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Courtyard of the Maidens, Garden of the Grotesques

Castilian Christians: You rock.  Peter the Cruel started it all (or Peter the Just, history has some “elasticity”), but the tourist brochures refer to him without commitment as Peter (aka Pedro) I.  In a very modern and counter-intuitive decision given it was the 1300s, he commissioned “Moorish workmen” (which the guidebooks might want to revise as Arab and Berber artisans) to fashion a palace on what was a fortress for the Almohad Caliphs (Berber Muslims, who in turn had destroyed a church of the Visigoths to establish their quarters), and that’s the blockbuster section you enter upon arrival at the Real Alcazar [Palace] of Seville.  It includes the Courtyard of Maidens (or Damsels), the Courtyard of the Crossing, the Courtyard of the Dolls (that’s the picture with the glass ceiling), some other courtyards we lost track of and, simply, the Hall of Ambassadors, with a ludicrously ornate and complex ceiling.

Another huge section is the gothic rooms, built under Alfonso X (also The Wise, wouldn’t you know), who found the Caliph’s rooms “cramped.” These are not so “tourist friendly” being less ornate and offer fewer Instagram opps; as such they offer some exceptional reflection, particularly underneath, in vaults called the baths of Lady Maria Padilla (who was the mistress of the king).

Then of course there are the gardens, the nearly 15 acres of walled, manicured gardens, each section with its own name and theme; the Gallery of the Grotesques is a two-story fortress wall with outstanding views along a very long and narrow corridor and, one can only imagine, a perfect opportunity for some Benny Hill hijinks back in the day.  The maze, alas, was cordoned off.  While the oranges (in abundance) were nearly ripe, and the bougainvillea and jasmine were in bloom, November is a little “tired” if you will flora-wise.  Still, it was enormously appealing.  Irrelevant fun fact: Game of Thrones used one section of the gardens here as the Water Garden of the Kingdom of Dorne.  Relevant fun fact: I never got into GoT.

SS also navigated us over to the Maria Luisa Park (previously private gardens, opened to the public in 1914) where we took some pics on the Plaza de Espana, which dates to a Spanish American exhibition in 1929. Given that I am travelling with mature adults, they vetoed a superb photo opportunity; killjoys.

For lunch we took Italian, a little break from the omnipresent tapas.  There was cloud cover, actual clouds, and some delicate dew-like moisture that apparently is called (in Spain) rain.  And no, before you ask, we were not mainly, today, in the plain.

Oh hey, did I mention the ceiling in the Hall of Ambassadors?

The evening took us minutes down the “calle” to a place called El Pinton (highly recommended in the design trade) for, yes, tapas.  Food was pretty good, service, a little bit “attitudinal”  but that’s the design trade. So it goes.


The author of Here Hare has traveled to over 45 countries on six continents, and has lived in Canada, the UK and Australia.

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