Scribbler in Seville

La Pepa comes to Sevilla

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.

Muelle de las Delicias, with its cobbles and old railway lines from the goods trains.

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.

Boarding the galleon - the commemorative La Pepa banners were everywhere.

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.

A jolly sailor from the crew of the Galleon de Andalucia/La Pepa.

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!

Another sailor - the fact that they were rather good-looking young chaps had nothing to do with it, of course.

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.

Trading routes from Cadiz - round the world, and back again.

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.

I'm loving the cannon's macrame harness.

The wheel on the bridge - "Hard a'port, cap'n!" (Haven't you always wanted to say that? I have.)

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.

Sala del Almirante - where the rum is consumed, one imagines.

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.

La Pepa, with its La Pepa flags fluttering gently in the breeze - tasteful advertising if ever I saw it.

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.

The galleon, with the Puente del Quinto Centenario, built for Expo 92 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage of discovery.

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.

10 thoughts on “La Pepa comes to Sevilla

  1. Mad Dog

    Very cool! I can remember seeing a replica of the Golden Hind being built in Appledore when I was a child – it sailed off round the world and now lives on the South Bank of the Thames.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Wow, that must have been amazing watching the Golden Hind replica being built – ships’ skeletons are so amazing, with all those huge “ribs”. There’s something so exciting about these galleons – canons, adventure, the high seas, exploration, new worlds, exotic products – I actually asked one of the crew members if they ever take landlubbers like me out for a sail, and he said yes!! So I’m looking into it. Did you go on board the GH? Or sail on it?

  2. Chica Andaluza

    Fabulous – we saw it in Malaga a while back (at least, I think it was this one) but couldn´t go aboard. Obviously we´ll try to make sure we do this time….I won´t say I´m being influenced by the possibility of coming across some of those good-looking sailors, the thought never crossed my mind!

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Well, she’s headed your way again! Hopefully you’ll be able to step aboard this time, as it is fascinating. As for those young marineros, it could just be the too-cool-for-school sunglasses thing – like skiing – someone can look dead sexy with their shades on, but a big disappointment without. Who knows…

  3. Kirstitie

    I went to visit this a few weekends ago! Definitely a cool little visit (especially if you combine it with a nice Sunday stroll through Parque María Luisa), especially since it’s free!

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