Friday, July 24, 2009

Sevilla in the Summertime

Sevilla is the flamboyant city of Carmen and Don Juan, where bullfighting is still politically correct and where little girls still dream of growing up to become flamenco dancers. While Granada has the great Alhambra and Cordoba has the remarkable Mesquita, Sevilla has a soul. It's a wonderful-to-be-alive-in kind of place. (Rick Steves)

I read this opening paragraph in my guidebook and knew we arrived in a hot spot (not just literally in terms of temperature!) The description summed it up perfectly. I again had no idea what to expect in Southern Spain and was bowled over by the wonders we discovered. We flew out of the Paris Orly airport for another flight deal - this time on Transavia Airlines; it made for a long day of travel. We planned our Spanish adventure around Brooke's 3 week stint in Cadis where she was studying - so it aligned perfectly. We stayed at Hotel Alcantara smack in the middle of the central Santa Cruz neighborhood. It was just as it was billed to us: great location, great price with a no-nonsense feel.

We arrived and settled Connor in slowly but surely to her new surroundings. We immediately felt the culture change in that Spaniards don't START dining til 10 PM. Kirk dashed to a grocery to get some ham and cheese for our little one. It was a hit! Connor is a ham and cheese lover!!! Good thing too since I didn't realize how known the area is for ham. It quickly became a staple.

I couldn't help but to do the schoolgirl squeal when Brooke arrived! It was less than a year since I saw her at her home in Denver, but to be in Spain together was just a dream come true. Kirk generously took babysitting duty so we could go out on the town. We wasted no time skipping around the city in the warm, intoxicating night air and sipping sangria!The next day was our Sevilla day (pronounced Seville in English, but the Spanish pronunciation, Sevilla, rolls the L's which sounds more musical to me). Kirk led us on a walking tour around Santa Cruz - the colors and palm trees were more than I could imagine. The mustard gold against gleaming white was an architectural theme....I liked it!We wandered to the Plaza de Espana. This vast square was my favorite part of Sevilla. I had to suck in my breath realizing the beauty of the enormous place. The structure was built specifically for the 1929 World's Fair. Yet this coincided with the Great Depression so the World Fair really never happened. Hard to believe. This Plaza was my first of what would be many chances to see the splendor of Moorish architecture and design so typical for the region. The Plaza de Espana's Spanish Pavilion was too large to fit in a single photograph. Imagine a gigantic crescent building perfect for parading and promenading all around. There was even a moat in front which you can row boats around...but it was drained for construction when we were there. Bummer, because I would have been all about that. Just look at the colors and design in the bridge. Olé!All along the Plaza de Espana there were tile masterpieces of Spanish provinces. I loved the bright color contrasts of it all. The street vendors were setting up for the day. Gem-color fans were a popular item. We learned that fans are actually more than just a way to stay cool. In Spanish culture the movements and flits of the fan can comprise an entire conversation with the way it is used signaling different phrases. Who would have thought you can communicate with a fan?!?! I loved it when one particularly gregarious vendor started shouting a Spanish chant and hopping around. I asked Brooke what he was saying and she said, "First sale of the day! First sale of the day!" Wow. That is pretty excited. This bowl-you-over spirit was so Spanish and very captivating.Blue roof tiles against a blue sky.We peeled ourselves away from the Plaza de Espana since our tummies were grumbling for lunch. Walking down to the river we found Taberna Torre de la Plata and indulged in a tapas lunch. It was a local spot with a quiet courtyard for Connor to flit around in. No English menu (that's how you know you are truly authentic). Luckily Brooke helped guide us. We had great food - the best being the patatas bravas, fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce. Delicious!!!After lunch we got our evening plans together. Brooke and I were going to a flamenco show and then Kirk was to attend the late night bull fight in the storied Seville bull ring. So we went over to the spot to buy the tickets. The colors of the Plaza de Toros were again gorgeous contrasts against the sky.In this photo Brooke helps Kirk interpret as they buy a ticket. I was surprised at how little English was spoken in Sevilla. Thank goodness for Brooke! I can tell she is a rock star Spanish teacher. With her tutelage I was inspired to pick up as much of the language as I could. Her students are very lucky!A photo of the Plaza de la Virgen de los Reyes. It was my favorite intersection. The cathedral loomed behind me and the cheery square seemed to beam with Spanish pride.
Sevilla's cathedral is the third largest church in Europe, and the largest Gothic church anywhere. The mosque that originally stood here was ripped down in 1401 and the cathedral build atop the brick. I think this is fascinating when churches are incorporated into mosques and vice versa. What a twist in architecture and faith! The golden altar was rich and dazzling.The tomb of Christopher Columbus.The cathedral treasury was rich in precious material. The pearl under the angel in this crown is rumored to be the largest in the entire world!We couldn't help peeking in the flower-smothered patios of the private residences around town. Who would guess the gorgeous beauty and space behind the walls?!? Brooke said it was because in old times the women really wouldn't leave the house. Instead they chatted and hung out in these large courtyards.We had fun giggling at the strange Spanish food. Brooke and I laughed at this sign when she told me that "Hay tapas!" means "There are tapas!" OK! Got it! Why so funny? Guess you just had to be there. I agree with Rick's assessment: Seville is indeed a "wonderful-to-be-alive-in" kind of place!!!!

No comments: