Friday, April 10, 2015

Rain, Dancing and History

Man, it poured yesterday. Like a genuine tropical downpour. We went out late morning to consider a trip to the local hill town of Carmona, stopping first for coffee and the amazingly open Los Milagritos, our once favorite coffee shop. The waiter was busy running around opening the café umbrellas for reasons unclear to me until I started to feel the occasional misty rain drop. But still the sky was not all that threatening. Since I’d forgotten to bring the bus schedule we made a forced landing at Starbucks for their WiFi and I ended up saying a lot of bad words because they’d suddenly started requiring a registration to use it. Unlike 2 days ago. That solved, I looked up the bus times and the decision was “no” as it would have been an hour out and an hour back for maybe 2 hours there, constrained as we were by having Flamenco tickets for this evenings performance. So we made a half-hearted attempt at walking across the bridge to Triana before deciding to just go back home and eat lunch.
It started sprinkling in the early afternoon but we felt we could brave it enough to visit some of the local curio shops. Walking first down to Constitución to my favorite ATM, we stopped and read the menu at Iguanas-Ranas, Sevilla’s premier Mexican restaurant. It was quite enlightening - all the same tapas as every other local place with an enchilada and burrito thrown in for color. While there was never a chance that we’d go there, it was fun to see what counted as Mexican on this side of the Atlantic.
By the time I’d withdrawn my money, it was starting to rain in earnest.  Enough so that we stood under the eave of the banks roof to wait it out for a few seconds. When it let up a tiny bit we headed back towards the stores we’d planned on visiting, only to get caught in the next squall. There are two things you learn about rain in Sevilla – one, it makes it impossible to safely walk on the cobblestones and two, if you think you have it bad, consider what it’s like for all the carriage horses whose feet are shod with steel shoes. It was very hard to watch the poor guys taking mincing steps down every incline only to almost lose their footing at the bottom. Thankfully most of them were parked to wait it out.
There was only one umbrella between us and it was not adequate to keep my outer arm from getting soaked through. “Water repellent” is just what it says it is, and it stops repelling pretty darn soon when faced with a deluge. My shoes were failing me also, soaking through on the tops which was quite a surprise since I had slathered them with water-proofing before leaving last week. We made it to one shop before it really started raining but when we left there, we simply beat a hasty retreat for home. Water in shoes and water in jackets takes all the steam out of shopping as far as I’m concerned.
After a few hours of drying it was time to head off to our favorite Flamenco show at Casa de la Guitarra, just around the corner from our apartment. This would be our 3rd visit, and we keep coming back because the music and dancing are so very good. Simple, straightforward and great to watch. There are a lot of places in town that offer their version, but from what I’ve gathered they’re far less intimate (this place has maybe 40 seats) and far more expensive (usually involving food and drinks) and more a spectacle than a show. For our $18 euros we get a guitarist, singer and dancer doing a total of 5 or 6 pieces. About an hour, maybe more, but really hard to beat. This year we had the same guitarist as the first time we went and different singer and dancer. There are some 40 styles of Flamenco and most of what we heard on this night was in the style of Cádiz, a nice little connection to our trip of the previous day. Their Flamenco tends towards the happier, lighter side and not like some of the gloomy-emotional pieces we’ve seen in the past.
The host gave us the house rules – photography, yes, video and flash-photography, no, and interestingly had to specifically mention the use of tablets. In his words, if you spend the entire show taking photos with tablets, the people behind you will not see anything. Good point I thought.
The guitarist, Javier Gómez, began with a solo piece in the Aranhuez style. He was joined for the next number by the singer, Pepe León, one of 5 generations of cantadores, singers of Flamenco. No singing in this number - he clapped and stamped his feet to a pretty fast Cádiz piece. They were then joined on the stage by Rocio Sánchez, tonight’s dancer. Resplendent in red, she was very fast and powerful and quite a bit less outwardly emotional than we’ve seen in past. Often you can feel the grief that is being portrayed, broken hearts and wasted lives. Tonight dance seem to be more about spirit and happiness. Two more pieces for guitar and voice and then a second dance and then it was over.











After some debate about where to settle for food we went back to La Tradicional for a plate of fried cod and a big bowl of chopped tomatoes feeling that it made perfect sense to cap a cultural evening with food of the region.
This morning’s weather was far more applicable to yesterday’s plans so we packed up and headed out, deciding to stop first at the “other” Starbucks, not the one we normally go to and not the one we used to go to, but rather the one in the middle. There were not too many people in the street, it still being too early for the travel groups to have risen and planned their day. We thought perhaps we might re-visit the cathedral today, having skipped it last year, so we spun by to see what time it opened. 11AM meant we had an hour for coffee so off we went.
I ordered my normal Americano and MLW ordered a Dirty Chai. That request was met with a “sorry, no” so I explained in Spanish what it is, although lacking to word for “shot” I used that word to convey the request. The lights came on and suddenly “sorry, no” became “que tamano” or “what size?” When we got our drinks I asked for the correct word for a shot,and the barista answered, “recarga.” Another new word for me.
It was getting busier outside although now with locals heading to work or running errands. Tourists were popping up here and there and when we’d finished our drinks and walked back to the church, the line was now all the way down one side of the building. So we went on, taking a long route to Corte Ingles for the last of our grocery needs and then back home for lunch.
The weather was still holding at 2PM although some thunder clouds were building up in the west. And it was getting hot. One nice thing about the last couple of days, it’s been pretty mild. Not today though. I shed my sweater pretty quickly.
The cathedral line was much more modest so we decided to brave it and found our place. It really only took 15 or so minutes to get inside, and it always amazes me how a big scrum of people can turn into almost nothing once you get inside. It’s that huge.

Having been here before, we decided to just take our time and shoot a lot of photos of things we’d missed previously. I got those long hoped for photos of Christopher Columbus’ tomb and many of the very beautiful stained glass windows. But no matter what you seek in these places, you always come away with the same feeling – one of overpowering excess. So much gold, so much finery, all in the name of someone who ostensibly lived and died simply. It really makes you appreciate the rape of the New World and the amount of death that went into these riches. The real beauty of the place though doesn’t come until you step outside into one of the remaining features of the mosque that stood here before, the orange tree garden with its complex geometric brickwork, bubbling fountain and flowing water. Religious dogma aside, the 10th century Muslims had it much more together when it came to conveying a sense of spiritual peace with their sacred architecture. 






The Tomb of Columbus



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