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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

11 February 2020

31st Jan to 11th Feb 2020 - Andalucia, Spain (Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, El Puetro de Santa Maria)

Sevilla



When I last went to #Seville 12 years ago, I went inside the cathedral. My time in Sevilla was rather more limited on this trip, so I just had a good look at the outside. I'd forgotten how gorgeous the gothic sculptures were, festooning the walls. I'm assuming there used to be more, going by all the empty plinths.

To copy what I wrote in 2008, the best part is, as often happens in Andalucía, the most prominent leftover from the original mosque: the Giralda. This 90 foot tower again displays the gorgeous artistry of Moorish craftsmen, though that's mainly on the outside. Christians later shoved a belltower on top, but unlike some other attempts to 'christianise' Islamic monuments, this one isn't too disfiguring (though the guidebook disagrees with me). From the inside, as you'd expect, you're going up the tower for the view from the top rather than the contents.

Having said that, there are a few interesting exhibits on the way, like a slowly rotating three-part illustration, showing the Giralda at three stages in its history. From that, you can see that there was once a large gate connected to an outer wall, long since gone as the tower now stands comparatively free (except for the enormous cathedral clinging to its side).



The Alcazar in Sevilla has really stood out in my memory since I last went 12 years ago, it's an incredible building. Essentially, a coloured in version of the Alhambra in Granada. To copy what I wrote on slideyfoot.com back in 2008, unusually the christian king, Pedro I, had a longstanding friendship with the emir of Granada, Mohammed V. Visitors to the Alhambra might recognise that name, as he was a major figure behind the beauty of that building. King Pedro would benefit from the same expertise, as Mohammed sent over the artisans he had used for his palace to aid Pedro on the Spaniard's efforts.

Intricate carving, stunning plasterwork and awe-inspiring ceilings mark the Alcázar in much the same way they do the Alhambra, with an intriguing difference. Unlike the Alhambra, the #Alcázar has retained most of its colour, so the effect is even more spectacular. The Salón de Embajadores is justly famous, without doubt the highlight. Aside from all the spectacular buildings, the Alcázar has extensive and attractive gardens.



The 1929 Spanish Americas Fair in Seville (intended to spark an economic revival, according to my guidebook) no doubt seemed like a cool idea at the time. Rather unfortunate timing, given a certain major economic event then smacked the US in the face that same year.

Still, it did at least mean we get to enjoy spectacular buildings almost a century down the line. This is the Plaza de España, with a suitable flamenco soundtrack (I'm not a fan, much prefer salsa, but that's more South American so I'll take what I can get 😉) That massive edifice (prime venue for the aforementioned Fair) was designed by Anibal González. It was apparently neglected in the later 20th century and fell into disrepair, but has since been beautifully restored.



Last major stop for me in #Sevilla was the Museo de Bellas Artes. Last time I was this gallery, I was excited by the El Greco exhibition, one of my favourite artists. Without him (though there is at least one work present, attributed to an El Greco follower), it wasn't as interesting for me, but there is plenty of high level Spanish art.

Two of the biggest Spanish names are here, Zurbarán and local boy Murillo, so you'll be well satisfied if you're a fan of either of them. Also enjoyed random dude Jesus, who looked like he'd landed in the '70s and just finished a heavy night out. Probably not Juan de Roelas' intention when he painted it in 1610, but hey, that's how I interpreted it.

Cordoba



I travel a lot, so I have seen a ton of #cathedrals, all over the world. Yet I think I can safely say that the fascinating #Mezquita in #Cordoba tops them all: I've been waiting a good 15 years to finally see it. Sidi ben Ayub originally designed his mosque for Abd ar-Rahman I, way back in 785. This incredible achievement is a prime example of just how much more advanced the Islamic world was in those days, compared to Christendom mired in the Dark Ages.

Since then, the Mezquita has been repeatedly expanded and modified, such as al-Hakam II changing up the #mihrab in the 10th century. Unfortunately, when the Moorish empire in Spain fell, it was only a matter of time until Christians insisted on imposing their religion on the building (to be fair, it took almost 300 years and the town council was vigorously opposed).

The change came in 1523 and was quite dramatic. An entire cathedral was plonked right in the middle of the once glorious symmetry of the mosque. Though it is a great shame the original beauty was ruined, it does make for an interesting synthesis of architectural styles, with varying degrees of success.

