If you eat tapas at an outdoor café in Seville and forget to take pictures, did it really happen?
A friend and I took a day trip to Seville. The end goal was to go to Costco but we also planned to kick around the city a bit, have a leisurely lunch, and then see what we could find at Costco that we couldn’t find at our local shops. (Spoiler Alert: No Twizzlers. Sigh.)
First stop was coffee and pastry from a bakery that had the largest collection of sweet things I have seen so far. My friend Jo opted for a puff pastry horn filled with custard. I pointed at a palmier (elephant ear sort of thing) that was covered with icing. I didn’t pay attention and ended up with an apple turnover that was a much better choice. We swallowed them down with coffee and did a bit of people watching.
Seville is filled with people. The sidewalks and cafés were crowded, and there was a mix of languages: Spanish, of course, Portuguese, English (both British and American), French, Japanese, German, and languages I could not begin to make out. Close to 80% of the Spanish population has been fully vaccinated, and tourists entering Spain are supposed to be vaccinated, but the amount of people on the streets made us a bit wary. We popped our masks on and off for the few hours that we were wandering around: on when things felt a bit too people-y, off when we were walking alone.
The focal point of the area, really of the entire city, is the Catedril De Sevilla, as it’s commonly known. Officially, it’s the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See. (Not Sea. See. Like the Holy See.) It’s the fourth largest church in the world, largest gothic cathedral in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like many Catholic holdings, it was originally a mosque, built by Abu Yaqub Yusuf in the 12th century (1172-1198). Ferdinand III converted it into a cathedral after he took Seville (and everything in it). Over the next couple of centuries, the mosque was replaced by what was at the time, the largest cathedral in the world. There are 80 chapels within its walls, as well as the longest nave in Spain. (Don’t you want to sing that last part?) The minaret from the original mosque was retained and became the bell tower, La Giralda.
The original Moorish Minaret, not-so-cleverly disguised as a Catholic bell tower.
It dominates the landscape and is incredibly beautiful. The detail work, the gates, the sheer height of it are impressive and imposing. It is a structure designed to strike awe into people and in that it is successful. And that’s just the outside. There were long lines of people waiting to enter and we left them to it. Because tapas.
The area around the cathedral is filled with tourist shops and restaurants to suit every taste. We managed to resist a Starbucks, 5 Guys, and Taco Bell, as well as several places advertising New York Pizza. Ah, the stuff the US exports…
We found a small restaurant with outdoor seating where we could watch the parade of people passing by. We ordered a couple of glasses of the house red in fractured Spanish/Portuguese/English. Jo was able to work around my picky eating and ordered fried camembert, ham and cheese croquets, ribs (I spotted those), and some sort of pork with a whiskey sauce. She also ordered prawns in garlic sauce which I happily passed on. Two of the dishes were served on a bed of French fries (how do you describe heaven?) and by the time the prawns arrived we were both full. Jo managed to swallow down a delicious few.
We wandered around the area, past the Alcazar Palace, trying to work off lunch. We turned down several offers of carriage rides. Our noses led us into a candy/chocolatier shop but were so full we walked out without being seriously tempted. Ditto on Abuela’s ice creamery, though it looked pretty darn good. It’s definitely on my list for next trip.
Because really, what’s a cathedral without an adjoining palace?
We found our way back to the car park and headed out to Costco, our true target of the day. Costco has a large underground parking garage and we had rows and rows of empty parking spots to choose from. (Even with all those empty spots, we saw a guy back into a concrete column. Like, DUDE. Do a pull through!) The store itself was uncrowded. Monday might be the best day of the week to hit this particular Costco or maybe we just got lucky.
You have no idea how giddy I was just with the idea of going to a Costco.
I had a wish list of about 25 items; some I knew were a long shot. I signed up for a membership and got a cart, hoping to fill it. If I judged the experience by looking at my list and what I ended up with, it could not be called a success. But the trip was partly reconnaissance (Jo taught me the word “reccy”) and in that regard, it was a success. My big score was mac n’cheese. Not Kraft, but that’s okay. It was delicious. My other big score was Biscoff cookies, which I can sometimes find in the local shops. I do not need close to a gross of cookies, but it sure does make me happy knowing they are in my cabinet.
Costco Spain pricing is the same as in the US—most of it is better than alternative stores, but you have to weigh the savings against the quantity you end up buying. I now have enough Q-Tips for the next couple of years. The space heater Costco sells may or may not be a superior model, but it was 50-100% more costly than I could get online. I would have had to buy twice as many sheets as I wanted because they were sold in packs of two fitted and two flat. I did find warm, snuggly pajamas which I suspect I will need this winter. The variety of cereals and coffees was better than my local stores but still not what I was looking for.
They had a huge wine selection and I also spotted Sam Adams beer. I’m still exploring bargain wines at my local Pingo Doce so I felt no need to stock up. I did grab a bottle of Absolut and some Kahlua. Tomorrow I’ll pick up fresh cream and make a white Russian at some point. Maybe two.
I didn’t get a rotisserie chicken and some of the other food items that I normally get at Costco because I didn’t have a refrigerated bag for the two hour drive home. Next trip I’ll be better prepared. I managed to resist a pack of cinnamon rolls but I consoled myself with a six pack of sesame bagels. Bagels are scarce in Portugal and I haven’t had one since I got here. I picked up some Philadelphia Cream Cheese at my little grocery store this morning and a toasted bagel and cream cheese will be my reward for finishing this post. I’ll end up freezing half of the bagels and I’ll pull them out as needed.
Was it worth a four hour round-trip? YES. For the mac n cheese alone. Seriously. I used to live on that stuff. Obviously, Seville is definitely worth more time than just a Costco shot. We decided that before our next trip we would read up on some of the cultural places to explore so we’re not just wandering aimlessly. We’re timing our next visit with the hope that there will be fewer tourists in Seville during the winter months. Because it is close enough to get to as a day trip, I think we can combine exploring and shopping and I hope to get to the point where I feel like I know my way around the city. It’s got a great vibe to it, lots of activity, a fun mix of people, and of course, history and architecture to die for. Next trip will definitely be a deeper dive into Seville’s culture.
And I’ll get the rotisserie chicken.