The Hospital de los Venerables…Sevilla

Okay so I really do wonder quite often if it is possible for me to ever love another place more than I love Sevilla. I don’t think that it is…now I’m not saying that I lack the desire to find out. Let’s just get that straight. However, I do plan to hang here for awhile. Which leads me to my current dilemma of my visa situation.  Now I knew very well that the visa process wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. That being said, I figured, “well I opened a restaurant in Boca Raton” and let’s  just say that a lot of things seem very easy to me after that. I kind of feel sometimes that I can pretty much do just about anything after surviving that experience. 

I could easily write this entire blog post telling you funny anedocts about the things that have happened leading up to now…but the bottom line is that this week I have to take a train to Madrid to obtain a permission slip to authorize the Sevilla police department to take my fingerprints to give to the United States FBI so that they can run a background check. Ridiculo. Allow me to digress for a moment here. Last Monday I asked Pedro to meet me at my school and come with me to the American Consulato in Sevilla. Could I have gone without Pedro? Sure. I will admit that I had an agenda. But everything turns into fun when Pedro is around and I knew I was going to need a few laughs because this entire process is stressing me out.  (And, we won’t talk about the fact that I have to come back to the Estados Unidos to pick up the damn visa). Otra cosa, there is a mean man that works at American Consulato and he always seems way too happy to give me bad news solomente en espanol. Lo and behold, we quickly discovered that the American Consulato will be closed until further notice. Poor Pedro. Needless to say, I was not very happy to hear this news because I knew it meant that I will now have to pay a visit to Madrid. This means spending 6 hours on a train and missing a day of school. Pedro doesn’t know it yet, but I am going to beg him to come with me. I will let you know how I make out. 

After leaving the consulate we went to have some tapas and plan the day. Pedro has taken me to visit some great little villages outside of Sevilla but today we were staying local. We, actually I, decided we were going to visit the ‘Hospital de los Venerables’. 

The ‘Hospital de los Venerables’ is a beautiful baroque building that was founded in 1675 as a residence for sick priests. It is located in the Jewish Quarter. Upon entering the building, you will find a typical Sevilla Courtyard. I am very spoiled because this sight has become very familiar to me. The Sevilla Courtyard has a stepped central fountain and a gallery of arches around it.

 All the fountains from this period were built lowered into the ground due to water concerns. The church, which was built in 1689, is covered with mural frescos by Valdes.

 The staircase leading to the second floor is beautifully decorated and covered by a Baroque oval dome and plasterwork.

This edificio is now the headquarters where exhibitions, concerts, and seminars are held. And currently there is a special exhibition featuring Velaquez and Murillo-two of my favorite Spanish artists. It is the temporary home to 19 paintings from The Louve in Paris, National Gallery in London, and private collections.

Italica for all you Game of Thrones fans…

I’ve met some amazing people at escuela. Femmie and Jimmy are my new friends from Amsterdam. They just got married and are celebrating their honeymoon first here in Andalusia before they head to the Philippines for a month. They were on a mission to make Thanksgiving special for me and planned an entire day of events. Entonces, I was fortunate enough to have spent Thanksgiving with some really fun gente’s! 

Our first stop of the day would be ‘Italica’. Since I arrived in September,  Italica has been on my ever-growing list in my iPhone notes of ‘things to do in Spain’. The main reason that I haven’t been here sooner is due to the fact that it is the major filming location for Season 7 of Game of Thrones. 

Italica is the ruins of an ancient Roman city only 9 KM from Sevilla in the city of Santiponce. It was founded in 206 BC when the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio left his wounded Roman soldiers here after a battle with the Carthaginians. This took place during the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. Shortly after this, it quickly became a municipium. A municipium is essentially a Latin term for a city or town with an important status porque it is recognized by Rome. It was one of the primary  cities in the province of Baetica in southern Roman Spain. Italica is the birthplace of Trajan, the first Roman emperor to be born outside of the Italian peninsula in 98 A.D. The city experienced major development during the rule of Trajans’ successor, Hadrian. The population of the city during this time was said to be between 8,000 and 10,000 people.

