In August 2016, I joined City Year UK. City Year is a youth social action charity which aims to tackle educational inequality through young people mentoring school children. I am based full-time in a primary school, and to celebrate surviving (and enjoying!) my first half term, I thought I would make the most of the week off by visiting a university friend who is working in Seville. She kindly let me sleep on her sofa, so I didn’t have to spend a penny on a hostel or hotel.
Flights during half term are not cheap, especially when only booked two weeks in advance. My nearest airport was Manchester, and while Seville
does have an airport, the major airport that serves the region is in Malaga. After researching flights for almost five hours, I decided to go with a 6am Monday morning flight from Glasgow Prestwick to Malaga (Glasgow Prestwick is around 30 miles south of Glasgow itself, but can be reached easily by train). The main reason for this flight was it was just £9.99 (I spent more on my airport breakfast!) with Ryanair. However, the catch was a five hour National Express ride from Manchester to Glasgow, and six hours spent trying to sleep in the freezing and tiny Prestwick airport the night before my flight. Luckily, I have a friend living in Glasgow from my volunteering team in Nigeria, and it was lovely to catch up with her on Sunday before heading to the airport.
My return flight was a little more complicated, and a lot more expensive. Flying back to mainland UK from Spain on the last weekend of half term was impossible for under £150, so I found an £85 flight from Malaga to Belfast with Aer Lingus and another flight from Belfast to Manchester with Flybe for around £85. I allowed myself 24 hours in Belfast to see some sights, and for the extra £10 and the cost of a hostel, I got the chance to visit a city I have wanted to see for a while.
Day One: Malaga to Seville
The friend (Sasha) I was staying with was working until 3pm every day, so I had the opportunity to explore most of this beautiful city on my own. I have always wanted to have a solo holiday, but haven’t taken the plunge yet, so this was a good ‘dipping the toe in the water’ trip. I arrived in Malaga at 10am local time, and had a relatively straight forward bus journey into Malaga centre, followed by a coach from Malaga to Seville, for around 25 euros. The coach was lovely, there were films (unfortunately all dubbed in Spanish), music, headphones, snacks and water provided. I would have loved to have watched the scenery but I fell asleep almost instantly after my sleepless night, and woke up about three hours later almost in Seville.
On the first day, I went out for a meal and some drinks with my friend and her flatmates, I had some tinto de verano for the first time (basically red wine and lemonade) which is a really popular and cheap drink over there. It rained quite heavily but luckily we were protected by a canopy and despite raining it was still really warm. Something I noticed while I was there are that there are so many dogs, and people take their dogs everywhere with them!
Day Two: Royal Alcazar and Metropol Parasol
On the second day I headed alone towards the Cathedral, aiming to climb the tower and see a good view of Seville. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the right entrance, gave up and decided to stand in a very long queue next to the Cathedral. I thought that if the queue was so long it must lead to somewhere good. After about 45 minutes of queueing, my gamble had paid off as I was in the gorgeous gardens of the Royal Alcazar. I spent about 4 hours wandering around, stopping for a cafe con leche (about the only thing I can order in Spanish) and a sandwich.
Later, I met my friend at the Metropol Parasol, a giant wooden structure resembling a mushroom that the locals hate but I thought was brilliant. For just 3 euros, you get a lift to a walkway in the sky, with a fantastic view of the city and a free drink and postcard included in the ticket price. After wandering around the Metropol Parasol, we walked back towards Sasha’s flat via a restaurant that she recommended. We had some excellent tapas and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many vegetarian options. I was so thankful that Sasha spoke fluent Spanish when ordering as as my Spanish pronunciation is terrible.
Day Three: Plaza de Espana, Cathedral, Triana and Intercambio!
I decided to start my morning with a trip to Plaza de Espana, which was around an hours walk from my friend’s flat. While walking towards the Plaza de Espana, I did a detour to Lidl to pick up breakfast. Leaving Lidl, I was unable to cross the street as a very large student protest was marching past! Apparently, the way students are being examined is changing, and young people are not happy about it. I wish I could have got a better idea of what was going on, but it was very peaceful and I was happy to see young people out demonstrating.
I was happy to reach Plaza de Espana after the long walk. Unfortunately, there was a negative to such a long walk. With it being a hot day, I was wearing a summer dress and was getting a lot of unwanted attention. The night before, Sasha said she noticed lots of people were paying me a lot of attention. She said because I am so pale they are interested in me because I don’t look remotely Spanish, I was also walking in residential areas where there weren’t any tourists. I got a lot of comments and horrible noises as I was passing (mostly older) men so I was thankful to feel safe again once I reached the busier tourist areas. One man must have been in his 70s and was pushing (I assumed) his wife in a wheelchair yet still had the time and energy to make kissing noises at me. It’s a shame that I was made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a place that has so many positives, but it was encouraging that it was coming primarily from older generations, hopefully the younger generations are awake to the fact it is not acceptable.
Negatives aside, the walk was well worth it as I was met with the most stunning scene in Plaza de Espana. It is so gloriously over the top. I heard somewhere that it is shaped in a semi-circle, facing south America as a ‘hug’ towards the continent, that might be horribly wrong but it could be fitting, given that it was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American exposition of 1929. There were horse and carriage rides around the park, and you can rent a rowing boat to go around the moat. As I was alone, I didn’t feel confident enough to do any of these by myself, but it would have been a great activity if I was with friends.
I walked back to the Cathedral to meet Sasha, she hadn’t gone up the tower and was keen to see inside. Seville Cathedral is home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus, his tomb features the four kings of Spain holding his coffin. The climb up to the tower (the Giralda) is not done in the usual fashion, it is a slope rather than steps. The story I remember is that somebody important was too lazy to climb steps every day, so they ordered that it was to be built as a slope so that they could be carried up it on a donkey, poor donkey.
The Cathedral building is really interesting, and is a story of the region’s rich history in just one building. It is the largest Cathedral in the world (the third largest church), which is easy to believe. I was awestruck by the detail from every angle, especially the wall of gold carvings (pictured above). The Cathedral was built using part of an ancient mosque, and you can easily see the Muslim influence in the structure as you walk around the outside of the building, in fact the first levels of the Giralda were originally the mosque’s minaret.
The view from the top of the Giralda was excellent. I should probably have taken the opportunity to appreciate more of Seville and less of people’s roof gardens and pools.
After looking around the Cathedral, Sasha recommended a walk over the river to Triana where we stopped for some tapas and tinto de verano. We looked around a market and some pottery shops before heading back towards the Metropol Parasol and a bar nearby where there was an intercambio event.
The intercambio was an event welcome to all who wanted to take part in a language exchange. It had been recommended to Sasha and her English housemates as a good way to meet people in Spain who would like to practise their English, and it is a good opportunity for the English to practise their Spanish. I felt like an impostor, as although I can understand some simple Spanish conversation, to speak it is another matter. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable evening. It was great to see around thirty people from at least seven different countries (from just the people I spoke to!) who were going out of their way to socialise on a weeknight with people from other countries and pick up new languages. I’d like to see if something similar exists in Manchester.
Day Four: Churros and back to Malaga
I had to be on an early afternoon flight to Belfast, so was on a bus back to Malaga by 10.30am. Luckily, we had time to stop for Churros, which were incredible. Possibly the most unhealthy breakfast ever but a great end to my time in Seville!