MaiTaiTom's "Insane For Spain" - 2015

Old Sep 1st, 2015, 08:17 PM
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Tom, thanks for your thoughtful answer to my difficult question. I never thought that Spain would be in my top 3 of places to see next, but NOW it definitely IS! Your report and photos are an inspiration. Thanks!! PS: I liked Colmar and Aix-en-Provence (LOL) but would probably not go back to either one now that I've experienced them. I also prefer smaller towns. In Ireland (just returned), Kilkenny would be one place I have no desire to return to, owing to bad traffic!

Remember, I'm the one who followed your recommendation to stay at Bramley House and eat at the 8 Bells in the Cotswolds (2014). Both were charming & good value.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2015, 11:40 AM
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Bookmarking, so I can continue enjoying your trip. Great trip report!
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Old Sep 2nd, 2015, 12:06 PM
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In my Aix notes, I wrote that had I only seen the Cours Mirabeau, I would have been disappointed. Our hotel was wonderful and we were just north of the big square that was a market in the a.m. and an outdoor café at night. Place Richelme. Our hotel had a spring-fed warm pool, spa, outside dining and easy walk to bus stop.

I wonder how we'd all feel about the so-so places upon a second visit? And vice versa.

It will be fun to read the Madrid portion of this trip and future ones, Tom.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2015, 12:09 PM
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Working on our next day in Sevilla. Lots of great photos to choose from between the four of us (Kim has some incredible Alcazar photos)...I'm ready to go back!

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Old Sep 2nd, 2015, 01:35 PM
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Your photos have been great, looking forward to the Alcazar.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2015, 01:37 PM
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"I'm ready to go back!" Always a good sign. Looking forward to more stories & images.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2015, 03:26 PM
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Happy to read your next installments.......will keep checking daily!
we still have till mid october before we follow in your footsteps and have entire TR in hand
All 4 of you should do travel books: your puns , old time TV and music references always make me laugh!
thanks to you, we found what look to be amazing apartments in Seville and Madrid.
And, as you know, we are staying in specific room you did in Granada
can't wait!
mas por favor, senor! (my ipad won't let me put correct Spanish tildes/accents in)
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Old Sep 2nd, 2015, 07:16 PM
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I continue to follow in my usual quiet manner
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Old Sep 3rd, 2015, 09:21 AM
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Hi maitai, I am catching up on your report and very much enjoying it. Thanks!
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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<B>Day Eleven - The Oldest European Residence Still In Use, Awed At Every Turn, Let’s Take A Bath, Give That Man A Hand, Retirement Home For Priests, That Sounds Like In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida To Me, Torre But No Joe, The Other Side, Molto Bene, Meet Me In The Plaza, Hey Buddy Don’t Throw That Chair At Me, Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Pepper Too And The Giant Mushroom</B>

Grabbing some quick pastries, we headed on what we knew would be a very hot day to one of the more incredible places I have ever visited, the Alcázar. We passed by the Cathedral and arrived early. Technically, the Alcázar is the oldest European royal residence still in use, and although it didn’t open until 9:30, a good-sized line had already formed by 9:15.

We entered through the Puerta del León (Lion's Gate) into the Patio del León (Lion Patio). Since I had used up my lion puns at the Alhambra, the group was spared and they all roared approval.

After walking through the Patio de la Montería (Courtyard of the Hunt) we stopped in the Salón del Almirante (Admiral’s Hall), which houses some paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. This room has a lot of history...Columbus, Magellan and Amerigo Vespucci all hung out in this area at one time or another, which is why we wanted to explore it further.

One of the more famous paintings here is La Virgen de los Mareantes (The Virgin of the Navigators) by Alejo Fernandez (below). It was painted in the 1530s. In it, Mary is protecting her “faithful,” and no painting before it had the discovery of the Americas as its focal point.

Mary (the Virgin, not Kim’s wife...she had twins) is surrounded by St. Sebastion, St. James The Great, St. John The Evangelist and St. Elmo, who later became a Muppet and a hit 80s song by John Parr.

We walked back outside...

...and we were off to Pedro's Mudejar Palace to look for damsels in distress. It was actually the Patio de las Doncellas (Court of the Damsels).