Beaumont, Ruby, Nyame, Tom, Femmie, Jimmy, Matthew and me at the entrance of Italica.
The Roman Amphitheater that seats 25,000 speculators. It is said to be half of the size of the Colosseum in Rome.
Justa, me, Ruby, Femmie, and Nyame in the pit next to the dens for animals.
Femmie and Jimmy in the entrance to Italica.

This imposing city was steadily abandoned beteeen the 4th and 5th century. The population seemed to have tapered off during this time. However the fact is that we know very little about Italica during this final Roman-Visigoth period.

The Roman villa foundations.

The first official excavations were carried out in 1780 by Francisco de Burna. Then in 1860, a highly trained architect named  Demario de la Rios took charge. With the help of his brother, Jose Amador, a skilled draughtman, the ground-plans of the Amphitheater, houses, drawings of mosaics and the first plan of the city were  at last uncovered. Now, because there was no legal protection for earthly possessions acquired in place at this time, private excavators flocked to the scene. Their end goal was to collect mosaics for their private collections. This list of people included American Archer Milton Huntington who is the founder of the Hispanic Society of New York. In 1911 the law regulating archaeological excavations put an end to this situation.

The Roman villa foundations (and Matt).

Tom and Justa exploring the halls of the Amphitheater.
Beaumont and I exploring the gardens and aqueducts.
This is one of the many perfectly preserved floor mosaics.

Nyame and Femmie statue pose next to Roman Empire Trajan.
We walked around Italica for a couple of hours before heading back to Sevilla for Thanksgiving dinner, stopping for coffee in between. Femmie picked a fantastic restaurant in el barrio la Alameda de Hercules called ‘Al Aljibe’ for dinner. ‘Al Aljibe’ is a ‘market kitchen’ restaurant with amazing seasonal food. We ordered 10 platos and shared everything. It was the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Jimmy insisted that I said grace before we ate and it was an honor to do so. I don’t think either Matt or I missed pumpkin pie. 

We ended our evening with a Flamenco show at ‘La Sra Pop Cafe’ en la Alameda. I can honestly say that this was the best Thanksgiving that I have had in a very long time! 

Palacio de las Dueñas y Jorge Cadaval! Sevilla, España

The past week has just been exceptionally noteworthy, pero cada segundo de mi vida es worthy of mention! Pedro came and got me at school today on his new Ducati motorbike and we spent the whole day together catching up. And, it was so fun! We ate, laughed, went to Vodafone, got helado, laughed, shopped, talked about life, laughed, got coffee, walked, talked, and laughed all day! He spent half the day literally cracking up every time I started speaking Espanol. In truth, Pedro was the very first friend that I made here in Sevilla on the very first day that I was in Sevilla. And, I hit the jackpot because he’s incredibly kind and really great company. He says I am definitely making progress, which I find very comforting and reassuring. Joking aside, this whole ‘immersion’ is definitely taking effect! And, I am definitely ‘immersed’! Yo soy enthralled y engrossed!!! I am the definition of enthralled y engrossed. First I start my day blasting Marc Anthony ‘Vivir la Vida’ into my iPhone EarPods as I  practically dance my way through Trianna and Sevilla on my way to school. From there I study for 4 hours. All of my interacting is done entirely in Espanol. Entonces, something had to give! It was on this past Saturday that I realized that I could communicate at least 50% of my thoughts. Now let’s face it-my thoughts are not all that complex at this time, pero it is progress! My thoughts are the clearest they have ever been in my life! My main concern is food. Actually, that’s a poor example porque my thoughts have always mainly been about food! But, you get the point…

Entonces, Pedro and I were walking through Sevilla Center today and he intercepts while I was telling him a story and says “Jamie, sorry, that’s ‘Jorge Cadaval’ and I have never seen him before in life!”.  I start cracking up because I know Pablo really likes Jorge. (Jorge is an incredible comedian here in España. He’s all over the TV and Radio with his brother Cesar).  Than there’s Pedro, “Jamie come on-you need a picture for your blog!”. And before I knew it, there we were chatting with Jorge Cadavel! My life is so great! 

Jorge Cadaval!!
Jorge Cadaval, Pedro, and me.

