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Destination: Seville

Flamenco … bull-fighting … religious fiestas … Christopher Columbus … these all-so-Spanish synonyms find their ultimate expression and concentration in none other than Seville.

As so masterly evoked by John Woo in the opening scenes of Mission Impossible 2, flamenco is to Seville what samba is to Brazil. The thundering beat of the dancers’ heels on the wooden stage, mixed with their sensuous body movements and evocative clothing, symbolise in no better way the pulse of life in the Andalucian capital.

Seville, or Sevilla, as it is known by the locals, is the capital of Andalusia and one of Spain’s largest cities following Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. It is located in the south-east of Spain on the plain of the Rio Guadalquivir (literally, big river, in Arabic), which crosses the city from north to south. It is undoubtedly one of the largest historical cities in Europe.

Indisputably the best time to visit Seville would be in springtime when within the space of only two weeks take place the two most important festivities of this city: Semana Santa, or, Holy Week, with its world-famous processions, and Feria de Abril, the Flamenco-event of the year. During Holy Week, which starts on Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday, thousands of people pour onto the winding streets of this ancient city to remember the events of The Passion. Seville is renowned for staging perhaps the most overwhelming pageant of The Passion to be found anywhere in the world.



The commemoration dates back to the 16th century, when the Catholic Church decided to educate congregations about the events surrounding Christ's crucifixion. Today, the celebrations are as popular as they have ever been. The spectacle of the solemn processions is marked by mesmerizing drumbeats and punctuated by flamenco saetas, or songs. Every day for an entire week devout believers from 57 hermandades, or brotherhoods, wind their way through the streets of Seville in slow procession from their own church to the cathedral in the centre of the city. The festival commemorates the events of the Passion. The climax of the whole week is la madruga, or Good Friday, when the procession continues until the early hours of the morning. The penitents, dressed in long dark robes and tall pointed hoods, strike an eerie image as they proceed through the town. Each brotherhood carries two pasos or floats: on one is a statue of Christ, on the other of the Virgin Mary. These floats are incredibly heavy and they symbolize Christ's own suffering when he carried the cross to Calvary. La Virgen Macarena, patron saint of bullfighters, is transported through the town and across the river on a float surrounded by thousands of candles and the people throw rose petals at her as she goes.

Holy Week is followed by the Feria de Abril, or the April Fair, when the city becomes a fairground with horse and carriage parades, and men and women clad head-to-toe in flamenco costume. The fair runs for around a week and hosts an enticing programme of typically Andalusian cultural events. Over 1000 brightly-coloured marquees are covered in decorations and paper lanterns and are packed day and night with flamenco dancers.

Furthermore during this fair horses and beautifully-decorated carriages parade in shining colours throughout the city, with their occupants in fantastic flamenco dress. Some of the best bullfights of the year take place around this time at the local Plaza de Toros de Maestranza.

Flamenco and bullfighting represent strong cultural traditions in Andalusia and the April Feria offers a unique insight into the character and atmosphere of this individual region.



Seville is a lively city with a wide variety of entertainment and culture, including theatres, cinemas, music concerts but what distinguishes it most are its traditional tapa bars where Sevillians meet for drinks with tapas and sherry. Most of the tapa bars are concentrated in the Santa Cruz, El Arenal and the Triana districts.
One of the great pleasures of Seville is the wonderful variety of places to walk, the peaceful alleyways in Santa Cruz, Maria Luisa Park and the banks of the Guadalquivir. Taking a stroll around the city is one of the best ways to see the picturesque monuments and landmarks found within the old quarter of the city. Another would be on board a horse-drawn open carriage.

The Giralda is the probably the most emblematic monument of Seville. This 76-metre Minaret was constructed by the Moors during the late 12th century. In 1568 a Cordoban architect crowned it with a belfry. A gently sloping ramp, interrupted at intervals by platforms, leads to the topmost part of the monument where one can witness breathtaking views of the city. Currently the Giralda complements the majestic cathedral of Seville. It is the world’s biggest gothic temple and the third largest Christian cathedral after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. Built on the site of Seville’s main mosque, this cathedral was consecrated in 1248.

