Posts Tagged ‘seville’

A Lazy Day in Seville and on to Marrakesh

April 28th, 2008 at 7:15 am (AST) by Jake Richter

After an excellent night’s rest, we had a late start with breakfast around 11am yesterday, after which we headed to the nearby Parque Marie Luisa. The park had served as the site of the World Expo/Fair in Seville in the early 1900s. It was a beautiful sunny day, and dry as well, as we walked over there.

First stop was the Plaza de España, a magnificent piece of architecture which had started as the Spanish national pavilion at the World Expo. It is a huge, long building with tall ornate towers at each end, curved around a half circle, with an adjacent terrace at the base featuring large niches for each of Spain’s provinces with colorful tile work. From this terrace there are several bridges (see photo above right of the three shorter Richters on one of those bridges) into a central plaza in which a large fountain in centered.

One of the neat facts about the Plaza de España is that it was featured both in the epic movie Lawrence of Arabia, as well as in Star Wars Episodes 1 and 2 (the fourth and fifth Star Wars movies), including the bridge which is pictured above.

We toured the park, visited the Sevilla Archeological Museum to see Roman relics unearthed in the area – some excellent tablets, pottery, and statuary. Bas then forced us to rent a four-person (two by two) cycle to pedal around the park for half an hour. It was then we learned that he could not pedal, steer, and talk all at the same time, much to everyone’s amusement.

We had a late lunch at the hotel, dining off the day menu featuring bull dishes (bull tail for me, ragout for Linda, and entrecote for Krystyana – Bas opted for ham and cheese pizza) in honor of the recent fiesta in Seville (which we missed by days) which also included some bull fighting at the nearby Seville bull fighting stadium. After a couple of hours of playing some card games and resting, we lumbered over to the Triana district for our last dinner in Seville, at the 120+ year old Casa Cuesta.

Our concierge, who grew up in the area, recommended the restaurant as the best source of local Sevillian cuisine, and we suspect he was right. The tripe stew (menudo), veal stew, and “cream of bread with vegetables” (turned out to be an excellent creamy Gazpacho) were all great. However, we were still so full from lunch we passed on dessert, although we did make an obligatory stop for gelato for Bas on the way back to the hotel (at 11pm).

Today we broke our fast at the hotel breakfast buffet (I was still full from yesterday though), packed up, and made our way to the Seville airport, flew to Madrid, waited a bunch of hours, and then finally with a couple hour delay, made it to Marrakesh where Lindblad Expeditions had a driver waiting for us and one other couple on the same flight. We were delivered to our hotel, dumped our luggage and had another late dinner, as Marrakesh is two hours behind Seville, so we’re all messed up again with respect to time zones.

The plan tomorrow is to explore various parts of Marrakesh.

By the way, for those of you only relying on e-mail notifications for new posts on this blog, please be advised that you have missed a whole week’s worth of posts – click on the Traveling Richters logo at the top of this page and then scroll down past this post to see what other wonderful things we’ve had to say so far.

Note also that it appears that my phone data services are not working, so posts for the foreseeable future will need to wait until I get to a live Internet connection (which I do have at our hotel in Marrakesh – it’s not very good, but with patience it ultimately seems to work).

 

Seville’s Mixed Muslim/Christian History

April 27th, 2008 at 10:23 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Due to something I ate earlier in the day on Friday and a mild fever, I slept very poorly and felt unwell for much of yesterday. That, however, did not prevent me from heading out to tour areas near our hotel, including the Real Alcazar (pronounced Al-ka-ztha), a former Moorish palace and college which had been taken over by the Castilians back in the late 1400s and converted over to a Spanish/Christian palace for Emperor Charles V.

The Alcazar was somewhat reminiscent of the Nazarid Palace at the Alhambra although on a much larger scale, with amazing Islamic scroll work over most of the buildings, with bits of classical European Christian Renaissance architecture and ornamentation.

We also were fortunate to be able to see an exhibit of Ottoman calligraphy, which involved a number of forms of illuminated Arabic writing, used to record the suras of the Koran, as well as issue imperial documents. These documents, known as Fermans (imperial decrees), Berats (imperial grant), and Mensurs (imperial appointments) would be headed by incredibly ornate imperial monograms associated with a particular Ottoman Sultan – these monograms are called ‘Turgas’.

After a late lunch we toured the massive Catedral de Sevilla and the associated La Giralda bell tower, which we climbed via a ramp with 35 landings (all numbered) and a set of stairs out to where the bells were (as well as a great view of all of Seville). It should be noted that the cathedral was built over a mosque, and consecrated as a cathedral in 1248. Some of the architectural elements of the mosque are still visible today.

We wandered about via narrow streets for a while before getting some gelato (ice cream has become a part of our daily ritual). After a short break at the hotel during which Bas tried the (cold) pool, we wandered back into the surrounding neighborhood to have a tapas dinner and enjoy an hour and a half of Flamenco dancing at Tablao El Arenal. It was quite an emotionally charged performance, featuring three guitarists, four singers, four female dancers, and two male dancers. Bas was too tired to take it all in, but the rest of us found it wonderful, especially considering the intimate size of the restaurant. And I finally was able to eat and feel good after being unwell earlier, which made the performance even more enjoyable.

