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10 days in Barcelona, Granada and Seville

#1
Trip Description: Spring 2003. 10 days in Barcelona, Granada and Seville.

Background

I took a whirlwind trip to Spain in June of 2001 to deliver my 17 year old daughter to a language immersion program in Malaga. We briefly experienced Madrid, Toledo and Seville before depositing her with her Spanish family for a month.

Being a teenager, she was too embarrassed to use her Spanish and neither my husband or myself speak anything other than high school French. We found this to be more of a challenge than not knowing much French in Paris or Italian in Italy. My daughter was also being a teenager and didn't want to do any Tapas crawls etc. with her parents. I was determined to go back to Spain with a fun-loving companion who also speaks Spanish and would be into the Spanish night life. That would be my younger, single sister.

On May 2, 2003, I boarded a plane for Barcelona through London on my FF miles with my best friend of 25 years. We would meet my sister in Barcelona as she was flying in from Dublin where she had just spent a week vacation with her boyfriend. And the girls' Spanish adventure begins:

Before I describe our experiences, I have a few general comments about Spain. We found the people to be extremely friendly and helpful. They were very pleased if you tried speaking Spanish and were most patient in helping you. We never felt unsafe. I had read stories about lots of bag snatching etc. but we never encountered any problems even on the sometimes crowded Ramblas in the evening. The taxi drivers were excellent and fair. They all had meters and never failed to know an address. Unlike Paris, bars and cafes were generous in allowing non-patrons to use their bathrooms (which were generally very clean and usually had toilet paper!) - this was of course very important to 3 females! In none of the 3 cities did we feel a need to dress fashionably unlike Paris and Rome. And finally, early May seems a good time to go as we did not encounter any crowds (except for the Alhambra later in the day) and even that was manageable.
 
#2
Barcelona

Day One

We arrived at 11 am to colder weather than I expected (50's), retrieved our bags after awhile (be sure to ask which terminal your flight's luggage will be in) and got a taxi to our hotel very easily. It was about a 20 minute ride on a Saturday morning without traffic.

We stayed at the Meson Castilla, a lovely 2 star hotel on a quiet (except for nearby construction) side street quite close to the Ramblas and metro stops. The metro by the way is very easy to use.

The hotel was 156 Euros for a triple, had attractive common rooms, a very good, modern bathroom and a nice breakfast with the best hotel coffee of our trip. The room was a little small for a triple but would have been a good size without the extra bed. The beds were comfortable and the staff were very helpful, friendly and spoke excellent English.

After settling in, we had some lunch at a typical Catalunyan restaurant a few steps from our hotel CA LA MARIA RESTURANT, Tallers, 76 which was good, but we were really too tired to appreciate it.

After lunch, we explored the neighborhood a bit and them went back to the hotel to nap and await my sister's arrival. Once she arrived and was settled, we walked down the Ramblas with its vibrant street life scenes over to the Bari Gotic and La Catedral. We had heard that at 6:30pm on Saturday nights a traditional Sardana Dance is held in front of the Cathedral. Watching this was a great first evening introduction to Barcelona as it seems to signify a pride in tradition and community of all ages. (The Cathedral was impressive too).

We had decided to eat on the waterfront that night (it just happened to be my sister's birthday) and thought that we would stroll to the Parc de la Ciutadella, which houses a zoo, and catch a cab to the waterfront from there. The park was very nice with lots of flowers in full bloom. We saw our first of what must have been 8 brides on this trip.

Looking at the map we decided we could walk to the waterfront from there as it didn't look that far. Let me say at this point that Barcelona is a BIG, SPREAD OUT CITY and definitely not as walkable to the major attractions as say Rome is. Not to mention that this was still our first jet lagged day!

Anyway, we finally made it to El Cangrejo Loco, a restaurant recommended and reservation made by our hotel. It was very crowded with locals by the time we left. We had our first Sangria of the trip which was good and the mixed grilled fish and salmon were very good. Taxi back to the hotel by midnight to crash.

Day Two
Our second day in Barcelona was to be our Gaudi day. Fittingly, it was a sunnier, warmer day. This was the highlight of Barcelona for us. We were just wowed by the brilliance and genius of architect and hometown boy Antoni Gaudi.

