Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira palace (main house), circa 1904 - 1911, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira palace (main house), circa 1904 – 1911, Sintra, Portugal

As we see the palace and incredible (hillside) grounds today at Quinta da Regaleira, we are visiting the splendor of Sintra, Portugal, from the 1890s through the early part of the 20th century.  The palace was the summer residence of the Carvalho Monteiro family.  Built in the Neo-Manueline style, the exuberant decorative scheme involved some of Portugal’s best artists:  Antonio Goncalves, Joao Machado, Jose de Fonseca, Costa Motta and Rodrigo de Castro, as sculptors in stone and Julio de Fonseca, in wood.  [Neo-Manueline was a revival architecture and decorative arts style developed in Portugal between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The style adopted the characteristics of the Manueline (or Portuguese Final Gothic) of the 16th century.]

Quinta da Regaleira Palace Hunting Room (dining room) massive fireplace with statue of a woodsman, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira Palace Hunting Room (dining room) massive fireplace with statue of a woodsman, Sintra, Portugal

The palace was sold at public auction in 1893 to Antonio Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro who added other parcels of land, creating the hillside pentagonal outline of the property boundaries, which exist today.  From 1898 through 1900 the construction focused on the gardens.  Beginning in 1904 the building work concentrated on the main house (the “palace”) and the chapel, both with exuberant decoration.

Quinta da Regaleira Palace Hunting Room doors to stairway and hall, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira Palace Hunting Room doors to stairway and hall, Sintra, Portugal

The estate was sold several times after World War II, including ownership by a Japanese corporation in 1987.  However, the estate was acquired by the Municipality of Sintra in 1997 and now remains open to the public (admission is charged).

Quinta da Regaleira Palace King's Room with portraits of 20 kings and 4 queens of Portugal, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira Palace King’s Room with portraits of 20 kings and 4 queens of Portugal, Sintra, Portugal

Set amidst the pine covered hills of the Serra de Sintra mountains, just to the west of Lisbon and close to the Atlantic Ocean, the picturesque town of Sintra is home to several fascinating monuments and historic buildings.  The location’s slightly cooler climate attracted the nobilitty and elite of Portugal, who constructed exquisite palaces.

Quinta da Regaleira Chapel, circa 1904 - 1911, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira Chapel, circa 1904 – 1911, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira Chapel exterior details, circa 1904 - 1911, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira Chapel exterior details, circa 1904 – 1911, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira (The Regaleria Palace) is one of the highlights of the Sintra, Portugal, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Quinta da Regaleira Gardens, Initiatic Well (a "subterranean tower"), Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira Gardens, Initiatic Well (a “subterranean tower”), Sintra, Portugal

Eat local — Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Olives and fresh local cheese at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Olives and fresh local cheese at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Following a morning on the westernmost coast of Europe at Cape Roca, Portugal, we drove to Colares where we had a delicious lunch of a tasting of Portuguese petiscos (“tidbits” or “snacks”, or what the Spanish would call “tapas”) at a small family owned restaurant Petiscaria e Espumanteria.  In Colares we also visited Quinta Casal Sta. Maria (winery) — see our previous blog.

Our group luncheon (there were about a dozen of us from the ship) was served family style at a long table liberally supplied with carafe after carafe of local tinto (red) wine and bottled water.  Each petisco was served in succession, so we had time to enjoy each “tidbit” and the excellent and delicious preparations.

Pastel de Nata (a local baked custard tart specialty) at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Pastel de Nata (a local baked custard tart specialty) at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Mixed salad with olives, tomatoes, figs, apples and oranges at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Mixed salad with olives, tomatoes, figs, apples and oranges at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Fried and salted piquillo peppers at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Fried and salted piquillo peppers at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Fried potato skins with Portuguese aioli at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Fried potato skins with Portuguese aioli at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Melted local cheese topped with herbs with crostini at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Melted local cheese topped with herbs with crostini at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Minced chicken croqueta at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Minced chicken croqueta at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Tomato stuffed with sausage and rice topped with melted cheese at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Tomato stuffed with sausage and rice topped with melted cheese at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Scrumptious almond tart at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Scrumptious almond tart at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Individual pear and coconut tarts at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Individual pear and coconut tarts at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Local specialty pastries at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Local specialty pastries at Petiscaria e Espumanteria, Colares, Portugal

