Monday, July 7, 2014


A few impressions from my trip to Spain and Italy... starting with Seville. We were there for four days, jet-lagged and kept busy with site visits as part of the sustainability program. Still, I got out to see some sights. The Alcazar is on every tourist's list, and I have no superlatives to add. The buildings are spectacular, and the gardens are worthy of a thorough exploration. Here is a sample of the architecture...

One piece of advice I have to any visitor is that the place rewards patience. In the early evening, as the crowds were thinning out, I took a detour into the Sala de Justicia, near the main entrance. This is a fairly modest room featuring little of the elaborate "Moorish" decoration that is so entrancing here. For that reason, perhaps, I was able to sit in a corner and have the room all to myself for 20 minutes. The little fountain at the center of the room burbled, the water silently drained into the adjacent courtyard pool, and the pigeons ignored me after a while and came in for a sip, softly cooing and chortling as they do. This kind of solitary, meditative moment is a luxury today, but the original builders of the palace clearly had it in mind as a regular feature. It's worth seeking out.

The Seville cathedral is a must-see, if only for the awesome scale of the thing. The pictures I took with my phone don't provide any sense of the enormity, so I'll skip those. On a much more modest scale is the baroque chapel at the Hospital de los Venerables. The chapel is not really my cup of tea, but the price of admission also gets you into the one-room Diego Velázquez Research Centre, sponsored by the Focus-Abengoa Foundation. This little room will bring you up close and personal with some fine paintings of the immaculate conception by Velázquez and Zurbarán, among others, but also in particular with one undeniable masterpiece by Velázquez, of Santa Rufina, who legend has it lived in Triana, the gypsy quarter of town. No photos permitted, so I copy the picture from their web site. Velázquez may have used his own daughter as a model, and if so, I bet she was a handful. Apparently Rufina was one tough cookie, and Velázquez perfectly captures both her youthful charm and her steely determination in this powerful work of art.

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