Free Day in Sevilla
Friday, May 3rd: When I looked out the hotel window, Common Swifts were flying around. They were pretty ubiquitous this morning as I walked around town. I left the hotel about 8 this morning and walked over to the Plaza de España. On the way, I encountered the first of may Eurasian Blackbirds (they were all over Maria Luisa Park, which contains the Plaza). I also found some obvious starlings, which must have been Spotless Starlings as European Starlings are only supposed to be here in winter. However, without binoculars, I could not verify this. There were also a good number of Rose-ringed Parakeets both on the way and Maria Luisa Park.
Some of the swifts at the Plaza de España were quite low, head height. I noticed that not all the swifts were swifts. A couple of the intruders came close and I could see they were House Martins. The Plaza itself is quite attractive. The wall has niches for illustrations of various places in Spain. As is typical here, there is attractive ceramic work. A Mallard was paddling in water. I'm not sure about its status, and the others inside the park looked dubious (hanging out with Muscovy Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, and a number of other waterfowl mostly (entirely) belonging to the park) but the ones I saw a bit later in the Gualdalquivir surely count.
I strolled through the park. The waterfowl were gathered around the Isleta de los Patos (Duck Island). I worked my way over to the Guadalquivir River, then strolled along the Paseo Alcalde Marques de Contadero until I got to the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold). Along the way, I found more swifts and swallows, including a couple of Barn Swallows. There were also Mallards in the river. The Torre itself was built in 1220 by the Almohads, only a few decades before Fernando III drove the Moors out of Seville. The tower has only limited hours, and I was unable to go inside.
I walked over to near the Alcázar and Cathedral and found someplace to get a bite to eat. By the time I was done (after 10), there were long lines for both the Alcazar and Cathedral. The ends almost touched. The Real Alcázar had the longer line, but the Cathedral didn't open until 11 while the Alcázar was already open. I got in the Alcázar line, making it to the Alcázar about the time the Cathedral opened.
I spent the next couple of hours wandering about the Alcázar and its gardens. It was fabulous! The Moorish-influenced ceramic tiles, azulejos, are heavily used. There's also lots of wonderful stonework, fancy gilded ceilings, and lovely gardens (also showing a heavy Moorish influence). I could easily have spent the rest of the day there, but I wanted to visit the Cathedral too.
The end of the Cathedral line was just across the Plaza del Triunfo from the Alcázar exit. It was a bit shorter than before. More importantly, it was moving as the Cathedral was now open. The Seville Cathedral is the third largest Christian church in the world, after St. Peters in Rome and St. Paul's in London (which I visited last year). The interior is a lot different from St. Paul's. Even though St. Paul's is very high church and strikes me as being kind of Catholic, it doesn't seem so after the Seville Cathedral.
Columbus is now buried in the Cathedral, having been moved from Cuba about 100 years ago. He's done a bit of traveling since he died, having previously been buried in the Dominican Republic, and Spain before that. The next to last stop at the Cathedral was the climb up La Giralda, the bell tower. La Giralda predates the Cathedral, having been part of the mosque that was previously present on the site. La Giralda was finished in 1198, while the Cathedral wasn't started until 1401. It's topped by a large weathervane representing the triumph of Faith. Another one sits by the entrance to the Cathedral.
It's 330 feet up to the top of the tower. Most of this is via 34 (numbered) ramps that spiral up inside the tower. Then there's a short flight of steps to the top. There are excellent views in all directions, and yes, there are a lot of bells up there too. The last stop was the Patio de los Naranjos, an orange garden that was also part of the mosque.
By now it was around 3. Except for the breakfast stop, I'd been walking since 8. I returned to the hotel for a break, stopping for some ice cream on the way. Later on, I ventured out again for a another walk around the old town, and to get something to eat. I got back to the hotel before a thunderstorm came through.
I've currently seen 11 bird species on the trip, including 1 lifer. Tomorrow, I'll catch up with the group and the binoculars will finally come out. There are three of us in Sevilla, and the plan is that they will come by in a taxi to pick me up early tomorrow. We'll get a rental car at the airport, and drive to Málaga where we will meet the rest of the group. You may wonder why the 3 of us are in Sevilla, and everyone else is in Málaga. This is due to a change in plane for the UK part of the group that came after those of us coming from North America had already booked flights to Sevilla.
Hotel Rey Alfonso X, Sevilla