Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day 16 ~ Seville

Like so many cities in Spain, Seville was settled by the Roman, Jews, Moors and Christians. With a population of over 703,000, it is the fourth largest city in Spain. Located 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, it is the only inland navigable port in Spain. Below is the 12-sided Torre del Oro built by the Moors at the start of the 1200's AD which controlled access to the Guadalquivir River back in the day.

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After the discovery of the Americas, Seville became one of the economic centers of the Spanish Empire as its port monopolized the trans-oceanic trade. All goods from the New World passed through the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade); and so began the golden age of development for Seville. In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan departed from Seville for the first circumnavigation of the Earth. Unfortunately, in 1717, shipping ceased because of the silting up of the harbor by the Guadalquivir River; and the city went into an economic decline. With the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 and Expo'92, Seville attempted to improve its economy. The Alamillo Bridge over the Guadalquivir River, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was constructed as part of infrastructure improvements for Expo 92.

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Our first stop was in the Macarena District (yes, like the dance). Here we visited the Catholic Church of La Macarena, patroness of the bullfighters, built in 1939. The ornate alter has a life size Madonna whose garments are changed with the season.

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At our next stop, we found a very happy pooch feasting on one of those black-hooved hams I wrote about yesterday.  I wonder if he has a mature enough pallet to taste the difference. 

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After walking though the Jewish Quarter, we arrived at the Seville Cathedral. Originally built as a Mosque in the 1100’s, it was consecrated as a cathedral in 1248. An earthquake destroyed everything except the minaret which had been turned into the Giralda bell tower. Reconstruction began in 1434, and now this Gothic cathedral is the largest in terms of area and volume in the world (I saw the certificate from Guinness Book of World Records in the church). Below is the exterior of the cathedral and the bell tower.

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Among its many claims to fame, this cathedral also is home to the remains of Christopher Columbus.

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Even though Seville is the tapas capital of Spain, we warmed up with a bowl of lentil soup at lunch. After lunch we found our group of our fellow travelers waiting for Filipa to help us negotiate the trolley back to our hotel.

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Once there we got ready for our exciting dinner and Flamenco show. Seville just happens to be the home of this beautiful dance. Below is what happens if you buy castanets and tell your tour director you want a lesson. You get called to the stage for instruction. I was told that in about 6 months I should be an expert. 

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After our demonstration and dinner, the show began.  The picture on the left is Spanish ballet where castanets are used.  On the right is Flamenco which does not use the castanets but frequently uses the hat and the flounced dress.

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Below is a short video I took of the ballet.

Ballet using castanets

While watching, I sipped on my final Sangria in Spain. Tomorrow, we are off to Portugal.

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