The Sounds of Spain

Sitting here at our hotel on the way to Gulf Shores, I found this post set as a draft. I simply forgot to publish it. Please enjoy the following sounds I recorded while in Spain. I miss it dearly.

Street Performance

Another Street Performance

Flamenco pt 1

Flamenco pt 2

Back in Madrid!

After four days in Sevilla (four, really? In some ways it feels like we’ve always been there; it also feels like we just arrived), we have returned to Madrid so that we can catch our flight back to the States tomorrow. Before we left Sevilla, we decided to go to the General Archive of the Indies. Most of the information was in Spanish and hard for me to decipher. The information I was able to gather was very interesting. The diary of Christopher Columbus is housed here. The maps, portraits, and letters were beautifully displayed and the building housing the information was equally impressive. Digital archiving is a special interest of mine, and the archive is currently working on digitalizing their entire collection. Cool stuff!

We also took our last stroll through Sevilla this morning. It is an unforgettable city and I would recommend that anyone who travels to Spain should spend a significant amount of time in Sevilla. We were both sad to leave this city, especially the area in which we spent the majority of our time, the Barrio Santa Cruz.

While driving to Madrid, we stumbled across this impressive castillo off the side of the highway in the Extremaduran area of Spain. It turns out that it is a major monument in the city of Trujillo. Trujillo was the birthplace of the Spanish conqueror of Peru! There is a unique statue of this man, Francisco Pizarro, in the Plaza Mayor of the city. The castillo is actually an old fortress, dating from the era when Spain was conquered by Muslims. We didn’t have much time to spare, so we headed back to the highway before exploring any farther.

Luckily, we made it to Madrid in time for dinner (around 20:00) and have been enjoying cervezas and tapas ever since. Oh, and one last round of chocolate and churros. Bright and early in the morning we’re going to give El Prado another shot before saying goodbye to España (for now!).

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Treasure, Columbus, a cathedral, a tower and el paseo

Another great day in Seville. We started out with a quick walk to the cathedral which is massive and beautiful. Inside, we found the grave of Columbus, which was being “lifted” by four statues in a prominent location. Just a few feet away was one of many treasure rooms, filled with silver, gold and jewels. One of the crowns alone had over 1,100 jewels and was “donated” from the city of Seville to a statue of Mary. Yes, a government entity donated a crazy-expensive crown to a statue. Also inside was an organ that was as tall as the cathedral itself and it had several hundred statues carved into its side.

Afterward, we climbed Giralda tower which, unlike most towers, did not have stairs. Instead, it had a ramp that just goes around and around until you reach the 34th floor. At the top, we were presented with a spectacular 360 degree view of Seville. This… was truly breathtaking. It’s the kind of view that you might see on the travel channel but you never quite believe you’ll see something like that with your own eyes. Looking at the photos afterwards it still felt like we hadn’t been there, but had dreamt it instead.

Starved, tired from the tower and still hungover (by the way we were really hungover), we found a pizza place run by a guy from New York. It was delicious and, believe it or not, was the least rich meal we’ve eaten in days. While eating, we met several ex-pats who passed along some pretty interesting information about what it’s like to live in Spain. We also talked about Holy Week, which unfortunately begins right when we leave. Apparently it’s the best time to be in the city. Next time we’ll know better.

We took a long siesta after the meal and, while Erica was sleeping, I walked around town trying to get lost. I found that to be nearly impossible as we have become so familiar with the area. Finally I gave up, went back to the hotel and woke Erica. We went out for el paseo which means “the stroll”. It’s a spanish custom for well-dressed couples to just walk around the city to take in the sights. It’s peaceful and we’ve done it nearly every day. After our stroll, we had a fantastic dinner where we tried gazpacho (famous cold spicy soup) as well as sopa de pocadillo (ham and egg soup). Also a ton of sangria. We were so tired and full, we left for the hotel to get some rest.

Tomorrow, we head back to Madrid for one more day and then this wonderful trip will have ended. I must say I will be very disappointed to leave and have grown fond of daydreaming that Erica and I are living abroad.

Beautiful Sevilla

Yesterday was another day of absolutely beautiful weather in Sevilla. No rain, no clouds: just blue sky and sunshine. I was so tired by the time we returned to our hotel last night that I didn’t have the energy to post anything.

We switched hotels yesterday because they were doing some type of construction and it was LOUD. All day. We would return to our hotel for siesta and couldn’t rest because of the noise. We are now in the Palacio Alcázar Hotel only a couple of blocks away from our old hotel (and a couple of blocks closer to Tom and the plaza!). This hotel is beautiful and has a rooftop terrace where both the view and the mojitos are incredible.

We went to the Casa de Pilatos, which was very reminiscent of Italy with its Roman statues. The audio tour that we were given seemed to be made for architecture students, as it gave a lot of information. A few rooms in, I decided to just enjoy the beautiful rooms and gardens and lay the audio aside. While this house was not as well maintained as the Alcázar (of course), the tile work was beautiful.

