Along the Natchez Trace

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Everyone Loves a Parade?

Well, in this case, it wasn't really a parade...
As I wrote yesterday, February 28 is Andalucia Day.  
Not a religious holiday, but more a political one.
A day, we were told, would just be like any other day, except all the businesses would be closed.

Bill & I had not taken a "Scenic Tour" of Sevilla yet and thought today would be a great day for that.  It's been cold, sometimes overcast, and at times even threatening rain.
We took one of those double-decker sightseeing buses...  you know, the ones that you get the earphones to hear, in about 5 languages, what the sights are.

Almost immediately upon boarding the bus and heading out, we sensed that something was going on...
Police lines the streets...  side streets were closed...

The "spiel" is canned... preset...  so we're told about the buildings, a bit of history...  that sort of thing...  There is, of course, nothing about the current events of the day.
Since it is a holiday, we're thinking this may be a parade route and traffic is being controlled...
More policeman...  more closed streets...

We pass the park and head towards the University District..
There, a large crowd has gathered...
They are carrying banners, flags, huge balloons, and other "parade-type" things.
It looks very organized and orderly...

More and larger crowds of people...

As we turned the corner for more views of the buildings, we see another street blocked...
And more people at the end of that street....

We continue our tour.  It takes about an hour and a half to drive the route...  we see a lot of things we've seen while walking, but also head into a couple of the districts that I hadn't seen.
(more of that tomorrow).

Finally, our tour is over and we are head back.
We cannot disembark from the same bus stop we got on...  that street is now closed.

Looks like a BIG crowd up there!
Well, I love a parade...  so off we headed...  up the street.
People are packed...  standing along the sidewalk.  Lots of "cheers", chanting and interaction among the bystanders.
Still, the police are lined up in front...
This just doesn't feel "right"....
Hmmm...  we stop at the Bullring kiosk and ask what's going on.
Well...  there are several public officials giving speeches in the building across the street from all these people.
High up folks...  the president of the district...  big names in the political arena.
All the people we've been seeing are having a demonstration to show their disapproval of the government and the politicians.
All that we saw was quite well organized and was very orderly.
We stood a while, listening and watching.

There were still shouts and chanting.  The canon would occasionally boom...  but we'd seen enough and headed home.

After we got home, I tried to translate some of the banners...  I did manage "layoffs for workers" as part of one banner.  Most I couldn't see enough to translate.

We did enjoy our guided tour of the city and I'll try to blog about that tomorrow.  But today...  it seemed to be all about the locals and the politicians...  and Andalucia Day.

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dia de Andalucia

February 28 is Andalucia Day, a holiday in this part of Spain.  There will be no classes tomorrow and the school had a little celebration after class to today for all the students.

This is a political holiday, not a religious one..  (like July 4th in the USA as opposed to Easter).  In 1980, Andalucia became an autonomous community of Spain and is now governed by its own laws.  There are a total of 17 autonomous communities that make up the country of Spain.

Actually, while becoming an autonomous community in 1980, it wasn't recognized as such by the higher government until the 1990's.  

This will be more like a "bank" holiday...  no parades, no festivities.  It will be a day that most businesses will be closed (restaurants will be open) and folks will celebrate in a quiet manner.

I've shown you photos of the outside of our school...
Here's Bill, sitting in our classroom early this morning.  We were the first to arrive.  The classes are small enough that we each get a fair amount of individual attention.

Since the school is closed tomorrow for the holiday, the staff had a little celebration today.

We (students) are waiting in the lobby for the festivities.. 
Enrollment here is small enough that we've gotten to know a few students who are in other classes.
That's Bill on the far left.  Ian, from London is standing with him.  In the middle are 2 girls from Japan, and the girl with the red carry-all is Naoko, also from Japan.  Naoko is in our class.  She is a nurse in a hospital in Japan...  she is taking Flamenco lessons while here.
Standing against the wall, but facing us, is Ingeborg, from Holland.  We sit next to each other in class and I've come to like her very much.  I'll be sorry when she leaves this weekend.
Coming down the steps are Lizzy, from Australia, and Margaret from Iceland.  They are in a more advanced class.

