Friday, 15 November 2013

In Spain, many thoughts during a train journey to Granada.

We are travelling this Friday morning 15 November by train to Granada at the food of the Sierra Madre Mountains with stops in just about every village on the way from Sevilla. Stops in San Bernardo, Dos Hermanas, Marchena, Osuna, Santa Ana, Antequera, Pedrera, San Francisco de Loja, Granada (our stop) and continuing to Almeria. This is a regional train and is described as public transport connecting various towns and allowing people to travel cheaply without a car to various points in Andalusia. The train is modern, clean and fast travelling at 150 Km per hour, Europeans do trains well and efficiently, it is also supported by the government to ensure service to all. A lesson our governments seem to have forgotten all together in Canada so busy we are with empty slogans and budget cuts.

Observing that passengers on the train are wearing winter coats, the temperature outside is 20 C with bright sunshine. An Andalusian told me that this is winter weather, summer is 40 C which is far more pleasant, so I am told, mind you there is always a breeze off from the Atlantic and many shaded groves and plazas. Talking of groves, the City of Seville has orange trees lining every street, Sevillian Oranges, they are good for making jam but not juice. I can well imagine anyone in the city so incline can get a good supply free, just pick any off a tree on any street. The jam or mermelada is delicous, sweet without bitterness.

When we visited the Palace of the Alcazar yesterday, we spent one hour walking in the magnificent gardens, you could easily spend a day. We came upon a little Pavillion built for the wedding of Emperor Charles V and his wife Isabella of Portugal in 1526. This pavillion is surrounded by orange trees, what is amazing is that the gardeners of the Palace have been tending to them for the last 600 years. What the gardeners have done is to graft new growth on the old roots, thus the trees never die.

Beautiful wedding Pavilion built for Charles V and his wife Isabella so they could sit in the garden.

The Alcazar is still a Royal Residence and is the Official Residence of the King of Spain in Seville. An army of gardeners look after the various exotic trees and flower beds, I wish I knew more about botany because I could not identify the many exotic trees and flowers. The gardens also have a complex system of irrigation installed by the Moorish rulers in the XIIth century where small fountains irrigate the garden via a maze of small brick channels built right into the pathways. The fountains are in turn fed from the Roman Aqueduct which empties into a large pool in the garden where a statue of Mercury stands. There was a wonderful perfume of Jasmine and Orange throughout.
Water flows down these little irrigation channels throughout the gardens.

Water from the Roman Aqueduct falls into a big pool 

partial view of the garden of the Alcazar.

Made a discovery today, ham in Spain is a serious matter, in restaurants, in grocery stores, etc, they offer York or Jamon Iberico. It turns out that if you order York you will get cooked ham which is very familiar to us. However most Spaniards prefer Jamon Iberico which is cured for up to 36 months a delicacy. You will find Jamon on most menu, however on breakfast menu you will see York con huevos (eggs).

In Italy, Espresso is a coffee, in Spain, café con leche is more common, it is creamy and sweet.

We have had our fill of tapas and wine in the last few days. I have discovered that I may have a good knowledge of Italian wines but know nothing of Spanish wines, there is a great variety of reds (tinto), white (blanco) and rosé (rosé). Then you have the sweet wines and the semi-sweet and the bubbly. A glass of wine is usually about 2 Euros, served in a big glass. I would love to discover more about Spanish wines and maybe do a tasting, like we use to do in Italy. In bars if you ask the waiter he may simply bring you a Riojas because it is the most commonly known red wine. It is worth asking for a more complex wine you may pay 3 Euros for your glass but it is worth it. The Riserva usually sells for 3 to 5 Euros a glass depending on the quality of the wine and or the vintage year.

Our train is now travelling through olive groves, on either side thousands upon thousands of olive trees, as far as you can see. The roads and bridges are modern and the infrastructures is in good condition. It is not the Spain of old you see in films or that of Don Quichote.

Yesterday at lunch we saw something quite unusual, we were having some lunch in a small pedestrian street lined with restaurants. It is common to see gypsies coming up and down the street and begging for money or playing instruments, singing or dancing to entertain the crowds. You also have to be aware of the pick pockets, though not as numerous, given the police presence keeping an eye on them.

So after we got the old woman in a new looking wheelchair with bandaged foot pushed by her husband begging for money for her babies at home, looking too old to have any children at home. She had a miraculous recovery at the end of the street and walked away. Then we had the poor mute beggar sporting brand new and expensive sport shoes. Then the guitar player who had a nice voice. We also had a young women in traditional gypsie robes who dropped all her money in the middle of the street, there was quite a lot of it, a bit like a slot machine at the Casino and it appeared to come from somewhere under her voluminous robes.

Finally we get a trio of 2 drummers and one singer. The singer was a skinny young man probably 19 years old very bad teeth, blond highlights in his hair and raucous voice trying to sing an Andalusian tune. He had a certain defiant look about him. The waiter asked him, given his voice, if he would not mind moving to the end of the street for the sake of his art. Our singer had a look of incomprehension but said nothing, he moved along only to start singing again while his compere banged on their drums. At the end of the song he came along to collect a few pesetas, some people gave him a few coins, suddenly he disappears. The two companions waiting at the end of the street are none the wiser and after a few minutes, are starting to look around realizing that their leading singer has disappeared with their share of the proceeds. Is there no honor amongst thieves anymore?


  1. how lovely, all of it
    As usual the pleasures described are even more by the 'quality' of it all; 'real food' and 'proper attractions' not like the rubbish I usually encounter here. As usual, I am grateful for being your virtual companion on your marvelous journey.

    1. One fine day you and Someone will have to tag along. I promise adventures!

    2. Of course, he is very popular.

  2. Very entertaining post! But I must say -- 20ºC and they're wearing winter coats?!? My gawd, that's bikini weather in Canada!

  3. A great post about Sevilla... our home in Spain for our first year and a half here. An amazing city. Yes, 44C wasn't uncommon during our two summers there. Uff... But worth every sweaty moment. (Here in Southern Spain, when the temp drop below 25C, the scarves come out (and I've joined the club). The smell of orange blossoms and the harvesting of city oranges were magical times. We now have a much easier and more affordable life on the beach, but I'll always love Sevilla.

    1. thank you. Where at the beach do you live?

    2. Fuengirola... Because there's great public transportation (no car), great walking, direct train access to Málaga (and also the airport). It's been very pleasant.