Saturday, September 29, 2012


We had visited Seville before and really felt drawn back to see more (plus the shoe shopping there is without peer). In fact, we didn’t see a lot more than previously, but we still loved being there.

Our hotel was a tiny gem called Amadeus, tucked away in the old town. Our room was so small that if Nick was sitting at the tiny desk he had to stand up and move the stool so I could get out or go to the bathroom. A pretty bed and a tiny private courtyard made it special and outside our room, the house was filled with small rooms, nooks and crannies, even a roof terrace with a hot tub and bar. One could breakfast in a room or a patio, on the rooftop or in a lounge. And the theme was music: instruments abounded on walls and in little rooms; music played softly; people visiting were there for the music or perhaps as a gathering of artists; one could even play the instruments but alas, I never learned. It was full of antiques and silver and starched damask for breakfast linen and flowers and had the genteel feel of a rich aunt’s house. Charming!

seville, amadeus 1 seville amadeus 2 seville, amadeus 3 Seville, amadeus 4

We reacquainted ourselves with the layout of the city with a gentle walk and then lunched near the Murillo gardens where Nick had the most expensive meal per gram, one red prawn @ E15.60. To be fair, they sold the red prawns @ E12/100gm, (or E120/kg) which is more expensive than Serrano ham, but one prawn weighed 130gm. He did say it was a wonderful prawn. One big, fat, red prawn, grilled in its shell, not peeled or deveined. I had Salmorejo, a cold soup a bit like gazpacho, at about E5, so I guess the overall cost of the meal evened out. (more on red prawns later)

After our later siesta we went out for dinner at Pinchio. A restaurant where one can eat tapas like a degustation, in pretty surrounds instead of standing at a bar. This place has an excellent chef who interprets the tapas with finesse. Very, very good food.

The next morning was a bit grey and chilly, but we really wanted the Alcazar again because it is so special in its architecture. The rooms and gardens and tiles are all very beautiful and the details in every corner take your breath away in terms of both beauty and the work involved.

Sev alcazar N
Wall tile picture
seville, alcazar N
Peaceful courtyard and fountain
seville, alcazar courtyard
Courtyard of the orange trees
seville, alcazar detail
Wall detail
seville, alcazar roof N
Cupola treatment
seville, alcazar peacock door
Peacock doorway
seville, alcazar relief
Intricate wall decoration
seville, alcazar tile patterns
Just one wall of tiles
seville, alcazar ceiling
Interior of cupola
seville,alcazar arch detail
Arch detail
seville, padilla pool side N seville, alcazar Dona Padilla baths
The Dona Padilla baths where King Peter would meet his mistress

seville, alcazar gardens

Part of the extensive gardens of the Alcazar

Then the Plaza Espana which we had never seen. Built for an exposition in 1902 it was to showcase all the areas of Spain. It is extensively decorated in tiles made exclusively for each setting and often for architecture such as balustrades. However, it did strike us as an expensive “folly”. It even has an almost circular canal for boating.

seville, plaza espana 2
Plaza Espana
seville, plaza espana
Some of the decorative tiled booths, each celebrating an area of Spain
seville, plaza espana 3
Just the ceramics on one bridge balustrade show the work that went into this

Later, we went shopping for shoes, especially looking for the shop where I bought my “happy shoes” last trip. Luckily I found them and, two pairs of shoes later, I was ready to consider a snack at Robles before our siesta. Life is so difficult at the moment one must just take frequent rests!

shoes 2 shoes 1 seville, robles laredo
Robles Laredo cafe
seville, desserts robles
And some of the desserts

Next morning we decided to visit the Plaza del Encarnation, where a market renewal was thwarted by finding amazing Roman ruins underneath. Those had to be preserved, a new market constructed and a shade structure built over all-hence the “parasols” or “mushrooms”. These are amazing wooden contraptions that shade the area underneath but which also provide a terrace and bar area above and good views from walkways through the construction. We gather the locals are divided on the cost/benefit ratio, but they are certainly unusual .

seville, mushroom N seville, mushrooms 2
The mushrooms above
seville, mushrooms 3
Walkways through and across
seville, red prawns
Still life with hake and red prawns (couldn’t see a price for the red prawns though.
seville, razor clams
These oozy things are razor clams
seville market bunnies
Can’t be squeamish: bunnies, pigeons, entrails, sheep’s heads

Later, the Museum des Bellas Artes recalled us and again, we loved its tranquillity and the collections.

seville, bellas artes courtyard
One of the cloisters
seville, bellas artes pool
Pool in patio
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Virgin and child
seville, bellas artes cupola
Gorgeous cupola in the old chapel

We reprised at Pinchio for dinner. The food is very good.

Ready to move on in the morning to Malaga.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


This turned out to be a happy surprise of a city; a warren of narrow streets with apartment buildings and many shady plazas alive with people at all hours, plus sea front and bastions to protect harbours, beaches, lovely parks and many nice cafes and restaurants. Perfect!

We came in by train and have the luggage managed pretty well by now in terms of getting it on and off the train. What can’t be managed is the direction we face when travelling as tickets must be booked in advance and you have no way of knowing which way the train will be facing. The luck of the draw has been a little against us so far.

We travelled Madrid to Seville, changing there for Cadiz. The 15 minute difference between train arrival and departure was just about right to do things with comfort. We travelled with some beautiful cold meats from the restaurant in Madrid and had a bit of a feast for lunch. The Iberico ham, fed on acorns, has the sweetest, nuttiest taste and is quickly addictive making our cooked hams seem pale and anaemic in both looks and taste.

The journey took us past many marshy areas that are used to make and harvest salt, essential for the packing and export of fish from Cadiz from the earliest times, as well as extensive wind turbine farms and solar arrays. The Spanish take their alternative energy quite seriously.

