Tuesday, the 15th, was a travel day. But, we didn’t let that interfere with our enjoyment of Spain’s wonderful sights. We left our hotel in Toledo earlier than usual so that being in our rental car, a Toyota Yaris, would not be the only thing we did on that day. For three and a half hours, we drove across the central plains of Spain, which are occasionally dissected by mountain ranges. Our ultimate destination was Seville, but we elected to make a stopover in Córdoba, a city in Andalusia, and a major Islamic center in the Middle Ages. It is home to La Mezquita, what must be one of the most unusual churches in the world. The site was home to a 6th century Visigoth church prior to its razing and the construction of a massive and impressive mosque over the top of it in 784. (Muslims invaded and conquered Spain in 711 A.D.) When the Christians reconquered Córdoba, the mosque was converted to a Christian church in 1236. Then, in the 16th century, a large Renaissance Cathedral was built right in the midst of the mosque. This history makes for one unique architectural experience. The mosque was never destroyed, but the church was constructed in the middle of it all. So, when touring the site, one experiences a blend of Islamic and Christian aesthetics in a manner unseen elsewhere. We marveled at both the history and the beauty as we toured La Mezquita.
After a quick lunch, we hopped back into our car for the remainder of the drive to Sevilla, where we would spend the next two nights. One hour later we arrived at our hotel, the Patio de la Alameda, which is situated on a busy plaza (La Alameda de Hércules) in the northern portion of the old city. After settling in, I took a short walk to the Basilica de la Macarena (No, they don’t do the Macarena there) to see the gorgeous 17th century Roman Catholic wooden image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is especially venerated in Seville, Spain. She is an image in the category of “Our Lady of Sorrows,” depicting the sadness and suffering of the mother of Jesus during the Passion Week. The sculpture with a sorrowful face and five crystal tears dates back to the late 1600s. Her grandeur and brilliance does not disappoint in person.
Our evening entertainment was of the authentic Sevillian variety. Flamenco is an art form which originated in Andalusia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Seville is a hotbed of Flamenco. We chose to attend a performance at the Casa de la Memoria, a former Sephardic Jewish mansion which now hosts one of the most authentic flamenco demonstrations in the city. We were mesmerized by the excellent guitarist and the wonderful dancers and singers. Flamenco is intense! We sat right in front of the stage and cold feel the passion and the heightened state of emotion and expression — the soul (“duende”) — of the performers. Wow!
We finished our evening with Tapas at a restaurant just off the Alameda. After an excellent meal we retired to our hotel.