We started at the SAGRADA FAMILIA, a masterpiece that is still being constructed. We took the metro (which was easy) and got there at 11 am before the crowds. This was good timing for the trek up the stairs which can get very congested. Great view of spires and the city-worth the climb -or you can take an elevator.

Next Gaudi stop was a stroll down Passeig de Gracia (reached by metro) to view Casa Battlo and i casa Amattler right next to each other. Absolutely stunning! Although the Caso Batllo was open to viewing we decided to tour the interior of Palu Guell instead.

Before that however, we took a break for lunch at a great little restaurant close to the Palu Guell, SAMOA at Passeig de Gracia 101. We had a delicious goat cheese salad there that was beautifully presented and delicious.

Onward to the Palu Guell which was just so much fun and more than worth the price of admission. In addition to a rooftop view of the city and a close-up look of Gaudi's intriguing sculptures, you get to see a huge apartment of Gaudi's design with intact Victorian furnishings. A fascinating glimpse into the life of the wealthy in the 19th century.

Reviving ourselves with our daily late afternoon cappuccino, it was on to Parc Guell by metro and a steep climb up to the park. It was worth the climb. The sculpture and mosaics here are stunningly beautiful. I am now a big mosaic fan! A great Gaudi day.

On the recommendation of a native Barcelonian friend of a friend for the best paella in the City, we had dinner that night at 7 PORTES. This is quite a taxi ride away from our hotel at Paseo De Isabel II, 14. They do not take reservations so we waited in line for about 20 minutes. This was the best paella of the trip and I would enthusiastically recommend it. We had the mixed seafood and meat paella for 3 and it was delicious. This was a lovely restaurant (but not fancy) with a piano player to who happened to be playing my friends wedding song "As Time Goes By"! We experienced many theme songs of this trip and I still can't get "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" out of my head- what this has to do with Spain I'm not sure but the melody seemed appropriate to the setting. Anyway, the house wine recommendation was excellent-in fact throughout Spain we found this to be true. Our favorite though was Torres Sangre de Toro (blood of the bull).

Day Three
The next day we had to meet my ex-sister-in-law who lives outside Barcelona for lunch. So we decide to stick close to our immediate area around the hotel until our appointed meeting time. Close by was the Museum of Contemporary Art so we toured that but it really didn't do much for me and I would probably skip it unless you are really into that art form.

We looked at clothes and shoes in nearby shops but compared to our Italy trips were not overly impressed with their fashion or quality. This may not be a fair statement as we stayed away from the very high end stores in the Eixample area. We also enjoyed cruising through La Boqueria food market on the Ramblas.

For lunch we were taken to 4CATS, calle Montsio 3, which was a typical, pretty Spanish restaurant where artists used to hang out, including Picasso in the early 1900s. The food was good and it was a fun atmosphere with mostly locals.

After lunch we explored the Bari Gothic area shops but being Monday, many were closed as were several restaurants and the Picasso museum that we were sorry not to get to.

After a rather big lunch we thought tapas would be in order for dinner and I was determined to try CAL PEP which I had read rave reviews about. This was a little difficult to find on foot but we prevailed and it was worth the effort big time! Cal Pep, placa de les olles 8, is famed for it's tapas and rightly so. This was without a doubt the best Tapas of our trip. We arrived at 8 pm which is early by Spanish standards but we got the last 3 seats at the bar. There is a restaurant in an adjacent room but it is by reservation only and fairly expensive.

I cannot remember all that we had but one dish was better than the next. You just put yourself in their hands and they choose a variety of Tapas for you. It was all incredibly fresh, especially the fish dishes, and cooked in front of you to order. We had some lovely Cava with it. My sister has the habit of asking all our servers their names, which by the way they are incredibly complimented by, and our server's name was Ramon. Her Spanish being a little less than fluent she meant to say that his name was sexy, but it came out that he was sexy and he preened for us the rest of the night!

Day Four
For our last day in northern Spain, we decided to take a half day trip to Montserrat to see the mountains and La Moreneta, the basilica with the black virgin icon and the monastery. There is a way to get there by public transportation but we opted for the lazy way out and took a bus by Julia tours which our hotel arranged for us. Other than the convenience, it was probably not worth the 40 Euros but it did save time.

