Now in Portugal
Trip Start Feb 02, 2011
7Trip End Feb 25, 2011
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Where I stayed
Tuesday, pouring heavy rain in Seville. Walking tour of the Jewish quarter, then the cathedral which is the largest gothhic cathedral in the world and the third largest overall - amazing. Saw the alcazar, a Moorish (Muslim) temple dating from the 14th century. We found the castles and gardens more impressive than the famed alhambra in Granada (by the way, granada is spanish for pomegranate). in the evening, we went to a flamenco show but our guide had arranged a 30 minute talk by one of the dancers who explained flamenco clothes, steps, etc. The 1.5 hour show was very good and showed how flamenco was the basis or root of the argentine tango and mexican ballet folklorico. flamenco was originally started by gypsies who had emigrated from India.
Wednesday- left saville in a driving rain storm and drove 5 hours to a horse stud farm in a very remote location. Ladies from the village provided a meal of soup, chicken, rice and dessert in an unheated but beautiful remodelled barn building. the owner told us about the operation of the stud farm and we saw some demonstrations of the famous Andalusian horses.
Side note - now in Lisbon, we see quite a few Portuguese of African heritage. when Spain and Portugal, the two naval superpowers in the 15th century, split up the world, spain got north and south america except brazil and Portugal got Africa, india and some of the far east. We thought spanish and portuguese would be very similar but the spoken and written languages are quite different, for example, instead of "gracias" they say "origatado"or something like that.
Thursday - Went on city tour of Lisbon which is very hilly and has several funicular railroads to reach the upper levels. Visited several of the important museums. The food is also different from spain, and tonight Bob had grilled whole octopus which was very, very tasty! Shirley had the traditional fried pork with clams, another local speciality.
Dictated by Bob (we have to pay for internet now- about $5 for one hour so Shirley is typing.
We also sampled some deliciious desserts - cream cakes which are flakey tarts filled with custard and cheese tarts which are similar. Portugal is famous for its soups which we have been really enjoying. Most meals start with a soup (usually some kind of vegetable - I had turnip green soup last night which was delicious - chicken stock base with potatoes and shreds of greens.
Note about spanish royalty - they gave some of their monarchs interesting names such as joanna the crazy who married Phillip the handsome who fooled around way too much with the ladies in waiting so crazy joanna poisoned him. there is also peter the cruel.
christopher columbus was buried in the cathedral in seville. very funny story - he has travelled much more since his death than while alive. He died in spain but his bones were taken first to cuba and then to the dominican republic and then eventually back to spain where, according to the spanish, he is buried in the seville cathedral. the dominican republic built a huge tomb where they claimed he was buried but DnA testing a few years ago definitively proved that at least part of old chris is in seville. The dominican republic refuses to believe this.
Interesting bits and pieces - Many names of places in the US were based on the Spanish explorers first impressions of the new world. When they arrived at Point Lobos, they heard a lot of seals barking and thought they were wolves because they had never seen seals, hence the name Point Lobos or Wolves. also, we they first arrived in what is now key West they saw a bright white beach and thought is was pieces of bone so named it after the spanish word for white bones which is something like "west" - Help, Andrea!!
in seville, holy week (week before easter) is really something. All week long they have parades of huge 1 to 3 ton floats with religious themes that are carried on the shoulders of up to 60 men underneath a cover - the men cannot see anything at all - they just follow the vocal directions of a leader- they carry these floats up to 4 miles - the parades start at 1 AM
Off to Porto tomorrow, home of port wine.
More later. Very tired. up and out by 8 or 8:30 and now back until 5, out to dinner at 7:30 and back to the hotel by 9:30