Chapter Eleven: The Alcázar & Walk Till We Drop

The AlcázarChapter Eleven: The Alcázar & Walk Till We Drop

Day Eleven – The Oldest European Residence Still In Use, Awed At Every Turn, Let’s Take A Bath, Give That Man A Hand, 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 “Two” And The Giant Mushroom

Grabbing some quick pastries, we headed on what we knew would be a very hot day to one of the more incredible places I have ever visited, the Alcázar.

2We passed by the Cathedral and arrived early. Technically, the Alcázar is the oldest European royal residence still in use, and although it didn’t open until 9:30, a good-sized line had already formed by 9:15.

P1020230Entering through the Puerta del León (Lion’s Gate) into the Patio del León (Lion Patio), since I had used up my lion puns at the Alhambra, the group was spared, and they all roared with approval.

12After walking through the Patio de la Montería (Courtyard of the Hunt) we stopped in the Salón del Almirante (Admiral’s Hall), which houses some paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. This room has a lot of history…Columbus, Magellan, and Amerigo Vespucci all hung out in this area at one time or another, which is why we wanted to explore it further.

P1020232One of the more famous paintings here is La Virgen de los Mareantes (The Virgin of the Navigators) by Alejo Fernandez (below). It was painted in the 1530s. In it, Mary is protecting her “faithful,” and no painting before it had the discovery of the Americas as its focal point.

P1020233Mary (the Virgin, not Kim’s wife…she had twins…and not immaculately) is surrounded by St. Sebastion, St. James The Great, St. John The Evangelist and St. Elmo, who later became a Muppet and a hit 80s song by John Parr.

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We walked back outside…

20…and we were off to Pedro’s Mudejar Palace to look for damsels in distress. It was the Patio de las Doncellas (Court of the Damsels).

P1000659This palace, also known as the Palacio del Rey Don Pedro, was built by Pedro I of Castile in 1364. Patio de las Doncellas was named this because of the annual Moorish tradition of demanding a hundred virgins (no Kardashians in that group) from their Christian kingdoms.

21There is also a reflective pool. However, we had no time to reflect.

IMG_2412Our next stop, I believe (we did not eat a lot for breakfast, which always makes my memory fuzzy), was the Dormitorio De Los Reyes Moros (Moorish Kings bedroom).

1No matter what room it was, it was beautiful.

P1020246Of course, just about everything at the Alcazar is beautiful. Kim and I were already putting it ahead of the Alhambra (and that’s saying something).

P1000672But the hits just kept on coming.

23The Salon De Embajadores (Ambassador’s Hall) defies description.  Kim’s photos look “other worldly.”

22The Salon De Embajadores is the palace’s most important room, and it still has the original wooden doors from when it was built.

P1020247We entered the Patio de las Muñecas (Courtyard of the Dolls), although the original name of Valley of The Dolls would have worked, too. Located in the palace’s private quarters, the plasterwork was transported here from the Alhambra in the 19th century.  The mezzanine and top gallery were added for Queen Isabel II. It’s got a cool looking skylight, too.

50By the way, rumor has it that Pedro had his half brother, Don Fadrique, murdered here in 1358 and Pedro also knocked off a guest staying here, Abu Said of Granada, to steal his jewels…including a very large ruby that is now among England’s crown jewels. This was one dangerous B&B for the guests.

Alcazar Intermission (Cue music and pour another glass of Sangria):

Coming to the halls and ceilings of Charles V, the colorful tile artwork caught our eye.

P1000685Capilla de Palacio Gótico (The Chapel of the Gothic Palace) came next…

4…and we thought that was something until…

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…after venturing through the Banquet Hall, we stepped into the Hall Of Tapestries.  Carol King would have been “wowed” by every Tapestry.

6Simply stunning!

5Now it was time for fresh air and a feast for the eyes at the Mercury Pool and in Los Jardines del Alcázar.

IMG_2413Even after all of our walking…

P1000700…it was impossible not to feel relaxed in this serene area (especially since we were still ahead of the hordes of tourists).

P1000711Los Jardines del Alcázar are the largest late-medieval gardens in Europe.

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Pick a tree…palm, cypress, myrtle, mulberry, magnolia, orange, lemon and more…

P1020257…you’ll find it here.

P1020268We kept thinking there couldn’t be anything more to top what we had already seen, but then I thought I heard Tracy say, “Let’s take a bath.” as she walked towards Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla (Baths of Donna Maria de Padilla).

