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I Shouldn't Be Alive: Spain & Italy...in August...in a wheelchair!

I Shouldn't Be Alive: Spain & Italy...in August...in a wheelchair!

Old Sep 19th, 2011, 02:15 AM
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One of the toughest flamenco critics in Spain Estela Zatania wrote of Manuela Ríos after her late night performance in the Jerez festival in 2008: "... erased memories of less brilliant moments we’ve experienced over recent days; thank you Manuela Ríos for reminding us that flamenco is not coldness, but life itself."
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Old Sep 19th, 2011, 02:24 AM
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I shall stop the flamenco trip now, but here are finally some nice pictures of Manuela Ríos in action in Jerez in 2008:
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Old Sep 19th, 2011, 03:48 PM
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Day 1 - Seville

We take a cab from the airport to our hotel – Hotel Amadeus. The hotel doesn’t actually list handicap accessibility on their website, but I dealt directly with them while booking to determine if it would work specifically for us. The hotel is located on a very narrow street, so the driver drops us off at the end of the road and we walk to the entrance. The entrance has a ramp, but it is extremely narrow and VERY steep. The ramp is actually really short – maybe 2 feet long, but since it’s so steep it makes it easy to flip over so Mike gives me a little push. We’re greeted by a friendly receptionist and she tells us that she is going to switch our room to a bigger one, which will be more comfortable for a 4-night stay. The hotel’s design is inspired by classical composers and the theme is carried on throughout the lobby and the rooms. We are staying in the Vivaldi room and the receptionist gives us instructions on how to get to it. The main entrance of the hotel actually has steps that lead to the rooms and the elevator, so I have to go back outside and down to the alternate door and enter that way. This entryway is maybe ten feet from the main entrance and has a ramp that is less steep. It leads directly to the rooms/elevator so there is no problem for me to get to any areas of the hotel. I’m not sure what this door is usually used for, but in order to open it Mike has to go inside through the regular entrance, walk down to the alternative entrance and unlock it for me to enter. Not a huge deal – I’ve become accustomed to using freight/luggage entrances at European hotels since they are usually flatter and avoid entryway stairs.

We get to our room, which is on the first floor, and we’re very happy with the accommodations. The room is really clean and spacious, plus there is plenty of room for me to maneuver around comfortably without getting stuck between furniture. It’s decorated very simply with just a king sized bed, wardrobe, and a desk, but it is very nice and has everything we need. The bathroom is a good size and has a rain shower. Something to note is that there is no bathtub and no shower seat. I knew this in advance and had decided to make the sacrifice of having to stand on just my “good leg” in the shower – difficult, but not impossible for only 4 days. This hotel has great reviews and is really conveniently located in Seville, which is why we decided to go with it despite the shower situation. However, due to the shower and the narrow/steep ramp at the entrance I probably wouldn’t recommend this hotel to other wheelchair users. Unless you are relatively mobile or arrange to have some type of shower chair brought in then I don’t know how else you could make this work.

Keeping with the music theme there is a computer monitor on top of the desk for playing classical CDs that are provided in the room. Also, the room keys are attached to cute, brass violin key chains which I love! As promised, we pull the shades and collapse in bed for a much needed nap.

We wake up about 2 hours later completely refreshed. I take a shower because I feel disgusting after being on a plane for so long and Michael takes advantage of the free Wi-fi on his iphone. The water pressure is great and I’m happy – there’s nothing worse than being stuck with crummy water pressure in a hotel. We head out to explore and get our bearings. The streets are so narrow and the sidewalks go back and forth between being too narrow for my chair and being just wide enough to roll on without having to worry about going off the edge. As I walk down a sidewalk that is perfectly wide enough it suddenly begins to narrow – this happens over and over, so I have to keep going in the street. There are curb cutouts on a lot of the street corners, but not all of them and if I have to go in the street while at the mid-way point of the sidewalk then I just drop down the curb. It’s really not too much trouble for me, but I can see it being a real hassle for someone with an electric wheelchair or someone that isn’t able to go up/down curbs. Also, even though there are curb cutouts on many of the corners, they’re often blocked by parked cars or motorcycles, so essentially useless. One thing that strikes me pretty early during the walk is that when a car is coming, they don’t wait. I understand that drivers probably get frustrated with so many pedestrians always in the road, but I literally feel rushed to hurry out of the way – they’re not waiting for people walking and they’re not waiting for me either. They come up quick and pull right up behind me with only inches between us. I rush to a side and Michael gets me up the curb in less than 2 seconds, but it’s never fast enough for them and we get a couple of honks to get out of the way. This is definitely something new to me. Now believe me when I tell you I’m fast. I roll much faster than most people walk and my friends usually have to keep a swift pace to keep up, but I’m used to being given my dear old time to get across a road. This is the first place I’ve EVER been where I’ve felt truly unsafe or uncomfortable walking in the street. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder and getting prepared to rush to get out of the way, looking for small spots where I might be able to fit to allow a car to pass by. I know they aren’t going to actually hit me, but I don’t want to be a pain to every car that comes by either. At first it’s annoying – going up the curb, back down, walk for a minute, go back up to get out of the way, then back down. We eventually get the hang of it and it starts to be second nature - as soon as we hear an engine coming our way Mike grabs me and pushes me up. I’m waiting for just one driver to wave to me as a “thank you for getting out of my way,” but it never happens.

