Our most recent trip to Spain, last February, brought us an unknown passion for ceramic tiles. We spent four days exploring Seville, city of ceramic tiles in Andalucia. Our first amazing impression was the colourful buildings in the old town of this historical city. We kept walking from one street to another admiring the arched door of individual houses and hallways decorated with ceramic tiles. Ignoring the fact that we were staying in Seville's cradle of famous tile workshops and potteries, the Triana district is located on the west riverside of the city. From the rooftop of our hotel, we could admire the entire city built with bright coloured buildings such as white and yellow.
We had to find out more about the rich islamic and arabic heritage for making Seville the city of ceramic tiles in Southern Spain. We headed to María Luisa Park where the famous Plaza de Espana witnesses the past. There are 48 benches that occupy the whole semicircle of the Square. They are all decorated with tiles representing 46 provinces and the two Spanish archipelagos. Each bench tells a story of an historical scene and are formed with ceramic compositions. Moreover, we were astonished by how clean and well preserved these artworks were. Due to the glass and metallic oxides covering the glazed tiles, it helps to protect the shiny appearance and make it more durable. In other words, it looks like they get cleaned every day.
Our venture took us to another magical experience, oranges are the finishing touch to the cosmopolitan city of Seville. They bring a vivid tone matching perfectly the streets to the architecture. Our surprise was yet to come and what a delight it was, an absolute feast for the eyes all the orange trees filling the garden of the city. The most beautiful and famous orange gardens are found in the Cathedral Giralda and the Palace Real Alcazar. We wondered why no one plucked an orange of the tree and eat them, as our curiosity took the better of us we tasted on one of the oranges… They were first introduced to the city by the Arabic population of Moors in order to bring good fortune to their people. They imported sour oranges so that people would not eat it and the good smell keep spreading around the streets. We were very lucky to witness the stunning vibrance of these orange trees as the harvest season was starting.
We started to fall in love with the typical Andalusian style streets. In addition to our great experience, we were in the warmest place in Europe at that time of the year. It felt like summer in the winter. My wife and I embraced the Spanish hours to the fullest going from tapas bar to tapas bar and tasting the local food including the delicious sangrias at any time of the day. We even noticed the “siesta” (nap time in English) it’s not a legend! Businesses close in the afternoon from 2 to 5pm and reopen until 9:30 or 10pm. This is one of the reason Spanish people eat so late.
The cherry on the cake, as Game of Thrones fans, we were impressed by the architecture of the Real Alcazar Palace. Strolling around the garden and all the different patios, we could recognize some of the epic GOT filming scenes. The ceramic tiles adorn fountains, walls and some floors of the Royal residence. As we mentioned before, the orange trees melting amongst the palm trees which completed the uniqueness of the Arabic ceramic tiled walls brought a tropical feel to the whole experience. Here is a good tips, as the Palace attracts thousands of international visitors per day, it is important to book in advance or start queuing early in the morning. If you want to purchase tickets online, make sure to use the official website.
In conclusion, Andalucia is the perfect European get-a-way in February if you are looking for serenity, calm and sun off-season.