The only remnant of the old mosque is the Patio de los Naranjos, an internal courtyard sporting lush orange trees, hence the name. The cathedral’s striking interior comprises a Gothic nave and four aisles with its massive columns supporting huge arches that appear slender because they are so tall. In 1899 the remains of the great discoverer, Christopher Columbus, were brought to Seville and now lie in the south transept of the Cathedral. This impressive monument shows the discoverer’s coffin being carried by four heralds symbolizing the four nations of Leon, Navarre, Castille and Aragon that united to become modern Spain. The cathedral also houses countless artistic treasures including sculptures, paintings and stained-glass windows.

A few metres away from the Cathedral is the Alcázar, a great Arabian style palace whose first fortifications go back to 884 was built to defend the town from its enemies. The major part of today's palace was constructed after the Christian reconquest of the town in 1362, by King Pedro "The Cruel". This palace houses several important rooms including the Ambassadors’ Hall, which oozes splendor, and the Bedroom of the Moorish Kings, which possesses the most magnificent doors.

A short walk away from the Alcázar is the Barrio Santa Cruz, a former Jewish quarter favoured by Seville nobility in the 17th century. It can be accessed via the Alcázar itself and stands in the middle of the historic centre of the city, protected by the walls of the Alcázar. Its narrow lanes, richly decorated facades, flower-filled patios, wrought-iron grilles and squares shaded in orange trees are all delightful features of a typical Andalucian neighbourhood and is certainly worth a visit especially in the evenings when cafés and restaurants overflow into its squares.

One cannot miss out on the majestic Maestranza bullring situated in the El Arenal quarter, close to the barrio Santa Cruz alongside the banks of the Guadalquivir. La Real Maestranza, dating back to the 18th century, is one of the most significant, oldest and most beautiful bullrings in the history of bullfighting. It took more than a century to build and is surrounded by 116 asymmetrical balconies. It also houses an interesting museum dedicated to the sport, containing sumptuous costumes and various mementoes such as bullfighting trophies, photographs and other objects in the world of bullfighting.

A few metres away from the La Real Maestranza along the Paseo de Colon is the Torre Del Oro. Built in the 13th century this twelve-sided Moorish “Gold-Tower" was originally part of the town-walls along Guadalquivir river and was built to serve as a defence tower for the city. Its name comes from the golden ceramic tiles which originally covered its front. In the Christian epoch the tower served as seat of the marine's administration. It reached its greatest importance with the discovery of America, for this was the point of arrival for ships returning from the Indies. Today it houses the Museum of Navigation.

One other place definitely not to be missed is what is perhaps the gem of Seville, the Plaza de España. It is located in the centre of the Parque de Maria Luisa, a short distance away from the Torre Del Oro past a number of other historic buildings including the Universidad and Palacio de San Telmo. The Parque de Maria Luisa houses many terraces, many of them in the old pavilions of the Exposition of 1929, close to the Theatre Lope de Vega. The Plaza De España is an impressive work of Seville's best-known modernist style architect, Hannibal Gonzalez. It was made for the Ibero-American Exposition held in 1929 and consists of a vast semicircular complex with fountains, monumental staircases and an artificial lake with two highly individual towers at its both extremes. Each of the fifty-eight benches placed in recesses around the square are decorated with typical Spanish painted tiles and represent historic episodes from each province of Spain.

Who says Spain says tapas, and one cannot miss out on the local varieties such as Pinchos Morunos, very spicy bits of meat, Pavías de Pescado, marinated fish fried in olive-oil, Jamon, cured ham, and of course the fantastic olives of the region. These are served in more than a thousand bars where the choice of food is virtually unlimited. One can actually make a meal out of them, moving from bar to bar and trying a couple of dishes at a time.

And to make your visit to Seville complete, you may wish to pay a visit to the local Benito Villamarin stadium where Malta’s national football team suffered that infamous record-breaking 12-1 bashing back in 1983 …
Election fever - Malta 2013

So, well, yesterday the election campaign was officially inaugurated. I do not want to delve into politics for it is far from a favourite topic for me. In any case I have long decided who to cast my vote for but that is very personal, as with many things in my life as of late.

