Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21st: A scripted walk

I was very sorry to hear that Google had decided to stop publishing the Frommer’s Guides. I suppose they bought the brand thinking that they would do some cute, high-tech thing with it, selling e-books for Android tablets instead of actual books. And maybe Frommer’s has been in a financial pit every since the death of paper books was announced, some years back. But for me, I think we’re a case of the “cost of everything and the value of nothing,” because if there is one thing I like, it’s my Frommer’s Guide. Particularly their “Day by Day” series, and in double particular, the Neighborhood Walks they feature.

We first used one of these cool little books on our trip to Valenica, following the map and itinerary for the old neighborhood we stayed in. The offer so many cool encounters, places where lovers through themselves off roofs, little pieces of the ancient Roman stonework included in the walls of a pizzeria, fun little stuff like that. I find that they give you a much more intimate relationship with wherever you find yourself. On this day, we decided to follow the route through the Barrio Santa Cruz, the oldest part of Sevilla.

First we took a long stroll along a nice section of the city walls. Built by the Moors, the walls failed to keep the Christians out and the city fell in 1248. One of the best things about the Muralles that I’ve found is that they provide wonderful shade on a hot day.

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Next was the Plaza Alianza and the restaurant we accidentally ended up eating later in the day. A plaque placed by the Sevilla Opera Society informed us that this was the site of the opening scene of Cervantes 1605 play, Don Juan. A quiet fountain in the center and orange trees quietly shedding last year’s leaves in the gentle morning breeze.

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Twisting and turning our way through the narrow lanes, we found ourselves on the tiny Calle Susona, who according to local lore was a beautiful Jewish girl who fell in love with a Chrisitian. She betrayed her father (who was plotting against the Inquisition) and she and her family were executed. She asked that her skull be buried in the street as a reminder of her treachery and a tile in the wall on the small square commemorates her request.

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We exited the square onto Callejon de Agua, a lane that ran parallel to the old aqueduct that provided water to the Barrio. A plaque here commemorates the home of one of our great authors, Washington Irving, who lived here in 1831. In a couple of places where new streets cut through the old walls, you can see the original 10th century clay pipes that distributed water to common use spigots at the end of the streets.

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A beautiful home on Plaza Alfaro features a balcony what was used in a scene between two lovers in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, and across the street are are the Jardines de Murillo, formerly the vegetable plots for the Alcazar. Named for Seville’s most famous painter, Bartolome Esteban de Murillo, they are absolutely lovely and a great place to get out of the sun. In a small side plaza, you will find a statue of another famous Sevilliano, Don Juan.

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A little more wandering and we found Murrilo’s house and the Plaza Santa Cruz where he was buried. The church is gone, but there is a small iron cross and cage in the center of the square, which interestingly had a can of cat food and a small saucer of water in it. Murillo’s door had some very old graffiti carved into it, dating to 1768.

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A few more twists and turns and it was time for lunch at Bar Las Teresas, a taparia that has been serving here since 1870. We rolled the dice and had lomo con tomate and papas alinata, the former tender chunks of pork shoulder stewed in tomato sauce (ala my mother’s spaghetti sauce with spare ribs recipe) and the latter chunks of potato served in chilled olive oil and dusted with fresh tuna. Both were outstanding and helped us for the next phase of the day, the long walk to Estacion Santa Justa to purchase tickets for our planned trip to Cordoba.

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It was an interesting walk, about mile and outside the tourist district through what were probably regular working class neighborhoods. Trash on the street, weedy lots and nothing much to look at, much like Shanghai. However, in one intersection, something caught my eye. Two sections of arched ruins that look like an aqueduct. We took pictures and later researched it, and sure enough these were two of the three pieces of the original aqueduct that ran from the hill town of Carmona to Roman Sevilla.

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As always buying train tickets is a mini-adventure, you take a number and you wait for what seems like forever. As we got to the window, the credit card machine became unavailable but no worry, because I had cash. Purchase completed we made our way home and on the way stopped to buy water at a medium sized bodega that for some reason had a big stand full of plastic oil cloth in very cool patterns by the front entrance. Like very other one in Sevilla, this one was run by a Chinese man and he lit up when I told him that I was a Dongbei Ren, a Chinese from Dalian. He got very excited as he too was from Dalian’s province. It’s been an entertaining trip for me in this regard, because every time I see a Chinese shopkeeper, I speak to them in Hanyu which result in confused mishmash of Spanish (in which they are invariably fluent,) Hanyu and sometimes a bit of English. I bought water from this guy, oranges from the store at the end of our street and bread from a fellow today, each time conducting the transaction in their native tongue.


After a rest we went out again for dinner, trying two of the restaurants recommended by our landlord, Juana, but both were not yet open due to the early hour of 8:45. As mentioned earlier, we ended up at La Hosteria del Laurel. I had cuchinillo, baby roast pig and My Lovely Wife had the traditional Sevilla roast fish platter. We split a bottle of Andaluz vino tinto and I had a nice chocolate gateaux for desert. We took the long way home, stopping in a bakery so I could stuff my face with some fresh cookies and then we went down to the river for the final mile’s walk along the paseo.



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