13.12.2016 - 14.12.2016 16 °C
Seville is the capital of Andalusia in southern Spain. It was under Moorish rule for 800 years and the magnificent Seville Cathedral is built where a mosque once stood. By volume this is currently the largest church in the world. By area it is the third largest.
The bell tower, La Giralda, is accessed by ramps not stairs and was originally the minuret.
The series of ramps is wide enough for two guards on horseback to pass each other.
The ramps made it easier for the Muezzin to deliver the call to prayer five times a day.
Seville Cathedral and the Torre Giralda are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The church was built between 1402 and 1506.
Christopher Columbus is buried here.
The Cathedral of Saint Mary by the Sea and the striking Giralda are the most visited sights of Seville. The tower dominates the city's skyline. The Renaissance style top was added to the original minaret:
We arrive by bus from Granada.
We are staying at Hotel Zaida which I recommend if you enjoy a days gone by vibe and do not need five star status.
Our room was clean and comfortable and the lobby and common areas are a reminder that this hotel was once a Moorish Revival style palace built in the 1700s!!
It cost thirty Euros per night through Booking.com - less than fifty Canadian.
The lobby was spacious and the snacks and drinks available for purchase were cheaper than many stores.
Of course this is low season but for a budget hotel Zaida has an excellent location, an elevator and an abundance of charm. Tick. I have slept in a palace.
We are only in Seville for one night. As we walk to the Cathedral I recall my previous visit. It is lovely in the old town, very walkable, fairly flat.
The Archivo de Indias houses extensive documentation of trading with Latin America during Spain's Golden Age. Seville was the hub of receiving goods for over two centuries. The Archivo is a World Heritage Site.
We stop for coffee. It costs more to sit outside so, cheapskates to the core, we opt to perch on stools inside. Since it is a gorgeous sunny day and the patio faces a pretty square this was a mistake. Uncomfortable, dimly lit and no ambiance.
We have arranged for tickets to a flamenco show and are headed to Santa Cruz, the old Jewish Quarter. It is a maize of narrow lanes but we found our way.
We stopped for tapas and hit a bar that did not offer free tapas with drink. We're not in Granada anymore. I have seafood paella and it is good.
We are early to the Casa de la Guitarra but the manager welcomes us graciously and shows us we have reserved seats right in the front row. Since our seats are reserved we wander the neighbourhood and pick up souvenirs. I bought black and red flamenco shoes for my granddaughter (she is three).
I watched flamenco when I was here in 2012 (Backpacking a Continent on Fifty Dollars a Day). I do not expect to be as amazed this time. There are some once in a lifetime experiences.
The venue is different and so is the format.
This one is highly rated on Trip Advisor and has more guitar and less dancing. The performers include one Spanish guitar player, a singer/human percussionist and a female dancer.
The theatre is also a guitar museum, with the largest private collection of nineteenth century guitars in Spain.
The above picture is only a small example.
First the guitar player performs a few tunes alone. His fingers fly over the strings. I am reminded of birds. He gives an introduction to each piece in both Spanish and English, these are folk tunes.
He is joined by another man who coughs and drinks water and shouts Ole as the guitar is played. He taps his feet and starts clapping in time, some softer, others like cracks of thunder. He is providing percussion and it's pretty effective. The audience is encouraging, Brava, Brava.
The dancer shows up wearing a long skirt with combs in her hair and beige flamenco shoes. The percussionist gives her his chair and moves to the other side of the guitar player.
She appears to be getting into the mood of the music, nodding, snapping her fingers, and tapping her feet. After a time she livens up and stands, the percussionist starts to sing, it seems he is imploring her, she seems to be rejecting him, her fingers and arms move, sometimes her feet are moving so fast they are blurry.
Her face is contorted , anger, fear or defiance, maybe all three, maybe none of the above. We are so close to the stage I can see the beads of sweat on her forehead.
This is a real workout. She is adding percussion with her intricate footwork, the singer is sweating profusely as well so here is an idea for couch potatoes who like to sing, no excuse not to work out now!!
Brava, Brava the audience puts in their two bits. The guitar player is cool as a cucumber, there is a lot of eye contact and nodding among the three on stage, it does seem kind of spontaneous and there is a definite connection and collaboration going on up there.
The dancer is almost violent in her moves, she does a few kicks towards the audience, first to her right and then towards the centre, it's not very ladylike, we catch glimpses of her white underwear.
I am worn out when the number finishes, Brava, Brava I chime in. Sweat is pouring down her face, her hair is damp. She disappears off stage, for a shower I presume, and the singer and guitar player do a few more tunes, they are both very good.
For the finale the dancer shows up, sits, taps, claps and then performs a happier, more light-hearted dance.
She has tidied herself up and is wearing a different outfit. This dance is not as strenuous as the last one. I enjoyed it more as I was not so distracted by the sweating.
However, the first dance had so much passion and strength it was really the show stopper.
We clap, shout Brava, eventually throw in a standing ovation, but these performers , who are beaming and bowing, do not volunteer an encore. It is not their habit.
They have a second show shortly.
I feel a bit invigorated. It is still warm outside, I decide to buy the flamenco dress that matches the little shoes.
We lined up for a cab and scored a van. The cab driver spoke pretty good English and advised us to walk as he could not maneuver the narrow streets and had to take the long way. We opted to ride and he pointed out sights of interest along the way.
We passed the University which is the old tobacco factory and was the setting for the opera 'Carmen.' Some day I will watch that Opera since I have heard the story.
Flamenco was invented in Andalusia, possibly Seville. It has evolved over centuries to be a Spanish art form but seems to credit its roots to gitanos, Spanish gypsies who migrated from India. It includes Moorish and Jewish influences.
The word flamenco was a widely used term for Gypsy/gitano. Roma is usually considered the politically correct word today.
It was the song and dance of the lower classes. They expressed their passion and anguish and since they were illiterate the old tunes were passed along orally.
The guitar was not introduced to Flamenco until early in the 1800s. It is similar to a classic guitar but uses thinner strings and cheaper, thinner wood.
I was disappointed that our dancer did not wear the bata de cola for one of her numbers. This is the name of the dress with the frilly long train or tail we associate with Flamenco.
It takes a talented dancer to maneuver the train to be a partner in the dance. It was only introduced in the mid to late1800s, possibly as a jest to high society as trains were not fashionable at the time.
The next day, December 14, was a dreary, rainy day, but it was not cold. We had a relaxing breakfast and coffee in a bustling cafe a block from our hotel.
The streets are narrow and jammed with bars, cafes, souvenir shops, it is a touristy area, so we picked up a few more souvenirs and walked to the bus station.
It has been a short but satisfying visit. I was in Seville for several days in 2012 - if you have the time take a look at the stunning architecture of the Metropal Parasol, completed in 2011.
Although difficult to read because of the yellow letter this sign speaks to me:
Don't wait for the perfect moment. Take this moment and make it perfect.
We have been in Spain for 13 days.
We take the bus from Seville to Albufeira Portugal on 14 December.