Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sevilla

This past weekend, I visited Sevilla (Seville in English) for the first time.  For two days, I explored the city with BU.  As usual when BU takes a trip from Madrid to Andalucía, we took the AVE.  I've become a huge fan of the high speed train because you don't have to arrive two hours ahead of time like you do for a flight.  You don't have to take off your shoes, coat, scarf, and get prodded by creepy officials.  The AVE is really nice and really efficient.  It's also more expensive, but that's just part of life.

February 17, 2012 - Day 1 in Sevilla

Orange City
Arriving in Sevilla, the first thing that I noticed was the color orange.  The city is filled with orange trees and buildings painted in shades of rusted orange, faded red, and golden yellow.  Each building had been stylized to look distinct from those around it.  Horse-drawn carriages with orange-yellow wheels waited calmly in the streets for someone to ask for a ride.  When we first arrived, it was so warm and sunny that we all left our coats in the hotel.






Tree Roots
Another thing I noticed right away was that many of the trees had giant roots, which came up from the ground.  I'd love to know what kind of trees these are. They reminded me a bit of the banyan tree project my mom does with her students, but I think banyan trees are usually found by water, and these trees weren't in water.

Right after arriving, we had some free time to explore and eat lunch.  I tried so many new kinds of fish during this trip.  For a formerly picky eater, I think I'm doing pretty well.  The first day at lunch, we shared plates of salmorejo, avocado/shrimp/hake, fried crab meat, mushroom croquetas with eggplant, and artichokes with ham.  Everytime I hear the word alcachofa (artichoke in Spanish), I think of the poem, "Oda a la alcachofa," by Pablo Neruda.
Avocado with Shrimp and Hake
Cathedral
After lunch, the first event on BU's tried and true itinerary was the cathedral.  In past posts, I have said once or twice that I'm tired of seeing cathedrals; however, this one was really cool.  Aside from all the typical stuff coated in gold leaf, three things stood out to me in Sevilla's cathedral: the ceiling, the bell tower, and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.  In the middle of the cathedral, there are a few arches in the ceiling that are much more ornamented than the surrounding arches.  This is because this particular portion of the ceiling collapsed twice and was rebuilt in the style of the time period during which it collapsed.  Hearing that fun fact was simply a pleasure while standing under it and looking up.  The bell tower, called La Giralda, was a nice climb up a winding incline.  At the top, we saw a beautiful 360º view of Sevilla.  If you stay up there long enough, the bells will ring.  They rang once at 5:45 pm, and also probably ring more times on the hour.
View of Sevilla from La Giralda
I'm a little confused about Christopher Columbus.  In elementary school, I learned that he was from Italy but spent a lot of time petitioning his voyages in Portugal.  In Sevilla, I learned that he was from Sevilla.  In 2009 in Lisbon, I learned that he was from Portugal.  In 2009 on a bike tour in Barcelona, we passed the Monumento a Colón, and learned that he was from Spain.  Wikipedia confirms that Columbus was born in
Map of Columbus' Four Trips
Looks like he went from Spain and Portugal...
photo from wikipedia.org
the Republic of Genoa, which is now northwestern Italy.  The website also notes that Spain sent Columbus on his first voyage after Columbus' proposed trip had been rejected by Portugal and England.  Well, it says that Spain rejected him at first too, but after acquiring Granada, Isabel and Ferdinand later agreed since they didn't think he'd ever make it back.  How sweet...  Ignoring the unhygienic standards of travel back then, it looks like Columbus had a pretty sweet Caribbean vacation according to the map of his four voyages on Wikipedia.  In any case, we all finally know that the world isn't flat (except the Midwest, of course) and that N. America and S. America exist.  This ambitious explorer is a fun connection between Spanish history and American history, so it was neat to learn that the cathedral in Sevilla had 150 grams of the remains of Columbus' body, and had constructed a raised tomb for him.  150 grams isn't much, but it's all they could get since lots of different places seem to claim credit for Columbus' success.