I stayed in Sevilla again this past weekend. We had MaryCarmen’s farewell party on Friday night and Gloria’s father Carlos’s 90th birthday party on Sunday. MaryCarmen chose a fantastic restaurant for her party and the food and company were both wonderful. Gloria’s hermana, Nancy, has been here all weekend from London and she is just lovely. Carlos’s birthday party was at Charlie’s restaurant called ‘Bar Aaron’ in Dos Remedios (a barrio near Trianna) and it was a truly great day. Charlie’s wife Maria is another phenomenal cook and the food was amazing!! My mouth is watering as I write this just thinking about it! 

Pablo and I showing off Maria’s Paella.

MaryCarmen is a great travel companion! A really great travel companion actually! She is always doing her research. She searches the best means of transportation to and from our destinations, consults with the trip advisor reviews, etc. She is as diligent about it as I am, only whenever she does the work we spend less money. So last Monday when she told me we were going to a Palace here in Sevilla, I was waiting with bells on! She said we must be at the Palace at 4:00 because at that time it is free to enter. We were on our way and we were making good time until we stopped to chat with Manuel about my beloved Castaña’s.

Manuel has the best Castañas in Sevilla!

I refuse to go to any other vendor for my Castaña addiction. He literally inspects each and every castaña before splitting them open prior to roasting them. If it is damaged in any way, it gets tossed. He cuts and roasts them perfectly so they are super easy to enjoy. In the past, when I  made the mistake of going to another vendor, I regreted it quickly. If the Castañas are not roasted properly, the skins stick to the fruit making it bitter. And Manuel is really super nice and polite to everyone walking by and always in a very good mood! 

At any rate, we arrived at the Museo at 5:00 and we missed the cut-off point. The Museo gives away 200 free tickets to the first 200 people in line. Disappointed, we returned back home. And made a plan that we would shoot for the next Monday. Well we successfully entered this gorgeous palace this Monday after waiting in line for an hour and a half.  I must admit, it was definitely worth the wait. 

This palace was built in the 15th century in the Renaissance fashion with Gothic and Moorish influences. It is currently owned by ‘The House of Alba’, a popular Spanish aristocratic family. 

MaryCarmen and I at the gate to the main garden.
Mudejar Arches.
The Main Patio.
Cayetanas Flamenco dress in the colors of her football team, Betis. Betis is Pablo’s team as well, which also makes it my team.
Cayetana had bullfighters as friends and loved the sport.
The ‘Palacio de Las Duenas’ opened to the public just earlier this year. The infamous ‘Doña Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva’, 18th Duchess of Alba de Torres, Grandee of España, passed away in 2014. Her son Carlos, the 19th Duke, happily opened to the public to give back to the people of Sevilla. The Dutchess loved the city of Seville, its people, the Sevillian Holy Week and the April Fair. It is at this palace where she spent her final days. You can actually feel the peaceful presence when you enter the gates. 

Duchess Cayetanas led an extremely colorful life. She sounds amazing. Although she was tagged as the ‘Dutchess of Alba’, she held over 40 other hereditary titles! According to the Guinness World Records, she was the most titled aristocrat in the world. She was inducted into Vanity Fairs International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 2011. Her wedding (which took place in España just after World War II), is considered to be the greatest wedding of European nobility possibly of all time. The New York Times called it “The most expensive wedding of the world”.  Duchess Cayetanas had 6 children with her 1st of 3 husbands. The children are all  endowed with noble titles thanks to their mother-in accordance with Spanish Royal protocol of course. At the time that she was ready to commit to husband numero 3, her wealth was estimated to be between 600 million and 3.5 billion. Her third marriage was to a civil servant 24 years her junior. Her children were in an uproar  and protested this marriage. To please all parties involved, she paid all of the children their inheritance in advance and moved on with her life. And she danced Flamenco in the street on the day of her wedding for the Sevilliano’s and all to see! 

She died in the Palacio de las Dueñas at the age of 88. Her funeral was held at the Sevilla Cathedral.

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’.

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!

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!!

