A Lemon Tart in Parting

SUNDAY NIGHT AT RESTAURANTE SAN MARCO.

So, this is my final — and short — post before we head home.  We’re joining some new friends for a farewell tapas lunch this afternoon.  Taking naps first.  And then we leave for home Thursday morning.

NANOOK OF THE NORTH MONDAY NIGHT.

This has been an excellent three weeks.  We love Sevilla.  We’ve been diligent tourists and have covered a lot of territory.  We feel we know our way around the city pretty well (usually the long way to anywhere we go).

JERRY’S SPREADSHEET ON THE ROAD.  WEATHER COMPARISONS.

We’ve done the research (Jerry even hand-wrote spreadsheets while we traveled) and exploration we intended and we now intend to live in Málaga.  That’s the plan.  We expect that to remain the plan, but we have nearly four months to go before our intended move (or a bit more if the visas take longer to obtain).  A lot can happen in four months.
 

I WON’T MISS HIM.

I’ll be back in two or three days.  Hasta luego!

Casa de Pilatos, Whining, and Cell Phone Booths

A FACE ONLY A MOTHER (OR I) COULD LOVE.

JUST A BIT OF THE EXTERIOR.  VIEW FROM THE PLAZA DEL PILATOS.

While looking through one of our books Sunday morning for places to explore, Jerry came across a small palace (a private family home) that turned out to be about two blocks away from our apartment.  Given the curvy, confusing old streets in Sevilla, that two blocks took us about 25 blocks to find.  When we couldn’t find the palace based on its starred location on the map in our book, I checked the listing again to get the street address.  Great help.  The palace, Casa de Pilatos, is at Plaza de Pilatos #1.  Obviously, if we could find Plaza de Pilatos, we would have already found Casa de Pilatos.

VIEW FROM ONE OF THE SIDE ROOMS INTO THE MAIN PATIO.

NOT ENOUGH WORDS IN ENGLISH TO DESCRIBE THE BEAUTY.

I was close to calling it quits, saying, “Well, if we’re so close and there are no signs for it, it can’t be all that great.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  We persevered.  We’ve been known to do that.  And we finally found the plaza.  And, as expected, once we found the plaza, we couldn’t miss the house.  It was huge!  It turns out there are no signs on the street directing you to it because it’s not a city-owned palace.  The palace remains in private hands, is still a private residence of the family of the Dukes of Medinaceli, and a private foundation runs it.

IF THIS WERE MY GARDEN, I’D NAP IN THE SAME SPOT.

We rented the audio tour (in English) and we were off.  Every turn into the courtyard, the gardens, the chapel, and the rooms illicited a gasp.  The place is incredible.  I think I enjoyed it even more than the Alcázar.

BOTTOM HALF OF THE DOOR INTO THE FAMILY CHAPEL.

LOOK CLOSELY.  THE ANGEL IN THE ARCHITECTURE.

It’s funny to learn about these properties that have been added to over the years.  The Casa de Pilatos is no exception.  The audio guide made a point of explaining that the house was not as it was originally constructed in the early 1500s (or maybe it was the late 1400s), there were two additions/renovations made… as late as the 1570s!  Lots of things have been added since, but the structure and general appearance of the palace has not changed.  It’s magnificent.

THE STAIRS TO/FROM THE UPPER LEVEL.

VIEW OF THE MAIN PATIO FROM UPSTAIRS.

Jerry and I paid extra for the private tour of part of the upper level, which contains family portraits, antiques, stunning rooms, and lots of major art from Italy (which, every time it was mentioned, received appreciative gasps from the large group of Italian tourists visiting the upper rooms with us).

LOOKING OUT TO THE “SMALL” GARDEN.

The Asker and the Whiner

Having wandered the streets for at least a half hour before finally finding the Casa de Pilatos, we were famished when we finished and I had to listen to Jerry whine for five minutes as we walked over to our favorite casual little lunch spot.  On the way, Jerry walked into a phone booth.  Not intentionally.  Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt, but he claimed he had walked into the phone booth (as he called it: “a cell phone booth”…?) because he was weak from hunger.  I wasn’t very sympathetic (I told him to stop whining), but I did monitor his progress from then on.

The Alcázar and Our First Flamenco

BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME

OUR FIRST DAY IN SEVILLA OUTSIDE THE ALCAZAR WALLS.

On our first day in town, I took a picture of Jerry outside the walls of the Alcázar.  It turns out we were outside the walls of the Alcázar a lot more often than I realized, and the gardens inside the walls, which included an enormous English Garden, went on forever.