Cabo da Roca (the westernmost point of Europe), Colares, Portugal

Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe's westernmost point, Portugal

Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe’s westernmost point, Portugal

Known over the world as the most westerly point of continental Europe, Cape Roca, Portugal, was named by the Romans as “Promontorium Magnum”. A prominent part of a coast dominated by high cliffs, it is essentially a rocky spur of syenites (a coarse-grained intrusive igneous rock with a general composition similar to that of granite, but deficient in quartz), an integral part of the Sintra (a town about 15 kilometers, or 9 miles to the east) eruptive Massif. Biologically speaking, it is particularly rich in flora which includes species that are rare and in danger of extinction – a result of a combination of factors including the orientation of the northeast prevailing winds laden with humidity, the presence of the sea and the frequently occurring mists.

Looking westward on a foggy day from Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe's westernmost point, Portugal

Looking westward on a foggy day from Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe’s westernmost point, Portugal

This and other autochthonous (characteristic) flora of the region have been subjected to fierce competition for some decades from the hottentot fig, an exotic shrub introduced to Portugal in the 20th century as an ornamental plant that has developed extraordinarily fast in the absence of natural predators, colonizing the space of other species.

Artist's rendition in Portuguese tile of Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe's westernmost point, Portugal

Artist’s rendition in Portuguese tile of Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe’s westernmost point, Portugal

The cliffs at Cabo da Roca are almost vertical and are sporadically colonized by sea-fennel or rock samphire and occasionally by sea lavender. Many birds choose to make their nests here as cliffs offer safety from predators.

Sunlight breaking through the fog at Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe's pesternmost point, Portugal

Sunlight breaking through the fog at Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe’s pesternmost point, Portugal

Whether covered in mist or bathed in wonderful sunshine, Cabo da Roca is what Camoes called the point where the earth ends and the sea begins — a uniue and unforgettable promontory in Portugal.

The rugged coastline at Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe's pesternmost point, Portugal

The rugged coastline at Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe’s pesternmost point, Portugal

The broad sandy beach at Colares offers bathers access to the water in between the massive cliffs of the area.

A foggy day at the beach near Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe's pesternmost point, Colares, Portugal

A foggy day at the beach near Cabo da Roca, Continental Europe’s pesternmost point, Colares, Portugal

After eating at a nearby restaurant (see our next blog) for a petiscos degustation, we headed off to the “most western vineyard of Europe”, Quinta do Casal Sta. Maria.

Promotional poster for Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Promotional poster for Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

A lane in the extensive rose gardens at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portugal

A lane in the extensive rose gardens at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portugal

The origin of the Casal de Santa Maria (wine) Estate goes back as far as the beginning of the 18th century. The main house was built in 1720 and remarkably survived the major 1755 earthquake because of the Serra de Sintra (mountain) underground granite structure.

Touriga Nacional Tinto (red) vineyard sign at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Touriga Nacional Tinto (red) vineyard sign at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Wine production was interrupted in 1903, but just over 100 years later Baron von Buemmer, after his 97th birthday, brought “the most Western vineyards in Europe” back to life and modernized the boutique winery. At 103 years of age today, the Baron is still active in the winery.  Unfortunately, at the time of our tour and tasting, we did not have the opportunity to meet the Baron, as he was having his mid-day siesta.

Touriga Nacional Tinto (red) vineyards at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Touriga Nacional Tinto (red) vineyards at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Wine production was interrupted in 1903, but just over 100 years later Baron von Buemmer, after his 97th birthday, brought “the most Western vineyards in Europe” back to life and modernized the boutique winery. At 103 years of age today, the Baron is still active in the winery.

Casal Santa Maria is one of the region’s premium wineries, producing both red (tinto) and white (branco) single varietal and blended wines.

Touriga Nacional Tinto grape cluster (unripe!) at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Touriga Nacional Tinto grape cluster (unripe!) at Casal Sta. Maria, near Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Eat Local — Lisboa, Portugal

Pastel de Nata (a local baked custard specialty), Lisboa, Portugal

Pastel de Nata (a local baked custard specialty), Lisboa, Portugal

Upon arriving in Lisboa following our 2 hour bus ride from Cascais (Estoril) on the coast, where our ship was anchored, we headed to the main old town square, Praça da Rossio, for some Pastéis de nata and espressos.  Fortified, we then set out to explore the city…

“Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, common in Portugal… Pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the Jerónimos Monastery) in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém in Lisbon. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching of clothes, such as nuns’ habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.” — Wikipedia

The Refectory dining room at Cervejaria Trindade (the former Trinity Convent refectory), Lisboa, Portugal

The Refectory dining room at Cervejaria Trindade (the former Trinity Convent refectory), Lisboa, Portugal

Following our full morning of exploring the city and climbing uphill to Rua Nova da Trindade, overlooking Praça da Rossio, we had an excellent luncheon of local specialties at a former convent — Cervejaria Trindade.