So far I have seen and noted the following though, useless and senseless slogans, posters which to me are a complete waste of money, when the money could be invested elsewhere and this I am talking about both sides (and possibly a third if the Greens are contesting the upcoming election) etc ..

Yes, fine, for some it is fun, meeting up, having a good time, hailing and cheering their leader, some in the cold, others in warmer surroundings. Red, blue (and possibly green) are the trend colours in Malta at the moment .. but seriously .. what are we expecting from this campaign ??

That the floaters will take their decision ? That those undecided will make their decisions, that those who have been disgruntled and vowed not to cast their vote to anyone to have them change their minds ? What really is this campaign all about ? From what I figure, this campaign is a last minute reach out to those people who are unsure as what to do more than what the party is promising for the next term.

In any case, let us remember that we are all Maltese, that we should not fall into the trap of attacking each other, calling each other names, making enemies of each other simply because of differences in political opinions. Some are passionate about their politics but we must remember that everybody has a right to their own opinion, whether we are in agreement with it or not. Yes, sure, we can argue certain issues but it does not mean either side is right or wrong. Let us not let politics come in our way, affecting friendships, acquaintances and the like.

This is as far as I will delve into politics. I have had my fair share of being an activist back in the 80's but my life has had a turning and I am otherwise taken up with many other things and have many more important priorities in my life other than participating in any political campaign. Aside from the fact that the word politics does not entice me at all.

One final thing I wish to say is let us not make this campaign a war of the worlds in Malta..as they say..ghax dak laburist, mhux maghna or ghax dak nazzjonalist kontra taghna. There are more serious issues in life, imagine those with illnesses for which there is no treatment but have to live with their disabilities for the rest of their lives. Politics belongs to politicians and I will leave it at that. Always do remember one thing .. We are all Maltese under the same sky. Let nothing divide us.

I wish all Maltese a safe campaign.

stef
2013 .. resolutions, new adventures, new successes, new discoveries
I finally found some time to relax on my favourite blue couch in my home in St. Julians and drop a few lines. It has been a hectic three weeks catching up with my family, mum, dad, my darling sis Fiona and her family, my gorgeous nephews Sebastian and Timi and my god daughter and niece Sophie with her already pretty expressive eyes (I think she takes after her auntie there since I have been told that my eyes speak), my dear friends, Germaine, Marilyn, Liz, Manuela, Antonella, Carmen, Peter, Marilou, Ximena, Maria, Mandy, Anne, Marcel, Paul, Joanna, Stefan, Claudine, Adrian, Sean, Andre, Joanne.. the list goes on .. all in all it has been a lovely stay ..

Now it is time to go back to Brussels .. back to the cold .. but back to my aggressive fitness routine and running, my studies and my work. However I know i will be back for a few days in exactly 2 months time so it is not that bad leaving the rock.

As for me, I want to say that I want to continue from where I started in 2012, further my studies, photography, looking forward to a new F1 season, more rugby, more Man Utd victories and most important of all more travels, this time I plan a trip to South Africa. I cannot wait to take my camera and introduce her to beautiful sceneries and landscapes the country has to offer. I wish to combine that with voluntary work but will plan that out as I go along.

2012 has been a particular year from me, a year where I learnt from grevious mistakes, a year where I feel I grew up (finally), changed, and see things from a different perspective. Those dear to me will always remain in my heart whether I am in touch with them or not and will remain protective of them always. And everyone should do the same.

Sadly it also was a year where I came to know many acquaintances who are ill, some still in the 30s/40s and even terminal. To this respect I would like to say that everyone must try to keep positive in life, appreciate what we have, we only live one life so make the most of it while you can. That is exactly what I plan to do. Focus on your passions, challenges you wish to work on, do what you feel is passionate to you, otherwise you will be filled with regret later on in life, when perhaps it would be too late. Start now, never leave anything for later and most importantly, never take anyone for granted or hurt anyone.

This is my message to you. A happy 2013 to all xx
Best wishes for the New year

I do not plan resolutions for the New Year. I want to continue where I started, this year was not an easy one for me but it has taught me alot, changed me and I am happy with the way I am now, the way I think and see things. Plans are, to further my studies and continue from where I started this year, continue to be strong and no matter how challenging every aspect of my life will be, I will do my best. As Anais Nin said, 'I made no resolutions for the NY. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning, moulding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.'

