We dropped our luggage at our new digs in Sevilla and drove to the train station to return rental car #2. The walk back to the apartment was around 30 minutes, so I thought we’d take in a sight or two on the way back to break up the walk. The only thing in our path was the Plaza de España.
Almost every city in Spain has a Plaza de España. Typically it’s just another square in a city full of squares, although often a good-sized one, and if you’re lucky it has some good cafés. So I wasn’t expecting much from this Plaza de España. One difference I noticed on the map, however, was its unusual shape. Unlike most plazas in Spain, which are square or rectangular, this one is semi-circular.
As we got closer I saw a brick tower rising high above the trees and other buildings in the neighborhood. “What is that?” I wondered out loud. I hadn’t seen this tower on the map. As we came round it, we saw its twin on the far side of a phenomenal D-shaped plaza. A straight line connecting the towers forms the vertical line of the D. The curved part is a beautiful brick colonnade running from one tower around to the other.
In the center of the D is a half-moon island, with the requisite plaza fountain embedded in cobblestones, surrounded by a D-shaped canal. The canal separates the plaza from the colonnade, and is wide and long enough for people to row boats in it. Crossing the canal at four different locations are tiled bridges connecting the plaza-island to the walkway in front of the colonnade. Later I learned that these bridges represent the four medieval kingdoms of Spain: Castilla, León, Aragón, and Navarra. I stood, open-mouthed, taking it all in. I felt like I had stumbled across a little bit of Venice!
Then I remembered reading about this plaza in the guidebook. It was built for the 1929 World’s Fair. King Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain before the civil war and Franco’s 40-year dictatorship, wanted to demonstrate his country’s magnificence. I’d say he accomplished the task.
As I strolled along the walkway below the colonnade, I noticed azulejo (painted tile) benches, 50 in all, and each one representing a province of Spain. Behind each bench is an azulejo mural illustrating a provincial legend. And on the ground in front of each bench is a map of the province. What a glorious display! This is truly a Plaza de España; the only one we have seen that actually lives up to its name.
I took my time examining each province. We haven’t been to them all in our nine-week journey, but we’ve been to most. It was like seeing an azulejo slideshow of our journey. How fitting that we should stumble across this beautiful tribute as our adventure draws to a close.