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Category Archives: Spain

Cathedrals and Palaces in Spain

Author: Amy

All of these sites deserve their own blogs – they have so much history, character and personality of their own.  Unfortunately, we are heading out of Spain and it’s time to get these blogs posted.

The Giralda and Cathedral of Seville – There is a mausoleum with the remains of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral.  Part of his DNA was sent to Huston, Texas and it was confirmed that his remains are here.  He is held up by 4 Heralds representing 4 Kingdoms, it’s an amazing display. The Giralda is the Minaret – built between 1184-1198 for the Mosque of Seville.  Minarets provide a visual focal point and are used for the call to prayer. The muezzin would ride his horse up the ramps of the 98 meter tower to call for prayers, 5 times a day.  I would consider this to be the center of Seville, we passed the Cathedral countless times during our stay in Seville.  One evening we saw the 8pm bells toll – it was a magnificent sight and sound that we all will remember.  The Seville Cathedral was built over the Mosque of Seville and it is the biggest “Gothic” temple in the world.

Cathedral of Seville

Giralda

Christopher Columbus rests here

The Alcázar in Seville is a gorgeous site – it is a group of palaces mostly Arabic style but throughout there is some Gothic influence.  It is filled with mosaic tiles and one room is more beautiful than the next.  Kendal felt she was a princess in another life and hoped this was where she lived.  The gardens here are beautiful.  There is a huge labyrinth of 6 foot tall shrubs that the kids ran through for more than an hour.  We went here with my brother and his family and sent him and his wife to the Cathedral – we stayed back with the kids and let them enjoy the outdoor gardens.  It was a fun day.

Alcázar

Fountain at Alcázar

Hiding in the Labyrinth garden at Alcázar

Gardens of Alcázar

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain.  My understanding is that this location was the last stand for the Moors before the Christians invaded and took it all over in 1492. It is also where Christopher Columbus received the support of Isabella and Ferdinand to sail to the New World.  It is a wonderful retreat.   We took a day trip by train with my brother and his family.  It is a very busy place and they only allow people to enter morning or afternoon.  We arrived at 11am but were not allowed in until 2pm.  Visiting the main palace is dependant by the time they give you.  We were given 4pm, our train left at 5pm.  We considered trying to get a peek and running to the train but people were in line at 3:30 – a lot of people!  Rather than be rushed we skipped it.  The Alhambra is really an estate with multiple castles and gardens.  The scalloped windows frame the beautiful views of Granada and the snow-capped mountains.  A huge part of the Moorish influence is the gardens and their water features.   Water was the purest symbol of life to the Moors.  It’s truly a beautiful site and even more are the views of the surroundings snow-capped mountains.  Hope you enjoy the photos

On our way to Granada

Beautiful water features at the Alhambra

In the Palace of Charles V

Gorgeous view from Alhambra - snow-capped mountains

Inside the Roman Baths at the Alhambra

We always love the ancient water systems

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Spain

 

Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza– Sevilla, Spain

Author: Steve

Unfortunately or fortunately it is not bullfighting season in Spain, it typically starts up around Easter and goes through to the end of summer, with a few exceptions throughout the year. This time of year the bullfighting moves to South America and Mexico.  We did however take a walk over to the main bullfighting ring here in Seville, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, for a tour.  This ring was constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries.  It was very interesting to learn more about this deep Spanish tradition of bullfighting, like how it was a sport that took place for Spanish Kings and Royalty back in the 8th to 15th centuries, it changed during that time from a fight on horseback to a fight on foot. Before the bullfight came to Spain it’s history originated from the sacrificing of bulls in ancient Greece through Roman times.

We weren’t allowed to run around the ring like I wanted to so that was a little disappointing.  I always thought they had locker rooms, so I was hoping to check out where the matadors get psyched up but they have no locker rooms . . . they get dressed at home or if they are visiting, at their hotel room.  I think if it would have been bullfighting season Keegan and I would have gone to see one but I doubt we would have enjoyed the long brutal process.

