Trianna, Azulejos, and Susona’s Skull…

You may recall from previous posts, my scraps of information on ‘azulejos’. Essentially, ‘azulejos’ are beautiful ceramic tiles made here in Sevilla. They can be found inside every home, on the streets, inside the churches, and sold in stores all over town. And, Sevilla has been celebrated for the creation of azulejos since Roman times. When and if I stop this globetrotting and settle in one place, I’d love to decorate with these beautiful tiles.

I live in ‘Triana’ which is a fasinating, historical barrio (neighborhood) in Sevilla. There is a museum located in the old tile factory here and MaryCarmen and I decided to meet there on Saturday for a visit. The Museo, formally the ‘Santa Ana Factory’, illustrates the ceramic making process using the four elements: Earth (the mud), water, fire, and air. The Santa Ana Factory opened its doors in 1870 and was a staple here until 2014. It gets its name from the patron Saint of Triana. Also, inside the Museo, is a room devoted entirely to Triana. 

 The people with deep roots in Trianna are called ‘Trianeros’ and they strongly identify with their barrio! Sort of like myself when I tell people I am from ‘Cranston’.

 Trianna is also considered the spiritual heart of flamenco. Pero, Sevilliano’s have their very own dance and it’s called the ‘Sevillana’ dance. This dance is vivid and full of turns and is so super fun to watch! I’m pretty sure I am the only person in this entire town that does not know how to do this dance. But, I am pretty confident that I am going to learn in time. On Friday night MaryCarmen took Manuel and I to a place to watch this dance. It was really fun! I am totaling drifting off the subject…

Raquel grandfather was a skilled potter and worked all of his life in the Santa Ana factory. The name for this job position is ‘alfarero’. These people truly amaze me. Inside the Museo, they play a black and white movie showcasing these workers giving their commentary of their life working in the factory. MaryCarmen and I sat and watched this short, very moving, movie. 

MaryCarmen inside ‘Centro de la Cerámica de Triana’.

We spent hours in the museo learning about the history of the azulejos and Trianna. Then, just as we were getting ready to leave, we hear ‘the music’. They were moving a Virgin! This music always coats both of us with goosebumps! We love it! The night before Manuel told us that they would be moving a Virgin today, but I had lost track of time. We heard the music, took one look at each other, and immediately starting searching a way towards the vicinity of the band. We pussyfooted our way onto a balcony and closed the door behind us. Now we had a prime spot and it was fantastic!

They view from the balcony at the ‘Centro de la Cerámica de Triana’. We were watching the band and Virgin.

We stayed and watched the band and took it all in for several minutes. And then, at the same time, we both realized that we should physically proceed OFF of the balcony of the Museo before we got caught. So we did. And, we left and made our way through Trianna to get home for dinner. 

On Sunday we went on another adventure to ‘Susona’s Street’. This came about because I have a never-ending, constantly growing list on things to do in my iPhone notes. I literally have enough material to keep this blog going for the rest of my life-not including all the stuff I still will see! It panics me to think about it actually. It really does! There is just so much to see and so much good food to eat and so much to learn in this world that I can’t even stand it!! 

Sevilla has a lot of legends and I love to learn about them! One of the most tragic, and Raquel’s favorite, is ‘la fermosa fembra’. And, it goes like this…

Susona, a beautiful Jewish Sevillian girl, had a secret romance with a Christian man. The legend transpired in the 15th century and Jews were going through incredibly grueling times in Spain. The Jews were being coerced to convert to Christianity. And, in an effort to give the Christians a taste of their own medicine, the Jews called a meeting to plot their revenge. One of the leaders of this conspiracy was Diego Susón, the father of Susona. It was at his house that the Jews met to sort out the details of their vengeance. Well, Susona heard their entire plan. She ran to her lover and in fearing that he could be killed, she divulged everything. As a result, Susona’s father and his entire crew of Jewish leaders were executed. 

Susona had immense remorse and shame for what she had done. Some people tell me that Susona hung herself. Some people tell me that Susona never left her house again. Some people tell me that she lived the remainder of her life in a convent. However, regardless of how she spent the rest of her years, her final wish stands true. Susona’s last will in her testament was to have her skull placed at the door of her house. And, it was here that the skull remained, well into the 18th century.

The Jewish Quarter in Sevilla.
The plaque on ‘Susona’s Calle’ and the spot where the skull was kept until the 18th century.
Me under ‘Susona’s plaque’.
MaryCarmen at the top of ‘Susona’s Calle’.
MaryCarmen and I at the fountain in the ‘Jewish Quarter’.

Kortrijk and Ghent….Domingo y lunes in Bélgica.

On Sunday Siska and I started our day with a visit to her home town. Kortrijk is a Flemish city located in the province of West Flanders. I was able to see where she and Stephan are from, the hospital where her Dad worked his whole life, the house Stephan was raised in, and the school that she went to. We than met Stephans brother Jeff, his beautiful wife Delphine, and their 9 year old twins for lunch. We went to a stunning restaurant named ‘Het Wit Kasteel’. Not only was the food and ambiance spectacular, but the owners have a whole set-up going on to entertain the children. There was an actual on-site playground for the kids and a clown that came to entertain them for hours. And everyone employed at this restaurant looked like they belonged on a cover of a magazine. Seriously the most attractive restaurant staff that I have ever seen…and I have been in a lot of restaurants, to put it mildly. I had the greatest time ever at lunch and laughed the entire time! Stephan was still out of town on business and he was dearly missed. Siska’s best friend, also named Delphine, stopped in to see Siska with her son. It was just a fantastic day. Jeff taught me a great deal of history and we discussed everything from their hunting season to my mid life crisis. (Jeff I am laughing out loud as I write this!). 

