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The Alcazar (Seville, Spain)

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Moorish style Palace in Seville which to this day is still used by the Spanish Royal family

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      05.07.2013 08:11
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      An enjoyable way to spend some peaceful time in the middle of the busy city.

      Real Alcazar of Seville. The Alcazar of Seville is the Royal Palace in the centre of the town in the historical district just in front of the Cathedral. The Almohades invaded Spain in the 10th century taking control of Seville. They started to build the fortress in the centre of Seville which is right next to the cathedral including a palace within the grounds for the Sultan. The walls of the fortress still surround the palace today providing a safe and peaceful haven. It is still in use today as a Royal residence when the Spanish Royal family are in town staying in the upper levels of the palace which are not open to the public. The Moors went on a lavish building programme enlarging the palace and adding to it. The palace has several courtyards with rooms surrounding them leading into further courtyards. Central to the courtyards were reflecting pools and water features. The Gardens were added and water features included which are an integral part of Islamic architecture. Entry to the palace is through the Lions gate which leads into the Patio de Leone which is a very large courtyard in front of the palace proper. Although it is quite nice it is not quite as spectacular as the patio de Leone at the Alhambra palace. At the far end of the courtyard you enter the Palace through a triple archway gate to the Patio de la Monteria or hunters courtyard into the Palace of Pedro I. It was here that the hunters would meet prior to going out hunting game. It is through this triple arched entrance that the Royal family of Spain arrive to enter the upper palace. Surrounding this courtyard are smallish rooms ornately decorated with ceramic tiles and carved plaster works at the top of the rooms. Some of the rooms have small water features and fountains in them. Most of the rooms are symmetrical which is a typical form of Moorish architecture. There is also a chapel for mariners off the side of the court of Hunters. Before the sailors went off in search of treasures they would come here to hold a service for their safe return. Christopher Columbus would have attended one such service prior to his voyages. He was favoured by one of the queens who often funded his trips but then she was rewarded quite handsomely with the things that he brought back for her. All ships returning to Spain full of treasures and valuables had to sail into Seville where an inventory was made and recorded. Outside the palace there is a massive museum which holds records of all the ships that sailed the world including their inventories. It is called the Archives of the Indies. Moving on from the Patio de la Monteria you enter the Patio de las Donecellas or translated into English the courtyard of the maidens. It was here that most of the ladies would congregate and meet during the daytime. The patio has a pond running through the centre of the patio bordered by channels of lawn and small trees. Surrounding the patio are ornate plastered archways highly carved and decorated. The patio looks really nice, calm and peaceful. Leading off from the patio takes you into rooms such as The Kings hall, the Hall of the Ambassadors and the hall of Charles (Carlos) V. These halls are really quite splendid very ornate and decorated with beautiful carvings and the roof of the Hall of Ambassadors includes a gold coloured dome. Continuing through the palace leads you out to the gardens. The gardens are really spectacular different patio areas and small courtyards, the English garden, boxed hedge parterres with tropical shrubs, plants and trees in and around the gardens. Again there are water features here that add to the calm and peacefulness of the palace. The gardens are really beautiful and well kept. There is also a small pavilion in the gardens which have ceramics on the walls and at the centre is a small fountain. You could spend hours here walking around the beautiful gardens blissful and unaware of the crazy city life outside the walls of the Alcazar. It is like being in a different world away from and protected from the hustle and bustle outside the fort walls. This is quite intentional and is achieved here within the palace and gardens. Los Banos de Dona Maria de Padilla. Underneath the Palace and reached via the gardens is a massive cistern which was built by King Pedro the cruel for his mistress Maria de Padilla, mother to his four children. It is full of rainwater that is collected and channelled into the deep crypt like structure. It certainly is much cooler once you have gone down the steps into the cistern and would be an ideal place to sit away from the searing 40C+ heat of the summer. It is known as Los Banos de Dona Maria de Padilla. Would I recommend a visit to the Alcazar? You would be mightily foolish not to visit such a beautiful place if you were in Seville. It is quite easy to find as it is right across the plaza in front of the Cathedral and is unmissable. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Alcazar. It can be visited during the day or during one of the four escorted evening tours. We did not have a guide during our visit and were able to wander around at leisure taking time to absorb all the different rooms and pretty courtyards and patios. The gardens are spectacular with the water features and the symmetrical plan of the garden. We were inside the palace and grounds for about four hours although I must admit we were in no hurry and just enjoyed everything we saw. It can be quite tiring standing around and looking at things in the heat but there are ample opportunities to sit outside and admire the buildings and the gardens. The palace is of course listed as a UNESCO heritage site. Admission: The Alcazar is open from 09:30 to 19:00 daily throughout the summer and closes at 17:00 during the winter months. It currently costs Euro 8.5 for entry. Pensioners are admitted for Euro 2 and people under 16 or are disabled are allowed free entry. For four evening accompanied visits they begin at 19:30 leaving at half hourly intervals up to 21:00 during the winter or starting at 21:00 to 22:30 during the summer months. Price for an evening visit is Euro 12. Tickets can be bought on the day as we did or on line prior to your visit. There is a nice cafeteria in the grounds of the Alcazar where you can buy snacks have a nice cool drink and of course a beautiful little cake and coffee. You can sit on the balcony or inside where it is markedly cooler than the balcony. Our visit was during the day but I would imagine that the palace takes on a really lovely atmosphere with the gardens and palace all lit up. The next time I go to Seville I will definitely make an evening visit to see the contrast that darkness brings to the Alcazar.

