Spain: Sevilla

Day Three: on to Seville! In addition to the beautiful roads (never the victim of ice and salt, I suppose) and the rolling countryside, one of the treats of driving in southern Spain is what you stumble across. All those little pueblos blancos, olive groves, almond trees in spectacular bloom. And sometimes the odd castle. Which is what happened to us as we took the most direct but least speedy route to Seville. We came over a hill and just down a small road, we saw this. Naturally we did a u-turn and went back to investigate.

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Here I am, I’ve moved right in. “Welcome to my home, dah-ling! Oh, little decorative soaps? You shouldn’t have! Come right in!”

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Yen, mountain goat that he is, found a staircase and went right up.

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The dark at the top of the stairs plus the rather unIncalike quality of the masonry gave me the brilliant idea of prowling around the ground while he explored. Which of course meant that eventually I found myself under a murder hole, with a diabolical grin just above it. Don’t worry – I came away unscathed.

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Here’s Yen’s sister providing scale inside one of the castle rooms. This thing is huge, and of course it was only a minor fortress for some little Moorish lordling.

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Ok, back in the car, everyone! We’ve got another hour to go before we arrive.

When we made it into Seville, we parked in one of the many underground public parking areas, and set out walking to explore the area. I should have mentioned this before in the Granada post, but everywhere you go, you will see men waiting beside carriages waiting to take tourists around. It never occurred to us to try one because we like the exercise. And we were especially glad of that attitude after we noticed a sign near one of the carriage stands suggesting €45 for a one-hour ride. That’s a lot of money! No, thank you.

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I will spoil the ending of this post and tell you that we never went inside this cathedral. The cathedral really isn’t the main attraction in Seville. A good rule, though, is to head toward the cathedral when you’re trying to get your bearings in an old city. They’re built in the center of the historic center, and they end up being your landmark a lot of the time. Plus how many times have you seen an ugly cathedral and wished you hadn’t?

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No, our destintation was another Alcázar. This one is different from Alhambra because it was built by Moorish artists hired by Christians. It’s more modern than Alhambra and definitely more opulent, as you’ll see. It’s beautiful and a very good way to see the patterns and craftsmanship in detail. For my money, it’s still Alhambra, though. There’s an intimacy to it that’s missing from this one. It feels somehow more genuine, though maybe that’s just the effect of further rot (anyone ever read The Way of All Flesh?).

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Lots of contrasts in this place, which may well be attributable to different periods of building and/or restoration. I would know if I had troubled to get an audio guide. But I find that I prefer to just wander and make up stories for myself, noticing tiny details and standing at the ready whenever Yen needs someone to stand in front of something and show its size relative to 5’5″.

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This is the main courtyard, the Courtyard of the Maidens, apparently. I started and ended my tour here even though you exit through another door. The bathrooms are here, and that’s important. I also turned out to be important to a small kitty. When I couldn’t find Yen, I followed a rule that we set very early in our travels (and one that works well with small children): when I get lost, I stop and stay put.

I sat down on a curb and remembered a granola bar in my backpack. Feeling slightly guilty for eating it without Yen, I tore open the wrapper and got to work. I was about halfway through when a small tabby – probably a punk teenager – appeared as if from nowhere and began demanding a bite in his narrow kitty yowl. I broke off a little morsel and told him, “It’s granola, gato. You’re not going to like it.” But he chopped the whole thing to bits, swallowed and looked up for more. I ended up feeding him the rest of the bar because he was so excited by it and seemed to need it a lot more than I did (my reserves could keep me alive through the winter, I’m certain). Meanwhile, a young Japanese woman had joined me and was making the universal kitty sound: smooch smooch smooch. When he finished his granola bar, I spread my hands to show him that was it, and we looked at each other wondering what was next. I was rather alarmed by his claws, honed I’m sure on any number of the orange trees growing around the courtyard. But when he finally took control of things and jumped onto my lap, I didn’t feel a thing. He purred happily while the Japanese girl tickled his chin. Then, realizing a more willing lap was waiting, he took off for her. She asked me to take some photos of her on her iPod, and as soon as I finished, I looked up to see three blond Americans hovering over me. Would I take their picture too? I would, and asked how they all knew each other. Turned out they went to junior high together in the 70s, and now one of them was living here. We chatted on, and finally Yen emerged and we were all ushered toward the exit.

I guess that wasn’t an exciting story, but these are the little moments when you’re traveling, I suppose, that stay with you. I like the random connections.

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I nagged Yen often for detail photos  because if you’ve ever been in my house, you know these are the photos I shoot myself and like to print.

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Here I am on a staircase heading up to a porcelain exhibit. Did I already lament that I came home without any pottery?

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Same staircase, better view.

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Here’s one of the pieces that’s in the pottery exhibit.

I’m sitting here as I write this trying to figure out the difference between porcelain and pottery. Is porcelain a type of pottery? I could Google this, but I shan’t. Anyway, if you do know the difference, I apologize for offending you. The point is it’s all lovely.

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Yeah, so, this is just a bunch of gratuitous shots of the building. As you scroll, try to keep in mind that if you take “gratuitous” back to is Latin root, it actually means “pleasing.”

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Another ceiling. I have to say that sometimes walking through these rooms, I couldn’t help thinking, “How the hell do you decorate a room like this?” Given all of the visual noise, can you do anything other than straight wooden pieces and solid-colored fabrics? It’s a good thing I’m not a sultan’s wife.

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Here are some of the architectural details I have been begging Yen for. Don’t you think Mom should quilt these kinds of patterns?

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Here I am, taking five. I don’t mind telling you I was pretty beautiful-detail-worked out. But at last we headed out into the gardens for a change of scenery.

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This little house in the garden reminded me of the spirit of Thomas Jefferson’s little reading “room” on that ridge behind Monticello. I’ll say what I said then: “I call this room!”

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Finally closing time came, and we were ushered out into the town again. We did a lap around the cathedral and then headed to the Plaza de España and the giant park it sits in.

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At this point, maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, where are all of the food shots?” We developed a habit in Italy that we’ve decided to hang onto while traveling. We eat a good breakfast (usually lots of fruit and whatever the local bread is), and then have a big meal around 2pm. Then we’re done for the day, maybe with a little fruit in the evening. Or if we know we are going to have dinner, we have a snack around noon and save our calories for that big meal in the evening. It works really well, both on the waistline and for the budget.

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Ah, now we’ve arrived at the Plaza. It was built Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and was designed to show off the porcelain that southern Spain does so well.

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There’s a special little stall for each of the cities in Spain.

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See all of these railings? It’s not paint, it’s porcelain.

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I called these “the cookie jars.”

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Yet another couple having their wedding photos done. I wish you could see from this photo the unbelievable shoes the bride was wearing. I am impressed she remained upright the entire time.

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Cookie jar!

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Can you tell that Yen really enjoyed photographing this place?

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Don Quixote de la Mancha! I sang the soundtrack the rest of the night, poor Yen!

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We liked this tile, which shows the agricultural regions of southern Spain. Because it was January, most of the fields were fallow, and I was dying to know what was meant to be in them.

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At last night fell and we ushered Yen forwarded into the rest of the park.

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I can’t remember what this building is. A costume museum, maybe?

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And then we headed into the old Jewish area for dinner. It’s full of tiny restaurants full of cured ham hanging from the ceiling. Waiters come rushing out to the sidewalk to tell you how wonderful their food is. And they’re right.

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