That Southern Spanish Sun

SEVILLA: Wed 25th – Thurs 26th

Flamenco. A brilliant sun. The ‘frying pan of Europe’. Welcome to Sevilla.

When we arrived in early evening, it was 41˚C, or about 105˚F. A rather significant difference from Portland, where we only hit 60 degrees (15˚C) for the first time on March 31st, and where it’s barely grazed 70 degrees (21˚C) since. Thanks to Sevilla, I now have the beginnings of a Chaco tan.

On Thursday, grandma and I skipped the tour to spend time together and to wander Sevilla at our own pace. It is truly a gem of a town and best enjoyed by walking, exploring the numerous nooks and crannies, the little details which would otherwise be missed. 

The last time I was in Sevilla, I was a broke college student, recently finished with a term of study in Siena, Italy, and I was backpacking Europe with two good friends, Marci and Jessica. We were living on cheap wine, jam, bread, cheese, fruit and yogurt. 

charming details in Barrio Santa Cruz

But even then, with little to no money, when you go to Sevilla, there are specific experiences to check off the list. Drink sangria. Eat gazpacho. Try to find an authentic flamenco performance. And walk the Plaza de España, climb the Giralda, wander the largest gothic cathedral in Europe, and take in the stunning colors of the tile work and gardens of the Real Alcazar. 

gardens of the Real Alcazar

On a different note, a testimony to my grandmother- at 81 years of age, she climbed the Giralda. Later, while I was recounting our day, a waiter eyeballed my grandmother with newfound respect and stated, “Tio.” A former minaret of the mosque that previously graced the site of Sevilla’s cathedral, the Giralda tower is 343 feet and consists of a series of 35 ramps, wide enough for two horses to pass abreast, with a final set of 17 steps leading up to the bell tower. At about level 20, my grandmother turned around, gave me a measured look and asked, “How tall is this thing exactly?” I shrugged; she mumbled something under her breath, put her head down and kept going. I really do hope I got her genes. 

ceiling of Sevilla's gothic cathedral

La Giralda. In my defense, I didn't make my grandmother climb the tower

Later that day, after walking over six hours in the heat and finishing our day with the Plaza de España and El Parque de Maria Luisa, grandma would hail a horse and buggy tour to take us back to the hotel. The privilege of age, she says.  It was a new experience watching a horse change lanes in the middle of rush hour traffic. 

Sevilla's Plaza de Espana, as seen in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Merge for horses

CÓRDOBA: Fri 27th

I have fond memories of Córdoba. My host sister, Natalia, her novio, and I spent a few days in the city, dancing, drinking far too many mixed drinks, exploring the small alleyways and taking in the Mezquita, Córdoba’s principle site of interest.  

All roads lead to the mezquita

More than any other structure I have ever seen or experienced, Córdoba’s Mezquita really defies explanation. Originally one of the largest and most significant mosques in the world, after the Inquisition, it was converted into a cathedral. The cross-like naves and vaulted ceilings begin in the center of the old mosque. An eerie quality pervades the building, one of old, old histories, politics and the juxtaposition of religions competing side by side, attempting to dominate one another.