Chapter Nine: A Journey To The Pueblos BlancosAugust 28, 2015
Chapter Eleven: The Alcázar & Walk Till We DropSeptember 4, 2015
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.
Surprisingly, 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!
Grazalema 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.
Up 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).
It seemed at every turn, one neighbor was trying to outdo the others.
… as did various colorful signs on the sides of buildings detailing the town’s history.
We eavesdropped on some guys shooting the bull in front of a bull.
There was also a semi-happening market (which was good since everything else was closed)…
…which was built in the 17th century.
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.”
Well, 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.
After 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.
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…
…(not that “our gang” or that Alfalfa!).
At first, Sevilla was a bit confusing to navigate, but when you’re with Maapman (Kim), no city can defeat us for long.
…dodging mass transportation along the way.
Not 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.
Turning 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.
Columbus’ 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.
We 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).
The large pipe organ was constructed from imported mahogany.
Instead 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.”
Kim, Mary and I (Tracy wisely stayed behind knowing she could see our pictures later) were rewarded with fantastic views…
On the way out, we wandered through the Plaza de los Naranjos, and it was quite toasty.
Back when this was a Moorish mosque, the faithful would wash their feet and hands in the central fountain prior to entering the mosque.
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.
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.
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!
…and there were lots of lovely altar pieces.
Kim was so famished, he plucked down a couple of euros for potato chips…
Heading 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).
Tomorrow, 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