Spain

Things to Do and See in Seville

I LOVE Seville. My first time visiting the Spanish mainland. I’ve been to the Balearic’s, and the Canaries, but never actually to Spain itself. Most people choose to go to Madrid or Barcelona for their first experience of mainland Spain.

Me? I choose to take three flights and go to Seville.

Living just north of Aberdeen, there’s not many direct flights. Pretty much the only direct flights are to Paris or Amsterdam – and there’s all the helicopters to the offshore oil platforms. To get to Seville, I had to fly to Heathrow, then Madrid, then Seville. Thankfully, all of my flights were on time, so the journey was actually quicker than a lot of the times where I’ve only had 2 flights.

Anyway, back to Seville.

It is just STUNNING. I adore Moorish architecture, and Seville has it in abundance. Just like any other popular city, it was quite busy, but because it’s so awkward to get to, it’s not as busy as, say, Paris or Venice, which was nice.

It was also ROASTING. Even in the middle of September, it was high thirties. Drink lots of water, folks!

I would go back to Seville in a heartbeat, if I had the money. There is a lot to see in Seville, and I didn’t manage to see everything. If any of you have any ideas of other places to see, please let me know! 🙂

Plaza de Espana
A trip to Seville is not complete without a trip to the Plaza de Espana. Situated in Parque de Maria Luisa, it is gorgeous. I was particularly taken with the bridges made of tiles. I also love the little alcoves showing all the provinces of Spain – it’s fun seeing how each of them has been portrayed.

Catedral de Sevilla
Seville Cathedral is the largest cathedral, and the third largest church, in the world. And you can tell. It is absolutely MASSIVE. The orange courtyard (a courtyard with orange trees, not a courtyard that is bright orange) is lovely – I have this weird thing where seeing fruit in trees really amuses me. Every time I go to Italy, I love seeing the lemon trees. And in Madeira, there is fruit growing everywhere!

No one is completely sure if Christopher Columbus is buried in the cathedral, or if it’s his son Diego, but there is a very fancy tomb dedicated to Columbus in the middle of the main room It is also opposite the most unflattering mirror in the world (it’s tilted at an angle, so that you can get a selfie with the ceiling, but any photos taken from below are baaaaaaad).

Metropol Parasol
The largest wooden structure in the world, this is the place to go for views. Being so high up in a city where the buildings aren’t that tall makes for a spectacular view. For 3 euros, you get a lift up to the top, and you can spend as long as you like up there. It’s not that busy either, so there’s no need to elbow people out of the way.

Alcazar of Seville
One of the most beautiful buildings I have ever been in. I love Moorish architecture, and this palace has it in abundance. The gardens are stunning, too, although I was unfortunately too tall for the maze.

Baths of Lady Maria de Padilla
Situated in the Alcazar, just below it, with access through the gardens, these were originally rainwater tanks, but they are worth a look.

The Alhambra
Yes, it’s a day trip, but it is SO WORTH IT. It’s about 2.5 hours on the bus to and from Granada (our trip picked us up at 7am, and we got there just after 9am). The palace is massive and is an excellent example of Moorish architecture (I don’t think I mentioned that I love Moorish architecture?). It’s so worth the early start. Our tour guide was lovely – he was so passionate about the palace. You could tell that he loved it.

Generalife
This was probably what I was looking forward to seeing the most. The pictures are all over the guide books, and they do not do this place justice. People on our tour were given the option of not doing this part, and just relaxing in the palace gardens, but I would recommend doing it.

Convent Sweets
This was an unusual experience, but I loved it. There are maybe half a dozen convents scattered throughout Seville where you can buy sweets from nuns. I happened to find the one where you don’t even see the nun – you put money on a metal turnstile, and they give you the sweets with an ‘Ave Maria’. Unfortunately, the day I visited, the turnstile wasn’t working, so I went into the church itself. There was a sweet old lady knitting behind a big grill. I paid her, and she squeezed a wooden box of sweets through the gap. They are literally made with egg yolks and sugar, but the money goes towards helping the nuns and the convent.

Tiles
There are tiles everywhere in Seville. I may have bought half a dozen as souvenirs.

If I have missed anything, please let me know. Any excuse to go back 🙂

How to use Airbnb

I am a massive fan of Airbnb.  I initially stumbled upon it when I was trying to find a place to stay in Cinque Terre and all of the hotels were either fully booked or exorbitant prices.  Now, whenever I’m going on holiday, one of the first places I look is Airbnb.  I’m going to be staying in another one when I go to Seville in September.  Here are some things you should know about Airbnb before booking (and a link for £25 off your first stay!):

1. It lets you live like a local. I love being able to wake up in a non-touristy area, and wander around local bakeries for breakfast, getting a smile and a ‘good morning’ in the local language,  instead of elbowing my way through a busy street, or eating warm cheese at the hotel breakfast.