Other than the car/street situation our first impressions of Seville are all positive. I know that it’s literally a small city, but I love that it also feels small. The roads intertwine and go off in all directions, forming a maze that is hard to navigate, but fun to explore. Its mid-afternoon and instead of sweltering in awful heat and humidity, it doesn’t feel bad at all! I think the tall buildings, narrow streets, and covered passages really help a lot with keeping the temperatures down – we feel like we’re walking through cool alleyways and sometimes we even forget that we’re outside. Most of the restaurants and shops look to only have one step to go inside - that will be a cinch and I’m thrilled! I’m always nervous the first time I go to a new country, because no matter how much you read you never really know what to expect. Being in a wheelchair you look at everything differently – you notice every bump, lip, hole, and the slightest of inclines. My eyes naturally go toward doors and automatically look at their widths, then I look at each step and I can instantly tell if it would be doable. I think to myself that Seville will be easier than I expected and I am happy to see that it is so flat.

We walk toward the cathedral, which is only a few minutes from the hotel. We approach it from one of the sides and walk around the perimeter to the front. Right away we’re approached by women offering us sprigs of some sort of greenery. We firmly tell them no and they leave us alone. I watch as they approach others who aren’t as stern with their refusals. The women convince them to take it, pretend to read their palm for half a second and then ask for money. We shake our heads and go inside the cathedral.

The interior is beautiful and huge! I always forget that this is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world and I’m quickly drawn to the ceilings and stained-glass windows. Mike is amazed and reads about the design and structure of the building in our guidebook. It’s really not crowded at all and I notice that almost everyone else in here is Spanish – they all seem to be tourists from other parts of Spain. We walk through the courtyard and sit on a nearby bench. The area is filled with ripened orange trees and children playing around the fountain. We haven’t done very much but already it’s the perfect afternoon.

We leave the cathedral and head to the Jewish Quarter. We’re getting hungry, but it’s way too early for dinner in Spain – I think eating at 10pm or later will take us a day or two to get used to. We begin exploring the tiny streets and I window shop along the way – Flamenco dresses, children stores, and lots and lots of wedding dress shops. Since I’m in the midst of planning our own, I automatically notice all-things wedding wherever I go. I’m surprised to find so many dress shops here in the same vicinity and I take my time to look at all of them. Michael laughs at me and rolls his eyes, but I know he’s enjoying it. We float around for a while and get lost a couple of times. This area is idyllic, with brightly colored flowers spilling from window boxes and gorgeous architecture every where you turn.

We wander our way back to the hotel so Mike can freshen up and I can call home to check in – last we heard hurricane Irene was headed right for us. Everyone is panicking and I’m glad that we missed this one. I unpack for a while so that we can settle in a little bit and we head back out in search of a restaurant for dinner. We wander out of the touristy area and find a place with one table open. We look around and we appear to be the only Americans. We both order the grilled sea bass, water and a bottle of the house wine. We’re each brought a small plate of something that looks like mashed potatoes – not exactly sure what it is, but it’s very good. The fish comes out and it’s delicious – fresh and cooked perfectly with string beans and potatoes. I’m content, but Mike insists we order dessert. I have the fresh fruit and he orders the rice pudding. I’m caught off guard when a giant slice of watermelon is placed in front of me – not what I was expecting, but I love watermelon so this works.

I notice a homeless man on the side of the building and I'm happy to see one of our waiters bring him out a glass of water. We sit and talk about our plans for tomorrow. As we're talking we notice that all the trashcans along the street begin to rise up out of the ground in preparation for being emptied. Its a really interesting system and we've never seen anything like it before. Little did we know that "trash collection" would end up becoming one of the themes of this trip...

After a very long dinner we pay our bill - 50 euro - and head back to the hotel completely satisfied with our first day in Spain.
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Old Sep 19th, 2011, 03:51 PM
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Happycheesehead - here is a link to something that might be helpful to your cousin. Mary Murphy-Hanson is a wheelchair user that has traveled all throughout Rome in her wheelchair many, many times. Her page has a lot of helpful information on it regarding accessibility of the major sights and I found it really helpful.

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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 07:37 AM
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Wonderful. Enjoying your writing
The cool alleyways sound delightful and I'm glad that you were pleasantly surprised with Seville's accessibility.
There's a special place in Hell for someone with the nerve to HONK at a girl in a wheelchair!
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 06:29 PM
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What a fabulous report! You two are such good looking kids. I'm waiting to see how you handled Orvieto. But, again, I think you're the type who can handle anything. Kudos to you.
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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Thank you for the link, Adoc86!
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 07:18 PM
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Adoc86 -

I'm reading your report with much interest and admiration. You are an absolute inspiration and a poignant reminder of how much most of us take for granted. You go girl!
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 09:56 PM
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What an interesting, useful account! I am looking forward to reading the rest of it.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 12:39 AM
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this is a beautiful report.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 08:17 AM
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Wedding congrats, Adoc86, and thanks for a super beginning.

