Seville - Day 1

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December 29th 2012
Published: April 11th 2013
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Espacio Metropol ParasolEspacio Metropol ParasolEspacio Metropol Parasol

Shade for people and for the Roman Ruins beneath


A huge breakfast bar greeted us when we entered the dining room early in the morning. There were coffee, tea, a variety of pastries, a good selection of cereals as well as eggs, bacon, ham, fried potatoes and other hot foods and finally a good selection of fruits. There would be no excuses for going away hungry. I had not realized the hotel was large until I saw several tour groups already at breakfast. I am the breakfast eating champion it seems. I hesitate to say how many times I went back to the buffet to enjoy all the delightful foods on offer. Hurrah for good breakfasts!

We had a good long day ahead of us. As soon as we finished breakfast ,we went to our room and got ready for the day. We decided we would begin simply by walking around and becoming oriented and becoming familiar with the downtown area. It was a little chilly, but the sun was shining brightly bringing forth the promise of a nice day.

Espacio Metropol Parasol

Not far from our hotel a large, modern structure was sitting there in the midst of nice old buildings. It wasn't just on a building site but actually extended over a street. Wow! When we first laid eyes on this enormous 'thing', we were both rather shocked and not pleased. We looked at it and commented on why in the world anyone would build such a thing in the middle of a very lovely old Spanish city. Thankfully when we were on our way home, we inspected it by going over and walking up the stairs and then down in to the basement of the structure. It is actually quite an interesting thing. Under it is the site of an extensive Roman ruin. The structure protects the ruins from the elements and provides an interesting show to explain the history of the site. The upper part contains some attempts at small restaurants and other venues. These seem to be of limited success so far in a city full of much more authentic tapas restaurants and other things Spanish. But the rather lovely shape is at least functional for purposes of protecting the history of the area.

The Dancing Couple

Seville was a city full of life, sidewalks full of people, street musicians, a dancing man with his life sized mannequin girlfriend, street vendors and the obvious tourists.

The dancing man was very interesting. The two heads are actually heads of mannequins. The man’s feet are really the man’s feet and the woman’s feet are the “live” man’s hands. Turning, twisting and twirling it really appeared that a couple was dancing to music from his CD player. Round and round, up and down he went for several minutes at a time.

Between dances he would stand, thus the woman's head was then pointing to the ground. The sun was shining brightly, making it quite warm for this dancer. While wiping his face, he took long drinks of water from a large bottle. Sweating as he was on this moderate day I wondered what it must be like in the heat of summer. I hoped that during the summer he is able to find a spot to dance that is in the shade and not in the bright, hot sunshine.

He, like the street musicians, seemed to be having a good day as coins and bills were dropped into his basket.

Street Musicians

The street musicians looked like college kids out for the day, playing jazz so they could earn a bit of money. They were quite good and seemed to be enjoying themselves and their music. I am sure it did not harm their mood that quite a crown had gathered around to listen and to drop a few coins into one of the saxophone cases. “When the Saints Go Marching In,” is obviously one of the best known pieces of New Orleans jazz music all around the world.

The Cathedral of Saint Mary By the See

The cathedral in Seville is really LARGE, in fact it is the fourth largest church in the world, even larger than the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. We can tell you from personal experience that the Hagia Sophia is very large, but not so large as the cathedral in Seville. This cathedral dwarfs other cathedrals we have visited in Europe. Was there a time this huge church was filled to capacity? I expect in times past it was and perhaps on special days now it is completely filled with worshipers. Certainly this was true in Valencia in 2010 when we visited the cathedral there.

The full name is Cathedral of Saint Mary By the See … yes, you saw it right by the See and not by the Sea. And it is the burial place of Christopher Columbus. Columbus is not buried beneath the floor. Rather his body is in a catafalque, a raised bier, being carried by the kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre. The cathedral is build at the site of the Almohad Mosque, the worship place of the Moors when they ruled this part of Spain. One of the planners is reported to have said, "We shall have a church of such a kind that those who see it built will think we were mad". I had not thought them mad, planners of great grandeur perhaps, but not mad. Construction took a century. Perhaps this was in a timely manner considering they had no power tools, no electric drills or jackhammers, no hydraulic wenches, no computers or handheld calculators. I have often wondered what blueprints looked like in those bygone days?

By the time we finished touring the cathedral

The city was bright with many flowers.
it was mid-afternoon. We did not climb to the top of the tower though we realized the views from that height would be very good. Just as in the Hagia Sophia the tower is reached by a series of ramps (easier than stairs of course). However, we two walked up about 5 of these and thought, "Do we really, really want to wear ourselves totally out just to look out over a city?" The decision was, "NO". Coming back down just that sort distance we knew it was a good decision because going down steep ramps makes your knees and legs very tired. The tower is 383 feet high. That's a lot of 'up' and 'down'. It is the bell tower of the cathedral now but was the minaret of the Mosque which it replaced. This makes this church also like the Hagia Sophia which was first a Christian cathedral and later a Muslim Mosque. Here the reverse was true.

General Archive of the Indies

We wandered the streets of Seville, just seeing what we could see. About fifteen minutes into our wanderings we saw a large building ahead of us. In front of the
Mother henMother henMother hen

We watched these charming children walk before us older sister hugging the two younger ones.
building was a small garden, filled with orange trees and other plants as well as a small fountain. Reading the sign we discovered it was the Archivo General de Indias that houses archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. In 1987 the building was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building was begun in 1584 to house the merchant's exchange. Merchants here were becoming exceedingly wealthy from the spoils of the New World which were flowing into the ports of Spain. The building was exceedingly well built and enormous. After it was no longer used for it's original purpose it was available for other use. The archival materials were ordered to be housed here by Charles III in 1785. The building was open and, surprisingly, there is no entrance fee. We toured the building. We are both librarians and so we were curious as to how the collection is organized. All the boxes we saw were labeled, but all carried the same information. Thus, we could not decipher how it is known what material is in a particular box. Obviously the cataloging or indexing of an archive holding thousands of boxes of historical documents is critical when it comes to retrieving a requested item. There is no doubt that there is a cataloging system, but it escaped us.

There were interesting items, maps, prints, letters and other documents on display. Obviously what was on display did not pretend to scratch the surface of all that is kept within the archive. This facility must be a treasure-trove for historians, scholars and researchers. Included in the four million documents held within the archive are the letters between Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella as well as Columbus' journal.

Leaving the archive we continued our wandering. About 4:00 p.m. we found the entrance to the Alcázar and thought about buying tickets. Then we realized the Alcázar closes at 6:00 p.m. meaning we would have only two hours for sightseeing. This is when we made the best decision of the trip, to wait until the next day, arrive early and enter when it opened. This would give us an entire day, if needed, to tour.

On the Way Back to the Hotel

By now we were a bit tired and decided to go back to the Hotel Paco. The streets were filled with people. As we walked we saw ahead of us a little girl taking care of her two smaller brothers. It was like a mother hen and her chicks, keeping them under her wing, taking care of them, making sure they did not get lost or wander off into the oh so dangerous world. The parents were nearby and we gave them a knowing smile of approval.

And so a good day ended, topped off by the love shown by a little girl for her brothers.


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