The Macarena can mean many things. To most of us, it probably means a dance craze and popular song that swept the country in 1990. And the song was done by a Seville vocal group. But here in Seville, Macarena is the name of a neighborhood in the northern part of the old town. But more important, it refers to La Macarena, the Weeping Virgin, which is the most popular representation of Mary in Seville. She is known as the weeping virgin because of five teardrops on her cheeks. In 1949 they built Basilica Macarena to give her a permanent home.
Every Good Friday, La Macarena and another statue called Christ of the Judgement are carried throughout Seville on separate floats. The float for Christ is larger, weighs three tons, and is carried on the necks of 48 men in the same manner as I described for Carmen yesterday. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that is at least 125 pounds per man. The gold colored float is for Christ and the silver one is for Mary.
La Macerena wears one of three different richly embroidered robes each year. It doesn’t show in the picture, but the embroidery on the robe has a lot of depth. We enjoyed seeing this Basilica and museum much more than we thought we would because of seeing the smaller but similar Carmen procession the day before.
The people accompanying La Macarena are dressed in these outfits. The pointed hats are a little scary aren’t they?
The Virgin del Carmen is widely revered in Andalusia as the patron of fishermen and July 16 is her day. In the fishing villages along the coast her effigy is paraded through the streets and even around the water. While Seville is not on the water, or even that near to the water, they still had a Carmen procession yesterday starting at 9 PM and lasting until 1PM. We went to the start of the procession to see Carmen emerge from the church.
Carmen is carried on a platform by a number of young men dressed in white with padding on their heads. I understand that the platform is carried on the back of their necks and that they have to bring her through the door of the church on their knees to clear the door. The float bearers are behind skirting and can’t see where they are going very well. There are men in suits on all sides to help guide them. There are ventilation holes in the silver work below the floor of the float.
There is a knocker on the float to tell the bearers when to stand up (one knock) and when to put the float down (three knocks). The crowd applauded when they got Carmen out of the church and each time they executed a turn. Whenever the float was down, someone had water for the bearers. It appeared that the float would turn to face the open door of each church it passed where there would be dignitaries of that church to welcome Carmen. The procession is led by two brass bands. One hour after the scheduled start, they had made it one block, visited one church, and had about a dozen churches to go. Oh, and it was over 90 F!
We second lined for a while (Treme fans will know what that means) and then went home to cool off. Tomorrow we will discuss the Macarena. If you think it is about dancing, you are on the wrong track.
No this is not going to be a social commentary post, but is actually a food post about the rich man’s gazpacho and the poor man’s sangria. We have become fans of both. Sangria is very popular throughout Spain and is reasonably priced at under five dollars for a large glass. However, many restaurants do not serve sangria by the glass. The alternate that is served everywhere is tinto de verano or summer wine. It is a mix of equal parts red wine and a carbonated lemon drink. It is served with lots of ice, is very refreshing, and generally costs less than $2.50 for a large glass.
Seville is in the Andalusia area of Spain. This area is the home of gazpacho, which both of us have always liked. But they also have something even better and only slightly more expensive called salmorejo, also known as summer soup. It is much thicker and creamier than gazpacho and is garnished with bits of ham and hard boiled eggs. It is so good, we have it at virtually every meal we eat out. I was concerned that my cholesterol was suffering from all the cream I must be eating. Out of curiosity I looked up a recipe, and learned it was not cream that made it so thick and creamy. It was bread! If you want to try some, one recipe is here.
The picture is of a salmorejo sampler. On the left is the traditional tomato version, in the center is mussel and black squid ink, and on the right is avocado. You can get the tomato version everywhere. We hadn’t seen the other two anywhere else. We actually liked the squid ink best.
We are going on a hunt for the Carmen procession tonight and I hope to have a report for you tomorrow.
Yesterday marked two momentous occasions: Bastille Day and our seventh wedding anniversary. We spent most of the daytime working on chores and going to the travel agency to get train tickets for a couple of future day trips. We had selected the restaurant to celebrate our anniversary the week before. We stopped by last Saturday and with our very best Spanish determined they were open on Mondays. We tried to make a reservation, but our Spanish wasn’t up to the task.
We arrived at the restaurant at a respectable 8:30 PM only to find the doors locked tight, no sign of opening times, and no sign of life. So much for our command of Spanish! We decided to go with plan B, and headed to a restaurant which looked nice in a previous visit to the Santa Cruz area. It turned out the restaurant did indeed look very nice, but the food turned out to be only average. We had some nice night views of the cathedral and stopped for some pastries at our local shop on the way home.