Alcázar
After leaving the cathedral, we went to the Alcázar, which struck me as being even more orange than the rest of the city.  Our tour guide asked as what we noticed at a glance, and we were like, "Orange!"  The outside portion of the Alcázar was filled with lovely orange arches and doorways, in addition to orange trees and other plants.
Tiled Wall Patterns at the Alcázar






Alcázar



The inner portion of the Alcázar showed walls covered in mosaics of geometric designs, indicating Moroccan influence. Because of the tiles and Moroccan designs, the Alcázar of Sevilla reminded me of the Alhambra in Granada.  Both have tiled patterns on the walls, and both have plenty of ornate arches.  I believe the style of the arches is called poliobulados, but I'm not sure how that translates to English.  Look at the pictures and you'll understand.  Like the Alhambra, the Alcázar has both gardens and buildings, and the buildings have beautiful patios where all these decorations can be viewed.
Patio de los Reales Alcázares
Tarta de Espuma Compacta
For dinner, we ate at Casa Robles.  I ordered salmon with an orange sauce.  I've come to realize that you can put almost any type of sauce on salmon, and it will still taste good.  Orange sauce, garlic, lemon caper sauce with almonds, curry, etc.  Salmon is just generally good.  The dessert we ordered was pretty sweet.  I ordered the tarta de espuma compacta, mostly because it was a new vocab word for me.  It literally translates as a tart made of compact foam, but is more commonly known as "sponge cake" in English.  There was a meeting of the PP (Partido Popular) in Sevilla while we were there, and some of the people attending it were also eating at Casa Robles that night.








February 18, 2012 - Day 2 in Sevilla

The next day, I skipped breakfast because I felt like sleeping in and taking another shower.  Normally, like most people, I shower once per day.  However, the shower in this hotel was so much nicer than the one in my apartment, that I decided to shower twice that day.  I guess I was extra clean.  In any case, it was wonderful to not have to hold the shower head.  I don't like to say that one culture is better than another, because that's typically not appropriate; however, I think America got the showers right.  Attaching them to the wall was definitely a good decision.  To even out my perspective, I'd like to point out that Spain came up with the bright idea of the siesta.

Ceiling of the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla
The first stop for the day was the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla.  To be frank, I'm really tired of seeing depictions of religious scenes.  The work was obviously done by incredibly skilled artists, and I appreciate their talents.  That being said, I would have been more interested in learning about the painting techniques and materials they chose, and how they fit into the time period, instead of receiving an explanation of all the religious symbolism in each painting.  I realize that it is important to learn about other religions for the purpose of understanding, but I feel as though I have seen enough crucifiction scenes to last a lifetime.  Despite these paintings, I enjoyed looking at the building itself, with its domes and arches.

Does this not look like a waffle?
I should mention that outside, on the way to the museum, we passed a spectacular, abstract sculpture.  It was enormous, and it nearly shaded the entire plaza.  After seeing it both during the day and at night, I decided that it looked like a giant waffle.

Later in the afternoon, we visited the Puente de la Triana, a bridge over the Río Guadalquivir, the river.  There were several river cruises available, as well as the option to rent a kayak or pedal boat for the afternoon.  We crossed another bridge, passed the Torre de Oro, and arrived at lunch.  It was so pleasantly warm and sunny (60s) that we ate lunch at a restaurant outside along the river.  Outside.  In February.  Amazing.  I didn't even freeze to death.  Clearly, winter back home is not the same as winter in Spain.
Puente de la Triana - Río Guadalquivir
Taco de Merluza
The restaurant specialized in fried fish, so we all ordered a different kind of fish.  I ordered taco de merluza, which is hake in English (By the way, that's not a taco.  It's a lomo or trocito.  No tiene nada que ver con los tacos mexicanos.).  Julie ordered pavía de bacalao, and I don't know what that is in English.  Chloe ordered gambas (shrimp), Ray ordered mini-squids, and Pilar ordered atún (tuna).
la Duquesa de Alba







Each time I order food here, what comes to the table is a bit of a surprise.  I never know exactly what I'm going to get, and that's kind of fun.  I tried a bit of the bacalao and some gambas, and they were delicious.  The lunch was somewhat reminiscent of eating "fish and chips" in London.

After lunch, we had some free time, so we went to see the recently created sculpture of the Duquesa de Alba (Duchess of Alba).  She's a pretty interesting character - always the same facial expression, very fluffy hair, etc.  We took a picture, went to buy some snacks for the AVE, headed back to the hotel to meet the group, and departed for Madrid.

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