The city of ‘Kortrijk’ is known as one of the largest producers and exporters of linen in Western Europe. Linen is made from the flax plant which is inherent to ‘Kortrijk’. And, from what I understand, this region seems to be extremely resilient and has constantly been able to reinvent itself throughout history. The formal dwellers of this region have a battle that is their rendition of ‘Braveheart’. And, this is the story of ‘The Battle of 1302’, otherwise known as ‘The Battle of the Golden Spurs’. And, it goes like this…

On the face of it all,  in 1302 the Flemish people grew tired of paying taxes to the French. At the time, Bruge had the unshared rights on sheeps wool that was imported from England. The trade was intrusted with the towns people until the King of England, Edward 1, began to deal in a beeline with the customers. The traders than lost their advantage. ‘Philip the Fair’ of France than was brought current on this situation and set up his troops in Bruges. Well, the Flemish were not having this. On the night on May 18th 1302, Pieter de Coninck, a weaver from Bruges and Jan Breydel, a butcher from Bruges, organized the townsmen. The men were instructed to go door to door knocking and when the home owner answered the door to ask them “Schild en Vriend”. This means ‘Shield and Friend’ and is called a ‘Shibboleth’. A ‘Shibboleth’ is a word whose pronunciation is used to differentiate one group of people from another. These words are too difficult for the French to pronounce on the first try. (Similar to me, trying to roll my R’s my first month in España). Some 2,000 people were taken by the Flemish militia during this nocturnal massacre. This went down in history as the ‘Matins of Bruges’. Quickly, the civil militias of several Flemish cities were fabricated in anticipation of the counter attack of the French. The Flemish dug several ditches all around the field in Kortrijk, that was already surrounded my marshy ground. The Flemish had placed themselves in a strong defensive position for when the French calvalry arrived. Soon the French were falling off their horses and into the ‘Goedendag’ of the Flemish. Jeff explained to me that the ‘Goedendag’ was a simple weapon to fabricate and is basically just a combination of a club and a spear. Simple or not, it did the trick. The Flemish won this battle and then went to all the fallen French knights taking over 700 pair of Spurs from them to hang in their church. Hence, ‘The Battle of the Golden Spurs’. Sadly, the French came back 80 years later and took their Spurs back. But, we are not going to discuss that. 

After lunch I was coerced into ordering a ‘Dame Blanche’ for dessert. This means ‘the white lady’ and is the name used to describe the Belgian dessert of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and molten chocolate. And, it was sooo delicious. 

After a nice long, relaxing lunch, Siska brought me to see ‘The Towers of Broel’. 

‘The Towers of Broel’.

These two beautiful towers are a very important symbol to the city and have definitely passed the test of time as they guard the river bridge. We than make our way home. We are picking Stephan up at the airport in the morning and going to ‘Ghent’ for lunch. 

After retrieving Stephan from the airport, we head straight to Ghent on a mission to race through the city and see as many sights as possible, buy chocolates, and have lunch. My flight was leaving at 9:00 at night and this ‘Renair’ airline insists that you arrive two hours before your departure time. 

Stephan, Siska, and I in Ghent.

Our first stop happened to be when we stumbled on ‘The Big Cannon’ or ‘Mad Meg’. This cannon was brought to Ghent in 1578 in defense against the Spanish. It proved to be completely useless and has resided in its current location ever since. Atleast this is the version of the story as I have heard it. No one seems to care too much about ‘Mad Meg’ so I haven’t pushed the issue.

Siska and I in front of ‘Mad Meg’.

As we continued to make our way toward lunch, we stopped by the ‘Gravensteen Castle’. This is a impressive castle built in 1180. It was constructed to appear reminiscent of the ‘crusaders castles’ that ‘Philip of Alsace’ encountered when he participated in the second crusade. The crusades were a series of religious wars warranted by the Catholic Church. This castle had served as a prison, a courthouse, a factory and it was nearly demolished before it was restored in 1885. Now it is used as a museum to showcase torture devices, such as the guillotine.

The Gravensteen Castle in Ghent.

We head over the St. Michaels Bridge, stopping along the way to eat these delectable little candies called ‘Cuberdon’s’.

This is a ‘Cuberdon’. It is a delicious candy that is extremely addictive and can only be found in Ghent.

These ‘Cuberdon’s’ are made out of the hardened sap of the acacia tree. They are purple, they taste like raspberries and they are really, really, really good! Some stories say that it was created by a member of clergy and other stories say it was a science experiment of a pharmacist in Ghent. Either way, I could eat them all day long!

‘Belfry and Cloth Hall’ (Belfort en La Kenhalle) Ghent
We ran by many beautiful Cathedral’s, and enjoyed so many amazing views of the ‘Graslei and Korenlei’. The ‘Graslei and Korenlei’ is a beautiful mideval port lined with historical buildings that really look like they belong on candy cane lane.

We arrived at a georgeous restaurant called ‘Elga Ueen’. I never did get the story from Siska and Stephan as to how they decided on this particular place. Notwithstanding, it was very good. The oysters were exceptionally delicious. Super briny. Tasting just like the sea, just how I like them.