Our Plan B Restaurant
The Cathedral at Night
Dressed for the Occasion
Happy after Eating Pastry
Last night we went to see a flamenco show recommended by both Rick and our present landlord. It was performed in a small venue with a guitar player, a vocalist, and a male and female dancer. The flamenco presented here is supposed to represent the original historic art dating back to the 16th century. Flamenco consists of the dance, guitar, vocal, and hand clapping. A significant part of the performance is enthusiastic whooping and clapping by the performers not dancing and the audience to urge the dancer on. Almost all the dancing was individual dancing.
This would not be a good show to see with a headache. The rapid tapping of the sole and heal of the shoes was very loud, especially in this small venue. The dance is improvised and the guitar player seemed to take his lead from the dancers. The vocal was something of a chant and seemed like a male version of Fado singing. The man danced entirely with his legs doing rapid taps with the sole and heel of his shoes and also doing spins. I couldn’t begin to move my feet that fast. The woman danced with a lot of graceful movements of her entire body, but also had the rapid shoe tapping thing down pat.
The hand clapping was an important part of the performance. The non dancers sat in chairs and clapped their hands and tapped their feet. They replaced the bass and drum to mark the rhythm of the music. The hand clapping was complex with varied rhythm and intensity. The dancers could also snap their fingers to make noises I can’t make snapping my fingers. The singing was not my favorite, but the overall performance was very enjoyable.
You are undoubtedly thinking Susan must have looked wonderful at the show in her new dress. Unfortunately, she couldn’t fit into either one of them.
After the show, we went to a bar in the square near us and sat outside watching the World Cup finals. The crowd at our bar was not really into the game. However, we could hear enthusiastic screams from the other side of the plaza whenever Argentina threatened to score. We were rooting for Argentina, but no joy.
The thing that really drives all your activities in Seville is the weather. We have been here for five days now and have not seen a single cloud that we can remember. It is a beautiful Carolina blue sky every day and the highest rain chance for the next fifteen days is 1% ( not a typo). That is all good, but the downside is that the high every afternoon is in the vicinity of 100F give or take five degrees. So far, we have not reached the 100 mark, but there are plenty of days where the prediction exceeds that mark. Fortunately, it is a dry heat and the mornings are delightful.
The Spanish have adapted to this by closing up shop in the afternoon and taking a siesta. We are learning to do the same. We do our exploring in the morning, try to be home in our cool apartment by 2 PM, and spend the evening eating and exploring. The locals are out in force about 9 PM to midnight. They even have a name for walking the streets in the evening, paseo. It is very common for entire families including young children to join the paseo scene at 11 PM or later.
We went to a concert the other night by the Seville symphony. It started at 9 PM and was over at 10:30 PM. We suspect most of the attendees had dinner after the concert. We felt the 9 € each we spent for admission was a real bargain. The orchestra was a little smaller than the Charleston orchestra. We really liked the program which was mostly lively music and included a number of selections from Carmen.
This apartment is our favorite on this trip. It takes three keys to get inside: one for the outside door, one for the courtyard gate, and one for our apartment. The pictures show our living room and kitchen. The kitchen is tiny, but very well equipped. The bedroom is relatively large. For those worried about my office, you see me working hard on my new sofa/office.
The refrigerator is the light brown object to the right of the cabinets with a pass through under the cabinets. The cooking is done with me manning the refrigerator and Susan in the kitchen so we can pass things back and forth.
We walked to the river this afternoon. The Spanish are not dumb. They were all lying in the shade under a tree. As the following picture shows, the ducks are not dumb either!
We took a three hour bus ride through olive and sunflower country to get to Seville yesterday. For most of the trip there were olive trees as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road. No wonder you typically get a free tapa of assorted olives whenever you order a drink. The intermittent sunflower fields were not as pretty as I expected with most of the flowers drooping so they faced the ground.
Our new apartment is the prettiest one so far. It is full of artwork, has a two story ceiling in the living room, and has lights everywhere to light both the room and the art. The kitchen is quite small, but is well equipped and is even stocked with a variety of spices. We are located in the old town on the ground floor of a historic building. The major challenge is finding your way around. Most of the streets are very narrow, short, and go at all angles. Furthermore, they don’t always have street signs and they are not in a consistent location. Even if the street is relatively long, it may change names several times (reminds me of Charlotte). We walked about half a mile to the river last night on a single street that changed names four times in that stretch. It is so confusing, that I don’t find a map very helpful. The best answer is Google maps on the iPhone. If you never hear for us again, you know our phone died or we ran out of gigs of data!
We walked to the tourist area today to visit the tourist bureau to get an entertainment schedule. There are two music festivals in July, so it looks like there are ample things to do. The performances start at either 10:00 or 10:30 PM. This is indicative of the life style here where everyone spends the hot afternoons inside but the streets are full in late morning and the evening. The historic area of Seville is beautiful with many old buildings and more churches per square foot than Charlotte. The churches are also a lot prettier than in Charlotte.
