Seville, 13 May 2010

[Click on a picture to enlarge it.]

After a quick breakfast, we headed out for a city bus tour with Luiz as our guide.  Seville is 300 years older than Rome.  3000 years ago it was called Hispolis, in 45 BC, Julia Rombula, in 712, Isbillia, from  whence came the name Seville.  It’s the fourth largest city in Spain, with a population of 750 thousand, and is the capital of Andalucia.  We saw the Tower of Gold, which originally had glittering tiles, and was built in 1220.

Moorish wall of Seville

After a fairly brief tour of the old parts of town including the walls, we headed for the sites of the 1920 and 1992 Olympics.

There were 13 gates until the 19th century, when the walls were torn down to allow expansion of the city. Only one gate is left.  Our guide was quite proud that Magellan, Columbus,  De Soto, Coronado, Cortez, and  many other explorers sailed from Seville.  The river tides were a factor in making Seville a successful port. The operas Don Juan and Figaro are set

Ariane, the first major European rocket

in Seville.  Carmen, who was a real person lived next door to our hotel.

Seville had expos in 1920 and 1992, the latter having received 41 million visitors.  The Arabic word for river is Wadi, and the river through Seville is Rio Guadaquiver, which starts with the sound “wada”.  They had an intercollegiate regatta here last year, with many schools participating, including Yale, or guide reported that the local team won.

We first drove through the 1929 expo grounds and saw all sorts of buildings which are now being used for consulates, schools, and museums.  In Spain “America” refers to the North American or maybe both American continents.  They don’t use “USA”, either.  We are EEUU to them.  I can’t remember ever seeing that used anywhere.

1920 Olympic site building

Many Roman emperors were born or lived here.  Scipio named the area “Italia”, which apparently stuck.  Christopher Columbus was buried successively in Seville, Santo Domingo, Cuba, and then Seville again, in the Cathedral.  They say he made four voyages while alive, and  four while dead.

12 new bridges were built for the expo, at least one of them by the architect Cala Trava, who is also doing the Manhattan “Ground Zero” structure.  Although Spain grows dates successfully, they are too expensive to harvest, and so Spain’s dates are imported from the Middle East.

The walls were torn down in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution to make room for factories.  Only one of 13 original gates remains, and it is called, “Macarena”.  The Arabic/Moorish walls have pointed tops, while the Roman walls are square topped.  Ring Street is where the wall was. Columbus returned here in 1493, but had to travel to Barcelona to meet Ferdinand and Isabella.  He brought back tobacco, which was originally used as a medicine.

Spain was neutral in both World Wars.  The US bought Florida for $5 million.

Spain or Seville, or Andalucia has 30 thousand orange trees, which are bitter, and apparently used only for marmalade.  Of course, these are the Seville oranges from which the not so sweet marmalade is made.  In Spain the marmalade is made only from oranges.  Anything else is jam.  The legend is that when the Infanta (Princess) Maria was sick, she was given lots of vitamin C in the form of orange marmalade.  When someone questioned why so much was fed her, the reply was, “Maria malade”, from whence comes the name “marmalade”.

We then drove through the later expo grounds, and saw many novel buildings.  It must have been quite an event.  Teresa observed that the new grounds were in many ways like Balboa Park, it sort of seemed like home

We saw the 17th C Murillo Gardens with palace for visitors.  Patricia recommended Oriza as a good restaurant.

El Cano was the first person to circumnavigate the globe.  Although the voyage started with Magellan, he and most of his expedition did not survive.  El Cano returned in one boat with 18 sailors out of 264 who set out in several boats.

john & Teresa, Barry & Kathleen

Our photographer for the group, Manolo, was a retired paparazzo for “Hola” magazine.  In Spain, the term for retire is a little more positive: jubilate.   A retired man is a jubilato, a woman, jubilata.  We then went for a wonderful carriage ride back to the hotel using 9 carriages.

Our guide for the walking tour of the Alcazar and the Cathedral

Geoffrey & Jane, Fred & Joanne

was Conchita.  We walked through picturesque squares and narrow streets, or alleys, really.  Inside the Alcazar, to my surprise were private homes and shops.  The homes had their front doors open not only for air circulation but to show off their lovely patio gardens.  We saw a 16th century stock market building which, when the seaport moved to Cadiz, became the government archives, which holds papers relating to the voyages of Columbus.

We saw the Giralda Tower of the Alcazar which was built by Moors for a Christian King in the Mudejar style.  Like other Moorish structures, the walls had the pointed embattlements.  At this point in time there are no synagogues in Sevilla, which is apparently a matter of money, and having so few Jews.

Murillo and Velazquez were two significant painters from Sevilla, but Velazquez went to Madrid, while Murillo stayed here.  In those days the only paintings were commissioned by the Church or by the Royal family.  23 operas are set in Seville.

Walking in the narrow alleys, you come across grinding stones set in the side of walls to protect them from carriages that

Saving the walls

would otherwise destroy them over time.  We headed over to the Cathedral which was built by Moors for the King.  You can see a Roman stone with a Latin inscription placed sideways as a cornerstone of the cathedral.  The only cathedrals larger than this one are St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London.  The interior if the Cathedral is magnificent with huge columns reaching high above, supporting an unusual arrangement of

Columns and arches of the Cathedral

arches.  The stained glass is beautiful, but generally placed too high to get the full effect.  We saw the Sacristy, and the Council Room.  There has been renovation going on foryears.  In some areas complete columns have been renewed by replacing each stone one by one.  Paintings by Murillo are everywhere.  Our guide said of the Cathedral, “It’s the best museum in town.”

After the Cathedral, we headed for lunch at the San Marcos, which we were told was located in a Moorish bath, and so it

Lunch in a Moorish bath, with Fred and Joanne

was, Moorish columns and horseshoe arches surrounding us.  As was usually true, our meals were excellent.  We had a delightful time at lunch with Fred and Joanne, who split their time between St. Louis and Tampa.

We used my new Garmin navigator in “pedestrian mode” and we soon learned that if you pick the wrong hotel, you are not directed to the correct hotel.  I finally got it right, and we made it back.

We took a long nap, and then I went out to get a notepad because the one Teresa gave me was almost filled, and a portable hard drive because my laptop hard drive was almost filled.  I wanted about a 100 GB drive but found a pocket sized 320 GB Western Digital “My Passport” for not too much money.

It’s been threatening rain for a while, and it finally sprinkled a little.  It was over before dinner time, but we had a light snack in the hotel, which was heavy duty on the wallet.  I got a melon soup and Teresa got a small salad for 30 Euros, or

Our room at the Alphonso XIII

40 dollars each.  We won’t do that again.  The service was really good, though.  The Hotel Alfonso XIII, is the most

The foyer on our floor

magnificent hotel I can remember staying in.  There were painted tiles and carvings everywhere, and a delightful old elevator.  Our room was huge, and included a large chandelier.

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