Deb Camara was best friends with our daughter-in-law Catarina Gomes when they were growing up. We first met Deb at Catarina and Jason’s wedding and then got to know her better, years later through different running events. She was the youngest member of Sandy’s “sole sisters” running group which originated through a running club which we encouraged her to join. At the time the group ranged in ages from 20’s to 60’s. Deb was one of the youngest members and Sandy the eldest. Now the ages are 30’s to 70’s and they are all still running but not together geographically anymore. We have grown so close to Deb that she has given us the honor of being her adopted parents. She did visit us in Mexico earlier this year with another couple and we are so delighted to have her to ourselves in Madrid and Seville as we experience a bucket list item for all of us, Semana Santa in Seville.
No arrival picture of Deb, but there are a ton of pictures of her to follow. She is so photogenic and not shy.
First attraction for Deb was the Royal Palace which she enjoyed. The Grand Staircase at Palacio Real isn’t just grand that screams opulence but is laden with interesting art work that are but reminders of the influences, power and grandeur of the Spanish monarchy.The steps are made of San Agustin marble.
Former King Juan Carlos I , wife Sophia, daughters Elena and Cristina and son Felipe VI who is the present king .
Next site for Deb was the Cathedral.
Here she is at the altar of Saint Almudena, patron saint of Madrid.
The Cathedral was very strange during this visit with much AV equipment, the Altar was taped off and they had a fog machine going. We assume they were preparing to film something as they announced that we had to leave not long after we went in. It did make for an eerie sight and the stain glass performed a light show for us.
Next stop, the magnificent Royal Basilica of Saint Francis located in the neighborhood of Palacio, it sits on the site where Saint Francis had a modest home. It was consecrated in 1784 and declared a Basilica by Pope John XXXIII nearly two centuries later in 1963.
Puerto de Sol is not only the heart of Madrid but is the zero point of all Spain. From here you can access all other places in the country. The clock tower chimes the last 12 chimes on New Years Eve and traditionally the people eat 12 grapes one for each chime which they believe will lead to a new year of good luck and prosperity. It is currently undergoing renovation for a new Metro station.
The bear and strawberry tree are depicted on the Madrid coat of arms. The stretching bear looking for fruit on the tree is symbolic of the resiliency and strength of the industry of Madrilenos. Originally, Madrid was named URSA, which means bear in latin.
We came across these street musicians and donated some money for their performance.
For those of you who religiously follow our blog you may tire of the same photos with different faces but we do try to give a different history with each. Here in the background is the stunning Palacio de Cibeles now a cultural center, it was originally the head post office in 1919 and in 1993 was declared a Cultural Heritage Monument.
First run in Madrid was the Park Retiro, she loved it.
After the run we took her to see the sites in the park.
Her highlight was seeing these turtles as she loves turtles.
The back swan.
The baby ducklings swimming with mommy.
Shocking that these are still in existence and functioning.
We explored the Salamanca neighborhood.
We found a great Mexican restaurant on the roof top of El Corte Ingles, a major department store and market.
An appropriate pose for this sculpture photo.
Our long walk, 12 miles for the day, included seeing the Bernabéu Futbol Stadium where Real Madrid plays soccer. She made some purchases in the gift shop for family members who are soccer fans.
We turned her into a museum enthusiast after a tour of the Prado and it even topped seeing the turtles.
Deb got some casual clothes bargains at a liquidation sale at a sports wear shop. This sweatshirt is one of them. She will be running the Brooklyn half marathon in NYC in the fall.
Mandatory Churros for all our guests, you can see Deb taking the picture in the mirror.
Off to Seville for Semana Santa ( Easter Holy Week). We carry a chefs knife on our travels as we often find poor knives in our Airbnb’s. Turns out you can’t take a knife on a train so we lost our favorite knife to the trash bin at security.
She made friends with some Spanish girls that she sat next to on the train and exchanged contact info with them.
Our front patio view of the Giralda.
Lovely sunny patio for dining.
Host, giving us a tour. This is the AC control.
Inside front foyer of building.
First venture out to explore. This is the plaza in front of the Cathedral which is a block away from our Airbnb.
This chap sits every day here with his cute coiffed dog.
First taste of Sangria in Seville was not disappointing.
Such a beautiful city with so many picturesque alley ways.
Came across this Bride and Groom in a garden taking photos.
No need to go to a Flamenco Performance as there are many right on the street enjoy this video.
Plaza Espana is a spectacle of light and majesty and the most famous square in Seville. It was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Expo. Along the entire perimeter is a canal which you can travel by rowboat. There are banks of tiles that represent the provinces of Spain.
This fountain lights up with colors at night.
The Spaniards play homage to their Matadors with images of them on the side of buses
The Giralda is the bell tower of Seville Cathedra. It was originally built as the minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville. A Renaissance -style belfry was added by the Catholics after the expulsion of the Muslims from the area. In 1987 it was registered as a World Heritage site by UNESCO along with the Alcazar Palace. We climbed the tower via a ramp, not stairs, as it was designed to ride horses up it. This bell ringing was for Palm Sunday. Listen to our video here of the bells tolling very loudly.
First run along the banks of the Guadalquivir River was an interval training run to prepare to PR (personal record or personal best) in the BAA 5k in Boston next week which, by the way she did, finishing the 3.1 miles in 24 mins 55 secs for a pace of under 8 mins per mile. Her goal is to qualify for Boston although she has run the whole marathon once officially and parts of it unofficially.
She really loved running along this river as you can see in this short video of her finish
Our first glimpse of Penitents in procession, these are Nazareños, members of some 50 brotherhoods dating back to the 13th century wearing long robes and tall pointed hoods and not to be confused with the Ku Klux Klan. The penitents hoods date back to the Spanish Inquisition when it was decreed that those convicted of religious crimes had to wear the conical hoods so that everyone knew they had sinned. Their first use in processions could date from 17th century Seville. The color of the robes depend on the brotherhood they are associated with. There are many different colors.
This video is of our very first view of a Paso coming out of a church. Semana Santa, or Holy Week (Palm Sunday-Good Friday) is celebrated in flamboyant style in Seville. More than 100 pasos (floats bearing religious effigies) are carried through the streets of the city accompanied by the nazarereños and marching bands. In Seville, Semana Santa is, in short, a phenomenon that was born long ago. It is a shocking experience, always surprising and stirs feelings inside you whether you are religious or not.
In this video we ended up much closer to the Paso than we expected, but we will get closer, this is only day one. 7-8 of these processions go on every day for seven days.
Different brotherhoods in the same church with different colors.
We took Deb on a rooftop tour of the Cathedral which was spectacular and we highly recommend it. We did it two years ago when we lived in Seville for two months.
Our group was only 10 people this day. The guide unlocked a secret door in the base of one of the church pillars near the Christopher Columbus tomb. Once inside the door we climbed many narrow spiral staircases gripping on to a rope along the wall. It was a dizzying experience and not recommended for people who are claustrophobic, acrophobic or just plain out of shape.
The views from the top are breathtaking (as well as the climb itself).
Look how tiny the people below are.
I pointed out to Deb that our guides last name was the same as hers; Camara. As it turns out he has relatives from Portugal which is where Deb’s family is from. They enjoyed exchanging family history as we made our way down the stairs at the end of the tour. Here is a photo of Deb and Diego Camara taking a selfie. It is not a common name so they are probably related. I should have also pointed out he had no wedding band on.
We came back to the cathedral a few hours later to climb the Giralda and tour the cathedral on our own. This is a view of the roof from the Giralda.
There are 35 ramps to the top.
Views to the north of Puente de Barqueta, a sleek cable stayed bridge built in 1992 which Deb ran to during one of her runs along the river.
View to the east of our apartment.
And this is our view of the Giralda at night from our terrace, living room and bedroom.