18These “baths” are actually rainwater tanks beneath the Patio del Crucero…

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and are ripe for outstanding photos.

8By the way, they are named after the mistress of Pedro (aka Peter The Cruel).

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We walked the parapet …

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…in search of even more stellar views of the garden…

13                                                          P1000737                                                              …and then wandered through the gardens for another 15 minutes.

17Either I’ve gotten taller, or people were really short when this door was built.

P1000748After more than two hours of excellence in architecture and flora, we headed out past pretty, bright blue staircase.

P1020278As we strolled down one of the streets, Kim was able to take a picture of Thing from the Addams Family.  I tried to offer a helping hand, but I believe he gave me the finger.

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We paid a visit to an underground restaurant that had been recommended by Gary at Spain Select.  It looked great, so we booked a table for the following evening.

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A few minutes later, while I was shooting some photos…

P1020279…Tracy ducked into a store and before you could say “Sevilla Shopping Spree,” she had plunked down 150 euros on a few blouses. When she told me I nearly fainted and said, “I need to go to a hospital.” And luckily that’s where we were headed.

P1020285Once a retirement home for priests, Hospital de los Venerables (Pl. de Los Venerables 8, Barrio de Santa Cruz) is both a residence and a church, and it costs €5.50 to visit.

29There is a very lovely courtyard where we entered, but the church was something else to behold.  The altar had been described as “breathtaking,” and we could see why.

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There are also numerous frescoes, sculptures…

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,,, and beautifully painted ceilings throughout.

P1000759This was another complete surprise.

P1020288The church has a huge organ, and as we stood inside a priest began playing.

P1000756You might call me crazy (and you wouldn’t be alone), but the priest burst into a song that brought back some La Sagrada Familia memories. “Wow, that sounds almost In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” I said.

28I got out my iPhone and recorded part of it (Shameless Plug Alert: I’m going to post it to YouTube and put it on my website if I can figure out how…or at least have it in an email to my loyal subscribers…remember it’s free to subscribe, and worth every non-penny).

Hospital de los Venerables also houses a permanent collection of Valasquez paintings. I liked a Francisco Pacheco painting of Saint Catherine that I can’t find online (no photos were allowed in the gallery…I hate that!).

33Next, we started walking toward the river past some interesting buildings and a fountain (right now our crew of four was searching for a fountain of youth).

P1020299We had thought about heading across the river to go to Triana for lunch, but up ahead loomed another historical site I wanted to visit.

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The Torre Del Oro has stood for nearly nine centuries (coincidentally about the same amount of time since our last meal), serving at various times as administrative offices and a warehouse. While Mary and Tracy stayed behind to say bad things about their evil taskmaster, Kim and I paid our €3 and walked up the 96 steps as Mary and Tracy cried 96 tears.

P1020301Inside Torre Del Oro (named that for its “unusual yellow-tinged plaster made of mortar, lime, and straw”) is the Museo Maritimo that contains naval artifacts and statuary.

35The views from up top were ok, but we didn’t linger since Kim, and I knew the divorce was in the air.  It only got worse.

36As temperatures neared 100 degrees, we walked to the other side of the river, (which on this day suddenly seemed like the world’s widest river)…

P1020311…and then strolled along its bank. The restaurants over here were not talking to us until we nearly arrived at the next bridge (which I believe Tracy dubbed A Bridge Too Far).  We sat down, ordered a beer, and when we looked at the menu, it had nothing but tapas, something none of us ever wanted to see again.

P1020315We downed our beers (quickly) and headed back by another market to our side of the river in desperate need of real food. I could tell the natives were restless, but right before they erupted, just like a river of molten lava, there ahead of us, we saw Il Vesuvio Ristorante Italiano. “Molto bene,” I exclaimed.

38That’s because it was nearly 3 p.m. and according to our Fitbits, we had walked a little more than seven miles with only a stale pastry as our sustenance for the day. For those who have said they want to travel with us, I believe this fact alone will probably dissuade you from those thoughts.

37 1.48.37 PMLunch was terrific (€65). I believe there was grumbling from the crew on how long it had taken to find a restaurant and that I was somehow to blame for the Sevilla Sunstroke Stroll (ok maybe I was, but we have one of these on every vacation), however my two Negroni cocktails eased the pain as did my fantastico gorgonzola ravioli.