Below are more students...
 Patricia is from England, and in the middle is a new student from Germany.  On the right is Rotraud, from Austria.  Patricia lives in the same B&B as we do..  she and the lady from Germany are more advanced.  Rotraud is in our class but is far more advanced than the rest of us.  She teaches French, speaks German, English and some Turkish.  

Another picture of our Japanese friends...

 There was a short program, which I believe was on the history of Andalucia..
 Music, photos, and a sort of "power-point" presentation.
I could pick up parts of it, but between the noise level of the music and the speed of the speech, I mostly just enjoyed the photos.

Then, we were treated to a "demonstration" of regional food.
 Rocio, who happens to be my favorite teacher, is showing us how delicious a simple piece of pan (bread) can taste.
She has the bread, the garlic, olive oil (MUST be extra virgin and MUST be from Spain - not Italy), and sugar.

The bread is toasted, rubbed with a clove of garlic, sprinkled liberally with olive oil, and a dash of sugar...
 You now have an excellent snack.
(I'll confess I did not sprinkle sugar on my bread)
But, yes, it was quite tasty!

Class can be quite difficult at times... 
 But with Rocio as our teacher...  and Bill, who keeps us all from getting too serious (he does NOT ride a caballo to class...  he walks, just like everyone else!)....  we manage to not only learn something, but to enjoy learning....  about Spain, about other people and other countries...  and yes... we are learning to speak Spanish.

Class is over today...  tomorrow's a holiday...
We're ready to head home.

I don't know if the locals greet each other, but..
Happy Andalucia Day!

That's All for Today!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Sevilla Cathedral

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to wander around a bit inside the Sevilla Cathedral.
The Bell Tower is a landmark in Sevilla.  I use it as a directional landmark when we are walking in town. 
I don't know how often the bells chime, but there are numerous size bells and they all have a different sound.  
I suppose in the early days there were folks that pulled ropes to make them ring...  these days they surely must be computerized. 

The main entrance is huge...  

Below is the Wikipedia description of this cathedral...

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See (SpanishCatedral de Santa María de la Sede), better known as Seville Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Seville (AndalusiaSpain). It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the fourth-largest church in the world. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the Alcázar palace complex and the General Archive of the Indies.[1]
After its completion in the early 16th century, Seville Cathedral supplanted Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the world, a title the Byzantine church had held for nearly a thousand years. The cathedral is also the burial site of Christopher Columbus.[2] The Archbishop's Palace is located on the northeastern side of the cathedral.

This is another entrance....
 It is truly awesome to walk through these arches and go inside.

The Main Chapel..
 Mass was being said so I did not go closer to the altar.
Some other day...

I wandered around some of the other rooms...

Everything is huge...  and I believe you could have heard a pin drop.
It was so quiet...  so hushed...
I wasn't on a tour so did not see where Christopher Columbus is buried...
Maybe next time...

A view from the courtyard...
It's difficult to get it all in one picture... Before we leave in April I plan to take the tour and see more of the inside.

Just wanted to show you the most famous building in the city.  Quite fabulous, isn't it?

That's All For Today!

Monday, February 25, 2013

One Step Forward Two Steps Back...

That's the way I felt a couple of days last week...  about classes and learning Spanish...
Enforex.... The school we attend.
Our classroom is the upper left window.

It's been a long time since I attended classes on a regular basis for any length of time.  It's been a long time since I actually THOUGHT about subjective verbs, or irregular verbs, or infinitives, or for heavens sakes... diphthongs!

At this school there is a morning session and an afternoon session.  Each session has a different teacher.  AND...  each week that teacher is likely to be different.
Students come and go....  some are here for classes for as little as one week...  some two or three...  some a month or more.

The school gives you a test upon entry and places you in the class at your ability level....  Basic 1, Basic 2; Intermediate 1, and 2, and Advanced 1 and 2.  Bill & I are in the Basic 1 level class.  There have been as few as 4 of us (students), and today there were 7.

