Exploring southern Spain

Exploring southern Spain

by Kelli Curtis
Stripes Europe

Decision made: We would spend 10 days in southern Spain, exploring the cities and terrain in a rental car, while making a Seville apartment our home base. The prospect of seeing a significant amount of the country and exploring its history was exhilarating, and my husband and I couldn’t wait to spend a few days in a new place. 

We slowly but surely made our way to our home base from the airport, located in the Arenal quarter of Seville. Even though the hectic traffic frayed our nerves and tested our resolve, the apartment’s location was, in one word, perfect. Across the street from the small but finished apartment, we found the Mercado Arenal. The market had a bakery, fruit and vegetable stands, fresh poultry and seafood, wine and cheese and all the necessities we needed to survive our 10-day adventure.

Within fifteen minutes of walking in any direction, we were at somewhere of note, be it a museum, restaurant, shopping district or the Maestranza Bullring. We were surrounded by Seville and there was no escaping its beauty – or the delights of the tapas bars on almost every corner.

Our first full day in Spain was spent exploring Seville, using our DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. The book’s suggested walking tour took us across the Rio Guadalquivir and into the shopping district, where we walked narrow streets lined with orange trees that shadowed the front doors of ceramics shops. The path wound along the south side of the river until we reached a bridge, which took us around to the Torre del Oro and the Maestranza Bullring before guiding us north.

Honestly, we got a bit lost. We strayed from the walking guide, and it didn’t help that Seville’s roads are like mazes – tall stone buildings flanking the cobblestone streets that weave throughout the city in what feels like a never-ending journey. But then we turned the corner and there it was: the Seville Cathedral, in all its glory. And there we were, in this beautiful pavilion with a massive cathedral – the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It owned the city.  Any feelings of tiredness from all of the walking vanished in that moment, and I couldn’t get enough of the intricate architecture that spiraled toward the sky.

What never failed to amaze me about this adventure was that those sorts of moments – turning a corner and literally stopping in your tracks because of the beautiful sights – occurred everywhere and at any moment.

In Italica: Wandering through one of the oldest Roman settlements in Spain – established in 206 BC – and looking down to see well-preserved, intricate tile mosaics that were the floors of Roman buildings. But it didn’t end there, as we wandered the outer loop of the premises on original cobblestone roads and back toward the amphitheater, which was one of the largest of the Roman Empire and seated nearly 25,000 people.

In Cadiz: The incredible feeling of contentment while eating a humble lunch on steps overlooking the white sand of the Atlantic coastline. Perhaps this is just my pure, unadulterated love of water coming through, but that was one of the most peaceful and relaxing moments of the entire trip – listening to a symphony of seagulls, rolling waves and melodic Spanish as the sun coaxed us out of our jackets and long sleeves.

In Cordoba: Walking into La Mezquita, an Islamic mosque that dates back to the 10th century, and being immersed in a feeling of warmth and utter richness as shades of gold and red bathed the interior. It was as if we were in a fantasy forest. But instead of walking through trees, we walked around more than 850 granite pillars and arches that created a canopy above us.

In Gibraltar: Having a Barbary macaque jump on me. Yes, a monkey literally jumped on me, causing me to scream out in surprise and bewilderment as it used my stomach to rebound onto a brick wall. Gibraltar is the only place in Europe where monkeys live in the wild, and it was surreal to see them climbing in and out of cars with windows down. They walked confidently down the paved walkways, ignoring people unless they held a prized commodity: fruit.

In Portugal: Running on the soft sand, picking up shells and fleeing from the waves that threatened to soak my jeans. My love of the ocean struck again, and it was child-like bliss to press my bare feet into the white sand.

The 10 days flew by far more quickly than my husband and I anticipated, leaving us wanting more of all things Spain – more flamenco, more sangria, more palm trees. And perhaps a siesta, too.

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