Mapping and (late) thoughts for 2015

Sevilla, mapping, Christmas 204

A familiar Sevillano sight – the Puerta de la Macarena, in my old barrio.

The character of this year's show was a little girl called Estrella. These are the toys in her room.

The protagonist of this year’s show was a little girl called Estrella. These are the toys in her room.

Sevilla, mapping, Christmas 2014

Estrella escapes into a dream world, starting off in her fish tank…

and then, in one of the most spectacular (and incredibly realistic) images, the building appears to be on fire...

and then, in one of the most spectacular (and incredibly realistic) images, the building appears to be on fire…

Sevilla, mapping, Christmas 2014

and is engulfed by flames.

Sevilla, mapping, Christmas 2014

Then the Ayuntamiento appears to collapse

Before becoming encircled by jungle vines

before becoming encircled by jungle vines

and exotic flowers

and exotic flowers

Sevilla, mapping, Christmas 2014

Until the whole façade is a colourful mass of tropical foliage (why can’t we have it like this all year round?)

A Roman-style mosaic of a knight on his charger

A Roman-style mosaic of a knight on his charger.

We see the city's mighty Guadalquivir river, by its Roman name, which was later given to the riverfront street in Triana

We see the city’s Guadalquivir river, by its Roman name, which was later given to the riverfront street in Triana

and its Arab name, which means "the mighty river".

and its Arab name, which means “the mighty river”.

Guadalquivir, mapping

Estrella sails down the river on a caravel.

and the piece de resistance - a dragon

and the piece de resistance – a dragon

which breathed real fire

which breathed real fire.

Mapping 2014, Sevilla

Not a great shot, but you can just about make out the beast.

Next the Ayuntamiento "filled up" with water

Next the Ayuntamiento “filled up” with water

with marine plants across the whole façade

with marine plants across the whole façade

and lots of brightly-coloured fish, reminding us of the new aquarium.

and lots of brightly-coloured fish, reminding us of the new aquarium.

Then the Three Kings arrived on the their camels

Lastly, the Three Kings arrived on their camels.

The new year wasn’t greeted in my house with any great excitement or sense of hope – sorry all you eternal optimists and believers in the integral goodness of mankind, fresh starts, and all that. Long-term unemployment (my husband’s, not mine) does that to you. A topic I tend to avoid here as who wants to read my whinges? Exactly. I just eat more cake and biscuits (see below).

So on a more cheery note, and in typically belated fashion, I wanted to share with you some images from this year’s Mapping show in Seville (Christmas 2014/15). Laser video images were projected onto the rear façade of the Ayuntamiento – our town hall, lit up spectacularly every Christmas.

This show, now in its fourth year, has become hugely popular with the people of Seville. It’s free, it’s steps way from the shops where they forget the crisis to buy presents for one and all, and it’s pure entertainment.

Called Sueños de Agua, this year’s show was about a little Sevillana girl called Estrella who has a vivid imagination and dreams on Christmas Eve of going on adventures in her fish tank. I’ve put a few still images from it here, a tiny fraction of what you could see – the full-length video is below.

We missed seeing the Mapping before Christmas as we were already in England when it started, and when we returned, between Reyes, going back to school and work, I didn’t manage to blog about it while the show was still on. But I thought it was worth posting the pictures anyway.

These Mapping shows are always pretty pretty impressive delights all generations, especially those whose inner child, wide-eyed in wonder, relishes being transported to another, simpler world by these stunning

images.

Back in the real world, do you have any resolutions for this year? Mine are

1) to eat more healthily (biscuits and cake are just so tempting, especially in this chilly weather, with a nice cup of The Earl) and

2) to swear less in front of my children. Failing bloody miserably at both so far (Lola, get me a damn Jaffa cake!).

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A Merry Christmas in Seville, some gourmet goodies, and a sting in the tail

Christmas, Navidad, Sevilla

The Giralda glows golden behind the dazzling Christmas lights in Plaza Nueva.

 

Christmas, Navidad, Sevilla

The façade of the Ayuntamiento sparkles in festive mood.

Seville at Christmas-time feels wonderfully festive, with people going about their business – whether local Sevillanos working, meeting friends, buying presents or visiting belens (nativity scenes), or visitors under the spell cast by an already magical city at its most delightful – under the pretty, sparkling, colourful lights.

