Even the Mediterranean gets a little precipitation now and again, and our voyage to Sevilla today was accompanied by a bit of a shower. After a spin through the labyrinthine streets of Malaga, we finally made it to the motorway and were once again on the road and headed for adventure.
The view down the pedestrian avenue where our hotel in Malaga was located
We stopped for lunch at what appeared to be the Spanish version of a roadside truckstop with a hotel and very interesting restaurant that did have what could possibly be the best french fries in the world (our educated guess says they’re fried in olive oil – talk about tasty!). After a hearty meal of tortillas (not the kind you get in US grocery stores), salads, chicken, and of course the fries, we dodged raindrops and made it to Sevilla just as the clouds were clearing.
One of the patios in our hotel in Sevilla
After checking into our hotel (which is the perfect place for a group of horticulture students to stay since all the rooms are named for various flora) we walked through more narrow, cobbled streets to our next destination: the Catedral de Sevilla. There are many benefits to traveling, not the least of which are the constant discoveries one makes. For instance, today we discovered that guide books aren’t always correct and the Cathedral was closed to ‘cultural visitors’ by the time we arrived, even though the guide book stated a later closing time. This was a bit of a disappointment as the Cathedral here is the third largest in the world after St. Paul’s in London and the cathedral in St. Petersburg, and is the largest Gothic cathedral anywhere, so a visit to Sevilla isn’t complete without a tour of the cathedral. We were able to steal glimpses of it through closed gates and traversed the exterior, marveling at the carved stone and sheer size of the place. We also discovered that there was a small public garden nearby and walked to it, passing by the former home of Washington Irving, an American diplomat, writer, and historian who was ambassador to Spain in the early 1800′s. A peek through the gate revealed a colorful and beautifully kept patio courtyard filled with flowers that stopped all of us in our tracks.
The patio of Washington Irving's home in Sevilla
A peek at La Catedral de Sevilla through a Moorish keyhole gate
As public green spaces go, Spain is definitely a fan and there are parks and gardens in every city we’ve seen. The Jardines de Murillo was a pleasant park with shady groves and painted tile benches situated around bubbling fountains. This park also contained several ginormous Ficus elastica – of which the buttress roots gave the cathedral buttresses a run for their money!
Gavin provides scale for this Ficus elastica at Jardines de Murillo
Plants here followed the expected Mediterranean palette: Ficus, Lantana, Bougainvillea, Palms, Oleander, Plumbago. The decomposed granite paths were a bit slushy after the rain, but the park appeared well-tended (though not to Longwood standards, if I do say so myself) and was also well-used with many people strolling the paths and sitting on benches enjoying the emerging sun.
After a stroll through the park, we decided to search for the location of our evening festivities – Flamenco! Emma made reservations for us at one of the many Flamenco theatres, called The House of Memories located in the historic Barrio Santa Cruz area not far from the Cathedral. Having collected our tickets we went around the corner to a small square and enjoyed our first real Spanish Tapas! Dishes such as Pollo al curry con guarnicion de arroz, Emanaditos de pollo, and Pincho de pollo con queso y bacon gave us a taste of the area’s authentic cuisine, eaten in the twilight with views of a church built in 1741!
Flamenco artists after their amazing performance
The Flamenco performance was one of the most anticipated cultural events of our visit. It was held in a patio courtyard, enclosed on four sides. Where it was once open to the sky, a canvas covering now provides shelter and diffuses the evening light. The audience surrounded the stage – a square wood platform set in the center of the terracotta tile courtyard – on three sides, with the fourth being the stage backdrop – a curtain of ivy cascading down the wall and trailing over the balconies on the upper floors. The balconies were decorated with windowboxes and pots of geraniums decorated the patio. Behind the performers’ chairs, tall pots of yellow and orange lilies, gerberas, and carnations added their scent and color while some blossoms of each floated in a basin of water on the opposite side of the stage.
To describe the dancing, Shannon said it best: it was like fireworks!
It’s hard to believe our time in Spain is almost over but we have seen some incredible sights! Today we drive to Madrid and will fly home to PA tomorrow. All of us have had an incredible time, and a few of us are already planning our return visits to see more!