On Sunday we went down to the Muelle de las Delicias to see Galeon La Pepa. My daughter got very excited, thinking we were going to see Peppa Pig, and was rather confused when George wasn’t there too.
But the ship was pretty cool, so that was OK. La Pepa was here almost two years ago, then called the Galeon de Andalucia. It’s a wooden replica of a 17th-century trading ship, 55 metres long and with three masts.
The galleon has been renamed as part of the celebrations this March for the bicentenary of the first democracy in Spain, drawn up in Cadiz in 1812. The democracy was known as La Pepa, after the day when it was written – Dia de San Jose.
Now, as on Dia de Andalucia 2010, we had blue skies and sunshine, although being a normal weekend, rather than a puente, the queues were manageable – we only had to wait for about 10 minutes to board the ship and look around.
The crew, who took part in the voyage to Shanghai (for the Expo) and the Philippines – with plenty of stops along the way, as various plaques showed – were on board to explain how various parts of the galleon worked. Sails are used for about half the time (I would love to see those massive sheets billowing in the wind). One of them told me that they had no internet or satellite phones – no way of contacting their families. A Spanish son who doesn’t call his mother every day? Especially when he’s en el extranjero? Por dios!
It was a real novelty to meet people who took such pleasure in greeting the public and explaining about their work, and their amazing journey aboard this magnificent vessel. Their enthusiasm was tangible – and infectious – as they told us what it was like to sail in La Pepa. Other boats often came alongside to greet them, and they were invariably welcomed warmly when they arrived in a new port, though in the Phillippines especially, they told me, people were out in force to see this floating Hispanic history lesson from their former colonial masters.
As we had recently visited Seville’s fab new maritime museum, the Pabellon de la Navegacion, a few km up the river next to La Cartuja, with all its interactive games involving pulling rigging, steering ships and shooting pirates, it was great for the kids to see a real ship’s wheel, anchors and other nautical niceties.
We also saw the bathroom (small, but with a pretty ceramic sink and, true to its period, no plastic in sight), the captain’s cabin (very small) and the Sala del Almirante – the Admiral’s Room, with its sofas (un-period), dining table and coats of arms.
It was a fascinating visit – especially since we eschewed the queue last time, with then-much younger children who were a) not interested and b) not patient.
The galleon will be in Cadiz in time for 19 March, but I was told they will be making a call at Malaga either before or after the main event commemorating La Pepa’s 200th anniversary. It has already visited the ports of Bilbao, Santander, La Coruña and Huelva – as well as Cadiz (of course), where 25,000 people came on board – and will be heading up the east coast of Spain to Valencia and Barcelona, among others.
In the meantime, it’s a pretty impressive sight, surrounded by smaller craft – sailing boats, canoes, windsurfers – moored at this beautiful quay on the river Guadalquivir. This is the spot from where so many of the New World ships left in search of lands to colonise, and to where they returned laden with gold and silver, helping to create the mighty Spanish Empire, and Seville’s Golden Age.
La Pepa is at the Muelle de las Delicias in Seville until 29 January. You can visit the ship from 3pm-6pm on Fridays, and 10am-6pm on Saturdays and Sundays; admission is scot-free. For more information about future port visits, see the Fundacion Nao Victoria’s website.