Will go back to re-savor the nice photos. I join the others in their admiration of your "can do" approach. After never a pill, I developed an allergy to aspirin that caused breathing issues. A block of stairs to and from the rail way tracks went from no problem to a deal breaker. Again, you have my respect.

More please!
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 08:48 AM
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Day 2 - Seville

We wake up around 9am, excited to start our first full day in Seville. Although we love breakfast food, neither of us are really breakfast people and we don't usually wake up hungry. The hotel serves breakfast on the roof, but its 15 euros more per person per day and we didn't think it was worth it for us. We brought some granola bars so I throw two in my purse as a morning snack and we head out for the day.

Our first stop is the Real Alcazar, which is in the same area we were in last night when visiting the cathedral. We walk the same route, only seeing a few other people along the way. I don't know if its because its morning (though not really early...) or what, but it feels like we're the only ones in Seville. I'm walking in the street because the sidewalk is too narrow, but up ahead a van is parked in the road unloading restaurant supplies. The driver sees me coming, jumps in the van, and quickly starts to partially pull up onto the sidewalk - making room for me and my chair to squeeze by. I wave and thank him, knowing that we probably would have had to turn around and go down a different street if he hadn't of moved.

We arrive just outside of the Real Alcazar and I'm still pleasantly underwhelmed by the number of tourists. We walk inside to get our tickets where I meet a pretty large step (almost 1 ft high), but Mike pushes me up it with no problem and we reach the desk. I hold my breath for them to tell me that I won't be able to go in due to too many stairs, gravel, etc. but we're told that while some parts won't be accessible, I can visit most of the palace and the gardens. Both of our entrance fees are free, due to the fact that we won't be able to visit the Alcazar in its entirety. This is the policy at many tourist attractions in Europe - free or discounted prices for the disabled and often that same cost is applied to one "wheelchair companion" as well.

We're told to go back down the step and to wait by the gate. Here a security guard unlocks the gate and lets us in - no steps to battle. If you or someone you know in a wheelchair visits the Alcazar, just send someone in to get the tickets and to let them know about your chair - that way you don't have to deal with that 1 foot step, only to have to go right back down it.

The palace is gorgeous - richly colored paints, beautiful mosaic tiles and exposed wooden beams. We walk around taking it all in and snapping tons of pictures. We see maybe a handful of other people here and I'm still shocked by how few tourists seem to be in the city.

We walk through until we reach the royal gardens. We follow the stone paths (I'm ecstatic its not gravel!) around the fountains and perfectly hedged walkways. It looks as though we have the gardens entirely to ourselves, until I see a peacock walk right in front of me. Its a male and is brightly colored with green and blue feathers. He acts as though he doesn't even notice us and continues to go about his business. Its so peaceful here and we just wander around the gardens for the next hour, going through some hedge mazes, reading about some small buildings on the grounds and exploring every path. On our way back to the palace we see a female peacock with 4-5 babies. Like the male, they don't seem to care that we're there and they just walk by us like we're invisible. This brings to mind being back on our college campus, where there were tons of squirrels that had become so accustomed to having people around that they would come right up to you and eat from your hand.

We go through some other areas of the palace and I don't feel like I've missed much because I only see one staircase the entire time. I always insist to Michael that he go and explore those areas that are inaccessible to me - there's no reason that he should miss it too when we've come all this way. But he refuses as always and we head toward the exit.

By now we're starting to get hungry so we eat our granola bars and start to think about where we want to have lunch. The area where we are now is way too touristy - we know the food won't be great and the cost will be high. We decide to go back to the Jewish Quarter, since we liked that area so much yesterday and there were lots of little places to eat. The direction we need to walk causes us to go partially around the cathedral. The women with their herb sprigs approach us again, this time a little bit more aggressively. I forcefully tell them "no" a couple of times and they give me a dirty look. At that moment I see the homeless man from last night again - the one that had been at the restaurant and that had been given some water. He looks very frail and is obviously in need of some help. He isn't asking anyone for money or pestering anyone by getting in their face, he just sits out of the way by himself - overshadowed by the aggressive women around him. Now maybe I'm a chump and I'm getting scammed, but I'll think about it all day if I don't give him something. One of the herb women sees me digging in my purse and walks up to me - its the same woman that bothered me less than 2 minutes ago and I tell her to get away. I go around her and give the elderly man 2 euros - he looks so surprised, smiles and looks at me. His speech is slurred and it looks like half of his face is paralyzed. I wonder if he's had a stroke - it reminds me a lot of my grandfather after he had one. I know that my money is more likely to be spent on alcohol than on food, but if that's his only joy left in life then I don't mind giving it to him. I turn around and 3 of the herb women are staring at me with such disgust, as if "how dare I give him money instead of them?" I smile at them and we walk away.

