Travel Website Logo
Travel Journal
Dan Walker’s Travel Website
Travel Photos

Travel Journal

Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Monday, May 23, 2016 14:54:32

Spain 2016: 5. Sevilla to Madrid, Spain & home

Friday, May 20, 2016

A small bar/cafe across from the apartment served a great breakfast including fresh squeezed orange juice. We checked out, then hired a taxi for a city tour at 30 euros per hour - Juan, the driver, gave a great tour. He was born in Cadiz and knew the history well. Tours are expensive, so this was relatively cheap. The Gibraltar tour worked out to 114 euros per hour, and the walking tour we have arranged for Seville is 58 euros an hour with no vehicle.

We started by driving out a long, narrow causeway into the sea. At the end a fortress built in 1600 served as part of the city defences. Looking toward town from the fort, the high sea wall with guard towers stretched along the entire old city. Cadiz was founded by the Phoneticians about 3,000 years ago, making it the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe.

Most of the places to visit are in the old city, where navigating the extremely narrow streets with a car is an art form. As buildings are built right to the street on all corners, it is impossible to see if there is cross traffic until in the intersection.

We stopped at the Gran Teatro Falla where such greats as Pavarotti have been featured, and the botanical gardens along the coast. High watch towers are still scattered throughout the old city - there were originally 47, where lookouts watched for potential invaders. The cathedral was built in 1050, and took 100 years to complete. There was an entry charge and a line up so we didn't go in. Marilynn spotted the caretaker letting someone out the side door of a big church across the plaza and asked if we could go in. There was only one other person inside and the ornamentation, statues and artwork were possibly more impressive than the cathedral.

We also stopped at the Parroquia De Santa Cruz, originally built in 1238 but destroyed by fire in 1596. It was rebuilt in 1603 to hold a massive, pure silver glassed in coffin and bigger than life sized statues of saints that are carried on the shoulders of strong men in a religious parade in April. Another stop was the super clean central market, even the seafood had little smell. There were more varieties of seafood than I have ever seen offered in one place - and I have seen a lot of markets! For prawns alone there were a dozen varieties, all different colours. They even had moray eel for sale.

Juan left us at the train station after 2 hours, where we used our Eurorail pass to catch the 2:12 PM train to Seville, arriving at 3:49. This was a local train, making a stop about every ten minutes, but it reached 160 kph between stations.

A taxi got us to the Fernando III hotel, an older restored building with beautiful public rooms

Once checked in we found a local restaurant nearby where we had a dinner of huge prawns plus wine, sangria and beer. The temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius in this city of 700,000.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

After breakfast in the same restaurant as last night, at half the cost of the hotel breakfast, we went back to the hotel to wait for the guide. Alexa arrive on time to the minute. I explained that my legs would not manage a 3 1/2 hour tour, so she suggested we see the palace and the cathedral first. The cathedral was the main thing I was interested in seeing, even though we saw it on a previous visit many years ago. She explained that the cathedral was not yet open, and that we would do the palace first. The morning was very cool, but temperatures soon soared to over 30 degrees centigrade again.

The palace dates from Moorish rule in the 9th century, although Sevilla dates from before the 8th century. The palace still has quarters for the current king of Spain on his infrequent visits to Sevilla. It was very impressive, with marvellous gardens and a blend of early Christian over Moorish design. Unfortunately the guide went on and on with detail so when we left there was no hope of seeing the cathedral and still getting back to the hotel to check out, so I took a taxi back to the hotel to catch up on emails and writing.

Marilynn and Stephanie visited the cathedral. It was originally built as a mosque. A statue was erected on top, 104 meters high. To get to the highest point in the cathedral it is necessary to walk up a ramp, there are no steps, because in old times horses were ridden to the top levels. It is the third larges Catholic cathedral in the world, and the largest Gothic cathedral in Spain. The main door is opened only for a new archbishop to enter. King Frenando, Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus are all buried there, even though Christopher Columbus had requested in writing that he be buried in the Dominican Republic. The body was sent there, then to Cuba but finally returned to Spain.

I had a nap on the sofas in the hotel lounge, then a beer before the ladies returned. The guide took us to a restaurant recommended for paella, and it was good. After lunch and drinks it was back to the hotel to recover our luggage from storage and head for the train station by taxi. It was generally agreed that the tour was not worth the cost of 175 euros.

I was disappointed in Eurorail, as tickets purchased at extra cost were for first class but on most trips we were in either second or tourist class. Reservations were made by Eurorail in advance, and first class was available on most trains - we just weren't in it. The 3 hour trip back to Madrid was the least comfortable, largely due to restricted leg room and seats that would not recline. It would have been better to save the money and buy 2nd or tourist class tickets.

Once in Madrid we taxied to the Hotel New Boston near the airport. Before bed we went for drinks and a snacks. I would recommend this hotel. The service and food were good, rooms comfortable with a large bathroom and a free shuttle for the 15 minute ride to the airport.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

We skipped breakfast to catch the 9 AM shuttle to the airport, where after some confusion got checked in. They have a priority line for security, with no line up at all. We had a good breakfast in the lounge, where there was a good buffet featuring most things one would want. There were also three well stocked self serve bars.

The flight, once again, was very comfortable. It was pleasant to be aboard for the 11 hour trip, with good service, a selection of movies and flat beds. I couldn't get the free wifi on board to work, but other than that all went smoothly.

Coming up in early June is our annual trip to Victoria, Canada. This year at the end of June we will take the old Rolls to Banff to pick up our friend from China and her son. This is the lady who got our car into China when everyone said it couldn't be done, and is the one to talk to if China is in your travel thoughts. In mid July we will fly to Japan for a cruise through the north islands and to a port on Sakhalin Island, part of east Russia. Back in Japan we'll tour a bit before going to South Korea. From there I'll be heading for the far north of Canada to board the Russian icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov to travel back to east Russia. The flight home will be from Alaska.