Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: cathedral

Where is the Barber of Seville?

In terms of country, I wouldn’t say that Spain is one of my top five favourite European destinations (*GASP*! HOW DARE I SAY THAT!) but I can definitely say that Seville is one of my favourite European cities and certainly my favourite Spanish city, out of the ones I’ve been to. Ever since I’ve played a part of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” overture in my highschool band, I had been curious about this place called Seville. It took five visits to Spain to finally get to Seville and oh boy, was it beautiful! Now, it’s time to look for the Barber of Seville…

Seville was so colourful, so classy, so chic, and overall an utterly amazing city filled with beauty and surprises in every corner. The quaint, quiet, and narrow streets that are so quintessential in Seville make it a fascinating maze to explore. And I’ve seen my fair share of similar towns and villages (for example, Cordoba and Toledo in Spain) but I have to say with all honesty…none of them quite compare to the extraordinary charm of Seville…

…well, except for maybe Venice. Actually one of my first thoughts upon arriving in the old town of Seville was, “It’s kind of like Venice…but maybe nicer (and without the water)!” Ha, I hope the Spanish aren’t offended that I’m comparing Seville to Venice!

Away from the hidden alleys, Seville reveals more of its charm with the magnificent cathedral, Plaza de España, the Alcázar of Seville, and so on. All of a sudden I felt like I entered some sort of glamorous royal kingdom where everything was bright and majestic and impressive. Still no sign of the Barber of Seville though…

Yes, summer in southern Spain means having to put up with extreme heat, sometimes going up to 40°C, but that didn’t matter! As my Spanish colleague has told me, people in Seville know how to keep themselves cool, which means that there is plenty of shade everywhere and water mist being sprayed from restaurants and shops as you pass by. As a result, the heat was actually not too unbearable!

I was unfortunately only in Seville for a day and a half but I would go back in a heartbeat. After all I still have to find the famous Barber of Seville!

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Something I don’t want to forget

In the blink of an eye, St. Andrews was 6 months ago. I’ve begun and stopped writing this post many times and always hesitated finishing it because I always feel very emotional when I remember that trip. The photos remind me of that weekend, such a short one but one that made me nothing more than content because of my companion. And perhaps I’ll leave it at that.

The ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral left behind signs of age and a glorious past. This would be the “touristy” part of St. Andrews, but it was a calm and quiet November morning. I felt like we could have been all alone in the world.

We took a short walk by the pier with the bluest sky, the bluest water, and a very blue me. The cathedral can be seen in the background.

St. Andrews is known as the birthplace of golf. We didn’t get to play, but at least we saw some people (who seemed to know what they were doing) take a few swings. I was just there to enjoy the nice weather, really.

The East Sands of St. Andrews (or was it the West Sands?) hid a wonderful surprise at sunset. It must have been raining the night before, and the sand at the beach formed an amazing ripple pattern, a scene made perfect by the fading light of dusk. I could have stayed in that moment forever.

Then red clouds covered the sky as if devouring it, and I could still remember how it felt, when my heart might have skipped a beat then and there, though it was not for the clouds.

Walking around the University of St. Andrews we passed by a grand courtyard, and wondering about the surrounding buildings, we asked the students what they were, to which they replied that they were residences for undergrads. We marveled at the luxury and wondered how much it would cost to live there.

The trip ended with a walk through the Lade Braes, a trail through the outskirts of St. Andrews. I didn’t hesitate to add a photo to my “Food and the Hills” series, although this was by no means a hill. Who would have known that such a serene place could be found here?

Then I had to leave. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to leave. And say goodbye. The air, the sand, the sunset, the company – thanks for everything.

Stop to smell the oranges…in Córdoba!

During the Easter holidays, I travelled to Portugal and Spain with some buddies from Canada. When I asked my Spanish colleague for ideas of day trips from Madrid, I learned about the Andalusian town of Córdoba, having considered Segovia and Valencia previously. My colleague, who is actually from Valencia, instead brought up Córdoba and strongly recommended it, mainly telling me about the Mezquita, or the mosque-cathedral of Córdoba. Well, you don’t refuse a Spanish when he provides a suggestion on where to go in Spain, so it was decided that Córdoba would be our day trip – although neither I nor my two companions knew much about Córdoba at all. But that’s OK – wandering is half the fun!

