#27 – Sevilla, Spain: Flamenco, Tapas and History!

We loved Sevilla!

After Barcelona, we hopped on our first flight within Europe, to Seville. We have been using our Eurorail pass extensively, but struggled with getting necessary seat reservations for Renfe, the Spanish train company, and so it was cheaper to book our flights for this short hop down into southern Spain. We landed and immediately felt the heat! It was much warmer in Seville, but less humid, and we quite enjoyed it. Our hotel was near the old city walls, and had a rooftop pool that we took great advantage of. The daytime highs were always in the upper 30s and we had wonderful weather the whole week.

View of the old city wall from our hotel

We really enjoyed walking around Seville and found it quite easy to navigate the narrow and shady streets. The city was designed to create shade corridors and many streets also had wide canvas covers to give everyone a break from the sun. The city is know for its tapas and flamenco dancers and we got to enjoy both, as well as exploring the central cathedral, and Alacazar palace and gardens. There was also a relatively new structure in the center of the city called the Setas de Sevilla, or “mushrooms”, which showcased a wonderful wood structure that was beautifully lit up at night.

Setas de Sevilla

Caroline had orrganized an intimate Flamenco presentation for us on the other side of the river, in the old town that Flamenco was born. We learned a lot about the history of Flamenco dancing, as well as an hour long dance, with beautiful music and singing. We were so close to the dancers, we could feel her dress as it swept passed our knees! The emotion, the expression, the tempo and the energy of the moments were engaging and impressive. We came out of the small room beaming with excitement and fueled by sangria. It was definitely a highlight of our time in Sevilla.

Ole! Flamenco presentation

We also enjoyed learning about the islamic influences in Seville, where we explored the Alacazar, a Palace with attached gardens that were so beautiful in design and expression. We learned all about the history of the ceramics and tile design that were exported all around the world from this central place. We loved the intricate designs on the ceilings, and in the mosaics and in the layout of the palace and gardens. It was a truly special visit, coupled with the Cathedral de Seville and tower, with its magnificent views of the entire city.

Alacazar Palace ceiling tiles

Below the Alacazar was a bathroom and bathhouse that was cool and refreshing break from the heat outside. It was also a set piece for the Game of Thrones and many other famous movies and tvshows. It was a busy place, but still had lots of little spots to sit and enjoy the ambience, appreciate the history and cool down for a few minutes with a cool drink.

Alacazar Palace basement baths

The Gardens surrounding the Alacazar were truly special and expansive with beautifully landscaped areas, wandering peacocks announcing their presence and refreshing fountains. We strolled through for a couple of hours, appreciating the gardens and gorgeous roses and other flowers punctuating the lush landscape.

Peacock in the Alacazar Gardens

One of our day-trips from Seville was to take a public bus about 10kms away to a little suburb called Santiponce, where there was the ruins from an ancient Roman city called Italica. This exhibit told the story of this ancient city of 20,000 people and how they lived, with bathhouses, arenas, markets and housing. It was very well done and we learned even more about the ways Romans built their citys, provided their citizens with water, food and security, and entertained them. It was also a great lunch when we went to a nearby restaurant and had the seafood fried appetizer platter, with everything on it!

Italica Roman Ruins in Santiponce

Our other day trip was to take the train to Cordoba, which was about 1 hr away. Cordoba also has a lot of fascinating history with Islamic influences and a very famous Cathedral Mosque, and an old roman bridge that crossed the river. The city was easy to explore, and had many interesting sights to check out, unfortunately for us, we went on a Monday when many of them were closed! We did stay cool by enjoying some gelato, and having a nice meal in the El Corte Inglés department store cafeteria, which was delicious, affordable and air-conditioned! It was almost 40 degress celcius that day and we worked hard at staying cool, while also checking out the Cathedral Mosque, and its cool interior. It was an expansive, gigantic space with beautiful arches and an inviting interior that we wandered and appreciated for the afternoon.

Catheral Mosque in Cordoba

One of the most photographed spots in Cordoba is the Calleja de las Flores, a tiny little street covered with flowers and from the right angle, a view of the Cathedral tower. It was a nice little stroll, and Caroline especially appreciated the beautiful flowers.

Beautiful streetview in Cordoba

Overall, we loved the Andalusian region of Spain and its history, culture and food, we became experts in different tapas, Cañas and sangria, as well as flamenco, paella, and ceramics. We have lots of ideas for hosting summer time get togethers at home, and maybe even some tile design for some home decor one day. We appreciated the heat and sun, and are definitely getting a good tan (for Caroline) and no sun burns (for Aaron). Be sure to check out the video below, especially after the credits to see a bit of our Flamenco presentation and for more pictures of this time, see the link below the video.

