Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Up The Hill, Not Over It

I had a charming evening with Teré and Miguel in Carmona last week on Monday. Carmona is about a half-hour drive east northeast of Sevilla, a bit more by bus. The city dates back to 100–44 BC, one of the strongest Roman cities in Hispania during the time of Julius Caesar. In later centuries, the Moors built a wall around it for protection. It was finally captured by Ferdinand III of Castille in 1247.

JUST WALKING THROUGH TOWN.

We took the bus with the simple plan to have coffee at El Parador, the hotel at the top of the highest hill. Paradores are luxury hotels in Spain that were usually originally palaces, fortresses, convents, monasteries, and other historic buildings. The one in Carmona, Parador Alcazar del Rey Don Pedro, was a Moorish fortress (and before that a fortress of the Carthaginians) added onto by King Pedro the Cruel. It's now a modern hotel, but the oldest parts of the structure date back to the 12th and 13th centuries AD. Anyone I've met in Sevilla who has suggested a visit to Carmona has insisted that it would not be complete without a walk up the hill to the Parador for a cup of coffee.

APPROACHING EL PARADOR.
Since our only goal on my first visit was to have a cup of coffee (OK, and dessert) at El Parador, I have got to get back and explore the ancient Roman ruins and as much of the other history I can take in. And then bore you with the results!

WELCOME TO EL PARADOR.

Teré and Miguel have taken the bus to Carmona often. I met them at the bus station, El Prado de San Salvador, which is about 1-1/4 miles from my house. I was there a few minutes before them but I couldn't find any posting that included a bus to Carmona. While I looked, Miguel and Teré arrived and were also perplexed. After visiting two different ticket windows of two different bus companies, we were directed outside to an unmarked white door that led to an office next to the buses. Miguel knocked and peaked in. A very pleasant man came out and said the Carmona bus didn't leave from there anymore. It now left from San Bernardo Station another 3/4-mile further on. We hustled over to San Bernardo with 4 minutes to spare, jogging the last 1/4-mile only to miss the bus by three minutes. (I have been very, and in this case sadly, impressed with the promptness of Sevilla's and Spain's public transportation.)

LEADING INTO THE PARKING LOT AND COURTYARD. I'M ABOUT TO DO ANOTHER SPRINT.

We had an hour until the next bus to Carmona, so we went for a walk to the the Gardens of La Buhaira (where Jerry and I saw that very strange performance of "Carmen" what seems like years ago). That was probably 1/4-mile away. We strolled the gardens and then walked back to wait another 15 minutes for the bus.

LOOKING BACK TO THE ARCHWAY ONCE INSIDE THE COURTYARD/PARKING LOT.

We left Sevilla late in the day (around 5 p.m.) so, once we arrived in Carmona, we didn't dawdle in the town itself. We were anxious to get to El Parador before the sun was too low to truly appreciate the view, and then the spectacular colors of the sunset. We power-walked entirely uphill about 1/2-mile, through the winding streets of the town. I would stop to take a quick snapshot and would then sprint to catch up with Teré and Miguel.

A VIEW FROM THE TERRACE.

El Parador was worth the trip. The modern hotel is built around the ancient structure and has a large terrace that overlooks the entire valley. We had our coffee and pastries, admired the view, enjoyed one another's company and then headed back down into town to catch the 8:00 bus. I was feeling so smug in my physical fitness (and the fact that I could easily keep up, and then some, with 30-somethings) that, once back in Sevilla, I walked the two miles home from the bus stop. It took me 30 minutes.

ABOUT TO HEAD OUT AND BACK DOWN THE HILL.

Jerry and I had a late dinner and I woke up Tuesday morning for my coffee with Lola feeling tired and achey. I chalked it up to all the power-walking I had done Monday, disappointed that I couldn't keep up as well as I had thought.

