Saturday 8 June 2024

Lives Well Lived

The following posts may be broken into several sections. It is difficult for me to say everything I want about this subject. There are a lot of memories and emotional components that might get in the way of brevity. I apologize in advance and will absolutely understand if you don't want to follow or go along for a prolonged ride. It might get wordy. I am not sure how it might turn out, but I will try hard not to make it pedantic and deathly boring. I will also try to infuse some humour. There will definitely be some sap and for that, I apologize.

There is a conversation to be had about our "stuff". George Carlin began this dialogue back in 1986 with his brilliant soliloquy. I highly recommend you watch it. Not only is it wickedly funny, but it is truly an excellent distillation of conspicuous consumerism. Carlin was truly on the cutting edge of modern philosophy; an iconoclast ahead of his time. 

It is easy to dismiss the things we keep as unimportant. 

"Why the hell did Bubby keep a drawerful of rubber bands? What was she thinking?"

Bubby probably filled a drawer with what we see as junk because she grew up when everything could be used again. Bubby wasn't necessarily a hoarder, but rather an early adopter of environmentalism. She understood the value of renewable objects. Tossing that stuff into the trash was anathema for her. It was her "stuff" and judging it from across the chasms of time seems disrespectful.

There are so many memories attached to our stuff. The Playbills I keep from live theatre performances are of no value. They are simply printed magazines with pretty covers. But when I see them, the joy I felt sitting in those theatres comes flooding back in jubilant waves. What is the harm in holding onto them? 

The same goes for artwork or chachkas that are accumulated over a lifetime of collecting. Maybe you have mugs or little silver spoons purchased during your travels. Perhaps you are a connoisseur of local artisans. If you are a traveller, buying some knickknacks brings back memories of adventures well-spent. Surrounding oneself with "stuff" can bring joy and contentment. I am certainly not advocating hoarding or a troublesome addiction. I am merely looking at the memorabilia we all collect. At this moment, I am having a difiicult time seeing the downside.

Which brings me to the reason for all of this nostalgia. We are at a point in our lives where we are dealing with downsizing my parents' "stuff." This isn't the first round of divesting. They have moved several times in the past decade, so all of us who are involved are well-versed in the task. This time it feels different, more permanent. As such, there are many emotions that need to be managed and many egos that need to be stroked.

As I write the first of these posts, I am sitting in The Southern Home. It is unusual for us to be here in the heat of a South Florida summer, but my parents recently sold their condo and we were tasked with cleaning out their "stuff". This space is filled with memories from their globetrotting days. They were true collectors of local artisans from all over the world. When we first started this exercise back in the winter, knowing that they would be selling, I watched my mom wander around the apartment in a wistful haze. She and I would decide on what needed to go; I would take it out of the cupboards to mark it for removal; and then twenty minutes later, I would find it back in its original location. It didn't matter what the object was. It could have been a broken serving dish or a drawerful of dried-up pens. My mom found comfort in knowing her "stuff" was where she left it. While Toronto is where their family is, South Florida has always been home for them. Over the past three and half decades, this was the place where my parents thrived. Their relationships, their social situations, and their activities were all far more engrossing and engaging down here. They didn't simply visit for five months of the year. They lived here. My mom and my Other Mom would spend weeks at a time here, just the two of them, while their men commuted back and forth between the countries. The memories here are vivid and colourful and the sadness at them having to part with this place penetrates my soul. 

We knew early in the spring that The Husband and I would be the ones to deal with the sale of this place. (We didn't know how quickly we would have to rearrange things in order to fly down, but that story is for another post.) After all, we are also here a lot and we fully understand the importance and magnitude this space has for both of my parents. My brother and I have the luxury of being on the same page when it comes to my parents' and helping them to continue to live their best lives. Not all families are this fortunate, so I will count my blessings. Walking into their condo on Tuesday was heart-wrenching for me. I could hear my aunt's voice. I could smell the cookies baking. I could see my dad sitting at the pool. Thirty-six years came flooding back in an instant. It was a lot of years, and yet not enough. 