The serrated mountains were spectacular but unfortunately it was a cold, rainy day so it was not ideal conditions to hike around the trails much. The basilica was impressive but the best part of the trip was hearing the angelic voices of the boys' choir who perform at 1 pm. We were glad we saw Montserrat but would recommend trying to go on a sunny day.

Our last stop in Barcelona was the Joan Miro museum which was easily reached by bus. This was a really fun museum in a nice building. We enjoyed Miro's sense of humor and use of color. We ended our last evening at a nice Tapas bar at Ramblas, 79 Resturant Egipte. We got the house assortment of Tapas which was very good and a nice ending to our time in Barcelona. Early to bed tonight as we're off to Granada tomorrow.

We all enjoyed Barcelona, especially Gaudi and the friendly people. We felt we covered most of the major sights in 4 days including a side trip. It did feel more northern European than Spanish in some ways and certainly not as "Spanish" as our next 2 destinations.

Next stop - Granada and la Alhambra.
 
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#3
Granada and La Alhambra

Day Five

May 7th - Up early to take a taxi to the airport (15 Euros) for the 1 1/2 hour flight to Granada on Iberia. This was a bit of a splurge for $200 but I decided life's too short to spend 7 hours on a train anymore! Easy flight. The Alhambra grounds where our hotel was located was about 25 minutes away and the taxi ride cost 25 Euros.

We were delighted with our hotel. Hotel America is a very sweet, small one star hotel with 10 rooms I believe. Besides the grand Parador de Granada next door, it is the only hotel on the Alhambra grounds. I had originally booked the Parador for a splurge but then read Doru's comments that a friend had felt that the Hotel America was a much better value and booked here instead. Thanks again Doru, I am so glad I did. Not only were the rooms fine (a bit small for a triple but would have been adequate as a double) but the beds were comfortable and the bathroom great. The best part is that we had access to the wonderful grounds at the Parador next door without paying twice as much for staying there! The hotel also has a nice little restaurant with an outside dining patio with very good food. Since we arrived at lunch time this was perfect for us.

The only negative for us in Granada was the weather. A cold front had moved in and it was cold!! Not only that but it rained on and off for the 2 days we were there. So although it was cool (to say the least) for touring, it would have been more spectacular in the sunshine. The morning we left we could finally see the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountain range in all their glory once the fog lifted. We didn't let the cold and rain deter us much though-donned layers, raincoats and headed into town to see some of Granada's sights after a very pleasant lunch.

From the Alhambra grounds there is a frequent mini bus that for 85 cents takes you into town.

We toured the Royal Chapel where Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand are buried and you can view Isabel's crown and Ferdinand's sword. Works by Boticelli, Perrugino and Memling are also housed here. The Cathedral is the 2nd largest in Spain after Sevilla's and an impresseive Renaissance church though we felt it needed a good dusting!

Despite the truly awful weather, we thought we would try to see the view of town and the Alhambra from the San Nicolas Viewpoint. It was beautiful but sunshine would have surely made it more so! The taxi driver waited for the crazy Americans snapping pictures in the rain and brought us to the heart of the Albacin area.

This Moorish area with it's cobbled streets and many shops was fun to explore. One of the main streets, Calderia Neuva, is where numerous shops selling all sorts of Moorish items and tea houses are located. Between the incense and the head shops we felt we were in the "Kasbah" (how does that song go?) or Haight Ashbury in San Francisco! In fact we ended up having tea at a place called the Kasbah where we sat on pillows and warmed up with some tea. We were also treated to the sight of a couple making out directly across from us (almost told them to get a room but our Spanish may not have communicated that correctly). Granada does have a large student population because of the large University there. But I digress - we wandered around and picked up some jewelry, and decorative cushion coverings and got the flavor of the area.

We then had decent Tapas at Bodegas Castaneda near the Plaza Nueva at Calle Almireceros, 1, 3. Then it was home for an early night as our timed tickets for the Alhambra were for 8:30 the next morning.

