Saturday, June 15, 2019

Sanlúcar de Barrameda

 Today, Laura's Spanish teacher drove us to the beach town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This little town is situated at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. This is the same river that flows through Sevilla. About 80 km south and west of Sevilla, Guadalquivir flows into the Atlantic Ocean. After spending so much time here around the river, knowing that it was navigable down to the Atlantic, and knowing the historical significance of the many voyages that have started somewhere on this river, it was a treat to see the Atlantic end of the river. Sanlúcar is an old town. There is, of course, an old castle there:

The town has many lovely plazas and fountains:

The day was bright, but not too hot. There was a nice breeze off of the Atlantic. From left to right, we were me, Eri (student), Beli  (teacher), Laura (student), Ale (Beli's novio):

 Sanlúcar is probably best known for the jumping off point for Magellan's famous circumnavigation of the world. Indeed, on this sign, it is noted that the voyage started on 20 Oct 1519 and ended in 1522, so we are just shy of the 500th anniversary of the start of that famous voyage:

Beli kindly dropped us off a block from our house. After taking out the trash and a few other chores, I noticed that the sunset was lovely, so I went up to the roof and took a picture:

Friday, June 14, 2019

Córdoba visit

Tomorrow the Gruchots fly back to the US from Madrid. Today, we took the train north to Córdoba to see the sights there. Then, after a few hours in Córdoba, Laura and I returned south to Sevilla while the Gruchots continued north to Madrid.

We started out by catching the 21 bus to the train station:

 You can tell by Luke's face that it was a bit early. At the Córdoba train station, we locked the luggage up in lockers and hoofed it down to the Cathedral. This cathedral is interesting because it is planted right in the center of one of the mose beautiful mosques in the world. As with all of these old historic sites, there is a lot of upkeep. I watched this guy with a paint brush and a shopvac cleaning accumulated dust from the crenellations on the tops of these pillars:

The mosque part of the structure is a striking collection of arches an pillars. Worshippers would have filled this open space during prayers. The mosque part is actually built upon an old Christian church, so, as Laura suggested, this is actually a mosque sandwich with Christian churches serving as the bread.

Here is Jo-Anne in the mosque part:

After visiting the cathedral/mosque, we walked down a looked at the Roman bridge across the river:

The river was flowing at a much higher rate than on our previous visit in March(?). We then returned to the cathedral/mosque and climbed the bell tower/minaret. The view of the orange grove in the courtyard was impressive from up there:

Here you can see how the Cathedral is just plopped down into the middle of the surrounding mosque:

After the cathedral/mosque visit, Laura caught an early train home to go to Spanish class. I stayed with the Gruchots for lunch. We found a nice doner kebab place in Plaza de la Corredera. For dessert we bought an assortment of pieces of cake/pie from La Tarterie. We toasted Luke's birthday a day early:

Speaking of which, with the 6-hour time difference, Luke's birthday will be 30 hours instead of the usual 24 hours! After this, we headed back to the train station. Along the way, we passed a park with a lot of tiled benches that bore quotes from the famous playwright Seneca. I was struck by this one which seems to fly in the face of learning for the sake of learning:

It says, "Study, not to know a lot, but to know better (more?) than others." Pretty competitive frame of mind.

The Gruchots made it to Madrid on their train in time to do a bit of sightseeing there. I made it back to Sevilla on my train in time to lay around the house (I'm developing a bit of a cold and feel a bit under the weather.)

Thursday, June 13, 2019


Today was essentially a free day for the Gruchots. We visited the Plaza de Espana this morning and the nearby Maria Luisa Park. On the way over, we saw these guys taking their mules out for a walk across the (best) bridge:

I took a frew random photos at Maria Luisa Park, but the composition on this one really struck me:

Here's the Plaza de Espana from one of the balonies. This was likely my last trip to this amazing space:

We went to dinner at Antojo this evening. They have a carbonized cod filet there that is amazing and I don't even like fish. On the way home, the pilgrims from Rocio were returning home from their week-long trek. They were singing and seemed pretty happy, but you could tell they were a bit tired too. So were the oxen pulling the wagons:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