At the present location of the restaurant, eight centuries ago, the Convent of the Most Holy Trinity of the Trimos Friars of the Redemption of Captives was erected.  Founded at the end of the 13th century, more precisely in 1294, it owes its name to the calling of its friars to rescue Christian prisoners from the infidels.  Destroyed in 1704 by  a fire, in 1755 by the famous earthquake and in 1756, after its reconstruction, by another fire, the Convent finally disappeared in 1834 with the extinction of the Religious Orders in Portugal. It was then purchased and became the first beer factory in Portugal, the Trindale Beer Factory.

The Refectory room was decorated in 1864 with magnificent tile panels inspired by a famous artist known as “Ferreira the Sign Painter”.

Detail of tile panel of the

Detail of tile panel of the “Four Seasons” in Refectory dining room at Cervejaria Trindade (the former Trinity Convent refectory), Lisboa, Portugal

The panel of tiles shown above represent the seasons of the year.  The opposite wall has panels representing the four elements.

Luncheon seafood platters at Cervejaria Trindade (the former Trinity Convent refectory), Lisboa, Portugal

Luncheon seafood platters at Cervejaria Trindade (the former Trinity Convent refectory), Lisboa, Portugal

Luncheon oyster platter at Cervejaria Trindade (the former Trinity Convent refectory), Lisboa, Portugal

Luncheon oyster platter at Cervejaria Trindade (the former Trinity Convent refectory), Lisboa, Portugal

Lisboa, Portugal

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) and Doca de Belem (yacht harbor), on Rio Tejo, Lisboa, Portugal

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) and Doca de Belem (yacht harbor), on Rio Tejo, Lisboa, Portugal

“Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal, with a population of 552,700… its urban area extends beyond the city’s administrative limits with a population of around 2.7 million people, being the 11th most populous urban area in the European Union… It is continental Europe’s westernmost capital city and its only one along the Atlantic coast. Lisbon lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus. The westernmost areas of its metro area is the westernmost point of Continental Europe.

“Lisbon is recognized as a global city because of its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education and tourism. It is one of the major economic centers on the continent, with a growing financial sector and one of the largest container ports on Europe’s Atlantic coast.

“Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Gremanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Nenriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural center of Portugal.” – Wikipedia

Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (The National Theatre D. Maria II) on Praça da Rossio, Lisboa, Portugal

Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (The National Theatre D. Maria II) on Praça da Rossio, Lisboa, Portugal

“Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (The National Theatre D. Maria II) is a theatre in Lisbon, Portugal. The historical theatre is one of the most prestigious Portuguese venues and is located in Praça da Rossio (Rossio Square), in the centre of the city.” – Wikipedia

Praça da Rossio viewed from R. da Condessa, Lisboa, Portugal

Praça da Rossio viewed from R. da Condessa, Lisboa, Portugal

Castelo de São Jorge overlooking Praça da Rossio, Lisboa, Portugal

Castelo de São Jorge overlooking Praça da Rossio, Lisboa, Portugal

Rua d. Augusta (main shopping street) overlooking Praça do Comércio and Statue of King José I, Lisboa, Portugal

Rua d. Augusta (main shopping street) overlooking Praça do Comércio and Statue of King José I, Lisboa, Portugal

Portuguese tile residences exterior, Lisboa, Portugal

Portuguese tile residences exterior, Lisboa, Portugal

Praça do Comércio y Ministerios, Lisboa, Portugal

Praça do Comércio y Ministerios, Lisboa, Portugal

Sidewalk cafes at Praça do Comércio, Lisboa, Portugal

Sidewalk cafes at Praça do Comércio, Lisboa, Portugal

Museu de Arqueologocia in the former Mosteiro dos Jerónimos  (Jerónimos Monastery) in the Belém neighborhood, Lisboa, Portugal

Museu de Arqueologocia in the former Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery) in the Belém neighborhood, Lisboa, Portugal

