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Stunning, But Not Sunny, Seville

Seville, Spain is one of those beautiful cities you could visit again and again and still not see all you wished to experience! It is a city with a very high “WOW” factor. As but one feature, all of the streets are lined with orange trees (used in Britain to make bitter orange marmalade). Our excursion in Seville focused around four major highlights + a Starbucks where we enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate and shelter from the rain. 

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Palace of San Telmo

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Hotel Alfonso XIII (5 star hotel)

The immense Roman Catholic Saint Mary of the Sea Cathedral, better known as Seville Cathedral, is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the world. Built on the site of an ancient Muslim mosque, it was constructed from 1402 – 1506 to “demonstrate the city’s wealth” as a major trading center. The Cathedral is also said to be the final resting place of Christopher Columbus . . . but then there are seven to ten other places in Spain that make the same claim. As you can see by the photos that follow, the exterior is quite ornate with extensive carvings, flying buttresses, towers and ornate doors.

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 Royal Alcazar or Alcazar of Seville is a royal palace that was originally founded as a Moorish fort in 913 and has been expanded or reconstructed many times over the last eleven centuries. Today Alcazar is a magnificent palace, intricately decorated with horseshoe arches, marble columns, and gorgeous, extensive gardens that contain numerous fountains, grottos, and full hedge mazes.

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Plaza de Espana using a Renaissance Revival style of Spanish architecture was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American World’s Fair of 1929. The complex is a huge semi-circular brick building, with a tower at either end (tall enough to be visible around the city) with tiled alcoves, each representing a different province of Spain; tiled fountains; pavilions; brightly colored ceramics; ponds; benches; ornate bridges; paintings; orange trees and flower beds along with numerous buildings constructed for the exhibition.

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Casa Pilatos, an Andalusian palace, served as the permanent residence of the Dukes of Medinaceli and is said to be one of the finest examples of Andalusian architecture of 16th century Seville. However, it is easily missed because its nondescript front blends in with other neighborhood buildings. Although it may be plain on the outside, the opposite is true of the interior with its courtyard, floor-to-ceiling tiled rooms, and the intricate craftsmanship evident throughout. 

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Intricate carved inlaid ceiling 

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Tahiche and Teguise on Lanzarote in the Canaries

In the port city of Arrecife, on Lanzarote, Canary Islands, we visited three very different venues: Tari de Tahiche that houses the work of Cesar Manrique, Teguise, and the piracy fort that overlooks this small city.

Cesar Manrique is known world wide for his contemporary art manifested as paintings, sculpture, murals, and architecture integrated into and adapted to various natural environments. We were able to view a collection of his works housed in Tari de Tahiche. The site was actually his very impressive home that he remodeled into a museum prior to his death in 1992.

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Not only did Manrique build the two-story house on a lava flow from volcanic eruptions (that took place between 1730 and 1736); but also, he literally carved out the basement/lower level from five very large natural volcanic bubbles or lava caves. These bubbles are connected by means of small passageways (painted in black and white) that were bored into the lava flow. The cave in the center of the lower level includes a pool with a free-form stone bridge from one side to the other, a small dance floor, built-in cushioned benches and more, all decorated with abundant plant life.

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 The upper level contains large picture windows that provide panoramic views of volcanic lava. Also included are terraces, gardens, and many of Manrique’s work including paintings, wood pieces, and other materials.

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Actually, neither description nor photographs can do justice to the building and surrounding environment designed as a home to be lived in, not as a museum to be visited. It simply has to be experienced.

Next stop was the fortress of Santa Barbara that dates back to the middle 1400’s, when it was built as a defensive watchtower against pirate attacks that plagued Lanzarote during that time. Today, the fortification has been turned into the Piracy Museum that focuses on the “study of piracy in Teguise and international piracy in the Canary Islands.” The fort has a commanding view over the city of Teguise out to the Atlantic ocean.

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The city of Teguise also provided a feast for our eyes, with so many pieces to photograph that were reminiscent of cities long ago.

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Historic Windows and Doors of Las Palmas

The last two Canary Islands we visited are Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. Each is similar to the others, but also different. Nearly half of those who live in the Canary Islands reside in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, making this city the fifth most populous in Spain.

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Las Palmas enjoys a mild climate year round, making this destination pleasant to both live in and visit, attracting millions of tourists each year. One of the sights we enjoyed seeing was the Cathedral of Santa Ana. Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassic architectural styles are all present in the current design.

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  The church is located in the historic district that provided us with many opportunities to photograph the different details of the historic buildings.