On January 1, 2012 a ban of bullfighting in Catalonia took effect.  Barcelona, which resides in the Catalonia region, saw their last bullfight at the end of this last season on September 25, 2011.  A lot of controversy surrounds this topic in Spain; some believing with great passion in preserving this deep tradition and others want to eliminate the barbaric nature of this sport. The fight to ban bullfighting in Andalucia (Sevilla falls within this region) will be a tougher battle due to the much stronger support of maintaining all their deep traditions and how they view this has a pure art-form. Only time will tell . . .

The entrance to the Plaza de Toros

Kendal in the museum

In front of the area reserved for royalty, that's as close as they'd let us non-royals get.

The ring just begging us to run around on it

This beautiful chapel is located right before the matador enters the primary door to the ring. It's the matadors time to say his prayers.

Here is the "Puerta Principle" the principle or main door to enter the ring. We tried to lose our guide so we could sneak in the ring but she was watching us too close.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Spain

 

Jamon, Jamon and more Jamon – Spain

Author: Steve

It is uncanny the amount of ham that is not only eaten but displayed in this country. It is truly a religious icon of staggering power.  To not eat ham in this country I believe would be social suicide. Spaniards are the largest consumers of ham in the world, it’s estimated that each Spaniard eats about 5 kilo’s of cured ham per year, that’s over 11 pounds!  The last few days as we went out for tapa’s I imagined myself with my head face down on the table raising my hand in the air mumbling, “no más jamon, no más jamon”.  I definitely appreciate the intense curing process involved, the many different types of ham and how differently the livestock is fed.  Most of it is really great tasting, in fact I’ve read that Spain’s ham is some of the best and nutritious in the world . . . but every meal?

In any case I researched what the great fascination is between this country and it’s ham and sure enough, it dates back to some religious origins.  The history of ham dates back as far as 1300 B.C. when the Celts arrived in what is now Spain and ham was so important to their survival that they had granite statues of pigs made and used as territorial markers and tombstones. The Muslims ruled Spain between 711 A.D. and 1492 and in the Quran it is strictly forbidden to consume pigs. However, when the Christians regained control of the region and kicked out the Jews and Moors, it was again popular and symbolic to eat pork to display openly that you were not a Jew or a Moor. It was another way for the Spanish Inquisition to monitor who was not converted to Christianity because they refused to eat pork.  If the convertor did eat pork they sometimes still didn’t believe you really converted and you were arrested for questioning and many times worse.  This is a symbol of cultural strength, defiance and fortitude over hundreds of years and so proudly displayed throughout the streets of Spain.  So basically some five-hundred years later and Spain is still shoveling down ham like there’s no tomorrow.

Jamon

Jamon

Jamon

Jamon

and more Jamon

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Spain

 

Calle de San Jacinto – Triana

Author: Steve

As I’ve mentioned before in past blogs, our street, Calle de San Jacinto, is a very active pedestrian location. A couple Friday’s ago we were heading out the door to catch a bus for a day trip to Jerez and as luck would have it they were putting up a stage in the middle of Calle de San Jacinto for a flamenco show.  We decided to forgo the Jerez trip and do it the next day so we could see the show. One of the main pastry shops was setting up a big table outside to sell some great pastries.  After listening to the flamenco for a while we decided to buy a treat.  I got in the semi-long line and right as I was about to ask for a cookie, a man (I believe he was the owner) comes out with a large pan of, what looked like custard with cookies crumbled on top. The crowd, all with lustful smiles, became slightly aggressive and I was pushed out of the way.  Before the man started to spoon it out a news reporter came up with a cameraman to interview the owner regarding this desert.  Needless to say I was quite curious as to why these people wanted that custard dish so bad.  After doing my best to stand my ground I looked over at Amy and the kids, they were sitting and talking to a grandfather-type gentleman and they were all looking at me (laughing) with a euro in one hand and holding it straight out.  Okay I guess that’s the trick, so I started holding my euro up high to get what I wanted.  I got one for us to share and it was very good. We think it’s a warm flan, which made the dessert the texture of pudding, the gentleman Amy was talking to rubbed his large belly and said with a big smile, “it’s just a lot of sugar and flour”.

Keegan in front of the stage right before the performers came out. It would be hard to count how many times they had a stage on this street while we were there.

