Friday, April 28, 2017

What Do You Do When Your Bus Tour of Spain Only Spends One Day in Sevilla and it rains?

I think this about settles the bus tour argument. If it rains prepare for a lousy day. With a week, we can afford to have a down day.

Looking a little bedraggled

Remind me why I want to see this cathedral

Favorite Pasta Ad Ever

Doesn't That Make You Want to Cook Pasta Right Now?

The Waffle

Near the edge of the old section of town in a more commercial area of town sits what might be the most unusual downtown structure I have seen for some time. La Metropol Parasol replaced an old market that had deteriorated to the point that it had to be torn down and the space had become a parking lot..

It was intended to add an architectural landmark to draw attention to Savilla the way that the Guggenheim Museum had to Bilbao. We are not sure it succeeded. The waffle design parasol   is a eye catching meeting place and provides shade on hot summer days however.

I have seen some impressive photographs of the parasol but I think you need a very wide angle lens to do it justice.

I bought a hat because of the sun then it started to rain
There are stairways up and into the parasol and apparently great views from the top. Unfortunately when we were there it was starting to rain and it was lunch time anyway.

Funny the things that jump out at you like the Regina Hotel across the street from the train station in Bordeaux. This is a shot looking down Regina Street in Sevilla.

Regina Street

Plaza de Espanya

The Plaza de Espanya was built for the Ibero-American Expo in 1928. Today it is mostly government offices. The building is a huge semi-circle with a tower in the centre. The plaza has been used as a location for several films including Star Wars - Episode 2.

Around the semi-circle, at the base, 58 benches line the facade of the main structure. Each is covered with azulejos or painted ceramic tiles and each bench represents each province in Spain.  So Spaniards can walk around and have their photos taken by their own region's offering.

It is a great place to hang out on a sunny morning. It has the requisite big soap bubble guy, trinket seller, living statue and buskers. We were joined by lots of other tourists but there is room enough to not seem crowded.

Do They Realize How Silly They Look FRom This Angle?

I Sometimes Wonder What Sort of Living You Can Make Blowing Bubbles

We resisted the opportunity to rent a row boat and cruise around the moat but we did walk around and take lots of photographs.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Real Alcazar

A couple of days ago we thought we would try to take a look at the Real Alcazar but the line stretched around the block and there was no way we were going to stand in the sun for as long as it would take to get in. We decided instead to case the joint and to figure out when the lines were the shortest. We settled on opening time, about 9:30 and it worked. Twenty minutes later we were in.

The Alcazar is a royal palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a massive garden. Originally developed by Moorish Kings you can see their architectural influences throughout.

It is almost too much for me to attempt to describe it so I an going to leave it to you to do your own internet research.

You could spend a week here before you could properly comprehend it. It its prime, what a life style it must have offered. You can just imagine wandering the gardens on ot summer evenings.

Shelley noticed that if you count the tiles on the risers you will  notice that the doorway leading from one of the courtyards into the garden narrows as you climb the stair. It makes it even more dramatic as you exit the narrow door into the garden. A simple architectural trick which seems to have been almost in today's world.

This family of ducks were heading out to feed
in the orange grove to the left 

While everyone else was trying to get an impossible shot of a small courtyard, too small to shoot even with a wide angle, Shelley found this perfect water lily in the small pond.

My friend the peacock

There must be hundreds on orange trees on the grounds.
Seville Oranges I presume.

A very odd way to tag a parrot

Sevilla and Ceramics

Seville bursts with colour.Ceramic hand painted tile is everywhere. Not only on Moorish arches and street signs but on walls, ceilings, floors, steps, benches, even bridges pop with hand painted tiles. The Moors first produced pottery here in the 12th century using techniques still being used today.

Some of the design in older tile was made by pressing clay onto hand carved wooden moulds. My notes aren't as good as I'd like but I think they are 12th or 13th century. These are rough to the touch and whole walls were covered in these tiles.

In an effort to bring some of the religious art out of the churches and onto the street religious ceramic tile murals and pieces the size of posters.

Shelley found this amazing curved ceramic piece on the corner of a building along a street. 
Before Easter in 1986, Jose Portal Navarro was acting as a costalero, one of the men carrying a paso as a part of a procession. He was doing it as a prayer for his father who had cancer. During the procession he suffered a massive heart attack and died on that street corner. The ceramic work is a tribute to him.

