Tuesday, March 24, 2015

GRANADA or SEVILLE, Which would you choose?


Tough question - I love both cities.  But if I could only visit one of the two cities, I would choose Granada!
Maybe I hear my Mother singing the song over and over and it's stuck in my head...

..."Granada, tierra soñada por mí.  Mi cantar se vuelve gitano cuando es para ti...."  (Granada, I'm falling under your spell.  And if you could speak, what a fascinating tale you would tell...)

Yes, I have fallen under your spell!  


Not tough for me, I choose Seville!  Seville is much like Barcelona in that it keeps drawing you back... 

...the city is made up of neighborhoods where the people all seem to know each other and are constantly stopping for long chats.  There are beautiful sights to see and entertaining bars and restaurants to visit.  When you get past the touristic spots you will find people laughing, singing, drinking and enjoying each other's company. 


WANDA:   Granada is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range... you can't beat these views.  You also see views of the Alhambra, which is a spectacular site from the opposite side of the city...

RICH:   Seville cannot compare to the Sierra Nevada mountains, however, when you climb the Giralda Tower you get to see the city's most beautiful architecture, monuments, the Guadalquivir river and the incredible Cathedral - the largest Gothic church in Europe.


RICH:  Seville has so many....Plaza de Espana may be the most impressive in Spain.  Included in this enormous semi-circle is a Palace, two towers, a fountain, ceramic tile displays of each province in Spain and even a canal to take a boat on.  Definitely has the WOW factor.

WANDA:  Yes, the Plaza de Espana is magnificent, but you can't sit and have a drink.  I prefer the many small plazas of Granada - where I can sit and have a drink with tapas, listen to the buscadors, and people watch... (OK OK - Seville has plenty of cool small plazas too!)


WANDA:  Granada has The Alhambra!  Google what not to miss in Spain and 
The Alhambra pops up - probably because it gets 3 million visitors a year!  
The Alhambra dates back to the 9th century when it was built as a castle and a military fortress on a hill overlooking the entire city.  Inside are 2 palaces and impressive gardens...

Walking into the Alhambra....The top picture is the unfinished remains of the 2nd palace in the Alhambra named for Charles V built in 1526. 

 In the 13th century The Nasrid Palace or royal residence of King Mohammad I was built inside the Alhambra and was home to many Arab Sultans....

....The Nasrid Palace is unbelievable - there are patios, gardens, odd passageways, dead ends (probably to confuse someone trying to kill the king) and wonderful architecture of latticed windows and intricate wall carvings.  Wandering this palace evokes what it must have been like to be royalty.

RICH:  OK, Wanda - you win this one.  Pictured above is the outside of The Alcazar of Seville.  To be totally honest, we ran out of time -  since we are coming back in June,  we can see it then!

WANDA:  We need to leave something for the daughter's visit in June (she might be interested to see where Maria Antoinette was born).  This Palace is a UNESCO heritage site and one of the most beautiful in Spain.  In fact, part of the Alcazar is still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence. 


RICH:  The Seville Cathedral is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world (St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London are larger) and as I said earlier  "THE LARGEST GOTHIC CATHEDRAL in EUROPE"!

A truly incredible altar, a photo cannot capture the intricacy of the piece

The Best part - Christopher Columbus is buried here in a very cool coffin with 4 bronze figures representing the 4 kingdoms of Aragon, Leon, Castile, and Navarra holding up his tomb.

WANDA:  Wow, Richard - you really did your homework.  Seville says they have the remains of Christopher Columbus, and yes it is very impressive - but the  Dominican Republic in the Caribbean also claims to have his remains...hmmmm...

The Granada Cathedral may not be as grandiose as the Seville Cathedral, but they do have  the Royal Chapel  where Isabella and Ferdinand are buried along with other Monarchs of Spain.