Adios for now!

Check out our photos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/LDgeFgvrRpxU1zUX7

#26 – Barcelona! Tapas, Parks, Churches and Beaches

Sagrada Familia in all its glory

We were both looking forward to Barcelona for our trip, as it was our entry into Spain, and good weather, great food, and amazing culture. I was very excited to return to Barcelona, after coming here 25 years ago, as it was one of the highlights of my backpacking trip a long time ago. We had booked a nice hotel with a small kitchenette in a central neighbourhood, near transit and had lined up a few key sights and activities. The weather looked good, and our Flixbus arrived on time, landing us in the center of this bustling city,

Steps up the Barcelona Botanical Garden

After settling in, doing a small grocery shop, having a few tapas for dinner and getting our bearings, we made our plans for the next few days of what we wanted to see. We also booked some train reservations for later in our trip at the Central Train station, and headed to the “Magic Fountain”, a beautiful water feature near the Barcelona Botantical Gardens and National Art Gallery, that we both enjoyed a lot. We saw lots of beautiful sculptures, masterpieces of art, contemporary exhibits and famous paintings. It is a great gallery, and definitely worth checking out. The park is on a hillside, and had a lot of stairs, and even outdoor escalators to help take us up the mountain.

What you looking at? Manuel Bayeu Painting in the National Gallery of Catalonian Art

When we are in art galleries, we tend to stroll and walk through slowly, admiring the works and sharing our thoughts and observations with each other. We also like to photograph interesting and different examples of Art that we especially appreciate or connect with, and sometimes we even think of potential lesson plans or ideas for back in our classrooms and libraries. This Catalonian National Art Gallery had so many good pieces and examples and we found ourselves appreciating so many that we have lessons and ideas for years to come.

Tapas, Tapas, Tapas.

After all that browsing, we were very hungry and so we found a place for refreshments and tapas! We really enjoyed all the different options and flavours and sharing, as we got to try so many different dishes, styles, flavours and tastes. Almost every place had a Potato Bravas, with slightly different implementations, and they also had so many different meats and cheeses, fried croquettes, tortilla pies, hummus and salads, and delicious treats. We definitely enjoyed the cervasas too!

Still Life Picasso painting “The Dessert” at the Picasso Museum

Another very popular spot in Barcelona was the Picasso Museum, as it is a large collection of his work, spanning many periods of his career and styles. It included many displays of his history, and also scientific studies of his work, with x-rays of special paintings to show the earlier work underneath. We both learned a lot about his life, his history, his influences and enjoyed seeing many of his most famous works. It was a delightful and amusing day.

Park Guell, Gaudi designed plaza

The artistic influnce in Barcelona is not just for the Painters, it is also with the Architects, as the famous Gaudi had a tremendous impact on the city as a whole. He famously designed a impressive outdoor park, as well as the largest and most impressive Church, capturing the love and admiration of the Barcelonians and tourists from around the world. We booked tickets for both the Park Guell, and the Sagrada Familia and spent our time exploring in awe of his vision and work in both environments. It was truly impressive to be in these spaces and to see his vision in person, and to feel the immense spaces.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

When I was a 19 year old, I backpacked around Europe for 5 months with Sam, and when we visited Barcelona, we checked out the Sagrada Familia, then. This Church as been under construction for about 100 years now, and in the 1990s, it was hardly begun still. When we were there, there was no ‘inside’, it was just two entranceways, and 8 towers, and an open space in the middle, and we explored what we could. There was no entrance fee then, and we could just walk up the spiral towers on our own and walk around wherever we wanted. It felt special even back then, but this time, with the Church 90% done, and the inside completed, it was a transformative experience.

Sagrada Familia

The most impressive part of the Church inside is all the colourful light spilling in through the incredible stained glass windows. It was so impressive to be bathed in blues, greens, oranges and reds, all throughout the expansive space. The architecture of the inside highlights these windows allowing the light all throughout the space, and immediately draws your attention up and around. There are symbols and references everywhere and the acoustics were amazing, even with hundreds of other people milling about and chatting. It was very busy while we where there, and probably is busy all the time as it is such a treasure and experience to see. A must if you are ever in Barcelona. I hope to come back again and see it in its completed state, with the final, tallest towers in the middle reaching up into the sky, and dominating the city skyline.

Below is our video of these adventures, with lots more pics and clips of these amazing places and activities. Please, check it out and hear all about what we enjoyed and appreciated and explored. Follow along with our other videos on our youtube channel, subscribe if you like. As well, below the video, is a link to a folder of more pictures of this segment of our trip.

Photos from this City: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YVHobz37RM3kuA3y5