It was time for me to say good bye to my friends and catch my train to the airport. One train  + one bus + one airplane + one taxi and I was back at home at Gloria and Pablo’s in Sevilla. And, now, as much as I hate to get out of Belgium, I really must get back to my studies here in España.

Bourgondiers, Bruge, and Beer Pipelines…my 1st day in Belgium

Bourgondiers: ‘An expression used by the Flemish to describe someone who appreciates the finer things in life’.

There are a few good things that came out of me owning that restaurant in Boca Raton, and one of those things is my friendship with Siska and Stephan. Siska and Stephan are a phenomal couple that have been married for like 100 years. Atleast this is what it sounds like to me from the backseat of their car. They speak in 3 languages when they communicate-Flemish, English, and their own language! They finish each other’s sentences-that only they could understand because they are literally speaking their own private language! They switch the subject about 25 times per minute, again all in their own language. They are originally from Belgium and I met them 10 years ago in Boca. I was fortunate enough to have spent the past few days with these Bourgondiers. 

After a two hour and 40 minute flight on ‘Renair’ airline, I arrived in Belgium. I need to stop here and tell you that my Renair plane was so small and uncomfortable that it makes Southwest flights from Florida to Rhode Island feel like first class! You can’t even “recline” the seat when the plane gets in the air! There isn’t even a slot to put your magazine in on the chair in front of you! It was pretty bad and apparently Stephan couldn’t agree with me more. When he found out that I flew Renair, he proclaimed “I will drive in a car for 15 hours before I EVER fly that airline again!!!”. 

I arrived at their home at about 1:00 in the morning and, needless to say, Siska and I chatted for two hours before getting to bed. I slept beautifully in a king size, plush bed and awoke at 9:00 in the morning. I was very excited to make my expresso. As I walked toward the kitchen, I was taken aback at the breath-taking view of the North Sea. Their home sits on the beach. I enjoyed my breakfast with Siska while we watched a man on a horse “shrimping” in the ocean. 

The view of The North Sea and the horse carriage for the shrimp.

These little grey shrimp, called ‘kroketten’ on every menu, are a quintessential food in Belgium. Siska explains to me that there are very few men left that actually still do the shrimping. And, of course, one of them is a friend of theirs. I learn that even though the Belgians consume more than 50% of these little shrimp, the Dutch control the market and set the prices. This is due to the fact that Belgium’s three largest fisheries are owned by the Dutch, all while they fly the Belgium flag, of course.

This is my lunch on Monday. Notice the little grey shrimp.

Siska tells me our game plan for the weekend, and we get ready and head towards Brugge. 

Belgium is about the size of Maryland and borders The Netherlands, Germany, and France. The country has 11 provinces and three official languages: Dutch (Flemish), French and German. (By the way, this means that on every consumer product label everything must be written in all 3 languages). Oh and ‘swinging’ is legal.

The town of Bruge holds a special place in my heart. When I was 20 years old and in college, I was fortunate enough to get accepted into a program through Johnson & Wales to study at a Hotel Tourism school here in Bruge called Spermalie. It is here that I met Chelsey. Chelsey and I were roommates at Spermalie and have been the best of friends ever since. Chelsey is from Massachusetts and she moved to Boca Raton too. We have been friends for 18 years and still talk almost everyday. And for this and many more reasons, I cannot wait to see Bruge again 18 years later. 

Our first stop is the main market place in the historic centre of Bruge. The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. And, it is just as amazing as I remembered. It seriously looks like the backdrop of a fairytale only with chocolate shops on the corner of each cobblestone street that lead to the main center. 

‘Burg Square’

We than make our way through the market stopping to buy patés, cheeses, breads, pastries, sausages, mousses, mustards, speculoos spreads, etc. The weather is perfect, about 10 degrees Celcius and sun is bright. We continue our day with a walk over the beer pipeline to see the magnificent architecture in ‘Burg Square’. Yes, a beer pipeline! In September of 2016, a 2 mile long pipeline was completed to connect the ‘Halve Maan Brewery’ to their bottling plant. Apparently, it was too complicated logistically for the trucks to maneuver down the cobblestone streets of this mideval town so they installed an underground pipeline! And, it was a crowdfunding project! Go figure! Jeff, Stephans brother, explained to me that 4,000 liters of beer an hour flows through this thing. These people are very serious about their beer. Jeff also explains to me that there were three levels for the crowdfunding. The gold level cost €7,500 and with that came one bottle of ‘Bruge Zot Blond’ everyday for the rest of your life. In my opinion, this gold plan definitely seems the most cost effective. After discovering the price per bottle of this ‘Bruge Zot Blond’, if one lives for only 10 more years and drinks only one per day, it has paid for itself. Not to mention, the 18 personalized Parisian glasses that is included in the Gold membership. Just sayin.

Siska eagerly continued the tour up and down weaving us all around town. Our movement continues toward the ‘Belfry’. The ‘Belfry’ is the famous bell tower located in the historic center. We passed on the opportunity to pay to climb 366 steps to the top in claustrophobic conditions. When I think about it, I can’t understand why when I was 20 years old that I would pay to do such a thing. But then I remember that back than I was on a mission to drink my way through Belgiums entire beer selection. Which, by the way, these days exceeds 3,000!!

