Sunday, December 30, 2018

Parque del Alamillo

Another low-key day. A lot of us catching up on work. Emily has a bit of a cold. She was interested in finding a place to do pull-ups, dips and other such exercises. We went to a little outdoor gym at Parque del Alamillo up at the north end of the river. She and I rode bikes up there and walked across the bridge to the park:

We found a water fountain:

The exercise area was populated with some very buff dudes doing all kinds of impressive things. Emily did a few exercises, but we decided to stop early and just walk around the park. The weather was beautiful and there were a lot of people out and about. We happened upon a pond that had a water ski course. Instead of boats, skiers were pulled across the water by a cable system.

Laura went to Costco and picked up some cranberries for her cranberry chicken dish. We had that for dinner and it was most excellent.


We finished the evening watching a John Mulaney standup show on Netflix. That's the first I've seen of him, funny guy.

Last night we watched the movie Eighth Grade by Bo Burnham. It was hard to watch at times, but wonderfully well-executed. It definitely made you feel for kids with acute anxiety.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Biker Gang

 On my walk/run along the river today, I saw this family of bike riders. Their bikes were decked out in a biker gang motif. The mom, dad and child were all wearing biker clothing too. It was kinda cute. The dad's bike was real work of art:

This evening a male flamenco dancer put out his hat on San Jacinto. This is kind of unusual since most of the buskers tend to go to the Cathedral area where there are more tourists. He was pretty good:

We went out for a walk to "Las Setas" so Emily could see them. Underneath, there was an ice rink. Watching some skate really well and others not so much was actually pretty entertaining:

We stopped in a clothing store on the way home called Pull & Bear. The words printed on the fronts of some of the t-shirts and sweatshirts were positively inane:

This one from "California Town" was particularly humorous. Rachel got a hoody with Pull & Bear on the front.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Work Day

Today we bade farewell to Ric and Kathy. They drove to Lisbon this morning to catch a plane back to the US. It's strange how time flies. Kathy started planning this trip about a year ago when she first learned that we were heading to Spain. She and Ric did a lot of the planning in Morocco and Granada. We had some adventures and enjoyed our Christmas together. Now it's in the past.

They made it to Lisbon without incident.


Today was a day of work for us. Laura studied Spanish. Rachel is studying basic economics in advance of an econometrics class she's taking this coming semester. Emily is reviewing a paper for a journal. I'm writing a talk for the Joint Mathematics Meeting in Baltimore next month.

This evening we walked up to Plaza de San Francisco and watched the 3 Kings Christmas light show with Emily.

We grabbed a pizza for dinner and helado at Villar for dessert. I have found, through a series of independent experiments and now very repeatable, that the brownie helado is the best possible helado.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Alhambra

Our reason for visiting Grenada was to take a tour of the Alhambra. As I spend more time in Spain, its history begins to sink in by some sort of osmosis. Southern Spain, by its proximity to northern Africa, has a history that is intertwined with that region. We saw that last week in Morocco. We see it every day here in Sevilla, and we saw it again in Grenada at the Alhambra.

Southern Spain was home to many Islamic kingdoms from the 8th through 15th centuries. In the 15th century, the Christian kingdoms of Spain unified and conquered the Islamic kingdoms of the south. The last Islamic presence in Spain was in Grenada. When that kingdom fell, the Iberian peninsula was a unified Christian country. Politics aside, cultures change slowly and mix constantly, in spite of what their Christian or Islamic rulers might want.

In the Alhambra, we see the Islamic palace and gardens that stood for 500 years, transformed into Christian edifices that have now stood for another 500 years. There is the original Islamic palace and the later Christian palace. The Islamic gardens, adapted to more Christian/European styles. The remnants of mosaic and geometric adornments and architecture.

Our tour started in the garden. Here, Emily poses for Rachel. I took advantage and grabbed this shot:

This monastary on the Alhambra grounds is now a 4-star hotel:

Here the girls take a rest in an Islamic style doorway:

The intricate plaster friezes were everywhere:

An example of the mixing of the two cultures, this mural on the ceiling is a Christian artform, but it's in the older Islamic palace:

The view of the old part of Granada from high up on the Alhambra hill was amazing:

The gardens on the grounds are under constant care. These "shrubs" were so well-manicured that they looked unreal:

The reflecting pools throughout the grounds, along with the clear blue skies made for some lovely photos:


The bus ride back to Sevilla went smoothly. We had tapas for dinner and quietly wished Ric a happy birthday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Today we started a quick overnight trip to Granada, about 200km east of Sevilla. We have guided tour of the Alhambra tomorrow. Today was mostly dedicated to getting to Granada, by bus. We left Sevilla at 10am:

We arrived right on time in Granada about 3 hrs later. Laura found us a nice airbnb near the center. We're on the top floor of our building and we have a great patio. The weather was clear and cool. Here you can see the mountains and the Alhambra area beyond the nearby buildings:

Just to get the lay of the land we walked around a bit. Here is the river the comes out of the aforementioned mountains:

Here's Emily:

