Day 28, Monday 9 May 2016 – Seville

May 9 - Seville Walking

Well, the weather is no longer kind to us, and is not expected to get any better in the next few days.

Went down to breakfast through the tunnel system, which is simply fantastic, wonderful, marvellous and just plain ingenious. As you can understand from that I really like this hotel. Even the walls in the three parts of the restaurant (housed in the old cellar area of the houses) have been done in different styles. Where Russ and I sat to eat we had branches of trees along sections of the wall, and little birds popped up in the most unexpected places.

Most of our crew have not realised that the tunnels exist and got wet trying to find their way to the breakfast area upstairs through the passageways.

Breakfast was the same as usual, with the exception that they don’t have jugs of milk available for the breakfast cereal. After wandering lost in the wilderness for a while I decided that I would have to use the milk button on the coffee machines – which meant I had hot milk with my cereal. At least the cereal is not too bad.

After breakfast we returned to our room and geared up for our Optional Excursion to the Alcazar Palace, and then onto the local walk through the town with everyone. Not everyone has paid for the Optional this time, and some are thanking their lucky stars because of the weather.

We have to walk about ten minutes to get to where our coach is allowed to park. Luis will be with us today still. I think I have forgotten to mention that Trafalgar employs Portuguese drivers for their coaches because Spanish men are far too excitable and don’t deal well with idiots (donkey drivers they are called). Portuguese drivers, on the other hand, are general calm, considerate, very skilled drivers who handle chaos with considerable aplomb.

As today is an Optional Excursion the normal seating rotation is not supposed to apply, and you can generally sit where ever you want, first come – first served basis.

The first incident to put a damper on the day happened when we got to the pick-up point in the rain, and there was no coach! We had to wait in the shelter of the local bus shelter until it arrived – Luis is only allowed to linger in one place for a certain amount of time, and if the motor is running (whether or not he is driving) it counts as part of his driving hours.

The second incident happened when the coach finally arrived and Kath decided that she would like to sit behind the driver as no one had taken the seat and was promptly informed by Tania that the Korean ladies would be sitting there as that was their rotated turn. Kath removed herself to her allotted seat, but was not a happy camper. Kath is a straight talking Aussie.

So, we were sitting on the coach in our allotted seats waiting at 8:30am, which was the time we were due to start, and we were missing two people who had signed to do the Excursion. They were allegedly, still eating their breakfast.

The terms of the tour clearly state that if you are not where you should be within a reasonable time, then the coach will go without you. It just so happened that the two late ladies were the South Korean ones, and when Tania got back to the coach she informed Luis to go without them. (Tania herself was not coming on our part of the trip but would join us later for the town walk with all those not going with us). We had also picked up our local guide for the day, and I was not able to say or spell his name. He was very knowledgeable infinitum, and there is no possible way that anyone on a tour can remember even a fraction of the information he fed us the whole time. (Sarcasm? Yes!)

As we started off Russ invited Kath to come and sit in the front seat once more and her reply is the Quote of the Day – “Sorry, I’m not Korean.”

We arrived at the drop off point and followed our guide to the Moorish Alcazar Palace. Apparently when it rains in Spain (especially in places like Seville and Cordoba which are considered the frying pans of Spain where is only rains six days a year, and they are onto the seventh straight day of rain…..) the people do not handle it well. That includes car drivers, security forces and tour groups.

We got to the front of the Palace in due time, only to be told by our guide that we could not go any further until Tania walked the ten minutes from our hotel (it took us over 20 minutes to drive it)) and handed over the Audio Unit for him to use throughout the tour.

There was a small line up ahead of us when we arrived, and our guide took us to the side to wait, which is where the tour groups mass. However, while we are waiting it starts to rain rather heavily (no shelter as it only rains rarely in Seville – God help the poor bastards waiting in the hot sun during the summer without any shelter either) and the security force decides to put out the barrier tapes (and we were excluded from the barrier detail).

So, there we are standing in the pouring rain trying not to let the rain get to our cameras (some did not have adequate protection other than an umbrella) when Tania arrived with the Audio and you would have thought then we could go ahead.

Not so – the guide had to go and get our tickets! So we are still standing in the pouring rain and the gates to the Palace have still not opened for the visitors. And more and more people, and other tour groups, are arriving all the time we stand there.

The gates opened, and the security guard allows all the people inside the tape barriers to move into the Palace, and then all the others who arrived after us. There was a great deal of muttering from all of us, and I was feeling a bit sorry for the tour guide. One of our group speaks Spanish so Yadira (such a pretty name) who comes from Panama moved up to the guide and was then able to tell us that the problem was the security people, and out tour guide had already rang the head office of the Palace organisers and asked why we were left standing in the rain when we were a tour group who had reservations for the tour. He was promptly told that the organisers had no control over the group in charge of the security scanning of visitors and we would have to wear it.

Some of our group got so annoyed that they walked back to the hotel in the rain and put in a complaint to Tania, whose reply was that there was no control of the rain – it just did – which was not what the problem was in the first place.

Well, we finally got through the scanning process (Russ telling me that if he was denied entrance because of his pocket knife we would be going back to the hotel, and me telling him that the same applied if I was requested to remove my walking boots). Neither of these things happened and we were in.

The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. The palace is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Spain, being regarded as one of the most outstanding examples of mudéjar architecture found on the Iberian Peninsula. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence and are administered by the Patrimonio Nacional. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, and was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.

The Alcazar is an amazing place, and has been better preserved than the Alhambra Palace. The royal family were due to visit within the next three days. Apparently you can tell when they will be visiting because they light up the magnificent chandelier in the top room.

