So Long Seville, Hello Folly

After eleven days of flirtation with Africa in Vejer, we drove north to Seville to spend two nights before flying back to the good ol’ USA in time for Folly Beach’s 4thof July festivities, which include, drinking, eating, drinking, watching people compete at cramming hotdogs down their gullets, drinking, fireworks, and drinking.

You can experience Folly on the 4th by clicking here (and also groove on bartender Charlie Neely’s classic dance moves: https://wlm3.com/2015/07/05/celebrating-the-4th-on-folly-after-the-alcohol-ban/

Anyway, Seville is a beautiful city rich in parks, architecture, and history.  In fact, its history is essentially the history of Western Europe writ small.

Spain Square (Plaza de Espana). Seville, Spain.
source: siliconluxembourgh.lu

We stayed in the Jewish quarter, once a walled city within a city where abandoned Moorish mosques had been transformed into synagogues.  At the Jewish museum, we learned that under benevolent governance, the Jews of Seville flourished, working with the monarchy in managing the realm’s finances and also by contributing to science and the arts.

Unfortunately, thanks to a plague that killed half the city’s population and the scapegoating of fanatical priests spewing hate-filled sermons, in 1391 the Jews’ were forced to either convert to Christianity or face exile. It was a melancholy sight to see the arrows tracing the Jews flight from Seville and to contemplate their descendant’s fate in places like Eastern Europe and the Netherlands.

So the converted mosques that had become synagogues were transformed into cathedrals.

A 100 years later, after Columbus discovered the Indies, Seville became the exclusive site of New World trade, and, of course, became incredibly wealthy.

We didn’t have time to see much of its glories, however.  The lines stretching to get into Seville Cathedral (The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), the world’s fourth-largest church building, conjured images of multitudes waiting to board Charon’s river transport so we missed out on what probably was some wondrous head craning.

Seville Cathedral

Of course, Andalucía is Flamenco Central, and we took in two more shows.  I really dig the guitar-playing, the percussive hand-clapping, the foot-stomping, and back-bending, but the vocals just don’t do it for me.  The singers don’t so much sing as screed plaintively in a limited vocal range that to my ears lacks nuance.  It sort of sounds like I did when my brother Fleming removed stiches from my back with pliers a year after they were supposed to removed.*


*Long story, near fatal car crash, hazy memory re. doctor’s instructions.

Ayyyyyyyy ayyyyyyyyyyyy ohhhhhhhhhhh ayyyyyyyyyyyyy noooooooooooooo.

However, The lyrics are pretty cool, if you’re into self-pity/flagellation.  Here are some lines I copped from theartsdesk.com:

Cuando yo me muera, te pío un encargo, Que con las trenzas de tu pelo negro me marren las manos.

When I come to die I ask of you one favour, /That with the braids of your black hair they tie my hands.

Reniego de mi sino, reniego de ti,  Como reniego de la horita en que te conosí.

I curse my fate, I curse you, As I curse the hour/ In which I knew you.

They say just before daylight is the darkest hour.

Anyway, the sun did rise on 2 July; we packed our bags and drove to the airport, my co-pilot Caroline guiding me around the roundabouts, Brooks patiently sitting in the backseat.  We endured the Kafkaesque return of the rental (some idiot had accidently thrown away the keys when cleaning out the car at drop off point), the propeller plane from Seville to Lisbon didn’t crash (though some idiot left his carry-on bag on the plane), and the trans-Atlantic flight went off without a hitch.

So ole, Espana!

Now, I’m back at Folly, urging the clouds away so I can indulge in some American culture for a change.

“Eat that dog!! Go! Go! Cram it in there. Ole, ole!

 

Sand, Mammary Glands, Museums, and Pool Parties

If I were to gather containers of sand from Charleston’s various beaches – the Isle of Palms, Sullivans, Kiawah, Seabrook, and Folly – I doubt anyone could identify where each container came from.  The sands of our barrier islands are pretty much indistinguishable. This, however, isn’t the case with the three beaches we’ve visited in Andalucía – Zehora, Caleta, and Tarifa.