We than circumvent the ‘Basillica of the Holy Blood’ to continue our tour with a stop at ‘Pierre Marcolini’. The ‘Basillica of the Holy Blood’ is a church said to house a small bottle of blood from Jesus Christ. I don’t think either of us felt the need to venerate the phial. The master chocolatier was what was peaking my interest! Now this is some profound chocolate! This is a man that travels the globe half of the year in search of his ingredients. He than spends the other half of the year producing the most delicate chocolate that I have ever tasted.

We continued to wander down the ‘Begijinhof’ and I am reminded of just how Bruges literally transports you to different age. This area was once home to Benedictine nuns. Now it is simply a tranquil haven with beautiful streets selling lace and waffles over-looking the beautiful canals. More about lace and waffles tomorrow.
After spending a beautiful afternoon in Bruges, Siska and I are off to visit her parents back by the seaside. They are so incredibly kind and were so interested to hear about my adventures in España. We stayed for a couple of hours just chatting away and I got to hear their love story told by Siska’s mother  with her father commentary. Visiting with them truly made my day! I’m truly grateful for their kindness and company. It was wonderful.

We went to a fantastic dinner at their friends restaurant where we both enjoyed dishes indigenous to this region and than called it a night.  I still have two more days to go in Belgium with my Bourgondiers and I  am estatic about that!

Casa de Pilatos…una tarde de miércoles en Sevilla.

Today Raquel and I visited the ‘Casa de Pilatos’. This is a palace and it was declared as a National Monument in 1931. The ‘House of Pilate’ was built by ‘The First Marquis of Tarifa’ between the 15th and 16th century and is currently the permanent residence of the ‘Dukes of Medinacelli’. The ‘Dukes of Medinacelli’ is a title of Spanish nobility created by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. (‘Nobility’ is simply a social class ranked immediately under royalty).The ‘Marquis of Tarifa’ is an ancient title of Spanish nobility that dates back to the Middle Ages. This palace is said to be named after Pontius Pilate because it looks like his home in Jerusalem. (Pontius Pilate is known as the authority that ordered the crusafiction of Jesus Christ). The ‘Casa de Pilatos’is considered to be the prototype of the Andalusian Palace. Oh and the movie ‘Knight and Day’ with Tom Cruise and Cameron Dias was filmed here.

The palace is a combination of Italian Renaissance and Spanish Mudejar, which is a quite the integration!’Mudejar’ is the name given to Muslims who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista but did not convert to Christianity. The Italian Renaissance style is beautifully proportioned (literally). Everything is balenced with orderly arranged columns and semi circular arches. The Spanish Mudejar’s elaborate plasterwork and complicated tiling patterns make this palace a perfect example of Mudejar architecture as you can see here…

Azulejos-beautiful Spanish ceramic tiles.
There is a rooster in this wall…
‘The Chapel of Flagellation’. This is the alter. The mosaics make it look like a mosque. Notice the Roman statue on the alter.

This staircase is decorated from the ceiling to the floor with beautiful azulejo. Azulejo’s are beautiful Spanish ceramic tiles. This style is all over Sevilla and most places in Andalusia. There are little shops everywhere selling these beautiful tiles. I plan to go to a factory that makes them next week so I can see and learn how it is done. 

Beyond this gate is a elegant Andalusian courtyard with a large fountain in the middle. All around the walls of the courtyard are marble busts of Spanish Kings and Roman emperors, most of which were delivered straight from Naples. There is a large georgeous statue of Pallas Athenea the Greek Goddess. She is the goddess of wisdom, courage, mathematics, war and strategy, and she is known for her calm temperament because she moves slowly towards anger. She would never fight without a purpose. She seriously reminds me of my friend Frani.

There is a rooster that is built into the wall and a legend that goes along with it. I am still trying to get to the bottom of this and the virgins!! In the bible, Jesus predicts at the last supper that the apostle Peter will deny him three times before the rooster sounds. I think someone brought back the ashes of this rooster and put them in the wall, according to this legend. I need to ask Raquel about this.

In one of the rooms upstairs, there is a wall of ‘frescos’. Frescos is a technique used to paint a mural on wet lime plaster so that it actually becomes an integral part of the wall. These particular frescos were painted by Francisco Pacheco, the father in law and teacher of Diego Valázquez. Valázquez was a very important Spanish painter during the Baroque period. 

It was another great day. I came back home and made it to my 8:00 spin class. Edgar made us pork chops for dinner and they were delicious! These people sure do love their pork! 

I going to visit my good friends in Belgium this weekend and am really looking forward to it!

