Thursday, 18 December 2008

Andalusia - Day 5, Carmona & Seville

It was going to be a long day today because it was a late flight home thanks to Ryanair changing the schedules and cancelling the lunch time flight home so we agreed to have a later start than usual and we didn’t meet in San Fernando Square until ten o’clock. Like the previous days the sun was out and already there were groups of men beginning to gather and sit in the sunshine in the square and in the pavement cafés around the perimeter. Because we hadn’t seen all there was to see in Carmona yesterday we decided to split the day in two and complete the sight seeing in the town before driving back to Seville to see some more of the city that we had missed on our first visit on Saturday.

First of all we walked to the town’s market place and I was distressed to find scruffy dog following us again. Christine had been fussing it again and it must have considered itself welcome to tag along. I tried to get rid of it, Kim tried to get rid of it, but we both failed. I’m not sure just what Micky did but he took it around the corner to get rid of it and we didn’t see it again for the rest of the morning. Micky has an understanding with dogs it would seem!

We went to the fortress and fished around in our pockets for the admission fee only to be told that today the entrance was free, so how glad we were that we hadn’t visited yesterday. It wasn’t a big castle but it was a good place to visit with commanding views in all directions across the Andalusian plain. This place had been chosen well as a castle of strategic importance. It had been restored and modernised of course, some time in the 1970s, but that didn’t spoil it one little bit. The sky was blue and it was warmer today so we had a good time climbing the towers and taking in the breathtaking views.

It was late morning and we had missed breakfast earlier so we walked into the new part of the town and to a cake shop that we had found yesterday. Inside it was pure bedlam, all of the tables were occupied and there was a babble of noisy activity that made me fear for attracting service attention. We found a table and ordered our food and struggled to make ourselves heard over the incessant racket of animated and theatrical conversation. And suddenly it cleared and everyone left and I was more than impressed to get the right bill because I have no idea how they manage to keep a correct account of things in all that pandemonium – it must be a special skill that they possess.

We walked back around the southern perimeter road to take advantage of the warm sunshine. We passed the law courts that were in full session today and the local riff-raff were hanging around the entrance with their solicitors waiting for their case number to come up; just like Spalding on a Tuesday. Then we returned to San Fernando Square where the sun was trapped between the surrounding buildings and everywhere had warmed through nicely. It was so good that we stopped at the café next to the hotel for a final drink in Carmona before booking out of the hotel and leaving for Seville. It was lovely sitting here in the sun and even the dog joining us didn’t spoil the moment. Micky and I were the first out of the hotel and as we walked to the car I was astounded to find the mutt following the pair of us. This was astonishing because out of all of us we were the two who disliked it the most and had made that very clear indeed. As we sat on a bench it sat down with us and to be honest I couldn’t help admire him a bit, it was almost like a final defiant gesture on his part as though to say, you people come and go all of the time but this is my territory permanently! After Christine had fussed it for one last time we loaded the car with our bags and set off for the city.

The roads were busier today and my plan was simple – to follow the same route into the city and park the car in exactly the same place. There were alternative scenarios available but this seemed to be the safest. Feeling a bit more familiar with the place to day I have to say that my driving and the search for a parking spot were much less frantic today.

Fooled by the warm sunshine in Carmona and the heat of the sun through the car windscreen we were foolish enough to make alterations to our clothing arrangements before we left the car park but once outside on the street this seemed a less than sensible thing to do because it was much cooler here, especially in the shade of the buildings and there were patches of thick cloud beginning to smear across the sky as well.

We walked along one of the city’s main roads, the Calle de Menendez Pelayo until at its southern end we arrived at the University and an area of green parks and gardens. We stopped for a drink outside but to be fair it was getting cooler so this wasn’t too successful and then walked to the Plaza de España, which is one of Seville's most easily recognised buildings and represents the Moorish Revival in Spanish architecture. In 1929 Seville hosted the Spanish-American Exhibition and numerous buildings were constructed for the exhibition in Maria Luisa Park, among them the Plaza. The Plaza is a huge half-circle with buildings continually running around the edge accessible over a moat by numerous beautiful bridges and in the centre is a large fountain. It was a beautiful building but we didn’t see it at its best because it was chilly, the fountain wasn’t turned on and the canal had been drained down for the winter.

We left the Plaza and walked to the river but everyone had had enough by now and we were all sorry about the cancelled midday flight. Micky still had his man flu and the girls were clod and their feet were aching because to be fair we had done an awful lot of walking. We all decided that it was a good time to look for somewhere to eat so we found the eating part of the city close to the Cathedral at the Plaza de San Fransisco but were disappointed by the choice of restaurants and menus. Finally had to concede that it was one of these places or nowhere and we choose a retaurant with a moderately priced menu del dia. It wasn’t very special but it was edible and it passed an hour of the afternoon in our long wait before going back to the airport. At half past five we were asked to leave because the place was closing so we decided to go back to the airport a little earlier than originally planned.

I liked Seville but on reflection I have to say that I am very glad that we didn’t stay there because this was a typical city with little time for tourists and in comparison with next door Carmona with very little trouble taken to make us feel really welcome. I think in future I shall avoid the cities and seek out smaller places where the pace of life is slower and it is possible to enjoy the sights and sounds of the real country and the company of local people.

It seemed a long walk back to the car park and it was getting even colder. It has to be said that this weather did rather catch us all by surprise because it wasn’t just that we assumed that southern Spain would still be warm in November, the BBC weather web site had suggested that it was going to be about 20° but in all four days it barely struggled beyond 12°, even in the sunshine. There was a few spots of rain in the air as well by now so for the last few hundred metres we were in a bit of a mad rush to get back before the heavens opened. We made it and left the car park and made for the airport with the accompaniment of a chorus of cries from the back seat, ‘Put the heater on…’

We arrived back at the airport with plenty of time to spare and as we waited for the flight to be called we had plenty of time to reflect on four exceptionally good days in Andalusia. The cities of Seville and Córdoba had been excellent, even though we hadn’t seen Córdoba at its best, but best of all had been the complete surprise of the lovely town of Carmona and the Hotel San Fernando, the friendly people of the town, the good food and the convivial bars and restaurants, and now, after it is all over, even that horrible scruffy dog!

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