We walk through the small roads of the Jewish Quarter, really starving at this point. We stop at a place called Bar Europa, which has tapas as well as full dishes. We order two waters and coca-cola light. We decide to split a couple small dishes and decide on the ham croquettas and a quesadilla with apple salad. You will learn quickly that we are not foodies at all. In terms of food I'm much more adventurous than Mike, but don't expect anything crazy, exotic or overly fancy coming our way. I wouldn't necessarily say that he's picky, but he knows what he likes and tries to stick to it. He has a pretty weak stomach and it only takes one bite to ruin his entire meal. He also doesn't drink alcohol (just doesn't like it) so expect lots of coca-cola on his end.

We sit and people watch while waiting for our food. One thing that has really struck me so far in Seville is that no one stares at me. Everywhere else that I've ever been (including everywhere in the states) people always stare. I don't think they mean to be rude, I think they're probably just wondering what happened to me. Most have manners and don't hold it for very long, but you always get a couple whose eyes are instantly glued to you. It never fails, first they look at my face, then automatically down at my legs - trying to figure out whats wrong with them. That hasn't happened here at all and its so strange to me. I would understand if I had seen a lot of wheelchair users around and most people grew up around someone disabled, but I haven't seen any and I wonder what causes people to react so differently here than everywhere else. Its kind of nice to just be treated equally and not have people stare or talk to me in a baby voice as if I certainly won't understand them. I guess this is why I even get honked at in the road - I'm the same as everyone else, just another person getting in their way, haha. We mull over this for a few minutes, then we're distracted by 3 women standing in front of a dress shop next to the restaurant. One of women turns and stands square in front of another, then she grabs the other's breasts and just stands there holding them for at least 30 seconds... Michael and I both have a confused look on our faces and glance at each other wondering whats going on. The woman that was grabbed starts to cry and drops her face into her hands, while the other two just stand there looking at her. We have no idea what is going on here, but they keep looking in the dress shop and pointing to different outfits. Kind of weird, but it made for entertaining people watching

Our croquettas come out and they're delicious. The filling is creamy and the ham isn't too salty. They're served with potatoes, which remind me of potato stix. The quesadilla and apple salad come out and it smells so good. Its basically just warm, fresh cheese drizzled in olive oil, with a sliced apple towered on the side by a green salad. We devour everything and even though we only ordered two small plates we're full. We sit for a little while and decide that after this we'd like to explore the Jewish Quarter a little more. We pay our bill - 18 euros - and we're on our way.

We walk around the Jewish Quarter for a couple of hours - I know we did this for a little while yesterday, but one of my favorite things is to just wander through places like this. Its a nice change from seeing tourist attraction after tourist attraction and I know we won't have a lot of time to do this in Barcelona (we have a lot planned!). Since we saved all of our vacation time for over a year, we wanted this trip to be both exciting and adventurous, as well as relaxing. This is one of the relaxing parts

We head back toward the hotel, but instead of going back to it we keep walking so that we can see what kind of stuff is in the other direction. There are lots of restaurants and we look through some of the little shops. Around 6 we make our way back to the hotel. We haven't been to the roof yet so we take the elevator all the way up. It is accessible and I can see how it would be lovely to have breakfast out here. We go back downstairs and relax for a little while - reading and taking advantage of the WiFi.

For dinner we plan to go to Gallinero de Sandra - a restaurant that a friend of mine who studied in Seville had recommended, which also had great reviews on Tripadvisor. We head out around 8:30 and fight with our map for an hour - a lot of the roads don't have signs, or the signs are on the opposite end of the street than us. We struggle, but find our way. The route takes us through an area that we haven't explored yet, an area that looks like more of a modern city than the sleepy little streets of Seville that we've come to know so far. After a long, hard search we finally find the restaurant tucked away in a more residential-type neighborhood. By now it is almost 10 - perfect timing for dinner. We walk up to the restaurant, hearing saws and loud talking as we approach. Well... it seems that Gallinero de Sandra is being remodeled and is closed in the meantime.

We're frustrated and starving, so we head back in search of something else. There are lots of little tapas bars that look lively and fun, but squeezing in there and eating at a counter would be difficult for me with my chair. When lots of people are standing around, its hard for me to be seen and people usually fall or step all over me. So we walk for a while, desperate for food, until we find a little place that is mostly full but has one outside table left that's perfect for us. We're so hungry that I didn't even bother to stop and look at the name of the place.

We sit down, struggling with the Spanish menu. Our waiter doesn't speak much English so we just manage to figure out enough to order patatas bravas, something involving chicken (haha), prawn croquettas, and grilled vegetables. Again, we look to be the only Americans here - or tourists at all for that matter. I know the end of August isn't high tourist season, but I didn't expect it to be this deserted.

Our food begins to arrive - the patatas bravas are great and covered in delicious ham. The chicken is very good, even though we aren't exactly sure what the sauce is that its smothered in. We're so hungry that we gobble everything up until we can't eat another bite. Its getting late so we pay our bill - 30 euros - and start off toward our old familiar area.