¡Holy Jamòn! A day in Aracena, España

When Raquel and I had dinner after the Museo on Friday, we concocted a plan to go to Aracena for the ‘Jamòn Ibérico Feria’. Now I have come to realize that if anything characterizes Spain, it is the wide variety of traditions and festivals spread throughout the territory. Aracena is a very small village located 47 miles northeast out of Sevilla in the province of Huelva. And this town is seriously devoted to the production of Jamòn Ibérico! Jamòn Ibérico is a delectable cured meat that is from Black Iberian Pigs. These pigs roam oak forests along the border between Spain and Portugal eating only a acorn diet. And, occasionally olives. The hams are categorized by the pigs diet and the percentage of Iberian ancestry. In compliance with Spain’s Denominación de Origen Rules on food products these pigs need only be 50% Ibérico. The outstanding, superior, and premium is Jamòn Ibérico de Bellota (acorn). And this grade is broken down into two categories. The black label recognizes 100% Ibérico pure breed Iberian pigs fed only an acorn diet. The red label distinguishes Jamòn Ibérico de Bellota from free range pigs that are not pure breed but have also fed exclusively on acorns. The percentage of Iberian ancestry must be specified on the label. The next grade is the green label Jamòn Ibérico Cebo de Campo. This ham is from pigs that are pasteurized and fed acorns and grain. And, lastly, the 3rd type and final grade is a white label called Jamòn Ibérico de Cebo or simply Jamon Ibérico. These pigs are fed only grain and cured for 24 months. Moreover, the word puro  can be added to any of the above when both the mother and the father are pure breed and they are both registered. Also, in addition, the term Paleta refers to the front legs, Jamòn to the hind legs, and caña de limo referring to loin cuts. The curing process is anywhere from 12 months to 48 months. I’d love nothing more than to continue this discussion and to more extensive lengths, but I will get back to the feria. 

Raquel and Manuel picked me up at 10:00 on Sunday morning and the three of us were off to Aracena! And I could not be more excited! It was a beautiful road trip and these two familiarized me with everything from the ‘Encina tree’ and  ‘Belotta’ to the ‘Rio Tinto River’ (a river that literally looks like red wine was dumped in it), and even NASA presence in this region (Manuel says that the dirt is similar to the dirt that is on Mars!). 

The Fountain of Tears.
The Town of Aracena.
Our first stop in Aracena was ‘The fountain of Tears’. We immediately whipped out the selfie stick and went to town (yes, Jan, a selfie stick)! The legend at this fountain says that the daughter of a Christian King fell in love with an Arabic man. This upset the King so deeply that he buried his daughter alive. She cried so many tears from being lovesick that they came through the earth-hence the fountain.

Advancing along, we were headed down the road en route to the feria. 

The town of Aracena.

We stopped in a beautiful little gourmet store to do a little cheese tasting. And we bought some cheese to take home.

The goats that produce this incredible cheese are fed an acorn diet as well.


We had arrived at the feria and it was astonishing. Really truly extraordinary.

Jamon Iberico from ceiling to floor.
Papas fritas!
Aceite de Oliva Tortait is amazing!
This is ‘Dulce de Membrillo’ which is a sweet thick jelly made from the pulp of the quince tree.
Mermelada de Castañas-it is so delish!!!
Granada (pomegranite), Almendras (almonds), and mi Castañas (chestnuts).

Manuel and Raquel ordered our Ibérico ham and we walked to the bar with our plate of Jamòn. We than ordered Miga’s and pimentos fritos. Miga’s are quite possibly the best thing I have ever ate in my life! I had seriously died and went to chorizo heaven! I was so thirsty that I must have drank a gallon of Fanta limón. We ordered little pork sandwiches called ‘montaditos de lomo’and more Miga’s. We just walked around eating all afternoon and it was marvelous! There were massive tents set up and people cooking everywhere I looked!!! The chorizo has an ancient, unaffected origin as it is closely linked to ‘the slaughter of the pig’. This is a gastronomic, festive, cultural, and religious tradition in most rural villages of Spain. And, here was the very best chorizo that I had ever had! Needless to say when Raquel spotted a booth selling 10 quality links for €10, we all pitched in and brought some home! We also brought home many other items from leche frita, to miel with piñon. 

The village of Aracena.

Aracena is also known for ‘La Gruta de la Maravillas’ or ‘The Cave of Wonders’. It is a limestone cave located under the ground in the old center of Aracena. The length of this cave is over 1 kilometer (.62 mile), and has 3 levels and 6 lakes. There is even a room that looks like a Cathedral!

The water in the lakes is naturally this shade of blue.

I was very interested to learn how caves like this are formed so Manuel gave me a little science class. And here it is in a castaña nut shell: Stalactites, which comes from the Greek word “to drip”, is a type of formatiom that hangs from the ceiling of caves. Stalagmites is the formation that comes from the ground. Stalactites form from the deposition (deposition occurs when sediment (sediment can be any naturally occurring material that is broken down by a process. Por ejemplo, weathering and erosion) are added to a landform (a landform is a natural feature of the solid surface of the Earth. Por ejemplo, hills and the sea)) of calcium carbonate (common substance found in rocks), and other minerals, which is precipitated (creation of a solid from a solution) from mineralized water solutions (a mixture compose of two or more substances). The solution travels through the rock until it reaches an edge and if this is on the roof of a cave, it will drop down. The average growth is .13 mm a year! 

The cave tour took about an hour. And, lastly on our way out of Aracena we stopped and visited the Medieval Castle and Priory Church of la Senora del Major Dolor. 
You can see the castle in the background of this picture of Raquel and I.

I think this was my favorite day so far in Spain! Everything about it was amazing!!! I had the creme de la creme of friends for company, delectable food, a cave that was millions of years old, historic castles, a selfie stick, and Ibérico Jamon! So I ask you, what else could a girl ask for?