Every Christmas I try to take some interesting foodie treatsto England, to add a Spanish flavour to our family meal. Last year we had cheese from Doñana Park with a special edition Tio Pepe sherry (Dos Palmas), which worked beautifully together and went down a treat with everyone.

Doña Manuela cheese from the Sierra de Aracena.

Doña Manuela cheese from the Sierra de Aracena.

tuna, atun, feria market

As delicious as it is hard to find – smoked tuna.

This time, we’ll be feasting on goat’s cheese from Doña Manuela’s farm in the Sierra Aracena, which I visited with the kids earlier this year, some manchego with red wine, smoked tuna, and Botani dry muscatel.

The first two I bought in Triana market, at the Charcuteria Alfredo stall – across the river from the new gourmet Lonja del Barranco market, which I shall be writing about soon. The atun ahumado was from another market, in calle Feria, where David, a young guy from the fishing town of Barbate, also offers products from the famous almadraba tuna. I wrote about his stall, La Almadraba, in my travel article for the Guardian back in May, but sadly it didn’t make the final cut in the published version. The smoked tuna I bought isn’t almadraba, but it is extremely good, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

wine, vino, white wine, moscatel, Botani, Malaga

Botani – dry white muscatel wine from Malaga.

sparkling wine, Andalucia, vino, muscatel, Malaga, Ordoñez, Botani

The sparkling version of Botani.

The wine, Botani, I first found out about from fellow Seville blogger and Tapas Queen Shawn Hennessey (I also interviewed the winemaker, Victoria Ordoñez, for a travel magazine). Unusually for muscatel wine from Malaga, which is normally sweet, this is a dry wine – yet floral and fruity without being too honeyed or sickly (I HATE sweet white wine; semi-dulce is very common in Spain). In Seville you can buy Botani at Flores Jamones y Vinos. I also got some of the sparkling version which I’ve never tried before.

For buying Christmas presents to take back to England, my favourite hunting grounds are the various crafts markets, full of original handmade pieces, where you can meet the creators behind the artworks, sculptures, jewellery, and ceramics.

Amazing mechanized wedding scene, which also features both bankers and politicians being cooked in pots.

Mechanized wedding scene, which also features both bankers and politicians being cooked in pots.

At the Plaza Nueva Christmas craft market, also known as the Mercado Navideño de Artesania, I found this stall of beautiful handmade wooden toys from Granada, Arbole. They had a full-sized puppet theatre, wooden trains, ride-ons, and mechanized toys.

These included a detailed model of a wedding ceremony in a church, with an extraordinary contemporary subtext: beneath the congregation was a version of hell with two chambers, one labelled banqueros (bankers) and the other politicos (politicians), populated by diablitos (little devils). Two men, (presumably) an abuser of democratic power and an arbiter of financial mismanagement, were being cooked in pots over flames.

As hilarious as it was surreal, this seemed a fitting expression of what many Spanish feel about the political and financial powers that be.

Happy Christmas, and here’s to a better 2015!

My last Duchess – an interview with the Duquesa de Alba

The Duquesa with her third husband on their wedding day, outside her palace in Seville.

The Duquesa with her third husband on their wedding day, outside her palace in Seville.

The entrance of Palacio las Duenas in Seville, typically besieged by press

The entrance of Palacio de las Duenas in Seville, her preferred residence, typically besieged by press.

Back in 2009, I interviewed the Duquesa de Alba, who passed away last week in her palace here in Seville at the ripe old age of 88. The Duquesa was an aristocrat – the most titled noble in the world, in fact – but she wasn’t a stiff, stuffy type. Known as Cayetana, she dressed like a hippy with print dresses, flowers in her hair and beads around her ankles, loved flamenco, and was a keen amateur painter. She rarely missed seeing her favoured hermandad, Los Gitanos, in Semana Santa (Holy Week). She was married three times (and was widowed twice) and had six children. Hers was a full life, lived with enormous gusto almost to the very end (read my full biography of her).

Often this barefoot Duchess claimed to be “a normal person” – clearly she wasn’t, as someone with a fortune estimated at 3.5 billion euros, but she certainly had fewer pretensions than many in her position. She preferred her Seville palace, Las Dueñas, to other grander properties, and she said that she felt most at home in this city – and the Sevillanos loved her for that. My piece for the El Pais in English blog talks about the intense mutual affection between Cayetana and the people of Seville.

The interview was to coincide with an exhibition of paintings from her vast private art collection, held at the Museo de Bellas Artes here in Seville, with works by Titian, Goya, Chagall and Renoir. I was granted time with the Duquesa on the strict condition that I didn’t ask her about, or indeed mention, her family – the divorces and dalliances of her children were a constant source of fodder to the prensa rosa, and a constant source of preoccupation to herself. I promised that I would respect these parameters, and I did.

We had a long and entertaining conversation, about her taste in art, childhood memories and her experience of living in London, as well as subsequent visits. She was full of humour and insight, with an excellent memory, her speech slowed and slurred by illness, but her mind sharp. Her English was fluent, with an upper-class accent.

After I submitted my article, the newspaper which had commissioned it, an English-language publication based in Andalucia, couldn’t resist bringing in the gossip-mag angle – partly for context to explain who she was to those who didn’t know, but partly for a gratuitous tabloidy take, mentioning exactly what I’d been asked to avoid. My interview ended up being published with an added scandal-loving edge which I found mortifying. Luckily, when I sent her a copy, she loved it (phew!), sending me a beautiful thank you card – which I still have, obviously.

By then even more intrigued by this irrepressible octogenarian, I stood outside the Duquesa’s palace on the day of her third wedding in 2011 for hours in the heat, along with hordes of other Cayetana-philes, and was rewarded with a glimpse of the sprightly 85-year-old famously kicking off her shoes and dancing for the delighted crowds. I was also lucky enough to be invited to a flamenco performance held in honour of the Duchess of Cornwall when she visited Seville earlier the same year with Prince Charles – the Duquesa de Alba had met Camilla on a previous occasion in London, and the two Duchesses sat together in the front row. Afterwards she came over to greet some of those present, including myself.

Duquesa de Alba

Sevillanos (and those from further afield) signing the books of condolence in the Ayuntamiento.

To the best woman in the whole of my Seville. May God

“To the best woman in the whole of my Seville, the Duquesa de Alba. Rest in peace.”

"For the most illustrious woman which Seville has ever had, with much affection from a Sevillana. May God keep you ni his glory."

“For the most illustrious woman which Seville has ever had, with much affection from a Sevillana. May God keep you in his glory.”

Sevillanos queue up the stairs of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) to pay their last respects to the Duchess.

Sevillanos queue up the stairs of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) to pay their last respects to the Duchess.

Her death last Thursday was sad, if not unexpected, and the next day I went to pay my last respects at the capilla ardiente  where she was lying in state attended by her family (the Salon Colon of the Ayuntamiento was used, the largest room available – an estimated 80,000 people passed through in less than 24 hours). At midday on Friday her funeral was held in the Cathedral, and standing with the local press pack, I had a ringside seat at this sombre and moving occasion.

Alfonso's wreath to his wife reads: "I don't know if I knew how to tell you how much I loved you, I love you, and I will love you."

Alfonso’s wreath to his wife reads: “I don’t know if I knew how to tell you how much I loved you, I love you, and I will love you.”

Wreath from ex-King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia; many were surprised they didn't attend in person.

Wreath from ex-King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia; many were surprised they didn’t attend in person. Their daughter, Doña Elena, came instead.

Eugenia, the Duquesa's youngest child and only daughter, with her brother Jacobo.

Eugenia, the Duquesa’s only daughter, who was very close to her mother, is comforted by her brother Jacobo.

As someone who isn’t accustomed to the protocolo surrounding the death of a public figure, it was intriguing to see the spectacle, from the capilla ardiente and condolence books in the Ayuntamiento, to the funeral itself in the magnificent 15th-century basilica, conducted by the former Archbishop Cardinal of Seville.

Sevillanos applauding as the funeral cortege passes on the way to the cathedral.

Sevillanos applauding as the funeral cortege passes on the way to the cathedral.

The Duquesa was taken from the Ayuntamiento alongAvenida de la Constution to the cathedral, with crowds applauding as the procession past.

The Duquesa was taken from the Ayuntamiento along Avenida de la Constution to the cathedral.

The royal representative at the funeral was Doña Elena, sister of King Felipe.

The royal representative at the funeral was Doña Elena, sister of King Felipe. Many expected either reigning or former monarchs to attend the funeral.

The Archbishop Cardinal of Seville blesses the Duchess, swathed in the flags of Spain, and the Casa de Alba.

The former Archbishop Cardinal of Seville blesses the Duchess, swathed in the flags of Spain, and the Casa de Alba.

The Duchess' husband, Alfonso, cannot hide his grief, as he stands next to the Duchess's children.

The Duchess’ widower, Alfonso, cannot hide his grief, as he stands next to Carlos, 19th Duke of Alba, and the Duchess’s other children.

Over the first hours and days after she died, Twitter was filled with evenly-divided views, along the following lines. Either: 88-year-old extremely rich woman dies – big deal, when a penniless 80-something is being evicted from her home today; or: What an amazing woman, a force of life, she will be dearly missed in Seville.

The Duquesa was loved by a large number of Sevillanos because she adored their city so passionately, being an aficionado of flamenco, bull-fighting, Semana Santa and Feria. She also supported a number of charity causes, and helped individuals to pay for essential medical treatments which they couldn’t afford.

However there were plenty with no time for this phenomenally wealthy woman who led a life of privilege most can only dream about. As a terrateniente, she owned vast tracts of land, and her estates were subsidized by the European Union to the tune of three million euros per year. Parts of these fincas were not used for agriculture, as is the case with much land here in Andalucia, which many people see as grossly unfair when a considerable number of Andalucians don’t have enough to eat.

Whatever your view of her, she was a figure with an extremely high profile here in Spain. For this reason, I would like to show the full interview as it was originally submitted to the newspaper, as while not containing any major revelations, I think it offers a small insight into a fascinating, free-spirited, and controversial woman.

Portrait of Cayetana as a child by Spanish painter Zuloaga.

Portrait of Cayetana as a child by Spanish painter Zuloaga.

´´When I was a child, my father took me to the Prado every Sunday. I especially loved paintings by Velazquez and Goya,´´ Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, the most titled woman in Spain, otherwise known as the 18th Duquesa de Alba, tells me. ´´I have always loved art. When I was four years old Zuloaga painted me, but I fidgeted so much he said he´d never paint another child,´´ she recalls – and he didn´t. The resulting portrait, of the young Cayetana on her favourite pony, Tommy, also features her toys Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, represented with spooky, staring eyes.

The Duquesa, now in her eighties, is still a keen art aficionado – not surprising since she´s the owner of one of Spain´s most important private collections, with over 600 works. So which are her favourite painters? ´´I love Impressionism,´´ she says. ´´Gaugin, Latour, but also Spanish painters like Velazquez.´´ When I ask her which are her preferred paintings in the current show, Coleccion Casa de Alba – 40 works (´´they couldn´t fit any more in,´´ she says, sadly) from her palaces in Madrid and Seville – she replies, ´´La Duquesa de Alba en blanco´´, the emblematic Goya of her antecedent, the 13th Duquesa (the artist´s patron and, allegedly, lover), in front of which she has been photographed many times, and a less controversial Renoir.

´´I am delighted the exhibition has had such a good response – it´s full every day,´´ she tells me happily. In earlier days, the Duquesa was a keen collector, and her favourite hunting ground was London. ´´I love the galleries, I used to go to the Marlborough Gallery (a leading contemporary art gallery in Mayfair) to buy paintings. I liked Picasso, but not Bacon or Hockney.´´

´´I lived in England when I was a child, while my father was Ambassador in London,´´ she recalls, switching to perfect English, with a refined, aristocratic accent and no trace whatsoever of Spanish. ´´We lived in Belgrave Square. I went to a convent school. I didn´t like it very much – the teachers were sarcastic, and I was away from my country. It was rather difficult,´´ she recalls with typical upper-class understatement.

But she retained an affection for the English capital. ´´I love London. I stay at Claridges when I´m there – it´s divine. I go to Marks & Spencers and Selfridges, which are wonderful.´´ (When I tell her Marks & Spencers is going to open in Marbella soon, she laughs and says, excitedly ´´Oh good!´´)

´´I go to the National Gallery and Tate Britain, and to Covent Garden for the opera – I love Verdi, and Italian operas in general. But I haven´t been for a while – my last trip to London was 10 years ago.´´ When I ask her about her views on current art, she replies that she likes contemporary Russian painters, but hasn´t heard of Damien Hirst´s pickled sharks. She likes Picasso – who wanted to paint her naked when she was 22, but her husband wouldn´t allow it (´´it would have been very shocking in that era,´´ she explains).

You get the feeling that she herself would have been up for it on her own terms, as a passionate, romantic young woman, whose first love affair was with a bullfighter at the age of 17 (see box). The Duquesa is one of the richest women in Spain, with an estimated wealth of 600 million euros (when I ask if this is correct, she replies firmly, ´´I have absolutely no idea´´) and has an eye-popping 50-odd titles, including 11th Duchess of Berwick, 11th Baroness of Bosworth, 12th Countess-Duchess of Olivares and 18th Countess of Palma del Rio.

Born Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, she is descended from the English royal family through an illegitimate son of King James II of England (also James VII of Scotland). King James bestowed on Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart (his surname means ´´son of James Stuart´´) the title of 1st Duke of Berwick; a painting by Ingres of Jacobo features in the exhibition. It was another of her antecedents who started the astonishing family art collection – Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duque de Alba, known as the Iron Duke, whose portrait by Titian is in the exhibition.

Gotya's painting of the 13th Duchess of Alba, rumoured to have been the painter's lover.

Goya’s painting of the 13th Duchess of Alba, rumoured to have been the painter’s lover.

When visiting Naples in the 16th century, he became interested in Italian art, and his patronage was continued by the 4th Duque. In the 18th century, the 13th Duquesa, Maria del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva, was an enthusiastic sponsor of talented young artists. She also gave away inherited works by Velazquez and Raphael. When Maria Teresa died without an heir, the title passed to her nephew Carlos Miguel, 7th Duque de Berwick, who travelled around Italy collecting Italian and Dutch paintings.

The current Duquesa has added many 19th and 20th works to the collection, notably by Renoir, Picasso and Miro. Cayetana has three main residences, where her artworks normally reside: the Palacio de Liria in Madrid, the Palacio de Dueñas in Seville and the Palacio de Monterrey in Salamanca. She also owns other houses in Marbella and Ibiza, as well as fincas all over Spain. It is said that she can cross Spain from one end to the other without leaving her own estates, and that she has more titles than the Queen of England, who would have to bow to her, being of lower rank.

Although she was born in Madrid, the Duquesa prefers the Andalucian capital. ´´I feel more at home in Seville,´´ she says. She has received various honorary medals from the city, and is delighted that a statue of herself will soon be erected in the Jardines de Cristina, wearing what she described as ´´a very Spanish dress – not exactly flamenco.´

This despite marked opposition from her nemesis, Antonio Rodrigo Torrijos, IU leader and deputy mayor of Seville. Clearly she can´t stand Torrijos, as when I ask her about the Torre Pelli, a highly controversial 178-metre skyscraper being built in La Cartuja with the politician´s full support, she blames it on, ´´that terrible Communist´´, adding that ´´it´s not the mayor´s fault.´´ She also is less than positive about recent changes in her adoptive city. ´´It used to be a lovely town,´´ she tells me. ´´Now they´re spoiling it by putting in new things like cycle lanes. It´s terrible.´´ But, she is quick to add, and repeats several times in our conversation, ´´Í am not a political person.´´

She speaks slowly, a result of recent illnesses, but has no problem making herself clear, and is expressive and animated, with a playful sense of humour – she is fun to talk to and seems to enjoy discussing her art collection, and her earlier life. In fact, she is so lively that you get the impression of a much younger woman trapped in a rather aging body.

As a young woman, Cayetana says, ´´I used to paint a bit, and I loved sports like riding – I used to jump in shows. I also loved tennis and skiing´´. She still goes to the beach in the summer, with the rest of the Spanish population, where she allows paparazzi to take pictures of her in her colourful beachwear, being the free-spirited bohemian that she is (apart from the cycle lanes).

She has a notoriously complicated relationship with the press, which has an ongoing obsession with the private lives of her and her family – four of her six children are divorced, and she has a much younger companion who is not universally approved of – and this is reflected in her parting words to me, which are, said a little plaintively, ´´treat me well.´´

f you want to read more about La Duquesa, I blogged extensively on Andalucia.com. Click here.

Filming Game of Thrones in Seville’s Alcazar

Clapperboard from Game of Thrones, Series 5, episode 9. Being shot in the Alcazar, Seville.