2. It’s usually a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel. Sure, you don’t have room service, or reception, or someone to make your bed every day.  But, if you’re not bothered about any of that (and I always feel bad knowing that I haven’t made my bed up to standards, and someone has redone it for me), then this is a good option.  Sometimes, it can be as cheap, if not cheaper, than a hostel, depending on which city you’re staying in.

3. There are a lot of decently priced options close to tourist attractions. If you’re not bothered about staying in a local area, then you could stay near the ‘main attractions’ of the city.  Personally, I haven’t done this.  I prefer the locally areas, or areas that are near public transport.  Maybe in the future, though!

4. I’m a bit of an introvert, so being able to get the keys from the owner, and then not have to interact with anyone when I enter and leave the apartment is really nice. I’m useless at small talk.

5. You can cook your own food. Most of the Airbnb’s have kitchens so, if you’re not in the mood for eating at a restaurant, or you want to heat up some pizza you’ve bought by the slice, then you have this option.

6. You get the option of having an entire place to yourself, or to rent a room in someone’s house. I’ve only ever booked the entire place (again, crap at small talk), but if you’re a bit more extroverted, it might be nice to speak to the owner regularly.

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7. You have a lot of options. You can choose how many bedrooms you want, if you want wireless internet (always!), if there’s a hairdryer, towels, etc.

8. It’s great for group travellers. Have you ever tried to book more than 4 people into a hotel?  It can cost a fortune.  Airbnb’s are great as you can book an entire house for your group for a really reasonable price.  I stayed in one recently for my friend’s hen do in Aviemore, and there were 11 of us in a lovely little house – with a hot tub!  And it only cost around £100 altogether per person for the 3 nights we were there.

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9. If you apply for an apartment that is not an instant book, the owner has the option of rejecting you. This happened to me when I was going to Verona.  I applied for 3 different Airbnb’s and not one accepted (it probably had something to do with the fact that I was only staying for one night).  Eventually, I booked a hotel (it was really lovely, but a bit more expensive than I was looking for).  Luckily, you have the option of choosing apartments that have the ‘instant book’ option.  This cuts out the worry of the owner saying no.

10. Check the reviews. Sometimes, I’ll read a story about someone being scammed on Airbnb, so I always check to make sure the place I’m interested in has reviews, and that they’re decent.  I know that new hosts won’t have many (if any reviews), but you can usually tell who’s genuine and who’s not.

11. This is probably the most important one – ALWAYS conduct your transactions through Airbnb. If a host asks you to do a bank transfer, this is most likely a scam, and you will not be protected through Airbnb, so always, ALWAYS make sure to go through Airbnb.  Also, if a host tries this on you, report them to Airbnb and they will deal with it.

For those of you interested in staying in an Airbnb, if you sign up using this link, you’ll get £25 off of your first stay!  How amazing is that?!

Ibiza 2015

My first ever all-inclusive holiday!  I’ve never been on one of these before (although, I have been on a half-board holiday).  I went with two friends (and it happened to coincide with my 25th birthday, which we hadn’t planned but it worked out 😀 ) and we managed to book a really nice, cheap place through Thomson (it worked out at around £400 each for the four days that we were there).

So, because I seem to think I need to take the kitchen sink with me, I packed my suitcase chock full of stuff that I wouldn’t even use.  At least half of my outfits weren’t taken out of my suitcase.  I was away for four days and I packed three (three!) pairs of sandals.  Why would I do that??

Anyway, since I seem to be so disaster-prone, I was sick on the plane on the way there.  I don’t know why this is suddenly happening to me.  First Prague, now Ibiza.  I’ve never been sick travelling before, so I really hope that this isn’t going to be a regular thing.  It was horrible – the toilet was busy, so I actually had to use a sick bag (ugh…).  Thankfully, the only good thing to come out of it was that one of the friends I was travelling with hadn’t even realised that I’d been sick until my other friend and I were talking about it at the hotel.  So, that means I was quiet right?  I wasn’t that passenger…was I?

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Moving on!  After that incident, I felt fine!  So, we arrived at the airport, grabbed our suitcases and boarded the bus.  Luckily, we were the first stop and, even though we were about five minutes from the airport, the planes flying overhead barely made any noise.

Once we’d checked in, sorted ourselves out and got our towels from reception, we headed to the pool.

And that was pretty much how we spent the next four days (I told you guys, I’m not a very experienced traveller).  In the evenings, we did go exploring, which was lovely.  We walked up to Ibiza Castle.  It was really nice, even though my body thought the steps were really confusing.  They were super wide and on quite a slope.  My friends had fun watching me trying not to fall over backwards.

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I know Ibiza is meant to be a party island and my friends and I aren’t the biggest party-goers but we were excited to experience it.  However, we’d booked it in October and we didn’t realise until we arrived that all of the clubs were closed.  We managed to make it to one closing party – in an Irish bar – so that was something.  It’s gives me a reason to go back!

All in all, it was a very good 25th birthday 🙂

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