This was the first stand they put up . . . oh my gosh how they love their churros!! They even add additional stands throughout the city during the holidays. A favorite treat that we've seen is dipping their churro's in chocolate sauce.

Here's the cameraman and news reporter interviewing the owner with his dessert. I'm in the background after being pushed back. When the dessert was only half gone the owner would just grab a spoon full and eat from the pan, a quadruple dipper - true story.

Got my euro and ready to buy.

Another day we headed out I was very nervous for the safety of my family . . . the last few days prior to this they had been remodeling the facade of a building for a new bank a few doors down. As I walked out the door I looked up and saw 2 snipers on the roof in front of our apartment and there were people blocked off from the bank and that section of the street with police tape. Amy thought immediately that they were probably bringing money to the bank especially with all the police cars everywhere you looked.  I told them to hold still I would go check it out.  As I got to the line I saw a man walking out of the bank with his hands semi-raised and then I saw another man behind him. The man behind him had his jacket open and under his jacket you could clearly see a vest of EXPLOSIVES!  All I’m thinking at this point is these people are crazy and my first thought was to yell to Amy and tell her to run and save the children. But as I looked around everyone was smiling.  Well they were shooting a movie and the guy in front was the Director giving the explosives guy/actor direction.  We stayed and watched for a while since we had never been so close to a filming like this in our lives. We got to see everything it was very interesting.  We always felt we were walking on a movie set as we walked down our street and seems like we were.

Snipers on the roof.

The blocked off street used as a movie set.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Spain

 

School in Tomares – Spain

Author: Kendal

While in Sevilla we were able to experience a Spanish school in a town called Tomares. We went with our American friend Alex, who had invited us to some of his classes. At the school, all the kids are learning English. Keegan and I felt like we were celebrities because all the kids wanted to talk to us.  They had me stand in front of one of the classrooms and give a small presentation about the trip that we are on. I had to use simple words though and talk a little slowly because they weren’t all very good English speakers yet. Some of them even asked questions about things like; what’s my favorite color, what do you like to do in your free time, and the most common one  “do you like Justin Bieber?” Keegan went to a music class and was able to play an instrument (they played the Star Wars theme song). It was all very fun and most of the teachers there spoke some English so that was nice. The town was really cute, and since it was only a short bus ride away we went back during the weekend to watch a soccer game. The town had a special Christmas area with little rides and an ice rink (ok it wasn’t really ice more like hard plastic, we skated on it though). While there we ran into some of the kids from the school and we talked with them for a little while, hung out at the “ice” rink and went to a restaurant with them as well. One of the girl’s moms is American so she spoke perfect English with us; the girl’s grandma was also in town visiting from Virginia.  I do miss my girl time with my friends so it was nice to “hang” with some girls and have some laughs.  Special thanks to Alex and José Manuel for letting us visit their school.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!!  Kendal

Here is the soccer game we went to in Tomares - I think they were a semi-pro team. It was fun because when Tomares would score the players would run and hug the little kids watching from the side of the field.

Keegan and I had lunch with a couple of the girls from school that we ran into while we were there on the weekend.

Keegan skating on the eco-friendly ice rink.

Tomares is a beautiful small town, we loved going there.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Spain

 

Feliz Navidad! – Spain

Author: Amy

Feliz Navidad! One of the customs in Spain is to have an extravagant nativity scene or Belén.  Yes, Mary, Joseph and little baby Jesus but then add on the whole village of Bethlehem; the shops, the farms, little fires roasting meals, whole neighborhoods, etc. They are fun to stop and look at as we wander about town.  Our Flamenco teacher’s family has one of the best we’ve seen and they open the doors to their home for two showings per day for anyone who wants to take a look. As Kendal and I left one day from one of our classes there were three classes of very cute five and six year olds waiting patiently in line to go in and see the Belén, they had walked over from a nearby school for this field trip. In the center of town, right behind the Cathedral, there is a large market specifically for selling the little figures that make up the scene.  Another tradition is that the Three Kings; Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior (Steve made me add their names, thought someone might be curious) bring gifts to the children on January 6th.  Christmas is for family celebration and the sharing of a large meal, not presents.  Some families are slowly changing and give gifts on Christmas but most hang on strong to the tradition of the Three Kings.  As we walk about in the evening the streets are filled with lights – each street has a different design  – we all have fun searching out these different designs.