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordóba 

On Saturday I woke up very early to catch the high speed train to Córdoba. I had planned to spend the day and wouldn’t be returning back home until around 11:00pm. I woke up so tired and I really felt like I had a learning hangover! My brain is getting so much exercise these days! I fell asleep on the train and woke up in Córdoba 45 minutes later to discover that my internet wasn’t working. Needless to say, my first stop would have to be ‘vonafone’. How would I possibly get around Córdoba without my numerous travel apps and without Internet? This was a disaster!! Truly an emergency! I manage to speak enough Espanol, find a paper map in the train station, and get myself to a ‘Corte Ingles’ where I find Vodafone on the 4th floor next to men’s sneakers. This is all so weird, but okay I have no choice! I need the Internet! Corte Ingles is comparable to a Macy’s, for all intents and purposes. While waving around my phone and speaking Spanglish, I manage to convey my HUGE problem to the young Spanish girl behind the counter and 30 minutes later my phone is back in action! This all came as a huge relief! While I am sightseeing, I am on my phone teaching myself history and everything and anything I desire. I couldn’t possibly wait until I get home to do this! So now that this is settled, I head in the direction (thanks to google maps), of one of the most exceptional monuments in the world-‘The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba’.

The Autonmous Community of Andalusia is divided into 8 provinces: Almeria, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga, and Sevilla. And, it is the only European region with both Meditearanean and Atlantic coastlines. As of today, I have been to 4 out of the 8 provinces and I’m determined to work my way through all! And, Andalusia continues to exceed my expectations! It’s just amazing, really! 

To simplify this whole situation, ‘The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordóba’ is a Mosque that contains a Christian Church. It is an extradronary blend of Moorish and Christian Architecture. Here is a very ill-defined breakdown of how this all went down. First the Romans built a pagen temple. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths replaced it with the church of Saint Vincent. Than the Arabs conquered in the 8th century and built their great Mosque. Than the Christians re-conquered Cordóba in 1236, and they did what it is that they do, and instead of bothering to build a new church they simply converted the building to Christianity and put an alter in the middle! This breakdown is painful for me to write because I would love nothing more than to write an entire book on this one subject, however we lack the time and the space. The original Mosque had lots of open arches because it was set up for worship in the shadows of the central area. The Christians covered and sealed these openings and are using them for a backdrop for various Saints. Since the year 1236, without missing a single day, the Chapter has held Holy Mass for the Christian community in this beautiful and magnificent temple. The Catholic people of Cordóba say “I went to mass at the Mosque”! Only in Spain could I imagine hearing this!

Intricate Ceiling Designs.
Engraved on the Choir Chairs is The Stations of the Cross-no two chairs are exavtly the same.
Rows of Choir Chairs.
The Alter
The Working Organ inside the Mosque.
The Double Arches Throughout.
The massive wall surrounding the Mosque.
The Bell Tower

These pictures truly do not do this spectacular massive structure any justice.

After spending over two hours walking around and taking it all in, I realized that I was hungry. I left the Mosque in search of some tapas. I was walking down a narrow street and turned a corner to look up and find what I soon discovered to be ‘The Roman Temple of Cordóba’.

The remains of a Roman Temple that I discovered by an accident.

That is exactly how it happened…I was just walking down the street looking for some food and I stumbled upon a Roman Temple!!

After some research (thank God for the Internet and the little  girl that helped me fix my phone), I ascertained that these ruins were discovered in 1950’s during an expansion to Córdoba’s city hall. Come to find out, the temple was built during the 2nd half of the 1st century. What remains is the foundation, the stairs, the alter and some shafts of columns and capitals (capitals are the top of the columns). The highlight of this set is the foundation which is arranged in a fan shape. This massive foundation tells us the magnitude that the temple could have held! Amazing!! It is said that this temple could have been visible from ‘Via Augusta’. ‘Via Augusta’ was a Roman road crossing all of España named after Emperor Augustus. Again, I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Next I was off to explore the Jewish Quarter. Raquel is quite fond of the layout and design in these particular sections of town and she had mentioned that in Córdoba the Jewish Quarter was respectively beautiful. 

It had happened again! I was just walking down the street and I stumbled upon this candy maker! Roman Ruins/Candy maker-equally as important!! I stayed in this store for over an hour observing this candy man! It is a true art and he has it down to a science. Needless to say, I took home a big strip wrapped in plastic wrap. I sampled ‘Mantecados’ which are little bread desserts made from pork fat given to us from the Christian Heritage and now this ‘almendras caramelizades or garrapinadas’! The second dessert was from Arab influence. Both equally delish!!!

I than head towards ‘Puerta del Puente’.

And than over the ‘Roman Bridge’ I go as I head towards the ‘Mills of the Guadalquivir’.

The Roman Bridge of Cordoba.

The ‘Mills of the Guadalquivir’ are moorish era buildings that took advantage of the water force to grind flour. And, all of this is beautiful.

The ‘Puerta del Puente’ or ‘Gate of the Bridge’ was built simply because in the 16th century, the authorities decided that the city needed a new door. 

Surrounding the large old town Córdoba are Roman walls which I find myself walking in and out of all throughout the day. Córdoba is home to 12 Christian churches (many as transformations of mosques) that were built under Ferdinand III of Castile.

I stopped and visited several of these churches lighting candles for my loved ones as I roamed the beautiful streets of Cordóba. 

Ruta de Patios del Alcázar Viejo.

The last thing on my list of things to do before dusk was visit the ‘Royal Stables’. The Royal Stables is a breading place for Andalusian horses. These beautiful horses are simply breathtaking. They even have a graceful walk and I stare at them every time they walk by. King Philip is responsible for these horses and it goes something like this…

The Royal Stables of Cordoba.