Saturday was a beautiful day in Sevilla.  We had cafe con leche at Nostalgia in the morning (well… afternoon) and headed to the Alcázar.  We had been around the outside of the “building” several times, but had never toured the inside.  Exploring Sevilla for us has been like opening a wrapped package.  An example was the Plaza de España where what we saw on the outside (the streetside) couldn’t possibly prepare for us for what was within.  The Alcázar is no different.

ST. MARY OF THE FAIR WINDS… SOME LOCAL KIDS SAY “OF THE GOOD FARTS.”

PLASTER MOLDS, HANDMADE TILES, BRILLIANT DETAIL.

 
Walking around some ancient walls, I had thought that was the entire outer boundary of the Alcázar but it turns out that many of the “houses,” “buildings,” and even what I thought was a church in the neighborhood are all exterior walls of this amazing complex, which was a 10th-century palace built for the governors of the local Moorish state.  It’s still a royal palace — the oldest in Europe— but it’s now mostly a 14th-century rebuild.  It was built by Moorish workmen for the Christian king, Pedro I.  He was known either as “the Just” or “the Cruel.”  But it turns out the clergy and nobles called him “the Cruel” and the common people called him “the Just.”  So I might actually have liked this guy.

BEAUTIFUL MOORISH DETAILS DESIGNED FOR A CHRISTIAN KING.

THE GARDENS IN WINTER. THAT’S MERCURY STANDING ON THE FOUNTAIN.

Flamenco… in Spanish Time
We finally got to see some real Flamenco performed Saturday night.  No dancer, but I think that made the music that much more powerful.  The guitar-playing and singing took our breath away.

We had stumbled upon a little neighborhood cafe/bar/restaurant when we went to the Museum of Art.  The name of the place is El Búcaro.  We had a wonderful tapas lunch there before touring the museum and we discovered that they had Flamenco Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m.  We decided to head there for dinner and Flamenco Saturday night.

We got to El Búcaro, about 8:15 and then, of course, had to get the details on how it all “worked” so Jerry could relax.  (Jerry likes to know how things “work.”)  We were told that Flamenco started around 9:30 or 10 (hmmm… but the sign says 9:00…) and we could have dinner any time before the performance, but not during as complete silence was required.  The back room (salon) was closed for prep.  We sat down for dinner (we were the only ones there), figuring the timing would be perfect.  We could have a relaxing dinner and then head into the salon in plenty of time for the show.

We ordered tapas portions and had an exceptional meal.  The best dish — good enough to order a second round — was espinacas con garbanzos, spinach and garbanzo beans, perfectly seasoned.  But everything was delicious.

We joked about the “schedule.”  I guess this was the “Spanish Time” we had been told about, although in all fairness it is the only time we’ve experienced it in our more than two weeks here.  (Our trains — although rarely facing the right direction, as you know — arrived and departed to the minute.)  Jerry continued to stew through dinner (no pun intended) about how things “worked.”

The restaurant got busy as time passed and people were constantly peaking in from the street, obviously to see if the salon was open yet for Flamenco.  This made Jerry more nervous; he worried they would grab all the good seats.  The singer and guitar player came in while we ate and went back into the salon to warm up.  They sounded amazing.

The place was clearly a family operation.  I got the impression it was mom in the kitchen, and two sisters and little brother outside.  On Jerry’s behalf, I continually asked our server questions (“Ask ‘er!”) about how things “worked.”  I explained in my best broken Spanish that this was our first ever Flamenco and also that Jerry was a worrier.  She squeezed my shoulder.  I’m sure she meant that as a way of saying, “Mitchell, you’re a saint” (although it’s possible she was simply letting me know that they had our seating well in hand and that trying to understand my broken Spanish was becoming more work than she had time for).

At the exact moment the doors to the salon were finally opened… at 10:10 (Flamenco at 9? Flamenco at 9:30 or 10:00?); we were personally escorted to a prime table designated with a hand-written slip of paper “Reservado.”  There were a few large tables and then just lines of chairs that formed a “U” around a small round table, with unlit candles and a couple of bottles of water, and two chairs for the performers.

We were honored to be treated with such kindness.  And Jerry relaxed… a little.  There was no heat in the salon, but the body heat began to warm things up.  Jerry kept his jacket on and put mine on his lap.  Sitting in his place of honor with his lap blanket, he could have been Pedro the Just (or more appropriately Geraldo the Stressed).

At 10:45, the performers were introduced.  The singer (cante), Alvaro Ramirez, settled into his seat, and the guitar player (toque), Pedro Viscomi, began to strum.  They were both young guys, possibly in their early 30s.  Pedro played and we watched Alvaro get drawn into the music.  His shoulders started to move, his jaw began to slide back and forth, his eyes lost focus, and then he began to sing.  The hair on my arms stood up.  And the more he sang, the more pure and powerful his voice grew.  No exaggeration, the music was so good that, at times, it made me shiver (and, no, I was not cold).  We were transported and, clearly, so was Alvaro Ramirez.

