Dateline – Seville, Spain
The weather held today. Intermittent rain showers throughout the area, but none directly overhead. The storms did help keep the temperature down in the 70s for most of the day which was quite comfortable for touring. (My pedometer is most happy with me this week). The humidity, however, has been a bit above my comfort level but not nearly as bad as Alabama in August. This morning started with the usual upscale hotel breakfast buffet. Lots of choices and always something that appeals but European scrambled eggs tend to be runny and every country does bacon and sausage somewhat differently. The highlights of this morning’s tour were the buildings constructed for the 1929 World’s Fair (most of which remain standing around a large public park). We had glimpsed them on yesterday’s carriage ride but today was a chance to get a bit closer to see the detail, especially on the monumental Spanish pavilion and plaza. I had my picture taken with the medallion honoring Don Quixote and couldn’t resist serenading my tour mates with a few bars of ‘I am I Don Quixote, the Lord of La Mancha’. I’ve always been partial to the Don and his tilting at windmills as I have spent a good portion of my life doing the same thing metaphorically.
Then, back to the center of town for a tour of the cathedral. Very impressive and the largest Gothic style cathedral in Europe. The nave and chapels are impressive in terms of sheer size and some decent artwork including large Murillo and Goya paintings. After the cathedral, a ramble through the winding streets of the old Jewish quarter, empty of Jews since the pogroms of 1391. Per are guide, there are still almost no Jews in the city (fewer than 100 total at the last census). Recently, the Spanish government has had a case of the guilts over the expulsion of the Jews in the 14th and 15th centuries and, if you can prove Sephardic Jewish ancestry back to Spain and that time, you can claim a visa and a path to citizenship. Given the craziness of our current politics, if I could do such, I might consider it but I’m about 100% Anglo-Saxon/Celt. I am eligible for a Portuguese ‘Golden Visa’ where, if you purchase real property in the country and bring a certain amount of wealth in, they’ll allow you to emigrate. I’ll keep that in mind just in case our politicians continue to drive us over the cliff. My mother was the child of two British citizens living abroad when born and could have claimed British citizenship if she chose. With a good lawyer and a great deal of money, I might be able to do so as well, but with Brexit, I’m not sure that would be much of an improvement to my current living situation.
We then boarded the bus and headed out into the country to a 16th century hacienda, lovingly restored as an event venue. The location, between the motorway and the aerospace factory, was not promising but the strategic placement of walls and the opening out of other areas to country views made it pleasant. An entertainment program featuring a flamenco dancing horse (I did not know they had such things) and an excellent leisurely tapas lunch followed. Then back to town where I used the rest of my afternoon to visit the Alcazar, the Royal Palace of Seville (and still in use as royal residence if the King comes to town). Very Moorish in its architecture and design but would be a trifle uncomfortable to live in as it’s nothing but stuccoed brick and tile. It has its own private gardens, walled off from the city parks that abut it. full of fountains, flowering trees and bushes. The plants remind me a lot of Southern California – oleander, lantana, jacaranda, bougainvillea, banyan trees and the like.
We passed a rather grim milestone today. The 665,500 US deaths over the last nineteen months means that 1/500 US residents has died from Covid-19. That’s 0.2% of the population. And does not include those who recovered but who still have significant health conditions. It’s roughly the population of Boston. It means that none of us has a life that has been untouched by the disease. All of us have now lost a family member, friend, or acquaintance. And still, a significant portion of the US population remains mired in a bizarre sort of denial. Denial of the disease, denial of the risks, denial of expert opinions. Here in Europe, denialism exists but is a fringe minority opinion. The majority accepts common sense advice like masking, hand washing, social distancing, and vaccinations as something we all do for each other so we can live as normal a life as possible. The rates are therefore somewhat lower here and, quite frankly, I feel like I am far less likely to run into issues here than at home. If I didn’t have patients depending on me, I might be tempted to stay on a while longer. I could get used to a life of 5 star hotels, cathedrals, chateaux, and a populace that actually culturally cares about each other.
Up on the bus in the morning and heading for the UK, or at least a little outpost of the UK known as Gibraltar. I’m betting the Gibraltarians wash their hands, wear their masks and keep their distance.