Illustration Friday: Toy

This IF post was inspired by my niece, who, though surrounded with toys, was obsessed with one small tube of chapstick. Sometimes the simplest things make the best toys!

Travel Diary: Day Twenty - Seville

Recently I flew home from a 24-day solo trip to Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Seville, and Lisbon again. If you like, you can start from the beginning here.

Day Twenty - Seville

Inside Seville's Cathedral

Even though this is the farthest south I've been in Spain, today is by far the coldest I've experienced. And by cold, I mean 11 or 12 degrees, but still. I was spoiled by the sun and warmth of the other cities. This morning was a tour of the Cathedral and its Giralda tower. The tower itself I've seen depicted in illuminated manuscripts from maybe the 15th c., and again in paintings from the 18th. It gets around - or, more accurately, it's been a landmark for such a long time. When you climb the tower, it isn't steps you're climbing, but ramps. The guidebook tells me that this is because they used to ride horses up all 34 flights. That's all I could think as I huffed my way up there: Horses! Up here! Horses!

Giralda tower and orange trees

The Cathedral is huge - the largest in Spain, they say - with very ornate Catholic things that are probably very important to those who are Catholic. I liked the oval-shaped room the best, with its intricate ceiling. The ceilings here are incredible. They're like little prizes to reward you just for thinking to tilt your head upwards.

After the Cathedral I went back to Bar Europa for more great tapas: pork cheeks in a port wine sauce, and fluffy and scrumptious homemade partridge pate. Something was drizzled on the plate that looked like chocolate sauce but for all I know could have been some kind of high quality balsamic vinegar. Supertaster I am not. But it was delicious.

Then, off to find the Flamenco Museum. It's a little cheesy and not really worth the admission, but I bought the whole package and will go back tonight to see some actual flamenco. Fingers crossed it won't disappoint like the museum.


Well, the flamenco certainly did not disappoint! The dancing was joyful, smoldering and incredibly sexy. The guitarist and singer were sweating just as much as our two dancers: Ana of the long, polka-dotted dress (why polka-dots?) and Oscar, who resembled a latin Orlando Bloom from his long-haired pirate days. Ana whipped her train to-and-fro, spun and stopped on her heels, snapped her fingers, clicked her tongue, scrunched her dress up around her (the better to see her feet, my dear) and stomped and STOMPED in impeccable time. Oscar made himself grow taller and taller, inclining his head to look down on us. Then his legs became a flurry of kicks every which way, a jump, a flourish, and forever stomping on and off and subtly, with a smirk, just around the beat, getting faster and faster, and the singer gets louder and louder and the guitar strums furiously until you think that poor, bending wooden floor (and their knees!) just can't take it any more and boom. Ole!

Have I mentioned the orange trees yet? There are orange trees here just sobbing with the weight of their fruit. And yet, there are hardly any oranges on the ground. What happens to all of these oranges? Where do they go?


Tonight's tapas: a montedito (like a small panini) of smoked salmon and cheese, 3 pcs of jamon serrano, and shrimp on toast. One of my shrimps made a spectacular leap to freedom, bouncing off my sweater and
both of my pant legs to the floor under the table, so I rationalized that I then deserved a dessert of a quince cheesecake tart. Quince! Just saying that name out loud makes me smile.

Oh! and I fixed my toilet tonight. Some magical knob on the wall needed a half-turn and voila. Plumbing badge earned!

Ah, bon?

My friend Jenna has a wicked eye for style, and she's always up-to-date on trends and designers that cater to her particular love of sweet-Paris-via-indie-Toronto with a healthy dose of NYC. (Seriously, clothing swaps with Jenna are THE BEST). Anyway, she's just launched a new blog this year called Ah, Bon? that mixes and matches her fantastic clothing finds, inspiration, and some fabulous French things . When she asked me to help her out with the design of her blog header, I was tickled #CC0066 (that's pink, by the way). To see more of Ah, Bon?, click here.

Travel Diary: Day Nineteen - Seville

Recently I flew home from a 24-day solo trip to Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Seville, and Lisbon again. If you like, you can start from the beginning here.

Day Nineteen - Seville

Lemon trees in the Alcazar gardens

I'm in my little cell, listening to kids play kick the can with a smushed coke can right outside my window, and I've given up all hope of a nap this afternoon. Seville has some of the most beautifully decorated buildings I have seen so far on the trip. They are usually covered in intricately painted tiles, or ornate carvings, or both; there is definitely some Arabic influence in the ornamentation, whether in the patterns of the tiles, or the shapes of the carved arches and towers. I was stunned at the beauty of the Alcazar.

Inside the Alcazar

The original palace was built some time in the 12th or 13th centuries, but it was heavily renovated, reconfigured, and added to for Isabella and Fernando in the 15th - 16th. Each room was covered - completely covered - in decorative tile, each courtyard sculpted beyond belief. It's hard to imagine it, somehow, as a
home: a few plaques said such-and-such a room was perhaps the bedchamber, etc., but since everything is devoid of furniture it's very hard to see it.
Rooms in the Alcazar

Plaza del Toros

After Alcazar I headed to the Plaza del Toros and that was truly fascinating. The tour was all in Spanish, but I was able to understand quite a bit of it, thanks to our very expressive and gestural guide. From what I understand, bullfights happen there in the summers, and what I never knew was that it's not just the matador: they fight in teams. The matador is simply the first and last fighter of the event, and there are two other fighters who have 5-minute sets each. Before some regulations were passed in the early 20th century, many bulls and bullfighting teams would fight at the same time, and even dogs and cats were somehow involved. "Chaos!" said our guide.

She also said that since this bullring was opened, only 3 people - and only one of them was a matador - have been killed in the ring (it doesn't seem like a fair fight, exactly). And when the matador was killed, they not only killed the bull at fault, they also killed the bull's mother. Her lovely little head was actually mounted right there in the museum. It's a pretty grisly thing.

Posters for the annual bullfighting festival in April

I had a couple of less-than-spectacular meals today (Author's note: so less-than-spectacular in fact that I can't even remember them and hence no food illustrations this post. Sad face.) I find myself longing for Basque tapas and their easy-to-navigate, what-you-see-is-what-you-get deliciousness.

I am also longing for a toilet that works properly. Yes, this morning my toiled not longer flushed. Actually, to be more accurate, the tank no longer fills up with water (if it ever did). So, as I discovered, when you personally fill up the tank with about 25 little glasses of water from the sink, it actually will flush. If this is some karmic lesson on conserving water, I am not amused. But then again, it's really effective. (Some of you readers might, at this point, be wondering why I didn't alert the hostel staff as to my predicament. Short answer: I don't know. I thought about it, but then for some reason I convinced myself that it was fine and I would make do. Sigh.)

I think I'm starting to get a little tired of being on the road. My restaurant and transaction Spanish have improved quite a bit, but I'm starting to count down the days until my flight home. I'm sorry, Seville, it's not you, it's me. But something about this city does feel a little more touristy somehow. Maybe it's the part of town where I'm staying? I mean, Madrid and Barcelona were certainly touristy, but I was staying slightly out of their centres in those cities.

One thing I do love here, though, are all of the genuine Flamenco shops. Even in the El Corte Ingles department store there's a flamenco section on the kids' floor, and a shawl (mantilla?) and hair comb counter on the accessories floor. The dresses are so brightly patterned and ruffled and, well, beautiful. I also love seeing the older couples strolling home after their glass of wine, arm-in-arm, the wife in her fur coat. I see them and completely romanticize their lives. And then I wonder to myself if they've ever been to a bullfight.

March Wallpaper

Haven't done one of these in a while. Happy March 1st, everyone.