Mi semana en la gamba… 

It has been another productivo week! With the help of MaryCarmen, I was able to scratch several things off of my list.

I joined my new gym and it is just as nice as my gym in Boca, and only 1/8th of the price per month (and the men in this gym aré especially good looking). I learned how to take the autobús both to and from school. After signing up, I am now the owner of a Sevilla City bike. I found several new markets to do my grocery shopping. Oh and I bought 25 beautiful higos for €1.70!! This would have easily cost me $50.00 back in the Estados Unidos. We changed the language in my phone to español.  Poco a poco I am getting organized over here. And, I think the time has come to tell you about my elbow. 

Do you recall my first day of escuela when I fell on my way there? Well I really did a number on my elbow. Two days after I fell, I noticed that it was very swollen and looked deformed! Due to my limited ability to communicate and the fact that I did not want to inconvenience anyone, I was completely avoiding going to the doctor. Than Raquel put her foot down and made the appointment for me. And than when the day came, she escorted me there herself. The doctor told us that I have bursitis. This occurs as a result of trauma to the bursa causing it to fill with fluid. It is a common sports related injury. The doctor aspirated the bursa with a needle and then injected cortisone. I must admit that I did experience some culture shock going to this private hospital. I want to spare you the details, but I think you can imagine. And than when it came time to pay, it’s cash only-no tarjeta (credit card)! 

We left and hoped for the best and I’m pretty sure that we both thought that this whole ‘bursa’ situation was over with.

Well, not even 24 hours later, my elbow was swollen even worse than before!! Raquel made me another appointment with the same doctor and this time I went solamente. Basically, the same procedure was performed only this time 3 nuns stood in the room with me! All three of them dressed in their nun uniforms with their veils, all having a conversation with the nurse and Doctor. All five of these people talking so fast that I have no idea what was going on!!

In an effort to make this long story shorter, I have now been to the hospital three times and my arm is wrapped and in a sling. Gloria has now took a stand and is literally waiting on me hand and foot. For those of you that have not met Gloria, she is a force to be reckoned with and I walk very carefully around her.

When it comes time to eat, she serves me my food and than stands over me carefully cutting everything into bite size pieces on my plate. She simply refuses to allow me to do anything with my right hand. I was complaining that the original sling was muy calor so Edgar brought over a new one and Gloria came upstairs to my room and helped me put it on. 

I remember when I was 12 years old and I fell off my bike with Melissa Striuli. I flew over the handle bars and landed on my head. I knocked myself out and Melissa grabbed my legs and dragged me out of the street. A nurse was watching the whole ordeal and brought me back home and told my mother what happened. My mother handed me a bag of frozen peas and told me to “get outside”. I think I will stay here for awhile!

Tomorrow morning MaryCarmen and I leave for Granada. Bla bla car will be here to pick us up at 6:00am. For those of you that do not know what bla bla car is, it works sort of similar to Uber, but with several passengers. It basically connects drivers with passengers willing to travel together to share the cost of the journey. My fare for tomorrow’s journey is €14.00. You just can’t beat it with a stick!! It would cost me more than that to take a taxi to the train station! It is a 3 hour drive by car to Granada. We will arrive at 9:00am. And we return Sunday night.

Granada is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is the home of The Alhambra, one of the world greatest wonders. The Alhambra is a ‘Palace City’ and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. Granada is considered to be one of the three pearls of Andalucia and I am simply thrilled to see this beautiful city. Tonight we are going to plan our weekend, after I cook and we eat my gambas!

Edgar and the Virgins

This weekend started off beautifully and ended beautifully. Pablo was off to Belgium to visit his girlfriend for the weekend. Being the gentleman that he is, he had asked me to teach him to prepare a recipe that he could cook for her upon his arrival. I could go on and on with funny anecdotes about this and how it went down, but unfortunitely I lack the time and space. To sum it up, Pablo was a natural in the kitchen and our experiment went very well! I had went to the market and gathered the ingredients to make a pesto. When I arrived back home, everyone in the house was awaiting my arrival. Alejandro started grating cheese, Monica slicing and sauting baby Bella’s, Marta assisting Alejandro with his cheese…All while Pablo jumped from one action to another, ensuring that he would be well prepared. We had a blast and than all sat down to have dinner together.