We feel so blessed to be able to spend this holiday with my brother and his family.  My mom had to have an emergency open-heart surgery 2 days ago and all went well.  The blessings of coming from a large family where there are others there to look after my parents during this year is something I take for granted from time to time but I am so very grateful to my siblings for being there for my parents.

Wishing everyone a loving and peaceful Christmas. Merry Christmas to one and all!

We took a day trip to the city of Jerez and ran across this life-sized Nativity in the center of town.

They made everything very realistic in this Belén.

This Belén is close to our apartment and has a live mule, 4 lambs, 6 rabbits and 3 chickens.

This is the Belén in our flamenco teachers house, her parents put it together and are so proud to share it with everyone and anyone.

Here's another view, it's an L-shaped table and goes around to the left. They have a bright light up above on the ceiling that's on a timer. It dims on and off very slowly sending the scene from day into night and it's really beautiful. They have little lit up fireplaces and running water. They have to water the grass because it's real sod.

This guy comes every evening to the end of our street and plays Christmas music and displays his Belén from the back of his car.

Here's one section of the market that sells all the Belén figures and supplies you could ever need.

The Three Kings with their bags of toys of good boys and girls!

Look who's climbing up an apartment building with toys. . .

In Jerez Steve and Keegan got to speak with one of the Kings and he told Keegan to write down what he wanted and put it in his box. Then he gave Keegan a handful of candy.

This amazing display of festive lights is all throughout Sevilla.

That's my brother with my niece on his shoulders checking out all the sites. The blondie in the sea of brunettes.

Keegan and I under more festive lights.

Beautiful Christmas trees in front of the Cathedral.

Having a great night out with my brother and sister in-law before we headed to a flamenco show around the block.Feliz Navidad from Sevilla!

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Spain

 

Advice for Parents – Sevilla, Spain

OK it is I the one who writes blogs (aka Keegan).

Parents do you have any trouble touring cities with kids??? Well I am writing this blog for you! Here is a list of steps you can do to keep your kids happy while touring!

The Happy Touring Guide For Parents With Kids!

Number 1. You have to identify the problem; are they tired, sad or mad.

Number 2. Give the kids their own money to spend for that day.

Number 3. Pass a local candy store on purpose but say to your kids “Oh look here a candy store. Do you guys want to go in here?” That will get your kids hooked!

Number 4. Once your kids have their OWN bag of candy they will most likely stay happy until they run out of candy.

Number 5. If they ever get a little cranky or mad or sad shove a piece of candy in their mouth!

I guarantee you that this method will work every time! If not, you did not do one of the five steps correctly, but if you did and they are still cranky or mad or sad then just get them home or… well I don’t know it has always worked for me.

The Glorious Sign - you have found the right place!

Ok so now that I have given you a list of steps to do I will tell you a story on how those steps worked in action.

My parents wanted to go to the Metropol Parasol in the Plaza de la Encarnacion ‬for the day, which is like a huge mushroom modern structure that was just built in the middle of town.  We went there and we took an elevator to the top. It was really cold so my mom and dad got a cup of joe and we got some hot coco to warm us up. Then we walked around on the top of it. After that Kendal and I wanted to go home but of course my parents wanted to walk around some more so Kendal and I looked at each other and knew what we had to do! We had to be cranky or sad or mad. Then our parents walked by our favorite candy store in Seville (Wonkandy) and then because we had some of our own spending money we asked to go in. We got some candy and then we were happy right until we got to our apartment! So that is one of the times the Happy Touring Guide With Kids has worked for us.

The elevator - going up!

A view from the top of the Metropol Parasol. They say it's the worlds biggest structure held together by glue.

Another view from the top. They say it's the worlds largest wooden structure. It's totally different than the buildings around it.

Once in a while my dad even likes to put a plastic glove on and grab candy too.

Oh how I love my WonKandy!

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Spain