Contemporary architecture and shopping mall, Lisboa, Portugal

Contemporary architecture and shopping mall, Lisboa, Portugal

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), Belém neighborhood on Rio Tejo, Lisboa, Portugal

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), Belém neighborhood on Rio Tejo, Lisboa, Portugal

“Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) is a monument on the northern bank of Rio Tejo (River Tagus) estuary, in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal. Located along the river where ships departed to explore and trade with India and Orient, the monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery (or Age of Exploration) during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was conceived in 1939 by Portuguese architect José Ângelo Cottinelli Telmo, and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, as a temporary beacon during the Portuguese World Fair opening in June 1940.‪ The Monument to the Discoveries represented a romanticized idealization of the Portuguese exploration that was typical of the Estado Novo regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar… by June 1943, the original structure was demolished after the exposition as there was no concrete formalization of the project… Between November 1958 and January 1960, the new monument was constructed in cement and rose-tinted stone (from Leiria), and the statues sculpted from limestone excavated from the region of Sintra.‪ The new project was enlarged from the original 1940 model as part of the commemorations to celebrate the fifth centennial of the death of Infante Henry the Navigator.” – Wikipedia

“Wavy Gravy” paving stone design at Praça da Rossio, Lisboa, Portugal

Reales Alcázares de Sevilla (Royal Palace), Sevilla, Spain

Puerta del León, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Puerta del León, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Reales Alcázares de Sevilla (“Real Alcázar” for short, or The Alcazar of Seville) is a royal palace in Sevilla, Spain, that was originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. Hence, its resemblance to Alhambra de Granada (the Alhambra Palace) in Granada, Spain, which is renowned worldwide as an exemplar of Moorish architecture in the 13th Century. The palace is the main tourist attraction of Sevilla (Seville).

Puerta del León, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla is the main entrance to the Real Alcázar (Royal Palace). It takes its name from the 19th century tile-work inland above it, a crowned lion holding a cross in its claws and bearing a Gothic script.

Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) beside the Patio de la Monteria, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) beside the Patio de la Monteria, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Patio de las Doncellas, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Patio de las Doncellas, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

The palace is regarded as one of the most outstanding examples of mudejar architecture on the Iberian Peninsula and the most beautiful palace in Spain. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe and was recognized by UNESCO in 1987 as a World Heritage Site.

Details of Moorish architecture, Patio de las Doncellas, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Details of Moorish architecture, Patio de las Doncellas, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Patio de las Doncellas, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain. The name, meaning “The Courtyard of the Maidens”, refers to the legend that the Moors demanded 100 virgins every year as tribute from Christian kingdoms in Iberia.

Interior arches and Moorish architecture details, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Interior arches and Moorish architecture details, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Moorish architecture details, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Moorish architecture details, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Domed ceiling -- Moorish design, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Domed ceiling — Moorish design, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla (The “Baths of Lady María de Padilla”) are rainwater tanks beneath the Patio del Crucero. The tanks are named after María de Padilla, the mistress of Peter the Cruel.

Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

“All the palaces of Al Andalus had garden orchards with fruit trees, horticultural produce and a wide variety of fragrant flowers. The garden-orchards not only supplied food for the palace residents but had the aesthetic function of bringing pleasure. Water was ever present in the form of irrigation channels, runnels, jets, ponds and pools. The gardens adjoining the Alcázar of Seville have undergone many changes. In the 16th century during the reign of Philip III the Italian designer Vermondo Resta introduced the Italian Mannerist style.” — Wikipedia

The Alcázar Gardens and fountain, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

The Alcázar Gardens and fountain, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain

Historic Sevilla, Spain

Pabellón Mudéjar, Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares (The Museum of Arts and Traditions of Sevilla in the Mudéjar Pavilion) in Maria Luisa Park, in Plaza de America, Sevilla, Spain

Pabellón Mudéjar, Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares (The Museum of Arts and Traditions of Sevilla in the Mudéjar Pavilion) in Maria Luisa Park, in Plaza de America, Sevilla, Spain

Pabellón Mudéjar, Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares (The Museum of Arts and Traditions of Sevilla in the Mudéjar Pavilion) is located in Maria Luisa Park, in Plaza de America, Sevilla, Spain. “It served as an art pavilion, the Pabellón de Arte Antiguo, for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, when Aníbal González had the opportunity to design several additional permanent buildings for the plaza. The exterior is ceramic over brick, and has three doors with archivolts adorned with glazed tiles (azulejos).” – Wikipedia

Plaza de España (Spain Square), located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), Sevilla, Spain

Plaza de España (Spain Square), located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), Sevilla, Spain

Tower and tiled "Province Alcoves" at the Plaza de España (Spain Square), located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), Sevilla, Spain

Tower and tiled “Province Alcoves” at the Plaza de España (Spain Square), located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), Sevilla, Spain

Plaza de España (Spain Square), located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), Sevilla, Spain, was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and is a landmark example of the Renaissance Revival style in Spanish architecture.

