Sevilla — el Día Dos

We chowed down at the Bar Estrella our first night in Seville, thanks to our hotel staff’s recommendation for a local, not too touristy tapas bar in the area. The waiter was hard to understand, and with our habilidades del idioma, we surely weren’t the easiest, either…but we made it work and didn’t have to fall back to speaking English. He was good-natured about our attempts, and we could see that he appreciated it. Throughout the whole trip, we never found a single case where someone tried to switch to English on us after we started out in Spanish — what a refreshing change from our first couple years of living in Germany!

The English-language menu was the only thing we found in the place that seemed the least bit tourist-oriented (they had a small, paper, English version on the table of the Spanish-language menu published in chalk on the wall and out on the street), and it was a godsend. Nuestro vocabulario de la cucina no es suficiente. Especially for excluding things like seafood or squash. We tromped around in the rain a bit, killing time, waiting for the restaurant scene to wake up for the night.

The next day was also a bit rainy, but it eventually blew out. We spent most of the day in and around the world’s third largest church building. It has a special significance to those of us familiar with Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza, since its design was inspired by this cathedral. The sheer size completely wore us out, which is why we didn’t get a whole lot else done this day. Except eat some jamón. You can always do that. It’s hard not to. We were still tired from our full-day-of-arrival travel, so a quiet walk through a peaceful place was a nice way to start the first real day of vacation. It annoyed us at first that the Cathedral had an admissions fee, (they don’t require one at our Dom!) but we got over that quickly, once we got inside. I was pretty shocked and amazed that they didn’t prohibit flash or tripod photography (except in some very specific areas) inside the cathedral. We spent a good three hours walking around the guts of the place and climbing the tower — a twisty-turny continuous spiral ramp with interesting viewpoints and exhibits along the way up/down instead of 32 flights of stairs. We really could have spent more time in there, as the audio guides were rich in detail, but after about the twenty-second stop on the audio tour, we started to lose track of exactly which of the 80 chapels currently loomed before us.

Click ’em to embiggen ’em.

Hotel Alminar

The Joint

Álvarez Quintero, 52
41004 Sevilla, España
Phone: 954 293 913

I was very pleasantly surprised by this hotel. After looking at several options on, the Hotel Alminar had the combined advantages of great location (one minute walk to the Cathedral), great rating on and TripAdvisor and the right rate. That said, I don’t put that much stock in TripAdvisor reviews, but it’s useful for cross-checking.

Arriving in the early evening, we found the hotel pretty easily and were greeted by the very friendly desk staff, who got us checked in and gave us some good dinner suggestions. The hotel itself is in a small building in a very small street and the “lobby” and breakfast rooms take up as little space as possible. We went up to find out why – the modern room with dark wood ceiling beams and white and beige decor was quite generously proportioned! There was plenty of room for us to take off backpacks and put down our suitcase without jockeying for position. It was even easy to walk around the bed. The amazement continued into the bathroom – a nice, roomy shower cabin, fully enclosed with glass wall and door, a spiffy sink, all made out of one piece of transparent glass and pretty beige and gold tilework. The room also had a good-sized closet with safe and minifridge in it and a small bench, perfect for holding the suitcase. The bed was just okay – two twins pushed together – and the pillows were a little meager. To our delight, though, there was in-room wireless, easy to connect to with a strong signal. The room was immaculate and very comfortable.

The next morning, we went down to the breakfast in the tiny breakfast rooms. Again, given how generous the guest rooms are (and there are some located on the ground floor), I understand why the breakfast area is so small. They manage to provide seating for up to 12 guests at once. There was coffee available from an automat (not adequate), juices, milk, cereal, bread, sliced meats and cheeses, yogurt and fruit. They also had a very strange “toaster” that consisted of a carousel part and a grill-like part, neither of which toasted the bread beyond “tastes sorta stale.” So, we were less than impressed with the hotel’s spread. Luckily for us, it cost guests 6€ each for breakfast, so for the following days, we just opted out.

We asked one of the desk attendants for some help in planning our time in the region and she truly went above and beyond. We told her about our plan to go out to Granada to see the Alhambra, a three-hour train trip each way. In spite of having repairmen there asking her questions, answering the phone and working with a trainee, she took the time to really lay out the pros and cons of our plan and even told us that the information we’d picked up at the tourism office was 3 years out of date! Given our short stay, she suggested Córdoba as an alternative day-trip. It was only one hour each way and, in her opinion, the town itself is nicer than Granada. All in all, she must have spent 20 to 30 minutes with us just going over our options and said over and over again, “Please come to us with any other questions! We are here to help!!”

I would definitely recommend the Alminar to anyone staying in Sevilla. The rate we paid for a double was 90€/night, not including breakfast. Checkout time was noon and the desk staff was happy to hold our bags until we were ready to head for the airport. Another important point – the building is accessible to the disabled. There are no thresholds on the floors, there is an elevator and a gentle ramp at the street door. In Europe, this is a rare find in a medieval core.