My entire focus for today was the Real Alcazar – the Royal Palace complex. This is one of the ‘must visit’ places in Spain and I had pre-booked my ticket online. The new ticket buying queue twisted around the century old walls, so it had been a smart move to make an advance purchase. In addition, to look at the private apartments within the complex of the current (and past) Kings and Queens there was an extra charge and tickets could only be purchased online; when I purchased my ticket, I was allocated a specific entry time for which there was no flexibility. On arrival, I learned that access to those apartments was booked out for the day so unhappy people were turned away. I had been warned. Thank goodness I heeded the advice of others.
I will create this first post around my experience of the royal apartments. I entered the Real Alcazar complex and found the stairs leading to the apartments. Before entering, I had time to investigate a few rooms containing specialist exhibitions devoted to the history of the coloured tiles used in Seville. The development of technology around colour creation, pattern-making and the depiction of images was most interesting. The earliest part of the Alcazar was built in the 11th century, and new techniques were developed over time.
To enter the royal apartments, my bag was xrayed and stowed in a locker, I was given an audio guide in English, we were warned there could be no filming or photographing, and we were told that we must move through the rooms at the pace dictated by the audio-guide. Then a small group of about a dozen of us were led in by security guards.
My eyes flitted over the floors, the walls, the ceilings, the furnishings, the light, the paintings, the clocks, the candelabra, and sometime out of windows or over tiny balconies from different rooms. I knew within an instant that I needed a lot more time in each room. I probably got 3 or 4 minutes maximum in each space. When King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia come to Seville, they live here. That is, these apartments are a private space even if it looks at least two and more centuries old and unliveable (from my point of view). And cold. Oh, it was cold. I asked a guard later and he said the inner sanctum/bedrooms which we didn’t see, were heated. Floors were marble or tiles. Some great carpets. Baccarat chandeliers. Walls were either painted or layered in silk. Massive large huge big tapestries hung on the very high walls to soften the high-ceilinged rooms. Painted realistic images of past Kings and Queens and their children hung in some rooms. The legs on furniture were often lavishly golden. Sometimes the shape of rooms or doorways or windows was influenced by Moorish architecture or you looked out onto a garden with Islamic patternmaking detail. But mostly it was the workmanship and shape of the ceilings that enthralled me. One entire post will be devoted to ceilings throughout the whole Real Alcazar complex. The thing is, I have no photos. I can show you nothing inside the royal apartments. We were such a small group, the guards were in front and behind us, and one of my hands held the cumbersome audio guide. I could not sneak a shot – much as I tried to work out how. I have checked on Google and there is not one photo – all the extraordinary photos on Google come from the rest of the amazing complex. I simply remember being in awe every time I stepped into a new space. It wasn’t gaudy. It wasn’t ostentatious, yet it was creatively decorative in so many ways. Vistas from one room to the next, and the way the light played through the rooms, was always a pleasant surprise. But I knew I would forget the detail and I remember feeling strongly that I needed to book to come back and do that 30-minute tour again, and then perhaps again – to begin to ‘get it’.
I felt overwhelmed leaving the apartments. I didn’t know how to process what I had seen and felt. I never had any sensation that there had been an obscene use/misuse of resources. Despite the decoration evolving over centuries it seemed coherent. While I found the rooms incomprehensible in terms of living in them – they were not friendly – I did not feel they had been created as show pieces. They were grand but not in the way of rooms in Versailles. I came out blinking into the ‘real world’; but then there was nothing like the real world in the rest of the Alcazar either.