Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sevilla, Spain

June 11 and 12 we traveled to Sevilla, the ancient and long-standing capital of the autonomous community of Andalucia in southern Spain, one of 17 autonomous communities that make up modern-day Spain.  Located along the River Guadalquivir, the only truly navigable river in Spain, it was built on the foundation of the Roman city of Hispalis, which was later expanded during the occupation of the Moors, Muslims from North Africa, from 712 A.D. to 1248 A.D.  At that time it was brought under the Christian kingdom of Castille and later made the seat of government under the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand.
With the discovery of the New World, Sevilla became one of the economic centers of the world,  as its port monopolized the trans-oceanic trade for centuries. In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan departed from Seville for the first circumnavigation of the Earth.  It is a city rich in history and amazing architecture, and while we were not able to see all of it, we saw enough to truly fall in love with it.  Following are only a few of the many, many pictures we took while there for 2 days.

We had a very comfortable hotel suite with 14-foot ceilings, well air-conditioned and a fabulous bed.

Courtyard entrance into our hotel rooms.

Streets outside our hotel.  We stayed in the Santa Justa part of the city; old and charming with narrow streets and lots of alluring shops. Here the workers were putting up shade screens to give some relief from the heat.  Narrow streets actually help because they have shade most of the day.

Looking through the portal of the "Gate of Forgiveness", across the Court of Oranges and at the north facade of the famous Sevilla Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the 3 largest cathedral overall.  Loved this shot of the flying buttresses, so typical of Gothic architecture.  Michelle you would have loved this place; Sevilla was made for you.  Lots of shops and amazing history and architecture.  This stuff is OLD!

Another shot of the cathedral.  The horse carriages hang out on this side because of the shade.

Antonio, our horse carriage driver and well-informed guide of the city.  If you go to Sevilla, definitely take the buggy ride; you'll see a lot more of the city than you'll ever cover on foot, and learn a lot more about what you're seeing from the driver.  At least if it's Antonio.

Torre del Oro, situated on the banks of the river where the Old Spanish galeóns docked with their New World treasures.

Our favorite restaurant in Sevilla.  You're right, it's not typical Spanish food, but it was GOOD Mexican.

Relaxing in the air-conditioned comfort of Iguanas Ranas waiting for the delicious food.  Beautiful tile work, for which Sevilla is world-famous.  More on that later

Giralda tower, the icon of the city.  Bell tower of the Cathedral of Sevilla.  When the bells chimed it was pretty neat.

Plaza Mayor of Sevilla.  Just a part; it stretched for a few blocks.

Viv's favorite dress shop.  A flamenco dress almost identical to the one on the doll that her dad brought her from Spain back in the 60's.  And by the way, the ladies still wear these for fiestas in all imaginable colors and patterns.  Beautiful.

Inside the Cathedral of Sevilla

Tomb of Christopher Columbus inside the Cathedral

Main Choir Vault located in the center of the Cathedral.  I can't describe the exquisite woodwork contained here.  The organ is one of the finest instruments in all of Europe, and we got to hear it.  It was awesome!

One of the two large chambers of organ pipes, one on each side of the main vaulted columns of the nave.

Amazing altar of pure silver housed inside the cathedral in one of the side chapels.

Some of the treasures and relics in the treasury of the Cathedral.  There were rooms full of stuff, all amazing; art and works of gold and silver, just kind of mind-boggling.

An example of the relics and treasures in the Cathedral.

Across the river in the Triana section of Sevilla, famous for its tile and ceramics.  When you park in our driveway at home you'll be able to see what we bought here.

One of the many ceramic/porcelain shops in Triana, and the one where we purchased our keepsake.

It felt like we stopped at every dress shop in Sevilla.  Viv saw these little aprons in the window and I couldn't say "no".  We also bought our Flamenco tickets from this lady-to a little "off the beaten path" authentic Flamenco show later that night.

Arriving at Case de la Guitarra for the Flamenco.  Wonderful air conditioning which put us in a good mood for the show.  This place was tiny.  It's a museum of guitars of Spain back to about 1800 showing the evolution of the Flamenco guitar.  They also put on authentic shows, not the big tourist production type shows.  The guitarist was absolutely amazing and my favorite part of the show.

