Weekend in Madrid

Friday we left Seville for Madrid for a 3-day weekend.  Seville is a nice, relatively small city. Madrid on the other hand is very large and magnificent. Magnifico as they say. With a population of 3.4 million and a metropolitan area population of 6.7 million it is the second biggest city in the European Union (EU) by its administrative limits. Only Berlin is larger.  Measured by area it is also the second largest in the EU with only Paris being larger. 

Madrid is stunningly beautiful with its Gothic and Spanish Renaissance architecture. It is the capital of Spain and there is a plethora of art museums to visit, including the world famous Prado Museo (Museum). We visited that museum as well as the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which features one of the largest private collections in the world. It is chock full of works by Manet, Monet, Gauguin, Picasso, Joan Miro, Kandinsky, Rodin, Goya and el Greco to name a few. 

We also visited the Reina Sofia which featured more modern art, especially Picasso’s famous Guernica which dates from 1937. After the city was bombed, Picasso worked feverishly to produce the huge paining—its size is 11.5 x 25.5 feet—in three weeks. It remains one of his most famous works. 

Madrid is a large and important city that easily fits into the league that includes London, Rome and Paris. If you get a chance, it’s worth a visit. 

Some photos from our weekend are below. 

JFB

Outdoor Dining in Madrid
The Royal Palace
Back of the Royal Palace
Road Scholars at the Royal Palace
Long Hallway in Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo

Weekend in Seville

We spent this weekend in Seville. Among other things we made a quick trip to a neighborhood in Seville: Macarena. Because of the heat, we restricted our wandering around to the morning. To put it in perspective: at this moment, 11:00 AM local time, it is already 92° Fahrenheit. By this afternoon the temperature is predicted to be about 105°. Which is to say that it gets really hot here. 

The first place we visited was Basilica de la Macarena (photo below). Built between 1941 and 1949 in Baroque Revival style it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. While there we had some breakfast outside at the Cafe Macarena.  Another place we visited was Alameda de Hercules, one of the oldest public parks in Europe. 

Built in 1574, Alameda de Hercules was a meeting point for the upper classes until the end of the 19th century, when it began to deteriorate. By the 1990s it had turned into a red light district. The town decided to change that and so invested in the park to upgrade it to what it is today— a family friendly park and meeting place. 

Some photos below.

JFB

Breakfast in Macarena
Basilica de La Macarena
Clothing Shop in Macarena
Bodega in Macarena
Alameda de Hercules
Tour Group in Macarena
Tour Bus in Macarena

The Bullfight

Since we are living in Spain for a while we went to a Bullfight. When in Rome…

It was fascinating, not least because you get to see the whole spectacle, which is not exactly what you’d expect. There is a great deal of pageantry associated with bullfights. (I am sure the bulls are unimpressed by said pageantry, but it is nonetheless true). 

In Seville there are bullfights on Thursday evenings beginning at 9:00 PM. You buy your tickets and take your seats on the concrete steps with the seat numbers painted on them. The ring in Seville, which is one of the important ones, was completed in 1881. It is basically just an old fashioned arena — kind of like the ones in those old gladiator movies except that they sell beer. Mostly Cruzcampo, which is the local brew, to be precise. 

There are tourists and locals in the crowd, mostly locals. Some of the locals get pretty dressed up for the event—despite the fact that it can be brutally hot sitting in the stands. Plenty of the locals take their families to the bull fight, which goes a long way toward explaining why they aren’t so squeamish as the tourists are. They have been attending these events since they were kids. It’s Spanish tradition and just the way things are. 

I am not saying that we would go again, but it is certainly worth going once to see the pageantry, the crowds and how the bullfights actually are performed. Some photos from the bullfight we saw are below.

JFB

Wide angle photo of the bullfight ring in Seville
Matador and Torreadors Enter the Ring
Matador Awaits a Charge from the Bull
Matador and Bull Size Each Other Up
A Game of Nerves
Bull Begins HIs Charge
The Bull Charges

Back to Grenada

Granada is an endlessly fascinating city. While we were there, in addition to visiting the Alhambra, we visited the Souk, an Arabic shopping area with silks and spices and various other goods. We saw a busker playing his violin outside on the street near the Cathedral of Granada. And last, but not least, we stayed in a nice hotel: The Melia Hotel of Granada. Photos are below.

JFB

Shoppers in the Souk
June 5, 2022 — Granada, Spain. Tourists look at merchandise as they shop in the Souk in Granada Spain.
Grnada, Spain — June 5, 2022. A busker plays the violin on a street corner in Granada; another man glares at him.
Outside Melia Hotel in Granada

Las Setas, Seville, Spain

Last week we took some time to look at the architecture in Seville (and there is something for everyone when it comes to architecture here!).  

One of our stops was the Metropol Parasol, popularly known as “Las Setas” (the “Mushrooms”), an enormous wooden (birch) structure opened 10 years ago.  Las Setas consists of six large wooden parasols in the shape of mushrooms, up to 26 meters high, with winding sloped walkways to the top, where one can take in beautiful views of Seville.  

The structure covers a large market area, an open event space, and below ground is a viewing area for the Roman architectural remains that were uncovered before construction of the Setas began (discovery of previously unknown ruins is often the case in Seville once digging commences).  The area covered by the Setas was originally intended to become an underground parking garage, but the discovery of the Roman ruins put a halt to that.   Plan B involved a design competition to revitalize the area, and German architect Jurgen Mayer proposed the winning plan, Metropol Parasol.  

Las Setas are viewed by Sevillanos with a mixture of distaste for their appearance, and appreciation for the views and shade they provide.  The construction of the project was problematic in many respects, which adds to the locals’ lack of love – problems with the structural aspects, design issues, concerns over the Roman ruins and their preservation, and massive cost overruns.   Yet, on a hot day, you will find many people enjoying the shade and the views, and paying a hefty fee to visit the viewing area at the top.  And yes, in order to leave, you must pass through the Gift Shop.

