Saturday, 15 February 2014

So longa Sevilla

We've already left Seville after an intense three days in and around the city. History, even older history, contemporary art bizarrely juxtaposed with history - Seville has a LOT of history! Founded by the Phoenicians and home to Romans, Moors and Christians respectively, the cultures on show are a vivid, exciting blend and we both loved our visit.

Province Alcoves at Plaza de Espana, Seville 
The Plaza de Espana was our first stop upon leaving the bus in Seville centre. It was built in 1929 as part of a rejuvenation of this part of the city. A huge semi-circle of buildings with its own moat - you can hire boats to row around it - the walls are almost completely tiled which makes for an amazing spectacle of colour. Each region of Spain has its own Province Alcove of a tile mural image together with a tile map showing whereabouts in the country it is. We spent ages walking around the Plaza before even setting off into the rest of the city! Our first day was spent mostly wandering, exclaiming at gorgeous architecture and soaking up the atmosphere (and a little rain!) Many buildings look very worn but there are lots with tiled facades, thick carved wood doors, or the type of enclosed metal balconies that we saw so many of in New Orleans. The cathedral with its famous Giralda tower has intricate gothic carving but the surrounding buildings make it difficult to get a good view. We were lucky to catch the touring Henry Moore exhibition though - half a dozen huge bronzes strewn across a city square which were creating quite a stir.

Italica amphitheatre 
Day Two saw us nine kilometres outside Seville visiting the ruined Roman city of Italica. We would not have known about this were it not for our great guidebook,  Granada, Seville & Cordoba (Cadogan Guide) which we bought to visit Cordoba a few years ago. We knew if we kept it long enough, we'd eventually get to the other two! The Italica site is free to enter for EU citizens - fortunately we had our passports to prove Englishness - and is far bigger than we expected. Ruined walls of numerous buildings have been identified and several contain beautifully detailed mosaics including birds and deities. We looked down on the outlines of private houses, public spaces and also the public baths that Hadrian had built. We were feeling pretty lucky to have seen so much then, as the star turn, the ruins of the 25,000 seat amphitheatre turned out to be not so ruined after all. We were able to walk along the audience galleries, through the underground tunnels, and across the open oval. An amazing experience!

Domed ceiling with gold in the Alcazar, Seville 
Back on the bus for Day Three even though our feet were already sore from all the walking on Days One and Two. The Alcazar Palace in Seville is an absolute must-see and there's a fantastic discount for the old folks - €2 instead of €9.50. It's a good thing we're pooling and halving everything! The Alcazar kept us enthralled for well over two hours. Again, fantastic displays of fully tiled walls are gorgeous to see. The earlier rooms are tiled on walls and floors with Moorish designs, bright bold colours and geometric shapes. Later period rooms are also tiled, but with medieval Christian themes which we both found less striking. There are also intricately carved wooden ceilings and doors. The outside spaces are elegantly designed gardens, mostly squares and rectangles with fountains, orange trees and scented plants like lavender, rosemary and bay.

Our final destination was the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, the Contemporary Art Museum, which was described to us as an intriguing blend of old and new. The original building was a magnificent 15th century Christian monastery and several of its features, including an ornate gilded altar and marble tombs, still remain. The monastery was then turned into a tile factory in the 1800s. Huge red brick kiln chimneys soar upwards and can be seen over most of Seville's skyline. Inside the museum, the emphasis was on 1980s art, mostly by Spanish artists. Four Provisional Suicides greeted us int he first gallery - an installation of four knotted white 'tights' on a black background, created by Pepe Espaliu. The Doubt by Guillermo Pareque was a huge blue canvas painted with large bubbles and silver Chinese symbols. It reminded me of the Fiona Rae exhibition at the Towner last year. A tall, fairly roughly carved wooden 'totem pole' by Antonio Sosa perfectly summed up the CAAC's attempts to commisson art to fit with their venue. The totem was topped with a head and the whole sculpture was leaning backwards, looking up at the ceiling. Standing next to it and also leaning back, looking up, revealed a gorgeous painted ceiling of golden stars on a white sky. Perfect! We also saw the famous surreal film by Louis Bunuel with Salvador Dali. Un Chien Andalou. Didn't like the eyeball bit! CAAC was a good two miles from the bus stop and even with the sugar rush of coffee and delicious cake at the Los Angeles cafe on the way, we were shattered by the time we got back to Bailey. I almost walked through the soles of my boots too!

Now for a rest ...

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