Cucana and the Kingdom of Talossa

Yesterday we went to the modern art museum in Seville and then went to observe traditional cucana. The museum is in a building complex that was first a monastery and then a tile factory. The building was relatively interesting, but the art ranged from awful to disgusting. I found it interesting to read the English description of the art works which consisted of big, impressive words put together in a sentence which meant absolutely nothing to us.
The one thing of some interest other than the building was an exhibit on self proclaimed countries around the world. These included Republic of Lakota (an Indian tribe) in the Midwest, State of Jefferson (CA), Republic of Molossia (NV), The Conch Republic (FL), and the Kingdom of Talossa (WI). The Lakotas might have a case, but the others were pretty far out. The exhibit included uniforms, currency, flags, and other things associated with these “countries”. Leaders of these “countries” even get together at their own UN periodically.
The head and arm in the windows of the first picture are kind of cute.


After the museum we went to a street festival in Triana, a section of Seville located across the river from the central area. The people of Triana are noted as being fiercely independent and do not consider themselves part of Seville. Come to think of it, they should have been part of the museum display. As part of the festival they have a greased pole competition called “cucana”. The pole is mounted at an angle sloping up from a barge. The idea is to run up the pole and grap the flag at the end. We watched about thirty young men attempt it, and only four came as close as a yard.

If you want to watch some video of the cucana, click here.

Walking Around Seville

Seville is a fascinating town to walk in. We probably are walking four to five miles each day and we like to keep trying new routes so we see new things. We are also getting better at finding our way without the aid of any maps. Susan uses stores for landmarks to find her way and I use squares, churches, and the few long straight streets in the old town. These are some of the interesting things we have seen in our walks.

I really liked these whimsical door knobs.

Lots of beautiful courtyards. The buildings are mostly like ours with a wooden door on the street. When you unlock the wooden door and walk through it, you are in a small hall with the mailboxes. In front of you is a wrought iron gate which you unlock to access the courtyard. The apartments are off of the courtyard. If you are proud of your courtyard, you leave the wood door open so people can step in to admire it. The above is one of the nicest we have seen.

The Metropol Parasol. This modern structure is just a few blocks from us and is the start of Susan’s exercise walk each day. It is reputed to be the largest wooden structure in the world. It was built to house the street market where we buy most of our food. It has a walking track on top and a museum in the basement of Roman and Moorish remains dating from 1 BCE to 12 CE they found when excavating for a parking garage on that spot.

Shopkeepers cleaning the front of their shops. Many shopkeepers appear to take a lot of pride in their shops. It is very common to see them mopping the sidewalk, dusting the sills, and cleaning the windows when they first open. The sidewalks are usually tile so they mop better than our concrete sidewalks.

And churches. It seems you can walk two blocks in any direction and find a church. We are thinking of doing a survey of our neighborhood churches Sunday to see if attendance is sufficient to support all of them. And how do you know you are at a church? Four ways: a tile sign unique to that church, a small oval sign with the name of the church and the century it was built in Roman numerals, a bell tower similar to the one below, and usually a plaza adjacent with the same name as the church.




La Vie En Rose

For people my age, that title undoubtedly brings back memories of Edith Piaf and a beautiful, haunting song. The younger people are undoubtedly saying “Edith who?”. Why am I bringing that up? Saturday night we went to a concert at the Royal Alcazar Gardens by Tres Bien, who performed French and American songs of the forties. For the encore, they did La Vie En Rose. When she started there was an audible “Oh” from the audience. Susan and I have both been humming it ever since. If you want to see Edith perform it, click here.

The concert was part of a summer series where a different act performs every night during the heart of the summer. The concerts start at a very adult 10:30 PM and last over an hour. They are held in the gardens of a Moorish castle and cost an extremely reasonable 5 €. We have tickets to two more this week – one is classical and one is jazz. We walked home after the concert and the streets and sidewalk cafés were full of people at midnight including families with baby strollers. Saturday was also the coolest day since we have been here – high of 81F. When the breeze was blowing during the concert, it was actually a little cool; but I am not complaining!

Today we took a day trip by bus to the nearest beach to Seville. Everyone who knows us personally is allowed only one guess as to whose idea that was! The beach was not too crowded and was quite pleasant with a cooling breeze. That thing in the water is not a rock, but is an upside down defense tower dating to the sixteenth century.



Yesterday, we made a day trip by train to Cordoba. Cordoba is normally hotter than Seville, but we caught a break as the morning was cloudy and the temperature only got to the low nineties. Cordoba is most famous for the Mesquita where you will find the following church:

surrounded by this:

The site was originally a church, but a mosque was built on the site of the church sometime around 900 CE when the Moors took control of Spain. The mosque is huge with over 800 columns topped with double arches. When the Christian Reconquistadors took back Cordoba in 1236 CE, they built a traditional church right in the center of the mosque. The following picture is the Mihrab of the mosque which is equivalent to the alter of the church.

We tried to cover all the religious bases by visiting the synagogue, but it was closed for repairs.

This is a shot of the church tower from within the old town.


The Macarena

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.

Rich and Poor

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.


Seventh Anniversary

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


Flamenco and World Cup

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.


Living in Seville

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!


The Travel Blog of Susan and Bruce