Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: The patron saint of nerds doesn’t stand a chance against the mighty tile Mary

The patron saint of Sevilla is San Isidro, Saint Isidore of Seville (560-636), Archbishop of Sevilla. I failed to find what miracles were credited to him to attain sainthood, and I think he died a natural death. His major accomplishment was his encyclopedic Etymologiae, collecting and preserving numerous early written works of antiquity.

But, wandering the streets of Sevilla, it is obvious La Virgen reigns. She lords over everything everywhere. Upon arriving, I decided to snap a photo of every tile mural of her I encountered.

It quickly became apparent that was absurd. Although the Mister is patient, we would have to stop at almost every corner to accomplish that. Plus, how many photos are allowed in one blog post?

But today might be the time for San Isidro’s popularity to soar. Au courant, he is the patron saint of the Internet, computers and nerds.

From now on, I will try to utter San Isidro’s name when I encounter computer frustration instead of my usual over-employed four-letter words.

The poor saint does not stand much of a chance in Sevilla though. Internet powers pale next to the beauty of the abundant tile tributes to the Virgin Mary found along her streets.

Many more azulejo postcards, not all La Virgen, will be posted in the coming weeks….

Postcard from Andalucia, Spain: Marching toward Semana Santa

It takes a certain build to be able to port an immense paso, or float, through the streets for the numerous processions that will be held during Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Teams of costaleros, the bearers of the floats, must all be of about the same height and have strong necks.

Costaleros are often encountered at practice, as above, with a training base topped with cinder blocks. Rewarding beer breaks appear part of the team-building practice. As the floats are assembled by members of the church confradias, or brotherhoods, what the porters carry becomes increasingly more elaborate.

In the early evening leading up to Holy Week in Sevilla, almost every church throws open their doors for the faithful to file through to view the heavily gilded pasos.

Ornately crowned Virgens appear front and center in displays in numerous shops, but the most tantalizing windows are those of La Campana, a confectionary store operating in Sevilla since 1885. Chocolate and bon bon Nazarenos parade side by side next to elaborately crafted candied pasos. Could not help wondering about the proper etiquette for eating a chocolate Nazareno. Feet first? The way I used to nibble at chocolate rabbits when Mother wasn’t looking, thinking she would assume the bunnies merely were sinking deeper in the shiny green grass of the basket?

Last evening found us in Cadiz for processions of penitentes slowly, dirge-like slowly, marching to mark Viernes de Pasion, or Viernes de Dolores, the final Friday of Lent commemorating the suffering of the grieving Virgin Mary. Wearing their signature capirotes, hoods with tall points revealing only their eyes, the figures appeared quite grim.

Guilty confession: dinner summoned us before any actual pasos appeared heading our way along the crowded narrow streets. There were a lot of penitentes in the advance guard.


More cheese, please… with a wee bit of honey

Rabbit: “And help yourself, Pooh. Would you like condensed milk, or honey on your bread?”
Pooh: “Both. But, never mind the bread, please. Just a small helping, if you please?”
Rabbit: “There you are. Is uh… something wrong?”
Pooh: “Well, I did mean a little larger small helping.”

 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Twice a year it would happen. I could not breathe, and hives would gradually creep up from my calves. When they finally began to stretch up for my neck, where they would show, I would finally give in to the discomfort and go see my allergist for a steroid shot.

Now he is a well-respected allergist, and he ran all those stick-you tests. Cedar elm was one of the largest culprits, and they completely surrounded our home in Olmos Park. Red wine (Inner Pooh voice repeatedly interrupting the doctor’s words: I’m not listening.). And dairy products (Inner Pooh voice: I can’t hear you.). You mean as in milk, right? No, you can’t mean cheese?

So what’s a girl to do but give up drinking milk and live with periodic outbreaks of hives?

I had never been much of a fan of honey. But that was because I had never had a dab of it dribbled on the ideal vehicle for it – cheese. And we had to travel to Sevilla, Andalusia, Spain, last year to make that discovery.

The cheese plate at this beautiful restaurant we loved came with a nutty, orange-flavored honeycomb in the middle. Hold the bread; no need for it. Just pure cheese and honey. I feel guilty about not remembering the name of the restaurant in Sevilla, so am trying to atone by including photos of it as well.

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A year later, only a month ago, we were wandering the streets of Perugia, Umbria, Italy, in search of a bite for lunch. I was feeling virtuous for not being seduced by the stunning chocolate confections in the window of Sandri Patisserie on Corso Vannucci.

We settled instead at Ristorante Gus, pleasantly shaded in the middle of the pedestrian-only Via Mazzini. According to a New York Times article that came out while we were in Italy, Gus is new. The locals seemed to love it and were all ordering sushi, but we were too recently de-planed to want that.

Good intentions still intact, I ordered a smoked trout salad, and Lamar had a vegetarian panino and chickpea soup. Everything was great, but that pesky little inner Pooh voice started singing about the bees once I spied the cheese plate. This bountiful cheese board came with a palette of eight different honeys to dabble on the cheese.

Now I am hooked. A comb full of honey leapt into my cart at Mustafa Asian and Middle Eastern Grocery Store. And from there, the blame’s all on Central Market with those banners tempting me with “For the Love of Cheese” every time I drove by.

Since vacations are not around every day, I’m resigned to letting Central Market shop around the world for me. Although I wish CM’s blog did not mention the word “dairy” and then this:

While cheese is a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, let’s face it: Fat is what gives cheese its beguiling texture and depth of flavor.

(Inner Pooh voice: I can’t hear you.)

To go with the honeycomb, I selected some rosemary Asiago, blue Stilton, Bucheron and some other powerful blue-veined, ancient-looking cheese. Sorry, doctor, but such behavior would be great for your business… if I had not moved away from all those cedar elms.

And sure wish I had a bottle of Umbria’s Montefalco Sagrantino to go with that cheese and honey.

So Pooh ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, and ate… and ATE! Until at last he said to Rabbit in a rather sticky voice: “I must be going now. Good-bye, Rabbit.”
Rabbit: “Well, good-bye, if you’re sure you won’t have any more.”
Pooh: “Is there any more?”

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh