This weekend was the end of the weeklong event that draws the world’s attention to Spain each year–the running of the bulls (encierro) at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona. It might be unfortunately manipulative of the bulls, it might be unfortunately macho of the people, but the tradition is thoroughly Spanish–there is no length to which Spaniards won’t go for a fiesta. As Edina puts it in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous:
“Why can’t it be more like the Continent, and then run down the street in front of charging bulls whilst letting fireworks off out of his bloody nostrils without anyone blinking an eye? Uh? Because it’s probably a local holiday and nobody’s at work because they all want to have just a little bit of fun and they’re not intimidated by some outdated work ethic. I mean, there has to be more to life than just being safe…”
The San Fermin festival may be over, but the party doesn’t have to stop; This Postcard Post is devoted to Spain.
From a friend about two years ago:
“I, or we, are currently driving through Valencia. We just came from Granada where we saw the Alhambra Palace (Gorgeous, unreal) where I took many detail pictures of the tile work for inspiration. We also went to a ‘cuevo’ of a family of real life Gypsies! They were absolutely beautiful (They dance/perform for tourists for a living.) I still can’t manage to deliberately say the ‘c’ as a ‘th’ lisp wise!”
The City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
This incredibly designed complex is the draw of the city. Created by two architects, one a native Valencian, the other sadly passed a way in 1997, the year before the Ciudad was completed. The “City” features an opera house and performing arts center, an Imax cinema and planetarium, and garden promenade, all partially sunken in an outdoor marine aquarium!
Alhambra Palace, Granada
Atop a tree covered hill sits this grand Moorish palace. Built of fine gravel and clay bricks bleached by the sun (though originally red bricks, thus the palace’s name “The Red,” Moorish poets described the palace and its setting as “a pearl set in emeralds.” Built for Spain’s last Muslim emirs in the 14th century, the plaster interiors of the expansive buildings are completely carved with honeycomb-like motifs and Arabic script. After the Christian conquest in 1492, various royalty had the carvings filled in with whitewash and certain portions Italianized. By the 1800’s, the Alhambra had largely fallen into disrepair, when it was “rediscovered” by art historians and recognized for its original beauty. Today it is painstakingly tended to. When I visited a decade ago, a worker spent the several hours of my visit scrubbing the carved plaster trim of a courtyard with a toothbrush. Indeed, the Alhambra has a distinctly clean feel, while also feeling very old. The only thing I’ve seen with that combination and sense of quietness is the Lord of the Rings movies’ interpretation of the Elvish kingdom.
La Pedrera (1906-1912)
Apartment building designed by quintessential Barcelona artist Antoni Gaudi.
(I’ve had the privilege of visiting a good number of Spanish cities, and must say Barcelona is my favorite.)
Salon de los Embajadores, Alcázares Reales, Sevilla
The Royal Alcazar originated as a Moorish fort in the 12th century. With the Reconquista of 1364 it evolved into a stunning palace under the Christian kings, with many peaceful courtyards and balconied walkways. The top floor continues to serve as the Spanish royal family’s Seville residence. This postcard features the gilded cedar cupola of the Ambassadors’ Hall, constructed in 1427.
Plaza de España, Sevilla
The delightfully colorful, Renaissance-like civic gathering place was built in 1928 for a World’s Fair the following year. Along the ground, this postcard shows the encompassing “province alcoves,” tiled illustrations representing each Spanish province.
Mama Snail painted a postcard of the Plaza de España, including in the foreground colorful tourist t-shirt displays. She did several watercolors like this, and being that we sat in the plaza a good while as she did so, the t-shirt vendors came to look at her paintings. They were first surprised, then completely flattered to see their goods unedited from the scene.
Seville was Mama Snail’s favorite city on our trip to Spain, and she painted a number of postcards there.
View from the tapas bar, Bar Manolo’s sidewalk seating.
Across from Bar Manolo