Day Six
Still cold and raining off and on, we found our way to the ticket office (at least a 15 minute walk from our hotel- grounds are huge!) and presented our email ticket reservation confirmation without a problem. As the Alhambra is one of the world's major tourist sites (I think I read they have 6 million visitors a year) don't even try to go without a reservation well in advance. Tickets are limited to 8,000 a day and only 400 visitors per half hour are allowed into the Moorish Palace (Palacios Nazaries). This is the only part of the Alhambra that is timed - you can roam around freely to the other parts. Tickets are easy to reserve on line. You need your credit card to confirm and they don't charge you until you pick up the tickets. I had read that to avoid the crowds later in the day to reserve the first slot at 8:30 am and I am glad we did. We were able to see the Placios Nazaries in relative quiet and it was truly awesome.

The Alhambra is the only surviving Moorish palace from the Middle Ages in the world. Words cannot begin to describe its magnificence and scope. The tiles, inlaid wood, arches, colors, intricate ceilings are totally awesome.

It was wonderful to stay in Granada 2 nights so that we could leisurely explore the grounds and take breaks back to our room whenever we wanted. I can't imagine doing it justice in less than 5 hours. Also once the day trippers are gone it is particularly magical and peaceful. That being said, I felt 2 nights was enough.

We had a lovely lunch at the rather fancy Parador on the grounds and it was well worth it. We bought some lovely inlaid wooden boxes made in one of the shops on the premises of the Alhambra grounds. My friend bought herself a beautiful music box there too. Now I am in love with mosaics, Spanish tiles and ceramics and inlaid wood-will they translate as well at home in Cambridge?

After our lazy, laid back lunch we toured other parts of the Alhambra including Charles V's palace (not nearly as impressive), the fort which would have had magnificent views of Granada if it wasn't pouring rain!

Our second favorite part of the Alhambra was the Generalife gardens. We didn't get to them until about 6:30 pm which was great because we had them practically to ourselves! Once again I don't have the words to describe the overpowering beauty of these gardens. Never have I seen such a proliferation of roses in full bloom! And the fragrances! The orange blossom and jasmine smells were divine. In fact I loved these fragrances so much that when I found a perfume that reminded me of this experience, I bought several bottles for myself and friends in Seville. It is ABRIL by the Spanish designers Victoria & Lucchino. When I wear it I am transported to those lovely gardens. If you are planning a trip to the Alhambra, try to go in the Spring for the experience of this garden in bloom and the late sunsets. I was told that the weather was extremely unusual for this time of year so don't let that stop you.

For our last night we had dinner at a restaurant down the hill from the ticket office at La Mimbre. It was nice enough and very reasonable. Sangria was a specialty but we had better in Seville. Another early night as we had tickets for the 8:15 train to Seville. We had gone into town in the afternoon to scope out where the train station was (about a 15 minute taxi ride) and buy tickets ahead of time so that we wouldn't be scrambling so early the next morning.

A note about the train. It cost 17 Euros which was more than reasonable for a 3 hour train ride but make sure you get an exclusive non-smoking car as seats are reserved. We had asked for non-smoking and technically got them but only half of that car was non-smoking! Luckily there were extra seats in the fully non smoking car so were able to take those.

Next Stop - Our favorite, Seville
 
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#4
Seville

Day Seven

So we're on the comfortable train to Seville in the non-smoking car despite our seat assignment with the nice conductor's blessing. There is an electronic bulletin board that flashes the final destination and the expected arrival time. At 11:12 am which is when we are scheduled to arrive in Seville, lots of people start gathering their bags and preparing to depart. We follow their lead. My friend and I have our bags on top of other people's so we make a beeline for them and depart the train. My sister is sauntering along and the doors close in her face- she is stuck on the train which keeps on going. And we are stuck without our Spanish speaker! The shock on our faces and hers and the "Oh my God" exclamations are something out of a Buster Keaton movie.

It turns out that WE got off too soon, this was not the Seville station at all, but Dos Hermananas (2 sisters-how ironic), which is quite a few stops away from Seville. Luckily we figure this out in just enough time to catch the next train to Seville where my sister was waiting for us THANK GOD! Besides the momentary terror of "now what?" and having to drag our suitcases up and down stairs twice to get to the right side of the platform, this mishap was almost worth it for it sent us into gales of laughter for the rest of the trip whenever we thought of the expressions of disbelief on our faces when the doors shut on my sister. Lesson learned: Always ask if this is the right stop before disembarking.