THE BELL TOWER OF THE PRIORIAL DE SANTA MARIA.
So, it was with some kind of twisted relief that, during my sleepless Tuesday night, I realized I was more than just tired... And, especially, that it probably had nothing to do with Monday's activity level. I had fever, chills, stomach problems (that linger), and over the course of the week, I grew just generally miserable and, I'm convinced, miserable to be around. So, now that my physical health is mostly recovered, I'm trying to recover the positive attitude I had been working so hard to resurrect. Jerry is a saint.

WINDING OUR WAY DOWN.

33 comments:

  1. Hi Mitchell. These photos are unbelievable! I LOVE the 'terrace' shot! I can imagine a coffee with THAT view is something else. I'm sounding like a hick I know but Ron and I so have to get to Europe to see all the history and grand places.
    Hope you are feeling better and stronger and watch those hills! lol
    Great post.

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    1. Jim:
      And to think I was disappointed in the photos. It wasn't really the right time of day. Lots of wash-out and at other times too many shadows. Thanks! And, yes, I hope you DO get to Europe one of these days so we can enjoy a coffee or sherry or vino dulce (raisin wine) together!

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  2. Amazing photos and history! I just watched a show on NBC called Who Do You Think You Are? And this latest episode Martin Sheen was exploring his roots. His father's family was from Spain and they were able to trace his family back to a Judge who was prosecuting a young lady for having an abortion, but funnily enough both the Judge and the young lady were part of Sheen's direct lines. :)

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    1. Writer:
      Can't wait to get back to Carmona for the real history. I would love to be able to trace my family back to such interesting stories. Jerry has an 9-greats grandfather who was hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Such illustrious ancestry!

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  3. That is the greatest thin about Spain...you walk down a street or go up a hill and you meet face to face with history spanning centuries.

    I have never been to that place and it seems like it should be on my itinerary for my next trip

    saludos
    raulito

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    Replies
    1. Raulito:
      Italica, a little further along, apparently has amazing Roman ruins, but it's not as easy to get to nor as accessible/diverse a town (restaurants, cafés, etc.). But I still look forward to getting there.

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  4. The telling of the story is integral to grabbing the attention of the reader and...drum roll...you manage to this with such ease. Thanks for this Mitch...imagine coffee and pastries in this beautiful castle. The last time I enjoyed something in a castle was on the Rhine 1969 with my college group...wine and rump roast..too funny!

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    1. Ron:
      The first time I enjoyed a meal in a castle was also in Germany. My sister and her family lived nearby. My niece (now 37) was around 2 at the time and was indignant that a very large German woman walked right by her without noticing her as she stood looking up. She quietly said, "Hiya" and was ignored. She was finally so indignant she ran after the woman (who must have been 6 feet tall), took a mighty swing, and slapped her in the calf. The woman looked down. My niece put both hands on her hips and sternly said, "Hiya!" She was noticed. (I think I had a ham sandwich and a beer.)

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  5. Mitch, what a great set of photos, along with fascinating history and charming personal anecdotes! The terrace picture is so similar to a shot that I took of Blarney Castle when I was most of the way up. There are so many gorgeous places to see in the world, and since I can't fit it all in to one lifetime, I'm glad you're so kind as to share the beauty in your corner of the world!

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    1. Michelle:
      I have never been to Ireland... or Scotland... or Wales. Shameful. My sister loved Blarney Castle and took some great photos. One of these days!

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  6. I'm sorry you ran yourself ragged to get these wonderful photos, but I'm so glad you took them and shared them! Hope you spring back in a jiffy!

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    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      Today appears to be, finally, the back-to-normal day! Thanks!

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  7. I am such an architecture whore that I fall in love with all your pictures.
    But that "view From The Terrace" is just breathtaking.
    I feel all peaceful and serene inside just looking at it.

    PS Glad you're up and blogging again.

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    1. Bob:
      I'll have to get back earlier in the day to take more pictures from the terrace. The light was such that that was really the only angle that worked. Views in the other direction were also beautiful. Breakfast out there would be bliss!

