Thursday, March 14, 2019

Home from Seville . . . but what memories.

I shouldn't complain about jet lag or coming home to 2 feet of snow. I still remember the sweet smell of bitter orange trees (perfect for making marmelade) that we found everywhere in Seville. We walked along the streets of Seville, enchanted by the sight and smell of these oranges everywhere.

Oranges in Courtyard, Cathedral of Seville
Today, I'm remembering our visit to the incredibly large Cathedral of Seville, about 250,000 square feet and completed sometime early in the 16th Century, building on the bones of a mosque from the 12th Century. This massive Gothic church is divided into sections, each with its own altar. Worshipers mingle with tourists, all awed by the scope and majesty of the art and architecture here.

Cathedral of Seville, with bell tower on the right
Main Altar, Seville Cathedral
This Cathedral is large and complicated, with over 80 altars, each with its own saint and personality.

The main altar is stunning. A Flemish artist, Pierre Dancart, began working on the gilded gold reliefs in 1482, and it took him about 44 years to finish these reliefs that show scenes from the Old Testament and the lives of the saints.

Luckily for us, the large grill gates that separated the altar from the people were open, allowing me to take this picture.

One of my favorite parts of the Cathedral was the massive organ. Here is the view from the choir looking up to the ceiling and the organ itself. 

Detail of Cathedral Organ
We actually walked 315 feet up a sloping brick tunnel to the top of the Giralda (bell tower).  Yes, the bell rang while we were up there! The view was stunning, as was the sense that this bell tower was once a minaret calling people to worship during the time of the Moors.

View from Giralda (Bell Tower)
What I remember most about the Cathedral of Seville is that each generation built upon the bones of the previous generation over a period of nearly 1,000 years. Several guides talked to us about how Christians, Moors, and the Jews lived in harmony -- at least until 1492. Religious leaders used their power and lavish wealth to repair the damages of earthquakes and to build anew altars and burial tombs, almost a living history.

As we rested by the fountain in the Orange Courtyard, we were more than ready to sit in one of the many sidewalk cafes to enjoy a small cup of cafe con leche (espresso coffee with milk).

Perhaps you will enjoy a few more highlights of our trip to Seville. Check back in a few days! Thank you for visiting.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Seville: What were we expecting?

We hoped for warmer weather, and we came prepared for rain. But this last month, we've seen no rain at all, and the temperatures have hovered around 70F, a sharp contrast to those snowy days back home.

Once we adjusted to that 9 hour time change that flipped morning to night, we discovered so many small differences in everyday life.

Our apartment is situated just two blocks away from the monumental Plaza of Seville, so well decorated with traditional tiles (azuelos), though we haven't found a factory to visit -- yet.

Anytime we like, we stroll over to the Plaza through an expansive park. True, this particular park is one where many were put to death during the Spanish Inquisition, but today, fountains and greenery mask the past.

Just across the street from our apartment, we drop by Mas y Go, a convenience store with its own bakery (pastelria). Think fresh bread, crusted rolls, croissants, and bite-sized flaky pasteries for breakfast -- along with other convenience foods.

People eat at different hours here -- breakfast somewhere around 10 am, lunch at between 3-4 pm, and then dinner at 9-ish. But, the streets are lined with sidewalk cafes for those who wish for a coffee or snack in the meantime. We stroll along leisurely. No one is in a hurry. In the afternoon, we stop for cafe con leche in small espresso cups with enough coffee to fuel us to another museum.

A word about tapas, those 'little plates' with a variety of  'little bites.' We've already tried four meatballs in a tasty sauce and fried squid, crisp and delicately flavored. Two such tapas make a meal for us, along with a nice glass of sangria.

Everywhere we've had our supper, the sangria has tasted different. I think I know why. At a late dinner stop at a nearby tapa bar, we watched in amazement as the bartender filled this massive glass jar with sangria.

First, he took a small glass, sniffed the sangria, and then tasted it. He must have been cleaning out the bar as he poured from every known bottle of alcohol and several large fruit juice bottles -- right into the sangria!