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Caleta Beach, Cadiz

Zahora’s sand reminds me a bit of slushy snow – it’s wet and sticky and orange-ish in hue (think Trump’s spray-on tan), and its blanket holds smooth rocks, ocean glass, and some cool shells.  The sands of Caleta, on the other hand, are drier, but also orange-colored.  Alas, Caleta’s beach is strewn with seaweed and litter.  By far the nicest sand is found in Tarifa, a funky mecca for surfers and kite boarders. There the sand is white, dry, and fine. Unlike the sands of Zahora, you can brush it off with a flick of your wrist.  One of my traveling companions, Brooks, age nine, was so taken with it, she gathered some and took it home to the apartment.

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Perhaps of more interest to the general reader is the topic of naked female breasts, which, of course, are on display at most European beaches.  Like Mr. Palomar, the protagonist of Italo Calvino’s novel of the same name, I feel awkward when I get the opportunity to gaze at a total stranger’s mammary glands, and like Mr. Palomar, I do end up sneaking a peek, which I hope won’t be taken the wrong way by the flaunter of aureoles, which unfortunately isn’t the case when Mr. Palomar encounters a topless beachgoer in the novel.

Mr-Palomar…

In college, I remember being peer-pressured into going to a bar that featured a topless waitress.  When I entered, immediately, my inner-Victorian[1] took over as I stared intently into her sardonic eyes while she cracked jokes about the awkwardness of the situation. I was way uncomfortable in the head-hanging area of what might be called un-fun, but, of course, I couldn’t help indulging in a surreptitious glance or two (or maybe eight or seventy-eight).

Well, at the three beaches mentioned above, you occasionally encounter bare-breasted women but not to the extent I did in Cannes and Mykonos in the early ‘80s.[2]  Here in Spain, all but two of the topless I’ve encountered were closer to menopause than puberty. But, hey, I admire their lack of inhibition.  Bikini tops (and bras) look uncomfortable. Why not give the voyeur a thrill and Mr. Palomar the heebie-jeebies?

I don’t mind, however, staring at whatever in museums, and Caroline, Brooks, and I have taken in quite a few.  My favorites on the Vejer leg of our holiday are located in Gibraltar and Cadiz.  Both display a rich trove of ancient artifacts dating back to Paleolithic times. The one in Gibraltar has a couple of Neanderthal replications, “Nana” and “Flint,” constructed according to skeletons found in caves in the rocks.  Caroline questions the unkemptness of these two.  Wouldn’t they groom one another she wonders.

The museum in Cadiz has an impressive cache of Phoenician, Greek, and Roman artifacts. Photography wasn’t allowed there, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

flint and nana

So here’s a naked breast for you voyeurs out there

All in all, we’ve had such a good time, especially hanging with Charlie and Concha. We even got to go to a  pool party at the home of one of Charlie’s acquaintances, allowing us a more intimate peek at the Spanish having fun. Everyone was so nice and welcoming.

In general, I have found the Andalusians to be incredibly helpful and patient, whether it’s demonstrating how to operate a parking meter or preparing a special dish for Brooks. And, by the way, the food here in Vejer is wonderful.  The town has justly earned a reputation for fine dining. You won’t find sand in your food or topless waitresses but some absolutely delicious Moroccan cuisine to go along with traditional Spanish dishes.

Buenos noches from Vejer.

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View of Vejer from our apartment’s terrace


[1]Hat tip to Charlie Geer for this useful coinage.

[2]Those beaches don’t have sand at all, but what the English call shingles, pebbles that are uncomfortable to lie on without a blanket.

Making the Rounds in Ronda

In Ronda, we made the rounds of museums, first Museo Lara, owned by a collector of oddities who lives in an apartment above those cultural artifacts on display, obsolete and obsolescent gadgets like telegraph apparatus,  gramophones, and typewriters and other interesting collectables like pipes and musical instruments.

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More interesting — at least for me — are the rooms dedicated to the Inquisition where you can actually run your hands across the spikes of an iron maiden or check out the crudity of a head crusher or a chastity belt and marvel at other ingenious instruments of torture.

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Then there’s a room devoted to the so-called black arts.  Here you can see such wonderful specimens like this:

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Bat-headed crab?

The dioramas are also worth a peek.

