There’s no better way for me to Really, Discover a city then by lacing up my shoes and going for a run, whether it’s a race, around the neighborhood or taking a running tour, as I did on a recent visit to Seville.
The tour was lead by Niek, a young man who moved to Seville from Holland 3 years ago and was excited to show my friend Shirley and me around Andalusia’s beautiful capital. The tour runs past a number of the city’s historical sights and neighborhoods, and was the perfect way to burn off some of the calories from all of the delicious food I ate while I was there.
We met Niek pretty early in the morning so that we could avoid the crushing crowds and searing heat that are the norm during the height of summer in Seville. After meeting at La Giralda, Seville’s most famous landmark, we ran through the maze of winding cobbled streets and narrow alleys that make up Barrio Santa Cruz, also known as the Jewish quarter, and into Jardins de Murillo.
In the center of park, which is named in honor of the painter, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, is a monument dedicated to Spain’s famous son Christopher Columbus, where we stopped briefly for a photo op.
In addition to the monument dedicated to Columbus, we ran by a few other mile markers that acknowledge famous and infamous Spaniards, both real and fictional. The Royal Tobacco Factory was built in 1758 and was the world’s biggest tobacco factory and the setting of Georges Bizet’s famous opera, Carmen. Bizet modeled his sultry protagonist after cigarreras, women who sat in a room hand-rolling cigarettes. The tobacco factory was closed in the 1950’s and is now the campus of the University of Seville.
Another mile marker was Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, the famous bullfighting ring. Though the sport is often viewed as controversial and is forbidden in other regions of Spain, such as Catalunya, in Andalusia it is still thriving, with toros seen as celebrities and often making just as much money.
The Plaza de Espana is stop-in-your-tracks amazing, so it was appropriate that this was one of our scheduled photo op stops, although I think we lingered much longer than Niek intended. I was absolutely awe-struck and kept running from spot to spot trying to get pictures, but the morning lighting would not cooperate. I walked back later that day (in the sweltering heat, mind you) to get some more pictures when the lighting was better. Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, the Plaza de Espana with its colorful azulejos (ceramic tiles), is jaw-droppingly fabulous and has been the setting for a number of epic films, including Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, as well as a few forgettable ones, like the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz vehicle, Day and Knight.
We pick our jaws up and leave the Plaza de Espana and continue with the tour, making our way to the Cathedral of Seville. The beautiful gothic structure is the largest cathedral in Spain, the third largest in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the burial site of Christopher Columbus.
The bells of La Giralda – the former minaret, which was converted to a bell tower for the cathedral – ring just as we round the cathedral, coming full circle and marking the start of a new hour and the end of our running tour.