Clapperboard from Game of Thrones, Series 5, episode 9. Being shot in the Alcazar, Seville. Photo: copyright Enrique Cidoncha/Canal+ España

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) Copyright Enrique Cidoncha (Canal+)

Danish actor Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, has been setting hearts ablaze in Seville during the filming. Photo: copyright Enrique Cidoncha/Canal+ España

Deobia Oparei, who plays Areo Hotah. Copyright Enrique Cidoncha/Canal+ España

Deobia Oparei, who plays Areo Hotah, trusted servant of the House Martell. You can see the fabulous azulejos (ceramic tiles) on the wall. Photo: copyright Enrique Cidoncha/Canal+ España

 

 

Ellaria Arena, played by Indira Varma.

Ellaria Arena, mistress of Prince Oberyn of House Martell, played by Indira Varma. She’s checking out the amazing gold ceiling of the Ambassadors Hall. Copyright Enrique Cidoncha/Canal+ España

Seville has been abuzz for the past week as Game of Thrones, HBO’s mega-hit, critically-acclaimed medieval fantasy drama series, is filmed in the Alcazar. In this fifth season, the exquisite palace is a central location – in the fictional city of Sunspear, seat of the House Martell and capital of Dorne, the southernmost of the famed Seven Kingdoms. Furniture and palm plants have been added to transform the magnificent rooms with their colourful tiled walls into a Dornish palace – the scenes above were shot in the Ambassador’s Hall, with its extraordinary gold ceiling.

Sevillanos have been tweeting photos of themselves with stars such as heartthrob Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays incestuous Kingslayer Jaime Lannister, in tapas bars and around town. There have been plenty of jokes by excitable young Sevillanas about finding out which hotel he’s staying in, and how much they’d like to pay a visit to him in his room. The actor has received all this attention with good grace and a constant smile.

Here you can see Nicolaj in full costume (although many would prefer him without). The local press carried a story about the actor entering the Alcazar, which has still been partly open to the public during filming, where the staff at the ticket office failed to recognise him – clearly not GOT fans or Twitter users. Treating him as they would any normal visitor, they asked him to pay the entrance fee. Rather than kicking up a “Don’t you know who I am?”-type stink, instead he paid without a fuss and went inside to get on with his job. What a dude. Needless to say, many “The Lannisters always pay their debts” comments ensued.

Yesterday, some press were allowed onto the set (my invitation must have been lost in the post/spam folder, but I couldn’t have made it anyway, as I’m out of town) and the Canal+ España photographer took these photos which they kindly gave me permission to use. The channel also shot some video footage, a tantalising taster of what will be on our screens in a few months’ time (scheduled airing date is April 2015).

It’s hugely exciting to be able to see what’s been going on behind the high fortified walls of the palace-fortress built by King Pedro the Cruel in the 14th century using the finest Mudejar craftsmen, many of whom then went on to build the greatest Moorish palace of all: the Alhambra. I’ve lurked around by the entrance gate, and peered over the barriers, along with other curious onlookers. So this tasty morsel of visual delectation has been received with great enjoyment.

The series is using interiors of the Alcazar, as well as the gardens, including the Pool of Mercury and the Baths of Maria Padilla, hidden under one of the patios.

Mercury's Pool, where some scenes were shot; the water was dyed blue.

Mercury’s Pool, where some scenes were shot; the water was dyed blue.

The Baths of Maria Padilla, one of the rumoured settings for Game of Thrones.

The Baths of Maria Padilla, one of the rumoured settings in the Alcazar for Game of Thrones.

 

The two script writers, David Benioff and Damian Weiss, held an open interview session which makes for fascinating reading – they revealed that season five will feature flashbacks for the first time. For a full account of the session (in Spanish), which has some gems about the actors and their characters, click here.

Today the action moved to the Renaissance town of Osuna, 100km south-west of Seville, where they’re shooting in the bullring, built by the architect of Expo 29’s Plaza de España, Anibal Gonzalez. I’ll be posting on that soon – if you’re a fan, look out for pictures of the actors in the town – photos of Emilia Clake (Daenerys, or Khaleesi – Queen) and Iain Glen (her devoted retainer Jorah) have been tweeted. They’ll be there until the end of the month, so GOT fever is far from over.

Fishy business: Seville’s new aquarium

Still from a video about how they moved the shark from an aquarium in neighbouring Portugal to the new aquarium in Seville.

Still from a video about how Margarita the bull shark was carefully transported from an aquarium in neighbouring Portugal to her new home in Seville.

It’s been far, far too long since my last blog post. It’s not that I’m short of ideas – quite the opposite – more that other things take precedence, like work, kids, donkeys (more about that soon).