Sometimes, after a day or so, a student will re-test and move into a higher level (there are no lower levels ;-)  

Spanish is the only language we are supposed to speak.  Some of the instructors are very strict about this, some will bail us out (in English) if we're desperate.  Today we students consisted of 3 Americans, 1 English, 1 Holland, 1 Japanese and 1 Austrian (who lives in Istanbul most of the time).  

We have workbooks to use and sometimes CDs are played for audio instruction.  I'll tell you right now that I've never understood one thing on those CDs.  

Each instructor we have had teaches a little bit differently.  Some are quite patient and speak slow enough we beginners can catch the words.  The morning instructor we have now doesn't speak English and doesn't speak very slow.  There have been times I've been completely lost.  (the two steps back part)

But you know something?
I AM learning...  not quickly, not easily, and certainly not smoothly. Today we conjugated some irregular verbs and I (pretty much) understood what I was doing.
Major breakthrough!

It's not just about learning Spanish, it's about learning ABOUT the customs of other people and trying the foods and seeing the city streets and buildings.  And I've learned some about the countries my fellow classmates are from.

And something else...
I'm having fun.  Okay... being totally frustrated about not understanding what's going in one class isn't fun...  but I like the challenge of learning.  I'll get over the frustration...  and in the process I'll have learned at least a little.

You know, I think I should have titled this...
Two steps forward, One Step back

That's All For Today!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Domingo Doings

Actually, the beginning of this will be Saturday doings...

Remember my favorite entrepreneur?  Yep!  He was on the street again yesterday...
 He was selling packages of tissues to passing cars...  but he takes the time to come over to the sidewalk to pose for me.  He's such a hoot!  I look forward to seeing the next costume!

As we were walking home from the supermercado a whole herd of motorcyclists roared down the street.
All Harley Davidsons!  Most were single riders (no passengers).  We see a lot of motorscooters, a some motorcycles, but these were the first Harleys we've seen here.
Wonder if they were on a weekend tour?   

Ah yes...  the sculls... or shells...  or whatever....
Look at the length of this one!
The girl at the far right is the navigator....  those guys are all facing the place they've been.  Makes me laugh a bit because we have a friend who would NEVER trust a woman at the helm!

 We had to shop at the Corte Ingles grocery yesterday and while we were there we went up a couple of floors to see what other departments this store had...
We don't have a dog but started looking at dog jackets.
Can you believe this doggy rain suit?  It has legs and a hood!  I didn't unzip that area at the back, but think it could have held some small items.  Obviously no one around here would put "clean-up" baggies in it...  you wouldn't believe the dog poop all over the sidewalks.  Bill jokes about walking through a mine field.

We haven't taken the train yet...
 It's on our "to do" list...  Doesn't it look sleek and fast?
We've had a bit of trouble finding the tourist information kiosks open...  we need a bus and a train schedule so we can do some day trips.

This arch is near the city hall...
 Legend has it that you will marry whomever you walk with through this archway.  Bill didn't tell me that until it was too late...  but then...  after all these years, I guess it was way too late anyway.

Those were Saturday photos...  today when we walked into the old part of Sevilla, we saw that a Marathon was in progress.
 The streets were closed to traffic and the sidewalks were crowded with spectators.  I don't know how many runners there were, but the highest number I saw on anyone's chest was 7,069.
WOW!  That's a LOT of runners!

This area was where the participants could grab a cup of water...
Looks like a massive clean-up job will be in order later today. 

There was entertainment...
 This band was set up along the course...

There were energy bars being handed out to the runners...
These were folks really were kept busy.
You can see some of the runners in the background.

I don't know the course of the marathon...  but with that many participants it must wind all around the city.

We watched for a while then headed home.
The sun is shining today...  it's obvious that the people here think (or know) that spring isn't too far off.
The Triana plaza was crowded with folks milling around...  just having a good time.