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Sea, better known as Seville Cathedral is the fourth largest church in the world as well as the largest Gothic church. It sits on the site of a former 12th century mosque. Work began in 1401 and took just over a century to complete. The altar piece shown here was the lifetime work of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart.
This is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. His son Diego is also buried in the cathedral and DNA taken from his son confirmed the remains in the sarcophagus here are indeed his although the Dominican Republic feels that he is buried there but they refuse to do a DNA test on the bones they have.
The following photos were taken in the Cathedral.
This was our second Procession sighting. We ate lunch at an outdoor cafe and the procession came by just after we finished. Musical groups and bands of bugles and drums accompany the floats.
Enjoy this video of the float depicting Judas kiss of betrayal.
We were always surprised to see penitents walking the streets in full garb making their way to the start of their respective processions.
Many of the buildings balconies were trapped in red cloths for Holy Week.
Such a bizarre site to see.
note the elaborate interweaving of palm leaves that adorn this red drape
We did a churro test taste in Seville to compare them to the churros we had in Madrid and the agreement was the chocolat sauce was better in Madrid but the Churros were better in Seville. Goodness the things we subject our guests to.😛
This is the Metropol Parasol popularly known as Las Setas or the mushroom. It is a wooden structure located in the central plaza de la Encarnacion in the city of Seville. The structure consists of six large mushroom shaped parasols, whose design is inspired by the arches of the Cathedral and the ficus trees in the plaza.
We waited a very long time in the rain to see this float enter the cathedral. We were a long way away from it and had to zoom in to capture it going by. Normally if rain is predicted the procession is cancelled however this one was already out when rain started. Fortunately it got to the cathedral right after the rain started.
Each float depicts a scene from the Easter Story. This one shows Christ being arrested and led away.
Video of the Paso approaching the Cathedral door.
This procession photo was leaving the cathedral and came by right behind us. This video was taken a minute after the one just above it.
After the float passed there was a massive down pour and the streets were teeming with people and open umbrellas. This is when we did the “duck and run” maneuver. Jim led the way as we formed a line and ducked down and grabbed on to each others backs and physically run plowing through the people and through another procession on the other side of the Cathedral. We got home soaking wet but we were very proud of ourselves.
Basilica de la Macarena. This church houses the most valuable treasure in Seville. The Virgin de la Esperanza, popularly known as the Macarena because of the quarter where the basilica is located. Not to be confused with the dance, this holiest of holy most popular Virgin departs the church at midnight before Holy Friday and it takes thirteen hours during the night and morning for her to make her way to the cathedral and back.
These are the Religious floats that will be taken out of this church for the Holy Week penance processions which begins Palm Sunday and ends one week later on Easter Sunday
As you can see they are elaborately dressed. Many of these wooden art pieces were created by Spanish artists and are priceless works of art. The Virgins wear velvet robes embroidered with gold thread; many years she has a new outfit including jewelry and even underwear.
The candles and flowers on the float are real. They light the candles at sunset.
Elaborate robes laid out to wear by clergy for the Easter celebration
We opted to see these floats in the church rather than stand in the streets at midnight which is when they go out.
Yes cars and floats do go down these narrow streets and note the width of the sidewalks sometimes you have to stop walking and pin yourself against the building while they zoom by. It can be scary. Our taxi driver who we had from the train station to our Air BNB gave us a ride that would rival any one in Disney world. Sandy had to close her eyes.😵
The Royal palace known as the Alcazar was built for Christian King Peter and was built by Castilian Christians on the site of a Muslim Alcazar, or residential fortress. The multitude of empty moorish styled rooms have beautiful tiles but nothing much else to see. We flew through the building to enjoy the garden.
A peacock that was undaunted by how close Deb got to him and did not spread his tail.
A lovely maze.
The following Pasos or floats were all in the Iglesia Collegial del Divino Salvador which is an elaborate baroque church.
