Monday, March 10, 2014

Real Alcazar with our guide Ivan

The Cathedral and orange trees
Read Ivan's take on the day, he provides much more history and fact than I do at

I will continue to do this because it gives you a deeper picture of the day we spent together and more specifically interesting detail. I consider my version to be the "light" version, you will learn more from Ivan's but not boring in the least. Double click on his pictures to enlarge and enjoy!

We chose carefully not to take one of the regularly guided tours of the palace and were so glad we had made the choice to have Ivan as our guide. You see the regular guides have a patterned oration that includes all the dates and times of rulers and guide very large groups of people around, and that’s okay. But what Ivan gave us was legend and stories of the palace and Sevilla that he knows by having lived here. To us, more interesting and fun to know about. It makes history come alive instead of dusty dates and names that we’ll forget likely soon after we’ve heard them.

Courtyard of the Palace, see left, water pool
An example: The originator of tapa: (tapa means in Spanish “to cover”) A king, Charles III, was riding through the countryside with his entourage and stopped at an inn. It was windy that day and dust kept getting in his wine, can't have that!  The owner of the inn gave him a slice of jamon, ham, to put over the top of his glass to keep the dust out. He drank, ate the ham and wanted more. That is (at least one legend about) the origin of the tapa my friends, small bits of tasty food to nibble on while enjoying the company of others.

The Alcazar is a place of utmost beauty, detail and wonderment! For a virtual tour see this website

Bruce had no expectation of it at all, I had read about it some, not enough, so going was an absolute treat!

Walking there Ivan explained about the special sand that is used in bull fight rings around the world and on park trails in Sevilla. It is a yellow colour called Amarillo, referring to the colour of a special clay. It hardens into a surface that is good for running on, humans, horses or bulls. It is sourced from a mountainous town north of Sevilla. Many of the buildings are painted Amarillo. In a previous post I said Amarillo Albero meant the golden haired girl. To correct, the bar is painted yellow and refers to that. 

Going to Alcazar we encountered a square with large, corregated iron fencing around the middle. Ivan jumped up to see what they were doing and they were digging deep, probably had found artifacts. 

The Alcazar has been inhabited by many generations of different cultures it has many versions and styles of architecture but is mainly Moorish. Pedro the Cruel spent much time there and while stories of what he did to people earned him the name, he did spend much time and money on and in the Palace. The carvings on the walls, doors and everywhere it seemed, are greatly detailed and ornate.

Courtyard of the Children I think, look at that wee face.
We have been to the Alhambra in Granada, almost the same time period but it was left as it was, while Alcazar has been a palace used and updated over many years. So while the Alhambra is larger, more ruins, the Alcazar is a jewel of a palace within Sevilla .  It was used as a residence until about 150 years ago, now owned by the City of Sevilla. Understand 150 years is not a lot of time in Europe, while it is a long time in Canada.

Example of incredible detailed tile work, carving in the background
There are very large baths on the bottom floor which are fed with rain water.

Baths are now closed but still look wonderful
Gardens are home to very old and varied trees and plants and are worth a day exploring on their own and peacocks! They even seem to pose for a camera when they heard the click. Had a drink at the café on site and they just casually strolled through the tables.

Both Ivan and I were snapping pictures like crazy trying to capture the allure and romance of the palace.

There was a room with floor to ceiling tapestries along all four walls which depicted battles and life in Sevilla, beautiful and my friend in Madeira Park who does weaving would be amazed at the skillful way they have been created.  There was a map of the Mediterranian as they saw it from Granada, upside down, North pointing south, they knew it was, but it was easier to plan trips to the Americas that way.

Detail of one of the murals
I think what is most amazing about everything there is the fact it’s all been created by hand tools and hours turning into years of labour.

Detail of tile, I liked the "silly" looking birds to me, although they may have real significance.

Ceilings, windows and doors are extremely high giving a lot of light into the rooms. We have seen this in churches, the large doors, with cut outs for small doors in them. Ivan said that was to keep the heat in on cold days but allow access. Only on celebratory occasions are the large doors opened completely.

Water is extremely important here in Spain and Sevilla, it cools, reflects architecture and generally calms the soul, as it does every where. In Spain they make it an integral part of the architecture. There are many fountains and pools around the palace. Almost always a courtyard has a water feature in it, as we’ve seen.

We had a lovely day again, sunny and not too hot, walked a lot, slowly because we took time to soak in the beauty inside and out. That reminds me I have a lemon in my purse, not every day a woman gets to say that! Ivan used Bruce’s crutch to free one from a tree in the garden. There is nothing better than the smell of a sun warmed lemon fresh off the tree! The taste is sweeter and fresher than lemons from a store of course, it just came off the tree and hasn’t waited for months in storage before shipping. 

Lemons and oranges and palm trees
After we went to a tapa bar, a favourite of Ivan’s, and he has many, and this one was open and packed with people. Wonderful, tasty food, three kinds of fish and beef at the end. All cooked exquisitely! Ivan does like good quality food, cooked properly and has shown us delightful “finds” that the ordinary tourist wouldn’t. This was in a neighbourhood for locals, a few blocks from the centre or old town but one would not look for it unless you had a guide. Then the best ever coffee, another smallish place, also not “on the map” for a tourist and back to the flat.

Mornings are a bit cool but get warm by noon, Ivan calls it lunchtime summertime.  People eat lunch later here than in Canada, between 13:00 and 14:30. Kitchens often close at 16:30 for siesta and re-open sometime around 20:00 for dinner.

What a stellar day and experiences that will weave into the framework of memories of our lovely time in Sevilla.

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