Let’s Go Exploring! Seville, the Birthplace of World Travel

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is a world-travelling early retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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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.

Why?

Well, of the 260 men that left, guess how many made it back to Spain?

18.

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:

Holy crap, can you tell these guys have seen some shit?

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.

1638 painting depicting “Vespucci awakening America”

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.

HA HA! Called it. No takesie backsies!

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!

View of orange trees in the church courtyard.

Parque de Maria Luisa

Photo by Manuel Ramallo @ Wikipedia

 

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…

Flamenco Dancing

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:

Alcázar

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
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  • Save the planet while saving money

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31 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Seville, the Birthplace of World Travel”

  1. When we quizzed the twentysomething Spainard who was our Sandemans tour guide in Berlin on where to go in Spain, he had five words for us: “Not Madrid. Not Barcelona. Sevilla.” Looking at climate and high season, it seems like a nice warm place to spend early June. Hmm, 2021 is pretty clear so far…

    1. I did enjoy Madrid as well ( despite the food poisoning), but definitely would recommend Sevilla over Barcelona (way to hyped). Those Sandeman tour guides know their stuff 🙂

  2. Sounds awesome connecting with other globetrotters through time. I’m actually headed to Seville and Andalucia in about a month and a half so I’ll definitely have to check out el Catedral and the Alcazar. Funny that they filmed game of thrones there. A bit ago I was out on the Olympic peninsula in a secluded area thinking it was a sleepy little town until a bunch of tourists arrived taking pictures because apparently Twilight was filmed there. Weird how modern culture re-assimilates and interprets stuff that inspired previous ages. If you have any more tips for a fellow blogger while in Andalucia, shoot me an email. Thanks for the post and for getting me excited for Spain FIRECracker

    1. Sweet! Enjoy your time in Andalucia! It’s our favourite area of Spain–the people are so friend and warm.

  3. Sevilla was my favorite city when we visited Spaid. Madrid and Barcellona were nice, but they were just another big city to me. Sevilla had a lot more character. The food was awesome too. Those little churro and thick hot coco were the best. We also had the best Schwarma ever there. So good.

    1. Oh man, I love churros. I think they were the reasons why none of my pants were fitting after our time in Spain. And yeah, I thought Barcelona was “meh” too. Madrid had great food though (if you can manage to avoid food poisoning :)).

    1. Not to travel the world…that’s the minimum price for an around-the-world plane ticket. First heard about it on Nomadic Matt’s site.

      1. Oh ooooooooooooooooooooooo Oh ok. Just checking. Cause I was about to say that’s very little $ gUaP $ to pay for an around the world ticket…L 😛 L

  4. Hey, I really enjoyed reading this, Sevilla is a fantastic place to visit. I spent a semester abroad in Cádiz when I was at uni and I frequently took a bus to Sevilla (I think it was around 1.5h one way). Cádiz is supposed to be the oldest city in Europe and a very special place in my opinion. Argh, I love Andalucia!
    Now I live in Luxembourg (-;

    1. You live in Luxembourg? Awesome. That’s on our list to check off for European Schegen bingo 😉 (We’re trying to check off every country in the Schengen zone). Will have to hit you up when we’re there.

  5. we drove to Seville and arrived in April and we wondered why everyone was wearing costumes … ?

    we had stumbled on one of the great annual festivals of the world …

    the amazing Feria de Abril

    that was 1998 ..

    sometimes you get lucky , we had no idea it was on !

    1. Ooh, lucky you! That happened to us randomly when we were in Mexico too. Saw a massive parade and found out we were there just in time for Semana Santa. Love it when the timing works out like that.

  6. So funny to read this post as I just left Seville this morning (I’m now back in Portugal). You guys also being there just adds to my impression that all the travellers in the world are flocking to that city 😀
    I would like to add that food – fast, slow, fusion, traditional… you name it – and street life are really at the core of the Seville experience and are unbeatable there. Loved your point of view on Fernao de Magalhaes aka Magellan’s circumnavigation and America’s smart naming move! Regarding Colombo, I had supposedly already been to his tomb in… Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. But apparently Spaniards have a better case on the claim of having his last remains.

