September 28, 2014.
Before heading on to Seville, we drove to Cadiz, a sea port about an hour away from Arcos. It is the oldest city in Spain and it is from here that all the various explorers set off for the New World in their tiny little boats. One of the parks is dedicated to all those who went out to rule the South and Central American colonies of the Spanish. Short lives they all had, similar to those Brits who went out similarly to rule India and Sri Lanka. Cadiz had a most interesting self guided walking tour map — all colour coded according to your interests with correspondingly coloured lines on the sidewalks to guide your walk. We took the yellow walk all along the sea coast, then the purple walk through the town to see the antique buildings, then the blue walk, it was fun and relieved us from consulting our map constantly.
Next day we set off for Seville, following a route through rolling and then very flat farmland, avoiding the pay freeway. They grow olives, oranges, cotton, and it seems they are preparing the fields for wheat not planted yet. Our car is not the best we could have had, and cannot go 120 anyway so the freeway is a waste of money. We loved the drive but of course the fun started when we got into the city.
Our hotel is right in the old part, an area called Barrio Santa Cruz, steps from all the main sites, but almost impossible to access easily by car. “Marlene” tried valiantly, and I had researched the route beforehand, but we never could find the little street the hotel was on. The “street” turned our to be only one block long so no one I asked knew it. We got into this network of tiny narrow streets, eventually I was running ahead of the car to guide Doug through the tighter corners, never sure if we were going the wrong way on a one way or not as the signs are enigmatic at best. Finally poor Marlene gave up as the narrowness of the streets meant that she could not get her satellites.
We found a rare slightly wider area at the edge of a plaza and I appealed to a waiter in a restaurant (having had no luck with a couple of pedestrians and a taxi driver) and he got the street address on his phone and drew me a map. I then ran ahead, leaving Doug parked there – he was in a panic that I would get lost, so little faith — found the hotel, got instructions to pull up beside (“pay no attention to the cars honking behind you, just bring in the luggage quickly”) and a pass for the parking nearby. All accomplished and though the parking is a fortune, we would have paid anything to get rid of the car!!
The area around our hotel is packed with sidewalk cafes attached to the restaurants beside. Everyone eats breakfast, lunch and dinner on the street it seems. Packs and packs of tourists, this is really something new for us. It being a weekend, tons of Spanish families eating their dinners each evening, as I think I told you before, families turn up for their dinner at 10 p.m. with their little children in tow. The first evening we were ready to leave at 10:15 when an adjacent table was taken by a couple with a two year old daughter, gorgeously dressed as all the Spanish children are, the waiter brought out a high chair and they settled in with their wine and began spoon feeding the little girl from their plates. She seemed happy as a lark.
Yesterday we wandered around the Alcazar of Seville, a huge palace built to begin with in the 1300’s, but renovated by successive kings through the intervening years. It is still the occasional palace of the current king and queen. It has a lot of Moorish details and wonderful craftsmanship with tiles, plasterwork, and carving. The surrounding gardens are vast though they could do with some upkeep, clearly a king with deep pockets and a cast of thousands of servants is required. Fountains in various styles dot the place with formal lines established by myrtle hedges along the paths. Even a small maze, though they have cut it shorter to avoid losing tourists in it. We got the audio guides again, the site is so large it would have been quite confusing without them. Thoroughly enjoyed it despite the hordes of tour groups, sure would hate to see this place in the “high” season.
We also stopped into a beautiful old house, formerly a residence for ailing and aged priests, now a small art museum which houses a Velazquez painting entitled Santa Rufina for which they paid 12.5 million Euros (close to 19 million dollars) a few years ago. Quite small and unprepossessing but oddly appealing I thought. Free on Sundays, glad we went.
While strolling back from that we came upon a museum of guitars, housed in the old house of one of Spain’s most famous flamenco guitar players. They were having a performance that evening of flamenco dancing, singing and guitar playing. The young woman at the door explained so sweetly how the performance would work that I insisted that we get tickets, Doug was reluctant as he did not think we could find our way back to the spot. He is terribly frustrated by not being able to navigate the streets, it is similar to what happened to him in Hanoi, his usual good sense of direction deserts him when the streets have no logic to them. You will find it hard to believe that I guide us around, using a tiny map of the streets and my compass…
Luckily we did find the place again in the evening. The venue was tiny, just about 25 in the audience, and the performance was just riveting, particularly the dancer. The guitarist was amazing, and the singer, quite famous was excellent when accompanying the dancer but I think this style of singing must be an acquired taste (we experienced it before in Arcos). The program was like this: the guitarist played a short set, the singer came in and accompanied him with rhythmic clapping, then the dancer arrived and sat on a chair while the guitarist and the singer performed together. The dancer seemed to almost enter a trance like state. She then danced, it was intense and overwhelming, the whole thing is about emotions not really a narrative. Her first set was angry and defiant, and very sad (I am only guessing of course) and by the end of it she was literally dripping with sweat and seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown! Then the singer sat on the chair and sang, again all an expression of emotion the words are improvised apparently. The dancer came back for a supposedly more light hearted set, with the guitar playing what he called more playful music, still the whole thing was quite overwhelming and the dancer was equally dripping at the end of the performance. She must have to have her costumes dry cleaned each day. She changed mid way through, the costumes are lovely and they wear combs holding back their severely styled hair, hers flew out of her head and across the stage at intervals.
After all that, we headed to a quiet square for dinner! Quite the long days here, having trouble getting through my usual number of books as we are so busy.