When I was in Seville, I broke into a church and a palace.
The thing is, I only had a few days, and nothing was open when I needed it to be.
I got to the Unesco World Heritage palace, El Real Alcázar de Sevilla, at 4:59.
It closed at 5.
I pleaded with the stout guard at the front gate to let me in. The answer was a firm, “no.”
I could see that there were still guests roaming around the gardens – they just weren’t letting anyone new in.
I wandered around the corner, and there it was.
All I had to do was walk in confidently. (When you look like you know what you’re doing, people assume you know what you’re doing.) I might not be able to see the palace interior, but I could at least take photos in the famous gardens.
I was in.
The Royal Gardens consist of several separate sections, with names like Garden of the Dance, Garden of the Ladies, and Garden of the Prince; all connected by a labyrinth of staircases, galleries, gates, and paths. The largest of them is the Jardín del Estanque, or Garden of the Pond.
In the center of the pond is a statue of Mercury, the messenger of the gods.
A rudimentary spout juts out from the palace, spewing water into the pond.
Up a narrow stone staircase is a long gallery, overlooking the pond, and the walled-in garden adjacent to it.
Seville’s famous azulejos, colored tiles, are in evidence everywhere.
When I caught sight of the guard from the entrance patrolling the property, I knew it was time to skedaddle before he saw me.
The towering steeple of the Cathedral of Seville was my landmark, and I made a clean getaway through the exit that I had entered through.
This cathedral is not, however, the church I broke into.
The next day, in early morning sun, I walked across the Canal de Alfonso XIII to the neighborhood of Triana. Pigeon spectators watched as rowers glided through the calm waters.
My destination was the Church of Santa Ana, the oldest church in Seville.
Built at the end of the 13th century, during the reign of King Alfonso X, legend has it that Alfonso had a disease that affected his eyes, and as he was miraculously healed with the holy intervention of Saint Ana, he decided to create this church to honor her.
The church is full of important religious artifacts, but what I was curious to see was the legendary 16th-century tomb whose tiles depicting a knight have been kicked by centuries of women hoping to find a husband. The age-old tradition has continued to this day, in spite of efforts to protect the precious tiles.
I wasn’t looking to find a husband, but I wanted to see, and photograph, the tomb with its damaged azulejos.
When I arrived at the church, the iron gate was closed. Urghhhh.
The gate had a very simple latch. It wasn’t like it was locked or anything. Shouldn’t one be able to go into a church if they want?
What the heck. I opened the gate.
I slipped inside the church and looked around for the knight’s tomb. Sunshine through the stained glass windows illuminated a door with a kaleidoscope of radiant colors.
And then I was busted.
A determined woman scurried out of a door behind the altar, and hustled me out of there. “I just want to see the knight’s tomb,” I implored.
She was having none of it. She manhandled me out the door and hurriedly closed it behind her.
It makes me crazy that I never did get to see the splintered tile on the knight’s tomb – I didn’t have time to go back.
Then I took a wrong turn and got lost.
That’s okay, though. If I hadn’t gotten lost, I wouldn’t have come across this scene…
…perhaps the husbands of the women who kicked the tiles?