Southbound to Seville
From Lisbon, we hopped on a bus to Seville. It was longer to take the bus, but cheaper than flying, and we were in no hurry (as evidenced by our 2.5 months of walking). So bussing became our main mode of travel for most of our time in Europe.
On our first full day of exploring Seville, we spent most of the day in Real Alcázar, the Spanish Royal Palace. The current palace was built by Castilian Christians in the 13th century and incorporates much of the Spanish Arabic influence in its mudéjar architectural and decorative style.
It also served as Dorne for the filming of Game of Thrones.
It was such a massive place that it took us several hours to see the grounds, which included the gardens and the bath below the palace.
After our tour of the palace, we walked along the river and saw the Torre del Oro, a tower built in the 13th century. We ended the night at Plaza de España, a massive square with fountains and a canal with boaters. Incorporated into the architecture were ceramic tiles representing significant moments and places in Spain’s history.
The next day, we spent the morning wandering the narrow streets on our way to the Cathedral of Seville. At every turn, we experienced something new—the smell of food or perfume wafting from the shops; a cozy plaza with a few cafes; vendors selling baubles and tchotchkes; a burst of color from bougainvillea spilling over the top of a wall.
Our wanderings finally brought us to the Cathedral of Seville, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral began in the 15th century and inside is an elaborate tomb that may or may not hold Christopher Columbus’s remains. (the location of his final resting place is disputed)
We climbed up in La Giralda, which was the minaret of the central mosque of Seville, dating back to the 12th century. Now it is the bell tower for the Cathedral of Seville. The climb to the top doesn’t feature any stairs (just an incline), as it was designed so the muezzin could ride his horse to the top for the call to prayer.
The tower has great views of the rest of the grounds as well as the city.
We covered about 17 miles and 40 flights of stairs in two days exploring Seville, but it was well worth it.
The next day, we hopped on another bus to head even farther south.
Standing in Europe, Looking at Africa
We hopped on the bus in Seville to head south to Tarifa.
One of our favorite books we read on this trip was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The story is about a shepherd boy from Andalusia who travels south, embarking on a grand journey and following his heart’s desires. The message resonated with us, and now we felt like we were following in his footsteps, swept up in the beauty and adventure of that place.
From the shore in Tarifa, we could see across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco. It felt surreal and reminded us that we had come so very far on this journey of ours.
We saw this sign hanging in a coffee shop and it seemed all too appropriate for what we had done—leaving our jobs, our home, and everything familiar to pursue adventure and the desires of our hearts.
September 12th, 2019 was the 6th anniversary of the day that Andy was diagnosed with cancer. With 5+ years cancer-free, we decided dinner would be a celebration of living to the fullest, with seafood paella and wine at sunset.
We couldn’t come this far south and NOT go to Morocco. We took the ferry, hopped on a bus, and spent the day on a guided tour in Tangier.
We had the opportunity for a very short ride on dromedaries. Even though they aren’t native to Morocco, I had never ridden one, so we took the bait and went for it.
Next, we visited the Caves of Hercules, where the cave opening is in the shape of Africa. We also learned a quick history of the Kasbah before we sat down to an authentic Moroccan meal complete with live music. After lunch, we took a stroll through the bazaar, then took a break for Moroccan coffee.
The food was so delicious, as was the Moroccan mint tea. The walk through the bazaar was a sensory adventure—the smell of spices, the colors and textures of different textiles, and the blend of multiple languages being spoken. What a wonderful place. A feast for the senses.
While we were enjoying our afternoon coffee, the afternoon call to prayer rang out from the nearby mosque. I had never heard the call to prayer before, and I froze, unsure what to do, but wanting to be a respectful observer. The sound of the prayer was melodic, filling the streets, and beckoning the worshippers. Quickly the streets emptied leaving us to wander the alleys alone.
I didn’t know much Arabic other than “hello”, “thanks”, “goodbye”, and “let’s go”, but I was happy to be able to use them. I learned these phrases from my dad when he was working overseas when I was a kid. Who would’ve guessed that I’d be using those phrases I learned as a kid on the other side of the world when I grew up?
It was a whirlwind day trip, and this was by no means the full Moroccan experience. But it was better than not experiencing it at all. The country certainly caught our attention and I have a feeling that we will return in the future to further explore.