We had a few days in Sevilla before our language course started and we had to move in with our Spanish family. So we did all the usual sightseeing and getting lost down narrow streets. The day after we arrived was the Sevilla Marathon. They closed all the roads as they ran around the historic centre of the city. So after watching the fastest runners come through we got our bikes out and had a car free morning exploring the city.
We also went on a cookery course and learnt how to make paella.
Then it was time to move in with our Spanish family for 10 days in the hope of improving our Spanish. Unfortunately they couldn’t accommodate our bikes so we booked them into the Bell Hop for the duration, which is a really useful place if you are just visiting for the day and need somewhere safe to leave you luggage and/or bike.
I won’t go into Spanish school life except to say that it makes my brain hurt. But I will say that Sevilla is made for cycling. Apart from being totally flat it has a fantastic array of two way, fully joined up cycle paths all over the city. In the narrow, cobbled streets of the old town you have to go down the road, but they are usually one way and not too busy. The main problem facing all the cyclists are the hoards of tourist pedestrians who don’t understand the system.
Sevilla is a lovely place to spend some time in as there is so much to see and do here. One of my favourite things here, apart from the flamenco, are the tiles.
One of the pleasures of cycling in the old town is peering down alleyways and into houses inner courtyards.
After 6 hours a day of learning Spanish for 5 days we needed a break. We also desperately needed some exercise. So we broke our bikes out of their storage and set off for Constantina in the Sierra Norte, the hills to the North of Sevilla.
The first 40 km was pancake flat and we were surrounded by fields of artichokes and potatoes and orange, almond, cherry, peach and nectarine plantations. There were also fields of newly planted olive trees, planted close together and clipped like hedges.
We stopped for a long lunch in Tocina. As it was only 1.30 we were the only people sitting in the sun outside the restaurant. But by 2.30 large family groups, usually 3 or 4 generations, started to join us. Although most of them don’t start lunch until 3 p.m.
It was really hot by now, 25 degrees C and rising, and we were just about to start climbing. First we passed through some charming little villages.
As we climbed up the Sierra Norte the essential oils from the aromatic plants was released by the heat. The smell was incredible and unusual so early in the year. It seemed more like mid-summer.
Stopping to take photos of the plants was a good excuse for having a bit of a rest.
As we climbed higher the countryside opened out into green fields full of evergreen cork oaks.
We had set off fairly late. That coupled with a very leisurely lunch meant it was almost dark by the time we found the Finca (farm) hostel were we were staying. It turned out to be much grander than we expected for the price and the fact that it was a hostel.
We got a nice traditional breakfast though.
It was even hotter as we headed back down towards Sevilla, about 30 degrees C.
Eventually back into Sevilla.
Today, Thursday, is Andalucia Day and everything is shut and everyone who lives here spends time with their family which usually involves lots of eating and even more talking. As we have no school we are heading out to the Dehasa de Abaja National Park near Coria Los Rio.
We had heard the park was a great place to cycle, but getting there by bike was more challenging. After half an hour cycling around housing estates we gave up trying to find a back road and just cycled down the shoulder of the dual carriageway.
As we approached the park we saw about 50 storks circling in the thermals. They were nesting in the stork reserve and the clattering of their beaks was almost deafening.
The park was pleasant to cycle round
We had a lovely cycle though the woods which were full of spring flowers.
Then headed back to Coria Los Rio where the manic family lunch gatherings were just thinning out enough for us to get a table for tea and icecream.
Before heading back along the river towards Sevilla.