Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm the barber of Seville

On Monday we ventured out of Cordoba to spend the day in Seville. We took an early morning train, which didn't jive well with Miss Rachel's schedule. She just is not a morning person. She was grumpy when we got on the train and we knew we would have to work hard to keep her happy; we just didn't know how hard. Halfway through the ride Rachel, for some reason or another, decided that she wanted to see a horse, and she wanted to see that horse right then.

"Neigh! Neigh! Neigh!" she screamed, shrugging her shoulders and putting her palms in the air to signify a question.

"Shhh, shhh! I don't see any horses. Just oranges," I shushed her.

"Neigh! Neigh! Neigh!" she screamed, even more adamantly than before.

"Shhhh! Rachel, shhhh! You can't see the horses if you're screaming. Look out the window and see what you can see. I'm sure you'll see a lot of oranges but I can't guarantee you'll see a horse. Come here, look out the window. Shhhh, stop screaming. There are no horses, but look! Look what I see!"

The horse dilemma carried on for the next half hour or so. Every time I thought I had things under control she'd start screaming "Neigh!" again. I don't know how she got it into her mind that she should be seeing a horse, but it's the only thing she really wanted. I was glad, once more, to reach the station and be able to get off the train and away from the people staring at my screaming child.

This time we were able to find the tourist office right away. They gave us a map and told us which bus would take us to downtown.

Our first stop was the Cathedral of St. Mary, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. The giralda was once a minaret but over time was converted by Christians into a bell tower. Instead of stairs, this minaret/bell tower uses ramps so that the muezzin/bell ringer could ride their horse to the top. We thought this was a little wimpy of them until we started walking up it ourselves.


We knew it was tall but we had no idea how tall it really was. It went on forever! 34 turns of forever! No wonder they wanted to ride their horses to the top. There were little balconies/windows all along the way giving us a beautiful view of the city.



IMG_5948Rachel is a little daredevil and loved being up so high. She kept wanting to look over the edge at the streets far, far below her.

Eventually the wind got to us and we decided to go back inside. I don't think Rachel would have followed us except that there was another family with a "baby" and that "baby" also went inside. She was a little upset because this "baby" happened to be about 4 years old and its parents allowed it to run down the ramp. Rachel thought that running down the ramp looked like a lot of fun. All I could see was Rachel face planting, so she had to be carried, which she fussed about, but only until the other "baby" got back in its stroller after face planting royally. (Mommy is always right. Remember that.)

The inside of the cathedral was stunning. And huge. We were glad to get a little pamphlet explaining in minimal detail what everything was.

Andrew put me in charge of the pamphlet-reading, though, which was a mistake. I'm terrible with maps and directions and things like that so by the time I had figured out where we were we had already passed the sepulcher of Christopher Columbus.

We just walked on by, snapped a picture, and casually remarked,

"Looks like someone famous."

IMG_5877We went back to take some more pictures. Hopefully this will be Columbus' final resting place. I've never known of anyone to travel so much after their death!

Besides the sepulcher of Columbus, the cathedral houses some of Columbus' gold. There was a lot of gold to be had in the Americas, I guess, and that is what was brought back to Spain.


The ceiling and walls were very ornate, of course. They had a cool mirror in the middle of the floor that magnified the ceiling so that you could see things in more detail. We got a good look at the organ, the ceiling, and ourselves. I think this is the only picture that we have of us together on this trip!


The organ was amazing! I thought of my mom when I saw it. How would you feel about playing this organ, mom?


And that's only half of it! It was so amazingly huge! I would have loved to hear it be played!

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We probably spent a good hour and a half inside the cathedral, and we only did one side of it! There was still so much more to see, but with Rachel we sometimes have to cut our visits a little short. She saw a statue of a horse right when we were walking out the doors and that just about made her day, though!

She was hungry and tired and needed an aseo, so we had to move on. We found a little baguetteria and bought a little hot pocket type-thing for Rachel. She was much happier after she had some warm food in her tummy.

It so happened that we ate our lunch in a little square right by the "Archivo General de Indias." Being the Special Collection nerds that we are, we had to investigate, so we went inside.


Security was pretty intense. We put our bags through the x-ray machine and the guards actually left it in long enough to look at everything inside, I'm sure, because there was actually a guard at the computer scrutinizing the screen.

We were surprised to find out, after going through such tough security, that the exhibit was free. Since we are on a student budget, though, it was a good surprise. (When is free not good?)

The exhibit was really pretty neat. It was about the first explorers and settlers in America, and was right in the middle of the archives. Everything smelled like old paper. I almost felt like I had gone back to work!

We read a treaty written by George Washington and stared at his signature. It was so neat! There was so much good stuff on display. If only more of it had been in English--everything was in Spanish, which was fine. It just meant that it took us much longer to understand the explanations than it would have otherwise.