Even having done some research on the attractions a little bit beforehand, it was clear that the Mezquita is what brings most people to Córdoba. The Mezquita – or mosque – has a rich history behind its gates. Known as the mosque-cathedral of Córdoba, it was originally a cathedral but was converted into a mosque when Spain was under Islamic rule. After the Reconquista, when Spain fell under Christian rule, the Mezquita was converted back into a cathedral and remains so till this day. The ubiquitous columns and arches that line the interior of the Mezquita were its highlighted features. Made of jasper and marble, more than 850 of these pillars stand in the Mezquita, and walking through the arches makes it feel like you’re traversing a city itself. With that said, the interior of the Mezquita was huge! It certainly fooled us from the outside, and I lost my companions more than once. You could imagine how hard it was to find them under dim light in a crowded place!

Back in town, my friends and I decided to explore Córdoba a bit. We met an American lady at a tapas market in Madrid who visited Córdoba before arriving in Madrid. She described Córdoba as “quaint”, and while I think that the word “quaint” is often overused to describe small, charming towns, you can’t deny that it is an appropriate word. And it is often these places that are quaint and picturesque towns that attract me more than the big cities.

My friends and I were confused when we saw these figurines. OK…please don’t blame us for our ignorance, but wouldn’t one very easily associate the costumes worn by these figurines with those of the KKK? Of course we had to figure out the significance of this seemingly strange occurrence. As it turns out, every year around Easter (which was when we went), during what’s called the Holy Week festival, processions take place whereby people are dressed up in these hoods to commemorate the passion of Christ. It’s been a tradition around Spain, especially in the Andalusia regions, of which Córdoba is a part. It has nothing to do with the KKK, none at all. So, there’s our mystery solved. At least we learned something new, right?

For lunch, we sat down at a small restaurant serving local food. One of the things that we ordered was “salmorejo cordobés”, a specialty that originated from Córdoba. Even though we already had it a previous evening in Madrid, it was so good that we wanted to get it again. Salmorejo was a blended purée made of tomato, bread, and garlic…probably lots and lots of garlic. It is then garnished with diced cured Spanish ham and chunks of a hard-boiled egg. Since the taste and smell of garlic was so strong and rich, I liked to have it with lots of bread (even though it was probably meant to be just a cold soup), which was a delicious combination!

An interesting phenomenon that I noticed as I was walking around Córdoba and one of my favourite things about the visit was the scent of oranges everywhere. Oh, it smelled so wonderful! It’s like having slight traces of fragrance following you all over the place, but unlike the strong perfumes that I can’t stand, it’s a most natural scent in the refreshing breeze. Not surprising, as we saw orange trees in many areas of Córdoba and really had to resist picking a few oranges to eat 😛

Crossing the Roman bridge, we arrived on the southern bank of Córdoba where we were able to look back and see the Mezquita from a distance. Then it became obvious that Córdoba was very…orange, or yellow. The houses lining the quaint streets, the columns in the Mezquita, the orange trees…even the salmerejo was orange!

Soon it was time for us to leave Córdoba and head back to Madrid. Walking along the Guadalquivir river, we headed back into the old town and out toward the train station, ending our day trip in this Andalusian town full of history and surprises 🙂

Ely, a detour from Cambridge

A very brief post on my trip to Ely, a city in England that is 20 minutes away from Cambridge by train, making it a perfect (half-)day weekend trip. Ely is known as a “cathedral city”, but it wasn’t only the cathedral that made the visit more than pleasant. It was here that my love for smaller cities and communities was accentuated, as you will see 🙂

There are things that don’t interest me much anymore when I travel (castles, for example) and other things that I don’t think I can ever get enough of (nature, high places, etc.), and cathedrals are one of the rare things that I’m undecided about. Sometimes I feel like every cathedral is the same, but the grandness of some of the ones I’ve seen has truly and genuinely amazed me. Of course, the primary motivation of going to Ely was to see its gigantic cathedral, which was the symbol of the city. And magnificent it was – I must admit that I was impressed.

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Chinese food and Chatime in Manchester?!

Earlier this week I was in Manchester for a work collaboration. I stayed two days in the city, mostly spending my time in the lab of my collaborator trying desperately to get preliminary results from a new experiment (which didn’t work, boo). I didn’t get much time to explore the city, but after dinner on the first night, I figured I’d just take a quick stroll around the city centre, even though it was raining. Oh, dear. At least the rain was light and the sky was still bright, so although I didn’t have an umbrella, I didn’t get soaked (unlike that time in Antwerp…) Taking photos in the rain proved to be difficult, but I gave it a try…

Without an umbrella, I wandered into the centre of Manchester in the rain so that I would at least see a little bit of the city. This part of Manchester, which was close to the cathedral, reminded me of Rennes and Strasbourg in France. I would have never thought that this was a place in England if I only saw its photo.

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