We're walking and Michael suddenly turns to me and says, "lets go on a carriage ride." I'm not opposed to it, I just never really considered doing it and I'm not sure if it would be too hard for me to get in to. We just got engaged a couple of months ago, but we also had our 10th anniversary this past July (yes, we've been dating since we were 15) so we had planned to use this trip to celebrate. I agree to the carriage ride, as long as there's room for my chair of course. The "driver" says it won't be a problem and Mike picks me up and puts me in. We fold my chair and it fits perfectly in the front. We're off and I'm instantly glad that we did it.

The ride lasts an hour and takes us by all of Seville's major sights. I love to see things lit up at night and this was the perfect opportunity to do it. We pull into the Plaza de Espana and the driver gets out to take a picture of us in front of it. We end the ride by the cathedral and take some photos of the driver and the horse. The ride was 45 euros, but we're glad we did it. We walk back to the hotel and go right to bed.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 10:40 AM
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What a lovely, lovely day and evening!
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 11:45 AM
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Thank you so much for this trip report; we're visiting Spain next month, including Sevilla, so this has been wonderful to read. And we're staying at Hotel Amadeus, so it's good to hear you liked it!

And it's also very interesting and informative to see what you think of, and need to think of, as you travel.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 12:26 PM
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I've only read through about half the posts and I can't wait to catch up with the rest later today. I agree with Kristina... I think starting a blog of your adventures is a terrific idea!
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 12:29 PM
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hi adoc,

great start to your TR, and nice t have such a different perspective. I confess that I have occasionally found the requirement that we give an accessibility statement for our holiday cottage a bit of a pain, but never again, I promise!.

we loved Seville when we went last September and were really blown away by the alcazar - there weren't lots of people there then either. strange when you consider how many tourists go to the alhambra.

looking forward to more!
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 07:21 PM
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Day 3 - Seville

We woke up around 9:30 and got ready for the day. Tonight we're going to Casa de la Memoria for a flamenco show at 9pm. I had reserved online, but never received a confirmation so I call to make sure they have our reservation. A lady answers and she speaks English. I tell her I reserved online, but haven't paid yet and that I just want to confirm our reservation. She asks what name it is under and I tell her Alexandra. She doesn't understand me, so I repeat it 3 times. Still no luck, so I just say Alejandra. She responds, "ohhh, Alejandra!" She says they have no reservation for us, but that they can fit us in for the 10:30 show. In the end I'm not really sure if they ever got our online reservation or not since she couldn't understand the name I was saying to check the list. But 10:30 is fine with us so we don't mind.

Our first stop of the day is Casa de Pilatos, a palace which is the permanent residence of the Dukes of Medinaceli. Its another beautiful day with perfect weather and I'm thankful that we're missing all of the rain back home. I mean we just experienced an earthquake last week (that's right, laugh it up west coasters, but its scary when in your mind earthquakes just don't happen where you live, yet your house is swaying!), a hurricane on top of that is too much all at once.

We follow the map and we walk to another new area(for us) of Seville. Along the way we see a woman parallel parking her car in the tiniest spot. Michael looks impressed...until she SLAMS into one of the other cars. He turns to me and says, "well...some things never change." I give him a dirty look, because I know his opinion of women drivers and I don't like it. I ask him, "is that what you think of me when I drive?" He says, "of course not sweetheart, just most of the others..." Yeah, uh huh. We laugh and keep walking.

We find what looks to be Casa de Pilatos, but there is no one around and we're wondering if we're in the wrong place. We peek in and it looks like this is it, but is it open? The guide book has the hours listed and we've arrived well within them... We walk in and enter a gift shop. We're greeted cheerfully and determine that yes, this is definitely the right place and they're open. We get two tickets - mine is free and Mike pays full price - only 6 euros, but both tickets include an audio guide. One entrance to the courtyard is flat and the other has one small step, so we go out the level doorway.

We listen to the audio guide, which is very informative, but very long. The palace's design is based on Pontius Pilate's house and is filled with Roman and Greek architecture and sculptures. It looks so different than what we've seen for the past two days and if we didn't know where we were I wouldn't know if it was Italy or Spain. The center fountain was imported from Genoa and the walls surrounding the courtyard are covered in beautifully intricate tiles. We move from room to room following along with the guide, only seeing one other couple the entire time. Everything is flat and I don't have any problems in the palace.

We go outside to another courtyard, this time filled with gardens. Parts look overgrown, like its been a little neglected, but everything is alive and I think it kind of adds to the peacefulness and tranquility of the area. Here there are a couple of areas that have one step, but they are small and not a problem.

We spend almost 2 hours here before the audio guide ends and we feel like we've seen every room. We turn in the guides and head outside. I sit beneath the shade of an orange tree to look at our map. We want to go to the Flamenco Museum today so that maybe we'll learn a little bit before the show tonight. Right now though we're both on information overload from that long audio guide, so we decide to take a detour to find an ATM and some ice cream.

The same friend that recommended Gallinero de Sandra, also told us about an ice cream place - La Fiorentina Heladeria on Calle Zaragoza. Its a 20 minute walk, but an easy one and I figure that at least we'll be working the ice cream off. We pass 5-6 other ice cream places on the way and I hope La Fiorentina is worth it. We get there - I have a cone of strachitella and Mike gets strawberry. Its good, but I feel like the other places we passed would probably have been just as good.