John, Jo-Anne, Katie Jo, Luke and I took a day trip down to Gibraltar. It's about a 2.5 hour ride on a tour bus. Laura stayed home to go to spanish class, do laundry, and make us dinner (she and I had been to Gibraltar before). We traipsed down to the pick up point just across the (best) bridge and met the bus and tour guide at 8am. We were the first of several pick-ups, so we didn't actually start driving south with the 23 member group until about 9:15am. Along the way, Roman our guide, told us a lot about southern Spain. He seemed particularly enthused about the fact that we were driving through the part of Spain where bulls are bred and raised for the bull fighting rings. I did learn a lot about the entire "sport". For example, the bulls are not trained to be aggressive, they're raised normally. They go into the ring when they are 4 years old. The bull must be weakened by small spears (blood loss) from riders on horseback before the toreador enters the ring. A toreador has no chance of facing a bull at full strength.

I also learned that there are cork trees in southern Spain (not just Portugal). Also, the bark (cork) is harvested from the trees about every 10 years and even though the bark is stripped completely from a significant portion of the trunk, the tree survives and continues to produce bark for cork harvesting. We stopped at this rest area on the way down to Gibraltar:

After showing our passports at the border (leaving Spain, entering the UK), we visited the lighthouse. Though there was a bit of a marine layer, you could just make out the coast of Africa (Morocco):

For lunch, we followed the advice of the guide and had traditional British fish and chips at Roy's:

After lunch, we watched a couple of glass blowers ply their trade in a nearby shop:

Obligatory picture of the rock of Gibraltar:

We made it back to Sevilla around 6:30pm. Laura made us a Moroccan style cous cous with chicken for dinner (it was most excellent). We had helado for dessert and went our separate ways.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

An anniversary of sorts

It was June 11, 2018 when we drove out of Walla Walla. A lot has happened in that year. It's gone fast and slow at the same time.


Today we went to the Royal Alcázar with John, Jo-Anne, Katie Jo and Luke. The weather was lovely--relatively cool and breezy.This was my 4th or 5th visit and there's always something new to see. For example, I never thought a peacock with full plumage could perch outside a 2nd story window, but here's one:

I never get tired of the Moorish penchant for geometric ornamentation. The prohibition against images of animals or people forced artisans of the time to turn to geometry for artistic expression. This wrought iron door/gate is just one example:

This was the first time I visited the royal "swimming pool" beneath the palace. Quiet and cool, it must have been a great escape from the Sevillian heat in July and August:

This side passage along the pool was beautifully lit too:

The palace gardens under a cool, clear blue sky:

After the Royal Alcázar, we had lunch at the little fast-food Italian place around the corner from our flat. Then we split up. Laura went to class, I went to the gym and did a little work on my revision, Jo-Anne, Luke and Katie Jo went downtown and John took a bit of a breather at the AirBnb.

We got back together and the Gruchots tried some sangria at Volapie, another restaurant around the corner from us. The sangria seemed to be universally enjoyed. Laura returned from class and made us chicken fajitas for dinner. All cleaned up and heading to bed now. We have to rise early to catch the tour bus to Gibraltar tomorrow.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Inner ceramacist

We had a pretty busy day today. It started around 10am as we made our way to the Cathedral for the rooftop tour. I find the roof of the Cathdral and learning about its history and construction much more interesting than the inside. The views up there are awesome:

Here's a group shot after we finished with the Cathedral:

After the Cathedral, we walked to the Alameda and had tapas at Arte & Sabor. So much better than Cafe y Tapas (which we regrettably patronized yesterday evening). At that point, Laura headed off to class and we took the bus home. After a couple hours' break, we went to the ceramic studio across the street and had a 2.5 hour lesson in painting tiles. We had a lot of fun and our host was a fun and articulate woman from the UK who has lived in Spain for several years. I struggled with the painting, but eventually managed to get this design:

onto my tile. The rest of the group did pretty well with their projects. We pick up the fired pieces on Thursday.


