Chapter Ten: On To Sevilla!

13Chapter Ten: On To Sevilla!

Day Ten – Feeling Sheep-ish, Gorgeous Grazalema, Is That Legal, You Might Be Headed In The Wrong Direction (Again), We’re Going To Kansas City, Spacious Digs, Our Gang At Alfalfa, A Confusing Street Plan, The Largest Gothic Cathedral in The World, Back From Cuba, Ramping Up For A Defibrillator, A Visit To San Salvador, In The Chips and Tree-Lined Dining

It was a beautiful morning in Zahara de la Sierra, and at 8 a.m. we all partook of the Al Lago breakfast buffet.

P1020112Surprisingly, Julia Roberts (aka Ava, who had also served us dinner after serving us drinks after checking us in yesterday) was working the room on this morning.  Mona, if you read this, give that girl a raise!

P1020113We bade farewell to Mona, Ava and Al Lago.  I narrowly missed hitting the tree as I pulled out and we were on the road.

18The hike to the castle above town didn’t seem like such a good idea this morning (a big breakfast made us lazy), so we decided to visit one more of the Pueblo Blancos before heading to Sevilla.

37Grazalema is about a 30 minute drive from Zahara (we did not take the more scenic Palomas Pass Road because I knew Kim would start singing Una Paloma Blanca, and I would need to extricate him from the vehicle).  Our drive was very lovely, but suddenly I needed to slam on the brakes. “Flock me,” I exclaimed.

IMG_2359Up ahead, a huge flock of sheep were walking on the road. Although there were plenty of sheep, there was no sheepherder to be found. “They must have taken it on the lamb,” Kim said (I’m sure you knew some baaaaaad puns were coming).

IMG_2357I replied, “That’s a pretty shear cliff they’re climbing.”

2As Tracy shook her head at us in the rear view mirror, “Honey, I’ll never find another ewe.” Fortunately, the sheep moved on, and we continued our journey with no further punning.

P1020116In a few minutes, we ran into the sheepherder (fortunately not literally) and a few curves later, we reached the lookout that gave us our first glimpse of the mountain village of Grazalema.

4We drove through town, parked and after looking at the city from this vantage point…

P1020117…headed back to the center of Grazalema through the Plaza de España.

P1000596The white-washed village had an abundance of patios and window sills overflowing with colorful flowers.

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It seemed at every turn, one neighbor was trying to outdo the others.

P1000594Against the backdrop of the white buildings, the flowers really popped…

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… as did various colorful signs on the sides of buildings detailing the town’s history.

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We eavesdropped on some guys shooting the bull in front of a bull.

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There was also a semi-happening market (which was good since everything else was closed)…

IMG_2363…and we checked out some of the colorful local goodies.

IMG_2364I headed (by myself) into Iglesia de la Encarnación (this group can only do so many churches)…

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…which was built in the 17th century.

P1020134By the time I exited, the group was ready for the drive to Sevilla.

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It’s an easy drive from Grazamela to Sevilla (a little under two hours), which was made a little more exciting by my unusual driving skills.  As we drove through the countryside, fields of sunflowers were exploding with color, but before anyone could get their iPhone or camera out, they were gone.

“Too bad,” Tracy said. “Those would have been good pictures.”

38Well, even though there were no turnouts on this part of the two lane highway, that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t make a couple of illegal U-Turns (which I did as Mary spoke a prayer in the back seat for our safety).  Kim and Tracy got their photos as we went whizzing by for the second time, and we traveled on to Sevilla.

IMG_2367After making an initial wrong upon arriving in Sevilla, we dropped the rental car off near the Santa Justa train station at the Kansas City exit…turns out Kansas City is Sevilla’s “sister city.”  Our apartment hosts (Spain Select) had a taxi waiting for us (we called Spain Select when we dropped the car) at the train station.

Apartment                                            Apt 2

Our driver took us to our apartment, the Salles y Ferre (photos courtesy of Spain Select), located near the Plaza Alfalfa in the Barrio Santa Cruz.  Gary from Spain Select met us at the apartment building and showed us inside (we would use Spain Select for our apartment in Madrid, too…they were wonderful to work with in both places).