Time for the Flamenco Museum. We follow the map, or we think we do, but we don't find it. We're standing in the street looking up at the signs and trying to coincide the roads with those on our map. We see another family doing the same thing and I wonder what they're trying to find. We head one direction, the other family goes the other. We walk down several streets, still having no idea where the museum is in relation to us. We stop to consult the map again, there are so many tiny, winding streets that its difficult to find all of them on here. We walk a little further, then see the other family stopped and looking at their map again. At least we aren't the only ones having trouble around here. We walk down the same roads all over again, thinking to ourselves that it has to be around here somewhere.

We've been looking for this museum for almost an hour. We know that its right under our noses, but can't seem to find it. Its driving us crazy and we're getting frustrated. Its fun to get lost when you're wandering, but when you're literally walking in circles it starts to get old. We turn down another street and I see the other family walking toward us from the opposite direction. Guess what the mid-point in between us is? The Flamenco Museum! They're French and we can't understand each other, but we all know what just happened and we laugh about the fact that we've all been trying to find the same place for the past hour.

There is a very steep ramp to go into the museum, but with help its perfectly doable. We get two tickets (14 euros total) and we're told how to get to the elevator. There are three floors and we start with the dance museum level.

We exit the elevator into a dark room. This part of the museum involves videos, interactive guides and flamenco clothing. First we enter a room with lots of touchscreen monitors - here we watch videos on the history, technique and style of the dance. There are at least 4 monitors and each has a ton of information within its subtopics. We have this room to ourselves and spend about 45 minutes watching clips and reading various articles. We move to the next room, which consists of performance videos of famous flamenco dancers. We float around for a while, still alone in the museum (I think the French family only bought tickets for a show tonight and didn't actually visit any of the exhibits).

The last section of this floor is filled with flamenco clothing and is partially interactive - you push a button next to a particular item of clothing and a screen above it turns on with a description of when it would have been worn and what its purpose was. I couldn't find anything that said whether the clothing and props were original or if they were recreations - I had intended to ask when we left, but there weren't any employees around when we were finished. Once we're done we go back through the exhibit to get to the original elevator.

We go up to the top floor, which turns out to be an art exhibit dedicated to the dance. This mainly consists of paintings, but there are also a couple of wooden sculptures as well. It's small, but we enjoy it and take our time. Michael makes me do some "flamenco moves" with my arms while he laughs and snaps some pictures. Oh the things I do to amuse him...

We take the elevator down to the basement, where some tables are set up with place settings. We aren't really sure what this space is normally used for, but along the walls are some more works of art. They are fashion sketches and paintings that were created for the purpose of designing flamenco clothing. There isn't a lot on this floor, and like the others its empty in terms of visitors.

We finish and go back to the ground floor to exit. I would recommend visiting the museum if you have a couple of hours and if you're interested in learning about flamenco. I would especially recommend it if you're going to see a flamenco show - we learned a lot and have a greater appreciation for the art.

Our flamenco show is at an awkward time - 10:30 to 11:30pm. There is no way I can wait until 11:30 to eat dinner, I simply won't survive - I can do 10, or even 11, but 11:30 is too late to just be heading toward a restaurant. We consider having a snack before the show, then dinner afterward but we change our minds and just decide to have a quick meal beforehand. For tonight we'll have to be touristy and eat at 9pm. We go back to the hotel for a little while and I ask Mike to look online and find somewhere for us to go to an early dinner. Its difficult to find anywhere that opens before 9:30, so we settle on Flahertys Irish Pub - which is by the cathedral and opens early.

We head over around 8:45 and we're seated right away. We order a Spanish omelet as an appetizer and I have the salmon with potatoes and broccoli as my meal. Mike orders, of all things, a cheeseburger. The Spanish omelet is delicious and comes out quickly. My salmon is pretty fried - cooked way too long, but it'll do. Mike is perfectly happy with his burger and his choice of restaurant, hah. We pay our bill -30 euros- and don't linger around too long because we still have to pick up our tickets before the show.

We follow our map to Casa de la Memoria. I'm really excited because I've read that this is the best flamenco venue in the city. We get there around 10 and a line has already formed. Michael goes in and picks up our tickets - 13 euros per person, which is the student price if you bring your student ID. The 9pm show is just letting out and people look happy, but really hot - they're all fanning themselves like crazy as they pile out. We're allowed in around 10:20 and we get seats in the front row, off to the side. Its pretty warm, but not unbearable and the paper fans we got with our tickets help a lot. The setting is very intimate, with a small stage in the middle and two rows of seats going around 3 sides of it.

