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A palace, a cathedral, and a festival

sunny 70 °F

Our cruise generally visits ocean ports, but yesterday we sailed about fifty miles up the Guadalquivir River to dock in the center of the gracious and beautiful city of Seville, arriving about 10:30 pm. Although we were told that this was nowhere near too late for the Spanish to dine out, we decided to eat on the ship and get ready for the big day tomorrow. A big day it was. Our feet hurt.

We first went to Alcazar, the huge fortress/castle built for Pedro of Castile in the 14th century. Pedro was a Christian King with deep affection and respect for Islam, so he built his palace on the site of a Muslim residential fortress destroyed when the Christians conquered Seville. The intertwining of Moorish and Spanish architecture is stunning. Long Arabic Quranic inscriptions surround bands of crosses. Room after room, hall after hall, flow in splendid order, looking out at the magnificent gardens - with one exception: the grotto wall (see below) looks rather like some disease has got inside the plaster and extruded globs of twisted accretions. Well, that’s our opinion.

Near the entrance to the palace sits the Treasury and its chapel. The Treasury served as a repository for all the riches from the New World, brought back to Seville and sailed up the river. At the entrance is a large painting of the Virgin Mary hovering over the Niña, the Piñta, and the Santa Maria.

Next we walked to the third largest church in the world (after St. Peter’s, Rome, and someplace in Brazil). Seville’s Cathedral is called Santa Maria de la Sede – St. Mary’s of the See, the See being the local Diocese. The place looks like it has been designed for diocesan clergy, and the rest of the people of God don’t count. The huge space is bisected by a central choir with high walls, so the folks can’t see the altar; only the professional holy people get a look at it. Even when you turn the corner and get a glimpse of the huge gold reredos, it is behind a mammoth metal gated fence. Everything is behind fences, except the massive tomb of Christopher Columbus and his son. A clamor of tourists sweeps back and forth; many cases scattered throughout the nave hold displays of vessels and vestments, the vestments so encrusted with gold braid that it would take a football player to wear them.

The cathedral’s huge square bell tower (Giralda) is the tallest in the world, so large that you can ride a horse up inside it on special ramps. That is what was done at the mosque formerly on this site – a muezzin rode up the tower to call people to prayer. The orange garden at the entrance surrounds the ancient fountain, once at the center of the ancient Islamic courtyard used for ablutions before prayer.

An unpleasant lunch at a restaurant called La Canasta followed. Bill ordered a club sandwich; one of the plastic picks in each quarter had broken into pieces, one of which Bill swallowed. He is still alive.

Then after a long walk to the shuttle bus to the ship, we took a long walk to the Feria de Abril Festival. This is a grand extravaganza, a Spanish version of the Eastern States Exposition or any state fair. The Feria occupies a huge area dominated by an enormous building constructed anew each year. Elegant carriages swept people through its paths, their horsemen garbed in fashionable livery and their horses decorated with lace caps on their ears. From time to time, industrial water trucks sprayed the abundant horse poop and dust. Seville’s women and girls swept by in flamenco dresses, swirling their skirts. The streets were lined with casitas de Sevilla, large marquee tents decorated to the hilt and filled with tables and chairs and a dance stage. Flamenco music sounded noisily from each one as people danced on the stage and around every table. Even the smaller girls danced, dressed in little flamenco costumes, wearing lipstick and big earrings and flowers atop their heads and managing the Sevillaña dances even when they are quite little. The casitas are constructed each year by local families and groups (the Spanish Communist Party had one); our tent, for the Port of Seville, was larger than most. Plates of tapas: shrimp, potato pancakes, Iberian hams, and bread were served, along with a pitcher of rebujito, a mixture of sherry, water, and a carbonated drink, specially concocted for the festival.

Amazingly, we returned to the ship and had supper on the deck as the sun set.

Posted by HopeEakins 19:45 Archived in Spain

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