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        21.10.2010 00:14
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        A wonderful place to visit in Seville

        The Alcazar in Seville I am reviewing the Alcazar and not the city of Seville as this was all we explored on our day visit to Seville. The Alcázar of Seville or as it is called in Spanish "Alcázares Reales de Sevilla" which means the Royal Alcazars of Seville. This amazing building or buildings are the royal palace in Seville, Spain and they are still used by the Spanish Royal family today. The building was originally a Moorish fort. Seville is a very typically Spanish city with the River Guadalquivar running through the city. We drove to Seville from Fuengirola and found a car park quite easily which was within walking distance of the main sites of interest which suited us. We had to rush a little at the end of our visit as we noticed roads we being blocked off in preparation for the 'Three King's Parade' and we didn't want to get stuck in road blocks. However as we walked through the streets around the Alcazar we were pleasantly surprised by the look of the city which we felt had traditional and friendly feel to it. The Christian monarchs, Alfonso X and Pedro I (known as Pedro the Cruel,)employed Moorish craftsmen to build the Real Alcazar of Seville in the 14th century.Pedro I obviously recognised the skill and craftsmanship of the Moors and had it built in the Moorish style using materials rescued from various buildings in and around the area. Most of the original structures survive but some have been extended over the years, not always in keeping with the original. However the Palace of Pedro I is still considered to be the most complete example of this so-called "Mudéjar" style of architecture in Spain. You have to enter the Alcazar through the Puerta del León (Lion Gate) and there is a picture of a lion in tiles just above the gate. You then move into the Patio de la Montería, which gets its name from the scouts or monteros, who accompanied the king in its hunting parties. This a large open area surrounded on all sides by different parts of the Palace. You cannot help but be impressed by the beautifully carved arches and tiled walls in the halls as you pass through. I was particularly fascinated by the somewhat smaller private area of the palace which was the Patio de las Doncellas or Courtyard of the Dolls, which is off the main courtyard and smaller than the public area it is more intimate and is surrounded by a gallery though apparently not all of the characteristics and decoration are original. We spent some time hunting for the dolls which are hidden in the carvings around the arches and I was quite excited when I found them! The Hall of the Kings, the Hall of Charles V and the Hall of the Ambassadors all open to this patio. This Hall of Ambassadors is probably the most important room in the Alcazar. This is the main room of a group of rooms used for public events and affairs of state. This was where the marriage in 1526 of Charles V and Isabel of Portugal took place. The room is covered in gilded decorations and finely carved work as well as metal' mirrors' which reflect the light of the whole hall. It is quite mind blowing in its finery, almost too much to take in as everywhere you look you see something else. The other room I was particularly interested in has to do with the look of the room and also the story behind its name. The "Baths of Lady María de Padilla" are rainwater tanks beneath the Patio del Crucero. The tanks are named after María de Padilla, the somewhat reluctant mistress of Peter the Cruel. The story is told that Peter fell for María and had her husband killed. María was so upset by this that she poured boiling oil over her face to disfigure herself in an attempt to stop this cruel king's attentions. Rejected by Peter she became a nun and moved to a convent. Because of her loyalty to her husband and her refusal to allow the King his wicked way she is regarded as a symbol of purity in Seville. The baths or tanks had an almost ethereal feel about them It was cold down there and the reflection of the water and the arches was really very special. This lovely reflection combined with the sad and very brave lady they were named after made this area my favourite part of the Alcazar. You end up leaving the Alcazar through the Gardens. These are lovely but they are a curious blend of different gardening styles from Arab through French and then English styles can all be seen. The English garden or Jardin Inglés was designed in 1909 and are modeled on those of the British Isles from 18 Century but the door to the Alcoba is of Islamic origin. Jardin de la Vega Inclan is designed and inspired by Islamic culture and the Renaissance. The gardens are quite formal and are a series of square flower beds separated by paths and rather lovely fountains. Jardin de los Poetas or Garden of the Poets is influenced by Arabs and Romans as can clearly be seen in its most stunning features, two large rectangular ponds. Finally one of the oldest gardens is the Jardin de la Alcubilla or Garden of the Reservoir which is a huge reservoir surrounded by palm trees and stone benches apparently this garden existed during the time of Charles V in the 1500s It was a very peaceful end to the visit to be able to wander through the various gardens in the sunshine, yes sunshine and blue sky in January. We even sat on a bench and basked in the warmth while enjoying the gardens for about ten minutes. I would recommend a visit to Seville's Alcazar. We have now managed to explore Granada's Alhambra, Seville's Alcazar and Cordoba's Mezquita in lovely Andalusia. This is a lovely part of Spain with so much to see and do but these three top the list of 'must see' places in the area. I am sorry but I cannot remember how much we paid to visit but I can't remember being shocked by the price so it must have been reasonable and the visit can occupy the best part of a day so you get good value. It is nice to visit this part of Spain in the winter if you plan to visit sites rather than bask in the sun. It is more comfortable walking round and they are less crowded too. This is not designed to be a guide to the entire Alcazar just a taste of what I enjoyed and my feelings about the place. There is so much history and fascinating stuff about the architecture that you could write a book and many people have I believe but this is a layman's view only. Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name. © Catsholiday

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