Note: so many people have been asking about the photographs – I’ve combined some in a book called Blue: Photographs from Spain and Morocco.
Part of the plan on this trip was to visit Mark’s sister Dana and her husband Bishop who live in Sevilla. We awoke way too early at Dar Jand to catch the early ferry. Andrew kindly walked us through the medina down to the port where we boarded the fast ferry to Spain, watching Tangier recede in the distance. Arriving in Tarifa, we took a taxi to the Comes bus station, which turned out to be two bus benches and a shed. Hmmm – we had a couple of hours, lots of luggage and nowhere to go. There was a small café across the street so we maneuvered everything in there and settled in, buying tapas (not very good) for lunch and several coffees to justify taking up their space. By the end, we were almost best friends. Which was not easy because no one in Spain seems to speak anything but Spanish! We’re used to people in Europe and even Morocco speaking several languages. We kept speaking French, which was a little odd because English is our language, but after two weeks in Morocco, it just came naturally.
We both grew up in California with a large Hispanic population, but every Spanish word we knew evaporated. Even the easy words! Nonetheless, we made it onto the bus and were met in Sevilla by Dana and Bishop, who of course speak English. We walked to their apartment, which is centrally located in the heart of Sevilla, easy walking distance to the historic core of the city. They had a great array of tapas for us – olives, cheeses, and what is said to be the best ham – the Iberica Bellota – made from pigs who forage for acorns. We were hungry and grateful for the munchies followed by minestrone soup. We chatted a while and they walked us to our hotel, the Amadeus Musica.
Dana and Bishop’s apartment is on the third floor of a modern building – the third being the top in this case. The living room has a floor to ceiling window so it feels light and airy. Many of the streets are lined with orange trees and we were there at just the right time to enjoy the heavenly aroma that is like no other. The oranges are bitter, used for making marmalade, and that’s why they don’t get stripped from the trees by the populace. Because otherwise who could resist?
We settled in and collapsed until they picked us up for a walk around the Santa Cruz barrio, the old Jewish quarter. Bishop is a font of information – he really ought to be a tour guide because he knows every bit of the history and every detail of the architecture. We just couldn’t take it all in. We hadn’t expected our two weeks in Morocco to be as arduous as they were, so our brains were mush.
Note on the Amadeus Musica – our hotel. There were instruments everywhere and each room had a CD player with a whole raft of opera CDs.
The streets were packed that night. ‘Twas St. Patrick’s Day, heartily celebrated in Sevilla. Of course – why not? Any excuse for a pint, funny green hats, and a party. We settled for ice cream (at least I did) and early bed. The promenade was just getting going, but we don’t seem to be able to stay up late anymore, and even 9:00 p.m. is a little early to be out on the plaza. Also, my stomach was hurting and I was getting a blister.
In fact, after two weeks of no ailments large or small, in Sevilla I had a bad stomach, a blister on top of a toe on my left foot and underneath another on my right. My knee (I have condromalacia patella) flared up and every step was agony. That made it hard to truly appreciate that amazing city. And it was beautiful, relaxed and comfortable.
We visited the cathedral, which doesn’t have a name other than the Sevilla Cathedral. It is built on the site of a mosque and the minaret is the only part of the mosque that remains. The first 2/3 of the tower is the minaret from the 1100s, but when the Christians prevailed over the Moors, the mosque was converted to the cathedral and the top of the minaret to a bell tower called the Giralda and topped with a weathervane. It’s the largest gothic cathedral in the world, complete with flying buttresses.
Here’s some information on the interior, and I’d like to credit the source but I don’t remember it, although judging from the translation it may be a brochure I picked up: The most spectacular part of the interior of the Seville Cathedral is undoubtedly Retablo Mayor, the golden altar of the church, the main chapel. This masterpiece was designed by the Flemish master Peter Dancart who worked 44 years on the reliefs, since 1482. The altar was finally completed in 1564 with other artists.
Christopher Columbus was buried in this church and his tomb is impressive.
There is also a crown with 11,000 jewels and the largest pearl in the world (forming the body of an angel),
as well as a beautiful reliquary depicting the crown of thorns and said to contain a piece of the true cross. Although I have no idea how one would verify that.
We had a late lunch of sorts and the best part was the menu. Some of the translations reached a new level of hilarity: “in a mess of mushrooms of season” and “small cauldron of deer” being two examples. If you click on the photo, it’ll enlarge. Then just arrow back to return to the blog.
Another place we visited during our three days, as I limped along, was the Real Alkasar, a former Moorish fort that became a royal palace (the upstairs is still in use as such). The Alkasar is one example after another of Moorish plaster carving, tile work, and carved wood. It’s truly beautiful. The best part is the gardens – which we couldn’t see because I could not walk at that point and had to get off my feet.
We also enjoyed the Plaza de Espagna, which was built for the 1929 Iberia/America exposition and is now used as government offices.
There are insets along the curved wall (first photo) for each section of Spain. I think they are equivalent to counties.
Maria Luisa Park, a short walk from where we stayed, is enormous, full of birds and blooming plants, shrines, fountains and pools.
In one plaza, kids feed the pigeons, but they are not ordinary pigeons. They are Paloma doves, all white, and live only in Sevilla. They were a gift from the Philippines during the 1929 exposition.
The public transportation system in Sevilla is excellent. There are busses, streetcars (electric trains) and bicycles. All over the city there are bike racks. You buy a card, kind of like a subway pass, and when you need to go somewhere, you insert your card and grab a bike, leaving it in a rack at your destination.
I wish we had things like that here. In the United States, our transportation systems were built around the automobile – at least in the wide-open spaces of the West. Some of the big cities like New York, Washington D.C. and others are compact enough to have good subway systems, but the cult of the car isn’t letting go yet in the West.
Sevilla is where flamenco got it’s start and it’s THE place in Spain to see a flamenco show, so we did at a little place called Los Gallos.
Judging from the backdrop on the stage, I think Los Gallos means the fighting roosters or the roosters. We didn’t know what to expect, but the two-hour show was magnificent. Accompaniment is not only guitars, but men clapping their hands in the most wonderful rhythms, making different sounds depending upon how their hands strike each other. The costumes are extraordinary and the dancers – well, I don’t see how they could have been any better. From what we could tell (not understanding the words when there were songs), it’s all about flirtation and lost love, or having been done wrong by a man. It was a great way to cap our last evening.
It was time to go to Barcelona and Gaudi-land. Dana and Bishop met us early and we took a cab to the train station. We said our goodbyes, which was kind of sad, and hopped on the bullet train to Barcelona, our last destination.