This two-bedroom, two bathroom, nicely appointed apartment (with rooftop) cost a total of €170 per night (€85 per couple).  Another incredible bargain!!!  Gary spent half an hour  showing us a Sevilla map, giving some restaurant recommendations, telling us where everything was located in conjunction to the apartment and then we were on our own. First order of business…Food!

Our gang walked a couple of blocks to Plaza Alfalfa…

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…(not that “our gang” or that Alfalfa!).

P1020140We dined al fresco with Mary and Indiana Jones at Casa Antonio-Bar Los Caracoles, Pérez Galdos 13 (Plaza de la Alfalfa).

IMG_2445It was an excellent lunch with the two best dishes being a scrambled egg, chorizo and potato dish (Mary), along with Tracy’s fried green and red pepper dish. It was like onion rings…only peppers.

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At first, Sevilla was a bit confusing to navigate, but when you’re with Maapman (Kim), no city can defeat us for long.

P1020144Passing by some beautiful buildings, soon we were at the Catedral de Sevilla/La Giralda Tower…

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…dodging mass transportation along the way.

IMG_2426Not only is this UNESCO World Heritage site the largest and highest cathedral in Spain, it is also the largest Gothic building in the world and the world’s third-largest church (after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London).  It’s built on the site where a mosque used to stand (think I’ve heard that before), and La Giralda Tower is the former Moorish minaret of the mosque. The Christians thought it too beautiful to destroy, so they incorporated it into the church as its bell tower, which we would climb later.

19 After checking out the façade with the Apostles (the Apostles were really on the façade…not with us), we paid our €8 and in through the Puerta de San Cristóbal we walked.

P1020148By the way, the original weather vane from La Giralda (above) is now very near the entrance of the cathedral at the Puerta de San Cristóbal .

5Turning to our right was a huge tomb…yes, we had discovered the tomb of Christopher Columbus (aka Cristóbal Colón).  Columbus was originally buried in Cuba, however during that country’s 1902 revolution, the Cubans said, “No cigar,” and had his remains sent back to Spain.

27Columbus’ tomb was sculpted by Arturo Melida, and the four figures holding it up represent the kingdoms of Aragón, Navarra, León and Castile.  Whether Chris is actually buried here remains a point of contention, and I read somewhere that DNA tests are being taken to see if it is really him or perhaps Leif Erikson.

6We next saw the Gothic retablo, which is said to be the “largest altarpiece ever built.”  This sensational piece was created by one gentleman, Fleming Pieter Dancart, who made this altarpiece his life’s work (well, there’ something to be said about “job security”).

We also stopped by the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), where Ferdinand III is buried, and we paid our respects to the tomb of Alfonso X The Wise (below).

P1020158The Bishop’s Tomb is located in one of the chapels.

P1020152The dome in the Sala Capitular (Chapter House) is spectacular, at least that’s where I think Kim and Tracy took these photos.

8I read somewhere (not sure which chapter) that this Chapter House is the “first known example of the use of the elliptical floor plan in the western world.”

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The large pipe organ was constructed from imported mahogany.

P1020156There were some gorgeous pieces of art including this silver piece from the Treasury…

7…and this one of another Bishop as we walked around.

P1020181There was a beautiful rose window…

P1020178…and this stained glass window depicts Santa Rufina and Sant Just with La Giralda, which meant it must be time to climb it…but there would be no stairs.

P1020182Instead of using stairs, there are 35 ramps constructed wide enough to accommodate two guards on horseback to pass. By the time I reached Ramp 25, I was hoping for one of those horses to show up and take me the rest of the way.

La Giralda is one of only three remaining Almohad minarets in the world…the other two are in Marrakesh and Rabat, Morocco, and the views out over Sevilla were tremendous. La Giralda is named for the giraldillo (weather vane) on its peak.  This structure was so revered by the Moors that they wanted to destroy it before the Christians took over the city in 1248. This act was prevented by King Alfonso X, who said that “if they removed a single stone, they would all be put to the sword.”