Meanwhile, Edgar has had some sort of a side project going on on the back terrace. It looks like he is building a tool shed of sorts. Edgar is Gloria’s cousin and a super nice man that has showed me nothing but kindness since the day I arrived. Edgar speaks little English and well, my Spanish is definitely under construction. Gloria had officially retired from her job on Friday and so we all gathered for an afternoon torta and cafe to celebrate. Somehow Edgar and I started talking about the procesions and he proceeds to tell me that one was taking place tomorrow (Saturday) at the Catherdal. As soon as I heard this, I immediately canceled my plans to go to Córdoba. That settled it-I was staying in Seville again this weekend, and with joy!! 

As it turns out Sevilla is the most Catholic  city in Spain and Edgar proceeds to tell me that there are over 345 Virgins!! If I could explain to you what this means-I would, but I haven’t a clue. And, I have been trying to get to the bottom of the entire subject of ‘procesions’ since last Saturday. I can however tell you that Maria Santisima, the Virgin of Hope of Macarena, is a 17th century wooden image of the blessed Virgin Mary and is regarded with high respect here in Sevilla. And, I think, she is the sole purpose of the procesion that is going to take place. Apparently, she must be moved from the Cathedral to a church in Marcarena. Edgar explains to me that she is scheduled to leave the church at 6:00 and that I must arrive a bit early to get my spot. I am very grateful for this information. (And, Alejandro, I now know where Macarena is). Edger patiently answers all of my questions and I learn that the “float” that the Virgin rests upon is called a ‘Paso’ and that it takes sometimes over a hundred men to carry it. These men spend years on a wait list for this honor. These man are called ‘Costalero’s. 

The Costalero’s wrap turban’s around their heads and balance the wooden rods on the back of their lower necks. After 24 hours of this, they obviously develop welts from the friction. And, just how the Costalero’s carry the paso is completely different depending on the region in Andulucia. This stance is exclusive to Sevilla.

Fast forward to the big day. I go to meet Alfonso for lunch to practice my Espanol and enjoy some tapas and than we head over to the Cathedral. We arrived just in time to see the paso “jump” as the men lower it and this is a breath taking experience in and of itself. The music is loud and beautiful and best of all, I am so close to her that I can almost touch it. This would never happen during Holy Week. Now Alfonso, being born and raised in Sevilla, knows everyone and we stop to say hello to his lovely friend Ester. Ester is a Sevilliana and is very funny and is apparently disgusted with this tradition and procesion nonsense. She has me laughing in stitches as she tells me that “the north of Spain makes fun of them and refuses to take the south serious”. She than blurts out “well at least we are evolving and we are no longer throwing goats from the tower”!! WHAT?! Did Ester just say they throw goats from the tower?

Not anymore! Yes, this tradition was banned in 2002. Prior to abolishment of this act, a group of men would throw a live goat from the top of the church on the 4th Sunday of January. These Sevilliano’s….

I have been here now for exactly four weeks and have yet to visit the famous ‘Las Setas de la Encarnacion’, the ‘Incarnacions Mushrooms’. This is a large wooden structure in the old quarter of Sevilla that was completed in 2011. The architecture doesn’t match the rest of its surrounding areas, as you can imagine. However, these mushrooms sure do attract a lot of attention! Oh and in the midst of the construction, Roman ruins were found and the construction than froze for 14 years while they investigated! Jeez-I thought it took Florida along time to complete a project! 

The beautiful view from the top of the ‘Setas’ as the sun set.

And now back to more procesions!! They continue throughout the entire night walking the streets of Sevilla. Simply amazing.

We topped off the night with some more tapas and called it quits around 2:00. The streets were still packed and this considered to be an early night.

And, in all the commotion this weekend MaryCarmen had arrived. MaryCarmen is drop dead gorgeous and joins us from Mexico to work on her thesis. She is writing her thesis on ‘Legumbres’. I mean, did I hit the jackpot or what? And, did I tell you that Monica traveled from China with her rice machine stashed in her luggage? These are my kind of people!!