of it was palpable and after this first performance, we were treated to a solo by the guitarist, and the female dancer reappeared in a full red dress, which tightly hugged her body and trailed behind her, swirling as she danced. Wow! As is this wasn't enough, the male dancer then did his solo, wearing shiny red shoes, strutting and dancing around the stage with a furore that we could all feel. A final encore reunited the two dancers and the applause at the end was almost a deafening as the dance at its height.

Too soon it was time to return to the coach and head back to Cadiz. As we walked along, a bird's call attracted me to a pair of Lesser Kestrels on a building ledge and as if this wasn't enough, during a brief rest stop en route, I scanned the fields by the petrol station/cafe. Six White Storks … two Black Kites … a Montagu's Harrier … wow! And now two Collared Pratincoles and a Fan-tailed warbler calling. All Andalusian specialities and all in five minutes! We arrived back in timely fashion with dinner to look forward to and a little afterwards, an announcement was made to tell us all about an interesting sight on deck. So I made my way out and saw a huge, bright full moon, made even more special due to the fact that it was at its closest to the Earth in decades. What a great end to a fantastic day!