After a stroll home, with a requisite stop for pastries, coffee, and tea, we settled in for solid slumber.

 

To Ronda and Beyond on our ‘Tapas Tour’

April 25th, 2008 at 5:38 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After enjoying our repast of Iberian ham and cheese from the supermarket as our breakfast we said goodbye to Peter and Nice, and posed for a Bonaire Reporter ‘shot’ (holding up a copy of the bi-monthly Bonaire Reporter newspaper in an exotic locale) to send back home to Bonaire. The Lensvelts were great hosts and we regret only having been able to spend two nights at their place. However, as Peter so eloquently put it, we are on a ‘Tapas Tour’ – one where we taste a little bit of each place to see where we might like to revisit in the future. I see it as a sort of self-designed ‘tasting menu’ myself.

We headed out through Alozaina in The Beast, along twisty turning narrow roads high above deadly precipices (no joke), surviving the trip along route A-366 with nary a scratch but a lot more adrenaline in our systems. The scenery was gorgeous – changing from hilly and verdant to mountainous and stark and then back again. The most curious thing we saw along the way was a flock of vultures on the ground in a field – probably about 30 of them, hopping about (they don’t walk, they hop). Alas we were not quick enough with the camera.

We also learned – actually, we confirmed – that our GPS has a sense of humor. We have it set for fastest driving time mode, and somehow it has determined, incorrectly, that this means the most direct route should be chosen. Yesterday we found ourselves in a maze of narrow streets in La Linie near Gibraltar that The Beast barely made it through, and today the GPS took us up a thousand year old footpath the back way into Ronda. We managed to avoid damaging any tourists or The Beast along the way, but it was a very close thing.

Amusingly, we later saw several other GPS users coming up the same way. Someone at Garmin sure has a strange sense of humor.

Ronda was beautiful, with an ancient bridge rising hundreds of feet above a water filled gorge still in active use today (we drove over it in The Beast and walked over it a couple of times too).

After locating a parking facility – and let me tell you, parking in old cities and villages, especially with something as large as The Beast, is miserable – we made our way to the Bull Fighting Arena (see photo above), which serves as a museum when there’s not a bull fight going on. The kids were not wild about the idea at first, but I think they gradually came to understand the cultural, and dare I say artistic, roots that make up Spanish bull fighting. They are understandably still perturbed by the thought of killing a bull for entertainment, but also understand it’s not nearly as simplistic as it seems. In a way, it’s a performance and show, where almost always the bull dies, but not before making a stand of his own (and yes, a matador has actually been killed by the bull in Ronda, but it was a long tim ago – and matadors do get hurt too, although the odds are weighed pretty heavily against the bull, of course).

We then had lunch (the kids had a mixel grill with beef, ironically) at a posh restaurant outside the Arena, and went on to spend several more hours exploring Ronda’s history and quaint streets.

By 7pm we were on our way to Seville, dropped our rental car off at the train station – Good riddance to The Beast!, and took a taxi to our hotel.

Our plan for tomorrow is unclear for the most part. We are booked to see an authentic Flamenco show in the evening (with Tapas), and may go visit the Alcazar – a Moorish castle across the street from our hotel. But most importantly, we are going to try and sleep in!

 

Our Next Trip… Spain, Morocco, Portugal, England, France

April 13th, 2008 at 8:48 am (AST) by Jake Richter

We’re now in the final throes of getting ready for the next expedition of The Traveling Richters. We depart Bonaire on Friday, April 18th on a five week journey which will take us to Spain and then Morocco.

We start in Spain in Barcelona for several days (which including meeting up with our friend Martin and his father), then fly to Granada to see the Alhambra. We then rent a car, drive south to the mountains of Andalusia to stay at villas managed by Peter, an old friend from Bonaire. We’ll use his place as a base to visit Gibraltar for a day, and then when we leave, go via Ronda to then spend several days in Sevilla before flying south.

In Morocco we join up with a group as part of a Lindblad Expeditions tour which includes academic lectures on culture, history, and sociology, as well as hands on work with a National Geographic photographer.

After a few days in Marrakech and the Atlas mountains visiting with Berber tribes, we board the National Geographic Endeavour in Safi, visit Kenitra and some historical sites there, and then head up to spend three days learning about Portugal (including the making of port wine) and then visit the largest and most revered cathedral and third most visited Christian pilgrimage site at Santiago de Compostella.

Then, after a couple of days at sea, we will go to Mont St. Michel off the northern coast of France, then Sark in the Channel Islands the next day, before finally arriving in England. After a private tour with the curator of the HMS Victory, we spend three days in London. On the night of May 13th, we take part in a BonaireTalk mini-meet in Surrey – if you’re in the London area that night and want to join us, drop a note on BonaireTalk.

On May 15th, courtesy of the TGV high speed train and the Chunnel, we head to Paris to finish off our trip with non-stop tours of museums, galleries, and restaurants. Our friends Martin and Angela will join us over the weekend we’re there as well.

And, assuming flights all work out, we’ll be back home sometime on May 23rd!

The itinerary, by date, is here.