Cádiz



I haven't been back to Cádiz in 12 years, as last time it was just a couple of day trips. This time, a full week, with one of the main attractions for me being a chance to see Goya (one of my top 3 favourite artists) in situ. The Oratorio de Santa Cueva is tucked away on a non-descript street, not looking particularly impressive from the outside. Inside, however, is gorgeous, after you've headed up the stairs to go hang out with Goya.

He has three frescoes here, one of which is not a bridal feast at all, the Rough Guide messed up there. It's actually a royal court scene, which makes way more sense. Goya's mastery of composition is well in evidence, highlighted by putting him alongside lesser artists. He uses the space far better, it's just a shame I can't get up close to revel in the fine detail.

Of course, I'm spoiled by being used to the gallery environment: this is Goya's art in the space it was intended, which means you can enjoy things like his choice of perspective adapted to people looking up at the work from the ground. These date from 1795, two years after Goya's serious illness that would eventually mark a turning point in his style, but before he really got dark during the 19th century (with Disasters of War, the Black Paintings etc).

You can see the similarities in style to Goya's far more extensive 1798 fresco work over in Madrid at San Antonio de la Florida, which I was able to visit 5 years ago.



İf you head up the Torre Tavira, you'll be rewarded with an impressively panoramic view over the city. That also highlights the numerous towers that remain from the city's long history as a major port. From these towers, merchants used to indicate to incoming ships what goods they wanted to buy, through a system of flags (İİRC the talk and the infoboards).

The main attraction of the Torre Tavira is the camera obscura installed at the top, included in your ticket price. Basically, it is like a live Google Map, created through entirely analogue technology. Cool to see birds flying across the screen, plus the odd person pottering in their roof terrace garden. That also involves a commentary by the guide (in several languages, depending which time you go), mostly just telling you what building you're looking at. First time I went in 2008, it was in English. This time, it was in Spanish and French, but I think I got the gist.



Getting to the end of my Cádiz pics and vids, this is my favourite place to eat in the city. Rather unsophisticated on my part, but then I'm not exactly a foodie (seeing as my idea of a luxurious meal would be a massive Nutella sandwich).

Whether or not you're keen on €1 montaditos, you can't argue with the view. Right in front of the cathedral, a building extensively described on the excellent Cadizfornia Tours free guided walk. Great overview of Cádiz with loads of interesting historical tidbits and local cultural knowledge.



I love Spain, and while it isn't my favourite cuisine, there is a lot to enjoy. I spent most of the trip in Cádiz, which is a really cool place (more on that later). The central market is the best place to eat in Cádiz, cheap too. İt is absolutely rammed at weekends, when I had a delicious burger. Monday was way better, much less people and a tasty bocadillo.

Desserts in Spain are lovely too. I indulged in both crepes and the like, plus my favourite, palmera (big pastry heart with a topping). Surprisingly, of all the ones I ate, Seville Airport did the best. Wouldn't be a trip to Spain without churros. At the Plaza de Flores in Cádiz there are some decent churrerias, affordable too. Be prepared to queue: stayed busy all morning when I went, even on a weekday.

El Puerto de Santa Maria

Another part of the trip back in 2008 that I loved was my introduction to #sherry. I am not a drinker, but I'm also not tee total: I have one glass of delicious Pedro Ximénez a year. This year, it might be two, as I returned to the Osborne bodega in El Puerto de Santa Maria for another tasting tour. 🍷

The Osborne family, originally from Exeter, is still involved in management. They're a distinctly Spanish people these days, having lived in the country for numerous generations. The brand dates to back to Duff Gordon in 1768, bought by Osborne a few years later in 1772. My favourite is the aforementioned Pedro Ximénez, which is often too sweet for some people. There is no such thing as too sweet for me, so I'm all about that syrupy goodness.

As I only drink one glass a year, it does take rather a long time for me to get through a bottle. I bought a new one, but my old one (must be at least 5 years old) is still going. Well past whatever its best before date is, but then I'm no gourmet anyway. I especially enjoyed that the Osborne bodega has added a museum of its famous bull marketing campaign. Unfortunately you don't get to spend long in there, so I read as much as I could. It's got an interesting history, plus the display taught me things I didn't know about Osborne, like the strong connection to Tolkien.

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