That adventure behind us, our short taxi ride (10 minutes and about 5 Euros) was easy. We stayed at the Les Casas de la Juderia Hotel Seville, which I can't say enough good things about. I had stayed at this charming 3 star hotel on my last visit and was looking forward to my return. It is located on Callejon Dos Hermananas (those 2 sisters again) in the Jewish quarter, on the edge of the historic Barrio de Santa Cruz, 5 minutes from the Cathedral. In other words-a perfect location. Charm abounds here, with a beautiful flowering courtyard, fountains and a piano bar. The staff is first rate and the breakfast buffet is outstanding. The rooms are very spacious, with AC, terrific bathrooms and comfortable beds. I booked it through Accommodation Online, which I think offers better rates than booking through the hotel directly. I think a double is in the $140 Euro range and worth every penny!

I wanted my sister and friend's first real view of Seville to be a walk through the Barrio. Now this was the Spain we had been waiting for! A maze of narrow, charming streets with colorful buildings with many shops. Plus it was finally HOT at 70 degrees or more. First stop was lunch at Modesto, Cano Y Cueto, 5, 2 blocks from the hotel. I had dreamed about the coquinas (tiny baby clams with a garlic sauce) since my last visit and we were not disappointed.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the Barrio and walking down the main shopping street Calle Sierpes which is west of the cathedral. On this street you can buy fans, mantones (Spanish shawls), ceramics, and jewelry and we did. More details on purchases later.

We had seen flyers about a "Carmen tour" posted about town that took place at 6 pm. This was basically an actress that took an English speaking group on a walking tour of Seville following the Carmen story line and singing some songs from the opera. Her payment would be in tips at the end of the hour. She was a bit over the top for us so we dropped out after a short while.

After a short nap, we decided to go check out the Plaza de Espana around sundown. This square was built for the 1929 World's fair and the Spanish Pavilion has beautiful azulejo tiles that show historic scenes from every province of Spain. It is quite impressive though a bit run down.

Dinner on our first night in Seville was in the picturesque Plaza de Los Venerables, at Hosteria del Laurel in the Santa Bario Cruz. This charming and inexpensive hotel has a very nice restaurant where we ate some great grilled fish in the Plaza under the stars. The gazpacho was excellent too (but then we didn’t have a bad gazpacho anywhere in Spain). Finished dinner by midnight in the Spanish fashion and called it a night although lots of people were out and about.

Day Eight
Our second morning in Seville, which was a Saturday, was to be our scoping out ceramics morning. We had read that the Triana section of Seville across the river (which is more of a working class part of town) had a "street of the potters" where we would find good quality, inexpensive ceramics. Unfortunately, several of the shops were closed on Saturdays but of those that were open our favorite was Ceramica Aguamanil, C/Antillano Campos 5, local, izq., 41010 Triana. We bought a few small items.

After we had checked out many ceramics shops throughout our stay in Seville, it turned out that our very favorite was in Barrio de Santa Cruz, just north of the Cathedral. El Azulejo at Mateos Gago, 10 had the nicest selection of really beautiful pieces at reasonable prices for the quality. The lovely owner will ship but as this really raises the price considerably, we all selected pieces we could carry home in our carry-ons.

On the way home from the Triana district, we stopped by the Plaza de Toros (the bullring), which is the second oldest in Spain. We weren't up for the guided tour but it is supposed to be quite good. Here we had the adventure of meeting Ramon, who was hawking bullfight tickets for the next day.

We had not previously discussed whether or not we wanted to see a bullfight. None of us were too happy about the brutality of a bullfight, but were interested in the culture of the event (and let's face it seeing some cute matadors).

Anyway, we did not want to get ripped off by Ramon, so we put him through hoops to prove that his tickets were official. He was an elderly man and very sweet. He brought us to the ticket sign to prove the tickets were the same price as those that would be on sale tomorrow and that they were in the shade (a crucial component). To further convince us he was legit, he brought my sister (the negotiator) across the street to a bar to have the owner vouch for him and tell her they were good seats. He had gone to such lengths to sell us the tickets, we finally bought them for 26 Euros a piece. We were going to a bullfight! Of course if my sister didn't speak Spanish, we would not have been able to accomplish this transaction.

