Robin's Adventures

Morocco, Spain, & Portugal
A Picturesque Adventure

An Interesting Intersection

Gibraltar International Airport is a civilian airport that serves the territory of Gibraltar, however, the runway is actually owned by the Ministry of Defense for use by the RAF.

The main road across the territory, Winston Churchill Avenue, actually intersects the airport runway and traffic is stopped every time a plane lands or takes off.

The airport first opened in 1939, but the runway was later extended by building it out over the bay using rock that was blasted from the Rock of Gibraltar while building the military tunnels inside the rock.

The Great Siege Tunnels

The Great Siege Tunnels, which are located in the northern end of the Rock of Gibraltar, were used by the British to foil the attempts of France and Spain to capture Gibraltar. The siege took place between 1779 and 1783 while Britain was occupied in North America fighting the American Revolutionary War.

The British plan was to build a series of gun batteries on the north face of the Rock to keep enemy infantry from advancing. The most strategic location was a large spur of rock referred to as the Notch. In order to get large cannons to this location tunnels were painstakingly dug with sledgehammers, crowbars, and small gunpowder blasts. In all, 908 feet of tunnel was constructed and the British were able to mount seven cannons in a hollowed-out chamber at the Notch.

Thirty-four miles of additional tunnels were built during World War II along with large storage areas. The tunnels were equipped to hold a 16,000-man garrison with enough food for 16 months. All of the necessities were available, including a water distilling plant, a power generating station, telephone service, a mechanic shop for vehicles, and even a bakery.


To facilitate our visit to Seville, our ship docked in the port city of Cadiz which is one of the oldest cities with constant habitation in western Europe. Historians believe the city was founded in 1104 BC by the Phoenicians.

As we headed out of the city, we crossed the 10,144-foot-long bridge over the Bay of Cadiz and passed through some areas that had lots of wind turbines. It turns out that Spain is the world's fifth largest producer of wind power. Our drive to Seville also took us through the beautiful Andalusian countryside that was dotted with dense pockets of whitewashed houses.


Seville has an interesting combination of sights throughout the city. A small castle -like structure, called the Queen's Sewing Box, was built as a guardhouse in the gardens of San Telmo Palace in 1893. Even older than that is a section of the Pipes of Carmona which is a 2,000-year-old fragment of a Roman aqueduct. Nearby is the Gothic style Church of Saint Peter that was built in the 14th century.

Perhaps one of the more unique thigs we saw in Seville was a modern day structure called the Metropol Parasol. This structure has four levels which include a market, a restaurant, and an open-air plaza for public events.

The basement area, which was intended to be a parking garage, is actually a museum for Roman and Moorish ruins that were discovered on the site during construction. The structure, which is almost 500 feet long and 230 feet wide is believed to be the world's largest wooden structure.

Lebrija Palace

Lebrija Palace, was a privately owned mansion that has been opened to the public as a museum. Although the home was first built in the 15th century, it has been renovated and remodeled many times over the years. The Countess of Lebrina, who was an archaeologist and a collector of ancient artifacts, purchased the home in 1901 and remodeled it to include her collection of antiquities.

Roman mosaics have been installed as flooring on almost the entire bottom level. Some of the tilework on the walls of the home came from the ruins of an old convent. In addition, there are carved plaster decorations on the patio arches, paintings by old European masters, and a multitude of busts and statues.

Casa Pilatos

Casa Pilatos, which is the home of the Dukes of Medinaceli, was built, during the 16th century, in the Italian Renaissance style with some Moorish influence.

The central courtyard has balconies supported by classical Renaissance columns, a marble fountain in the center, and Greek and Roman statues along the periphery. The walls, like most of the other walls in the palace are covered with azulejo tiles.

Tiled Walls

Most of the walls at Casa Pilatos are covered with azulejo tiles, which is a form of decorative tile popular in both Spain and Portugal. The palace has one of the largest collections of azulejo tiles in the world and these tiles were designed and created by artisans Diego and Juan Pulido.

Casa Pilatos Design Details

Many of the ceilings at Casa Pilatos are very ornate examples of artesonado ceilings which consist of beautifully painted Moorish style designs on wood separated by beams. There were also some beautiful domed ceilings.

The Moorish influence is also seen in the detailed carved plaster found on many of the walls and in the main courtyard.

Many works of art, including statues, busts, and paintings, were on display throughout the palace. One interesting painting, by artist Jusepe Ribera, was a portrait of Magdalena Ventura entitled "The Bearded Woman of Abruzzi."

Seville Cathedral

Seville Cathedral, which was built in the Gothic style between 1434 and 1506, is the world's largest cathedral and the world's third largest church. The cathedral was built on the former site of a 12th century mosque. In fact, the 341-foot-tall bell tower was originally a minaret and a Renaissance style top was added on in the 16th century.

There are fifteen doors to the Seville Cathedral. Above each door is a frieze showing a scene from the life of Jesus. Shown here are the Door of Palos which shows the three kings bringing gifts to baby Jesus, and the Door of Bells, which shows Jesus going into Jerusalem.

It is interesting to note that the only son of Spanish monarchs Isabella I and Ferdinand II was baptized in this church. In addition, Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are both buried in the cathedral.

Palace of San Telmo and the Alcazar

Adjacent to the Seville Cathedral are the Palace of San Telmo and the Alcazar. The Palace of San Telmo, which was originally built in the 17th century as a university for navigators, is currently used by the president of the Andalusian Autonomous Government.

The design of the building is Baroque and the front entrance is especially noteworthy. There are sculptures of 12 female figures that represent different disciplines of nautical arts, as well as a statue of Saint Telmo, the patron saint of sailors.

The Alcazar of Seville is a royal palace that was originally built in 913 as palace for a Muslim king. When the Moors were expelled from Spain and the Christian era began, the alcazar was modified into a residence for Christian monarchs.

Over the next 500 years, the palace was modified and refurbished in a variety of different architectural styles, including Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque. The upper floors of the palace are still used by the royal family when they are in Seville.