King Philip II, who was a great lover of horses, set out on a scheme to create a pure thoroughbred Spanish horse. And for this reason in 1570 he ordered the Royal Stables to be built. It was in this magical setting where he bred the Spanish horse known as Andalusian horses. 

I headed towards the train station stopping to purchase some ‘castaña’s’. And, I was back at Gloria’s in no time at all. When I arrived back home, Gloria and Monica were watching a Sevillana dance competition. And, this is beautiful and such an art. We’ll talk about this another day!

Museo de Bellas Artes

This weekend I learned so much that my head hurts! This past Friday, Raquel and I went to the ‘Museo de Bellas Artes’ or ‘The Museum of Fine Arts’.  This is a beautiful museum that was originally home to a convent and its collections are predominately assets confiscated from the church. Sevilla is the 4th largest city in Spain and this is the 2nd biggest art gallery in all of Spain.

Raquel enlightened me on everything from Gothic architecture to what signifies Baroque in paintings. The building is organized around three courtyards and we walked from room to room talking for hours. This picture was taken in the former church of the ‘Convent of La Merced’. This room is the grand backdrop for displaying the 17th century Sevillian School of painting. Bartolome Esteban Murillo was the biggest player of this period. In the 17th and 18th century, Murillo was one of the most famous artists in all of Europe and his paintings considered to be the truimph of the Spanish Baroque. His paintings were considered to be so valuable that at one point the king forbade their export. Murillo was a deeply religious man and almost all of his paintings are religious in nature. He earned Spain’s top accolades throughout the 1660’s and 1670’s. Than in 1680, while Murillo was painting the main alterpiece for Capuchins Church in Cádiz he fell from the scaffolding. He died a few months later and was buried in front of his favorite painting in the Cathedral of Sevilla.

We continued to walk and talk discussing everything from ‘Claroscuro technique’ to ‘Santa Justa and Santa Rufina by Murillo’. Saints Justa and Rufina were sisters venerated as martyers in the 3rd century. Their legend states that they lived in Triana. Trianna is the barrio in Sevilla where I am currently living. These sisters made and sold pottery with which they supported themselves and many of the city’s poor.  It is said that one day during a pagan festival (defining pagan is problematic for me), these sisters refused to sell their pottery. The locals broke all of their dishes and in turn they retaliated by smashing an image of Venus. The sisters were imprisoned for this and asked to renounce their faith. They refused and were tortured, beaten, burned on coals, deprived food and water, thrown to lions and finally strangled and beheaded. And, than Murillo painted them.

We continued to walk and discuss ‘Vanitas’ and this lead to the subject of ‘vanity’. This is a good thing because there is a lot to say on the subject of ‘Vanitas’. It is here that I learn that vanity comes from the Latin word vanitas, meaning everything must die. Interesting, I think and then we start to wonder why there are so many paintings of Virgins and moons. In researching this, I learn that the moon was a symbol of purity and that the Virgin Mary was often portrayed in paintings on top of a perfectly smooth moon during this era. Por ejemplo, Murillo’s ‘Immaculate Conception’ which the Vatican later named the ‘Assumption of the Virgin’.

I left the visit to the ‘Museo de Bellas Artes’ with even an understanding of Gustavio Adolfo Becquer, a post romanticist poet! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Raquel is the perfect tour guide and I really hit the jackpot!! The list of things I’ve come to know from the visit is really endless and I could go on and on. And, for all of this, I feel very blessed!

Córdoba, Christopher Columbus, y Castañas.

My week is coming to a close and I am ready for mi fin de semana! The weather has cooled down drastically and I am wearing my fall clothes!  I love it! Even the leaves are changing color. Which brings me to the ‘Castañas’, otherwise known as ‘Chestnuts’. Castañas are cultivated throughout Andalusia and in season from October-December. Vendors set up shop with their little carts right on the streets of Sevilla. They actually roast the Castañas right in front of you and then place them in a paper cone. They are positively delicious and this little delacacy has become my new addiction. One vendor told me today that there are 4-5 varieties. Raquel, Manuel, and I are going to a ibérico jamòn festival on Sunday so needless to say, I will be doing a bit more R&D on this subject.

Wednesday October 12th was ‘Día de Hispanidad’. Basically, for all intents and purposes, instead of celebrating Columbus Day on the second Monday in October like the United States, it is celebrated on October 12th. I had planned to go to Cordóba but my blah blah car driver canceled our trip due to rain. I was fine with the cancelation and rescheduled my trip to Cordóba for this Saturday. I thought since the final resting place for Christopher Columbus is in the Sevilla Cathedral, that surely I was in store for a huge procesion and all kinds of festivities. However this was not the case. After hearing this tidbit of information, I contimplated giving up completely on trying to figure out the Seviliano’s and their traditions. But instead, I think I will die trying. We all stayed at home and the rain carried on until nighttime. Gloria pretty much cooked all day, which is always such a treat. I wound up studying for 12 hours with only one break. At 6:00 I went to a absolutely beautiful church in mi barrio to see a procesíon. The churches in Spain are, in my opinion, by far the most spectacular in all of Europe. Simply breath taking.

Madre de Dios del Rosario.

Today MaryCmarmen taught me how to use the metro. It is quite simple and I didn’t end up in Portugal. I had really thought this to be a possibility. And I was certain that if it were possible, that I would manage it!

