Ah, Spain. Before I visited, my vision of the country was flamenco dancers, loud and beautiful people, and a language I was desperate to learn. That was pretty much it. I had no idea how diverse Spain was, from the Basque Country to Catalonia to Andalucia. I went with a very small bucket list (Seville and Barcelona) and left with a list of a kajillion more places I wanted to see.
After a disappointing time in Barcelona , I flew off to Portugal for a week working my way north to south. Then it was time to make my way to Morocco, and the natural route was to go back through Spain. Seville caught my eye, and once I learned that I could visit a Game of Thrones filming location I decided I’d stop there for a few nights.
I had found Portuguese shockingly difficult to learn, so coming back to a place where I could easily decipher most signs and even carry on conversations made everything much easier for me. I stepped off the bus with confidence, ready to hunt for the Airbnb that even the host’s description described as hard to find. When I stepped out into the Plaza de Armas bus station, however, I was worried that this trip may be a living hell. And I mean that literally. It was so hot that I felt as though I was standing right next to a truck’s exhaust pipe. If I’m remembering correctly, it was 42 degrees Celsius (over 100 Fahrenheit?? I think?? Fahrenheit makes no sense.)
I basically wouldn’t be cold again until I flew from Morocco to Munich, over a month later. This Canadian is NOT built for heat that intense, but I had to make the most of it.
My Airbnb was, in fact, difficult to find, but I did manage. On the bus, a woman came up and spoke to me in rapid Spanish that I couldn’t understand. I told her I didn’t speak Spanish and she didn’t believe me….another instance of my ethnic ambiguity. I literally had to convince her that I wasn’t from the same country as her!
I would discover that the only way to properly sightsee in Seville was to wander into the city right around sunrise, and then either find somewhere air conditioned or go back to the apartment during the hottest hours of the day. I now completely understand siestas in Spain. This plan actually worked out pretty well – I got to explore Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Spain, without seeing a single other person, and I wasn’t sweating buckets.
Southern Spain’s history is so much more fascinating than I ever knew – the Moorish influences of Spain’s Islamic past are ever-present and as a tile aficionado, wandering the buildings and historical sites was just my cup of tea. The Alcazar is Seville’s premiere attraction, and I can see why. I regret not doing more research into the history of the Alcazar before visiting, but the beauty and the fact that Game of Thrones was filmed there was totally enough for me. You might recognize these garden pictures from the Water Gardens, or everyone’s favorite plot line of Dorne. So far I’ve visited filming sites in Iceland, Spain and Croatia – it never gets old to imagine myself as whatever character on my favorite TV show has overlooked the same vistas that I’m exploring.
The last touristy activity on my list was to visit the Seville Cathedral and its Giralda Tower. This was definitely the busiest place I went, and churches are never the most exciting parts of my trips for me, but the tower was fabulous. After endless stairs, as there are for any worthwhile view, an amazing view of Seville opened up before me. The city is bright and sun-drenched and diverse and simply magical to see from above. I loved its disorder and disarray.
My Sevillano experience was not perfect, however – aside from the heat. Spain, and particularly southern Spain, is one of the only places in the world I’ve struggled with my vegetarian diet. Everything is ham, and if it’s not ham it’s another type of meat. I hated pretty much missing out on the opportunity to try local cuisine. As for culture, I found it hard to get a grasp on the true vibe of Seville – so much of the city’s vibrancy comes out in its nightlife and the late-night culture of Spain in general, and my early to rise schedule meant that I basically missed out on this. Next time I visit southern Spain – Granada perhaps, or Cordoba, and definitely Seville again – I want to stay longer, and make Spanish friends, and see how they live. But one thing is for sure – I’ll be back.