So coming back with a blast, here is Scribbler in Seville on the city’s newest visitor attraction: the Aquarium.

Situated, appropriately enough, by the river, it opened last week, and I had a look around with all the other local press. The aquarium has 7,000 animals, from tiny fish to sharks, both freshwater and marine.

The Great River, Guadalquivir, starting point of Magellan's voyage - and for your journey through the aquarium's marine life.

Al-Wadi Al-Kabir (the Great River), so-called by the Moors who ruled Sev ille for 500 years, starting point of Magellan’s voyage – and for your journey through the aquarium’s marine life.

Freshwater fish: carp and sturgeon.

Freshwater fish: carp and sturgeon.

Taking the round-the-world voyage of Magellan, which departed from Seville in 1519, as its theme, the place takes us on our own journey from the waters of the Guadalquivir, via the Canary Islands, to the Amazon. At the oficial opening which I attended, we were also shown a video about the transportation of the star attraction, Margarita the bull shark (how fitting for Seville), from her previous home in Portugal.

The 400 species are well displayed in 35 tanks, although if you’re used to large-scale aquaria like the London one, this is small by comparison. I also think it’s somewhat overpriced, at 15 euros for adults and 10 euros for children. That said, it is fun, educational and interesting – information about each species in a tank is shown on small LCD displays for a few seconds, so if you spot something you like, you have to wait for it to come round again. Here are some inhabitants.

A sea cucumber, in the special "Touch Touch" area.

A sea cucumber, in the special “Touch Touch” área.

Starfish can be gently picked up.

Starfish can be gently picked up.

You can touch sea urchins, though watch out for those spikes.

You can touch sea urchins, though watch out for those spikes.

Rock pool - but no buckets or nets, obviously.

Rock pool – but no buckets or nets, obviously.

There’s one area, calle Touch Touch (sounds better in Spanish: Toca Toca), where you can, guess what, (very gently) feel the creatures – including sea cucumbers, starfish and sea urchins.

The "nursery" of the aquarium has fish roe.

One of the “babies” of the aquarium: skate eggs.

Little sacs containing fertilised fish eggs, known as mermaid's purses.

Little sacs containing fertilised fish eggs, known as mermaid’s purses.

In the “nursery” you can see roe of skate, and egg cases.

A slippery customer, this giant octopus didn't want to pose for a photo.

A slippery customer, this giant octopus didn’t want to stop waving his tentacles about.

A sole lying flat on the sandy floor - perfect camouflage.

A sole lying flat on the sandy floor – perfect camouflage.

Press getting their first view of the shark tank.

Press getting their first view of the shark tank.

A bull shark in the massive Oceanarium.

A bull shark in the massive Oceanarium.

But the main attraction of the Aquarium is the massive Oceanarium, nine metres deep and one of the largest shark tanks in Europe containing two female bull sharks, one of which is called Margarita, as well as tuna, grouper and mackerel. You can walk right underneath this tank, though the tunnel, as well as seeing it through many different windows.

One of my favourite features in any aquarium is the brightly-coloured tropical fish, which you can see in the Tropical Cove and Coral Reefs. Striped, spotted,

A ray, the most elegant swimmer of all, with its "wings".

A ray, the most elegant swimmer of all, with its “wings”.

A scary-looking scorpion fish.

A scary-looking scorpion fish.

Beautiful fish.

Beautiful tropical fish.

Another beauty.

Another beauty.

and one of my personal favourite, the flamenco fish.

and one of my personal favourite, the flamenco fish (my name for it).

The non-fish inhabitants include anacondas (large aquatic snakes) and caimans (small crocodiles), but personally I don’t much care for them. Turtles, however, are wonderful animals. The Aquarium has a turtle recovery programme which will see the reptiles released into the wild in Almeria’s Cabo de Gata.

A turtle, part of their recovery programme.

A turtle, part of their recovery programme.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Aquarium is situated by the river, on Calle Santiago Montoro. This is close to the Puente Delicias, with the entrance off the roundabout by the 1929 Expo Pavilions of Morocco and Colombia, which sit on the corner Avenida de la Palmera and Avenida de las Razas.

Entrance prices are 15 euros for adults and 10 euros for children, disabled and OAPs. Opening hours in October are 10am-8pm Monday to Thursday and 10am-9pm Friday to Sunday. For more information see acuariosevilla.es