Patricia suggests that I start with a couple of headlines:
1. Steven ate olives-and liked them!
2. Patricia is working on being patient—“working” is the operative word. The pace in restaurants is somewhat slower than we are used to.
I suppose I could keep the report of our first 3 days in Seville very brief by simply saying that we got on a train in Granada, rode for 3 hours, arrived at our Airbnb apartment, settled in, walked around, took a couple of tours and saw some music. Oh, we also ate a couple of meals. All true, but that would not even begin to tell the story.
Our trip from Granada to Seville, 150 miles, was on the local train. It took 3.5 hours. The train was not only local, it was slow. There were a number of stops and the seats were about the most uncomfortable train seats we have encountered. But we got to Sevilla and the Santa Justa station on time
I told the taxi driver our address and after we had traveled down many small streets we arrived at a small plaza/square that looked just like the pictures I had seen on Google street view. That was good, because otherwise we might have thought we were in the wrong place. The person who was supposed to check us into the apartment was late and we had to drag our stuff up a bunch of stairs. We were beginning to wonder if this apartment was going to live up to its reviews. But all of that got sorted and we found a bright airy place with A/C (it was warm outside and we were comfortable inside). It is furnished reasonably. We found a close-by grocery store and bought the things we thought we would need for several days. We explored the streets for a while and found a place-in the same building as our apartment-to have tapas. The restaurant (“The Room”) offered dishes from many countries, and not just Spain. We had a really good meal.
From there we widened our explorations. I was initially confused about the streets until I realized that the map our host had given us had east at the top, and not north. No wonder everything seemed 90 degrees off! Why not use GPS, you may wonder. Because many of the streets are very narrow and GPS can’t always find enough satellites to get a good fix. [Another note to the Spanish Tourist Board: don’t change street names every block or two.] We found a number of churches, small squares, and lots of upscale shopping. We found the street that leads to the Cathedral—but that was almost too easy: most of the streets around here eventually lead to the Cathedral. We found our way back to our apartment and on the way discovered a really good gelato place. We have subsequently had interesting conversations with the owner/cook and his wife in my bad Spanish and their bad English about their goat cheese and pig flavors (Oh, not “pig,” Patricia tells me. “fig”). They are nice people and proud of their shop.
The corner below our apartment is apparently a nighttime gathering place for drunken louts. These people would not be out of place at an English football match. The partying goes on until 3 or 4 in the morning.
Tuesday morning we found a local pastry shop and coffee and a pastry (all ordered in Spanish and costing only about $5.00 for the two of us) before we bought tickets for a bus tour of Sevilla. The best part of the purchase was when I tried to ask where we would find the bus and we had to use a combination of a map and some Spanish to figure out where El Duque Parque was in relationship to our location. Not only did we figure it out, we got there at exactly the same time the bus pulled up.
I should mention that the reason I keep saying that we are doing things in Spanish is that we are staying in what is pretty much a local neighborhood and most of the people speak a lot more Spanish than English. So far they have been willing to work with us on pronunciation and grammar and we have been able to get everything done.
The bus tour was good. We saw a number of places we will want to go back to and explore more fully. When we got off the bus we walked to the Cathedral area and from there to the apartment. We are only about a 10 minute walk from the Cathedral. After a short break for a snack, we met our guide for the afternoon, Marta Casals, who showed us some of Sevilla including the Cathedral and the Alcázar palace complex.
The Cathedral of St. Mary is the third-largest Christian church in the world (St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s in London) and covers the space where a mosque stood until about 1400. The church was intended to show off the wealth of the city and its merchants and it certainly does that. It was built in the Gothic style and built quickly, too. It took less than 100 years—of course, the dome fell a couple of years after that so perhaps the speed should have been tempered with better technique.
The builders kept only the minaret (turned into a bell tower) and the forecourt of the mosque and, supposedly, the church covers the original shape of the mosque. The place where the mihrab (which points to Mecca, for prayer orientation) was is now occupied by a statue of St. Mary.