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Kim, Mary and I (Tracy wisely stayed behind knowing she could see our pictures later) were rewarded with fantastic views…

P1020173…and beautiful panoramas.

11We also gazed down to the Plaza de los Naranjos (Court of the Orange Trees).  More on it shortly.

10All this made the walk up worth the effort.

24After checking out the bells…

P1020172…and soaking up the views, we walked down.

23We stayed a little while longer admiring the building.

15From floor to gorgeous ceiling (Kim needs to publish a coffee table book of his ceiling photos)…

13…is 120 feet.

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On the way out, we wandered through the Plaza de los Naranjos, and it was quite toasty.

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Back when this was a Moorish mosque, the faithful would wash their feet and hands in the central fountain prior to entering the mosque.

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Walking by a stand selling Chocolate Churros, we all maintained a semblance of will power and passed, although I believe Tracy had to drag me away.

22In one plaza there was a cute statue of a little girl obviously getting into her novel, sitting on a stack of books.  I didn’t read anything into it.

P1020198We stopped at a market near our apartment to pick up supplies for the next few days, and back at our pad we put our feet up for a couple of hours.  As stated earlier, this apartment was great.

Refreshed and ready for a big night out on the town (ok, maybe a couple of hours of walking, some dinner and back to the apartment) we headed out toward the Plaza San Salvador, where there are a number of places to eat and drink.  By the time we arrived, every table at every restaurant and bar that looked decent was taken.

P1020200We saw that the Iglesia del Salvador de Sevilla had some activity so we ducked inside. Iglesia del Salvador de Sevilla is the town’s second largest church.

26It was completed in 1712 and constructed in the Sevillian Baroque style.

Tracy’s notes say, “There’s lots of stuff in here.”  Her eloquence might diminish a bit as the day wears on, but she was right!

P1020210It’s not everywhere you see a baroque statue of Jesus riding a donkey.

P1020212The Cristo de la Humildad y Paciencia Reredos (Christ of Humility and Patience) is a famous piece…

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…and there were lots of lovely altar pieces.

P1020203We could have stayed longer, but hunger always wins out over history and art.

Kim was so famished, he plucked down a couple of euros for potato chips…

P1020213…while I ran over and took a quick photo of Antiguo Hospital de Nuestra Señora de la Paz (Hospital Of Our Lady Of Peace).

P1020215Heading back toward the cathedral, we came upon a street lined with orange trees.  An open table awaited us at Antigüedades argote de molina, Calle Argote de Molina, 40.   As long as we weren’t forced to pronounce it, we were in good shape.

Although there was nothing overly exciting about the dishes, the service was once again terrific (as it had been throughout the country).

33Plus the atmosphere was relaxing, the weather enjoyable and it was fun to kick back at an outdoor cafe while chatting with some delightful Brits at the next table.

P1020218For dinner: Tracy got souped up on gazpacho…again…with some toppings.

30Mary hooked another fish dish…seafood paella…

31…while swashbuckling Kim dueled with his swordfish.

32This time I ate my beef stew before anyone could photograph it.  It was the kind of street I envisioned before visiting Spain, sitting under the orange trees and drinking a GinTonic.

P1020220Walking back to the apartment a little after 10 p.m…

34…Sevilla was just getting going.   Outdoor squares were filling up.

35Meanwhile, we were going, too… back to our quiet neighborhood to find some gelato at a little place nearby our residence.

photoFor €2 you couldn’t beat my salted caramel topped with dabs of chocolate caramel. Thank God our apartment didn’t have a scale.

IMG_2401Tomorrow, Sevilla would really be heating up (nearly 100 degrees), but the blistering weather would not deter four hearty souls from accomplishing a lot on a busy, busy day where we would end up walking more than 15 miles (so much for that relaxing vacation, eh guys?)!

Next: Day Eleven – The Oldest European Residence Still In Use, Awed At Every Turn, Let’s Take A Bath, Retirement Home For Priests, That Sounds Like In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida To Me, Torre But No Joe, The Other Side, Molto Bene, Meet Me In The Plaza, Hey Buddy Don’t Throw That Chair At Me, Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Pepper Too And The Giant Mushroom

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