We went to this church to see the many floats they had as we missed them coming out for the procession despite waiting over an hour then leaving because we had a lunch reservation to meet. It is nice that the churches keep the religious figures displayed on the floats throughout the week and it is nice to see them without fighting crowds and waiting sometimes hours for them to pass.
Jesus carrying his cross
This float depicts the kiss of Judas also known as the Betrayal of Christ.
If it rains Paseos (floats) that are due to go out that day are cancelled. These Paseos do not get another chance despite the fact that they have been preparing for this day all year. They just can’t take those elaborate floats in wet weather because of the damage it may cause (some are centuries old) and wet weather is dangerous for those carrying them. One year the entire Semana Santa was wiped out.
People book these seats years in advance. As you can see it rained this day so seats are empty and procession was cancelled.
This is Calle Sierpes, a main shopping street and one of the streets that every procession goes down headed for the cathedral.
Triana is a neighborhood of Seville across the Puente de Isabel ll bridge over the Guadalquivir river. One of the things it is distinguished for is It is pottery. Deb was looking for a nice platter to hold fruit on her new marble dinning table so after we did a hill run in Triana we perused the different ceramic shops. This one was really cool because their pieces are all one of a kind and we got to meet the artist pictured above.
Here is the piece Deb chose.
The day before Deb left we ventured out for more virgin sightings, this time we brought stools to sit on while waiting and got a great front and center view point on the sidewalk.
We were lucky to be at the spot where costaleros did a change over. Costaleros are like pall bearers. they owe their name to the sack, which is the headdress used by them to carry the floats on their necks. The stuffed sack is a piece of burlap. There can be as many as 33 costaleros under the float which can weigh up to 1 ton. You cannot see them as they are under the drape of the float so it appears that the religious statues are moving on their own. They are directed by a foreman who walks along outside to guide them and give commands.
When they need to rest they sit down on the street and pause a while before they all get up at the same time and proceeds forward.
This is almost the closest that we got.
Even children are in the procession and hand out candy or holy cards with religious scenes.
Video of the changing of the Costaleros.
Some of the penitents walk barefoot and some even wear chains
This is one of Sandy’s favorite videos as the band music changes and the Virgin is then accompanied by a symphony orchestra.It also shows how the float which the bearers have sat down to rest is ordered by the guide to raise up and proceed with the procession
Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry with cinnamon or powdered sugar. We were first introduced to them in Lisbon several years ago. They were originally made by monks and nuns. In 1820 during the Liberal Revolution many monasteries and convents closed and the secret recipe was sold to a sugar refinery whose owners opened up the Fabrica de Pasteles Belem In Lisbon. We were fortunate to find one of their shops not far from where we are staying in Seville. They are very delicious, don’t ever pass up an opportunity to have one.
After being so successful on our last virgin sighting we set out to see another one. The street we wanted to go down was blocked by the police and we ended up impacted in a very scary crowd watching another procession. We could NOT go backward and we just kept inching forward. Then this went by and completely blocked us in the hot sun for about 30 minutes. Look at the crowd at the end. It was very scary. Click on this image to open the video.
We finally arrived at our next parade and again had great seats.
No social distancing here and many no masks. It will be a miracle if we do not get Covid after this.
Trying to get home in the evening was a real challenge as there are processions circling all through the center of town. We elected to circle way around but as we neared home we came upon yet another parade.
We got caught up in this mob only blocks from home and developed the tactic of “push and shove”. Jim led the way as we held onto each other and plowed through.
We did come to a stand still at one point but saw this float go by with the candles all lit.
We came the very closest to this Paso as when it stopped in a very narrow spot we squeezed between a wall and the float.
After much push and shove we escaped by cutting through a restaurant going in the back door and out the front, then crossed through the procession again to our front door. God will forgive us🙏
The morning Deb left we scheduled a 6am Uber for her but cars were not allowed on the streets near us during Holy Week so we walked a few blocks to the meeting point.
Adios dear Deb and thank you for joining us on one of our life’s bucket list items. May we invite you to join us on our next one which is to finish the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.