After the lesson, we returned to our flat where Laura had returned from class and made us an excellent pasta dinner.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Gruchots come calling

My sister Jo-Anne, her husband, John, and their children, Luke and Katie Jo, came to Sevilla today for a visit from their home in St. Joseph, MI. After a long flight out of Chicago via Madrid, they arrived in Sevilla around 1pm local time. I went out on the bus to meet them and get them back to downtown to their AirBnB down the street from us. This is the courtyard of their building:

It never ceases to amaze me the variety of beautiful courtyards hidden within the buildings all around us. Though they were pretty tired, we gathered at our place for a light lunch and caught up. We walked around the neighborhood a bit too:

This evening, we went to a flamenco show at a place we really like:

The show was great, as usual:

Now we're back in our respective flats. Hopefully, they'll be able to sleep well and get adjusted to the new timezone quickly.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Home for the weekend

This is the first weekend in what seems like a long time that we've stayed in Sevilla.  We had to plan the grocery shopping carefully because, as usual, everything's closed tomorrow and Jo-Anne, John, Luke and Katie Jo arrive tomorrow. We wanted to make sure they had a few things to stock their AirBnB for Sunday.


I went to the gym while Laura got her steps. This evening, I took the trash out and watched a tourist boat go down the river:

I also noticed a wedding party with fancy Rolls Royce limos doing some photos down by the river:

You can see the bride up on the steps. Not sure why these drivers were peering "under the bonnet" as a proper Rolls owner would say:

Beautiful vehicles.


I spent some time solving some technical issues with a figure for the revision. It's mostly worked out now. I also finished an on-line one-dimensional cellular automata visualizer. I think I'm going to use this to paint my tile next week in our ceramics workshop:

This is a 13x13 part of Rule 110. It's chaotic.

Friday, June 7, 2019


I spent most of the day doing revisions on the paper. I made a figure:

I also put together a jupyter notebook that uses plotly and mapbox to show a GPS recording on a map. Here's a recording of me walking Laura to her class this afternoon and then continuing on to the gym:

At this scale, it looks like a continuous path, but if you zoom in you can see the individual locations that the phone records at a rate of one mark per second:

Zoomed in, you really begin to see the noise in the GPS data. Notice the big scattering of points in the lower-right. That's the very beginning of the recording as I exited our building. It takes a while for the GPS receiver in the phone to settle down. I find it fascinating to see the GPS activity at this level of detail. This is what can happen whenever you do mapping or directions with your phone.

Progress was good today. I finished the first pass of revisions. Now it's a matter of revising/polishing the revisions for a few days and re-submitting.


The toaster in the flat has been broken for a while. Since we never use it, we never really mentioned it to Mario. However, as our time here comes to a close, we felt like we should let him know so that the next occupants aren't surprised by a dysfunctional toaster. I let him know yesterday and, in classic Mario style, he brought us a new toaster today--even though I stressed that we didn't need it and that there was no hurry:


We noticed a little stage set up down by the river this evening:

It seemed oddly positioned to be an open concert. On closer inspection, we noticed a lot of cameras and spotlights and realized that it was actually a video shoot. There was even a gaggle of extras posing as an "audience". There's always something going on down there by the river, haha. No idea who the particular artist was.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Default post

Today I mostly worked on the revisions to my paper. Things are going along ok. I have some qualitative revisions that I'm trying to address. Since my revisions don't need to go back to the referees, I just need to do enough to convince the editor that I've thoughtfully considered and addressed the referees' comments. It's kind of an iterative process. Read the referee comments, read the paper, make some edits, repeat... At the same time, I have to document the revisions so that the editor can see the changes from the original submission and understand how they relate to specific referee comments.

I think by tomorrow I'll have made a first pass at each of the comments. Then I just need to polish.


Other than the gym and helping Laura carry the food she prepared for her school's potluck today to the school, I didn't really go out much. So not real photos. I have only my default photo of the city center take in the vicinity of the trash bins after taking out the trash:

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

El Rocío

Or, YAP (yet another procession). El Rocío is an annual pilgrimage that draws folks from all over Spain. This morning a procession left from Triana to make the roughly 80km walk to El Rocío over the next couple of days. The expedition consisted of people on foot, on horseback and on ox drawn wagons:

Crowds lined the street see them off and wish them well. With only a few weeks left in our time here in Sevilla, could this be my last procession?


I made good progress on the revisions to my paper today. I thanked my past self for taking careful notes while I prepared the original submission--especially with regard to the creation of the figures. I found it easy to get myself back up to speed and am confident that I can get the revisions squared away this week.


It was pleasantly cooler today. I walked Laura to class and headed to the gym and wasn't nearly as sweaty as I normally am


I talked to Kathy on the phone this evening while Laura went to Costco to get some things in for Jo-Anne's visit and for a potluck at her school tomorrow.