We had tickets for the early flamenco show that evening, so we thought we'd have a big mid-day meal. We had very good paella at Hosteria De Dona Lina, c/Gloria 7, set in another beautiful courtyard. This was the best sangria of our trip.

After lunch, we visited the Real Alcazar De Sevilla. Though nowhere near the size of the Alhambra, this is a very impressive 10th century Moorish palace and it still functions as a royal palace when the royal family comes to Seville. Because it is not as old as the Alhambra, the tiles are more colorful. It is strikingly beautiful, has lovely gardens and is definitely worth touring. A little more exploring of the Barrios and our daily cappuccino before resting up for the evening's event.

The last time I was in Seville I saw a flamenco show at Los Gallos in Plaza de Santa Cruz and it was excellent but I thought I'd try another show this time. I had read about EL ARENAL, Rodo 7, in the NY Times so reserved ahead of time by email. with a credit card. They confirmed in Spanish and accepted the email without a problem. They have 2 shows per night at 9 and 11 pm. You can opt for a dinner or just a drink and the show. This option was 31 Euros and worth every penny. It was just fabulous and the highlight of our trip. Their moves, the operatic songs filled with pathos, the foot work, the expressions on their faces as they dance and sing, the sexy costumes of both the men and women, the fans, and the way they use hand clapping as an instrument is beyond fantastic. We just had the best time and couldn't imagine missing this experience.

Before turning in we had a nightcap of some local sweet sherry at an outside bar near our hotel. The streets were once again filled with people being social-it was great fun to be a part of.

Next - Bullfight and a Spanish Saint!
 
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#5
Bullfight and a Spanish Saint

Day Nine

We had originally thought that we would do a day trip to Cordoba from Seville either today or tomorrow, but we were having so much fun in Seville and still had a lot more that we wanted to do (including the all important shopping) that we voted to be SLOWER TRAVELERS and stay put.

This morning would bring a visit to the Casa de Pilatos, a 16th century mansion with a mixture of Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance architecture and decoration. We enjoyed this more than the Alcazar. First it was smaller and less well known, so it was very quiet. The tiles here were the most spectacular of the three Arabic sites we visited, the gardens here are also beautiful. We took a guided tour of the upstairs living quarters which was interesting. Would definitely put this on your list in Seville.

Lunch was at Restaurante LA CUEVA, C/Roderigo Caro, 18 in the same beautiful Dona Elvira Plaza as the Dona Lina restaurant. Paella again which was very good. After a long, leisurely lunch (we're really into the Spanish timing of meals by this time), we decided to check out the Maria Luisa Park, which is described as one of the premier parks in Europe before the bullfight. It was really too hot and the park just too big to explore in any depth. If we had more time, renting bikes there might have been fun.

So we walked along the river to the bullring and stop for a refreshing lemon ice drink and do some Sunday afternoon people watching. And then-BULLFIGHT TIME!

Well our tickets were for real, the seats good and we were in the shade as promised. It's a good thing because it was close to 90 degrees and we surely would have fainted in the sun. The seats are concrete without backs. It reminds me of a baseball game with vendors hawking drinks and peanuts-at least until the preening matadors in their colorful costumes appear. We all agreed that these matadors had the best butts we had ever seen!

I can't even pretend to understand the tradition of the bullfight. Certainly there is a hierarchy of who taunts the bull and the star matador coming in for the kill. Lots of shouts of OLE! and women fanning themselves. Lots of blood too. After the 4th bull was killed we had had enough-how many can you watch? I noticed many American tourists leaving with us.

By then we needed another coffee to recover from that experience and watched the evening paseo near the river. Then it was time for the best Tapas experience in Seville. This would be at LA ALBARIZA Bodega, Betis, 6. We had "chuletillas de cordero", tiny lamb chops that were out of this world as was everything we had there. To make this Bogeda even more memorable, we were served by the most gorgeous male of the entire trip! (I am happily married by the way but this guy was movie star material! ) Imagine someone 3 times more handsome than Antonio Banderas. My sister was so flustered by our waiter Davide's looks that she was tongue tied trying to get out our order! True gourmet tapas here-don't miss it!