Dear all, it does not have to be the New Year to start over, pursue your dreams. The NY is a day as all the rest. Start with immediate effect, do not wait for NY's day. Nevertheless, I wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous 2013 full of all you desire. Be careful with your actions, do not hurt anyone or let anyone hurt you. The NY is a continuation of our life, to achieve and learn more, to continue working on our challenges and make them happen.

Happy New Year !
My Facebook page
Dear all,

I invite you to view my Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephanie-Life-through-a-lens/144444622337456?ref=hl

I post photos on a day-to-day basis and I am more than happy to hear your feedback and if you like the page you will be able to view more of my work as I go along.

Regards

stef
A small thought from everyone during Christmas is worth a million for those less fortunate than us

Let us not forget those less fortunate than us, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the poor and so many others. My dream is for everyone to be able to live a normal life. Sadly this can never happen, we look at countries around us, poverty, wars, innocent people killed, wars of religions, they are all around us.

We need to think and if we can in any way or form, even something small to any form of charities all over the world, this is the time. A little something from all those who can afford to give can go a long way. It pains me to see people suffering, poverty, pain, illness. Yes, true, this is the world we live in but we must try to contribute in our own little way.

Christmas is a time to unite, make peace with our foes, put behind us terrible things that have happened to us, smile, even though sometimes it can be hard. Let us appreciate what we have because in this world there are people who wish a fraction of what we have, be happy with that little bit but cannot have and we are lucky to have it and much more than that. Let us think of them too .. for they, too, are humans on this earth and no one should forget about them.

photo: compliments of Paul Zammit Cutajar
Christmas without our loved ones
Christmas is here and we are all very busy focussing on Christmas presents, Father Christmas, parties, Christmas lunch, food and drink. Of course this takes place in all shapes and forms all over the world. However unfortunately many of us have to celebrate without our loved ones, those closest to us, present amongst us. Mothers, fathers, siblings, children, partners on the other side of the world perhaps and this is a time when we tend to miss them more than other days. Although today's advanced technology enables us to see them and talk to them via webcams, skype, google and the lot it is never the same as being together. We miss them terribly. Our childhood memories of Christmases past come flooding back to us, recalling wonderful times we spent all together and put a smile on our faces. Many of us are fortunate enough to have lived memorable times with our parents and siblings, memories that will never leave us, a stamp in our life. In all of this I want to say that these wonderful people who are in our life and others who have, in the process, become a part of our life but are living apart even in this time of year - that they are and will always be in our heart through happy and sad times. Although living in different cities, countries, continents we must celebrate the good times shared in the company of those we cherish in our hearts - parents, siblings, children, dear friends - whether it was Christmas or any other day of the year.

We must not forget those departed from us, from this world. We miss them dearly, just last night I dreamt of my nana, she seemed so close yet she left this world some 12 years ago. We miss them, feel that life will never be the same without them, and festive seasons are the hardest of all but we must remember that this is part of the process of our lives and we must make the most and appreciate life, and those around us. The departed are rested but I am sure that they would want us to be happy and nonetheless want us to celebrate this festive season. They were among us and a gift to us until they left this life. They will continue to live in us and we should always remember them in our own special ways.

Christmas is also a celebration of what we have achieved so far, of what we have learnt throughout the year, through our good moves and bad ones for only in these can we learn, grow and become stronger.

To all my family and friends overseas, you are in my heart during this time of year. To my nanas and nanus, I miss you dearly everyday. But I cherish and appreciate every moment shared with them throughout my childhood and adult years.

stef

stef
My Christmas wish for everyone

Dear all,

It is close to Christmas and I want to write my wishes at this time of year, and everyday of the year for that matter.

I wish food and drink for the hungry, a roof for the homeless, good health, prosperity to everyone. Most importantly to all who bear anger of any form, hurt, pain in their heart, may this Christmas wash it all away. I want all this to be replaced by peace, love, forgiveness and happiness.