Here's an old (19th century) bridge over the river:

We got back to the airbnb around 6:30pm. The sunset lit up the view from the balcony:

We had a nice dinner out and then played a card game. Our tour is tomorrow, then back to Sevilla on the bus.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


We started early with a great breakfast of french toast made by Laura:

We moved into a small gift exchange. Emily did her best Axl Rose imression:

Some swag. Even a couple of Blue Moon beers in there:

The street was quiet today. Here's a picture of the front of our building. Our flat occupies the middle set of windows here:

We went out for a walk:

And made it all the way to the Plaza de Espana:

We got back in time for dinner, also by Laura:

Then played some dominos:

A nice Christmas. Off to Granada tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2018


It's Christmas Eve. In Spanish that's Nochebuena. That seems etymologically strange to me. "Noche" means "night", "buena" means "good". The generic-ness of these terms suggests the great cultural significance of Christmas Eve.

Sevilla is as quiet as I've ever seen it right now. When we took the trash out, the main street was deserted. All the shops and restaurants were closed. Normally, it would be bustling:


The weather was nice today. Low 70s, sunny. We went to a tapas place we like called Zoko for lunch:

This is Laura getting her tuna from the server. He seared it with a blow torch at the table. The food was good. Emily and I even shared a vegetarian dish.


After lunch, we tried to visit the Torre del Oro, which is free on Mondays, but it was closed for the holiday. Instead, Emily, Rachel and I walked along the river. Laura went grocery shopping. Kathy and Ric went to their airbnb.

Whoever put up the autumn artwork along the river, replaced it with a lovely Christmas tree of macrame and crochet on recycled items like CDs and pop tops:

On our return walk, we stopped at the new mall and wandered around. Laura joined us and did a bit more Christmas shopping.


In the evening, Laura made a pretty good spread of Mexican food. After dinner we watched a fairly horrible Christmas movie on Netflix called The Christmas Chronicals. Definitely would not recommend.

My cold is tapering off. Rachel, who came to Sevilla 10 days ago with a cold, is having a relapse. Laura, is deep into a cold. Emily, Kathy and Ric are still healthy, but I fear their days are numbered.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Up on the rooftop

 Today we had a guided tour of the roof of the Cathedral which later included a walk-through of the interior. Emily still recovering from a 9-hour time change needed some coffee to get going this morning:

Once she had coffee inside, she was ready to go. Our tour headphones were stylish:

The roof tour is primarily about the challenges faced by 15th century builders and architects when building this giant gothic cathedral. My favorite part of the tour was this area on the roof where carpenters worked out the designs for arches, windows and buttresses. You can see the straight-edge and compass work scratched into the bricks over 500 years ago. Not only did they build these re-usable templates, but they left behind the record of geometric steps they used to create the templates. The original etchings are in black, the white lines are added by the historians that organize the tour to highlight the resulting shapes:

The weather was crystal clear and the parts of the roof stood in stark relief:

The city sprawled below at every turn:

The broad expanse of the roof above the center of the Cathedral:

Rachel took a picture of the group after coming down from the roof. We survived hundreds of steps up and down narrow, steep, spiral staircases:

After the rooftop tour, we went home and had lunch. We almost lost Emily to the couch:

Just to keep Emily moving, we went back to the Cathedral for the interior walk-through. This was the second time for Laura and me, so I only have a couple of pics. This one shows Sevilla from the top of the Giralda (the bell tower of the Cathedral):

After visiting Morocco and getting a clearer understanding of how this part of Spain and that part of northern Africa share a legacy of mixed cultures covering over 1,000 years, I have a new appreciation for the Moorish influences around Sevilla. This ablution fountain is in the courtyard of the Cathedral and is a remnant of the mosque that stood on the spot where the Cathedral now stands:

The sunlight on the Giralda was amazing as we left the Cathedral:

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Today we headed back to Sevilla and Emily arrived. Rachel and I got up early in Tangier so we could visit the Atlantic Ocean. I've spent my entire life in the context of the beaches of the eastern US. Every time I ever went to the beach, I'd look out at the ocean and wonder what was on the other side. Today, I saw the other side for the first time:

We dipped our hands in the water. It was relatively warm-comparable to the water in the mid-Atlantic states in the summer:

Here's the hotel we stayed in. Rachel and I were on the 13th floor:

This was our last view from our hotel room. The morning light highlighting the buildings of Tangier:

After breakfast, we made our way to the ferry terminal. The glass front was pretty with the city-scape behind it:

The ferry ran on time and Ric drove us back to Sevilla. There wasn't much traffic and we made it home by 3:30pm.

We hung around and recovered from our two non-stop days in Morocco. Then, Ric and I went out to get Emily at the Sevilla aiport. The sunset over Sevilla was beautiful as we went to Ric's rental car:

The moonrise in the other direction was equally lovely:

Laura had a great spread ready for us upon our successful retrieval of Emily:

She also managed to do a little decorating for Christmas:

So, long story short, we've successfully gathered for Christmas in Sevilla. Tomorrow we are going to tour the Cathedral.