Monday, March 31, 2008

Dining Al Fresco

It had been a full day. The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen had walked over 10 miles, and we deserved a fine meal at Casa Robles, accompanied by a good wine.

Casa Robles was certainly a good choice. Whilst a little pricey, the food was excellent and service discreet but attentive. We sat outside in the hubbub of the narrow streets and it all added to the atmosphere.

Perfect end to a mighty fine day.
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Plan B

We are staying in the quarter known as Santa Cruz. It is a maze of narrow winding streets that look as if they were planned by someone with a ball of knotted wool. They zig and zag, cross and join.

Supper last night was taken at a Tapas bar. Nothing special, but quite adequate after the travelling.

We rose early surprising the girl at breakfast who was still setting up. By nine we were on our way - striding purposefully away from the hotel in precisely the wrong direction. A few minutes later this became clear and we retraced our steps. Continuing south were pleasantly surprised by how quiet it was.

We arrived at the square bounded by the cathedral and the Alcazar. After a few photos we headed for the Alcazar. This is where Plan B came in useful. The guide books and internet had failed to mention that it is closed on Monday. (Even the sign on the door failed to mention it).

Plan B kicked in and we headed on for Plaza de Espana and the gardens. Then we walked back, crossed the Guadalquivir and stopped for some lunch along the riverside.

We crossed back and walked on through the the old streets, looping round to the Cathedral. We went in and stood in awe at its size. It was vast, with soaring columns supporting an intricately latticed roof. In the corner was the entrance to the spectacular bell tower... So we took the tour and at the top of the climb were rewarded with a birdseye view across the city.

After a beer at a nearby hostelry we headed for the hotel and a brief siesta before heading out for the evening.

La Giralda

Completeing the tour of the Cathedral we climbed the tower of La Giralda. Interestingly this does not have steps or a lift (there weren't many elevators in 1568, when the tower was finished). It has a continuous incline that climbs, anti-clockwise, up the inside of the walls.

As you climb, windows shed light on the path and offer glimpses of the Cathdral or the city below. This window showed the orange grove "Patio de Naranjos" where the faithful would pause to wash their hands and feet in the shade of the oaranges before entering the church.

La Giralda is a bell tower so it is only right that the Gorse Fox shows a bell! It peeled whilst we were up there - but only briefly as it was a quarter to the hour. We made sure we had left before the full peel of bells on the hour.

A view looking north from La Giralda over Plaza de San Francisco. Gorse Fox strained to see the Golden Gate, but was disappointed. (However he had noticed the golden arches of a well known purveyor of fat burgers to the masses several blocks north!)

This was the view for La Giralda looking south over the Real Alcazar... a treat that would have to wait until tomorrow.
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The Cathedral

We returned to the Cathedral. Its size and roof-line dominate the Santa Cruz area of the city and La Giralda can be seen from almost everywhere.

What can be said of the cathedral itself?

Well for a start it is dark, cool, and quiet. Also, it is nowhere near as grotesquely opulent as the Baroque monstrosity in Granada. This still has lashings of intricate carvings, gold, and silver, paintings and silks, but somehow it is less "in your face".

Stained glass, though beautiful, lacked the impact of the English Cathedrals; possible because the building was so huge, and dark that the stained glass provided little to brighten the atmosphere.

What really impressed, however, was the delicate lattice-work of the ceilings springing from the vast pillars. As the Gorse Fox walked around he kept finding new vantage points from which he could see hidden worlds of windows, arches, vaults, and walkways.

Gorse Fox was getting worried. He had determined that the ceilings were the most fascinating part of the building and was walking round with his neck strained back and the camera firmly planted against his upturned face. Somehow, he managed to complete his tour without tripping or bumping into anyone.
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Triana

The walked past the Univesity and crossed the River Guadalquivir to the suburb known as Triana. This was the area where the artisans once lived and was home to the ceramic artists.

Calle Betis was lined with restuarants but few were open this early.

We finally found a spot to stop and take on sustenance. We sat is the sun looking across the river to the Seville skyline. Our waiter, who looked like the footballer Mido, scuttled backa and forth across the road servicing the tables on the river bank from the little restaurant.

Eventually, we moved on. We briefly plunged deeper into Triana, but then headed back across the river and into the heart of the City.
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More of the Parque

From Paza de Espana we carried on into the Parque Maria Luisa. A group of noisy schoolkids had the same idea, but were diverted by their teacher down a small avenue We seemed to have the place to ourselves again.

Everywhere you looked there were quite areas to sit and enjoy the surroundings - and of course the shade to protect you from the fierce sun.