Last night we were lucky enough to get to see traditional flamenco dance at Los Gallos. It was an amazing 1 hour and 45 minute display with only guitar, singer, and dancer. The intricacies involved in this type of dance are difficult to understand. Is it all preplanned? Or are they improvising all the time? A very beautiful and moving display.

On our return to the hotel, we went up to the terrace to have a drink. We met this wonderful Spanish couple from Valencia who were here on vacation. They told us that next week (Holy Week) is a great time to come to Spain, especially Sevilla. How I wish we could stay for the festivities!

We walked around quite a bit yesterday and also drank quite a few sangrias (and mojitos)… And tapas. Oh, the tapas.

I had a realization yesterday: I have not had vegetables in days. We’ve been eating tapas for lunch and dinner everyday since we got here. Thus, our diets have consisted of cured meats and cheeses. I am determined to have a well balanced meal today!

Royalty, picnics, paintings and Tom

Yesterday, we stopped by the Royal Alcázar, which is the official palace of the king of Spain, Juan Carlos I. For only 8€ each we found what is easily the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. Erica and I stayed for hours. I’m amazed to find that the palace has so much Islamic influence given that it was built during the Christian era. As it turns out, this style is called Mudéjar, which is a confluence of Muslim and Christian architectural styles; a beautiful, unique and inspiring result of Muslims and Christians living side by side for so long in peace. If you have a bucket list, this place needs to be on it. I could barely believe my eyes.

In the garden, there were what looked like orange trees everywhere. The oranges belonged to the king but we were hungry so of course I had to steal one. While I wasn’t caught, I immediately regretted my decision as it was the worst tasting fruit I’ve ever had. It was something like a stronger version of a grapefruit.

Fear and loathing at Alcázar

For my fellow friends given to panic attacks… While we were standing in line to get into Alcázar, I started panicking for no apparent reason. This was the worst panic attack of the trip so far. My heart raced. I felt light-headed and was sure I would pass out. I wanted to sprint in any direction. In a flash I thought I’d excuse myself, let Erica take the tour and I would sit outside in misery. Then, it occurred to me as it did several years ago, that I would not give in to this irrational emotion any longer. I decided that I would rather die living, than allow some inconsistency of mind to take over. Whenever an involuntary feeling, painful muscle contraction or chest pain hit me, I thought “Victory over my fears or death. There will be no middle-ground today.” It worked remarkably well. After a few minutes, I would come back to “normal” and was able to stay at the palace as long as I wanted. Had I given in, I would have missed out on one of those rare moments of intense beauty in life.

The picnic, some paintings and our new buddy Tom

After Alcázar, we saw a painter named Jesus along the outer wall selling his art. We found him to be an incredibly kind man who had one of the coolest dogs, second to Bailey of course, and the dog’s name was Tom. We ended up buying a few of Jesus’ paintings which apparently upset a drunken Irish artist named Terrance who was a hundred feet away or so. I only know his name because later that night he stopped us on the street (mid tapas and booze hunting) to mention that his feelings were hurt. He was a nice guy though and after talking with him for a few minutes we became friends. Anyway, back to Tom. We stopped in the square right outside the palace to have a picnic. We fed the pigeons for awhile and, to our surprise, Tom came out of the woodwork to hang out with us. I unintentionally taught him to chase the pigeons after throwing him scraps and he spent the next thirty minutes letting them land in bulk, then quickly chasing them away. He was hilarious!

Más tapas y cerveza, por favor

Refreshed from a brief siesta at the hotel, we went out to several restaurants and had a blast. Spanish food can be very rich at times, so we unintentionally ordered a salmon plate that laid on top of what must have been a full cup of mayo. We also ate oxtail (cola de toro) which tastes a lot like pot roast but better. Can’t wait to make it at home!

Tonight? Flamenco!

Now, on to the photos. Enjoy!

Lazy day in España

Today is a very lazy day. We’re still at the hotel just hanging out which is great because we’ve had a very busy week!

It was raining when we arrived in Seville last night so I was only able to see a small part of the city. We’re going for a walk in a few minutes to see what’s out there. I’m hoping to see Alcazar which is one minute away from our hotel.

My Spanish is getting better! I’ve successfully ordered food, negotiated a nights stay at a hotel, and turned down a drunk Spanish woman on St. Patrick’s day. Erica was very happy about that! 🙂

While it’s embarrassing, I’m still having panic attacks. I can only assume that I’ve needed this vacation for awhile now. Fortunately, I’m a BMF and I refuse to let it spoil the trip. I just wish I knew what is causing it to happen again after several years of no anxiety issues whatsoever. Oh well. What else can I do? Stay at home? Screw that.

Anyway, Erica just woke up so we’re heading out. ¡Adios!