Friday, 20 January 2017

Seville

Thursday 10th November, 2016

The view was very foggy as we departed Cordoba at 8.45 am, for the 2 1/2 hour coach journey to Seville. The journey took us through rolling hills and acres of olive groves. We arrived at our hotel, situated just off a narrow, one way, alley. There was much horn blowing as Frank scrambled around in the taxi, looking for his wallet. Thankfully I found it. It had slipped down into the side pocket. The driver was paid, the traffic moved on and peace was restored.

At reception, we were welcomed with a glass of champagne, which was greatly received given the short drama outside.

The Hotel Corrigidor, close to the Alameda [Mall] de Hercules, was another fantastic find by Frank, comfortable, friendly, spacious, great location.

Alameda de Hercules.

RHS - view from our room to the narrow alley.

Nic, Frank's mate of over 50 years, wasn't arriving from Geneva until about 5 pm, so we set out to find the Guadalquivir River and the stunning, white bridge we had spotted driving into Seville.

The Alamillo bridge was completed in 1992 for the 1992 World Expo. It is a cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge, designed to create a bridge of symbolic importance. It represents the soaring aspirations of the City of Seville.

During the 3 days we were here, we again found delightful alleys and al fresco eating.

Mates catching up at the Moorish themed Restaurant, Cuna 2 on Calle Cuna. Fantastic food, decor and service.

A short distance away from the restaurant, was the dramatic, wooden structure, Metropole Parasol. Designed by a German, made from birch from Finland, concrete and steel, it is held together by glue. Completed in 2011, it consists of 6 parasols in the form of giant mushrooms and in its lower level is  an archaeological museum preserving Roman houses, discovered at the beginning of the project. Built in the old market square of the old city, it is in stark contrast to its historic surroundings.

Another evening we found a tiny restaurant, in an alley off the Alameda de Hercules. Lovely food, but memorable for me, was the size of the sangria I ordered.

Walking back through the Alameda de Hercules, we discovered that a stage had been set up and groups of men were singing Spanish folk songs, accompanied by only one or two guitars and or a mandolin. They wore pantaloons and black cloaks covered in badges. We spent over an hour listening to their wonderful melodic tones, but were unable to discover anything of their story. Googling has proved negative.

video


Many kilometres were covered as we explored the city over the next 3 days.

Columbus Monument [built 2014] with his ship 'Santa Maria' in the Murillo Gardens, adjacent to the Alcazar Gardens.

Rodrigo de Triana  aboard La Pinta, shouted "Tierra! Tierra!" [land, land], at 2am on October 12, 1492. Triana was not given recognition for his discovery.  

Columbus' tomb in the Cathedral.

A glimpse through a gate.

Street flamenco.

Paid flamenco.


Returning from the flamenco dancing, the street lighting and atmosphere on a Saturday evening was incredible. The Spanish really do know how to relax and spend time with family and friends.


 Fascinating buildings whereever we walked.




Interesting embassies.

Behind this archway is our first glimpse of one of the stunning end towers, of the majestic Plaza Espana, built as the centrepiece and administrative office of the World Fair held in in Seville in 1929. We hadn't a clue of the extent and grand scale of this amazing complex that we were about to see.


Here is our second glimpse of the tower and we are still completely unaware of the scale of things to come.
 


It was impossible for my camera to even begin to capture the splendour of this semi circular plaza and building.
A panorama from my I-phone.

As seen on google maps.






The complex is decorated with the azulejos or painted ceramic tiles, found throughout Seville. The complex however, is most famous for the 58 benches lining the facade of the main building, which depict allegorical paintings representing each province of Spain.

The expansive gardens of the Maria Luisa Park opposite, were a delight to walk through.

Seville's Cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede took 100 years to construct. 1401 - 1506. It was built over the site of the Alijama mosque built in the late 12th C. The Cathedral's bell tower [103 m] was the Giralda or minaret of the mosque and dominated the skyline for over 800 years. I spotted it from many different angles.

The tower has a ramp made of 35 segments to elevate one to near the top of the tower. It was wide and tall enough to allow a person to ride a horse to the top.The Christians added a final stairway of 17 steps up to the bells.

The Seville cathedral is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and its size and grandeur is imposing.


From the top of the Giralda, we had 360 degree views of this vast city.
Top L - immediately behind the cathedral roof top is the Alcazar.  Top R - the roof top and Patio de los Naranjos or courtyard for the Moorish worshippers to wash their hands and feet.
Bottom L - the old bull ring  Bottom R - Alamillo Bridge and Metropole Parasol

The Royal Alcazar of Seville has a history similar to that of Granada and Cordoba. Below is an excerpt from http://www.seville-traveller.com/alcazar-seville/ which succinctly tells its story.

"History
Soon after the Almohades, a Moorish dynasty, gained control of Seville in 1161, they embarked on a building frenzy. They constructed a number of baths, towers, a lavish grand mosque and a fortress-like palace known as the Al-Muwarak (the Blessed). 

