Spain is different.
It’s a phrase I often heard from Spaniards and foreigners alike during my three months in Sevilla. Sevilla is the capital of Andalucía, the southernmost province in Spain. There, proximity to North Africa has had a clear historic and cultural effect.
Spain is unlike any other place I have ever been. Sevilla is a city one must know to appreciate.
This is el río Guadalquivir, the river that runs through Sevilla. I crossed it several times daily and was constantly enraptured to the changing moods of the water and sky. This river provides the historic foundation of the city; it opened southern Spain to trade and was an important port for the journeys of Christopher Columbus, or Cristobal Colón, to the New World.
A Spanish bullfight in Sevilla. The bull never wins. It’s not a fight, so much as a slaughter. I attended the bullfight because I wanted to witness Spanish culture, despite my personal dislike of the custom. Beyond the pageantry, the torreros display an artistry and courage that is often overlooked in favor of a focus on the brutality. While undeniably brutal, it is also incredible.
La marcha de la Virgen de la Victoria. It was the Virgin of Victoria’s day. The parade lasted hours, almost more than half the day, and went right down my street to end in a park just beyond. My street was Calle de la Virgen de la Victoria, named after the holy Virgin. The older couple on the balcony covered in the red in the photo explained what was happening.
One of my favorite photos. A hallway in el Real Alcázar in Sevilla. The light perfectly expresses the ethereal feelings of light and beauty in the setting.
Morocco is right across el Estrecho de Gibraltar, the Strait of Gibraltar, a mere 14.3 kilometers, or 8.9 miles, from Spain. I travelled by ferry to visit Morocco. One of the villages I visited was Chefchaouen in the mountains. Also known as the blue city, Chefchaouen is painted in dyes, making for a singularly stunning vista against he mountainous backdrop.
Chefchaouen, the blue city
A tiny cat balancing above Granada
The Alhambra, an ancient Moorish palace in Granada. The last stronghold of the Moors and where Boabdil surrendered to the Catholic kings in 1492.
A garden behind a small restaurant in Ronda. Ronda is a small village on a plateau surrounded by mountains. The overexposure in the background in contrast to the darker foreground lends a heaviness to the foreground to stabilize the image and lend a sense of weigh. The overexposed back maintains a light and airy slightly fantastical feeling. As if it isn’t quite real. This is what I really loved about Ronda. The light and open feeling of the plateau, encircled by the weight of mountains.
The warmth of Meknes, Morocco, a mosque in the background.
A lonely purple flower from the gardens of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos in Córdoba. Alcázar means Muslim fortress-palace; the architecture of the alcázares was a sight. But, in my opinion, the best part of any of the alcázares I visited was the extensive well-maintained gardens. I’ll go crazy for a beautiful garden. I never realized that until I saw the gardens of the Real Alcázar in Sevilla.
The view from the bridge we used to cross into Toledo, one of my favorite Spanish cities. Toledo is the burial site of my favorite Spanish artist–el Greco. El Greco is well known for his gorgeously colored landscape, Vista de Toledo. I was beyond excited to get to see what el Greco had all those years ago. I have a love for Spanish art.
The leaves finally changing in Madrid!
Birds swarming around the minaret of the mosque in Meknes.
A sweet flower from a friend.
One of my all time favorite photos, and the banner of my blog. The smoke from the chestnut roasting carts creates a haze for the people and horses walking though a busy square. Across from this square, just over the river, was my piso, or apartment. I walked through this square more times than I can count.
A building by the Alhambra in Granada. You can’t beat that view.
A maze in the gardens of el Real Alcázar in Sevilla. Nothing is quite like the exhilaration of running from a friend in a Moorish maze in southern Spain.
A sleepy cat in Morocco. Morocco has more than its fair share of cats. You can see the blue walls of Chefchaouen.
On my last day in Sevilla, I came across this couple walking next to the Guadalquivir. I only took two photos of the scene, but I loved them both so much I had to include them here. This one shows the people of Sevilla. I love that they walk so easily arm in arm. The lighting was perfect, the water was calm, and you can even see the tower of Plaza de España in the skyline of the background.
My city, no people, just the river and the city across the shore. The crisp water and sun so perfect it could be a dream if my fingers hadn’t been nearly numb from cold so I could use my camera with fingerless gloves in the December chill. Sevilla’s worth it.
The motto of Sevilla is NO8DO. It’s even on the city’s flag. It’s also on public buildings and even manhole covers. It’s everywhere. What looks like an 8 when typing is actually a skein of wool. Wool in Spanish is madeja. When you pronounce no-madeja-do with a slightly different inflection, it becomes no-me-ha-dejado. This means, she won’t abandon me, or, she hasn’t left me. While there are variations as to the origin of this phrase, one of the popular ones is that Sevilla stood on the side of a Spanish king in a civil war. What this phrase has come to mean to me is a little more personal. Sevilla is a city with a personality, with a character. While a place, Sevilla has a soul. The soul of Sevilla, the memories and character that create the very nature of that place are not something that will ever leave those who come to love her.
No me ha dejado.