Some of their most prized stuff was shipped to grandchildren and beloved families in Toronto. Some were given to dear friends down here. The buyer wanted a few things, so The Husband made some deals. We had building friends walk through and take mementos. We gifted some things to workers in the building who are forever sending items back to needy families in Cuba and Central America. (We also gifted the staff here all of my dad's booze and told them to have a blowout fiesta in his honour.) Photographs were lovingly boxed to be shipped at a later date. We cancelled their phone number. The same number they have had for thirty-six years. We called charitable organizations to take the furniture. And we called the junk people for the broken and battered "stuff". We did it all in five days. Thirty-six years of memories and "stuff" dispersed in five days.

I have cried more than once during this exercise. I have silently told Marie Kondo to go fuck herself on numerous occasions. The Husband has been my rock. He celebrated his birthday in the middle of this week. It is not an ideal way to celebrate, but he has been unbelievable. He has given me the space to work the problems, and more importantly, the space to grieve. Nobody has died, but a chapter of our lives has closed. (Once again, another post.) 

I wrapped a few small items to take home to my parents. I packed a small mezuzah designed by Agam and a small ceramic gator. They will find places of honour in my parents' new space in Toronto. I also shipped home my mom's favourite wine goblets. I hope to have a toast with her when they arrive north. Because in the end, it isn't just stuff. It is a reminder of lives well lived.

He will have a place of distinction in Toronto

Thanks for reading. We fly home tonight and I will continue this series of aging and downsizing when I return to The True North Strong and Free. 

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Where Ya Going? Barcelona

I love visiting art galleries. We have spent hours in the great ones from around the world. 

I also love visiting places that inspired the artists I love. Understanding how they came to create their masterpieces, brings the works to life in a multi-dimensional way. Seeing Van Gogh's bedroom at Arles, or Monet's cottage in Givernay gave insight into the artist and their process.

We are having similar experiences here in Spain. Seeing the El Greco masterpiece, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz – El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz in Toledo, provided an awareness of what the artist was feeling and doing at the time of creation.

Spain has a history of producing iconoclastic artists. Velasquez, El Greco, (technically Greek but claimed by the Spaniards) Goya, Gris, and moving into the more modern masters, Picasso, Miró, and Dalí. We had been warned away from a trip to the Picasso Museum here in Barcelona. Many of his greatest works are elsewhere and we were privileged to see Guernica at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. Miró also has a gallery here in Barça, but there is only so much time. But given the chance to travel to Figueres to see the great works of Salvador Dalí? We jumped at the opportunity.

We booked a full-day tour to visit Gírona and then to Figueres. I have spent a good portion of this trip lamenting the golden age of Spanish Jewry. The philosophers, artisans, and thinkers who came from this place make me sad about what could have been had they been permitted to stay. As we began our walking tour of Gírona, I knew the Jewish Quarter would be a shadow of what had previously existed. We decided to return after our initial pass in the old city, to spend time in the Jewish Museum. We were gifted with some old writings of The Ramban, Rav Mosse Ben Nahman Gerondí. Nahmanides was the highest legal and religious authority on The Iberian Peninsula. Like Maimonides before him, he studied medicine but by the age of sixteen, he was already writing commentaries on the Torah. Those of us in my weekly Talmud study will remember that the Ramban was the first to insert Kabbalistic overtones into his writings. I imagined him walking the cobblestone streets of his hometown before he escaped to Jerusalem because of persecution. Maybe it is the troublesome world in which we find ourselves today, but I am exhausted by stories of Jewish persecution and expulsion. I honestly do not have any good answers for any of it, but I know I am tired of trying to explain it. At the proverbial gift shop at the exit of the museum, I bought a small mezuzah. It isn't much, but it was my way of telling the Jews who are still here in Spain and are trying to keep our history alive, that they matter. 

