Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Welcome to Seville! ¡Bienvenidos a Sevilla!

Welcome to Sevilla!

Well, we’re off to a slow start here, since we’ve been in Seville for over a week already. We’re only now coming out of mourning. First disaster: I dropped my wonderful and very compact (and expensive!) camera on the all-too-solid marble floor. The lens made a half-hearted attempt to extend, and only got part way out, over and over. I took it in to a fellow here in Seville who had already repaired a minor problem, but he could do nothing. Bit of depression on my part! Then, a couple days later we got the election results. It’s been a tough time so far. While the long-term consequences remain to be seen, in the short term I am reduced to using my cell phone camera. (Please forgive the reduced quality!)
However, we are feeling a bit recovered, and ready to tell the story of our trip (so far) in Spain. But, where to begin?

Why, at the beginning, of course.
“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
-- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

It began when the taxi picked us up at the airport and dropped us off in front of an amazing confection of a church. The rain had stopped, the night was clean and warm, everything glistening under the light reflected from the brightly-lit buildings. “It’s just down this way,” the driver told us in passable English, indicating the location of our pension. So we took our two roller bags, our bulging backpacks, our laptops, and assorted other items we seem to always travel with, and headed down the street.

Our first view of our neighborhood in Seville; we eventually identified this as Iglesia de San Ildefonso


We were thrilled to be here! It was gorgeous, full of light and life, with people (many towing luggage and consulting maps) coming, going, and staying – sitting in cafes, or standing transfixed by the churches and other sights. The taxi drove off, and we headed confidently down the street, to stop almost immediately wondering if the driver meant continue down this street, that curved slightly to the left, or that street, that turned slightly more sharply to the left?

In short, we were immediately confused.

We made a fundamental mistake here: since we were taking a taxi, a rare event for us, we assumed the driver would know his way around, and so we did not need to know exactly where we were going, the address would be sufficient. What we did not know was that
  a) this part of Seville is a warren of tiny streets running every which way, impossible to negotiate without some knowledge of the area (or at least, maybe some daylight?) and
  b) the taxi driver had only a vague idea where he was going.

Some time later, sweat-soaked and exhausted, we arrived at the pension where we were to spend the night. Whew! Lesson: ALWAYS know where you’re going, have it marked on a map /mobile app /GPS waypoint. CHECK THE NEIGHBORHOOD on Google street view, to get an overview, and to recognize where we’re going when we get there. (And when taking a taxi, find a hotel near your destination and give THAT to the driver!)

The next morning, well rested and recovered, we moved a few blocks away into our apartment where we’ll live for the next three months; unpacked our bags, and started exploring the neighborhood.

We live down a street something like this!

And WHAT a neighborhood! We’re really stoked to be here! Incredible narrow streets and old, towering buildings. Tapas bars on every corner. People filling the bars, eating, drinking, talking, spilling out into the roadway, having a good time. Lively, very lively!

Typical Sunday in Seville. Lively, very lively!

And then, a ten-minute walk from the apartment, we came upon the cathedral. Technically, it’s the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See [not Sea!] (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede) but everyone knows it as the Seville Cathedral. It’s stunning. World’s third largest cathedral, largest cathedral in the Gothic style, started in 1402, finished in 1506, blah blah blah. An amazing sight!

The bell tower was built by the Moors, who occupied this area for 500 years; it was originally the minaret of the mosque that preceded the cathedral. The two together are emblematic of the fascinating architecture of the Andalusian region (the south of Spain), a complex and incredibly interesting blend of the Islamic and the Christian.

The bell tower, AKA La Giralada

One of the Cathedral doors. Fne, intricate work like this is EVERYWHERE

We arrived on Friday night; Sunday morning was sunny and beautiful, and the residents of Seville were out in force, families strolling, and everyone everywhere eating, drinking, and enjoying the weather and the relaxed way of life here. But I shall save thousands of words here and defer to this very special video we put together. (Is a video worth a thousand pictures? Does that make 1,000,000 words?)





If the video doesn’t play, click on this, or go directly to the URL:

https://youtu.be/DuTfdZUEj8Y



Clearly we’re not at the end yet, but still we must stop, for the moment. More on the neighborhood, and the architecture, and the tapas, later!




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