Towards the southern end of the Parque was the Museo de Artes y Costmbres Populares. Another superb building at the end of a long avenu of trees. Walking round the building the whole area opens up between the Museo and the Museo Arqueologico with a quiet reflecting pond between then.

A few locals were making the most of the benches to sit and chat, to eat some late morning pastries, or to canoodle. (Though not all three at once).

The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen were quite taken with this part of the Parque and lingered for a while before setting out on an the next stage of the tour that we had selected from the guide book.
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Plaza de Espana

The Islamic style is not forgotten, despite the 20th century provenance of the building. The intricate designs decorate the ceilings as the Moorish arches top the slender supporting pillars.

It is hard to get a sense of scale for Palza de Espana, but this photo gives some sense of size.

We sat down for a while, in the sun. It was time to take on water and watch the world go by whilst planning the next stage of the tour.
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Parque Maria Luisa

We walked fourther south into the Parque Maria Luisa. The map had shown a large semi-circular edifice, but hadn't quite prepared us for this.

The Parque was donated to the city in 1893, and most of the landscaping and pavillions were completed by 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition. This Plaza de Espana is the highlight of the construction.

The centre of the Plaza de Espana is dominated by this fountain providing a cooling effect of the surround air.

As you walk round the curved interio you see tower that markes the start of the huge sweep. Everywhere you looked there were displays of brilliant ceramics.

The sweep was marked off in sections. Each section dedicated to a Spanish city. A ceramic picture depicted some event or represesntation of the city and in the floor was a ceramic map with the location.
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Jardines de Murillo

Emerging from Juderia and the narrow shaded alleyways we reahed the Jardines de Murillo and were confronted by the incredible root system of this vast tree.

We paused near here for a while to sit in the morning sun and for the Silver Vixen to restore some body heat.

The gardens provided shaded walks, places to sit and talk, and long avenues to stroll along and see and be seen.

In the centre was the monument to Christopher Columbus.
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Juderia

It was around this point that it became clear that the Real Alcazar was not open at 09:30 as it said on the door, but that in fact it was closed on Mondays.

We walked through an archway at the side of the old Palace into another enclosed plaza, lined with orange trees. Over in thr corner was a small exit that ran beneath the building.

At the end of the path we found ourselves in an alley that nestled beneath the Palace walls.

This alley was "Juderia" (the hint was on the wall!), but this is also the name for complete rabbit-warren of alleys and courtyards that occupy the eastern side of the Palace.

The Gorse Fox had stopped to take this photo and was just lining up the camera as the first door opened and a huge dog, straining on its leashed emerged, barking wildly (in Spanish - el barking). GF nearly jumped out of his skin. The owner gave a sheepish grin and told the dog to be quiet... and the walked off and left GF to it.
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Outside the Alcazar

The square opened up. It was virtually empty. This really was an ideal time to see the city.

Ornate lamps hung from the centre of small fountains, and deep shadows tried to hide the front of the buildings.

Dominating the square was the Cathedral. This vast building occupies the site of the mosque built by the Almohads in the late 12th Century. Work on the Catholic Cathedral, and it is the largest in Europe, started in 1401 and took nearly a century.

The sheer bulk of the building and the elaborate and ornate rooflines and flying buttresses were breathtaking.

The north-east corner of the Cathedral offers one of the iconic sights of Seville. La Giralda, the huge bell tower. We would return to this later.

Gorse Fox can't quite believe how many photos he has that feature La Giralda. It seems to turn up time and time again among the 500+ photos we took in the 2 days!
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The Quiet of the Morning

The morning streets were quiet as the Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen headed out into the Santa Cruz area of Seville. As we walked the streets, doorways revealed intriguiging insights into the wonders behind the facades.


The narrow streets were still cool in the early morning shade, the Silver Vixen was beginning to feel chilly, though once out into the sun it was already getting quite warm.

The shops were still closed and would be for a while yet. The odd motor scooter buzzed around like and angry wasp taking a Sevillian civilian to work.

It wasn't just the people of Seville who worked. This horse and cart was already on duty, making the most of the cool shade and waiting for the first tourists of the day to clatter around the cobbled streets.
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Courtyards

Many things are memorable in Seville. One in particular is the courtyards and enclosed spaces that you find behind the often plain facades of the buildings.

Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen we staying in a hotel with a glass covered atrium and and open courtyard. It was only small, but it was shaded and cool, and one could see its attraction in the height of summer.
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Plaza Ste Marta

Strolling back from the Tapas Bar "Tino" where we had supper we crossed towards the Church of Ste Marta across a deserted plaza.
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