I would like to say that I have long forgiven those who hurt me this year. Alexander Pope said, to err is human to forgive divine. I quoted this to someone back in June this year. When you forgive you let go of the past, one cannot change the past but it can change the future. Moreover to forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, one receives untold peace and happiness (Robert Muller). We are all human we all err, we all fall especially in our most vulnerable of moments, weak moments. But we learn from those mistakes, learn from the suffering that followed our errs, the pain, anguish and guilt in causing suffering to those involved. It has been a difficult year for me but I have grown and learnt and I can say I love those people I doubted more than ever before. I have learnt to cherish every moment I spend with my dearest ones, family, friends. Everyone is special to me in his or her own way. I have grown stronger, moved on, matured. To those who think I hate them, I do not hate anyone no matter how much pain and hurt they have caused others. But they must move on, start afresh. I bear no hatred nor grudges towards anyone. What happened happened and it is all in the past now never to be repeated again. I have moved away from a horrible time in my life which occurred earlier this year and have no intention to go anywhere back there. Nobody, no one will take me back. Furthermore my word of advice is to be careful who to trust. Trust can take years to build but only seconds to destroy and a long time to rebuild if you are fortunate enough to be granted a second chance. In all of this I want to say, think before you speak, before you confide in anybody, think before you act for actions made on impulse may be regretted for the rest of our lives. I have also learnt not to take anyone, nor anything for that matter, for granted. For only when we lose those precious to us we realise that we cannot live without them, that they played an important and vital role in our lives, that they were always there and now they are gone from us, perhaps even forever.

I have achieved some too this year, I have qualified as Fitness Instructor thanks to the great help and teaching by Celine Fenech Adami and Gillian Grech, made new friends in the process, Leanne, hope you are reading this, Kerstin too, Michael (Hughes), passed two EU exams, and started reading an ACCA degree and successfully passed my first ACCA exam which I have started reading. I feel I have learnt some more on photography, and next year my wishes are to go to South Africa, qualify as personal trainer, work on underwater photography and complete and write more ACCA exams.

All I want for Christmas is peace, love, success, good health and happiness for everyone.

Merry Christmas from my heart.

stef
Saturday 24 Nov 2012
This is my first time posting on a blog. So far I have worked mostly on travel journals so writing about myself is something new. I currently live in Brussels, admittedly not the most adventurous city in the world but for the time being I have to live with it. I crave adventure, wildlife and infinite landscapes, seas.. I dream of travelling full time to countries untouched by pollution, and all the mayhem a city brings along with it. But for now I have to make the best of what the city has to offer. This summer I was taught to always think positive. I try to pursue my dreams, my desires, sometimes difficult to reach but I have learnt that everything happens for a reason and nothing is impossible in life. I am thankful for what I have, my health, my son, my mum and dad, sister and her family, those so very dear and special to me, as I always say without them I am nobody. I must say this year has been a tough year on a personal basis but in truth it has taught me a great deal.

A bit about my childhood. I was born in Malta, St Julians one rainy Boxing Day. Well, yes, I came well before mum's due date and I attribute this to my eagerness in meeting the world. I am not one to sit down and do nothing and as you can see. It seems this part of my personality came out at a very early stage in my life. I was a hyper little girl, I hated dolls, but loved playing with cars. I had my own little adventures too .. we had a big garden, my dad, a keen sportsman, had won a lot of medals. I do not recall any of this but my parents tell me I used to bury my dad's medals in the soil then dad used to find them when he ploughed the garden. I recall it was a big garden, apples, orange, lemon trees, tomatoes, beans, dad was and still is a born gardener. My mother also tells me I actually buried her engagement ring in the soil. Dad found it many months after it went missing but I was way too young to recall all this. Somehow I was always up to something. But in the end we all have our own little stories to relate from childhood.

I spent an enjoyable day today with friends watching sports. I followed the rugby so watched England play South Africa, a good match, great defence from the Springboks and in the end the better team won 16-15, briefly followed British soccer where dad's favourite team Man U beat QPR 3-1, and of course Formula 1 where Lewis Hamilton took his well-deserved pole. Mclaren look to be unbeatable this weekend but all eyes are on Vettel and Alonso.

Goodnight to all. Until the next blog.