Friday, July 21, 2006

Iberian Adventures Part III

DAY 6--29 June 2006 Thurs
For today’s journey to Seville, we took a newly opened super highway that reduced the time of the trip, so we were able to do the city tour of Seville upon arrival.
The result was an uneventful drive through unappealing countryside. We did see many oak cork trees—they harvest cork by removing the outer layer from the bottom of the tree every 9 years.
We crossed back into Spain just after our lunch. Now in Andalusia. We saw many olive trees—our guide says there are 260 million olive trees in Spain!
We arrived in Seville about 3:30 and began city tour immediately. We went first to cathedral—said to be 3rd largest in Europe after St. Peter’s in Rome & St. Paul’s in London. Where the cathedral stands was once the site of a mosque—so the bell tower replaced a minaret. In the church, the altar is a huge gold one. The cathedral houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. There are also several paintings there by the Spanish artist Murillo, who was born in Seville.
We then went to the old Jewish quarter with tiny winding streets and shops & restaurants.
From there we went to the Parque Maria Luisa which has buildings from a World Exhibition held in Seville in 1929. The primary building there is at the Plaza de España, which was Spain’s building.
On the drive back to the hotel, we passed the university , with one building which had been a factory, the setting for the fictional story of Carmen.

DAY 7--30 June 2006 Fri
All day in Seville—a group of us had signed up for a trip to Carmona, a nearby town with extensive Roman ruins.
The first stop was at a necropolis where had been excavated. In the distance, we could also see an amphitheater outline, apparently not yet excavated. The necropolis was quite open for us to walk around. Two large chambers—the Elephant Grave (so called from a figure of an elephant that had been unearthed) and the Servilia tomb complete with a small temple. The remains of those who died would be cremated then the ashes buried in small niches.
We drove to the Parador, a government built and run hotel (these are all over Spain, existing in old castles, etc. to preserve the buildings). It blends in with the overall architecture of the fortress at Carmona. The bus had a time driving through the narrow winding streets. We went into the Parador, had a refreshing drink, and did a bit of shopping at a very nice little gift shop. We then went back to the town, and continued a walk around, past unique doors, hallways tiled covered, narrow streets with awnings drawn across for shade. We ended at the fortress at the far end of town where we climbed the Torre de Oro.
Once back in Seville, we had tapas for lunch, shopped at El Cortes de Ingles, then returned to our hotel to watch a bit of world cup soccer (Germany vs. Argentina). Our evening entertainment was flamenco dancing and dinner. Watched more world cup (Italy vs. Ukraine).

DAY 8--
1 July 2006 Sat
Today we go to Morocco—we need to catch a fast ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar at 2 p.m. We arrived at Algeciras with time to buy lunch. As it is the beginning of July, and Moroccans head home from jobs in Europe, we expected many other travelers. The ferry was full, with many family groups. With birth rates so high, poor countries’ populations will pass European countries easily.
The ferry also took cars—each car was LOADED to the hilt with possessions! The overall ride took 2 hrs., sailing right past the Rock of Gibraltar. When we landed, we all went through a very brief security check. Our tour guide had given all our passports while we were on the ship for entry stamping. We met up with our local guide—Rashid—and the local driver Mohammed (we had left our bus in Spain). We drove first to a small village called Asilah—again narrow winding streets. There were vendors of many kinds following us and trying to persuade us to buy brass, copper, red coral. Carlin finally bought a flask made of brass & copper.
We then drove along the coast to Cap Spartel. We passed some lovely homes along the coast, side by side with absolute squalor. On the way, we stopped by some camels and some in the tour group decided to go for a ride, with the camels protesting all the while. We went to a hotel where we were served hot mint tea and cookies. I bought a silk caftan there and two stone carvings, a camel and an egg.
Delicious dinner tonight of lamb, prunes and almonds all baked together.

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