In 1364, after the Reconquista - the reconquest of Moorish Spain by Christians - King Pedro I commissioned the construction of a new palace, the Palacio Pedro I, at the site of the Al-Muwarak. Craftsmen from across Andalusia created a magnificent interior in Mudéjar style, arranged around a number of patios. Over the years, other monarchs kept expanding the palace, resulting in a diverse complex with different architectural styles. The top floor of the palace is still actively used by the Royal Family."

Its beauty in a few photos.




Maiden's Courtyard and below a close up of the detail of the tower behind the courtyard.



Ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors.




Beauty of a window -  2nd shot, same window, but a different light.




The Alcazar gardens were beautiful in their own way, but not as stunning as in Granada and Cordoba.


On our last night we dined where the locals ate, but inside.



It had been a brilliant 3 days in Nic's company. Our goodbyes were said back at the hotel, as we had a 4.30 am start for our flight to Lisbon. 

I would love to read your comment.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Short visit to Madrid and Barcelona.

16 October 2016

In October 2016, my husband and I flew into Madrid to begin our 5 week holiday in Spain and the Mediterranean.

It has been challenging to make this selection of photos of our 1st week - Madrid [2days] and Barcelona [4 days].

My initial and continuing impression of all the Spanish cities we visited, was of the beauty of the narrow balconies with their cast iron balustrades, that were found on almost every apartment building, lining  narrow and often cobbled streets. 

Plaza Mayor - Madrid's central plaza dating back to 1598. It has a ring of old and traditional shops under its porticoes and has seen markets, bull fights, football games and executions.

Panorama of Plaza


A late afternoon walk beside the Manzanares River with lovely views back to the old city, cathedral and palace.

After our visit to the Prado Museum - Spanish National Art Gallery - and being blown away by pieces like:-
 Raphaels - The Cardinal', Velazquez's -  Mirror on the Wall, Rubin's - Three Graces and Tintorettos - Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciples,
we walked through El Retiro Park, which once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy.

So much to see and looking up was a must do.

Every entrance boasted an impressive wooden door. This was repeated throughout the towns we visited in Spain.

The magnificent Royal Palace.

Parliament

An 8 hour coach journey took us east to Barcelona. An unexpected highlight was crossing 0 longitude.



During our first morning in Barcelona, we were taken on a guided tour of the city.
After lunch, our coach took just over an hour to drive us to the base of the multi- peaked, rocky range of Montserrat. Here we  boarded a gondola for the spectacular ride up to the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat. [1025 AD]


The abbey and its position on the side of the Montserrat Range.

Inside the cathedral. 
Bottom right is the 12th C Black Madona, attributed to many miracles.
 

I spent a lot of time appreciating this awe inspiring, side chapel in the abbey.


It was in Barcelona, that my excitement for exploring the narrow alleyways of Spanish towns grew.


Christopher Columbus Column.

La Rambla

The markets were amazing.


Arche de Triumphe, built for the Barcelona World Fair in 1888.

Placa Catalunya.

The old bullring, now a shopping centre.

Placa Espanya and Avenue de la Reina Maria Cristina.

Venetian Towers [ornamental] and the National Palace built for the International Exhibition of 1929.


Looking down from, and up to, the National Palace and its Magic Fountain. [Both built at the same time] Each evening the fountain performs a unique display of music, water acrobatics and light. Alas, our timing was poor and we missed the show. 

View across Barcelona, from the National Museum to the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus [seen on the horizon] atop the Tibidabo, the highest point in the range behind Barcelona.


Our hotel was towards the base of the Tibidabo and on our last morning we walked to a funicular, that took us to the base of the church and an amusement park. We skipped the park, visited the church and climbed the stairs to the base of the statue of Christ - impressive position, impressive building and sculptures, and impressive 360 views.




The Cathedral of Barcelona is often confused with the Basilica Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi. The Cathedral sits in the centre of the old city streets, in the Gothic Quarter. Its beauty is overlooked because of the renown of the Basilica.
In this photo, it's spires rise above the surrounding buildings. 


We were able to take a lift up to its roof top, walk along some narrow, grated walkway and take in the roof top vistas of Barcelona.




The Basilica Sagrada Familia, as seen from the rooftop of the Cathedral, 3 kms away.


Gaudi took over the designing of the Basilica in 1887 and worked on it for 40 years, until his death after a tragic accident with a tram. 

On our first quite brief visit, we only walked around the outside. I could appreciate the craftsmanship, but for me, it was too overdone for it to be a place of worship.


At the end of our holiday, we had to return to Barcelona for our flight home. We paid for an audio tour. Its commentary of both the external and internal building, totally changed my feelings. Once we stepped inside, we couldn't help but be moved by the stunning natural light, vibrant stained glass and simplicity. One's spirit rapidly soared to Gaudi's tree tops.
I won't even begin to explain his thoughts behind the design, but if you are interested, this link does quite a good job.


The entrance door has The Lord's Prayer written in Spanish, in its centre. In the background is the same prayer in many other languages.


The expectation is that the Sagrada Familia will be completed in another 10 years. Work commenced 133 years ago!

Walking back to our hotel on our last evening, we walked past this beautifully lit, city wall.  It was difficult to say goodbye to this captivating city.


This post has barely scratched the surface of what makes Madrid and Barcelona. I hope you too get to visit and see it all for yourself.
Thank you for visiting and I would love to read your comment.