On our Seville travel day we woke up early, and because I had gotten super organized the night before for once we were out on the road by 8:00 am. A quick stop for chocolate croissants and espresso and we headed for Faro airport where we would leave our rental car and take a prearranged taxi across the border. Everything went according to plan, the only caveat being an extra car cleaning charge due to that day we ran out of kiddie Dramamine for Isla….
We were sooo excited to pull into Seville on the early side and check into our hotel, Mercer Seville, the boutique design hotel of my dreams. I had came upon it at the last minute before booking another, much larger hotel and was happy I had. Open for less than a year and with only twelve rooms, in a completely renovated and restored former palace complete with original details such as a gorgeous winding marble staircase and ceiling mouldings. We were greeted with macaroons and rosé champagne, always nice, and quickly jettisoned up to our minimal but immaculate and well designed rooms, neighboring each other. The other option was the classic Hotel Alfonso XII which we passed on our wanderings and looks really lovely and amazing if you wanted more of a large hotel feel.
Aside from all of the gorgeous marble, the small lobby and bar were filled with beautiful furniture, not dissimilar to the Nobis Hotel where we stayed in Stockholm last Spring. We quickly got settled and headed out to explore and have a tapas lunch, immediately falling in love with the city. Orange trees literally line the streets and everything seems less developed and commercial than some of the other European cities we’ve visited. Granted a walk on the outskirts and you will still see the Burger Kings and Starbucks which always annoys me a bit. Still, for the most part you really can got lost in the older more historic part of the city and feel like you are transported to another time. We chose the restaurant based on what looked most authentic to me (I forgot to take note of the name), but I do this in every city when we don’t have a reservation and some choices are more successful than others (this one was a success)!
After a great lunch we went for a walk and visited the Plaza de España, a beautiful central plaza complete with intricately tiled fencing and a gorgeous moat. Lu and Isla had fallen asleep in the strollers during the post-lunch walk, so we left the girls in the shade with Jon and went for a walk. Naturally Sienna, Karen, and I decided to do like the other tourists, buy a little lacey parasol and row a boat around the palace and take photos. As I was the one rowing and it was pretty hot we did this quickly but enjoyably and then circled back to the dock.
Jon and I had a flamenco show and late dinner planned, and he was in need of a nap as usual so we sent him home and decided to do a little exploring by foot, just meandering up and down the streets and alleys and window shopping. This led to Islacitas discovery and full blown obsession with miniature flamenco high heels. All of the little ladies got a pair of heels and off we traipsed down the cobblestone streets. Of course Isla was the best of the three in heels, literally running down the street in them laughing hysterically. She has such a love for these shoes she would sleep in them if she could!!
We went back to the Mercer and the girls and I went and hung out on the very chic rooftop, complete with a little bar and a very cool raised stainless steel swimming pool. We had the place to ourselves, so the girls swam while I lounged, drinking Aperol spritzes and watching the cottonball fluffy clouds float over the rooftops, a dreamy moment for sure.
That evening Jon and I had plans to see a flamenco show alone early, and then have a late dinner at a restaurant on the water while Karen and the girls had a tapas dinner date of their own.
Having never been to a Flamenco show before, I was very excited to see one for the first time in its birthplace. Jon might have been less excited but was along for the ride nonetheless. We went to a show at El Patio Sevillano, not far from the Mercer and recommended by the concierge. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to bring Sienna, but after watching the show I was so disappointed that she hadn’t joined us as I knew she would have loved it. The dancers put on an amazing and emotional performance, it was quite a thing to see. Upon returning to the hotel I promptly purchased tickets for Karen, Sienna, Luella, and I to go to a different show the following night.
That evening Jon and I had a dinner date at Abades Triana, a restaurant set on the Guadalquivir River. It was very trendy looking, almost to it’s detriment but still had a beautiful setting and a great outdoor seating area. The concierge had recommended it as a pretty spot so we went for it, and the food was actually better than expected (I often equate too trendy/modern decor with a subpar meal), dbut it was definitely one of the slowest service situations I’ve ever encountered in my life! After literally feeling like we might fall asleep at the table we scrapped any intentions of going out for a cocktail after and instead decided to rest up for the busy day tomorrow…. parent life.
We awoke later than planned the next day, (best laid plans are often tricky with a group of 6), ate a quick breakfast and set off on what would be a jam packed day. Our first stop was the Real Alcázar, a palace and gardens which is one of Seville’s most famous sights and also more recently a setting on the show Game of Thrones, where it represents the city of Dorne. We had such a fun morning there, wandering the buildings and looking at the intricate and colorful mosaic tiles and beautiful courtyards and fountains. We got lost in the gardens, both literally and figuratively as there is a hedge and evergreen maze we wandered into, and getting out of it was a bit of a challenge, and also hilarious.
The girls loved all of the beautiful flowers, talking with the friendly ducks, and catching glimpses of peacocks who roam the grounds freely. After a couple of hours walking around there we headed around the corner cool off inside the beautiful Seville Cathedral and admired the stained glass windows and cool eery quiet, a departure from the heat and bustling streets outside.
