Entrance Gate, April 2017. “Seen one cathedral, seen them all!” I overheard an American tourist say as I strolled through the historical centre in Seville. I’m not sure I agree. I have never been nor will I ever be anything approaching religious. And yet whenever I’m on my travels I always take the time to stop by the local churches, basilicas and cathedrals. I like the quiet more than anything else, the weighty sense of history and the incredible art. I’ve seen a bucket load of churches over the years and I always feel like each new one brings something different. Seville’s Cathedral is an immense old structure; one of the largest Christian churches in the world. The queues that form at this entrance gate can get crazy, winding all the way around the structure and out of sight. I got there on a Saturday morning about half an hour ahead of opening time to find a hundred or so people ahead of me.
San Telmo Palace, March 2017. What an absolutely gorgeous city Seville is! With its captivating cathedral, mind-boggling Alcázar Palace and astonishingly picturesque Plaza de España, I knew I’d need multiple Top 5 articles to do this place justice. This post puts the city’s three major sights to one side and focuses on my general wanderings over two perfectly sunny days. Architecturally Seville is a real wonder, with Renaissance, Gothic, Arabic and Baroque buildings all mixed together to stunning effect. One of the most impressive structures is San Telmo Palace, which was built in 1682 as an orphanage. Today it’s the presidential headquarters of the Andalucian government.
It feels very fitting that my fifth short story collection, Challenged in China, has been the biggest test to date of my so-called writing skills. My first year in in The Big Filthy was a culture shock like no other, an experience that made all my previous travels seem like a piece of cake in comparison. I kept an informal blog that year for family and friends, so I had a wealth of notes, thoughts, photos and emails to draw on. At a whopping eighteen chapters, this has also been my longest set of tales by quite some distance.
The Mediterranean Steps, March 2017. The definitive highlight of my two-day visit to Gibraltar came with a hike up The Rock’s breathtaking Mediterranean Steps trail. Billed as a walking route for thrill-seekers, the path starts out innocuously enough with a modest collection of stone steps next to The Ornithological and Natural History Society. But before long the going gets pretty steep and the path rocky and slippy. There are some hairy bends too, with nothing at all between you and a sharp drop down to a state of nonexistence. But with gorgeous views across Gibraltar Strait and the faint outline of Morocco in the distance, it really is an unmissable treat!