The stage.  One guitarist, one singer, and one dancer; all amazing.  No pictures or videos were allowed of the actual performance.  Sad.

Walking back to our hotel in the evening we ran into a neighborhood fiesta.  I think they were celebrating hundreds of years of a local beer or wine brand, I'm not sure which.  I'm sure they had named it after some local saint (they're are countless celebrations in all parts of Spain and they're always named after some local saint).  But the music was great as they marched down the streets singing and playing.

Dresses in the neighborhood fiesta

And what's a neighborhood fiesta without Andalusian horses????

Friday, June 27, 2014

Córdoba, Spain

June 10-14, while the Madrid Temple was closed, we traveled through three of the most famous cities of southern Spain, the area known as Andalucía, or Andalusia as it's spelled in English.  The cities of Córdoba, Sevilla (or Seville), and Granada.  To make this palatable to those of you brave enough to follow our blog, I'm going to break this trip into 3 smaller pieces, or bites if you will.
First up: Córdoba.  During the middle ages when the Moors ruled most of Spain, especially Andalucía, Córdoba was the capital of an Islamic Caliphate, and the most powerful ruler of the Iberian peninsula. It was built on the ruins of an old Roman town so you get an idea how old the place is.  It has been estimated that in the 10th century Córdoba was the most populous city in the world and was also a center for education under its Islamic rulers. The Muslim rulers opened many libraries on top of the many medical schools and universities which existed at the time. Such universities contributed towards developments in mathematics and astronomy.  During these centuries Córdoba had become the intellectual center of Europe and was also noted for its predominantly Muslim society that was tolerant toward its Christian and Jewish minorities.  Today it is a moderately-sized modern city with a population of about 330,000.


Our traveling companions, Glenn and Karen Chapple, on the high speed train (200 mph) from Madrid to Córdoba

The main door (in the corner behind the tree) to our hotel, then up 2 very narrow flights of steps to our room. It was an adventure just finding this place including a wild bus ride.

Our rooms overlooked this plaza (on the 2nd floor in the corner behind Vivienne).  It was fun, but not comfortable.

Making our way through the cobblestone streets to the cathedral/mosque.  Viv is playing chicken with the car

Main entrance into the cathedral/mosque courtyard, The Gate of Forgiveness

Inside the cathedral/mosque courtyard, or Plaza de los Oranjas (court of the oranges). It was here the Muslims would wash their feet and hands before entering the mosque to pray

Inside the mosque.  It is overwhelming.  Huge.  Awe inspiring.  This picture is only a part of it. Started in 784 A.D. completed in 987 A.D.

The Mihrab.  Here the Imam stood to read from the Koran, facing the door with its chamber of amplification. Great acoustic.
There is a large Roman Catholic Cathedral INSIDE of the mosque.

Overview of the mosque with the cathedral built in the middle, including the court of the oranges

Across the plaza from the mosque/cathedral is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, or Court of the Christian Kings

Inside the Alcázar going down to the baths and gardens

Baths of the Alcázar. Filled with the scent of exotic herbs.

Gardens of the Alcázar

Gardens of the Alcázar

Gardens of the Alcázar

Gardens of the Alcázar

Resting in the Gardens of the Alcázar.  It's a BIG garden

Statues of Isabella, Ferdinand and Columbus inside the Gardens of the Alcázar.  Columbus met with them here in their court while negotiating funding for his first voyage.

Gardens of the Alcázar

Waterwheel and mill in front of the ancient Roman bridge on the river Guadalquivir

On the Roman bridge crossing the river Guadalquivir

Vivienne and the Chapples walked to the other side where there was a fort, now a museum.  I gave out and stayed behind.

A delicious dinner at the La Siesta.

Walking the streets of the Jewish quarter, and hotel named to Seneca the great Roman senator, who was born in the city.

The shops.  Vivienne's favorite part of the trip.  She's had enough of cathedrals (not me though)

They really do manage in these ancient narrow streets, but it's not easy.  Everyone has to clear the road and he pulls in his mirrors, and goes very slow.  I never saw an accident, but it's a miracle.

The ancient Jewish sinagoga.  Unfortunately it was closed for renovation. Built in 1305

Córdoba was wonderful! Romantic! We recommend seeing it