Day 6 | Wednesday 08 November | Seville
Even if you stumble into the dining room half awake, it's hard not to be cheered by a vast buffet of croissants, manchego, queso fresco, jamón Iberico, bacon, sliced fruits, müsli, four different kinds of freshly squeezed juices, pastries, and hot café con leche. Lunch comes late in Spain––3:00 or so in the afternoon––so we have to fortify ourselves with a solid breakfast before we head out for a day of travel.
The crisp air and the morning light in the streets of Seville charmed us all. On our first morning in Spain, there was a lot of newness to take in. But we also observed many similarities with the cities we visited in Morocco, from narrow, winding streets to horseshoe arches to tilework.
We made our way first to the Archivo General de Indias, where we examined maps and documents from the 15th and 16th centuries and discussed the politics and rhetoric of the "discovery" of a "new world" called the "Indies." Eliza Atwood presented a site report on Gothic architecture.
From the archives, we proceeded to the adjacent Real Alcázar de Sevilla, which illuminates the confluence of cultures––Arab, Iberian, Catholic, Roman, Judaic, Greek, Islamic––that characterizes the Mediterranean culture as a whole. We've been discussing the amalgamation of these influences all through our trip, but here it was right before our eyes, built into the walls, rooms, gardens, artwork, and inscriptions all around us.
The Alcázar is a massive compound that evolved over the course of hundreds of years. Walking through it, you can trace the expansion of the earliest buildings––originally built as a Moorish fortress in the 9th century––into those constructed in the 14th century, when it was expanded into a palace, and then into the Renaissance and baroque periods.
Our next visit was to the nearby Cathedral of Seville, capped by a climb up the belfry tower to see the view of the city and get a better look at the exterior architecture of the massive Gothic cathedral.
You could say we earned our lunch.
Lunch was the typical slow-paced Mediterranean affair, which gave us all a chance to relax a little and gear up for the next phase of the day: a series of lectures on the history and culture of the Mediterranean. We rounded out the day with dinner and a discussion back at the hotel about the lectures we had heard.
Tomorrow: goodbye, Seville; hello, Puente Genil!