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Next we visited the Museo del Bandoleros, a unique collection dedicated to those highwaymen who have become the stuff of legend in Andalusia. Some of the more famous ones actually have comic books dedicated to them and comic-book like poetry, some in couplets, others in terza rima.

comics

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Our favorite is Juan Jose Mongolla, aka Pasos Largos,  who favors the Moore family.

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Anyway, these marauders lived in caves along the highway and would swoop down  on horsemen and stage coaches divesting their victims of cumbersome gold and jewelry.  They also appear to have been popular with the ladies, if several paintings and woodcuts can be trusted that show the bandoleros on horseback serenading women troubadour-style.

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They also were on hand to rescue damsels in distress.

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These cats aren’t as lucky.

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We also visited the Plaza del Toros, the bullring, one of the most revered in Spain, according to our travel guide.  Although it only seats 5,000, it’s circumference makes it one of the largest in Spain.  Hemingway, of course, was a paying customer here.  You can read about his association with the town here.

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Still, one of the town’s coolest attractions is the Hotel Enfrente Arte, Spain’s answer to New York’s famous Chelsea Hotel.  I failed to mention in my previous post the wonderful breakfast they serve, which like beer and wine, is included in the daily rate.  A vast array of culinary delights are available.  My favorite was quail eggs and bacon with tomato on toast, brought to your table with a loud ta-da by the gregarious chef.

Our last night in Ronda, we hit another Flamenco show.  Although inferior to the performance we caught in Jerez, this one did feature a female dressed to the nines who was very impressive.  As she stomped her feat and contorted her body, an occasional bangle would disengage from her costume and fly across the stage.

Here she is the afternoon before the performance with one of her fans.

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Like all good things — long-running sitcoms, bottles of Jamesons, happy marriages — our stay in Ronda had to come to its end.  On Thursday, we retrieved our rental car and made our way down to Vejer, which I have dubbed the Beirut of Southern Spain.  Here, we’re going to visit our first beach, so stay tuned.

Holiday in Spain: Jerez, Days 1 & 2

Here in our first full day in Jerez, a lovely, laidback city in Cadiz Province in Andalucía,[1] a solution to the over development of South Carolina’s Lowcountry dawned on me, plopped upon my head like that proverbial Newtonian apple.

The county councils of Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties should impose mandatory siestas from 3 to 6 pm every day of the week. [cue John and Yoko’s “Imagine.”]

For example, here is a normally busy street in Jerez at 4 pm.  And let me tell you, it’s as quiet as it is empty.

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In my dream world where Americans love themselves more than lucre, business chains in the Lowcountry would relocate for the sake of shareholders because 3 hours of closure each day would harm the bottom line. With fewer people, traffic with its incumbent pollution (air and sound) would decrease.  Workers and school children could nap, listen to music, watch soap operas, or catch up on homework.  Returning refreshed, their productivity would soar, and the nighttime, so squandered in the USA, could be reclaimed as a time of comingling with humans outside the narrow confines of condo or apartment (not to mention ranch home or McMansion).

Of course, the odds of this happening are as unlikely as Clemson deciding to change the school colors from orange to fuchsia or Donald J Trump coming up with a nugget of self-deprecating humor.

Suggested example: Trump to Kim:  You’re having a bad hair day!  Christ, you don’t know the meaning of bad hair day.

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Nevertheless, in the world of retirement, where I am the master of my time and I can enjoy socialized medicine, I shall live like an Andalucían.

After a my extended nap, I’ll ride my bicycle to Chico Feo (but not Taco Boy).


Fun Facts/ Personal Notes

People here speak with a lisp.  Cerveza is pronounced cerveztha and gracias, gracthia (no-s).

Like in Germany (and probably every other country in Europe), you get a ticket from a parking meter machine and place it on your dashboard.

Here are a couple of photos of our two-bedroom apartment (hat tip to Charlie and Caroline for finding and booking it).

And here’s a photo of Caroline, Brooks, and Charlie.

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Charlie, by the way, has recently become a bit of a celebrity in Spain.  Here are a couple of reasons:

Check him out.


[1]I suspect calling any city in Andalucia laidback reeks of redundancy.