The first two pictures show the front of our building and the courtyard. The dark area in the center rear of the courtyard is our bedroom window. If you strain your eyes, you can see Susan sitting on a bench there.
The next picture shows the street running beside our building. You will note there are no sidewalks and barely room for a pedestrian to dodge a passing car. One of the lower windows of the building on the left is our living room window.
Finally, Susan did some window shopping this morning and fell in love with these two dresses, but she is undecided which one to buy. Which one do you think would be the biggest hit in Pawleys Island???
The Albayzin is the old Moorish quarter of Granada. It is a hillside rising opposite the Alhambra with twisting narrow lanes and steps rising to the top with excellent views of the Alhambra opposite and the city below. We walked up the hill from our hotel and by following Rick’s directions we found the San Nicolas viewpoint looking out at the Alhambra. From there we explored the churches, mosques, plazas, and narrow alleys using a combination of Rick, Google maps, and instinct. The area reminded us a lot of Morocco. That night, we took the bus back up to the viewpoint where we ate at an overpriced restaurant with a perfect view of the Alhambra lit up at night in a relaxing atmosphere. It doesn’t get dark until after 10 PM, so you can see we are into the Spanish style of dining late. After dinner we walked down the hill to our hotel using only instinct. To our total amazement, we ended up at the alley immediately adjacent to our hotel. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.
Yesterday afternoon at tea time, we were talking to a British couple that was familiar with the Mark Morris dance company. Since none of you admitted to knowing them, I am beginning to think they are better known abroad than at home. We also met the former owner of our hotel who bought it when it was a ruin and rebuilt/refurbished it to the delightful hotel it is today. He said in the 18th century it was a nobleman’s home. It was inhabited by homeless drug addicts when he bought it. He sold it a few years ago and has refurbished another hotel down the street.
The pictures show you a typical street in the Albayzin, and the Alhambra at dusk, at dark, and by moonlight. The next post will be from Seville.
Neither of the apartments we have stayed in so far have had any English language television stations. Since we are staying in hotels this week, not only do we have someone to make the bed for us; but we can get some English language news channels. For instance, yesterday we were flipping through the stations and came upon the RT channel with English language news. The commentators were discussing the NSA and how it required vast facilities to hold all the material it collected on US citizens and others. All the commentators were appalled. Next up was a story with numerous crying eyewitnesses about a bombing of a village by the Ukraine government. They then had quotes from our State Department talking about the measured responses used by the Ukraine government. Once more the commentators were appalled. Next was an ad for RT with Obama joking that CNN, Fox, and MSNBC sometimes got the news right with Anderson Cooper laughing in the background. The tag line was that news is no joke at RT. At that point, I had to find out where RT was located. It turns out that they are located in Moscow and are owned by the Russian government to offer a Russian perspective on global events. We changed to another station.
This morning we watched the Running of the Bulls live. It is a big deal in Spain and was broadcast live throughout Spain. The actual event lasted just a few minutes, but there were numerous replays in slow motion, interviews with the medics, and expert analysis by veteran runners. They even had an overhead camera on a wire (such as they use at football games) strung along the main street. It was fun for us since we recognized the streets and sights.
We really like our hotel in Granada. It is located on a narrow lane just off the main plaza. It has a courtyard with a retractable roof where they serve complimentary tea and pastries each afternoon. Best of all we got upgraded to a suite with a private little courtyard which I have turned into my office. It is easily our favorite hotel of the trip.
Today we visited the Alhambra, a former Moorish palace and fort built on a hill overlooking Granada. Admission to the palace is limited and it is necessary to reserve a time slot for admission in advance. The Alhambra is divided into four major parts: a fort which is primarily a ruin, the Moorish palace with its wood ceilings, carved stucco walls, and fountains, the Charles V palace built by the Christians after they drove out the Moors, and the Generalife Gardens. This is all tied together by large gardens and auxiliary buildings.
A lot of history occurred here also. Columbus met with Queen Isabel in one of the rooms of the palace to pitch his trip to look for another route to the spices in Asia. The last Moorish king also surrendered to the Christians here who were making Spain a Catholic country. Washington Irving stayed here and wrote a book that made Alhambra known to the world. He is honored several places in Granada.
We were a little apprehensive about the heat as we had a 3:30 PM time slot and Granda can be pretty hot. The forecast high today was 90 F, but the morning was very pleasant and clouds rolled in this afternoon which may have kept the heat down. In any case, it wasn’t humid and it wasn’t excessively hot. We are sweating (pardon the pun) Seville as it has a reputation for being very hot. We see a lot of three digit highs when we look at the forecast, but it does get down to 70 F at night. We plan to go the Spanish route – out in the morning and evening and home in the air conditioning in the afternoon.