This palace, also known as the Palacio del Rey Don Pedro, was built by Pedro I of Castile in 1364. Patio de las Doncellas was named this because of the annual Moorish tradition of demanding a hundred virgins (no Kardashians in that group) from their Christian kingdoms .

There is also a reflective pool. However, we had no time to reflect.

Our next stop, I believe (we did not eat a lot for breakfast, which always makes my memory fuzzy), was the Dormitorio De Los Reyes Moros (Moorish Kings bedroom).

No matter what room it was, it was beautiful.

Of course, just about everything at the Alcazar is beautiful. Kim and I were already putting it ahead of the Alhambra.

But the hits just kept on coming.

The Salon De Embajadores (Ambassador’s Hall) defies description.

Fortunately Kim got a couple of shots, so I don’t have to say anything. The Salon De Embajadores is the palace’ most important room and it still has the original wooden doors from when it was built.

We entered the Patio de las Muñecas (Courtyard of the Dolls), although the original name of Valley of The Dolls would have worked. Located in the palace’s private quarters, the plasterwork was transported here from the Alhambra in the 19th century. The mezzanine and top gallery were added for Queen Isabel II. It’s got a cool looking skylight, too.

By the way, rumor has it that Pedro had his half brother, Don Fadrique, murdered here in 1358 and Pedro also knocked off a guest staying here, Abu Said of Granada, to steal his jewels...including a very large ruby that is now among England's crown jewels. This was one dangerous B&B for the guests.

<B>Alcazar Intermission (Cue music and pour another glass of Sangria):</B>

Coming to the halls and ceilings of Charles V, the colorful tile artwork caught our eye.

Capilla de Palacio Gótico (The Chapel of the Gothic Palace) came next...

...and we thought that was something until, after venturing through the Banquet Hall, we stepped into the Hall Of Tapestries. Carol King would have been “wowed.”

Simply stunning!

Now it was time for fresh air and a feast for the eyes at the Mercury Pool and in Los Jardines del Alcázar.

Even after all of our walking, it was impossible not to feel relaxed in this serene area (especially since we were still ahead of the hordes of tourists).

Los Jardines del Alcázar are the largest late-medieval gardens in Europe.

Pick a tree...palm, cypress, myrtle, mulberry, magnolia, orange, lemon and more...’ll find it here.

We kept thinking there couldn’t be anything more to top what we had already seen, but then I thought I heard Tracy say, “Let’s take a bath.” as she walked towards Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla (Baths of Donna Maria de Padilla).

These “baths” are actually rainwater tanks beneath the Patio del Crucero and are ripe for outstanding photos.

By the way, they are named after the mistress of Pedro (aka Peter The Cruel).

We walked the parapet for more terrific views...

...and then wandered through the gardens for another 15 minutes... can get lost in there.

Either I’ve gotten taller or people were really short when this door was built.

After more than two hours of excellence in architecture and flora, we headed out.

As we strolled down one of the streets, Kim was able to take a picture of Thing from the Addams Family. I tried to offer a helping hand, but I believe he gave me the finger.

We paid a visit to an underground restaurant that had been recommended by Gary at Spain Select. It looked great, so we booked a table for the following evening.

While I was shooting some photos, Tracy ducked into a store and before you could say “Sevilla Shopping Spree,” she had plunked down 150 euros on a few blouses. When she told me I nearly fainted and said, “I need to go to a hospital.” And luckily that’s where we were headed.

Once a retirement home for priests, Hospital de los Venerables (Pl. de los Venerables 8, Barrio de Santa Cruz) is both a residence and a church, and it costs €5.50 to visit.

There is a very lovely courtyard where we entered, but the church was something else to behold. The altar had been described as “breathtaking,” and we could see why.

There are also numerous frescoes and sculptures inside.
This was another complete surprise.

The church has a huge organ (stop it), and as we stood inside a priest began playing. You might call me crazy (and you wouldn’t be alone), but the priest burst into a song that brought back some La Sagrada Familia memories. “Wow, that’s almost In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” I said.

I got out my iPhone and recorded part of it (Shameless Plug Alert: I’m going to post it to YouTube and put it on my website if I can figure out how...or at least have it in an email to my loyal subscribers...remember it’s free to subscribe).

Hospital de los Venerables also houses a permanent collection of Valasquez paintings. I really liked a Francisco Pacheco painting of Saint Catherine that I can’t find online (no photos were allowed in the gallery...I hate that!).

