Roman Forum 2006

Roman Forum 2006
Foro Romano, from the Palatine Hill - a favorite photo from one of my favorite cities

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bloggo Andalusia Cinquo: The Pleasures of Cadiz days Uno and Dos

As I traveled (by train) to Cadiz from Seville I was thinking I'd spend just two days there, after which I would move farther south for another two days, to Tarifa, from which I would catch a ferry to Morocco.

Then my 70-year-old body whispered something to my adventurous spirit: "Give it a rest." And I listened. Only a small part of me really regrets that I didn't plunge forward, "into the heart of darkness," with apologies to Joseph Conrad and Africa.

So instead of venturing forth, I booked another hotel in Cadiz for four more days, and relaxed.  Much of the reason that my disappointment was slight has to do with the fact that Cadiz is a very pleasant place. There aren't many really astonishing sights to see, though the sight of the Cathedral next to the ocean was more than enough to captivate me, and the sea air, coolish temperatures and really good food sealed the deal. See just below, the Cathedral and the sea:

That's the summary, but more specifically I will begin with my two hotels. Very different kinds of places, the first housed in an old
convent, with friendly staff, very good breakfast, a comfortable and relatively roomy room (unusual from what this budget traveler is used to), and its location in the old city all real incentives. The only down side was a very spotty wi-fi connection. In fact I probably would have stayed on there the next four days, but it was booked up for the first two of them. So I found a place just outside the old city, a much newer
place with many luxuries (for me, that is - luxury is not usually an option with my meager budget, so those used to luxury might snigger if they spent any time there) and reasonably priced. I had a much larger room than usual, comfy chairs to sit in, a great shower, even better breakfasts than the convent offered, and so on and so forth. A sort of Tale of Two Hotels, in a way. Apologies to Dickens!

But, most wonderful for me, at the second hotel, the beach was literally a two minute walk away.

I am not a lover of the beach, mind you. My skin condition doesn't permit me to lounge on it, and I have nut swum in it since Jaws. But I love to walk along it, and this possibility Cadiz provides for immensely well.
While the old city is almost all well above the sea and walls protect it, there is one tiny beach, La Caleta, in its bounds, which I've read often gets ridiculously crowded and is often not very clean. But on the peninsula to the south of the old town pristine beaches extend for miles. And as far as I was able to walk in the old town and to its south, wonderful wide walkways with bike lanes make exercise or simply pleasant strolls not just possible but very desirable.

My first day in Cadiz began, shortly after I got out of my train, took a taxi and checked in at the Hotel Boutique Convento Cadiz, with a desire for lunch. Very close to the convent are located several eateries on a mostly
shady street. I was advised by hotel staff to eat at one, but it was packed, so I chose another across the way, and was very happy I did so. I wanted fish and got it, FRESH from the sea and nicely grilled, with a very tasty stewed blend of vegetables and a lovely glass of local white wine, recommended by my server. The wine also went very well with the olives she placed before me.

Aside: For those of you who, tempted by my enticing essays, are thinking of traveling to Cadiz, or any part of Andalusia, be aware that bread will be set at your table, sometimes olives as well, and often a tapas-sized treat sometimes you'll pay extra for all that - not much, but possibly as much as two Euros, so ask before you eat the treat. I ate mostly well and always inexpensively on this trip, so I was happy to have the extras, the best of them in the case of this first meal a sort of potato salad which was yummy!

And then off I went to explore. I had my first look at the facade of the cathedra. It's devilishly hard to get a good photo as it is so large and the square, or plaza in front of it is so small. Best effort follows:

It was a good bit easier to get a pic of my latest girlfriend, who had attracted a crowd dancing like the wind in front of the cathedral (some might say as an affront to it)! I have no idea of her name, so I think I'll make one up: Ezmeralda, the dancing girl in front of Notre Dame! With apologies to Victor Hugo.

Of course I fell in love! But then, so did Quasimodo, and you know what happened to him.