A young guy comes out to do an introduction before the show. He does his spiel in Spanish, English, French and Italian and we're all impressed. As soon as he's finished a guitar player and singer come out and begin the show. They're wonderful and different than I expected. They perform for about 15 minutes, before a female dancer comes out - Manuela Rios. Now to be honest it could have been anyone and we wouldn't have known the difference - like I said, we don't know much about flamenco. She dances to the music of the guitarist and singer and she's wonderful. There's so much passion and power behind each of her moves. She dances for a full 10 minutes, which is amazing but looks exhausting! She leaves the stage and the guitarist performs a solo. When he's finished a male dancer comes out and performs (I'm not sure of his name, I've misplaced the paper from the show...). He is great and we're told that he is one of the best male dancers that performs at Casa de la Memoria.

The show is almost over and now Manuela and the male dancer do a short dance together. Afterward, the singer gets up and does a few moves of her own - she's pretty good, but what's most impressive is that she does it in 4 inch heels! I think the entire audience gasped when she started dancing in those shoes. At the end we're allowed to take photos and we give the performers a standing ovation. We loved the show and would highly recommend it, especially Manuela. If we didn't know the difference between her and any other random dancer in the beginning, we will now and we'll have high standards for other flamenco shows. We will definitely go back next time we're in Seville.

Afterward it feels nice to go out in the cool air - it definitely gets hot in there during a show. We walk back to the hotel and prepare for our last day in Seville.
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 07:35 PM
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Lexma90 - I think you'll really like the hotel. I was worried because I had read that it can get noisy in the morning on the 1st floor by the pantry area. We never heard a thing and we loved the location. We'd definitely stay there again on future visits to Seville.

Annhig - I understand, sometimes its hard to see things from another perspective when you never really have a reason to. I'm glad that my report changed how you feel about it

LowCountryIslander - thanks for the support and encouragement. I am definitely considering doing it one day soon!

Thanks to everyone else for continuing to follow along!
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Old Sep 21st, 2011, 08:16 PM
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Adoc, you are AMAZING!!!! Great thread title ! Am enjoying "Spain" and eagerly awaiting stories of italy. Thank you.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:46 AM
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Day 4 - Our last day in Seville

We're up and out the door by 10am today. First up on our agenda is the Torre de Oro. The walk to the tower brings us out and into the open, rather than still being lost among the narrow streets and this is the first time we feel the heat of Spain. Its probably about the same temperature it was back at home before we left and it seems less humid than Maryland, so its not terrible but we definitely feel it.

The walk isn't too far and we arrive at the tower quickly. There are steps to go inside (about 5-7), so we walk down the street a little bit to a ramp that leads to the base of the tower - maybe there is an alternate, accessible entrance. We go down the ramp and we're walking back toward the tower when we come to a bunch of stairs. They'd be doable, because each individual step is set wide apart from the next, so essentially it would be like going down one step over and over. Before we go through all that though Michael goes down to check things out and see if there is in fact another entrance. He comes back up and it turns out that there is no other way in, so we just look at it from the outside and read about it in the guidebook before moving on.

Our next stop is Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza - the bullring. Months ago when I had read that no bullfights would be going on during the time we would be in Seville I wasn't disappointed at all - I certainly never want to see one. But we're in Spain, so we definitely wanted to at least visit one. Its on the same road as the tower and not too far down. We walk inside the gates and around to the gift shop where tickets are sold. There is one large step to go in, but Mike pushes me up it easily. We go to the counter and we're told that you can only visit the ring by guided tour and that the next English one begins in 20 minutes. We get two tickets - mine is free and Mike's is 15 euros, then browse around the shop.

There are posters on the wall, each with a different design and made to announce the fighting schedule for each year. There are a couple that I really like and we decide to get one to remind us of our time in Seville. We choose one with a bull and a mosaic-type background, it will look great framed and hanging in our office at home. There aren't any tubes so we'll just have to be careful carrying it for the rest of the trip. I think of a poster I bought years ago at the Saatchi Gallery in London and how it was such a pain to carry around for a month, but I quickly push that out of my mind and buy it anyway

We go into the hallway where the other members of our tour are waiting. A few minutes later our guide comes and introduces herself. She says that on the 30 minute tour we'll visit the ring, museum, chapel and stables. We follow her to the first stop - the bull ring. We walk outside to the ring and everyone else goes up the stairs to sit in the stands. Since we can't go up, the guide opens the gate for Michael and I so that we're sitting directly in the ring and get a great view. The tour is first given in Spanish, then repeated in English.

Its fascinating and I'm instantly glad that we came here. The guide shares SO many interesting facts and we learn so much in a matter of minutes. After we leave the ring we head to the museum, which is just down the hall. The route of the tour is completely accessible and I don't have to take any alternative entrances. We enter the museum, which mainly displays paintings and matador clothing. The guide describes the process of a fight and some of the artwork in the exhibit. We look around for about 10 minutes before we're ushered out to see the chapel where the matadors pray before a fight. This only takes a few minutes and then we're taken to see the stables where horses are normally kept.

Overall I loved the tour and Mike said that it was one of his favorite sights in Seville. I have a whole list of interesting facts written down in my journal from the visit and I'm honestly surprised I liked it so much - I'm an animal lover, what can I say?