Next we started walking toward the river past some interesting buildings and fountains. We had thought about heading across the river to go to Triana for lunch, but up ahead loomed another historical site I wanted to visit.

The Torre Del Oro has stood for nearly 9 centuries (coincidentally about the same amount of time since our last meal), serving at various times as administrative offices and a warehouse. While Mary and Tracy stayed behind to say bad things about their evil taskmaster, Kim and I paid our €3 and walked up the 96 steps as Mary and Tracy cried 96 tears.

Inside Torre Del Oro (named that for its “unusual yellow-tinged plaster made of mortar, lime, and straw”) is the Museo Maritimo that contains naval artifacts. The views from up top were ok, but we didn’t linger since Kim and I knew divorce was in the air. It only got worse.

As temperatures neared 100 degrees, we walked to the other side of the river (which on this day suddenly seemed like the world’s widest river), and then strolled along its bank. The restaurants over here were not talking to us until we nearly arrived at the next bridge (which I believe Tracy dubbed A Bridge Too Far). We sat down, ordered a beer, and when we looked at the menu it had nothing but tapas, something none of us ever wanted to see again.

We downed our beers (quickly) and headed back to our side of the river in desperate need of real food. I could tell the natives were restless, but right before they erupted, just like a river of molten lava, there ahead of us we saw Il Vesuvio Ristorante Italiano. “Molto bene,” I exclaimed.

That’s because it was nearly 3 p.m. and according to our Fitbits, we had walked a little more than seven miles with only a stale pastry as our sustenance for the day. For those who have said they want to travel with us, I believe this fact alone will probably dissuade you from those thoughts.

Lunch was terrific (€65). I believe there was gtumbling from the crew on how long it had taken to find a restaurant and that I was somehow to blame for the Sevilla Death March (ok maybe I was, but we have one of these on every vacation), however my two Negroni cocktails eased the pain as did my fantastico gorgonzola ravioli.

Although Kim’s hair was slightly askew, it was good to see smiling faces again.  Other good dishes: Pesto (walnut and pine nuts) pasta, eggplant zucchini and a chef’s special of pasta with shrimp and veggies. The complimentary limoncello at the end pf the meal sealed the deal. Il Vesuvio saved the day and suddenly I wasn’t such an ash.

After all this walking, I quickly took a look inside Iglesia de San Ildefonso (which was built between 17964 and 1841), and we headed back to the apartment for a well-deserved siesta. Little did we know, but Sevilla Death March II was only a couple of hours away.

That evening, our little excursion started innocently enough...we were headed to Plaza de España located in the Parque de María Luisa. What we didn’t know was that it was a lot further from our apartment than we had first thought, and even in the late afternoon/early evening, Sevilla was still boiling hot. Instead of Sweating With The Oldies, we were just oldies sweating.

Walking through the park, eventually the Plaza de España lay ahead.

It was built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929. Movies such as Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia have been filmed here, and the plaza reopened in 2010 after a €14 million makeover.

People either seem to love or hate this place, and it’s a little reminiscent of a Vegas hotel.

Looking at the canals, for a brief moment I thought I was at the Venetian.

You can even rent boats to row in what is known as “The Venice of Seville,” which I believe was Rossini’s working title of his opera before he received a haircut and decided on something else.

But I really liked the semi-circular brick building, with a fountain in front and lots of beautifully colored ceramic pieces decorating different portions of the plaza.

The fountain even had a rainbow when we visited.

The four bridges and grand staircases lend themselves perfectly for picture taking...

...and by the time we had shot lots of photos all of had forgotten how tired our feet were feeling...

...until we had to walk to find a place for dinner.

We took a different route back toward our neighborhood.

Up ahead there was a large group of people gathered at a neighborhood watering hole. Just as I walked by, the crowd started screaming and a chair went whizzing by me.

Fortunately we weren’t in the middle of a bar fight, but rather a goal had just been scored in the soccer match they were watching. Luckily, it was Sevilla that scored or I might have had a table embedded in my skull.

By now we were fairly pooped, so instead of endlessly searching for a spot to dine, we returned to Casa Antonio-Bar Los Caracoles, where we had lunched the previous day.