We watched and listened for about 40 minutes and then a break was announced.  Since the restaurant doesn’t charge for the performance, “half-time” as Pedro called it, is clearly how they make their living.  Unfortunately, Jerry and I were both exhausted and decided that the 15- or 20-minute break might go for a half hour or more (maybe it’s Flamenco time), and we just didn’t have the stamina last night.  With huge regrets and much gratitude to the performers, we walked home.  El Búcaro is definitely worth a return visit… and so are Alvaro Ramirez and Pedro Viscomi.

The Plaza de España

We strolled out Thursday morning under gray clouds and dismal skies.  By the time we walked the five minutes to our favorite place for cafe con leche, we actually saw some spots of blue between the clouds and laughed about the blue sky — assuming that that was as much of it as we were going to see.  While we sat inside at the window and had our coffee, we watched the clouds break up and more and more blue sky appear.  Jerry put on his sunglasses and I had to turn my face away from the window.  Too much sunlight!!!

We finished our cafes con leche — cafe con leches? — (and our fresh-squeezed orange juices… fresh squeezed oranges juice?) and headed back outside.  The sky got brighter and brighter as we walked.  We actually took off our multi-pocketed jackets and carried them.

Our spirits began to soar.

Our intention was to visit the Plaza de España.  Before reaching the Plaza, we walked through the first section of Maria Luisa Park, Sevilla´s largest park that adjoins the Plaza de España. These gardens were charming and spilled from water garden to fountain.  I had no idea that the gardens were only a very tiny part of the park.  We came out on the street and had to cross to a large austere building with a curved facade.  We walked up the steps into the building and that´s when the magic began.

A NICE-LOOKING BUILDING.

Once I entered and turned up some more steps, I saw I was not really inside a building but simply walking through a shallow curve out into a magnificent plaza. (It is in fact a building, but the center section was open and merely led me out to the plaza.) 

I WASN’T EXPECTING THIS.

The curve is lined with beautiful mosaics of each of the regions of Spain, with a ceramic map of the region on the pavement in front of each mosaic.  The Plaza de España was built as the Spanish Pavillion, part of the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, a world´s fair that opened in Sevilla in March of that year.

A GLIMPSE OF THE MAGIC TO COME.

Their timing was not unlike mine.  Start a business.  The stock market crashes.

SO THIS IS WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT.

Many of the other pavillions are now part of Seville´s university.  Others are embassies and consulates (such as the U.S. Pavillion).  Still others are museums (such as the Museum of Archaeology, which we passed during our meander through Maria Luisa Park).

THE REGIONAL MOSAICS

BARCELONA.

Jerry had the idea that we should rent a two-person pedal cart to take ourselves around Maria Luisa Park.  It turns out Jerry wanted to rent one of the cycles because he was tired of walking.  What he didn´t realize was that most of the ride was uphill (I can´t quite figure out how that worked, but we were only able to coast once and only very briefly at that; the rest felt like a low-grade climb).

A GLORIOUS DAY.  YOU CAN RENT A BOAT AND PADDLE A BIT.

So Jerry had to do some work, using muscles he hadn´t used for a while.  The bench seat was not comfortable (forward facing horns that we each straddled, which put some unpleasant pressure on the nether regions).  There could be only one driver; my steering wheel was just for pretend.  Too bad my pedals weren´t just for pretend as well.  That would have been entertaining.  We both pedaled.  There was a handbreak within Jerry´s reach.  He would use it without warning me of his intention, so I would continue to attempt to pedal a few strokes.  Smart ass.  It was a great leg workout.

DETAIL OF ONE OF THE “CERAMIC” BRIDGES!

The park was magical with statues, sculptures, mosaics, and unusual gardens throughout.  We pedaled for 20 minutes of our half hour and then limped off to lunch.  Well, Jerry limped.  I strutted my stuff.

A SIMPLE END POST AT THE FOOT OF A BRIDGE.

After lunch, Jerry had another great idea.  Ice cream (helado).  Like the pedal cart, it wasn´t something I would have chosen.  But I went along with Jerry because I like to be cooperative.  I´m selfless.  I thought we´d each have a scoop.  Jerry decided on two (chocolate and dulce de leche).  So, again, I went along.  I told you… I´m selfless.  I had pistachio and dulce de leche.  It was all Jerry´s fault.

JUST AFTER JERRY RAN OVER THE WOMAN WHO RENTED US THIS THING. (NOTE: HIS HAND IS NOW ON THE BRAKE.)