We made our way to Figueres to visit the crazy dream-filled world of Dalí. He was a character. The museum in his hometown was fully designed by him and every detail had his stamp of approval; from the eggs that adorn the roof of the building, to the faux-Oscar statues. His most famous work, The Persistence of Memory, isn't here. You might know it as the "Melting Clocks" painting. That particular canvas is on display at MOMA in New York. It is worth seeing. Here in Figueres, we glimpsed the more personal Dalí. His love for his beloved wife Gala, his homage to Picasso, and his desperate need to be the centre of attention. The museum is crammed full of everything he loved and adored. It was worth the two-hour drive to try and play Dr. Freud to Dalí's dreamscapes.

Some random thoughts. 
  • It is raining here on our last day. The weather has been spectacular save for rain of the first day in Madrid and the last day in Barcelona. We couldn't have planned it any better. 
  • We wandered down to the beach yesterday. The America's Cup of sailing will be here in about one-hundred days. Does that float your boat? (See what I did there? Hey Phil! That's how you do a pun!)
  • We met a nice couple on our tour. They are Kentuckians who made sure we knew right up front that they aren't supporters of the Orange Menace. But, here's the funny part of the story. If you know of our escapade through Mt. Vernon Kentucky about thirty-years ago, you will be amused to know that this couple lives only thirty miles from there and they told us that the Pizza Hut is still standing. (If you want to hear this story, contact me offline.)
  • It was Temps de Flors in Gírona. The entire town was decked out in flowers.
  • We also wandered through La Boqueria yesterday. This market has been in the heart of Barcelona since 1836. Think St. Lawrence Market at treble the size. Fabulous.
  • The tapas has been incredible and I have learned a few things. Fried artichokes? Yum. Fried goat cheese drizzled with honey. OMG! Chickpea croquettes is just a fancy name for falafel. Any olives, anytime, anywhere. I'm happy. Sangria is just as good without alcohol. Adding orange flavours is a new personal favourite. 
Most of today's photos are by The Husband. The mezuzah and ketubah are mine. 

Home tomorrow. Rest for a day and then I will chat with anyone who wants to visit this fantastic country. Adíos España. Hasta luego.

Flowers in Gírona

That's the Dalí museum. Can you spot me?

There were dozens of these Oscar like sculptures

Dalí's self-portrait 

My uncle had a serigraph of this.

Dalí's Mae West

The market

This ketubah is from 1377 Gírona


Sunday 12 May 2024

That's Barcelona with a "TH"

I once spent a glorious day and a half in Barcelona. I knew then that it wasn’t nearly enough. Twenty-two years is a long time to yearn for a return. 

Where Madrid still holds onto a lot of its old-world charm, Barca is a truly cosmopolitan city, steeped in the heritage of Catalunya. The locals get very testy when you refer to them as Spaniards. Catalan is the predominant language spoken and its place of prominence above the Spanish cannot be ignored. The locals will speak to me en español, but I get the distinct feeling that they would prefer I address them in English.  The separation movement, which is coming up to a hundred years, is still very vocal and active. 

We spent our first evening here at a Flamenco show. The history of Flamenco is fascinating. The acapella chants have their roots in Romani folklore and tell the stories of love; sometimes unrequited, sometimes fulfilled. The costumes date back centuries and it takes years to master the pounding footwork of the solos and pasa dobles. The shows are traditionally performed in a tabloa. It reminded me of clubs in which the Beatles used to perform in Hamburg. Flamenco is so popular it even has its own emoji. 💃 I honestly thought it would be hokey, but once again I was proven wrong. I loved it. The Spanish guitars were unbelievably great and the performers dazzling. The food was mediocre but, who cared? We were captivated.

The high art of Gaudi dominates Barcelona and the pride the locals feel for their native son is pure. The centenary of his death is fast approaching in 2026, and the planning is well underway. Contrary to popular opinion, Sagrada Familia will not be fully completed by then. The Jesus tower and the front entrance will finally be done, but there will still be ongoing work on four more towers. When The Husband and I first visited back in 2002, we weren’t permitted to enter Sagrada Familia. The inside was worth the wait. It is truly a masterpiece, with sensations of the natural world overwhelming the senses in every corner. Ascending the tower and then walking down the four-hundred steps of his own personal Fibonacci sequence was remarkable. And the light? Oh, my! The light permeates every inch of his designs, whether at the church or his buildings. Truly something needed to be seen to be fully understood. 

