Sunday, February 19, 2012

Robert Lepage's "The Blue Dragon" (蓝龙)

At the Royal Alexandra Theatre.   Robert Lepage is great at telling stories.  And this is no exception.    Brought back memories of China, and the ambiguous ending is surprising and welcome.

Seville, once more, this time with feeling (From Lisbon to Carmona, with love - part IV)

Being so close to Seville, we definitely could not miss the chance of going for a day visit.  Not that Seville is not worth staying longer (it sure is!), but we were travelling back to Portugal next day, so we had to do with a whirlwind tour of the most important sights.

And yet, since I don't want to turn this into a whirlwind narration of those sights, let me talk about just two of the highlights of our visit:  Islamic architecture and food.

Islamic Architecture

I've seen many different styles of Islamic architecture, separated both by time and geography.  And the  mudéjar (Iberian-Islamic) style is one of the most distinctive and, in my eyes, beautiful, intricate and delicate.  The Alcázar of Seville is, of course, Seville's jewel of mudéjar architecture.

First, you're welcomed by beautiful pink-tinged orchids (hey, flowers ARE important) in a patio that soon leads to a façade that reminded me of some of Iran's and Uzbekistan's mosques and palaces.  There was something about the use of colour, about the muqarnas (stalactite-like jutting pieces of masonry), about the design of the underside of roofs and balconies that talked about a rich, long heritage and a graceful and subtle transformation in Hispanic lands... And that was, quite literally, just the beginning!

My husband had been to Seville before, and he made sure I saw every corner of the Alcázar in the best light and best approach possible, nudging me to walk this or that way, to avoid looking a certain direction until I had reached a certain point, inviting me then to turn and melt in awe not just at the sheer artistic achievement of the architects, but at the carefully crafted scene created by one's gaze from that specific viewpoint.  The wonders of having an artistic husband leading you through a beauty of a palace.

The Patio de las Muñecas (Patio of Dolls) was one of my favourite parts.   I walked into it, and froze, jaw wide open, gazing in slow motion at the columns, which started thin at the bottom and then exploded in extraordinary flourishes of Arabic calligraphy and arabesque, all bathed in the soft light from the skylight above.   To be honest, if that had been all I had seen, I would have been satisfied.  I was so taken by it.   But of course, there's always more, and the Patio de las Doncellas (Patio of the Maidens) had me seating here and there, to simply take it all in, or to look and focus in some exquisite detail, or lose myself in the reflection of the palace in the pool.   No matter what, you can't but be convinced of the incredibly high artistic sensibility of the architects.

To be honest, the palace does have some less fortunate parts.  And to be even more honest, those belong to the upper floor, by Charles V, in a Renaissance style which, if not ugly, simply cannot compete.


After we were done enjoying the Alcázar, and having already been at the Catedral de Sevilla (with Christopher Columbus' tomb, a massive reredo that took 80 years, and a minaret-cum-bell-tower with beautiful views of old Seville, another sight not to be missed), at the Plaza de España (where I got all excited at a tiled alcove dedicated to the province of my father's ancestors, León) and at the Barrio de Santa Cruz (after I discovered the Jewish origins of my mother's father, I can't fight the curiosity of visiting the Jewish quarters of old Europe and Asia), we enjoyed a long, relaxed walk past old buildings, historic shops and cafés.  This is the way I like my food:  tapas.  Tiny plates of deliciousness of all sorts, easily "adjustable" to be a quick snack or a full on meal.  Even the simplest of things, like red bell-peppers in olive oil, were superb.   And for those with a sweet tooth (me) and childhood memories of Spanish-style sweets (me) the pastry shops in the historic parts of Seville are the treat of treats, and I was quick to grab and worship a big, sugary, emerald green, candied fig.

(OK, OK, and other stuff)

And thus charged with olive oil and sugar, we reached our final destination, the Metropol Parasol which, depending on who you ask, is either an incredibly ugly waste of a load of money, or a daring and creative attempt at reviving a square.  Me? I don't know.  I think I like it.  Not crazy about it, but I like it.

That was one intense, amazing day.   The perfect farewell to this beautiful part of Spain before heading back to Portugal...

NOTE: This post is actually a COMPLETE re-writing of a previous version.  I felt so disappointed at how uninspired the previous version was (fair enough, life has been less that easy on us of late) that it somehow prompted me to "take a stand" and retake my usual writing style.  And I must say that, this time, I'm pretty satisfied with this version of the post.  :-)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some white, finally

After an autumny winter, finally some decent cold and white everywhere! (photos taken around the CN Tower area)