The interior of the cathedral is spectacular—in the Gothic interpretation of spectacular. The ceiling is more than 120 feet up.
The retabla (altarpiece) is truly monumental and almost entirely covered in gold leaf. The choir (Coro) is huge and has two organs and sets of pipes. There are chapels along two sides and some of the chapels have pictures by artists as famous as Murillo and Zubarán. There is a lot of history here including the remains of Christopher Columbus. Marta wanted us to be really sure that the claims of Santo Domingo to have the Columbus remains were simply wrong: DNA has proved the Spanish case.
I’ll post more pictures, but I haven’t out how to do “space” yet.
In the Alcazár we saw hundreds of years of history from the Muslim period until now. Some of the earliest parts have been recently restored and even Marta was taking pictures. As in other Muslim palaces we have seen there are deorations (I don’t know a better word) from the ceilings to the floors. The woodwork, ceramics, and plaster are wonderful to see.
The first Christian rulers after the reconquesta kept some of the Moorish style, but soon moved to suppress it. There are 3 palaces in the Alcazár, which is the official residence of the king when he is in Sevilla, and beautiful gardens. As you might expect, fountains and pools are important parts of the gardens.
I see that I have only 3 or 4 paragraphs about our afternoon tour, but I probably could have written 3 times as much. Marta Casals did an excellent job of giving us just the right amount of information not only about the places we visited, but about the whole of Sevilla.
We had a choice of 2 flamenco performances Tuesday evening—I fat-fingered the reservations a few weeks ago and we ended up with two sets of tickets for the same night of the Sevilla Flamenco Bienal. We sat down for a meal while we were trying to decide which one to attend. I don’t know if we pick well or if most of the restaurants in our part of Sevilla are really good, but we had another excellent meal. By the time we got back to the apartment, we had decided to attend the 8:30 performance rather than the 7:30 performance. But then we dithered. Let’s go see the traditional singer, we decided. So we very quickly changed ran to the taxi stand, convinced the taxi driver to take us to a place he had never heard of (he thought the name of the performer was the location name) and we got to the Santa Clara Espacio Dormitorio Alta with 15 minutes—we thought—to spare. We had misread the tickets and the performance started at 7:00!
We waited for a break and were treated to a wonderful performance by Felipe Escapachini and Adriano Lozano (guitar). The performance space was small and holds only about 100 people so we were very close and the performance was intimate. Many in the audience clearly knew Escapachini and the music and clapped and tapped in time. We heard frequent Olés and Alles as he sang. He was clearly telling stories and his hands were as expressive as his voice. I wish I could have understood better.
When we left, the first order of business was to find a taxi. The performance location was on a side street with nothing, seemingly, around. The attendant at the door told us (with some mime) recto e primara al a izquierda e a la derecha and we found a square and, ultimately, a taxi. I should note here that the taxi drivers don’t seem compelled to take the most straightforward routes. They aren’t awful, or obvious, but it seems like there could be shorter routes. [Patricia sys to tell you that doesn’t mean we feel cheated by the drivers, because we don’t.
More gelato and we called it a night.
On Wednesday morning we decided to stay in and do laundry. You would think that all washing machines would be easy to figure out (clothes and detergent in, set the temperature and push start; what could go wrong?) Our apartment has a nice new washing machine, but no instructions. Patricia finally figured it out, more or less, and we got things washed. There are closelines on the roof so we made our way up there and hung out our laundry.
In the afternoon we took a ride on the Guadalquivir River to see Sevilla from another perspective. The ride was only an hour long but we did see the bridges and other structures from the river. We both remarked that many of the photogenic buildings/structures were left over from the 1929 expo and the 1992 (?) expo and looked as if they had been repurposed. That was particularly true for buildings on the Triana side of the river.
We have another performance this evening and we will be careful to get there on time.
Tomorrow we head to Cordoba where we have a couple of tours lined up.
More pictures on the pictures page.