Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seville, Spain is Most Beautiful and Interesting

Less than an hour's flying time from Madrid, Seville (otherwise known as Sevilla) the capital of Andalucia is a wonderful city. It's large enough that there's plenty to do, but small enough that you can walk to most places. Located on the River Guadalquivir, it's an ancient city with history as far back as the Romans and 500 years of dominance by the Moors. In the early 1500s, Seville began a trade monopoly with the Americas and eventually became the richest city in Spain. Today, it's a modern thriving city with a rich history to be explored. There's much to see for everyone, but these are my favorite places.

Reales Alcazares (The Alcazar) is a lavish14th century Moorish fort with beautiful gardens, incredible tilework and gorgeously ornate rooms. The Alcazar is one of the most amazing buildings in all of Spain and is one of the finest examples of mudejar architecture. It even has a chapel where Christopher Columbus met with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after one of his voyages to the New World. Don't miss the gardens as they are huge, and have been added onto over the years so they are in several different styles, but all are beautiful. The gardens also have a maze, which is great
fun for the kids. It's open Tuesday thru Saturday from 9:30am to 5pm and Sunday, 9:30 am to 1:30pm.

Barrio de Santa Cruz is the old Jewish ghetto and is very popular with tourists. It's absolutely packed with bars and restaurants, and its winding streets and gorgeous patios are fabulous for photo taking. There are many shops where you can buy typical tourist items, but there are also some fascinating craft stores with Spanish pottery, glass, tapestry and much more. Don't miss the Mateas Gago where you will find tons of tapas bars (tapas are Spanish bar snacks). Grab lunch here. There's nothing better than a cold beer and a few plates of olives, fish, spaghetti and bread dipped in olive
oil and balsamic vinegar.
The Giralda is the world-famous landmark of Seville. It's the minaret of an old mosque that was once built to be the most beautiful building on the face of the earth. The tower is enormous, but you can take a leisurely climb to the top up 35 gently sloping ramps. At the top, you will have an astounding view out over the city.

Isla de la Cartuja is a science and leisure park that was the site of the 1992 World Expo. The Seafaring Museum is here as well as the popular Isla Magica theme park. Isla Magica is based on 16th century Spain and has seven different sections, all exploring different episodes in Spanish history. The El Jaguar Roller Coaster is awesome and the shows at the Pirates Cove are fabulous for kids. There is also the old monastery at Isla de la Cartuja, which has now been converted into a modern art center. This is where Christopher Columbus stayed when he was in Seville and where you can see his personal archive.

Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. Considered one of the best bullrings in Spain, Seville's Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza is an enormous whitewashed building that is also the site of the Bullfighting Museum. You can see posters of famous bullfights, paintings of bullfighters, and even bulls heads. Orson Wells came to this bullfighting ring to learn how to bullfight back in the 1960s. You can also see a professional bullfight here, if you have the stomach for it, as they are held several times a week Paseo de Colón, 12 -

Also don't miss the Archaeological Museum, the Hospital de la Caridad (whose original founder is said to be Don Juan) and the Casa de Pilatos, the copy of Pontius Pilates house in Jerusalem. And don't forget, at night, Seville has a great clubbing scene, fabulous bars and amazing restaurants. Not only is Seville one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, it's also one of the most interesting

it makes me so sad

...some collect stamps, I collect ballet experience...after I got off the plane in Madrid, I spent a night watching Corella Ballet Castilla y Leon's premiere of La Bayadere in Teatro Real (Royal Theatre). The theatre is located in front of the Palacio Real. The monarch has moved to the more modest Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid, but the Royal Place is still used for state occasions. some time at the end of the journey, I witnessed on the metro screen a catholic funeral for the victimes of the devastated plane crash - although many Spaniards questioned: why catholic funeral?
La Bayadere (The Temple Dancer) was originally choreographed by the ballet master Marius Petipa (Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake,...) to the music of Ludwig Minkus (Don Quixote, Le Papillon, ...). it took place in an exotic and ancient locale of India - ideal vehicle for spectacular dances and lavish decor. the subjects are to be of the romantic ballet tradition - melo-dramas involving a love triangle of some sort. at the end of the rather tragic story, the shades of the lovers are reunited in an apotheosis and spirited off toward the high Himalayas...when Rudolf Nureiev last staged La Bayadere in Paris 1992 before he died from AIDS, it broke many's hearts...
among today's young virtuosos is the founder of the company, Spanish ballet dancer Angel Corella (winner of Grand Prix and Gold Medal 1994). it was a treat to watch him playing the leading role Solor. Although I found the leading females were all the principal dancers from ABT - Paloma Herrera as Nikiya, Gilian Murphy as Gamzatti, it was an mature production in full overall. here's a clip of Angle Corella dancing another difficult role Bronze Idol in La Bayadere to appreciate his virtuoso.
then, my journey took a turn to the south. the Spanish novelist Pio Baroja verdicted that half the idiocies about the Spanish soul have been invented by foreigners, the other half by Spaniards themselves. I tried to distinguish which is which. my new friend sitting next to the table said, 'siesta is a myth. flamenco is only originated from the southern region, Andalusia.' and I am blessed to have my virgin live flamenco experience taken place in Los Gallos, an over 40 yrs old tablao (flamenco club) in seville, the cultural capital of Andalusia.
I think it is important to watch this form of arts in such a small cozy traditional setting, where the dancing (baile), singing (cante), guitar (toque), the facial expressions and body gestures all came together and gave me such a moving thrill - sometimes happy sometimes my desperate desire to understand it, I found there're so many genres (palos) of flamenco. 'For example,' my Spanish friend filled me in, ' This song of Camaron de la Isla is of Bulerías, which is rather sad. The lyrics says:
        It makes me so sad,
        it makes me so sad.
        The bridge always stays,
        while water goes away.

        Grandparents, parents and uncles.
        Grandparents, parents and uncles.
        From good springs
        you obtain good rivers.
        Grandparents, parents and uncles.'
it makes me so sad, it makes me so sad...that my journey does not last forever...
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