Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Seville Street Art 2

Some more weird and wonderful street art, stumbled upon near La Plaza de Armas bus station. Its clear that this area near the river is home to the street culture of Seville, not only in terms of its decoration, but also as home of the skate parks by the river - frequented at all hours of day and night.
Street art of the artistic process (of the more conventional brush kind). Trying to show that, although unconventional, spray art is just as worthy.
The one above is one of my favourites, Rather politically committed don't you think? Such a shame a rookie decided to make his mark on top of the central figure.
Whoever this guy is, it looks like he doesn't want to be messed with. 

Before coming to Seville, I didn't think graffiti art was my thing, but the more I find, the more I like it. 
Next stop, a street art tour of Berlin? 


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Semana Santa - a mini guide to the famed pasos

So Easter Week, or Semana Santa as we know it here in Spain, was a wonderful blur. My family were here visiting and our time was jam-packed with sightseeing and tapas pit stops interspersed with occasional lounge by the pool.

Seville is home to some of the most famous of the Spanish holy week processions, famed the world over for the hauntingly dressed penitents. They accompany floats weighing up to five tonnes, which boast irreplaceable figures of the Virgin and Jesus, as they walk the streets.

The official start of holy week is Palm Sunday, when the first of the official processions leave their respective churches en route to the cathedral. Processions are marathon affairs with some stretching to 12 or 13 hours, often marching the streets through the night to avoid the heat.

Taking heed of the warning of my students and colleagues, I knew that the centre would be unnavigable with swarms of people, bus diversions and main tourist sights either closed or at gridlock. As such, I suggested to the family that Sunday be a more tranquil affair. I thought the best place to get away from the hustle and bustle would be at El Parque de María Luisa and La Plaza de Espana (which I first discovered here). As a tourist attraction in its own right, there was no need to scrimp on the Seville experience at the expense of the Easter festivities.

I made a lovely picnic spread to enjoy and, after a wander round the plaza to see the mosaics, we set it out, ready for a mid morning graze. In the distance we could hear the beats of a processions marching band, the sun was shining and all was merry with the world.

It was soon clear that the band wasn't so far fact it was heading straight for us. As crowds began to form in the road leading past the Plaza, we were about to have our first Semana Santa experience as La Paz (the peace) procession marched right past our picnic spot.

My sister and I made it (at a jog) to a spot right on the side of the road and held our ground for the full 2 and half hours the full parade took to pass. What resulted was a very sunburnt nose, some beautiful pictures and this mini guide to the Semana Santa processions of Seville.
 The first section of the La Paz procession was mounted.
This was our first glimpse of the nazarenos, the name given to these hooded figures. If any of you have seen the first scene of 'The DaVinci Code', the nazarenos feature in Robert Langdon's symbols lecture, in which they are wrongly identified as members of the Klu Klux Klan. They are in fact religious penitents, who represent the first level of religious promise within the processions.
Nazarenos can be any age (check out the little cutie above!). Nazarenos often give sweets or stampitas (little cards featuring saints) to children. So far from being an intimidating presence, they are often a child's favourite part of the processions. All nazarenos, with the exception of the very small, carry candles (in one of three sizes). The nazarenos of La Paz carried both white and red candles. The candles are lit in the night time parades and La Paz was featured in the newspaper the following day as the white robes of its penitents were stained red with candle was throughout the evening. It looked like a murder scene...much more sinister than how they look in my snaps (taken between 1.30pm and 3.30/4pm).
 Stampitas attached to the candle of a female nazareno.
Carrying a rosary on procession.
With such a jubilant atmosphere with children calling out for sweets, its often hard to remember that nazarenos are penitents seeking forgiveness from God. Some choose to punish themselves more by going without shoes. Though its rare to see in the south of Spain, some penitents in the north go as far as to chain their feet together as well - Semana Santa is serious business.