Lenteja Lunes

This Wednesday is ‘Dia de Hispanidad’. As a result, my schedule this week has changed and I have no school this morning. I will explain more about this holiday later in the week. I decided to take advantage of this schedule change and go about Sevilla exploring…

This morning I started out with the ‘Torre del Oro’, which translates to the ‘Tower of Gold’.

Picture taken from Triana Bridge.

The Torre del Oro is a dodecagonal (12 sided) military watch tower located in Sevilla on the Guadalquivir River. The Guadalquivir River is the second longest river in Spain and is mostly used by drug smugglers these days. I think mostly hashish coming in from Morocco (just a guess). But back in the 13th century it was used to export port, oil, wool, wine, metal, cheese, etc throughout all of Europe. The ‘Torre del Oro’ was built in the 13th century around 1220 and was the last major building that the Muslims constructed in Sevilla. It was originally built to prevent the Christians from attacking Sevilla from the water (some good this did!). It was mainly used as a watch tower designed to protect the docks. King Pedro kept treasures of gold and silver in this tower and also hid his mistresss here. King Pedro also goes by ‘Peter the Cruel’. I laugh to myself every time I hear the name ‘Peter the Cruel’, because as a little girl (and possibly as a young adult), I used to refer to my Uncle Peter by this name (behind his back, of course). Some say this is where the tower got its name. However, there are two conflicting stories as to how the tower actually got its name. The other story states that after a restoration in 2005, experts discovered that the building was covered with lime and straw mortor giving it this golden reflection.  

Throughout the years, the ‘Torre del Oro’ has been restored countless times and nearly demolished twice by earthquakes. It has been used as a fortress, a post office, a chapel, a gun powder warehouse, a prison, and even the Guadalquivir River Company main office. Than in 1936 the Maritime Museam was installed in the tower showcasing the navel history of Sevilla.

I had a beautiful, relaxing morning and enjoyed visiting this naval museum. I walked home to get ready to go to school and discovered that Gloria had made her lentil soup or sopa de lenteja. I LOVE her lentil soup! I honestly don’t know what she does to these lentils but it’s just so delicious! And very clean and light, especially for lentil soup. I sat down and ate a bowl and than left for school. I later texted Gloria from school asking if she would save me some soup for dinner and she did-and it was delicious! I had it with picos for dinner.

I could go on and on about pico’s, but basically all you need to know (if you don’t already), is that they are like hard little breadsticks and they are painfully addictive. They are made with toasted sesame seeds that you crush with a mortar and pestle. And, the pico’s go well with everything!!

Tumbas, Monasteries and Pionono’s…Granada, España

Tuvimos un fin de semana maravilloso! We arrived in Granada via bla bla car at 9:30 in the morning on Saturday. The first thing we did was take a stroll up the ‘Carrera del Darro’. This is a narrow, picturesque, cobblestone street that runs parallel with the Darro River. It is a very old street with a bunch of ancient bridges and a great view of the mountainside. We were in search of the nun with the cookies! I had heard from several reliable sources about these semi secret, highly sought after treats made exclusively by a group of cloistered Spanish nuns. These particular nuns are trying to avoid the general public. We walked up and down several narrow, cobblestone streets with stairs stopping several times to ask various people for directions. I had heard that the nuns were located at the ‘Monasterio de San Bernardo’.  We finally stumbled upon a three chambered lazy susan and a door bell, both built into a wall of the monestery. There is a sign on the wall with directions as to what to do and a list of the different varieties of treats that we could order. We looked at each other and than I rang the bell. After about 3 long minutes, a nun peeked out from behind this lazy susan ! We placed our cookie order and put the money down. About 5 minutes later our cookies appeared! It was quite the experience.

The box of cookies we received from the nun.

We were than off to ‘The Alhambra’ and the ‘Generalife’. The Alhambra is a massive palace and fortress complex located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The 1st historical documents known about the Alhambra date back to the 9th century. However, the 13th century marked the Alhambra’s most glorious period. Than in 1492, after the Christian Reconquista, the Alhambra was surrendered to the Catholic monarchs. Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aagon than made extensive repairs and installed the Royal House and the headquarters of the General Captaincy of the Kingdom of Granada in the Alhambra. This is where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition. The last Emir (an Emir is a Muslim ruler) of Granada was Boabdil. There is a famous legend about him and his mother the Sultana Aixa al Hurra (the honored). No woman in history fought like Aixa to save Granada. However Queen Isabella was determined to conquere Granada. And she did in the year 1492. Isabella went to see Boabdil to get the keys to The Alhambra and noticed that he was crying. It was at this time that Aixa looked at her son and said the famous words “Do not cry as a woman for what you could not defend as a man”. 

View of the Alhambra taken from Sacromonte.
‘Patio de los Leones’ located in the heart of the Alhambra.
Picture taken from ‘Torre de la Vela” in the Alhambra.
MaryCarmen and I on the wall of ‘The Patio de Arrayanes’.

We walked around The Alhambra for over 3 hours and it is truly amazing. 

MaryCarmen and I standing under ‘The hand of Fatima’.
We than decided to take a walk to Sacromonte. Sacromonte is a neighborhood in east Granada. After the fall of the Moorish empire in the early 1500’s, the Roma arrived here and carved cave homes into the hillside. There is an entire population of gypsies (with a lowercase ‘g’)that make their homes out of these abondoned caves. Most of the caves have electricity.  Flamenco shows inside of these caves is an extremely popular tourist attraction and goes until all hours of the night.