That's All for Today!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sabado Sights

Saturday!  No escula, no clases.......  I'm like a high school teenager relishing my free time!

Nothing really exciting to write about today so I'll show y'all some photos I've taken recently...

Of course we left our motorhome back in Texas, but we are always interested in the ones we see here.  We actually see very few, and what we do see are not nearly the huge rigs we see in the States.
We saw this pull-behind trailer parked on a city street recently.
I see that the antenna is raised so I'm assuming the folks are parked here for more than a quick tour of the bull ring (you can see it on the left in the background)

Here's a small Class C...
Again..  parked on the street.  I have no idea what make or model this is, but it looks like the perfect size for a tourist in Spain.

This one was parked in the Parque Maria Luisa..... 
 Again, no idea of make or model.

Occasionally we'll see a motorhome (usually Class C - that's like the ones above..  with an over-the-cab area... usually for sleeping) in traffic, but traffic here can be a nightmare... I sure wouldn't want to drive one (or anything, for that matter) through these streets.

The buildings here are so beautiful...
This is a view of the Cathedral, looking through one of the arches leading into the courtyard.  
Something special was going on last Sunday, the bells rang constantly, and the crowds of people were lined up around the block to enter the cathedral.  

We got kind of turned around on one of our walks and ended up at the Camera Obscura - atop the Torre de los Perdigones
The dark chamber is an instrument optic which enables a flat projection on an external image of the inner surface. Was one of the ancient devices that led to the development of photography .The photographic apparatus inherited the word current camera of old darkrooms. It consists of a closed box and a small hole through which enters a small amount of light projected on the opposite wall from the outside image. If endowed with photo paper becomes a camera pinhole . (translation may be a bit confusing)

We didn't go up into this tower, but maybe we will before we leave Sevilla.

I love looking at the tops of buildings...  like I'm looking at the best architecture at the top.
 I find myself taking lots of photos of the tops of buildings..
I can't even remember which church this is.
Bill & I have this joke...  it goes like this:
Sharon:  Meet me at that big church next to that little tienda at 3pm.
Bill:  Yeah, right...  which of the hundreds of churches are you talking about?

Seriously, there are churches EVERYWHERE!  When I walk a couple of blocks to San Jacinto for Sunday mass, I pass at least 3 other churches on my way.
I'm told that Spain isn't particularly religious...  so I don't know who attends these churches.

The other day we were walking along the river and saw this:
We've gone on lots of cruises, but never on a ship like this!
This one is a French company, taking tourists from Cadiz to Sevilla.
Looks like the capacity is around 200 guests.
There was nobody around and we're assuming that the ship docked here and a bus took the passengers on a tour of Sevilla.
Reminded me of my friends Jean & Barry, who take cruises of this kind in France and Germany.
Maybe Bill & I will think about this kind of travel one of these days.

We saw these clowns in the park the other day...
At first I thought Ronald McDonald had been cloned and turned loose.
As we watched, we saw that they were on a photo shoot for some event....
Kind of a fun thing to come across.

You can use a public bicycle here...  
You buy a card (like a credit card)... insert it in the little stand by the bike, and take the bike for as along as you like.  When you arrive at your destination, you find a bike rack like this, put the bike back.  The meter will "charge" you only for the time you use it.  We understand this is a very cheap way to travel about town...  haven't tried it yet, but probably will before we leave.

This isn't one of the rental bikes, but isn't it about the cutest thing you've seen?
I think that seat on the back is for the little girl's doll baby.  I see the helmet is fastened to the lock, so whoever rides this tiny bike is learning very good habits!

Just to show you that Spring may really be on its way...
We saw this lantana blooming along one of the city streets...

And...  don't know what this is, but it looks like it might be a viburnum...
Also in bloom...  and quite lovely.

I can't remember exactly where this is, but it looks a bit like Alice in Wonderland to me...
You know...  down the Rabbit Hole and into another world....

That's the fun of walking through these streets...
We never know when we turn a corner what might be waiting.

It's quite an adventure!

That's All For Today!