Some random thoughts.

  • Sra. Lee (z"l), my high school Spanish teacher would be proud of me, but she left out Catalan from the syllabus. It is a weird language. 
  • Did I say four-hundred steps down? My quads are barking four-thousand or maybe four-hundred-thousand. I’m sore today. 
  • We have been pretty good at planning ahead on this trip, but we blew it with Park Güell, a Gaudi sculpture garden. We didn’t realize we needed to pre-purchase tickets until we hiked for forty minutes up the mountain, only to discover that tickets were sold out. We will try again before we leave, 
  • Las Ramblas is a happening place. Music, street performers, art, and lots of touristy shit.
  • "Nothing is art if it doesn't come from nature."~Antonio Gaudi
  • "The straight line belongs to man, the curved one to God."~Antonio Gaudi
  • "Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with The Creator."~Antonio Gaudi
Almost all photos today are by The Husband. If the video manages to load, it's mine.

Friday 10 May 2024

I'm Certain I'm of Sephardic Heritage

I've often been asked where the name Cincinatus comes from. In truth, any story I give is just a wild guess. My people have deep roots in Eastern Europe, Poland to be exact. The generations there are many. 

But my birthname can also be found in the history of ancient Rome. You can read about Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus here if you wish, but my broader point is that there were Cincinatuses in the Mediterranean region during Roman times. Is it not possible that I might have had some Sephardic roots? I've always thought there might be a bit of Sepharad in my blood. It might also help explain my deep affinity with this place long before I visited. 

Ok. I will grant you all a "bullshit" right about now, but I can't help but feel a pull towards this country. I just love it here. There is much in the history to abhor. The constant conquering and dismissing of religious pluralism is more than a little disturbing, but I honestly think I could spend huge chunks of time in Spain. The weather is glorious; the food is incredible; I am getting better at the language every day; and I love the idea of the EU. Of course, there is the small detail of finding more than a handful of Jews in any one locale, but I think I could adapt.

We found another gem in Granada. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, (the other Sierra Nevada mountains.) Once settled by the Iberians, Visigoths, and Romans, the current settlement was a major city of Al-Andalus, and it eventually became the capital of the Emirate of Granada under Nasrid rule. The Nasrids were the last Muslim rulers in Iberia. Like other communities here in Andalusia, Granada features magnificent architecture, preserved neighbourhoods, small markets, and a bustling city centre. And just like other communities we've visited, everything looks better from the top of the hills.

Always uphill. Climbing. Uphill. In both directions. Uphill.

Our first climb was to El Mirador de San Nicolas. We heard the views of the city were spectacular. They are, indeed. It's a party up there. Backpackers, musicians, vendors, and tourists meld together to share the common experience of trying to get the best looks at La Alhambra in the late afternoon sun. The medieval palace/fortress was putting its best face forward. Our official visit wouldn't be for another day, but even just casting a glance at the famous site was breathtaking. We meandered our way through the ancient neighbourhoods. The pomegranate or granata is emblazoned into the cobblestone streets. One street resembled an Arab shuk; with shopkeepers taking to the narrow passages trying to entice us into their stores. We did succumb to some delicacies; candied nuts and some nougats. We had a lovely time just chilling with a sangria and some cerveza.

The visit to La Alhambra almost defies description. The climb up the hill was steep but satisfying. Tourists are tightly controlled at the palace and we had to register our tickets with our passports. Timing is essential because if you miss your window, you are out of luck. Some places really need to be seen to be believed. The restored mosaics, fountains, masonry, and etchings are simply stunning. The Sultans definitely lived well and knew how to defend their people. As late as the early nineteenth century, La Alhambra had fallen into disrepair. The work done to restore it has been methodical and labourious. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime visit. We capped our time in Granada with a meal at a Moroccan restaurant. It seemed only fitting. My faux-Sephardi side was truly sated by our trip to this magical land.

