ANDALUCIA: el medio

While en route to Sevilla, we decided that we realllllly wanted to go to a flamenco show that night. I mean, Andalucia is the land of flamenco, and we couldn’t pass that opportunity up now could we? After settling in at our hotel, our lovely director Landes informed us that he had found a show for that night, so we were all pretty pumped. ¡Fue estupendo! Flamenco is really an amazing art form--it is a fusion of different ancient cultures, and there are three major parts that make up “flamenco”: toque, cante, y baile. Or, if you will, guitar, song, and dance. And although when I think of flamenco I usually picture women in colorful, swirly dresses dancing with graceful hand motions and amazing footwork, the heart of flamenco is actually supposed to be in the song. Still, what I remember most is the dancers...sue me. It was such an amazing show--I loved seeing all the traditional costumes and pretty hair pieces, and the dancing was fabulous. I’ll try to upload a video from the show if I can get it to work...
The next day, Wednesday, was one of my favorite days of the trip. Sevilla (Seville, in English) is such a beautiful city--I love it! The city is split by the Rio Guadalquivir, and there were tons of pretty bridges connecting the two sides of the city. Sevilla is more than 2,000 years old, and had it’s golden age in the 16th century when it was the ‘Gateway to the New World.’ Because of it’s age and location, it is full of fascinating history. Actually, all of Spain’s history is absolutely fascinating. If anyone is interested in reading a great book about such things, read “The Story of Spain” by Mark R. Williams--it is fabulous. Anyways, back to Sevilla...
First thing in the morning (after eating our usual loaf of bread for breakfast--seriously, we eat sooo much ‘pan’ here), we walked to Plaza de España. This plaza is a huge half-circle of buildings (mainly used now as government buildings), and has a pretty fountain in the center with a moat and little bridges all around it. All along the buildings are these little tile alcoves, which each represent a different province of Spain. All of the amazing tile work was definitely one of my favorite parts here--all the different colors and designs made everything stand out against the gray sky that day.

 The pretty tile alcoves

Next stop: Alcázar Real (just a heads-up...’real’ means ‘royal’ in Spanish, hence why you see this title in so many of the building names. Also, ‘alcázar’ means palace or castle, I think. So there are many many Alcázares here), which was used as the residence for many generations of kings and caliphs. This was another one of my favorite parts of the trip--it was incredible! As per usual, the history lesson: this was originally a Moorish fort that the Almohades later transformed into a palace, which today stands as one of the best examples of mudéjar architecture. Later it was expanded by the Catholic Monarchs, who set up their court here in the 1480s. Construction began in 1181 and continued for over 500 years. It is amazing to think of all the hundreds of years and thousands of workers and many different materials needed to complete this place. They spent sooo much time making it the wonder that it is today-with it’s intricately detailed carvings all along the walls, beautifully painted tiles in the floors and walls, exquisite ceilings, amazing gardens...it really is a masterpiece. It is said that the Alcázar is Seville’s answer to Granada’s Alhambra, and though you’ll be able to see similarities in the pictures, the two are very different. One reason I love the Alcázar is because from the outside, it doesn’t really look all that special. It really just looks like a big fort with plain castle walls. But then you walk inside...and do a double take. Everything inside is so detailed and gorgeous, which you would never expect from looking at the outside. That is what I love so much...it’s unexpected beauty. Not only in the rooms and buildings, but also the spectacular garden area, a magical oasis within itself.
And now instead of blabbing on about how beautiful everything is and how I’m so in love with it, I think I'll just show you. :)
Beautiful arches, ponds, and room after room of this:
See why I'm in love with this place?
The 3 explorers. And the gardens that rock my world. 

On to the Cathedral: the word ‘massive’ doesn’t even do this baby justice. This is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. So if you’ve ever been  St. Peter’s Basilica (the largest in the world), you will be able to get a good grip on the size of this cathedral. If you haven't, sorry, you'll just have to use your special little imaginations! Seriously though, it is gargantuan. Originally, there was a mosque where the cathedral now exists, and the original minaret (La Giralda) still stands. Another cool fact about this place is that it houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. And though this is a little negative, I almost feel like once you’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all. For the most part they all have very similar layouts and decorations, and they are all freezing. I totally understand why people wore 20 lb cloaks and a million layers back then--all the open space and lack of a heating system makes the interior more like an ice-box. Woof. Don’t get me wrong, the cathedrals are all really beautiful--especially the paintings and stained glass windows--but I am definitely more a fan of the Moorish architecture and styles. One of the best parts about this cathedral was the minaret, which has a pretty cool story. Instead of stairs leading the way to the top, there is a series of 37 ramps that endlessly circle upward to the top. These ramps were built so that the sultan could ride his horse to the top 5 times each day to call his people to prayer. Cool, huh??? We gleefully scampered up the ramps (secretly wishing we had our very own horses so we could feel like more the sultan) and were rewarded with an amazing view of the city from the top.
One side of the Cathedral.
 The view from La Giralda. You can see the Plaza de Toros, the oldest bullring in Spain!

After exiting the cathedral, a group of us asked an extremely kind guard at the gate for recommendations for lunch--we were starving, as usual. We followed his directions and found ourselves at a cute little restaurant, and after a bit of confusion with the menu and some interesting food choices, we left feeling fairly satisfied. However, no day is complete here without at least one stop at a panaderia for some delicious pastries, so we set out to find one (which we ended up going to a total of 3 times that day....yummm). Then we had an amazing discovery: there are tons of little bike lots all everywhere, where you can buy passes and ride bikes all around the city. With some great teamwork, we rented four bikes and then took turns cruising about Seville. While the first group was out, the rest of us sat at the river’s edge and catcalled all the rugged rowers who were out on the river.
Our boyfriends. with rippling pectorals from all that rowing. Claro.

We switched up the bike scenario, and a new quartet took over. There is a big running/walking/biking path that goes all along the river, and so we voyaged along that for a good hour. We must have gone several miles...it was SO fun! I’m sure all the people we passed thought we were crazy, as we were singing most of the time. :) We also worked up quite an appetite, and when we finally made it back to the hotel we got our priorities straightened out, ordering 2 large Domino’s pizzas. It was the perfect end to an extraordinary day!


Madison Bradshaw said...

meg!!!! your blog cracks me up!! i love reading your commentaries!! wow and the architecture is amazing!!! i love it!! and how fun that you got to ride bikes around the city!! you are just having too much fun!! love and shmuv!

Sarah said...

how fun!!! love reading about your adventures!

Katie said...

So sue me! And too bad someone didn't fall in so that one of them hot rowers could come to the rescue.