 Next came the first float featuring Jesus carrying the crucifix guarded be a centurion.
 You know I mentioned these floats can weigh around 5 tonnes? Did I mention they are carried from beneath by men?! Here they are at rest underneath the float (paso).
 This gentlemen is the director of the paso. He gives the orders of when to lift and when to rest. You may be able to see, if you look closely at the float, a golden knocker in the shape of a bridge with a tower at either end. At the knock of the director, the costaleros (the carriers of the paso) not only lift, but they jump to a standing position with the weight of the float on their neck and shoulders. It really is a sight!!
 Following the first paso came the penitentes, who, as you can see, wear the same hooded form as the nazarenos but without the pointed top.
 These are a step up from the nazarenos in the religious promise stakes. They carry weighted crosses for the duration of the parade. Though most only carry one, depending on the level of penitence a penitente can carry up to four crosses at one time.
A beautiful end to the procession came in the form of the second paso, that of the weeping Virgin. Sheltered by a canopy of white lace, she was truly beautiful.

La Paz was an unexpected but welcome step in to the world of Semana Santa. If you're ever in Seville for Holy Week and want a low key but impressively large procession, make sure you stop by La Paz as it passes through the park. You won't be jostling for room and once you've had your fill of the action, you can simply retreat to the grass for sunbathing. 

Have you ever witnessed a Semana Santa procession? What did you think of it?

Monday, 21 April 2014

The hidden little bird...

This is the Church of San Pedro (Saint Peter to you and I).
Watched over by the heavenly Sister Angela of the Cross, mother of the poor.
 Most people don't give this beautiful picture a second glance as they walk past, but there is a special story to be told...
Hidden in the intricate paintings of the tiles is a little bird.
The locals say that if you find the little bird, you will have good luck in love and marriage.
 The poem beneath it tells a different story...

'I am of the sacrament,
an artist painted me 
and put here a little bird
 - that's his way of signing -
hidden in a little corner.

All those who found it,
gave alms as they passed
and prayed to The Souls,
if they wanted to marry,
always and quickly it was achieved'

I absolutely love finding these quirky little places! Be it just good luck or something more, I love its kooky little story - something I'll be sure to show the Mr when he comes to visit (and everyone in between for that matter!).

If you want to find little bird, look for him at
Inglesia de San Pedro
Calle de Doña Maríá Coronel 1

What do you think? Do we make our own luck or are some things just destiny?


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter!

Hello my lovelies,
Just wanted to wish you all a Happy Easter wherever you may be. 

Hope the Easter Bunny bought you something nice!
It's a quiet tea and a creme egg affair here in Seville after a manic week of Semanta Santa parades and playing tour guide/translator to my wonderful family who came to visit!
Here's a sneak peak of the parade pictures coming your way very shortly...
and a cute bunny...
...cos who doesn't love a cute bunny on Easter!

With love from Seville


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Spanish Life Lessons 5

Quote of the week: 
'En Andalucía, no hay vida sin choco!'
'In Andalusia, there's no life without cuttlefish!'

Have to agree it is pretty tasty indeed.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Basílica de La Macarena

Basílica de La Macarena.

Home to the famously beautiful Macarena Virgin of Hope.

La Macarena is the patron saint of bullfighters, and her statue here in the basilica is the representation of a sorrowful yet hopeful virgin Mary.

She is one of the central attractions of the Semana Santa Madrugá parade on Good Friday which walks through the night, ending at around midday the following day. Participants often shout 'Guapa' at the statue as it passes - 'beautiful', 'gorgeous' - and they aren't wrong...

The statue, wreathed in gold and decorated with five diamond and emerald brooches (donated by the famous bullfighter, Joselito El Gallo), is truly breathtaking.

La Basílica de La Macarena,
Calle Béquer, 1


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Flamenco Diaries Part Two

Part two of my GoLearnTo course! If you missed part one, never fear, links are here!

As buses from my little village to Seville are nothing short of a nightmare, I had to leave at 9am to ensure I got to class by 11am! I chose to see the silver lining to the cloud and add something sweet to my wait on the Alameda, treating myself to a breakfast that I've long had a love affair with...
CHURROS: literally fried dough, freely available for dipping in super-thick hot chocolate.
Probably not the healthiest way to start a morning of exercise but ho-hum! Who can argue when they are made freshly in front of you?!
yes that's a portion for one, and yes it was only 1.50€!
Filled to bursting, with some left over for snacking, I waddled my way back to school. 

For our first class, we switched teachers for an hour of technique with Lydia. Of course, we couldn't get down to work without an impromptu photo session first...
 Canadians left, Brits right, teachers centre stage (where they belong!)