Some random thoughts:

  • The American writer Washington Irving is revered here. After some research, we discovered that he was an ambassador to Spain in the early eighteen hundereds and it was through his writings and fundraising that money was raised to restore La Alhambra. He is memorialized with a statue at the foot of the palace and a fountain is etched in his honour.
  • We kind of overdid it on our purchase of Dulce Arábes in the shuk. The candied nuts were just too delicious to ignore, but we absolutely overbought. I also purchased Sabor de España delights for loved ones back home. My carry-on is a bit heavy.
  • Helado was consumed once again. Yogurt for me. OY!
  • I am finishing this post from the airport in Granada as we await our flight to Barcelona. Air travel around the world is so much more civilized than North America. When will we finally be able to stop removing our shoes?

La Alhambra from Mirador de San Nicolas

Restored mosaics

Nasrid Palace

Lion's Fountain

A miniscule part of the gardens at Generalfe

The watchtower. Yes, we climbed it.

Washington Irving

Pomegranate cobblestones

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Gorging in Ronda

I have discovered a truism about Spain.

The entire country goes uphill. In both directions. Flat walks are nearly non-existent and there is no such thing as a paved road outside the major metropolises. Everything is cobblestoned. My Apple Watch is wondering where all the elevation points are coming from. The thing is, to fully experience the wondrous encounters this beautiful country has to offer,  you must get out of the cities and into La Frontera. 

We left The Rock behind us and ventured into the mountainous regions of España. Now here's the thing. I'd been suffering from a nightmarish cold ever since some boor hacked on me during one of our train trips. The last thing I needed was a twisting and turning journey up into the hill country of Málaga province. Unfortunately, that is exactly what I got. We have been on planes, trains, metros, cable cars, and buses during this trip and believe it or not, it was a car ride that finally triggered my motion sickness. We had to pull over twice, prop me up in the front seat, and pray to all that is holy that I wouldn't puke in the rental car.

We pulled into the town of Ronda and I was literally seeing stars. I refused to allow this f***ing cold to slow me down, so I insisted we do some initial scouting of the sites. This is one magnificent village. Known for its cliffside location and a deep gorge that divides the town, Ronda was historically a rest stop along the Arab trade routes that started in Granada and ventured forward to Córdoba. The former Islamic dominance is still quite visible throughout the town, even though the Inquisition ended all Muslim observance. The Arab baths, which were a travellers' weigh station have been lovingly uncovered and were a highlight of our first day here. The old Roman bridge provided beautiful picturesque views of the gorge and a magnificent vista of the many farms and haciendas in the valley below. This area is well known for its olive and orange groves and the pomegranate trees are just beginning to blossom. Day one in Ronda ended for me with a fever and an early bedtime while my fellow travellers found dinner. Between the cold and the motion sickness, I was cooked. The beauty of Ronda would have to reveal itself to me on another day.

And reveal it did. Spain's oldest bullfighting ring and museum are located in the centre of town. I have very mixed feelings about sports which involve animals and this one is always deadly to either the matador or the bull. There are many reasons to abhor bullfighting, but I must admit that learning about the special military history and its importance to the Spanish heritage did give me pause. I still don't like it, but I understand it better. We got a chance to stand in the centre of the ring. This place is enormous, but it probably feels quite small if an angry bull is stampeding towards you. The old costumes were a lovely revelation and the great matadors are national heroes. I will never attend a fight, and I still think Hemingway was an overrated misogynist who romanticized this sport for the masses, but I can at least see some merit.

The absolute highlight of Ronda is the trip into the gorge. We thought it would be a quick jaunt down and back. This was a real hike! The paths held grades of at least 40 degrees straight down and we knew that we needed to climb back up. We aren't in terrible condition, but I was still recovering my breath control from a cold. We didn't rush it and we are so glad we didn't. What a glorious experience and a necessary excursion if you find yourself here. I only hope the photos do it justice.