    1. There are definitely tons of travellers flocking to Seville 😉 We saw a lot of tourists there–luckily it didn’t feel too crowded even though it’s so popular.

      Yeah, I heard that Columbus’s remains moved around the world more than he did! Hopefully those are actually his remains in Seville 😛

  7. Just returned from wonderful Sevilla the last week in March! What a lovely spot!! Lots of history, great food, friendly people! Amazed by the market in Triana. Stayed in a house off the Alameds de Hércules. Make this city your home base if visiting Cordoba, Granada and even Madrid (2 hours away by high speed train)! Andalucia is perfect!

    1. Glad you enjoyed your stay in Seville! We love the warmth and friendliness of the people too! Will definitely be returning to Seville as our homebase when we visit the other places in Andalucia. I’ve heard great things about Cordoba and Granada–those will be on our list for next time.

  8. Girlfriend and I did two weeks in Spain a couple of years ago – Malaga, Seville, and Madrid. Hiking in the mountains along the Caminito del Rey outside of Malaga was beautiful and the car and fashion museum in the city was pretty interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing. The various cathedrals and fortresses are impressive, and the various regimes had a way of building their places of worship on top of the ones that the people they conquered built.

    Among the other nice sights, a pleasant surprise was the high quality of Spain’s intercity rail, and that’s coming from a Swiss national. We got an upgrade to business class for peanuts because we were travelling in the middle of the day on a weekday, and it was great: comfortable seats, wifi, full meal with wine and cognac while travelling up to 300 km/h.

    I also spent a weekend in Cadiz about 12 years ago, and that was also a really nice town with a unique feel.

    I’ll echo that nice accommodations and good food and drink are surprisingly affordable.

    1. Wow, that’s high praise, coming from a Swiss national! (Your buses and trains are so ridiculous on time, I actually missed one because I was facing the wrong way).

      We went to Malaga too (that’ll be in an upcoming write-up) and the ocean view was glorious!

  9. Pretty awesome city, huh? I think we hit all the places you did plus a couple more. Except we didn’t go inside the Cathedral. I probably nope’d the F out when I saw that line.

    Given that we saw approximately another 100 cathedrals while in Europe I’m totally okay with that 🙂

    1. “I probably nope’d the F out when I saw that line.”

      Bwhahahah. Well, you’re right about crazy number of cathedrals in Europe. That’s probably why tourists keep saying “ABC”–Another bloody cathedral.

      I’m actually pretty cathedral’ed-out myself, but had to go see good ol’ Christopher. His tomb didn’t not disappoint.

  10. “free” is my absolute favorite word in the English language – We like that word too! We also like it’s Spanish equivalent: “gratis” that we spotted a few time during the 3 months we spent in Mexico recently.

    As we plan to go to Europe this summer for 3-4 months, we will definitely consider adding Sevilla to our road trip!

    1. I can see why retirees are smitten with Spain 🙂 Wouldn’t mind retiring there myself if we ever end up settling in one spot.

    1. Thanks! Toronto’s great but after travelling the world for more than 3 years, I’m spoiled by warm weather. 🙂

  11. Fantastic blog, you guys! Keep it up!

    Both Cristoforo (Colombo, born in Liguria) and Amerigo (Vespucci, born in Florence) were talented Italians (though you can argue that Italy as a country did not exist back then :D).. they just happened to go where the capital to achieve their dreams was – that happened to be the Iberian peninsula at the time. Then good ol’ Amerigo took citizenship there.
    There have been millions more before and after those days: we just don’t seem to be good at creating the conditions to flourish in our own country! 🙂

    Cheers from an Italian millennial working in the Netherlands for an American company… just began making strides on the path to FIRE!

    1. Thanks! And yeah, you’re right that they are both Italian. Amerigo just happened to obtain Spanish citizenship so the Spaniards have claimed him 🙂

      Welcome to the FIRE community and super cool that you work in the Netherlands–it’s one of our favourite countries in the world!

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