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Nowadays, an around-the-world flight can cost as little as 26,000 miles or $1500 USD and takes less than a week. But back in 1519, circumventing the globe required 3 whole years and cost millions in today’s dollars. But that didn’t stop Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who became the first person to circumnavigate the world. With financing from the Spanish government, he set sail on his trip of discovery with five ships from Seville, consisting of a crew of 260 men. Knowing that they would be facing all sorts of hardships like hunger, storms, and scurvy, Magellan wanted to make sure he brought more than enough crew to brave the trip.
That turned out to be a good idea.
Well, of the 260 men that left, guess how many made it back to Spain?
Seriously. Less than 7%, and Magellan wasn’t even one of them!
Half way through the trip, he was killed by a poisonous arrow in a clash with natives in the Philippines, on the island of Mactan. After that, his shipmate, Juan Sebastian Elcano, took control of his ship and sailed it back to Spain, with the remaining surviving men.
Here’s a painting depicting the 18 men who made it back:
So the next time you want to complaining about not having wifi on a flight or the food being not up to snuff, stop. Just stop.
Did you age horribly, lose 93% of your crew, and pray for death by the time you arrive? Then no, you don’t have real problems.
We learned about this story and many others at the Torre del Oro in Seville, Spain. I have to admit, initially I didn’t even think of going inside. It was a small, relatively unremarkable tower, and we just happened to pass by it on our way to bigger and better-known attractions like the Catedral de Sevilla.
But since it was Monday, this attraction was completely free, and since “free” is my absolute favourite word in the English language, I decided to take a detour. Good thing we stopped, because this turned out to be one of the most memorable Seville attractions for me. Not only did it have a great view of the Guadaíra river, it was the site from which Magellan set sail. As such, the Torre del Oro became a museum dedicated to world explorers like Magellan and Christopher Columbus, whom you may have heard of. He supposedly discovered some crappy unimportant continent or something. Who knows?
Oh, and also, that Columbus guy? He’s still there in Seville, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
Anyway, when I came to Seville I thought it was just a great place to visit because of the pretty church, plaza, and Spanish architecture. Little did I know, if you’re into travel, this city is filled with history about world explorers whose adventures paved the way for the globe-trotting nomadic lifestyles we enjoy today. In a way, I guess I felt like kindred spirits. Only, you know, without the scurvy and the horrible death part.
Fun fact: The Spanish (and by extension, this museum) REALLY likes to rub in the fact that despite Columbus, an Italian, was the one who first discovered America, it got named after Amerigo Vespucci, a Spaniard.
So why wasn’t America named after Christopher Columbus?
Well, you see, even though Christopher Columbus discovered America, he, like many other explorers assumed that the New World was part of Asia.
But Amerigo discovered that North and South America are separate continents, completely separate from Asia. Now, you might think this isn’t the best reason to have two continents named after you, and this is exactly what some other explorers thought too. They accused Amerigo of trying to steal Columbus’s glory, but it didn’t matter. After German cartographer Waldseemüller decide to use the name “America” to describe the portion that Amerigo explored, it stuck for good.
So despite the fact that the Italians got to America first, the Spanish argued that it didn’t matter because he didn’t realize what he had discovered. And then the Germans, being ever helpful, stuck their noses in it and just arbitrarily decided on a winner.
And that’s the last time Italy, Germany, and Spain ever disagreed on anything.
So in addition to the eye-opening history of exploration, we also discovered tons of other cool shit in Seville.
Catedral de Sevilla
Home to a famous resident: Christopher Columbus.
That’s right. THE Christopher Columbus’ coffin, decorated in the Gothic LOOK-AT-ME style. Housed in a coffin that wouldn’t look out of place in a Lord of the Rings movie, he lies eternally hoisted up by statues of 4 kings—representing the 4 kingdoms of Spain that existed when he was alive: Castille, Aragon, Navara, and Leon. See what I mean? Such a humble guy.
The Seville cathedral also happens to be the largest Gothic church in the world! It has a gorgeous courtyard full of orange trees and a climbable clock tower with some of the best views of the city.
Since it’s such a popular attraction, if you head straight this church, you’ll find yourself stuck in line waiting to buy tickets, and then waiting again in a separate line to get in.