Some random thoughts:

  • The wildflowers of Spain are magnificent. The poppies are in bloom everywhere. Simply lovely.
  • The Spanish seem to distain Kleenex. It took us days to find a box for my aching sinuses.
  • I think my favourite thing so far is just sitting on a patio at a cafe in the late afternoon and chatting. What a civilized way to live.
  • There are spice shops everywhere. I might have to buy some Spanish saffron and smoked paprika.
  • I could live here. The language is becoming easier for me and the weather is perfect. 
  • I am fascinated by the doors of Spain. I will try to put together some photos for a later post.
All photos today are from The Husband. His eye is perfect. 

Bustling streets of Ronda

The bullring


We climbed all the way down and back

The wildflowers of Spain

Arab Baths

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Roaming Around Andalusia

The Husband and I have kept a running list when we travel. We've entitled this list, "The Most Overrated Tourist Attractions in The World." In order to make the list, the attraction must be extraordinarily well-know; have ridiculous amounts of chachkas emblazoned with its visage; have crazy tourists all with selfie sticks straining for the perfect shot; and most likely, a very expensive entry fee. Vying for top prize on our list, in no particular order are:

  • The Mona Lisa
  • Loch Ness
  • The Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Did you know it leans?)
  • Gondolas in Venice
You get the point. Feel free to add your own if you see fit.

When planning this trip, we knew that we wanted to explore La Frontera in Andalusia heading south from Sevilla. When Twin Son suggested that we go to Gibraltar, I will admit to a healthy dose of skepticism. Did I really need to add a big-ass rock to my list? He seemed fairly keen on the idea, so we agreed, provided that we stop in some of the beautiful little villages along the way. We had hoped to spend a few hours in Cadiz and Jerez, but since it was Sunday, both towns were closed up tight. It is a bit unfortunate, but such is the nature of travel. My cousin suggested that we hit up Vejer de la Frontera, or the White Village. The town is situated on a low hill and overlooks the Straits of Gibralter. The narrow streets and beautiful stone white buildings, are surrounded orchards and orange groves. The Moorish architechture was the perfect backdrop for a stroll through the mercados on a sunny Sunday afternoon. 

I was still dreading our inevitable destination of Gibraltar. What kind of tourist visits a rock? Not only that, I had a cold coming on and the road into Linea (the Spanish side of the Rock) was winding and nausea-inducing. 

I couldn't have been more wrong. Chalk this one up to Twin Son and his need to see weird shit. We crossed the border on foot. We were told that car traffic backs up because of workers moving between the two countries. The walk was a breeze and I even have a new stamp in my passport from Gibraltar. While the territory is under British protection, the Spanish have laid a claim to the city. There were very few people walking the crossing on a late Sunday afternoon, so we had a chance to kibbitz with the Spanish border guards. They made very sure that we were enjoying the Spanish part of our trip way more than the British. We took a bus through town to the foot of the rock and ascended via cable car. 

This is a site worth seeing. The views of The Atlantic Ocean and The Mediterranean Ocean are simply breathtaking. We could actually see the tip of Morocco. There is a place on the top of the rock where if you spread your legs wide enough, you could actually be in two places at the same time. How cool is that? But, the highlight of the day was the Barnaby macaque apes that roam wild on the rock. These are not tame little monkeys. These creatures are highly conditioned to their human visitors and know exactly how to play them. We saw one grab a woman's backpack and almost make off with it. Whenever The Husband tried to photograph one, he slyly turned his head away as if to say, "not today, dude. I've had it with you lot." We were definitely in their space as visitors. I love experiences like this. It reminds me that we are just sharing this earth with all sorts of creatures, great and small. 

We did five separate locales on this day and given my lovely travel virus, it felt like a long slog, but the Rock will never make it onto our list. That makes for a good day.

Some random thoughts:

  • The British certainly are civilized. They sold Diet Coke in a market. Score.
  • I kept thinking of the Harry Chapin song, "The Rock". Check it out at the bottom of the post.
  • The small towns in the mountains are simply lovely. I will talk more about this in the next installment.
  • We met a Lithuanian family who wanted to talk to us about superheroes and Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors travel well.
  • We are driving a Kia Sorrento and I have to admit it is testing the skills of Twin Son. The narrow streets and crazy-assed parking garages are off-the-wall. He is a road warrior.
  • Even with a cold, I am still enamoured with the smells of Andalusia. The scents of spices mixed with wild flowers, oranges, olives, and almonds is off the charts.
All photos today are from The Husband. The one of the monkey makes me look cute.

