11 Jun 2017
|June 10-11: Seville
Accommodation: Puerta Catedral. Second floor (carry up the luggage) studio apartments on a shop-filled, narrow, but main street feeding into the Cathedral and center old town a half block away.
Adjusting the life-style.
Our two days in Seville (Sa ve’ ya) have been a climate and cultural experience. As temperatures reach 42C (107F) we learned quickly to acclimate to the city’s life flow. Out early mornings for sightseeing until 2:00; lunch; back to the room until 8:00 (journaling, paying bills, emails, French Open, siesta); dinner; back by midnight; a little photo-journaling; asleep by 1 a.m. Glad we’re here early summer as temps reach 115F in July and August.
Seville reflects the 700 years of Muslim/Basque (tribes from north Africa) rule followed by the Romans/Christians. The Alcazar (castle), home of kings and queens has exquisite tile work, mosaics, intricate almost lacy arches that evolve as the buildings were occupied by the different cultures. A particularly lovely garden was built by Charles V for his betrothed. After honeymooning there for several months, he never returned to Seville.
Seville’s Cathedral is the third largest in the world, after St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican) and London’s St. Matthew’s. It certainly is grand in every way from towers, to vaulted ceilings, to uniquely adorned side chapels. Beautiful for sure, but it is less ornate and has fewer stained glass windows, statues, etc. than many cathedrals we have seen along our European journies.
Decline and Rise of Seville
The Late Middle Ages found the city, its port, and its colony of active Genoese merchants in a peripheral but nonetheless important position in European international trade, while its economy suffered severe demographic and social shocks such as the Black Death of 1348 and the anti-Jewish revolt of 1391. Then along came Queen Isabella’s charge to Christopher Columbus. His 1492 discovery of a route to the “Americas” helped bring the city out of its social and economic decline as Seville became Spain’s navigational (and therefore trade) east and west link and once again the seat of great power.
The city was revitalised in the 19th century with rapid industrialisation and the building of rail connections, and as in the rest of Europe, the artistic, literary, and intellectual Romantic movement found its expression here in reaction to the Industrial Revolution.
To help bring prominence to the City, in 1929 Seville held the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 and Expo ‘92 “Americas” exposition. Each Pan American country erected a building reflecting its own style and today comprise a beautiful, eclectic array of architectural structures in center City. In 1992, the City once again hosted an exposition, this time across the Guadalquivir river focused on technology. The result is a landscape of “very creative” modern structures now housing science, technology, research organizations.
It was quite strange to hear so much talk about “America” and realize that it has nothing to do with our United States—we came later.
The Jewish Quarter
We found Seville’s Jewish Quarter one of the most interesting and inviting. As we motored thru the narrow streets on our segways, we stopped at Vida (life) street. There also is a Muerta (death) street. As the story goes, Seville’s Christians were dying by the thousands but the Jewish population in their walled center were not dying likely due to their habits of cleanliness and resulting lack of rats to carry the disease. The Christians decided that the Jews had cast a spell of death on them and one day raided the city with the intent of driving them all out. The Jews had two avenues of escape. Those that chose one route lived and those that chose the other route died; hence the street names.
Within the quarter buildings are tall, close together so streets and passageways are almost always in shadow. The result is that it always feels significantly cooler within the walls. We returned for dinner our first night and lunch the second day to enjoy our meals in comfort.
Our very first sighting was a horse drawn carriage with driver and footmen dressed in white squiring a bride and groom to be through the narrow streets. The carriage was followed by vintage bentleys with the wedding party. A bit later as we stood at the back of the Cathedral where the wedding apparently was to be held, we began to see what turned out to be a parade of high fashion. The couture, including hats and Dad's morning coat/tails were reminders of the recent royal wedding. Even saw the flower girls and ring bearer. Quite the scene! Later that night we saw a few of the groomsmen standing outside the open air bar. In all we saw perhaps three different brides at various places around the city.
Everyone’s highlight was the seqway tour. To not be out in the heat of the day, we started off at 7 PM. Our adventure took us for two hours throughout old town. Had we not been on segways we’d not have seen the magnificent Maria Louisa (Queen Isabella’s sister) gardens. She and her Prince husband had purchased a huge estate just blocks off the river. She loved all botanicals and created a magnificent, diverse set of linked gardens. When the Prince died, she gave the gardens to the City. They now are enjoyed by families, lovers (saw more than a few intense clenches) and tourists.
We had been very disappointed in the tapas restaurants. Much Iberian ham (the region’s proud specialty that comes in all forms of cured, seasoned flavors) and a few other standards—olives, cheese, Spanish omelet, fried calamari, broiled squid. Nothing as creative and tasty as what we experienced in Madrid on our tapas tour. But last night we turned left out of our studio apartment building to investigate a new neighborhood and hit the tapas jackpot. A homey corner restaurant/bar. From the 20 our so offerings we had among other dishes manchego cheese with mango honey; grilled shrimp with fresh salsa; takaki quail legs; shrimp in garlic butter and grilled octopus.
Topped the night off at Marcello Maestro, a quaint, cozy tapas/wine bar one shop up from us on our street.