The Befouled Weakly News

19 November 2006

Penny & Greg's Spanish Siesta - Part 1 (Continued)


Friday morning commenced with a visit to the Musee del Belle Arte, a very impressive museum of art which contained hundreds upon hundreds of paintings of individuals with adoring, beatific expressions, many of whom were naturally admiring the Christ child. Interesting to me to note that even when the setting was the alleged manger and the child was wrapped in his swaddling clothes, the observers were generally dressed in whatever clothing would have been worn at the time of the artist - something not quite right with all that somehow. Alongside the hundreds of religious paintings were a dozen or more larger than life size photographs of what we assume to have been Seville’s street people in sharp detail, the clarity of which allowed for the minute inspection of every tiny facial hair.

A courtyard at the Musee del Belle Arte

Following that a stroll across town to the Plaza del Toros, which was not only a very impressive building but a very interesting visit. It may surprise you to know that the bull does not always lose (which reminds me of an old joke about cojones which I will not repeat at this juncture). We had a very pleasant guide who spoke good (excellent) English and who explained (amongst other fascinating bits of information) that the last time a bull was allowed to survive (because it was recognised as a particularly noble and courageous bull) was in 1965 and, according to the guide, in fact, they actually spared two bulls that day. It seems the whole experience is rather like the emperor in Rome who would have to give the thumbs up or the thumbs down at the gladiatorial encounters. In the bullring it is the mayor or some other important civil functionary who is obliged to rule on the fate of the bull after it has been hacked about and tormented by men on horseback, men on foot and finally by one very smartly dressed individual who waves a red cape in its face and then jumps out of reach just when the bull thinks it’s about to get him!

The bullring

The last time a bull fighter was killed in Seville was in 1985 and the most common injury, perhaps not surprisingly, is being gored in the thigh/groin. The bull fighter who was killed was apparently gored through the heart – ouch! that’s got to hurt!

The Spanish do, of course, take their bull fighting very seriously although even there it is declining in popularity. In 1947 a particularly famous bull fighter, Manolete, was killed after being gored through the right thigh. It seems that the farmer who had raised the bull was so distraught upon hearing the news that he immediately went out and slaughtered the bull’s mother. Apparently, the aggressive genes come down the maternal side.

As part of our tour of the bullring we saw the infirmary for the bullfighters but were assured by the guide that the bulls had their own infirmary as well. Whether or not it is equipped with the same level of high tech equipment as the bullfighter’s we couldn’t say. We also had a glimpse of the chapel where the bullfighters say their prayers before their show; the guide did not elaborate as to whether the bulls had a similar facility before their performance.

After a spot of lunch (and, as if any were needed, confirmation of a pleasant discovery made the night before - Rioja is actually tolerably pleasant), on to the Real Alcazar or Royal Palace (apparently the current king and queen of Spain still stay there when visiting Seville). As you can imagine, it was absolutely stunning. It was built on the site of a Moorish palace of some description by a Spanish king with the adorably quaint name of Peter the Cruel.

The main entrance to the Alcazar

Another entrance (the back door?) of the Alcazar

The Alcazar has an abundance of Moorish influence (not surprising considering it was built by Moorish craftsmen) with elaborate carvings, repeating patterns and delightfully pleasant pools of trickling water and fabulous gardens. We saw the room (and, indeed, stood on the spot) where Queen Isabella debriefed Columbus following his first trip to the Indies and, after drifting through the extravagantly fabulous buildings, we spent many a pleasant moment wandering through the extensive gardens as evening approached. Finally, back to the hotel for a brief rest before being obliged to tackle just a few more tapas.

A patio courtyard in the Alcazar

Gardens at the Alcazar

A simple garden pool at the Alcazar

Tapas, you will appreciate, is the kind of refreshment I could endure most days – lots of little meats and, of course, generous quantities of shell fish. One sits at the bar with a glass of Rioja or beer and orders little snacks which were generally outstanding, from my perspective at any rate. Ms Playchute, on the other hand, is somewhat less than enthusiastic about the whole experience, it is probably fair to say, but she did enjoy the "Secreto" on our last night in Seville which was, in spite of her fears, very tasty - thin slices of pork from the neck, we gather. Having said that, I was obliged to take it back to the bar on her behalf and demand “mas” – fortunately they understood that she wanted it cooked more, not that she was demanding more meat.

On next week to Ronda and Córdoba.

Love to you all,


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