Monday, July 30, 2018

The Real Alcazar Palace and Flamenco

Saturday, June 30th – The Real Alcazar Palace and Flamenco

We enjoy a wonderful breakfast at our hotel’s roof top café bar. Art is able to get a soy latte and I order a cappuccino. Breakfast is an array of freshly squeezed orange juice, buttery croissants, tiny sweet pastries plus bite size quiches and fresh fruit on a skewer. 

Tiled store front.
Uptown Seville

 Art wants to see the Metropol Parasol, designed by Jurgen Mayer and completed in 2011 and more intimately referred to as the mushroom building. We enjoy a relaxed walk across town, I have no idea what to expect but I am delighted with the waffle like pods growing skyward in the striking morning light. I love the juxtaposition of this modern building in contrast to the surrounding old town. Skateboarders and bicyclists ride on the upper plaza but unfortunately the elevator to the very top of the structure is closed. 

Metropol Parasol Plaza

Art taking the escalator up to the plaza
Metropol Parasol Plaza

The old city surrounding the Metropol Parasol
Metropol Parasol

We wander leisurely and then walk to the Museum of Belle Arts to see their collection of Golden Age Sevillian paintings and a special Murillo exhibition. The rooms of the museum surround a lush cloistered garden and the walls of the courtyard are decorated with Sevillian tiles.  

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo Painting
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo exhibition

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla
Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla

We continue to feel relaxed until we suddenly realize that we have not checked the closing time of the Real Alcazar Palace. It is after 2:00 P.M. and it closes at 5:00 P.M. today. We walk across the city as quickly as our feet will carry us. Fortunately the entrance line isn’t too long and we only have a 15 minute wait. The day is slightly overcast and just as we enter the immense courtyard of the Lions, it begins to sprinkle.  Every stone surface has intricately carved patterns and vividly colored tile and mosaic work abounds.  

Aquaduct arch - Real Alcazar Palace

Entering the Royal Alcazar Palace

Palace facade
To my tastes, this palace is much more beautiful than the many Renaissance and Rococo palaces I have visited.  We wander the labyrinth of rooms and courtyards each more stunning than the last. Scalloped archways open onto geometrically perfect courtyards with immense reflecting pools. I am wearing a geometrically patterned blouse and I am almost camouflaged when I stand against the richly patterned walls.

Inner courtyard of the Real Alcazar
Reflecting pool
Ceiling detail

Architectual detail 
Window opening onto a courtyard
Scalloped archways

Art posing like the painted tiles
Marty in Palace archway 

The Royal Alcazar is an fine example of Mudejar architecture which is a unique style that evolved in the Christian Kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. The style incorporates Hispanic-Muslim style elements that blossomed during the coexistence of the Moors and the Christians between the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries.
Iron gate 
Architectural detail

We wander the tiled pathways in the palace gardens; a manicured labyrinth of box hedges, palms and reflecting pools. The walkways are slick and the smell of fresh rain hangs in the air.
Palace garden
Palace garden
Palace garden

We return to our hotel, sit for a drink at the rooftop bar and have dinner a second time at Bartola, the tapas restaurant around the corner. We can’t resist ordering the ricotta stuffed squash blossoms a second time and sample a few new tapas. Yummy!

Rooftop view 
Port at our rooftop bar

Hotel Amadeus rooftop bar

A Rick Steves tour group is staying at our hotel and yesterday we shadowed the group to a nearby Flamenco theatre and purchased tickets for tonight’s show. Rick’s guide book recommended several Flamenco venues but we figured the best option would be the one where he takes his group. I walk over early to secure front row seats while Art finishes his drink on the terrace. There are no bad seats in the theatre that seats just 100. There are just 4 performers; the guitarist, two female dancers and one male dancer who’s provocative moves and skin tight pants leave little to the imagination. The dancers lightening fast feet reverberate with syncopated rhythm on the wooden plank floor and the guitarists fingers fly. I am not disappointed with the intimate performance. 

Intimate Flamenco performance
Not quite ready to call it a night Art and I wander our neighborhood filled with bustling cafes and restaurants. We sit for one last drink and return to the lovely Hotel Amadeus.

Cafe's in Seville's old city

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Lovely Seville

Friday, June 29th,  Tavira Portugal to Seville Spain

There are no trains between Tavaira, Portugal and Seville, Spain but we have 10:15 A.M. tickets on the express luxury bus to Seville. After Art’s local bus experience yesterday, he is not looking forward to today’s 3.5 hour bus ride but when we slip into our spacious seats with a T.V. screen on the rear of each seat he brightens. The bus ride is comfortable and delightful and we watch the landscape scroll past our windows. The gently rolling countryside is agricultural with countless groves of dusty green olive trees dotting the golden landscape. We have a 15 minute bathroom stop along the way but in the crowded stop we neglect to take note of which of the identical busses we disembark from and upon our return are confused and the bus signage is not clear. The main women’s bathroom is under repair and a line of about 10 women wait for a single stall while men come and go quickly in their bathroom equipped with a half dozen stalls. One gutsy woman ahead of me marches into the men’s restroom and I follow behind her and find a vacant stall. Not a big deal, but I might not have had the courage to do this had she not pioneered the way and would have spent an uncomfortable second half of the bus trip with an overly full bladder.   