WANDA:  I don't know what Rich is going to say - but honestly, we didn't eat much.  We are on diets after Barcelona, Christmas, and the Cruise - we were shocked when we stepped on a luggage scale and found we were ------- over our weight since we last weighed ourselves in Bordeaux.  Boring I know.... We ate fish and salad - no wine (temporarily), few carbs, and no sugar...

RICH:  Wanda, I really tried - still trying, but really Seville has some great restaurants and wine bars...from the Barrio de Santa Cruz to Hercules Plaza and all over town. Flamenco and music and Tapas and FUN!!!

RICH:  Restaurant in our neighborhood La Azotea, Wanda was I eating by myself - do you remember eating and drinking here?.....

WANDA:  FYI, Rich picked out that bottle of wine because he loved the name of it "Habla Del Silencio" thinking it meant "Stop Talking" -  it really means "Silence Speaks"!  So I am not saying anything!

RICH: ....Wanda - do you remember drinking 4 glasses of wine here???

WANDA:  Habla de Silencio!  OK OK.....we had grilled fish and a salad with water only one night.....


Wanda:  Sorry Rich, Granada has a UNESCO World Heritage site  - "The Albayzin" is the old Arab Quarter that is a labyrinth of narrow winding cobble stone streets, white washed houses,  and a history that goes back to the 1000s... 

...The other fascinating neighborhood in the hills above the Albayzin are the cave homes in the community of Sacromonte - the cave-dwelling community was vibrant with the Roma Gypsies in the 1950's - today are cave bars where you can see Flamenco and local musicians and further up are abandoned caves with nomads living in them.  Great views of the Alhambra from here.

RICH:  Sorry what?? Seville has lot's of great neighborhoods here too - I'm going to give you my two favorite.  The first  neighborhood in Seville is the Barrio de Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter in medieval times).  The streets are narrow - no room for cars here, but plenty of historic and incredible bar/cafes with waiters and bartenders as old as the Bullfight posters on the walls.

RICH:  This is day/night in the Hercules neighborhood near where we are staying.  A fun favorite too! - at night this place rocks until very late.  I could live near this neighborhood!


WANDA:  Diana is a photographer (www.getlyarcefotografia.es) that settled in Granada from Mexico - we were out of clothes and could not find a laundry open anywhere, until we met Diana, who kept her Lavanderia  open just for us (note Rich's clean shirts behind her) Gracias Diana!  I asked her why she chose to live in Granada and not Seville - she said what I thought, "The Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounding the city are picturesque (perfect for a photographer!) and there is so much to do here!"

RICH:  My "Barber of Seville"...

WANDA:  Ahh....so handsome, now ready to play Lindoro at the nearest Karaoke bar.


RICH:  Well, Seville has the oldest bullring in the world - "Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza" The building dates from 1762 and right or wrong is still a tradition and a part of Seville's history. 

RICH:  Flamenco's history has been passed down orally - and documented for only 200 years and is the traditional song and dance of the Gypsies of Andalucia Spain.  Seville has some of the most famous "Cafe Cantantes" or Flamenco Clubs in Spain (probably the world)

WANDA:  Granada is in Andalucia and has Flamenco too!!  The "Duende" of this dancer is powerful!

So....Granada or Seville?? - they are both incredible cities and we left out a lot!! 
 So don't choose, do what we did and spend time in both!

Peace Out - hanging out in the Algarve in Portugal!!

Monday, March 16, 2015



Carnaval in Spain OLE'!  We  have missed  Carnaval in Rio and Venezia and we have not been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, so we were not going to miss Carnaval in Spain.  We were made aware that Spain, (at least in Cadiz and Cordoba) does not do Carnaval like the other places.  Oh sure, there are costumes, parades and big crowds of drinkers etc. But in Spain they like to SING!!!  Cadiz and Cordoba spend two weeks singing all over their towns.  They sing in large groups, small groups, with musicians and A Cappella.  They practice all year and then beginning in January the Cadiz people start having competitions.  Cadiz will even televise the preliminaries, quarter and semi-finals, and the BIG GALA FINALS, (with tickets to attend starting at over 100 euro going into the 1000's).  Much like  "Whose got Talent" but with costumes.  They write original funny songs and use current pop songs or Old Standards that everybody knows, (Except Us).  I will admit here that "nuestra comprension del espanol es limitado" and our limitations prevented us from enjoying the satire and "Jokes" as much as the locals.  However, that did not stop us from thoroughly enjoying the music, costumes and merriment. What a Party!