Just a final word about drivers here in the city. They go at speed, motorbikes zipping along. Very, very few pedestrians cross against the light, but drivers politely wait, even as the crossing light chirps to let us know when only 3 seconds remain. No one turns right against the light. And the cars, some of them, actually turn off when they stop -- No nasty exhaust! But . . . everyone smokes. Young, old, and in between.

Yesterday, we sat on a bench, watching the passersby while eating fresh gelato. Earlier, somewhere near, teams had played rugby. So we listened and wondered where this shouting of team songs came from. Turned out there was a bar on the corner we passed on the way home. The team members enthusiastically celebrated their win!

I hope this gives you a little flavor of life here in Seville. Most days are calm, filled with excursions and amazingly delicious food. I hold my glass of sangria up to you, in celebration of another beautiful day!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Another Museum, Another Day in Paradise

This week, we visited the Casa de Pilatos, so named to honor the house of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. Apparently, the first Marquis of Tarifa visited Jerusalem in 1520-ish, and came home impressed by both Moorish and Renaissance ideas. The result is this palace, built upon by successive generations, a fascinating blend of Islamic and Christian design elements, still owned by the Medinacila family, with most sections open to the public.

We started downstairs with the main courtyard, a central fountain surrounded by four larger-than-life statues, one of Minerva. The fountain itself balanced atop two mysterious creatures, dolphins with teeth.

Since the 1500's, many generations have lived in this sumptuous palace, adding new wings and gardens. Most of the top floor is closed to the public, but we were taken on a tour of a few of these furnished rooms.

What wealth! Tables for 20 in a formal dining room, a smoking room for the men, a resting room for the women after dinner. Each room featured fascinating tiles, artworks, and Baroque furniture.

Even the ceilings were carved intricately, with the very large dining room featuring a wonderful painted tableaux of the sins and virtues of Hercules. Apparently diners were to be inspired by his virtues, and not his sins.

As we wandered through the palace, I began to feel as if each generation competed with the previous one to embellish their home, to make it larger and more beautiful, yet keeping a sense of reflection throughout. The downstairs, with courtyards open to the sky and extensive tiled walls were cooler and used in the summer, while the family retired upstairs in the winter, warmed by portable braziers.

The "new" garden at La Casa de Pilatos

Allen downstairs, admiring the azuelos (intricate tiles)

Minerva (detail) on guard at the central courtyard
Today, we return to the Archaeology Museum to see prehistoric figurines (we ran out of time last visit), and tomorrow we wake at 4 am for our day-long tour to Granada, where I last encountered gypsies so many years ago!

So much to explore and only two weeks remain.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ooo La La: Tapas at La Portola

Every trip we take, Allen assembles a list of the very best restaurants. He is very methodical, listing the best restaurants in the city and the best restaurants within walking distance. So we set off to find La Bortola, rated 4th highest rating on YELP out of all the restaurants in Seville.

Of course, to find this charming tapa bar, we took a winding path through older parts of the city, admiring tiny, plant-filled courtyards and massive churches along the way.  Every apartment seemed to have a variety of blooming flowers on their patios.

We walked past La Bortola the first time, this tiny bar with maybe seating for maybe 30 friendly people and found a table for our party of six. Allen and I opted for tapas -- our first experience with this national dish. We ordered prawns with garlic to share and coos coos with lamb. Ah, the amazing flavors.

The prawns were fresh; the sauce of olive oil and garlic provided a rich gravy to dip our bread. Each bite brought new appreciation. And then the lamb tapa arrived, each bite of tender lamb in its unique sauce more delicious than the last. And perfectly accompanied by a glass of sangria with its smoky mix of fruit and brandy. Can you tell we love food?

Of course, the tapas were small, the little iron pot with prawns about the size of my hand, with the same for the lamb, but the small size was just right for our supper.

We will be returning to La Bertola again and again in the next few weeks. And when we go back, we will taste those prawns again -- and something new! 