Instead of attempting the warren of tiny streets and alleys that make up the old town - Cadiz dates back to the Phoenicians, mind you - I chose to begin my look about with a walk the promenade along the sea, and did so all the way up to some old
star-shaped fortresses, on one land the other...well, also on land, obviously, but sitting out a good 200 yards from Cadiz proper, reached only by a tidal walkway. The tide was high at the time I approached so I decided to not risk getting splashed (or worse) and left that stroll for another day. The fort in the water is called San Sebastian, and as I found out a few days later, is closed for repairs. Alas several sights in Cadiz are also closed for the same reason. And I have reason to think that they might have been and perhaps will be in this condition for some time. Spain, particularly southern Spain, is still in a financial crisis and as I believe I noted in an earlier blog, the unemployment rate is very, very high.

Whilst (forgive "whilst - I'm not British, I'm American - but I like the sound of "whilst" occasionally) on my seaside walk the sun grew hotter and I grew more and more tired. So I ducked in among the alleys, into any shady spot that would have me, including the very pretty park pictured below, and little by little made my way back to my hotel, and decided to make an early day of it.

Next morning, I awoke early and was as usual the first down to eat. On my way down I snapped a photo of the upper levels of the convent, and its dome:

I may have mentioned that the breakfast area was outdoors, and while there was a bit of a nip in the air, I enjoyed that very much.

After dining I went off again, in a more earnest search around the city. I was too early for the first hop-on-hop-off bus tour, so first I strolled from my hotel to the nearest square (not five minutes away)

 Bright, airy, open, wouldn't you say? I walked past the cathedral square again (only two minutes farther than the square, or plaza, above), and got what I'd call a better shot of the church.

My first goal was the daily city market, which I understood to be a hive of morning activity.

It wasn't exactly hopping as yet, in fact some stands were still being set up

But I enjoyed it, especially all of the fresh fish! This master of his trade was eviscerating tuna while talking on the phone:

and the shrimp? Well, let's just say they weren't "shrimpy" in size

As the time grew close for the bus tour, I took an inner old town path to one of the stops along its way, and had a look at some lovely gardens along the seaside.

and took a look at the seaside - that fort out in the sea again, though the tide was much lower - and boats for pleasure, fishing or for hire.

Finally, the bus. Once on, I realized that it wasn't going to be all that grand a tour, but it did give me a better feel for the whole of the old town. Though there was an audio guide, I have NO memory of what this winged statue represents.

I caught a view, though not a great one, of a bridge recently put up to link the city with the mainland - I'd seen it from a distance on the train coming in.

I got a good look at the beaches (where I'd be staying beginning the next day)

and another great view of the cathedral from the beach

So the ride was not a complete failure, or anywhere near it.

I left the bus tour at the Cathedral again, and went off in search of the Museum of Cadiz which houses art and archeology. In so doing I meandered around it until I finally took the right (meaning correct, not direction) turn and found it, on a large and very pleasant, shady plaza.

It does double duty, at least: on the ground floor a really interesting archeology museum, especially in its Phoenician collection (not all that easy to find out what the Phoenicians were up to waaaaay back when), ancient Roman stuff more typical but enjoyable, and forward. Just below, looking down from the art galleries to the entranceway to archeological treasures

On the first floor it houses some lovely if not astonishing works of art, mostly Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque. A series by the Spanish painter Zurburan - some appear to have been either filched or loaned out - here's hoping it was the latter!

Go one flight farther up and you've reached a small but well-chosen selection of contemporary art. I liked this one a sort of this, that and t'other of how Cadiz was founded

And this reminded me just clowning around, and THEN...

A guide-book from a few years back told me that there were also some very good puppets up top, but alas all up top was not open, so I sadly missed that part. There is an apparently very good puppet theatre in town which specializes in mocking political and social foibles in Cadiz.

The great musician Manuel de Falla lived on the same square, I discovered by complete accident. Nice that they have memorialized him.

After giving him a nod myself, I walked out of the pretty plaza, confident that I knew exactly where I was going. I did not. On my way to finding myself I happened onto some pretty nice spots, so here are a few - you can share my search!

I came across a very pretty garden (above) which was also nice as it was a shady spot and I needed one. Also in that garden I came across two great cypress trees - here is one of them. I like the colorful tile work on the bench too.

Also on my lost rambling I re-discovered the winged goddess I had seen on the bus tour. Still no clue as to who, what, or why - WHERE I know!

In another park I found this statue, actually there were more than one of them, with a boy squeezing water out of an unfortunate fish. Curious, but the setting was pretty!

