Wednesday, May 19, 2004

SPAIN Day01//29.Apr.04 - Adeus Lisboa, Ola Sevilla: Portugal - Spain

Today, I had one last look at Lisbon city as we crossed the 18km long Vasco da Gama bridge over the immense breadth of the Tagus river. We left early and saw the sun rise as the bus took us east towards Spain.

I left Portugal with a deep sense of satisfaction. Two days may seem to do little justice to Portugal's rich maritime history and influence. However, Portugal is one of Europe's smallest country, where we have easily traversed north to Fatima, and south to Cascais. Being small, Lisbon is also one of Europe's more compact city, with attractions near one another and thus, giving us scheduled-bound tourist value for our time! Most importantly, it was the all encompasing experiences that I was subjected to that made this short trip worthwhile, from politics (evidence of its naval dominance and conquests - Torre de Belem, Manueline architecture) , religious (Jeronimos Monastery, Fatima), and social elements (fadistas singing Fado, port wine, original Portugese egg tarts!).

As I was saying, Portugal is small, and therefore we were already in Spain by lunchtime and had lunch in a border town called Badajoz. And by dinnertime, we should already be in Seville. Our trusty coach captain, Jose, got us to Seville by 5:30pm and gave us an unscheduled orientation city tour.

In 1992, the World Expo was held in Seville. As a result of that, various buildings popularly know as pavillions were constructed to represent and showcase multitude Spanish colonies. Most of these buildings are now converted to offices. And one of these buildings actually have the trademarked "accenture" sign! The most visited pavillion would be Plaza de Espana, or Spanish Pavillion in English. It was obviously the grandest of all the pavillions, so the lot of us went down for a photo shoot and from there wandered around town on foot. It was a pleasant walk, especially when we got to rub shoulders with bevies of senoritas dressed in colourful traditional flamenco-styled costumes. We learnt that they were on their way to 'Feria de Abril' or April Fair, which is held every year in Seville and most women will go to great lengths to look their traditional best.

Our jaunt took us to Santa Cruz, a quaint Jewish quarter. It was lovely! The cobblestoned paths, orange-tree-shaded squares, and charming old buildings. We couldn't linger as much as we would like to as it was getting close to dinner time. Thankfully, we were told that we will be back with our local guide tomorrow.

After dinner, we were transported to Grandhotel Solucar where I spent a restful night in a double-storey loft style room.


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