|Main gate to the Alcazar|
We walked in the Santa Cruz neighborhood, a windy labyrinth of mostly pedestrian streets lined with shops, cafes, churches and plazas. People live here, too, in the flats over the street. It's easy to get lost wandering these streets. A map is a must if time is important.
Our destination, beyond walking through this fascinating part of Seville, is to visit the Alcazar and the cathedral. We walked straight over to the Alcazar.
This formerly Moorish palace was converted to a Christian king's palace after the Moors were thrown out of Sevilla. Fortunately, his architects had the good sense not to tear the palace down and start over. Many of the Moorish influences remain. It is still a palace today. I can't decide whether I like the the Alcazar better or the Alhambra in Grenada. The Alcazar is just stunning. I actually like the water features better here than the Alhambra. The room where Columbus returned from the New World to report on his discoveries, is in this palace. This is the place where Magellan planned his round the world voyage. Amazing! What history!
|Chris Columbus's final resting place|
Back through the narrow winding streets to the Sevilla Cathedral, second largest in Spain and the largest Gothic cathedral in all of Europe. Here in a magnificent, raised tomb, is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus himself. He kept traveling for years after his death, being buried in Cuba and Santo Domingo at least, before ending up here in Sevilla. This is a stunningly beautiful church. Massive in every way. Massive paintings, organ bays, stained glass and pillars that stretch almost to the heavens, which was, of course, the intended effect.
We stopped for lunch at Cafe Tomate, where we got ripped off for the first time on our trip. We ordered several items off the menu boards all of which appeared to be tapas, which means they are usually smaller portions. Everything came to the table and looked great until we got the bill which was much higher than we expected. Sure enough, we had been charged €10.50 for a plate with toast pieces topped with sliced tomatoes and a filet of anchovy. The waiter looks at us straight faced and went down the bill assuring us that this was a tapas and that was a tapa, but this wasn't and that wasn't. Then walked away despite our upset looks as if we should have known. He overcharged us by $20. He knew we wouldn't be back and that he had us. Lesson learned? Go to places only that are recommended by your tour book or a reputable on-line resource such as Trip Advisor. There will be, at least some, payback when I write a review of the place on TripAdvisor.
Our daytime adventuring ended with a stop in the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. The side chapels and the main alter were covered in gilded gold, though not nearly on the scale of the cathedral, it is very nearly as equally beautiful.
Our final evening in Sevilla was spent taking in the flamenco show at Cafe de la Memoria. We'd read about this being a good example of traditional flamenco dance, guitar and singing. Only an hour in length, it starred a young guitarist, a male singer and a male and female dancer. The female dancer was my favorite. She displayed such dramatic depth in her dancing. The look on her face during her solos displayed such a depth of sorrow as she moved her entire body to the rhythms of the guitar and the other two men who clapped out a counterpoint reflected in the determined tapping of her feet. It was a wonderful way to spend the evening and to bring our time in Sevilla to an end.
Tomorrow, we leave Spain for the Portuguese Algarve and a stay at the end of the world.
We managed to exit Seville without any of the problems we had getting in to find our hotel two days ago. My advice is either to avoid driving into this town completely, or make sure you are well prepared with your exact route to your intended destination before driving in. Have a navigator directing your every turn and then park your car and don't use it during your visit. Sevilla is not to be messed with when driving. Many streets are one way, others can't be driven down, turns right and left are unpredictable, streets often change names within blocks and it is quite common for no street name to be seen where they are normally, which is on the side of a building near the corner. Sound confusing? Try driving in Sevilla and you'll become a believer.
As I said, despite those frustrations we were able to get out of Sevilla without a hitch. We headed west and within about 2 hours we were crossing a river and entering Portugal. Another hour and a half along A22 and we turned off onto N125.
|Salema fishing boats|
We'd picked out what sounded like a wonderful place but when we arrived we found out just how quiet the town was. The restaurant as well as a lot of other places were closed for the season. Some proprietors could be seen repainting their places but were not ready to open quite yet. Luckily we found our second choice was open. We picked out a table that looked out onto the beach only yards away. Boia Bar and Restaurant was pretty quiet but it was soon about half filled with other diners also in for their lunch. Our host insisted on speaking English and we soon found out why. We knew this area was frequented heavily by visitors from England anxious to get away to a sunnier climate. Every other diner in the restaurant was a Brit.
We ordered two glasses of the must try Vino Verde. For lunch we ordered a Salada Pulpo (octopus is pulpo) and the sea bass. The bass came out whole, head on along with perfectly cooked carrots, broccoli and little potatoes. On the side was a fresh green salad with thinly sliced onion, shredded carrot and tomato. The sea bass was sautéed to perfection, the skin crisp and the flesh creamy and firm. I swear it was just brought out of the sea. Two coffees served with a silver pitcher of steamed milk put the finishing touches on one of the best meals we had on our trip.
5 minutes back up the winding road that brought us down to Salema and we were back on the two lane highway for the few minutes further along to Sagres, our final destination for the day. We drove through this sleepy little town following the signs to the Pousada were we had reservations for the night.
The Pousada do Infante sits high on a cliff above the sea. These pousadas are often historic buildings owned by the Portuguese government but converted into lovely, usually rather pricey hotels. We found out this Pousada was actually built in 1960 so historic doesn't count here, but the location couldn't be more so.
We got a really good off season deal. Our room deal, however, did not include a room with a view out to sea. That was another €15. Eh, we can walk to see the view. So we asked the very nice desk clerk to give us the best room without a view. He laughed and then led us to our second floor room. He opened the door for us, we rolled our luggage in, he thanked us and closed the door. I headed across the room to open the window. But when I flung open the drapes, there spread out in front of us, was a view out to sea in all directions. Oh my! I think we'll just stay in tonight! We got room 225 on the second floor.
That view was too good to resist and we decided to head out on a hike to the end of the peninsula. The End of World it is called, or rather as it was called in the day of Prince Henry the Navigator, who chose to build his school of navigation on the peninsula just across the bay from the one our Pousada sits on. But we are on Cape Sagres, the furthest southwest point in all of Europe.
|Sagres Pousada do Infante|
Our walk took us to the very edge. We can walk no further. We had arrived at what those who lived in Europe in the 1400's thought of as the end of the world. Looking out to sea from this vantage point and considering what those intrepid explorers knew about the world, what they had for technology to take them across that great unknown sea hoping to discover new lands, is just awe inspiring. It is humbling, even overwhelming. How did they do it? What an amazing level of self-confidence, curiosity and courage they must have possessed to have attempted those voyages so long ago in vessels with no technology beyond the sextant, no margin of safety, no coast guard chopper to fly to their rescue, no GPS! And when they got to the other side, they had to turn around and do it all again going the other way.
We decided to picnic it out on our terrace here at our hotel for dinner. Such a tremendous view deserved to be savored. So we drove over to the Inter Marche market we saw coming into town. We knew it would have normal prices since locals shop there. We picked up several freshly sliced meats, a couple of local cheeses, some olives (so cheap here), some nice bread and some flan. It was enough food to allow us to picnic again tomorrow on our way to Evora.
It was a lovely evening sitting out, watching the sun set over the sea, munching on some local delicacies along with a nice bottle of red wine. Eventually it got pretty chilly and we decided it was time to head in, relax in the room and read before turning in for the night. Another amazing day, our first here in a brand new country for us--Portugal!