A Travellerspoint blog

Flamenco and Tapas Part 1

overcast 12 °C

Hello again everyone! Sorry it has been so long, I have gotten extremely busy recently planning and going on trips! We had another Thursday off last week, so everyone took advantage of the 'puente' (bridge), and took Friday off to do some traveling! I had planned to fly out Wednesday night to Sevilla and then spend the weekend adventuring with my friend Ross from Madrid. Here we go!

After skipping out of work a little early to catch my flight, I arrived at the airport thinking I was ready for my first experience with RyanAir. This is a discount airline from the UK which usually offers the cheapest flights when it flies between your destinations. As a result of their stinginess at the front line, they must charge you for every single mistake you make along the way. For example, if US residents don't get their boarding passes stamped before entering the gate, you will be charged E40. If your suitcase doesn't fit into the metal gauge they walk around with during boarding, you pay E50 extra. And they don't mess around. Nevertheless, if you can successfully navigate through their traps, you can generally get a good price. Once you have boarded the plane the adventures are not over, however. I had been told beforehand that they try to sell you things. But that would be an understatement. After being offered the latest designer perfume over the intercom I started keeping a list of things they were trying to sell me. 8 lines in, and I realized this was basically SkyMall over the intercom. Ridiculously annoying, although I almost jumped on the smokeless cigarettes. You know, since you can't smoke real ones on the airplane. Otherwise I thought they seats were actually a bit further apart from eachother than on the Vueling flight I went on earlier in the year; that is to say, I only left a small dent in the plastic in the seat in front of me with my knees upon exiting the plane. Oh and to top it all off, we almost died on the landing. We came in fine, but upon touching the rear wheels down the plane started to get sideways. It righted itself with a jerk when the front wheel touched, and there was a smattering of applause and lots of sighs. Kind of reminded me of landing in a heavy wind, except when we debarked it was dead calm. Who knows. Luckily I have two more flights with them in the next two weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thursday was outstanding, as Ross and I took two "free" tours to get a better feeling for the city. I have been on a bunch of "free" tours in which you pay the guide at the end however much you think it was worth, and they tend to be quite good. The first tour took us by the Cathedral, Torre do Oro, Tobacco Factory and Plaza de España. The Plaza de España was one of the more spectacular things on the whole trip. It was built in preparation for the 1929 World's Fair, and had the theme of asking forgiveness of South American and the introduction of their culture into the main stream, in acknowledgement of the injustices meted out by Spain during the conquest of the Americas. Ironically, the stock market crash of that year rendered the World's Fair largely unattended and Spain having to burden the debt. Regardless, the building, which is semi-circular and reaches out as if to hug South America, is stunning. Each major city in Spain is given a small booth along the wall with an ornate map of the area on the ground and a picture dipicting part of that city's history on the wall behind. Here is Barcelona and Castillon's.




In the afternoon tour, I had a crazy thing happen: I got to talking to a kid from the US and found out that not only did he go to the University of Vermont, but he knows several of my friends from high school. Never thought I'd meet someone in Sevilla from my old stomping grounds. Alex was traveling alone, so he tagged along with Ross and I for the rest of the weekend. Then we were three. This tour took us through the Jewish quarter of the city, with tiny winding streets and fascinating stories about the history of the area. For example there were two streets located fairly close to one another, one called 'Vida' (Life) and the other 'Muerte' (Death). The story is that during the inquisition, when the town was raided, if you could make it to Vida, you would live, as the end of the street opened up like a river delta. Death, unfortunately, was shaped like a funnel and siphoned doomed people to their deaths. Also, as Sevilla was at one point the preeminent port town of Spain, stories abound about the relationship between Chris Columbus, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Apparently Chris and Isabella had a bit of a connection, so when he decided to reach for the Americas, the king was more than happy to lend him some ships and send him on his merry way. This didn't stop artists from the time period from taking notice, and so in many depictions of the three, we can see Columbus symbolically passing is grace, as in the mural of Barcelona from Plaza de España in which he leans forward to shake the hand of the queen.

That night, the three of us went on a hoste-sponsored Tapas tour, in which we had a Sevillan guy take us to his three favorite tapas places in the city. We were promised 'all you can eat' and the three of us were worried, but needlessly so. By the end we were stuffed with delicious tapas and exhausted from the full day. By the way, our hostel was great. Called Oasis Backpackers Palace, it was really one of the nicest I have stayed in. Besides the ever-unknowns that come with sharing a room with 13 other people, there were tons of activities and everyone was really great and helpful.

On to Friday. In the morning, Ross and I went to the Cathedral while Alex went on the tour we had done the day before. The cathedral in Sevilla is the third largest Cathedral in the world, behind St. Peter's in Rome and one in Brazil. It is, however, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, which is kind of a strange delineation since it started not as Gothic but as a Muslim Temple. Still is is absolutely massive.



I am starting to mix up all of the churches I have seen, but there are several interesting points here. The first is that Christopher Columbus is (apparently) interred within the church. Held aloft by four somber bearers, his casket certainly demands attention within the sanctuary and is a bit of an odd contrast to the glimmering sliver and gold-gilded ornaments around him.


Another interesting note about the cathedral is the tower outside the front, now called 'La Giralda' (The Turner) for the large wind vane at the top. Two-thirds of the tower was built under Muslim direction, though, and as a result of 5 daily prayer sessions that required a holy person at the top of the tower (60 m high) even in the scorching summer sun (sometimes 115 degrees), the tower was built with no stairs, only ramps to the top, allowing the priests to ride to the top mounted on a donkey. It also, we found, provided a great way for tourists to climb up with strollers in tow. Who saw that coming?! Also, the view from the top was outstanding and the hazy day made for some really interesting textures in the photos of the city.



That afternoon we ate more incredible tapas and adventured around the city a bit more. You'll have to check out my Flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift, but check it out tomorrow evening after I write part two and upload the pics!) to see pictures of some of the things we saw, since if I detail everything we'll be here all night! That evening we added another to the clan, an awesome girl from Salt Lake City named Rebecca. She (like Alex) teaches English at a public school in northwestern Spain (he's in north-central Spain), so they did all of the difficult speaking for Ross and me. That night the four of us went to take in a flamenco show. Unfortunately I did not bring my camera along, so you'll have to take my word that it was outsanding. Of course I am no connoiseur, but the fire and passion was palpable in the room as the red and black clad woman stomped and whirled around the stage in rhythm to her male vocal and guitar accompaniment. I will try to snag some photos from my friends to share with you!

Whew, that was a long one and I only got through two days! I will try to update the rest of my journey tomorrow night, so stay tuned! Until then, espero que te vaya bien, y hasta luego!

Posted by dclift 22:07 Archived in Spain

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