Day 6 - Sevilla
We arrived in Seville around 1:30 pm, got settled in and went for a walk in the Barrio Santa Cruz. a once thriving Jewish Quarter, full of narrow and tangled streets. The streets are too narrow for cars, with some buildings so close they are called "kissing lanes." Orange trees are everywhere and they are teaming with fruit. We're guessing it must be so fragrant in spring when the blossoms are out. There are quaint shops, restaurants, hotels and apartments in unexpected nooks and crannies. This is a welcome change from the super crowded hustle of Madrid. There is old world charm in this city, if you slow down enough the details will blow your mind.
We had dinner at a adorable little Italian place l'Oca Giulva (Goose something), about 40 feet from the door of our hotel. It was by far the best Italian meal we've had outside of Italy. What a treat! After dinner we walked in and around Plaza De La Virgen De Los Reyes (Plaza of the Virgin of Kings). We stopped and listened to a street musician playing his guitar. Simply lovely evening.
below: "rush hour" behind a tour group on a kissing lane
Day 7 - Sevilla
We had a somewhat slow start to the day. Once we got going, we headed out to Sevilla's cathedral and Giralda Bell Tower. The cathedral is Europe's third-largest church behind St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. It is also the largest gothic church anywhere - another Guiness Book for World Records. When they ripped down a mosque of brick on this site in 1401, the Reconquista Christians bragged, "we'll build a cathedral so huge that anyone who sees it will take us for madmen." They built for 120 years. This church also holds the remains of Christopher Columbus. His pallbearers prepresent the regions of Castile, Aragon, Leon and Navarre.
Giralda Tower was formerly a Moorish minaret from which Muslims were called to prayer. The towers construction begain in 1184. It became the cathedral's bell tower after the Reconquista. A 4,500 -pound bronze statue symbolizing the Triumph of Faith (specifically the Christian faith over the Muslim one) caps the tower and serves as a weather vane. In 1356, the original top of the tower fell. The top we see today is the 16th-century Christian-built top with a ribbon of letters proclaiming "The strongest tower is the name of God." The tower tells a history story, Roman foundation followed by a long Moorish period then capped by our Christian age. By law, no building can be higher than the statue atop the tower. In Latin, around the four sides of the tower near the top reads "TURRIS FORTISSIMA NOMEN DNI PROVERB 18" meaning "The name of the Lord is like a strong tower" (referring to Proverb 18:10)
We climbed to the top of the tower, which has 34 ramp segments rather than stairs. The segments are tall and wide enough to allow the muezzin, in charge of calling people to prayer, to climb to the top on his horse. The Christians added the final stairs with 17 steps leading up to the bells.
After a couple hours in the cathedral we walked the main shopping area in the city. The pedestrian only streets are full of some higher-end stores, some mainstream stores and the end of the lane is anchored by an El Corte Ingles Spanish department store. It's like Macy's and Fred Meyer in one. You can get just about anything in there.
We had dinner about 20 feet from our hotel this night at Bodega Santa Cruz Las Columnas. We noticed right away the locals eat here. The menu is a board on the wall, in Spanish, and the wait staff keep track of your order by writing down the amounts of the tapas you consume with a grease pencil. Once you pay, the barkeep wipes away your order and goes to the next. We just took a stab and called out some things on the menu accompanied with a cervesa (beer). Each dish cost 2-2.50 euros so if you don't like it, no problemo. One interesting dish was chorizo cooked with crashed egg (fried egg) which was covered in a tomato-ish sauce and lima beans and served with a thick slice of fresh bread. I liked it, Dean didn't, We also tried the gazpacho ... my my MY!!!!!! Wow, was it good. They served it in a small drinking glass with an ice cube. We drank our soup just like we drank our beer. No messy, dripping (or leaking) spoons. This is how soup should be served. We finished the meal with a little spot of ice cream and a short walk.
below: the cathedral high alter
below: the tomb of Christopher Columbus
below: ramp and bells inside Giraldi Tower
below: view of Sevilla from top of Giraldi Tower
Day 8 - Sevilla
Today we visited Real Alcazar, the royal palace in Sevilla. Originally a 10th century palace built for the govenors of the local Moorish state. Today it still functions as a royal palace and is the official residence when the Spanish royals are in town. For a thousand years it has been the centre of power and a royal residence. The palace of King don Pedro was not finished until the 14th century, and has been enlarged since. It is one of the best examples of Mudejar (moodee-har) style and it is the oldest palace in use in Europe. There are spectacularly decorated halls and the courtyards have a distinctive Islamic-style. Can you tell the differences between Muslim and Christian architecture?
Before siesta, we stopped at the Bodega Santa Cruz again for a 'glass' of gazpacho - delicious on this warm and sunny afternoon.
After a short siesta we headed out to a Flamenco show at the Museo del Baile Flamenco. The one hour show was full of passionate emotion (pain, joy, seduction and love), great guitar music, double jointed wrists and the superhero fast dancing feet. It's loud with stomping, clapping, singing and random shouts of "OLE!". The vocals had a muslim feel about them, which makes sense given the history of this remarkable city. Personally, we could have done without the singer, not because of the style but because he was annoying. The dancers were fantastic.
Tomorrow we have no agenda. We're going to walk to the river, wander around the barrio and probably do a little shopping. There are local craftsman in Sevilla, which is a treat since we haven't seen it in Spain on either visit.
On a totally different note, we've found ourselves enjoying and competing with the health app on our iPhones. The app counts/tracks steps, flights climbed and miles walked. Dean got cheated out of at least 9 flights when we climbed the tower a couple days ago. We've been speculating since the tower has ramps rather than stairs, it messed with the app. Dean is still peeved.
Still a few more days of Spanish vacation to come, stay tuned ...