So, can you remember a time when food added something unexpected to your travels?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Seville: Christopher Columbus at the Library

Earlier this week, as we walked through the streets of Seville on our way to the impressive Cathedral of Seville, we came upon a library, the Archivo de Indias (Archive of the Indies).

Always easily drawn astray by libraries, we admired the fountain in front of the massive building, authorized in the mid 18th Century to find a treasure for scholars.

Notice the globe under the Spanish royal lion's paw
that symbolizes the world!
Up the massive staircase, an intricate design of varied marble, we found the archives. Some 86 million handwritten pages are stored here from the time of Columbus forward through Spain's Golden Age that attest to the remarkable discovery and development of the New World. Originals from Christopher Colombus, Cortez, Cervantes, and even George Washington!

Locked case after case held hundreds of binders of these rare papers, the library itself authorized by Carlos III in 1785. A true bookworm's delight -- if only one could read in Spanish!

My favorite, a drawing of a volcano exploding in Ecuador from 1773, brought back memories of living in Antigua, Guatemala, under the shadow of Fuego (fire), a volcano, which luckily did not erupt while we were there.

Yesterday, we left our apartment here in Seville at 7 am for a day trip to Cordoba to visit the Cathedral and Mosque there with a charming and informative guide. We came home exhausted, but we're recovering today, I resolve to keep this blog updated, even with only one picture a day!

Isn't it interesting how one trip can bring so many new impressions and yet remind us of other trips taken? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Jan 30, 2019: Last Night in Miami

Just back in our little apartment high above Miami after a shirtsleeves' walk along the waterway and a dog park where we discovered a lovely ceramic chair about 20 feet high:

Spanish is spoken everywhere here, making us feel right at home. Most amazing, though, is the weather change -- no coats, no snow, no cold noses. Instead, flowers, palm trees, and little cafes with fresh croissants and very strong coffee.

As we walked back through the park, a flock of about 20 brilliantly green parrots flew at speed along the tops of the palm trees, dive-bombing and circling and then gone. What a surprise!

Tomorrow, we leave for Spain, so today is our final repacking day. What good memories we'll take with us!

I'm still uncertain about access to internet, but I will try to update our adventures here and hope you enjoy. I'm also uncertain how to avoid those nasty roaming charges as I take pictures with the camera.

Haven't written much of anything since we left home, but the netbook is ready (as is the story). May the rest of your winter be mild!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

How Wearing Glasses Can Save You from Being Burned at the Stake

Tomorrow morning, January 28th, at 4:30 am, we leave for a nice six-week trip on the road. First Miami Beach, where 60F is far more welcoming than 20F, and then, off to Seville, Spain, for a month with four dear friends.

So, I'm reactivating our travel blog, for in our Seville apartment, we'll have reasonable access to internet, Moorish culture, museums, little cafes, and perhaps a side trip to Cordoba and another to Grenada.

Seville's Museum of Popular Arts and Customs (Wikipedia)
Speaking of Grenada, that impossibly beautiful city surrounded by mountains and home of the Alhambra, I remembered my trip there so long ago, perhaps in 1973 or 1974. My ten-day circle tour of Spain with a small group of retired school teachers stopped in Grenada to visit the Alhambra.

That night our group was taken to the hills for a dinner hosted by gypsies who sang and danced for our entertainment. I was young enough then to be vain and often did not wear my prescription glasses. When I was tired, my left eye would turn inward.

As we were leaving the cave of the gypsies, several made a strange sign with their hands, specifically against me. They would not look me in the eyes. I was confused until someone explained the signs were wards, protecting them from me. They believed I was a witch.

If it had been in the middle ages, I might have been banned or burned at the stake for that turned eye.  So, as we prepare for this month-long adventure, I’m wondering if this has changed much in the last 50 years. Of course, I do wear my glasses now -- all the time!

But I wonder if those gypsies are still living in those caves in the mountains above Grenada -- and if we will visit to hear them singing and see them dance.

May your own travels go well. Stop back by to see what we're up to next!