After this I DID find my way back to the area around my hotel. I ate at a place that bragged about its burgers. Mine wasn't very good, and I didn't even take a photo of it (zounds!) but I can't complain too much as I ate so well on most of this trip I consider myself lucky. Then back to the hotel, relatively pleased with my second day. About the next four days you will learn in my next post!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bloggo Andalusia Cuatro: last two days in Sevilla

Buenos dias! Here I sit, in probably the nicest hotel I've had since I arrived in Spain nearly two weeks ago. And today I leave this hotel for a highly rated inn in Cordoba, so hopes are high that quality will continue.

Quality of writing? That I cannot promise, but here's to my last two days in Seville. These days, pleasant as they were, did not better or even equal my day trip to Ronda and Zahara (see my last post for that), but then that journey was extraordinary. A Spanish friend of mine had told me well before I embarked on this foray across the Atlantic, that in two days one could easily take in the major sights/sites in Seville, and she was right.

So, while I have a few places left to comment upon, to share with you, I'll begin with something I promised in an earlier post. A continuation of how highly Seville regards its writers and the characters in their work.

The first of may come as a bit of a surprise, as he was a mere visitor to Spain, but was in fact one of the first great writers produced by the then budding (now wilting) US of A.  Name? Washington Irving, of Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow, Headless Horseman fame - well-timed subject, as Halloween, it seems, is upon us. I had read Irving's book,  Tales of the Alhambra, in preparation for the trip, but I hadn't been aware that he was beloved by the citizens of Seville as well. Quite the contrary! As I walked to the meeting point for the Ronda/Zahara tour I stumbled upon a plaque on a wall adorned with flowers, bordering the lovely Murillo Gardens. A tribute to Irving! I'll write in more detail about his book on the Alhambra, where he stayed for a few months at a time when much of it was still in ruins, in my post on Granada, but as I don't arrive there until 28 October, for now, allow me to show you the nice plaque, flowers above it in one photo, and in a second photo what the rest of that section looks like

The text is nearly impossible to read, so here it is: "A Washington Irving, recuerda de su amor, Espana, 30 May 1925"

Nice tribute, pretty wall, si or no?

The next and last literary/performed art piece honored in several different parts of Seville is all about that cigarette girl named Carmen! I took another stumble (constantly stumbling I fear) at the meeting point for the tour mentioned above, just minutes after discovering the Irving tribute. Here it is:

Not at all sure you'll be able to read the text (this time with English translation below the Spanish) of this plaque either, so I'll copy it here:

"Near this place is the location of the old prison where Don Jose, by order of Lieutenant Zuniga, jailed Carmen after the argument in the tobacco factory." Note that is it "signed" by "Sevilla, ciudad de Opera" - would that we place more such tributes pasted about in cities appropriate to them! In some cases we do, in many more cases we do not.

So! The Tobacco Factory! Where would that be I wonder? It has quite the history - at first men only worked there, to roll cigars and cigarettes, then a few women were brought in, and after that women only executed the rolling of tobacco. It became known as the Royal Tobacco Factory, and now is the HQ of the University of Seville! Ole! And, having visited it, it doesn't reek at all of tobacco. Time heals everything. Well not quite everything. The citizens of Spain have bowed to EU rules. but most of them still smoke inveterately.

I happened on the university during my perambulations on the penultimate (sorry - I almost never use either of those "p" words, but the alliterative urge was too much to resist) day of my visit to Seville. Here's the entrance:

And a few shots from inside:

rather elegant for a tobacco factory, yes?

Just across the street, what I'd call student temptations - a line of eateries (drink-eries too if you receive my meaning). Temptations all too near the U - or opportunities to cut classes, whatever you'd call it.

For proof positive of the Carmen connection I give you a pillar at the entrance of the University

and just below the two plaques naming on that pillar naming it the tobacco factory:

and much the prettier of the two:

which just goes to show that "it's very good to be the King" (apologies to Mel Brooks) or at least "REAL" which of course means "Royal."

That's about it for my literary/performing arts commemorations in Seville. But remember, I wasn't looking. These were all stumbles upon, yes? Imagine what I might find WERE I looking! Possibly no more, perhaps I just got lucky, but you never can tell...