P1020323Although Kim’s hair was slightly askew, it was good to see smiling faces again.  Other good dishes: Pesto (walnut and pine nuts) pasta, eggplant zucchini and a chef’s special of pasta with shrimp and veggies. The complimentary limoncello at the end of the meal sealed the deal. Il Vesuvio saved the day, and suddenly I wasn’t such an ash.

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After all this walking, I quickly took a look inside Iglesia de San Ildefonso (which was built between 17964 and 1841), and we headed back to the apartment for a well-deserved siesta.  Little did we know, but the Sevilla Sunstroke Stroll II was only a couple of hours away.

40That evening our little excursion started innocently enough…we were headed to the Plaza de España located in the Parque de María Luisa.  What we didn’t know was that our plaza turned out to be a lot further from our apartment than we had first thought, and even in the late afternoon/early evening, Sevilla was still boiling hot.  Instead of Sweating With The Oldies, we were just oldies sweating.

P1020340 Walking through the shady park (and I mean shady in a good way), eventually the Plaza de España lay ahead.

39As you can see below, it was built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929.

P1020351Movies such as Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia have been filmed here, and the plaza reopened in 2010 after a €14 million makeover.

43People either seem to love or hate this place, and it’s a little reminiscent of a Vegas hotel.

41Looking at the canals, for a brief moment I thought I was at the Venetian.

P1020343You can even rent boats to row in what is known as “The Venice of Seville,” which I believe was Rossini’s working title of his opera before he received a haircut and decided on something else.

44But I really liked the semi-circular brick building with a fountain in front…

IMG_2438…and lots of beautifully colored ceramic pieces decorating different portions of the plaza.

P1020353The fountain even had a rainbow when we visited.

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The four bridges and grand staircases lend themselves perfectly for picture taking (Kim’s hair must have still been askew, or he would have been in one of these)…

45…and by the time we had shot lots of photos all of had forgotten how tired our feet were feeling…

IMG_2440…until we had to walk to find a place for dinner.

P1020356We took a different route back toward our neighborhood.

P1020357Up ahead there was a large group of people gathered at a neighborhood watering hole. Just as I walked by, the crowd started screaming, and a chair went whizzing by me.

P1020359Fortunately, we weren’t in the middle of a bar fight, but rather a goal had just been scored in the soccer match they were watching.  Luckily, it was Sevilla that scored or I might have had a table embedded in my skull.

P1020360By now we were fairly pooped, so instead of endlessly searching for a spot to dine, we returned to Casa Antonio-Bar Los Caracoles, where we had lunch the previous day.

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Although the house special (three pieces of monk fish and shrimp with veggies and lemon potatoes) on a skewer looked tempting, we again started with those incredible tasting fried green pepper rings (and we aren’t even green pepper fans…gotta make this dish). My beef filet and fries hit the spot.

photo1By now darkness had fallen (so it must have been after 10). Most groups would have called it a long day, but not this energetic lot (well, not real energetic).  I decided we should see a giant mushroom (a good place for a fun guy like me). When I heard some backtalk, I said, “I’m not taking any more shiitake from any of you guys…we’re going.”

48Located in the Plaza Encarnacion, the Metropol Parasol, which is called Las Setas (the mushrooms) by locals, looks like a giant waffle (sans syrup).

47The crisscrossed wooden beam structure, which is supposedly the world’s largest timber-framed structure (I’ll take their word for it), took six years to construct and was finally completed in 2011.

P1020369We actually thought it was pretty neat…

46…especially as fireworks started going off celebrating Sevilla’s soccer victory.  You can climb up the Parasol for city views, but we had something else on our mind to end the evening.

P1020366Back we walked to Helados Reyes, and I had a “wow” lemon creme ice cream with lemon cake.

Back at the apartment, Tracy looked at my Fitbit.  We had walked more than 15 miles. Fearing mutiny, I would not wake up the troops early the following day.  We’d take it slightly easier tomorrow, but there was still lots to see in sensational Sevilla, so there would be little rest for the weary.

Next: Day Twelve – Don’t Pan Pan, Pilatos Not Pilates, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, One More Church, Bellas Fellas, Losing My Head, We Finally Get To Try This Restaurant, I Will Not Be Doing The Macarena, Archeological Dining And Where’s Tom Cruise And Madonna


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