|September 15, 2000
Hotel La Rabida's breakfast is coffee, pastry, bread, and gruyere wedges.
We meet local tour guide Angela for a tour of Alcazar, Sevilla's Moorish palace turned into a christian royal palace. Little remains of the Moorish origins. most of the contents are mudajar, i.e., post-reconquista architecture done in Moorish style by moorish artisans for the catholic conquerors. The seashell, a symbol of Saint James (Santiago or San Diego, the "Moor-slayer") and thereby the Reconquest, is often found emphasized in the mudajar designs, as a reminder of the Catholic superiority (or at least, of its domination). Tile work on walls and floors is interesting and intricate. Some of the early work is mosaic. Later on, artisans learned how to fire multiple colors onto a single tile. I'm particularly impressed with a clever technique we've seen in several Moorish and mudajar palace floors: Bricks are paved in a pinwheel-like pattern, with a small square left open at the center. The square is fitted with a colorful ceramic tile. This inexpensively lends interest to an otherwise boring brick floor, and the colored square tile can be of any size. We saw one floor that is fitted with four different tiles: A castle (for Castille), a lion (for Leon), "Plus Ultra" (the post-America revision of Spain's motto) and one more tile I don't recognize.
Associated with the Alcazar are a beautiful series of gardens and pools.
Sevilla's cathedral is, indeed, large. It is Christopher Columbus' final resting place (his fifth tomb, believe it or not: a spanish town in which he died; then on an island in Sevilla's river; then his family moved to Hispanola [yes, the Dominican Republic] and took him with them; then he was moved to Cuba; and finally, in 1902, his remains were entombed in Sevilla's cathedral. One can climb the cathedral's tower, called the Giralda, for its weather vane (a giraldillo). This bell tower is built atop the minaret of the Moorish mosque, on whose remains the cathedral was built. The muezzin would ride to the top of the minaret on a horse. Thus, the way to the top is a 34-segment ramp. At the top of the ramp, you walk up a dozen or so stairs, and arrive at the viewing platform, just beneath the bells. The walk is quite easy, and the views of Sevilla are rewarding.
We walked across the street to Dulces de Convento, a shop in which you can purchase unique preserves and cookies produced by nuns in an associated convent. We bought rose, orange blossom, and jasmine preserves; and a box of pine nut and marzipan cookies. 3,090 pts ($17). After dropping this sugar bomb off at the hotel, we wade back into the Santa Cruz (old town) neighborhood, to seek out a tapas lunch. At Restaurante Jardin El Rey Moro (Garden of the Moorish King, named for the nearby Alcazar garden), we have a very nice meal: water, olives, bread, an excellent gazpacho, glass of sangria, plate of paella mixta, spinache & garbonzo "stew" racion, and tortilla camarones (crispy omelette with tiny shrimp). 3,200 pts ($18).
Then, we spend an hour or two in the huge (air conditioned!) El Corte Inglés department store. We pick up sandals and a faster-drying swim suit for me; a new purse for Brigid.
Then, back to the hotel for (what else?) a brief siesta.
We meet the group at 1900 for a walk over to El Patio Sevillana for a Flamenco show. I was initially concerned that this was going to be a seriously touristy event. A photographer comes over and takes a picture of us and every other couple or single person. The very first dance seemed pretty dull. Happily, as the performance continues, the pieces get more interesting, intricate, and enthusiastic (on the part of both the dancers and the instrumentalists). The dancers were, of course, very interesting. But, I found the musical performers to be even more fascinating. There were two guitarists and two hand-clappers ("palmas"), who did a fabulous job. Everyone seemed genuinely thrilled with the evening. The photo? They turned it into a 6" by 8" print on a card one can place on top of a hand fan. The insert, photo, and fan cost only 1,000 pts. Not bad, but we gave it a pass...
We sought a dinner recommendation from Susan, and she happily accommodated us. She recommended San Marco Banos Arabes, a place in Santa Cruz that is situated in what used to be a Moorish bath house. It's gorgeous inside (from outside, it looks like a pizza joint!), with moorish arches and beautiful paint and tile work. The food? It's Italian, of course. Neither of us were super hungry. We had water, a plate of pesto ravioli (delicious, and the pesto had tiny chunks of pine nuts), and a "lasagne verdi", which was actually a delicious meat sauce lasagne topped with bechamel sauce, ala mousaka. 2,200 pts ($12).
Back to the hotel. Sleep. 'Night.