At the end of the tour everyone else exits through a door that has a couple of steps. Our guide tells us that for me the easiest way is to walk down the corridor and to go out the red door. She is such a pleasant lady and we thank her for a wonderful tour. She leaves us to go start the next one and we head down the hall. It only takes us a second to see that we're staring down a long corridor entirely lined with all red doors! How could she have forgotten that little detail? We walk down, trying some of the doors and looking for one that looks like an exit. We walk all the way down and still aren't sure which door we're supposed to go out. We laugh and walk up the hall again, hoping to see the exit that we missed the first time. No luck. I hear talking and follow it to find our guide again. She looks surprised to see me and I laugh and say, "umm, all of the doors are red..." She starts laughing and apologizes, steering us the right way.

Outside we feel the heat of the sun right away. I'd like to visit the Hospital de la Caridad for its church that features baroque sculptures and paintings, but its hot and we're hungry and honestly I don't think Mike cares much about seeing it.

We walk back toward our neighborhood and I notice that we're en route to pass La Magdalena, another church that I'd like to see. We stop, but of course the church is closed right now and we can't wait 2 hours. Oh well, it just gives us a reason to come back to Seville

The same friend that suggested the other restaurants to us also told us about another of her favorites - La Habitana. Its a little cuban restaurant that she raved about for weeks after she came home. Its Sunday, but she had promised that it was open for lunch on Sundays. We wander forever looking for this place. Its on a dead end, but its located within a really congested area and we walk in circles for a while looking. We're about to give up when we see a brightly colored sign and I'm relieved to see that it says La Habitana. We turn the corner and.... its closed! Ok, now I'm going to have to have a talk with this friend of mine that's been sending us all over the city only to end up at places that are closed...

Irritated and starving we plop ourselves down at a random little place a few steps away. The waiter doesn't speak any English and the menu is difficult for us to figure out. We manage to order 2 waters, a medium ration of Spanish omelets, patatas aioli, and some grilled white fish. We're seated among all locals and we watch a little girl feeding the pigeons. After throwing pieces of bread to them, she walks out to the middle and picks up one of the pieces and eats it herself. Everyone at the restaurant sees it and either gasps or laughs. The baby's mother grabs her and looks embarrassed. We smile, happy about the distraction from our growling stomachs. Our patatas aioli comes out and is basically just potato salad. Its good though and we're happy to be eating.

The fish and omelets come out and everything is perfect. We take our time, savoring our last afternoon in Seville. Leaving will be bitter sweet - we'll certainly miss it, but we're excited for Barcelona. We've been sitting here for two hours and we decide to go back to the hotel to do some packing. We have an early flight in the morning and we know we won't feel like doing it later tonight. We pay our bill -18 euros and go on our way.

I pack everything up and we relax for a little while. Mike has the entire series of "The Office" on his iPod and we've been watching a couple of episodes every night before bed. We watch one and then decide to go back out for a walk. We go our usual route toward the cathedral, where we sit and people watch for a while. We take our last stroll down the little streets around this area, visiting a bunch of shops in search of anything that catches our eye to bring back for family or friends.

Of course my two best girl friends requested us to bring them back either Spanish or Italian men, so I'm always on the look out. Whenever Michael or I see someone that is a possibility we turn to each other and say, "what about him for Sarah?" and the other will respond with something like, "no, I was thinking more for Alyssa." I'm hoping to clandestinely snap a photo of a good looking guy for each of them, but I'm not sure if when the time comes I'll actually risk making a fool of myself and looking like a creeper or not. Either way I'm amused that Mike plays along with this game and its funny to see what kind of guys he picks out for our friends.

Its only 8pm, but we're kind of hungry and we have to be at the airport pretty early in the morning. We walk around and decide to see what we can find in terms of an early dinner. We find a small restaurant called Duplex that looks open and we go in and sit down. There is one other couple here - they're Spanish, but they have a Sevilla guidebook and look to be visiting from another part of Spain. We're greeted by the bar tender, who seems to also be the waiter to all of the tables. We order some water and I have a glass of house wine.

The menu is in both Spanish and English and we order tapas of bacon and cheese quiche and provolone queso. I order a plate of grilled chicken with salad and fries and Michael has the grilled pork with eggs and fries.

Another Spanish family comes in and sits down in the meantime and we watch as everyone sings along to Guns n' Roses, Papa Roach, Bon Jovi and Queen songs that are played in the restaurant. They're all really into it and its funny to hear all the accents singing along. The queso and quiche come out and they're both very good. We eat and talk about the things we wished we would have seen, but that we'll have to do next time. Our main dishes come out and they're delicious. The chicken and pork have been pounded out very thin and the fries are made from freshly sliced potatoes. By the end our tummies are full and we pay our bill of 31 euros.

We sit for a while before Mike suggests that we get some ice cream. We head toward Plaza del Salvador, where a little ice cream place is open even though the rest of the square looks deserted on this Sunday night. I have a cup of yogurt with fruit and Michael has some type of chocolate/vanilla mix. We sit in the plaza and get our last glimpse of Seville. Afterward we head back to the hotel and I go in to the reception desk to ask them to arrange a taxi for us. Our flight is at 8am tomorrow morning so we arrange to be picked up at 6.
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