Trim and decoration
Risers on Stairs

On a Bench

Bridge Railings

Neighbourhoods and streets

Restaurants and bars advertised their wares.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An Interesting Night Time Ritual

When planning this trip we found ourselves in transition between France and Spain Easter weekend. We thought it might be more difficult with bus and train schedules reduced and processions clogging streets so we delayed moving into spain until Easter Saturday.

We missed all the processions which almost take over some cities as a result. We thought we were done with Easter.

Last night we were walking back to our BnB, and as we approached the Santa Cruz church we noticed  a small crowd. Then we noticed a large rectangular box moving out of the church then down the street. When we got to the church steps we noticed that another box, supported by 24 or so men was moving out of the church. We and most people around had no idea what was going on. Shelley whose Spanish is getting better every day,  asked and apparently during Easter week, statues and church relics are moved to the churches for use in the processions and then the Tuesday after Easter they are returned into storage until next Easter.

It is all done in a most ritualistic manner, controlled by religious brotherhoods.We discovered that these boxes are called a paso and they can weigh up to a tonne. Each mans head is wrapped in a white cloth we tink to protect their heads because they don't appear to be taking the weight with their arms. A couple of people walk along beside them making sure they don't bump into things. They walk in step with each orders and are given by hitting the large box with a small block of wood.  It makes a loud clacking sound. It was all kind of eerie at 10:30 at night, this small procession moving slowly down darkened streets blocking traffic and mystifying tourists..

Just out of Santa Cruz Church

Navigating Narrow Streets

Off to who knows where in the night

Catedral de Sevilla

I always thought that York Minster was the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe but to my surprise, The Catedral de Sevilla takes the prize and they have the Guinness Word Book of Records Certificate to prove it. York Minster it seems is the largest in Northern Europe.

The lineup to get in around 11:00 stretched around the block and we just didn’t have the heart to stand that long so we walked down by the river, checked out the bus station and walked back into the old section for a great tapas lunch at Bar Baratillo. By far the best tapas and service we have had so far.
Bar Baratillo. What Could be More Spanish Than That
By the time we got back, the line had diminished to a much more reasonable 10 minutes.
When we got to the cashier I asked for one Adulto and one Pensionista. I couldn’t believe it - got ID’ed. I said, “Thank you”

The church, Santa Maria de la Sede, is huge, no doubt about it. Each pillar holding up the roof is gigantic.

The cathedral's construction lasted over a century, from 1401 to 1506. It is said that when the plans were drawn up, church elders stated, “Let us build a church so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it finished will think we are mad.

The cathedral occupies the site of the Aljama mosque, built in the late 12th century by the ruling Moorish dynasty. Very little remains of the original building. The bell tower which was formerly a minaret stands tall against the church is very impressive and the interior courtyard where in Moorish times, worshippers would wash their hands and feet in the fountains - under the orange trees - before their daily prayer sessions.

The church is dark and cool even under the hot Spanish sun and walking in it takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the light.

Never Ones to Shy Away From Theatrical Flourish
The tomb of Christopher Columbus is in the church, a favorite of visitors which makes it tough to get a clear photograph of it. Shelley did manage but as every one knows she has much more patience than me.

The tomb of Christopher Columbus
A am always put off by how much gold is in these churches and this one is not exception. Perhaps it takes the cake in that area. Huge gold statues, gold accoutrements of worship, gold facades – most of it behind huge, thick barred gates locked away from those who gave it to the church n the first place. Not that you could give the tourists free reign. They would have carted off the lot by now.

The church has its odd bits as well. Near what is called the lizard Gate a stuffed crocodile, known as El Lagarto,  hangs above the door.

The crocodile was a gift from the Sultan of Egypt to King Alfonso X, in his attempt to woo and marry the king's daughter Berenguela. He also sent an elephant and a tame giraffe along with the reptile.  In the end the Sultan was not able to convince the princess to marry him but apparently they got to keep the pets anyway.

The crocodile, supposedly, eventually converted to Christianity after its long stay in Seville. When it died it was stuffed. Assumedly the elephant was just too big to stuff but they did save one tusk and when the giraffe eventually succumbed they saved the bit it wore and those items hang together with the crocodile as some of the more quirky relics in the church.

And as icing on the cake. Shelley found parrots nesting on the walls.