Time to head back to our neighborhood and the Cathedral in the moonlight. We happened to be in Seville when Sister Angela de la Cruz had just been canonized by the pope. I am not sure how many Spanish saints there are, but Seville was very proud of Sister Angela. And as luck would have it her relics were on view at the Cathedral. There had been long lines all day for the faithful to view this saint's remains (really a statue of a nun in a glass casket but I guess some bones were in there somewhere) but by this time the line was small so we went in to pay our respects. It was quite a scene with the casket, flowers and prayer petitions-so glad we got to experience it.

I wasn't ready for the night to end just yet. I had read about a bar that featured local flamenco artists and they didn't have a cover charge. After last night's wonderful experience I was ready for some more. LA CARBONERIA, Levies 10 was a smoky bar very near our hotel. By the way, this is the only place where we were bothered by smoke. I was pleasantly surprised that smoking seemed to have decreased dramatically since my last visit to Spain two years ago. I talked my sister into going with me and we were glad we did. Performances don't start until midnight but the singing was beautiful and heartfelt and it was worth staying up for.

Day 10
Our last full day in Seville and we had to get our shopping in - plus we hadn't yet seen one of the biggest attractions of all - the Cathedral of Seville. My sister had wanted to get a leather jacket and a local woman told us where to go for good prices. It was Artesania Textil, Garcia De Vinuesa, 33 not too far from the cathedral but not very easy to find. My sister did get a stylish black leather jacket for 150 Euros but the quality was nowhere as nice as Italian leather jackets in Florence. But hey for 150E it was a deal! We also bought some very pretty mantones (shawls) there - hoping we would still be enamored of them after leaving the Spanish culture. We do (my husband's not so sure). We also went over to the big department store EL Corte Ingles to buy more perfume, wine and olive oil.

On our way back from our shopping expedition after another stop at our favorite ceramic shop, we tried to get into the Cathedral but it was just too hot to stand in the long line. So instead we took a cab over to the Basilica De La Macarena (another theme song) and were blown away by the huge gold leaf floats in the museum there. These 3 and 1.5 ton floats are carried by 50 men on Good Friday for Sevilla's Holy Week Celebrations. You just have to see it - all the silver and gold and jewels. This procession must be something to see! The weeping virgin on the altar is impressive as well.

Back to have some more of those delicious coquinas at the MODESTO restaurant for lunch and more cruising among the various shops in the Bario. As the sun starts to set, we finally set foot inside the Cathedral and there are no lines to get in. This is the 3rd largest church in Europe (after Rome's St. Peter's and London's St. Pauls). It is huge and took 120 years to build. It is impressive -especially the center altar and the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Climbing the Giralda Tower (34 ramps) was fun with grand views of Seville at the top. The ramps, built so that horses could ride up, seemed easier than climbing lots of stairs. The Cathedral is beautifully floodlit at night and there is usually live music in the surrounding plaza.

For our last dinner in Seville, we decided to go to a fancy restaurant which until recently had a Michelin star. RESTAURANT EGANA ORIZA, San Ferando, 41 was lovely and the food was very good but it wasn't particularly Spanish. The garlic soup was outstanding and the deserts were yummy. The setting was beautiful and as silly as this sounds, these were the most comfortable chairs we had ever sat in! We felt like queens!

To top off our last night we thought we would have a a goodbye toast to Seville at the ultra fancy Hotel Alfonso XIII, Calle San Fernando, 2. It turned out that it didn't have an outside patio for drinks though, so we opted to just have a picture of the 3 "queens" taken in front of a bust of King Alfonso. Well, the very friendly waiter Antonio was happy to oblige us but he couldn't get the flash to work on any of our cameras. He was so determined that we get our pictures that he kept moving the floodlight behind the statue until he finally broke it! He didn't care but we were mortified-those Americans-can't take them anywhere! And the last thing I had said on entering the posh hotel was-"now behave yourselves in here girls".

Our flight home left at 2 pm. Plenty of time for one more excursion down Calle Sierpes to buy the fan I had been eyeing at Rubbio. The taxi ride to the airport was an easy 20 minute ride. Our flight was delayed an hour which meant running to catch our plane in Heathrow. We made it but our luggage didn't. Arrived the next night however, so no real complaints.

All in all, a wonderful trip with lots of laughs and memories. Would like to spend more time in the Andalucia region and see some of the "white villages". Have to talk my sister and friend into going back again I guess but not before Italy.
 
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