The white buildings of Vejer

Now that's a rock

He did not want to pose

Make of this as you will

That's the Rock.

Sunset over Gibraltar

Saturday 4 May 2024

The Sweet Smells and Sounds of Sevilla

It is amazing how memory works. The five senses become engaged and they evoke long-lost remembrances.

I know that when I think of Sevilla, I will remember the smell of sour orange. It is an unbelievable scent that is prevalent everywhere in this lovely and vibrant city. The sour orange trees are in bloom right now, and the large, ripe fruit is hanging low for the picking. I managed to get Twin Son to pluck one for me. The fruit is almost inedible. When used as essences, extracts, perfumes, or oils, however, it is just delightful. We found a small shop that specializes in this most original of local ingredients, and I found myself shelling out for an almond, fig and sour orange loaf and some cookies. They are gone now; happily consumed with an afternoon cerveza, but worth the expenditure.

I find myself sniffing the wind here. The oranges mix easily with the scents of olives, lavender, and almonds. The pomegranates are just starting to flower and the local panaderias combine all of the local fruits with pungent spices like cinnamon and cardamon. I love the bouquets of Sevilla.

This city is alive and dynamic. Spring has definitely sprung in Andalusia. The patios are teeming with patrons and there is music everywhere. Flowers decorate the window boxes and there is an ease with which people move and gather. The narrow streets of el barrio de Santa Cruz are flooded with shoppers and tourists. The weather is warm and everyone wants to mingle and chat. 

We did manage to make our way over the el Real Alcazar and la Catedral de Sevilla because we are tourists and that's what tourists do. The gardens are magnificent, but the older I get and the more I travel the world, the less interested I am in viewing churches. The palace was fascinating but the cathedral left me cold. I realize that I am not one of the faithful who needs to make a pilgrimage to every holy site, but I am a bit tired of the opulence and extravagance. I apologize to any reader I might offend with these words, but understanding these places is above my pay grade.

My favourite part of today was just sitting on the roof of our hotel and enjoying the sunshine. This place needs to be seen to be believed. We are staying at Las Casas de la Judería in el barrio de Santa Cruz. The hotel is comprised of 27 houses, all connected by patios, walkways, and an underground passage. The area is a the old Jewish quarter and the hotel sits next to the Iglesia de Santa Maria Blanca. The church is undergoing restorations and just three days ago they announced that they had found evidence of a synagogue in its walls. The first time we walked to our room, I told The Husband that he should attach an Air Tag to me because I was certain I was doomed to roam the corridors for eternity. I had The Husband film our walk from the lobby to our room. It had to be experienced to be believed. Click the link. You won't be sorry. I highly recommend you consider this hotel if you find yourself in Sevilla.

A few random thoughts:

  • I feel like I want to give tourist lessons to people visiting these sites. Too many folks are walking with their heads down in their phones and they are missing everything. I also cannot understand taking selfies everywhere. You are here for a short time. Try and enjoy the moment.
  • I am trying to avoid the bullfighting museums and arenas but the culture here is pervasive. We may end up in one of those in Ronda.
  • We are ditching the churches for a few days and headed for the countryside. I am psyched.
  • We climbed the bell tower at La Catedral. Thirty-four stories. At an approximately ten-percent grade. In an enclosed space. Workout for the day, complete.
  • I like the way people eat here. Heavier meals in the afternoon and light dinners. We might carry on the tradition back home.
  • Christopher Columbus is entombed in La Catedral. His remains were exhumed, tested, and confirmed. If you find this fascinating, you are a better person than am I.
Photos for yesterday and today are exclusively from The Husband.

Iglesia de Maria Blanca (Finding the synagogue behind the walls.)

Real Alcazar gardens

He thought he was el Rey.

The dreaded bell tower

With the bells.

The pipe organ at La Catedral