Although the house special (three pieces of monk fish and shrimp with veggies and lemon potatoes) on a skewer looked tempting, we again started with those incredible tasting fried green pepper rings (and we aren’t even green pepper fans). My beef filet and fries hit the spot.

By now darkness had fallen (so it must have been after 10). Most groups would have called it a long day, but not this energetic lot (well, not real energetic).  I decided we should go see a giant mushroom (a good place for a fun guy like me). When I heard some backtalk, I said, “I’m not taking any more shiitake from any of you guys…we’re going.”

Located in the Plaza Encarnacion, the Metropol Parasol, which is called Las Setas (the mushrooms) by locals, looks like a giant waffle (sans syrup).

The criss-crossed wooden beam structure, which is supposedly the world's largest timber-framed structure (I’ll take their word for it), took six years to construct and was finally completed in 2011.

We actually thought it was pretty neat, especially as fireworks started going off celebrating Sevilla’s soccer victory. You can climb up the Parasol for city views, but we had something else on our mind to end the evening.

Back we walked to Helados Reyes, and I had a “wow” lemon creme ice cream with lemon cake.

Back at the apartment, Tracy looked at my Fitbit.  We had walked more than 15 miles. Fearing mutiny, I would not wake up the troops early the following day.  We’d take it slightly easier tomorrow, but there was still lots to see in sensational Sevilla, so there would be little rest for the weary.

<B>Next: Day Twelve: Don’t Pan Pan, Pilatos Not Pilates, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, One More Church, Bellas Fellas, Losing My Head, We Finally Get To Try This Restaurant, I Will Not Be Doing The Macarena, Archeological Dining And Where’s Tom Cruise And Madonna</B>
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 04:13 PM
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My computer is possessed today...For Chapter below link and go to Chapter Eleven.


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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 04:32 PM
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Happy to read this new installment just before Labor Day weekend!!
I LOL'd multiple time, as usual, to your puns and Opera references....
when we get to Seville (decided on 4 nights, thanks to you!!), we'll be singing new songs along the way!!
BTW: your post was fine on Fodors.... happened to click on it about a minute after you posted it.
I will keep checking daily for my "maitai" fix...
it will be vino until then...
thanks SO much for continuting to post as often as you have!
truly hilarious and tremendous Trip advice help!
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 04:33 PM
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The photos of the rainwater baths at the Alcazar are absolutely stunning! I can't wait to get some pics in November.
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 04:52 PM
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I love the most recent chapter! Beautiful, colorful photos! The architecture – especially the interiors -- is exquisite.

You're such a great-looking group. I especially like your wife's and your color coordinated day-touring outfits.

Loved also the reference to Thing -- ha ha --loved the Addams family.
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 05:01 PM
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Tom, I'm impressed by your excellent translations or is it Google?
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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 05:08 PM
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"You're such a great-looking group. I especially like your wife's and your color coordinated day-touring outfits."

Frightening...certainly not planned...but funny.

"Tom, I'm impressed by your excellent translations or is it Google?"

We take photos of the signs...if not...I look it up. I am foreign linguistically challenged.

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Old Sep 4th, 2015, 08:06 PM
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Tom, I am so enjoying your wonderful trip report. And busily gathering info for our spring trip!! I didn't see it noted that you had purchased the Alcazar tickets ahead online. Did you just walk up and purchase at the gate? I did take notice that you arrived just before its opening time. The Alcazar pictures are stunning and obviously a MUST SEE for Sevilla!! The "hospital" looks magnificent, as well. You are really inspiring us for our trip. We, too, had rather ignored Spain until "later" (and visited many other places in Europe first)and I am so glad we now have it in the works!!!!
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Old Sep 5th, 2015, 01:57 AM
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Yes, totally loving your writing and fabulous photos.
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Old Sep 5th, 2015, 03:40 AM
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Grabbing some quick pastries,>>

I read that as "pasties" [of the cornish variety] and was confused for a while, especially when you said that you were hungry, until I went back and read it again.

Lovely pics of the Alcazar which we loved too; though for me, nothing comes close to the Alhambra, I was pleasantly surprised about how lovely both the buildings and gardens are, and, at least when we were there, how there were comparatively few people!
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Old Sep 5th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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Another stellar piece of writing with enchanting pictures! thanks!
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