The newspaper this morning in Singapore
is full of the aftermath of bombings and the fallout from the Spanish election, tells us that Indonesia, our next stop, has declared that its Dengue Fever epidemic is over – after close to 500 people have died. The paper also informs us that Singapore has been averaging 89 cases/week through 2004, although recently this has declined to an average of 81 cases/week. Deaths from Dengue in Singapore were not stated. We observe that insect repellent has replaced sunscreen since we got to Singapore. We also learn that the US NIH has committed significant dollars to finding a vaccine for Dengue, which has to be good news.
Every contact we’ve had with mother recently has included the advice to go to the Singapore Orchid Garden, and so we do. We take the MRT and then a bus and walk through the lush grounds of…
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We enjoy the luxury of a 4 star hotel for a change. Purists would have our heads on a platter as we consider by-passing Sevilla altogether for the privilege of just vegging and enjoying some TV and the swimming pool. But that will come next week in the Costa Brava. Showered and dressed, the day-pack is packed and we head into Sevilla for the day. We discover a beautiful, lush city full of fan palms, cafés and tons of monuments only a 10 minute bus ride from our ‘suburban’ hotel.
City Hall and Onto the Cathedral
We arrive at the Plaza Nueva with our walking shoes on and we start to walk. Our walk begins with the Ayuntamiento, the city hall that is richly canopied and sheltered from the blazing heat, which also provides some shelter for the many caleches that ply their trade from city hall. We walk around the Plaza de San Francisco and head towards what we think is the entrance to the Cathedral only to find ourselves at the exit of the Cathedral. We must walk around to the other side of the building and enter the immense edifice that, like many churches in Spain, started out initially as a Mosque and then, when it was knocked down in 1401, its decaying state an embarrassment to the church, the officials decided to start all over again with a new and bigger building. We learn that this is one of the largest churches in the world. It is indeed a very big and confusing architectural morsel for us to digest. We walk into the main sanctuary and find a huge gothic building into which, in the middle of the main nave, a baroque folly has been added to the already overwrought gothic coolness. We unknowingly split up and focus on the intricate and many details of the cathedral.
At the Tomb of Christopher Columbus
We find each other again at the tomb of Christopher Columbus which is a folly unto itself. We find young priests and nuns kissing the monument and genuflecting. We are not sure why. We move through the sanctuary and continue our self-guided tour, which takes us to the Giralda or tower. We have seen many towers in our trip and most of them will give you a stair count and a time-in-line estimate, but there is no line and the Lonely Planet tells us that it is an easy climb. It has ramps up the 32 stories! The ramps were added in the 19th century so that the nobility could ride their horses up to the top without walking. I would hate to have to cleanup after them.
The Glorious Alcázar
We are ‘churched out’ and walk literally south across the Plaza del Triunfo where lies our next major site, the Alcázar. Although the name means that once there was a fort on this site, today there is only a sumptuous palace. We are not prepared for it. It goes on and on, most of following the Islamic model of home, where life centered on an interior courtyard. Only this palace has interior courtyard after interior courtyard. Just when you think you must be close to being through, you walk through a door and are into another complex of rooms and courtyards. We walk through them in awe. And then we go out into the gardens, lush, beautiful and huge! We stop for a coffee and then walk through the town, back to our hotel. We pass the former factory, now part of the university and looking more like a palace than a factory, where Bizet’s Carmen rolled tobacco. We cross to the Plaza de Espana, built for a 1929 exposition, a fantasy of tiles and a jumble of styles. And then through the mess of the streets, where a subway system is being built to help this city of 750,000 deal with its congestion, and finally we get back to our hotel.
Great Food and Great Wine
After naps, we take the bus back into town to a vegetarian restaurant that Greg has read about; we have both been feeling like we need a change from the Spanish focus on meat. We find it, after much circling around, on a tiny dead-end street that isn’t on our map. We have an excellent meal, absolutely delicious and even better for being virtuous. Because the restaurant is so tiny (I would say it is a hole-in-the-wall, except that of course we are sitting outside in the tiny plaza at the end of the street), tables are shared, and we end up sharing ours with 2 other travelers, Jorg and Thorsten, from Berlin, with whom we have an enjoyable conversation, comparing notes about our travels, and enjoying the great food and the Spanish wine.