Do yourself a favour and buy the combo ticket at the nearby Iglesia Salvador. It’s the same price as the single ticket to get into the Seville cathedral, plus it gives you an extra attraction, and gets you in without having to wait to buy tickets. Win-win!
Parque de Maria Luisa
This is the big beautiful park leading to the piece de la resistance of Seville—the Plaza de Espana.
If you enjoy strolling around beautifully manicured grounds, marvelling at ornate monuments status, and fountains, while being shielded from the sun by luscious Palm and Elm trees, this is the place for you.
I inadvertently fell asleep on a bench in this park because it was so comfy and relaxing here.
Plaza de Espana
The most beautiful and iconic spot in all of Seville almost makes you feel like you’re in Venice. If you’ve never gotten a chance to ride a gondola, this is your chance. You can even enjoy ride under the 4 bridges over this canal, that, again, represents the 4 historical kingdoms of Spain.
Once you cross the bridge, you will also notice all sorts of beautiful mosaics, each representing a different province of Spain. For the best views, head up the stairs and take some pictures overlooking the entire plaza.
It’s here, in the Plaza de Espana, that we enjoyed one of the other must-sees of the Andalucia region of Spain…
I love Flamenco because it’s not just a dance you watch, it’s a dance you feel. The rhythmic clapping of hands, the stomping of feet, the passionate expression on the dancer’s face, her energetic hand movements and playful twists of her colorful dress, the soulful tune from the guitarist—it’s all just so…sexy.
If you don’t believe me, watch and decide for yourself:
And last but definitely not least, the best place to see Moorish architecture and marvel at its splendor is the Alcazar.
I fell in love with the outdoor garden, the resplendent gardens, and the all the opulent, intricate details that makes this attraction a must visit in Seville.
It also happens to be the set for Game of Thrones in Season’s 5 and 6. So make sure you get there early to avoid the crowds.
I didn’t expect to love Seville as much as I did but I did expect it to be pretty pricey since so many tourists love to visit it. I’m happy to report, it didn’t break the bank as much as you’d think because here’s how much we spent in Seville:
|Category||Cost in USD/couple||Cost in CAD/couple||Notes|
|Accommodations:||$52 USD||$67 CAD||As a popular tourist destination, Seville could get quite pricey but we still managed to find an nice one-bedroom Airbnb apartment 30 mins walk from downtown.|
|Food:||$32 USD||$41 CAD ($25 for eating out, $16 for groceries)||We didn't spent much on food in Seville because we were still cautious after the food poisioning in Madrid. Chicken soup and crackers were easy on our stomaches, so other than a few tapas we didn't eat out much.|
|Transportation:||$3.85 USD/day||$5 CAD/day||Transporation was super cheap because we only spent 5 Euros each on the bus to Seville from Malaga. Getting around the city was easy and walkable without public transit.|
|Entertainment:||$19 USD/day||$25 CAD/day||We splurged on entertainment with entry fees to Alcazar and the Seville church but you could actually end up skipping this fee altogether if you go on Mondays, when certain museums are free. I ended up feeling dizzy and didn't make it to many attractions on Monday. But even if you end up paying the entry fee, they cost us $74 CAD for 2 over 3 days, so not bad at all.|
|Misc/data/fees||$2 USD/day||$2.57 CAD/day||Data was cheap and we got a top up for only 5 Euros at Simyo for 1.5 GB.|
|Total:||$109 USD/couple/day||$140 CAD/couple/day||We didn't end up spending much money in Seville at all. Mainly because we lived within walking distance to all the main attractions so no transportation costs and some of the attractions were free on Mondays. I suspect we would've spent way more on food if our stomaches weren't still on the mend. Expect to spend more in Seville but know that you can have a great time without forking over a lot of cash.|
What do you think? Have you ever been to Seville?
On an unrelated note, my friend (and bestselling co-author of Your Money or Your Life) Vicki Robin, is running a 5-day workshop at Hollyhock retreat center in BC, Canada. It takes place from Sept 20-25, 2019 and she’ll be talking about how to put money in service to your values. Specifically, you will learn about how to:
- Save more, spend less
- Reorder material priorities and live well for less
- Resolve inner conflicts between values and lifestyle
- Save the planet while saving money
Click here to sign up!
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