Seville

We woke up this morning with the vague idea that we might join a bus tour to Avila and Segovia. Our problem had been that we didn't have time to book one. Then we realised that it would be a waste of time to go to the bus station and discover that we could not join the tour. So we decided instead to catch a train to Segovia. Got up quickly and travelled to Atocha RENFE on the metro. Not enough time to purchase a ticket for the 10am train, so used our railpass instead. As the Segovia train arrived at the platform B said that the short trip was such a waste of our railpass, so we changed our minds and booked a return trip to Seville instead. The AVE is a high speed train and takes only 2.5 hours to reach Seville. It is necessary to pass through X-ray machines before boarding the train and the departure gate is separate from the local trains. Another rush to find it, but we boarded in time. It was another typically beautiful rail journey, the new elements in the countryside being stone farm walls for fences and orange trees after Cordoba. It was a fair walk from Seville Santa Justa station to the main sights. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch, intending to try tapas. Instead we got plates of food far inferior to any Spanish meal we had eaten in Australia. Awful food. Furthermore, it took us an hour to escape from the restaurant. The first sight was Seville's cathedral and the Giralda, a tower of muslim origin, then converted to a Catholic purposes. A twisting sloped floor replaces stairs for the majority of the climb. There are panoramic views of Seville from the top. Seville's cathedral would have been breathtaking, but for the fact that we had been to Toledo the previous day. Still worth a visit. Nearby to the cathedral is the Alcazar, a royal residence built by mainly Muslim craftsmen. The intricate stone and colourful tile work is amazing, but even more beautiful are the gardens, ponds and fountains that fill the many patios within the compound. The overall effect is very calming and we could have spent many hours exploring and relaxing in the compound. Unfortunately, our train was leaving at six and we had become lost. We eventually grabbed a taxi back to the station, making it with 10 minutes to spare. Without the taxi we probably would have missed our train. The train ride back was lso an AVE, but in first class. Snacks, sandwiches and drinks were included in the supplementary price, but we were still hungry upon our arrival back in Madrid. After several poor Spanish meals, we decided to follow the recommendations of the Lonely Planet guide and dine at Mi Pueblo, within easy walking distance of the Sol metro station. The dinner was tasty and filling, the setting attractive and the owner friendly. The serving of a Street mini-tub of ice cream for dessert kind of spoilt the effect however. I can't say that Spanish food has excited me to the same extent as many other cuisines. Love the hot chocolate though. Last day in Madrid tomorrow.