Andrew was just about in heaven. He was lagging behind just soaking the history in. I was farther ahead with Rachel, avoiding meltdowns, where possible, and trying to keep her from pulling any archival boxes off the shelves. I finally couldn't take it anymore and told Andrew we had to get a move on it before she threw a serious temper tantrum. He was a little disappointed, but complied anyway.

We tried to go to the Alcazar, but it is closed on Mondays, so instead we just wandered around for a little bit. We found La Torre de Oro...

IMG_6035 IMG_6037

...And the Fabrica Real de Tabacos, in which the opera Carmen is set, and which now houses part of the University of Seville.



We also saw some other cool things while we were wandering around, before we took a moment to reorient ourselves and use the bathroom at McDonald's. We use those bathrooms so often that Rachel doesn't even associate the golden arches with food. Instead we walk into McDonald's and she says, "Potty!" It's kind of funny...

...And so is this sticker.


...And so is this car.IMG_6042

...And so is my cute husband.


Andrew is most often found behind the map. Without him we would have been terribly, terribly lost. He's so good at getting his bearings straight and recognizing landmarks. It takes me weeks to get comfortable in a new area. It takes Andrew 5 minutes.

He got us all around the city without any problems. We never felt lost. It was great!

Our last few hours in Seville were spent at the Plaza de Espana, which is amazingly colorful. There is a little niche for each province, with a map and pictures about the area.



There were bridges leading from the building to a courtyard with a fountain in the middle. Rachel had a blast going up and down the stairs and over the bridges.


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When we were all burned out of stairs and fountains, we packed up again and headed to the Plaza de America, which we heard was cool. It was a beautiful walk through a beautiful park with statues and fountains and gazebos and ponds. I wish we had more parks like that in America. While we were walking we saw some bright green birds--parrots of some sort, maybe? They flew away before we could get a good picture of them. They almost made me want to take up bird-watching. Almost.


When we first got to the Plaza de America we thought it was a dud because, although grand, it did not even compare to the grandiosity of the Plaza de Espana.

But then...we noticed the pigeons. They were everywhere!


Apparently Rachel's fear of animals does not extend to pigeons. Likewise, the fear that pigeons usually show towards people was not exhibited here. They did not fly away when Rachel chased them and she played happily with them, running around saying "Hi!" to each one.

They were all cooing, constantly. It was like being in a pet store, it was so loud. Rachel somehow figured that they should be saying, "Squawk!" instead of "Coo!" and she started squawking at them while she ran around waving. Even with her yelling and running, the birds remained perfectly calm.


IMG_6107Then all of a sudden, and for no apparent reason, they all started flying around us at once. It was like a scene from The Birds. We all screamed in surprise and Rachel ran over and clung to my leg.


I expected that the whole ordeal would be traumatizing for Rachel since she isn't too fond of animals, but as soon as the flock had landed again Rachel went right back to playing. She was only a little more timid than before.

Soon after she started playing again she tripped and got her hands covered in a bird poop. That was our cue to go.

We used the fountain to rinse off her hands and then sanitized with a baby wipe. With the number of birds around it's amazing that's the only poop we got on us, besides our shoes, which were completely covered, I'm sure, but a quick tromp through the grass remedied that quickly enough.

We meandered our way through the park one last time, as I was reluctant to give it up, and caught the bus back to the train station. Rachel was a much better passenger this time around. I suppose that if something needs to be done early with Rachel that it ought to be done in the early evening, and not the early morning.


  1. Wow! The experiences you are having. How wonderful! If you are living away from family you might as well be some where cool and where you can get to other cool places easily!

  2. So fun. And I would only like to play that organ if I had the place to myself.

  3. Hi Nancy and Andrew,
    How long are you going to be in Spain? We are actually going there this Friday and will be there for two weeks. In Malaga. Are you going further south by chance? Perhaps we could meet.

  4. How fun for you guys! I can only imagine what traveling with a one year old. I commented to my boss, on how I'd like to visit you guys, all that it would really cost is the plane ticket and passport and a little spending....missed work, babysitter for the twins......maybe in 16 years (and counting!)

  5. Hi Christine,

    Unfortunately, we're only in Spain for a couple more days. We fly out on Friday...and then we'll be in Morocco for a few days, so I guess we're going further south, though are overshooting you guys by quite a bit. :)

    We'll meet up sometime, though! We love Turkey and are definitely hoping to go back sometime while we're on this side of the world. That, of course, is dependent on money...

    Enjoy your time in Spain! It's beautiful this time of year. :)

  6. Looks like Trafalgar Square used to look like when it wasn't illegal to feed pigeons, only Trafalgar Square doesn't have palm trees... :)

  7. Oh, how I miss Spain! Our botanical gardens in Elche were always teeming with pigeons and love birds (those green birds). Have you gotten churros y chocolate yet? In the morning, you can usually find vendors making them fresh, then plopping the hot churro in a cone of newspaper. YUM!! Oh, those little hot pocket things are called empanadas, or empanadillas. I guess it's a little late for that information since you're leaving tomorrow. Anyway, have fun!!