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La Laguna to Lunar Landscapes

Leaving the port of Santa Cruz on Tenerife Island in the Canaries, we walked fifteen minutes along the tree-lined promenade to catch the tram that whisked us up the mountain to the historic city of La Laguna. The city dates from 1500 and its original layout has remained intact since its construction and it has been a model for many cities in the New World.

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Iglesia de Concepcion tower across from tram station.

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We found the old city to be a picturesque locale to spend a Sunday afternoon exploring.

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Museum of the Arts that features beautiful architectural details

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La Laguna City Hall

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Tree clothes for winter

Steeple bells

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Neighborhood streets

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Our view of the port as we returned to the ship.

Barb opted to visit the countryside.Tenerife is the largest of the seven islands in the Canaries, drawing about five million tourists each year. The island was created volcanically, and is home to the world’s third largest volcano, El Teide, which is 12,270 feet high. This volcano’s most recent eruption was in 1909.

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The foothills of Mt. Teide contain areas covered by pine trees.

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The terrain in other areas appeared as lunarscapes 

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As well as rocks and valleys

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Much of the volcanic rock we saw was surprisingly colorful: black lava, red, and green rocks of various sizes and textures, through which the road was cut.

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An extensive multi-national research facility, located near the top of Mount Teide, is used to study volcanoes and volcanic activity in this area and elsewhere. Through the use of electronic equipment and satellites, researchers have learned to predict volcano eruptions by measuring temperature changes and seismic activity.

 

Alhambra ~ “A Crown on the Brow of Granada”

 

The name Alhambra comes from the Arabic root meaning “red or crimson castle.” Moslem analysts speak of the construction of the Alhambra “by the light of torches,” the reflection of which gave the walls their particular coloration.

At the beginning of the 8th century the Moors (Moslems) ruled Granada and created Alhambra for military purposes. It became a fortress, palace, and small city all in one.

The Alhambra became Christian in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel) conquered the city of Granada. Later, various structures were built for prominent civilians as well as military garrisons, a church and a Franciscan monastery.

During the 18th century and part of the 19th, the Alhambra fell into neglect, with Spanish criminals and beggars destroying the illusion of this fairy palace of the Moors. As the crowning blow Napoleon’s troops, masters of Granada, from 1808 – 1812, converted the facilities into barracks. The neglect continued until 1870 when the Alhambra was declared a national monument, protected, restored, and cared for. The Alhambra became an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

Granada is a two and a half hour drive from the port city of Malaga, Spain. Although Granada is a beautiful city, it is said, “Nothing in all of Spain compares to the city’s Muslim-Hispano complex—Alhambra.” The architectural art found in this complex is truly spectacular and can be seen in a number of forms: ruins, walls, towers, detailed mosaics, prism-style cupolas and stone-cast latticework. As a poet once said,

“Life holds no greater affliction

     than that of being blind in Granada.”

Almost every detail suggests grace and sophistication as you can see in the examples below.

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Barcelona ~ Experience La Rambla

This was Mary Jane’s second trip to Barcelona and Carolyn’s first.  Mary Jane loves this city even though she has not ventured off La Rambla, which is a broad, tree shaded boulevard that stretches for nearly a mile from the city’s center to the waterfront. 

According to one of the Berlitz guide books, “La Rambla takes its name from an Arabic word meaning a sandy, dry river bed, and it was a shallow gully until the 14th century, when Barcelona families began to construct homes nearby.  As the area became more populated, the stream was soon paved over.”

 


The boulevard is divided into sections, each with its own distinct character.  One section is devoted to birds, and because it is springtime, many bunnies were for sale also.

 

 

Birds and bunnies give way to the flower market that was filled with the most beautiful roses and spring flowers you will ever see.

 

Further down the boulevard, on the right hand side, is one of La Rambla’s great attractions: the Mercat de Sant Josep, usually called La Boqueria.  This market is truly awesome, with every imaginable item to make a “gourmand swoon.”

 

One of the more intriguing sights on La Rambla are the human statues.  They come in all sizes and levels of originality. In most cases the “statue” stands perfectly still, holding a pose until a passerby drops a few coins into the pail at the statue’s feet. Then the interaction begins. They do put on a good show and draw crowds of young and old alike.  It is also fun to watch the performers putting on their makeup and costumes before they go on their pedestals.  The makeup is some instances is very original.

 


 There is always plenty to see on La Rambla, and even though it only takes 20 to 30 minutes to walk its length, it seems to take us hours just to enjoy everything it has to offer.