Luxury bus to Seville
We arrive in Seville before 2:00 P.M. and take a taxi to the Amadeus Hotel in the heart of the old city. The taxi driver takes a less than direct route to our hotel and Art follows his meandering route on Google maps and grumbles his displeasure. I surmise much of the meandering is due to one way streets barely wide enough to accommodate one vehicle.  Our hotel and its location in the picturesque back streets of Seville is sublime. Once again, the Rick Steves guide book has served us well and although Hotel Amadeus is a bit pricier than most of our hotels at approximately $140 Euros a night, it’s tiled and grated entry, Persian carpets, crystal decanters of complimentary port wine and herbal ice tea combined with it’s musical themed décor make it well worth the price. We deposit our luggage in our room and take note of the thick towels, crisp linens, bathrobes and slippers but we have sightseeing on our agenda and first head upstairs to the rooftop bar to inhale the view of the surrounding city rooftops and get our bearings. 

Hotel Amadeus, Seville
Gated entrance to Hotel Amadeus
Music themed Hotel Amadeus

The afternoon is hot but not unbearable and  we stop for tapas at an outdoor café on a busy street just above the Cathedral. The waiter suggests we order Tito de Verano, a cooling summer drink that is a mixture of chilled red wine and lemon soda; Seville’s version of Sangria. We share tasty and inexpensive tapas of grilled squid,  eggplant tapenade and fried potatoes.  Art orders a second Tinto de Verano and our bill is less than $20. Revived by the food and drink we begin the Rick Steves old city walk. It is cooler in the confines of the maze of narrow cobbled streets and we meander past private residences peeking through ornate iron gates into private jeweled gardens. Intimate squares are tucked inside the old city and the wisteria and other flowering plants sweeten and cool the air.
Seville  old city walk
Private garden in old Seville

Seville old city walk
Water pipes in the old city wall

A delightful street pavement cover for cables!
When we come to the Seville Cathedral, the third largest in Europe after Saint Peters in Rome and one in England, there is a 20 minute wait to enter. We are grateful when it is our turn to enter the cool interior of the immense gothic cathedral. Aside from being spectacularly ornate, Christopher Columbus is entombed here. We are not tempted to climb the three hundred feet to the bell tower but instead, enjoy the ambience of the shady cloistered courtyard before returning to the streets of Seville. 
Seville Cathedral
Gothic interior of the Seville Cathedral
Tomb of Christopher Colombus 
Altar piece

The Seville Cathedral Bell Tower
Cathedral cloister garden

Outside, elegant carriages and well groomed horses stomp with impatience in the afternoon heat waiting for a fare. I surmise that they are practicing their Flamenco steps.

Horse drawn carriages
Horse drawn carriages

Our hotel recommends a tapas restaurant around the corner and we enjoy wonderful Tapas at La Bartola accompanied by premium glasses of red wine. We share a tempura sushi rolls, eggplant towers and ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers. All is excellent and affordable. 

Eggplant tapas tower
Ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers

Art wants to find an ATM and is convinced that he will get the best rate at the Deutche Bank. We set out along the fashionable Avenue De La Constitucion. Street performers dance the Flamenco and musicians perform at every corner, their music clashing at times and all competing for an audience. Panhandlers sit with their bowls competing for sympathy tossed their way in the shape of a coin. Gypsy women thrust sprigs of rosemary towards me and I decline their offering, knowing that it ultimately will come with a price. We walk for miles getting lost and back tracking and I grow cranky and give Art’s Google mapping skills a bad review. Ordinarily Art will tell me that it is just an 8 or 12 minute walk from point A to point B and I usually reply cheerfully, “I can do that,” but tonight I decide that from here on, I will set a timer on Art’s mapping. This lightens the tension that has fallen between us and actually proves to be a rather fun game. After a few too many “time’s over,” we take a taxi to the food market.  The market is another trendy and upscale iron and glass paradise for the human gourmet but certainly not for the Iberian pigs. The haunches of many a pig hang from above, a dripping cup for the leaking fat and juices attached below each one. We watch a butcher with a gleaming knife give a waiter a lesson in cutting paper thin slices of the meat from the haunch. He weighs and rolls the slices arranging them on a platter for a waiting customer. 

Trendy food market across from the Triana district
The bridge to the Triana district
Triana district at night

From the market we cross the bridge into the Triana district, a recommended district for strolling and night life. Side walk cafes line the riverside promenade but we don’t find the district especially compelling and return to the old city on foot. Art continues to urge me on with Google map promises of short walks between points of interest. We stop for drinks at a corner restaurant and eventually meander back to our hotel.