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  8. Wow! Fantastic views! Shame about the old Roman bug you picked up though. When you're ill there's nowt to be done except to be ill well! Welcome back to the world.

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    1. The Owl Wood:
      I'm not sure if I was ill well or just well ill, but I'm so glad to be better. I think it may have been a Carthaginian bug.

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  9. These really are a handful of 'knock-me-out' photos! Your best together in one blog to date, I think. Most of them would be perfect for picture postcards of the "Wish you were here!" variety.
    And such riches there are to be discovered in Spain's history! Most of us, I'd like to think, know about the country's Moorish-ruled past but few could fill it out with any meaningful details. Mitch, I really envy you - and so wish I'd taken the chance to visit Espana when I could (which may yet come again).

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    1. Raybeard:
      It's funny. I was so disappointed in the photos, but now am really pleased. Thanks. To top things off, my camera battery died and the sunset photos were taken with my phone! I hope you can get here someday. You'll just have to steel yourself to all the "hams" hanging in the restaurants and shops. THAT I think will be a bit painful for you to see.

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    2. It would be painful, Mitch - but I'll just have to remember to bring my blinkers with me.
      It's strange (and disproportionate too, I suppose) but one of the things I recall most about my only visit to your country of residence (Santiago de C. in 2006) is the sight of fishmonger shops with, in the window, live fish swimming in tanks. Wish I could say that over time it gets easier for me to mentally deal with, but, on the contrary, it's getting worse - though I think I can refrain from saying anything and souring everyone else's mood. Still, such things ain't gonna stop me from coming!

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  10. What a fabulous place and such an energetic day for you too! Coffee and pastries on the terrace with a great view - what could be better, not a lot I think. Thanks for sharing this place.

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    1. the cuby poet:
      I can't wait to share the real Carmona. This is such a tiny glimpse of the history and beauty. I also look forward to sitting in the warm sunshine on that terrace enjoying another cup of coffee (I had a delicious apple tart, by the way.)

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  11. My goodness Mitch, sorry to hear that you have been ill - you'd better take a peek at my post for yesterday. Just think that next time you are under the weather you could be faced with one of those and you'll never be ill again.
    Those photographs are lovely and I can't wait to learn a little more of the history of Carmona. PS Don't forget to keep that camera battery charged!

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    1. Elaine:
      So sorry I wasn't up to seeing your post yesterday! What an excellent resource. I'm sure the cure for consumptive tendencies would have done the trick! Wonder what difference it would make with 1-1/2 pints of old, instead of new, milk! Not much, I'll bet.

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    2. I think you'd be better off sticking with chicken soup and great nursing from Jerry! I am so glad you are on the mend!

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    3. Mitch, I PROMISE I Will not be bored but very eager to see your Roman ruins photos and any other photos you post on the blog. Spain is a beloved place for me and you're letting me keep in contact with it. And I'm delighted you're out and about and healthy again!

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    4. Will:
      Thanks, as always, Will!

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  12. I am reviewing some Late Roman/early Middle Ages history; Spain was fascinating then - Visigoths and then the Muslims. What joy it must be to be near so much history!

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    1. Ur-spo:
      It definitely is a joy and makes me want to now learn about all those things I ignored in school!

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  13. This has nothing to do with this post except that it has to do with Spain. We always get our olive oil, Hojiblanca, from a place in Halifax, today we needed to get a new supply and we were told it was harvested in Spain about four weeks ago and it is very fresh! We thought of you guys! That's it!

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    1. Didn't mean to imply that you were fresh! lol

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    2. Jim:
      We have been amazed by the variety of Spanish olive oils -- this for cooking this kind of food, this for another, this for salad, this for french fries. And it's not just hype. Even my untrained palette can tell the difference. Glad you're enjoying some.

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  14. Replies
    1. HARRYGOAZ:
      And, like I said, I can't wait to get back and REALLY see Carmona!

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