This is the line for the singing semi-finals, tickets start at 60 euro.  The Gran Teatro Falla is a beautiful Theater where the competition is held with more than 100 singing groups participating.  We didn't have tickets, so we walked in the door just to check it out - we were escorted out

 The musical groups are Comparas, Chirigotas, and Choirs.  The Comparas are the witty satiric groups, The Chirigotas are like the Comparas except they sing happier songs like the group above, and the Choirs are larger groups.

This isn't a great picture, but this is one of the Comparas groups - the streets are very narrow - and they will squeeze in a doorstop and start their satiric singing.  Everyone is laughing and somehow we just laugh along with them.


Cadiz's history goes back to 1100 BC, making it one of the oldest (continuously inhabited) cities in the world and the oldest city in Spain.  It is a narrow strip of land on the Atlantic located in southwestern Spain.

We were in Cadiz the week before Carnival, just to visit the city before the madness.  We couldn't find an affordable hotel in Cadiz during the 2 weeks of Carnival, so we had to travel into the Cadiz by ferry from Valdelagrana, across the bay... We were not by ourselves on the boat...

...They were all so darn cute!

I have never seen a bridge being made - thought it was cool to see as we were heading into Cadiz...

Stepping off the ferry, we landed in Old Town or Casco Antiguo of Cadiz and headed into the party!...

The left are pictures before Carnaval in Cadiz (we were there a few days before) and the right are the same squares filled to the max!   The streets of Cadiz are very narrow and they are connected to amazing Plazas -  above Top left is the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, middle is the Plaza de la Cathedral 
and the bottom is Plaza San Antonio.  There are 8 Plazas in the old city and something was going on in each one of them - not to mention the happenings in the crowded narrow streets...

Most popular costume of the evening was the bull fighter.......it was late and these guys were more than a little borracho.

Taverns were smart - they set up makeshift bars and had cheap beers to go - no one is allowed inside...

...unless of course you are invited to all the private parties throughout the city  (somehow we didn't get our invites)


Cordoba was founded by the Romans in 206 BC - and this historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We followed the crowds across the Roman Bridge or the "El Puento Romano" into the Old Town of Cordoba....

Crossing the bridge is a beautiful sight of the Mezquita-Cathedral de Cordoba (A World Heritage Site)....once across the bridge is another story...

We were in Cordoba during one of the days of their Carnaval and the Chirgotas and Comparsas were having comical sing-offs with each other...

 ...Like in Cadiz, we didn't understand too much, but we were thoroughly entertained.

Back to the World Heritage Site:

A break from the festivities outside is walking through the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba or Mezquita-Cathedral ... 

You are awed by the beauty of this Moorish Architecture and when you step inside it is even more amazing... where Gothic/Renaissance and Moorish Architecture meet...

....The history of this site started with the Romans - a temple to Janus, then the Visagoths built a Christian church.  The Muslims conquered Spain in 711 and divided the church into halves until the Christian half was sold -  it was then demolished and the Grand Mosque of Cordoba was built in 784.  When the Christians reconquered Spain in 1236, the Mosque was so beautiful, the Christians built their Cathedral in the Mosque.  The pictures above show  existing Moorish architecture juxtaposed with the Gothic/Renaissance architecture the Christians added to the Mosque...

Too short a visit here, we will be back in the summer so ADIOS for now!!   

Next, Granada or Sevilla??...