Some Photos are below.  

MA 

The Mushroom in Seville
Girls Play on Seville Sign under the Mushroom
Toiurist Declares Victory
View from Under the Mushroom
Seville, Spain — June 3, 2022. A view of Seville from the top of the Mushroom.

Granada, España

We spent the weekend in Granada, Spain, visiting the City and its jewel, the Alhambra.  On the drive between Seville and Granada, we passed mile after mile of olive groves, sunflower fields, and beautiful flowers, while seeing the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.   As far as the eye could see, every hill and valley was planted with rows of crops.  Andalusía is the world’s leading producer of olive oil, and we saw enough olive trees in all directions to support that claim.  Pomegranate trees, orange trees, rose bushes and many other trees and flowers thrive in the warm and sunny climate.    

The principal focus of our visit to Granada was the Alhambra, a beautiful complex of buildings and gardens dating back to ancient times.  In the 11th century, Granada became a major city, and by the 13th century, it was the capital of the Emirate of Granada, under Muslim rule (Muslims ruled southern Spain for about 700 years, until the Catholic Monarchs prevailed in 1492).   In the old city of Granada and at the Alhambra (the King’s palace and citadel), Islamic and Moorish architecture abound, while the rest of the city and newer areas have Renaissance and other styles.  The architecture and decoration of the Alhambra are magnificent, with intricate carving of wood and stone, beautiful tiles and stucco, luxurious courtyards and patios, and water everywhere to cool, reflect, provide relaxing background noise, and symbolize purity.  

Outside the Alhambra, in the newer parts of town, Granada is a happening place – lots of people/tourists, lots of busy hotels and restaurants, and lots of happy faces in the narrow back streets and the wide elegant avenues.  We visited the Cathedral, the Royal Chapel, and the old souk (the former Arab silk market that now houses various types of market stalls where teas, spices and herbs, leather goods, clothing of all types and various other things are sold).  

While we were in Granada, Rafa won the French Open, so there was a lot of celebrating.  On a smaller scale of celebration, we saw a number of bachelor/ette parties on Saturday evening and night, where the prospective groom or bride wears a great outfit and the friends march them around town for all to see (e.g. a man in a striped prison uniform wearing handcuffs and signs that say “Save me, I’m getting married” accompanied by his friends wearing police outfits and blowing whistles).   

Some photos are below.

MA

Road Scholars in Alhambra Gardens
Gardens of the Alhambra
Granada, Spain — June 6, 2022. The castle and fort of Alhambra overlooking the city of Granada.
Inside the Alhambra

A Visit to Italica

We got a chance to visit Italica, the first Roman city built outside of Italy. It was founded in 206 BC by Publius Cornelius Scipio during the Second Carthaginian War. It is about a 30 minute drive outside of Seville. 

Eventually Italica became a resort city of sorts where the Roman upper crust maintained estates. What constitutes the upper crust has to be taken with a grain of salt though. The water was so foul that they mostly drank wine.  All in all not a terrible idea, come to think of it. 

For entertainment, the Romans built (actually their slaves built) an arena, similar to, but smaller in scale than Coliseum in Rome. The “entertainment” was similar though. Gladiators fought each other in the Arena. They also had fights between gladiators and bulls. (Lions were reserved for the Coliseum in Rome). Unlike modern times, the bulls tended to win these contests.   However, the Romans were thoughtful enough to carve out a section of the arena where gladiators could pray before a fight. 

Below are some photos taken during our guided tour of  Italica, including ones taken in the Arena. One bit of Trivia about Italica—large sections of “Game of Thrones” were filmed there. 

Road Scholar Tour Group in Italica
Italica Countryside
The Arena in Italica
The Bleachers, so to Speak

JFB

Living in Spain: Cordoba

We have been living in Spain for about 2 weeks now, and we have developed our sea legs, so to speak. It’s been a busy few days. On Thursday we had a culture presentation on Spanish foods; on Friday it was Spanish cooking lessons (see the video below). Later on Friday we went to a Spanish ballet that included all sorts of music and dance, including flamenco dancing and music, complete with castanets. 

Today, Saturday we took the train  out to Cordoba, a truly beautiful city. That trip included a trip to the “Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba”.  Formerly built as an Islamic Mosque when the Moors conquered sections of Andalusia, it is also known as the Mezquita and as the Great Mosque of Cordoba. 

Later it was converted to a Catholic Cathedral when Andalusia was recaptured by Christians. It was then named the Cathedral of our Lady of the Assumption. Lots of the architecture of Andalusia reflects the long periods during which the province was under Christian or Muslim rule. Some photos from our trips are below. 

Cooking Class in Seville
Roman Bridge in Cordoba
Across the Street from the Station
Near the Cordoba Train Station
Inside The Great Mosque
Grounds of the Great Mosque
Courtyard of the Great Mosque

JFB

Jerez de La Frontera

The weekend arrived, marking the start of our second week in Spain. Since we didn’t have any classes, we took a train ride of about an hour out to Jerez de La Frontera.  Jerez is the famous for its Sherry as well as its flamenco dancers and musicians. The flamenco shows tend to start late—some start in the early morning hours—so we didn’t make any of them this time around. 

We did get some photos of what turned out to be a charming and beautiful town. A few are below. 

Jerez Train Station
A wide angle photo taken in Jerez de La Frontera
Jerez, Andalusia, Spain–May 21, 2022. A wide angle photo of an outdoor market where patrons are also dining in Jerez, Spain.
Jerez, Andalusia, Spain–May 21, 2022. A wide angle photo looking down a curved side street in Jerez, Spain.

JFB