To our horror, the first thing Lydia asked us was which style of palmas we'd learnt in our final lesson yesterday and whether we could repeat them for her!! Turns out those were the rhythms that we were going to translate in to footwork today...whoops! Luckily, she was also a fan of diagrams and soon her white board filled with memory jerking scribblings of yesterdays compás and palmas! Soon enough we were double stamping with the best of them and styling our arms, wishing we were swishing around in voluminous, spotted dresses.

After a quick break and a cuddle with Lydia's little Yorkshire terrier (in for one day only unfortunately!), we switched back to Carmen's room for an intense two hours of choreography. Combination, watch, repeat, again, on the other foot, whilst standing on your head! It was quite a bit to take in, but soon we had our own mini routine going, showcasing all the things we'd learnt.

At the end of the morning, the lovely Carmen presented course certificates to us all with kisses on both cheeks! We asked her rather cheekily if we could film her doing the routine, so we could practice at home. She tried to convince a couple of us to do it with her to show you all the wonderful cannon she'd put together, but we were all too shy....

Here is the master at work (I'd love to see her dance something other than our baby flamenco routine - I bet she's feisty!):

Free from 2pm until 9pm, we had the afternoon at our leisure. The other members of my group dashed off to squeeze in the cathedral, the alcazar, the bullring and a mountain of other sights. Thankfully Seville is a pretty compact city and nearly everything is walkable. I, however, took an amble around the streets nearby (stumbling across La Basilica de La to come tomorrow!) and took a long tapas lunch at Eslava (which also has a post in the pipeline! phew!).

With a few hours left to kill, I decided to wander towards La Casa de La Memoria (our show venue for the evening) as the surrounding streets are filled to the brim with flamenco dress shops with accessories galore. With the famous Feria de Abril just round the corner and a question mark over my outfit, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try some on!

You know you've got flamenco problems when skirts block your every exit!

I had a rummage through the racks and picked out a rather colourful floral number in my normal clothes size. I dragged it to the changing room (my god those things are heavy!) and pulled the curtain shut. Surprised that it wouldn't go over my bum, I had the bright idea of putting it over my head.... BIG MISTAKE. Not only did the dress not fit, I was now stuck in it! Let me tell you, there is nothing more terrifying than being jammed in huge swaths of paisley fabric when shopping alone, with no one to help you escape. After a few minutes of panicking, I told myself to breathe and managed (thank the lord) to wriggle my way out Houdini style! Turns out everyone takes a size up in flamenco dresses (who knew?!)
Defo need some stomach sucking in knickers with this!

This coral number is my favourite, but with a 220€ price tag it had to go back on the shelf! The cheapest flamenco dress I found was and 150€ and some go up to 700/800€ a pop...worth noting that these things are rarely worn twice! Astounding - going to have to be a cheapy flamenco skirt for me I think!

After some cafe hopping, it was show time. Thanks to our impeccable English-ness (read earliness) we were first in the queue and managed to snaffle front row, centre stage seats.
A very intimate gathering (they aren't kidding when they advertise limited seats!), every stamp of the dancers feet and every piercing high note the singer hits reverberate off the walls. 

What I liked most about the show at Casa de La Memoria was that everyone got their chance to shine, the singer, the guitarist and the individual dancers. I loved that there was very little pomp and ceremony, just commitment to art. If you want to see girls in brightly coloured spotty dresses parading around then this isn't the show for you. Its gritty and passionate with not a polka dot in sight. If you want flamenco posers, you can find them in most bars in town. Casa de La Memoria amazed us with their artists - expect to fear getting kicked in the face, and feeling the occasional bead of sweat being flicked your way if you're near the front (all part of the experience of course).
I will certainly be taking visitors here to catch of a glimpse of the authentic flamenco and the fiery gypsy spirit.

Final thoughts on my GoLearnTo experience? Worth its weight in gold! It was a very well thought out package with authenticity and quality clearly in mind - no tourist trash here. Would I book again? In an instant! In fact their website should come with a warning: IT WILL SUCK YOU IN. 

I am literally starting a golearnto travel wish list...
...looks like I'll have to buy a lottery ticket!!

As ever my lovelies, until next time...

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