The guide knew all his stuff about the Palace but went into far too much detail for most of us who are more interested in the basic history. So we were left standing around on cobbled stones, and then marble floors, and then tiled floors, while he explained all these details. It is no surprise that most of us were crippled by the time we got back to the hotel about 1:30pm as we also walked through the town after the Palace. Lots of painkillers all round, even a bath or two to help relieve the aches and pains as we were heading out for a Be My Guest dinner at an olive farm later on the same day.

You can look at the photos to see how unique and well-kept the Alcazar is and, of course, it stopped raining while we were under cover inside, and began once again as we existed the complex to join Tania and the other of our group for the stroll (in the next downpour) through the old town.

Most decided to head back to the hotel in the coach, but a few hardy souls soldiered on, as they wanted to do some shopping and to visit the mushroom further out. Russ and I got back to the hotel and downloaded our gear and went across the road to one of the many restaurants next to the hotel, and this one came highly recommended by Rex and Kath. (It was also out of the cold.)

We had a look at the menu that was delivered to our table and both decided to get the mixed paella and two diet cokes. They reminded us that it would be a twenty-minute wait for the paella, and we were quite happy to sit and munch on the lovely fresh brad rolls that were delivered with our cokes. I swear I have eaten more bread in the last few weeks than I normally would in six months at home.

When the paella arrived it was well worth the wait and we enjoyed every mouthful. We then trudged back to the hotel across the street and I was able to take an Orudis for the pain in my back and leg. Russ promptly went to sleep and I downloaded the photos we had taken while I waited for the pain killer to kick in. We did not have very good wi fi access so I was unable to upload anything at all.

About an hour later I was feeling much more human, and I headed out, with my camera and phone (just in case I got lost and had to ask for help) to explore and investigate this wonderful hotel. I took lots of photos, went upstairs and down stairs, into and out of tunnels, accessed courtyards and explored the regions around them. In short, I had a wonderful time. I met up with Evelyn while I was about it and she actually had a map from Reception which showed her lots of the places. We endeavoured to make out way up to the rooftop pool (which she had been assured was open) but the lift was locked out at the second floor, and although we climbed the stairs the door at the top was locked.

Evelyn later told me that when we parted ways she went back to Reception and they told her the roof would be opened, and she neat the bellhop to the top before he actually unlocked it. In the meantime, I had wandered back into the tunnels to explore another section, and found a lovely courtyard with a water feature.

I even made it back to our room without getting lost, and by this time Russ was awake. I downloaded my photos and showed them to him, and then it was time to get ready for our dinner – Be My Guest.

May 9 - Seville Dinner

We all walked to the pick-up point in clear weather and boarded the coach once more. When Luis drops us off tonight he will welcome our relief driver for the next four days, and take the company hire car to Portugal to visit his family. He expects to arrive home around 3:00am in the morning.

The weather was a bit breezy but we arrived at the olive farm in good time and were warmly welcomed by the family. We were provided with a glass of sangria. Russ got the alcoholic version and I went for the non-alcoholic version, but I did taste the one he had, and it was so not for me. I did enjoy the non-alcoholic version made with grape juice though.

We were invited to look at some of the olive trees, and then went to the sampling room where we were encouraged to pick up a container (with a loose lid) of local olive oil, and warm it in the palms of our hands. Then we were asked to close our eyes and remove the lid to smell the warmed olive oil. I actually smelt grass and fruit.

We got to pat the family dog, and then the family (working) cat before heading back and being welcomed through the store (every place has one to relieve you of hard earned cash) and into the dining room. Russ and I sat with the family from Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and we had a very interesting exchange of information. I also learnt about their beliefs as Parsi people, followers of Zoroaster. (I hope I get all this right.) Dad is retired, Mum is a secretary, (more power to Admin people) and their daughter is a stock broker.

Zoroaster, also called Zarathustra, was an ancient Persian prophet who founded the first world religion – Zoroastrianism.

According to the ‘Zend Avesta’, the sacred book of Zoroastrianism, he was born in Azerbaijan, in northern Persia, probably in the seventh century BC, although some scholars put the time-frame for Zoroaster much earlier.

He is said to have received a vision from Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, who appointed him to preach the truth. Zoroaster began preaching his message of cosmic strife between Ahura Mazda, the God of Light, and Ahriman, the principle of evil. According to the prophet, man had been given the power to choose between good and evil. The end of the world would come when the forces of light would triumph and the saved souls rejoice in its victory.

This dualism was part of an evolution towards monotheism in the Middle East. Zoroaster’s teaching became the guiding light of Persian civilization.

After Alexander the Great conquered Persia Zoroastrianism began to die out in Persia (due in some part to persecution), but it survived in India where it became the basis of the Parsi religion.

The meal with the family was served with wine, or soft drink, and our Mumbai table sharers were vegetarian. It is ironic that I, an ardent meat eater, ended up sharing a table with vegetarians, although they explained that it was not always so, and mum and dad had followed their daughter to vegetarianism.

When we were finished our meal we all visited the store, and spent some money – hand crème smelling divinely of orange flower – and pistachio chocolate for us.

On the way back Tania advised that as not everyone had attended the touring today the seating arrangement for the coach would be as would have been allocated today (and where we sat anyway after the morning altercation). Tania is the only tour director I know who has reserved the front seat opposite the driver for herself. Normally this seat is considered almost as prime as the seat behind the driver and your turn to sit there is greatly anticipated.

We said goodbye to Luis as we decanted from the coach and continued walking to our hotel.

Tomorrow is bags out 8:00am and the coach is due to depart Seville at 9:00am as it is a short travel day as far as the coach is concerned.