All three of our girls are serious horse lovers, Sienna and Luella are both taking riding lessons and Isla is just waiting for the day she can put on that helmet. The streets of Seville are filled with horse drawn carriages and drivers plying tourists with tour deals and they caught the girls’ attention at every turn. After Isla asked about a thousand times to ride a horse (we thought she wanted to take a carriage ride around the city), which wasn’t high on any of our to do lists, we finally acquiesced and found a carriage for a ride. It was too sunny for this activity and no sooner had all 6 of us climbed into the carriage and set off did Isla demand again to ride the horse, despite us explaining that we were and this is how we did the horse ride. A barrage of tears ensued; this kid wanted to get in the saddle and ride around Seville, a carriage ride was not what she had been expecting. We managed to calm her down a bit and took a very abbreviated tour around the main areas of the city, through some lush and beautiful gardens and past lovely old buildings and alleyways, finally telling the driver that we had had enough. Thankfully he was nice and let the girls pop on the back of the horse for a few minutes in the shade.
After this it was lunch time, where further hilarity awaited us. I was so excited to go to El Rinconcillo, the oldest tapas place in Seville which is supposed to be really great, so we put it into google maps and set out on a beautiful shady walk through old meandering streets, too small but for the tiniest of vehicles. It was so so pretty and special to walk the streets and at last we ended up at the restaurant, about five minutes before they were set to open and waited for them to lift the huge storefront. And waited, and waited.
Minutes passed, and no one was around which I thought was strange for a restaurant everyone had recommended to get to super early in order to secure a table. Finally I called and they were indeed open at ten minutes past 1, however the storefront we faced was still shuttered. After two more confused calls and 20 minutes of standing around we realized that the restaurant we were looking for with almost the exact same as the closed one we had been standing in front of was half a block down. Too funny to be annoying, we managed to get a table and had an amazing lunch. It was the best tapas we’d had by far and would highly recommed it to any visitor. Just make sure you are at the restaurant on the corner and not the one in the middle of the block!!
After this delicious lunch and plenty of sangria we set out to walk back to the hotel, stopping along the way to visit the Museum of Flamenco, a fun little field trip for all. The interactive museum shares the history of Flamenco dancing, has lovely costumes and scores of the beloved flamenco shoes, along with old show sets and a basement art gallery. The girls had fun dancing in front of the screens and of course Isla admired the large collection of high heels.
We made our way back to the Mercer to spend the late aftenoon lounging by the pool. I thought this was going to be super wonderful and relaxing, but I was so wrong. I had sat down for barely a moment and went to confirm both Jon’s flight info home to New York and ours to Barcelona for the following day, when I realized that six months ago when I booked this trip I had forgotten to circle back and book these small flights to Seville, putting them off because there were so many options and they were so cheap. Flash forward, and here we were in Seville with every flight to Barcelona fully booked for for the next 48 hours. As it was too late to cancel our hotel in Barcelona (although I loved Seville so much I wouldn’t have minded extending) we decided to do the only thing left available to us and take the train from Seville to Barcelona. It would take a few hours longer to get there, but without all the airport hassle and the bonus of what was said to be a scenic ride. To make a long story short attaining the train tickets for a nice cabin ended up being a total disaster – technological issues and fully booked trains – but major shout out to the Mercer Hotel concierge who literally worked on this for hours, finally coming through with tickets to the train, albeit very pricey ones. Lesson learned: in Europe, sometimes travel by train costs more than flying!
Having left that situation in the concierge’s capable hands, I left Jon at the hotel with Isla for a nap; and Karen, Sienna, Luella, and I headed to Tablao El Arenal for another Flamenco show. I had always planned to bring Sienna and Karen, but after going the night before I thought Lu might enjoy it as well so off we went. The girls did indeed love it, and I was happy it was different than the night before while also being a wonderful show. Karen thought it was amazing, and Sienna ad Luella also enjoyed themselves although at 90 minutes it might have been a little long for them as they both asked me several times if it was almost over. Still a successful outing, overall.
That night we had a last dinner with Jon at before he left for New York and we went on our journey up to Barcelona. The restaurant highlights a more modern take on tapas and we all enjoyed it, although I have to say I preferred the amazing traditional tapas we had been eating thus far. We chatted about the trip and how much fun we’d had making memories, because even the terrible parts are somewhat amusing in retrospect! We discussed ideas for our next trips, because the best way to end any trip is to start planning another!
Later That night we walked back to the Mercer, while Islie ran on the cobblestones in her flamenco heels and we all felt happy, that is until I got back to the room to start the repacking and paring down of luggage, as naturally Jon was taking an extra suitcase home with him!! Seville, you were almost my favorite city so far, right behind Paris of course.
The next day we woke early but not early enough, had a rushed breakfast with Jon who would have the day in Seville to himself in light of my travel planning mishap, and hopped into a taxi to head to the train station, and the rest of our journey in Barcelona.