Cadiz, wind turbinesWind turbines
Cadiz, solar array
Solar array
Cadiz, boat staves
Old boat staves in the water (shot through train window at speed)
Cadiz, salt marsh
Salt marshes
Cadiz,  salt
Salt stacks

We take taxis from airports and stations these days, especially with luggage. It was an excellent idea in Cadiz as I don’t think we could possibly have found the hotel, buried in its little alley not much wider than a car. The hotel Argantonio was a sweet place, though our room was tiny and the suitcases had to go under the bed if we were to move around.

Cadiz, hotel N Cadiz, hotel

A quick walking tour of the city in the late afternoon found everything from a big sea-side cathedral, to the sea front walls and a sight of the distant, modern Cadiz which we never managed to visit, Roman remains such as an old theatre, plus all these long, straight, narrow calles that criss-cross the old town. This is a place with a history.

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Cadiz street
Cadiz, plaza
Cool and pretty plaza
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Pretty street bench
cadiz light
Lovely lights
Cadiz, street
Another long, narrow street
Cadiz, domes
Domes, spires and the back of a Roman theatre
Cadiz,  new cadizLooking along the sea wall from Old Cadiz to new Cadiz Cadiz, entrance tiles
Beautiful tiles line the entrances to apartment blocks

Next day we had planned a train trip to Jerez to visit a sherry bodega. Tio Pepe seemed to give the most comprehensive tour so that was where we went. They had it beautifully choreographed to move several large tour groups through the grounds and maturing halls with the sherry soleras. We saw a movie on the history of Gonzales-Byass, the Tio Pepe company, had a little train tour round the grounds, walked through the various storage places, saw barrels signed by celebrities and ended with a tasting of four different sherries. Exit through the gift shop.

Jerez station sign
Tiled station name
Jerez station
Jerez station
Jerez barrels
Barrels in the soleras of Gonzales-Byass
Jerez Tio pepes
Tio Pepe advertisement bottles
Jerez, philip
Famous names
Jerez cocteau barrel
And drawings
Jerez tasting hall
This is the tasting hall; about the size of the pantheon in Rome

Jerez Tio Pepe
Tio Pepe as a weather vane; one of the largest in Spain
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Barrels in the tasting hall
Jerez, old wine jarsOld wine jars Jerez sweet oloroso
Sweet oloroso
Jerez hillside
The Andalucian bull and Tio Pepe on a hillside near jerez

They also had two stunning halls which were to be used to host weddings that night. Both looked like they accommodated several hundred guests and the decorations were being put in place as we moved through. There was also a fountain and grassed area in the gardens that was used for functions as well. Very stylish!

Jerez, Tio Pepe garden
Pretty fountain in the gardens
Jerez, wedding 1
Wedding hall one
Jerez wedding 2
Second wedding hall

We visited the cathedral in the town which was more open than usual; no grille before the altar and no choir in the nave so it felt more welcoming and had a series of small patios outside which were serene and calm.

Jerez cathedral front
Massive front of Jerez cathedral
Jerez cathedral

Main nave

Jerez, cathedral patio

Peaceful patio of the orange trees

Back in Cadiz we saw the Costa Fortuna (the very name makes me giggle) sister ship to the Costa Concordia, preparing to leave. Cadiz has always been an important port and remains so today, not just for passenger cruise lines, but they come in some numbers too. We finished the night at the local Plaza of San Francisco where we sat outside and watched the children run and play while their parents sat and ate and conversed with friends: no traffic so very safe. We also saw two brides for weddings at the church there. The second wedding finished at 10pm, just a nice time to go for a wedding dinner somewhere.

Cadiz, Costa Fortuna
Costa Fortuna
Cadiz, San Francisco sq N
Plaza San Francisco

The museum was first on the agenda the next day and it was a very fine offering, showcasing Phonecian and Roman remains from its history on the ground floor, some pretty important Spanish art on the second floor (Zurbaran, Murillo) and some very modern Spanish art on the third floor which didn’t appeal much.

Cadiz, phonecian sarcophagi
Phonecian Sarcophagi
Cadiz, amphorae
Amphorae for export. Each type of export had a different shaped amphora
Cadiz museum head
Phonecian head
Cadiz, roman smile
Love the smile
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Beautiful Roman mosaic
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Zurbaran angel

Then off towards the beach, passing a very nice new Paradore Hotel and walking through the carefully cultivated topiary and little fountains in the Genove Gardens to the old harbour. This is protected by two forts and has a lovely family beach between its arms. Lots of locals set up on the beaches which are not private at all in Spain, so it rather reminded me of our days at the beach as youngsters in Queensland; heaps of beach umbrellas and towels and families greeting each other and kids having a great time. We climbed over the fort of St Catalina where they were setting up for a concert under the stars, had a look from the outside at what seemed to be a beach pavilion but turned out to be an old spa (closed now) that replaced the Royal Baths, and ate under a huge spreading tree that I will swear was a Moreton Bay Fig. A beer at a beach bar completed the outing.

Cadiz, beach
Beach and the old spa
Cadiz, fort
Part of the St Catalina fort
Cadiz, second fort
The other fort
Cadiz, sandcastle
Grown up sandcastles

That evening we walked to a restaurant called Ballandro opposite a different waterfront and ate well, lobster soup and millefeuille of beef for me, scorpion fish pate and stuffed chicken breast for Nick. If you sat at the bar you had tapas: in the restaurant you ate from the menu, a very common way of dining in Spain.

Cadiz, nightfall

Bastions near the waterfront at night

Meanwhile, at home, our little cat, Minuette, was in hospital with kidney problems. Many thanks to Shannon and Amy, our house-sitters, for looking after her so well and nursing her back to health.

Next stop: Seville