Spain – A Drive to Andalucia
So we bade farewell to Valencia and the Mediterranean coast of Spain and headed inland south and west to Andalucia. Our immediate destination is Sevilla where we plan to spend a week exploring the history and culture. I have a feeling that Sevilla will be one of the highlights of this trip.
We packed our rented Audi, set up the GPS and drove south on A7, eventually connecting with A-92N that would lead us straight into Sevilla, passing Granada on the way. I expected the drive to be beautiful but it was much more beautiful than I imagined. We drove through the Sierra Nevada, a magnificent and rugged mountain range extending about 100 km east to west in Andalucia. Sierra Nevada in Spanish means snowy range and indeed the tops of the mountain were covered with snow and ice. We saw one very high mountain that may have been the famed Malhaćen, at 11,450 feet the tallest peak in continental Spain.
Driving through Almeria and Granada you are struck by the olive groves stretching as far as the eye can see from the plains near the roads all the way up to the top of the surrounding mountains. Andalucia is the largest olive oil producing province in Spain and a major producer of olive oil worldwide. I thought olives were harvested into early winter but we saw no harvesting activities going on anywhere or we would have stopped to investigate. We saw a few olive oil making facilities along the highway, mostly closer to the major centres. Even in Spain, when you ask about good olive oil they direct you towards Andalucian olive oil. I am looking forward to sampling what they produce.
The drive to Sevilla was about 6 hours long. I don’t know how well you do in the passenger seat with your husband driving on a high speed highway but I am sure I popped a few blood vessels along the way. No worries though, we are doing okay, nothing that a glass of wine and a few tapas can’t fix. I am sure we will be speaking again really soon:).
We stopped in Granada on the way hoping to take a peek at the Alhambra castle but once we got there we realized that this was at least a full day destination so we turned around and got back on course to Sevilla.
We arrived in Sevilla and liked it immediately. Our rented apartment is situated on a beautiful side street in the centre of the old town. The apartment is full of charm, eclectically furnished, with beautiful art on the walls and a decent kitchen. We checked in, left unpacking for later and went out exploring the town.
Sevilla has a wide river cutting through the town from north to south. This is the famous Guadalquivir, the old navigating river from which Magellan set sail for his circumnavigation voyage (right here from Secvilla) and it flows into the Gulf of Cadiz on the Atlantic Ocean, where Columbus set sail on his 2nd and 4th voyages. A lot of history in the rushing waters. The Castillo de San Jorge, the seat of the Spanish inquisition was built on the shores of the river and old paintings show the imposing structure looming across the river from the walled old city of Sevilla. The Inquisition castillo was destroyed in the 1800’s and a market built on top. Today the remains are being expertly restored and you can visit the eerie dungeons. When you come out from below you find yourself in the busy, lively market. Quite a juxtaposition of realities.
We walked to the river, a short walk from our apartment, and our senses were pleasantly assaulted by the sounds, sights and number of young people walking along the river, sitting everywhere and filling the restaurants and bars. We felt like we were on university grounds. It was fun and in complete contrast to the retirement community we just came from on the coast. The reason for the young crowd was that it was Sunday and the weather was balmy 20℃. We were told that the students are out in droves on Sunday, especially when the weather is good. When we returned to the river during the week there were no students to be seen and the restaurants were full with people closer to our age. I am glad we arrived on a Sunday and got to experience that youthful energy. It was a great first impression of the city.
The skyline of the city is beautiful. You see the old monuments peaking behind other buildings and can use these glimpses as a guide, directing you to where you are going. The Santa Cruz cathedral with the Giralda tower is in the centre of the old town and the Torre del Oro, the tower where gold from the new world was brought in for storage, tells you your location near the river. A number of bridges across the river, reminiscent of the rivers over the Seine in Paris. A beautiful promenade stretches along the riverbank on both sides. Sevilla is a walking city and from our location in the old town we are minutes away from practically everywhere. We parked the car in an underground parkade for the week, not expecting to need it until we leave.
I look forward to sampling local cuisine. Spain is very regional in terms of its cuisine. Valencia is known for the Paella, Andalucia for gazpacho and salmorejo (a creamy version of gazpacho made with bread) and for a special chickpeas and spinach stew. Of course the Seville oranges are famous as well. They are thick skinned, not too sweet and high in pectin, making them ideal for orange marmalade. The bitter-sweet Seville orange marmalade is my personal favourite marmalade and I intend to make some during my stay. Oranges are in season now, ripe and ready for picking. Their fragrance is noticeable as you walk along the orange tree lined streets in Sevilla.
I look forward to reporting about our continuing adventure. Stay tuned.