Departing Granada, we headed for a layover in Arcos de la Frontera, one of the white hill towns of the Andalucia region. With only a street name (on the outskirts of town) for our hotel, we decided to stop at the tourist information office. Following the signs led us to increasingly narrow streets, and finally to a single narrow lane headed sharply uphill. Half way up the hill we met delivery truck coming down, someone had to back up, and it was going to be us. After getting back down and turning around, we had no desire to go back up again. Finding the latitude and longitude for the hotel, we programmed the GPS and arrived there a few minutes later.
Even though Arcos offers many interesting old churches and a castle from the 15th century, we decided to fore go a visit in the town. In exchange, we had a relaxing afternoon next to and in the large pool on the hotel property, which offered views of the city in the distance. I took advantage of the down time to contact the airline about Alan's luggage. Several phone calls later, I discovered the bag was at the airport in Barcelona. Providing our travel info, they promised it would be delivered to our hotel in Seville. Hooray!
That evening we drove into Arcos for dinner. Checking out the menus at a few places, we decided on a restaurant that offered fresh seafood for me, and pork kabobs for Alan. Ordering Dorado a la plancha (grilled mahi mahi), the waiter explained, in Spanish (his only language), that they didn't have any available that evening and recommended his favorite, fresh from the sea, sepia. Once we discussed the way it was prepared, I ordered. What arrived about 30 minutes later was a bit of a surprise. Looking something like a clear/whitish jellyfish with tentacles, tasting it, we both decided to forgo this entree. Yes, we've eaten octopus, calamari and squid, but somehow we just couldn't get around the looks of this fellow. Turns out it was cuttlefish, and we had enjoyed it before, cut up and disguised in recipes or grilled, but this blob on the plate just didn't work. Guess it's just one of the hazards of ordering food with minimal language skills.
Arriving in Seville, we abandoned our car at the hotel (and collected Alan's luggage), and took off to explore by foot. Once again headed into the old city center, where we found the narrow roads and alleyways of the past. The tangle of streets, with our substandard hotel map, were a challenge. But, we managed to locate many of the city's better known landmarks accidentally. The Seville Cathedral, consecrated in 1507, is the 3rd largest church in the world, and the burial place of Christopher Columbus. Alcazar, originally built as a Moorish fort, became a Royal palace, and continues to be used for that purpose when the Spanish king comes to Seville. Since we had just visited Alhambra, we did not go into Alcazar, but the beautiful architecture, gardens and interior design make it one of the city's top tourist destinations.
Seville is also known for Flamenco dancers, and we made reservations for a traditional show in a 15th century house. The small venue allowed us to be within a few feet of the stage. Singing, playing the guitar and dancing are all important elements of the flamenco, which probably started as a folk dance in the 18th century combining Andalusian and Romani (gypsy) influences. The male and female dancer displayed different styles, which is typical, the singer was passionate in his presentations and the guitarist displayed great flair; they all put a lot of energy into the show. We were so close, we could actually feel the whoosh of wind as the dancer swirled her skirt, we both thoroughly enjoyed the show.
The next day, we decided to visit the 100-acre Maria Luisa Park and Plaza de Espana. The park was formally the gardens for the Palace of San Telmo, the property was donated to the city in 1893 for public use. In 1929, the Plaza de Espana was built on the edge of the park for the Iberio-American Exhibition World's Fair. The buildings are now used for government offices, but the gardens, fountains, ponds and lush plantings make this not only a beautiful retreat, but provides a great place to hang out in the heat. We spent the remainder of the day wandering about the city and getting a little lost. Now time to move on to Madrid.