Now! I DID see some other sites before I left the city...
friends. The Plaza Espana offers a nice park and a huge building, one side with a moat. The four bridges across the moat represent the four main territories in Spain. A few pics:

the other side of the building

and another, closer shot of the huge building

I also took a tour of the cathedral. It was meant to be a double tour, also featuring the Alcazar, but was stopped from seeing the Alcazar by friends and guidebooks proclaiming it was less than stellar, but more importantly and immediately by a dizziness, a feeling of nausea, as I finished the guided tour of the cathedral. I had bought a package deal: an hour and a half in the cathedral, another two and a half in the Alcazar.  I suppose I didn't get my money's worth, but the cathedral was interesting, if for nothing else for its gigantism.

The first thing we saw upon entering the cathedral was this strange crocodile, suspended. The tour guide kept us in suspense as to WHY a croc, but alas, my sudden illness kept me from hearing it.

It is nothing if not large. Our guide told us that those who were building it once stated (I paraphrase) "We'll make it so large they will think us MAD!" They may have had a point

a side altar...then what must the main altar look like - all in good time

Another chapel, this one for the explorers during Spain's golden age

and the most famous explorer of them all, the remains (supposedly) of Christopher Columbus

that's our tour guide telling us the very complicated story of the remains.

And now, the high altar:

Subtle, isn't it? They say that the entire life of Jesus Christ is depicted in those shiny panels. This is all behind a screen of sorts - I got this photo by sticking my camera through a slot.

It is the third largest cathedral in Europe, the first two being St Peter's in Rome and St Paul's in London. AND it is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The other two are Renaissance in nature.

The following part of the tour was not required, but time was given to climbing the Giralda tour. Don't ask me why but I did. Compared to some climbs it was quite easy, but I was already feeling queazy - I think this may be why I couldn't make the rest of the tour.

SOME of the gargantuan cathedral, from the top of the Giralda Tower, and of course some of the city beyond

and now I must check out of my hotel!

Taking up pen again, or keyboard, or laptop few days later, I repeat: "and now I must check out of my hotel!"


The first check-out note was written re my hotel in Cadiz. This time from Cordoba. It is now the morning of 27 October. I've had some wi-fi connectivity issues, and have also been on the go, so it feels like forever since I wrote the above post. It's not quite finished, but I'll polish it off now with a meal and a tree.


My last big meal in Seville was on a tree and cafe-lined street near the cathedral. It was simple, outdoors, cool, tasty and satisfying. Not necessarily in that order. The place?

the food? For starters, bread and olives, and the traditional

then, Andalusian-style gaspacho

and finally, an absolutely wonderful tuna and red pepper salad!

Look good? Tasted even better - ole!

Now the tree the cypress tree, to be exact. These monsters are quite usual in this area, and I've photographed several. But THIS one, in Murillo Gardens seemed to be extraordinary even among what I think of as unusual arboreal delights. As usual, the lower parts are more interesting than the upper. See what you think.

Bear with my for a second, but after instant admiration, this tree petrifies me, for a moment at least! Perhaps it is because Halloween is almost upon us. Well, not me, I really don't like the holiday, haven't since just after I was a kid. When I started being paid to dress up in costume, as a professional actor, the thrill of dressing up for a holiday and to scare people (I did that often enough on stage, unintentionally) seemed needless and foolish. Very happy to be out of the US, as I am usually trapped in my apartment, dreading the sound of knocks on the door and the screams of "Trick!" or "Treat!" Up until a year or so ago I bought just enough to feed the few I thought would actually show ,up, and then no one showed up. So now I no longer buy, I just dread that knock of a hopeful kid who will see that the old man has nothing for him.

Anyway, this tree seemed just for an instant a gigantic Halloween trick - the tree that isn't really a tree but a monster just waiting for an unsuspecting soul to stroll by, who stops to look - the "tree" then acts, either swiping at the passerby and destroying/devouring him(or her) OR if the foolish fella or gullible gal manages for a moment to elude its deathly grip, It lifts itself - the root area DOES resemble a huge, ancient, gnarled foot, and chases after it. The poor human doesn't stand a chance!

And on that nightmarish, fantasia-like note, something Washington Irving might get a kick out of, I leave my memories of Seville, and you. Until I can tell you tales of Cadiz, and then Cordoba. Off, oddly enough, to Seville again this morning, for just one night, where I will see a flamenco show. tomorrow morning at this time I will be heading FROM Seville TO Granada, of which I have only the highest hopes!