One of several bridges representing the four ancient Kingdoms of Spain at the Plaza de España (Spain Square), located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), Sevilla, Spain

One of several bridges representing the four ancient Kingdoms of Spain at the Plaza de España (Spain Square), located in the Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), Sevilla, Spain

The Plaza de España has been used as a filming location for a number of movies, including scenes for the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia and was a location in the Star Wars movie series.

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the world. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Giralda (bell tower) of Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

Giralda (bell tower) of Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

“The Giralda is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville. Its height is 343 feet (105 m), and its square base 44 feet (13 m) long per side.  The Giralda is the former minaret of the mosque that stood on the site under Muslim rule, and was built to resemble the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. It was converted into a bell tower for the cathedral after the Reconquista,‪ although the topmost section dates from the Renaissance. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

“The tower is 104.1 meters (341 feet) in height and was one of the most important symbols in the medieval city.  Construction began in 1184 … the works were completed on March 10 of 1198, with the placement of four gilt bronze balls in the top section of the tower… In the 16th century the belfry was added.” – Wikipedia

Pierre Dancart’s masterpiece retablo (altarpiece) in Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

Pierre Dancart’s masterpiece retablo (altarpiece) in Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

One of the most noticeable features in the Cathedral is the vast Gothic retablo (devotional painting, more specifically, a painting, sculpture or combination of the two, rising behind the altar of a church) of carved scenes from the life of Christ. This altarpiece was the lifetime work of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart.

Cristobal Colon's (English -- Christopher Columbus) tomb in Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

Cristobal Colon’s (English — Christopher Columbus) tomb in Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), better known as Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain

After its completion in the early 16th century, the Seville Cathedral supplanted Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, as the largest cathedral in the world, a title the Byzantine church had held for nearly a thousand years. The cathedral is also the burial site of Christopher Colon (Columbus).

This balcony was the historical setting for the opera "Barber of Seville", Sevilla, Spain

This balcony was the historical setting for the opera “Barber of Seville”, Sevilla, Spain

Memorial column to Cristobal Colon (the Spanish name of the explorer known in English as Christopher Columbus), Sevilla, Spain

Memorial column to Cristobal Colon (the Spanish name of the explorer known in English as Christopher Columbus), Sevilla, Spain

Cadiz, Spain

"Casco Antiguo" (Old Town) on the far left and the newer city on the right, Cadiz, Spain

“Casco Antiguo” (Old Town) on the far left and the newer city on the right, Cadiz, Spain

The typically Andalusian city of Cádiz, on Spain’s southern Atlantic Coast — slightly north of the Straits of Gibraltar and the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea — is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in western Europe.  Legend claims Cadiz was founded by Hercules himself.  The city has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th Century.  The current population is around 125,000.

View of Catedral de Cadiz and Casco Antiguo (Old Town) from our ship's apartment balcony, Cadiz, Spain

View of Catedral de Cadiz and Casco Antiguo (Old Town) from our ship’s apartment balcony, Cadiz, Spain

Connected to the mainland by a narrow peninsula (now the location of the new developments of Cadiz) — with “Casco Antiguo” (Old Town) occupying the western end of the peninsula — the city has played host (not always willingly) to Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and, ultimately, Spaniards.  Even Sir Francis Drake stopped by for a few days in 1587, capturing six ships and destroying more than 30 others, delaying the sailing of the Spanish Armada against England by over a year.

Plaza de San Juan de Dios in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Plaza de San Juan de Dios in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Casco Antiguo (Old Town) has a typical historical city center layout within the former city walls of narrow streets and narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas.

Ayuntamiento (The Town Hall, reconstructed in 1799) in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Ayuntamiento (The Town Hall, reconstructed in 1799) in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

The Town Hall has been in its present location since the 16th Century, and after being altered on various occasions, it was reconstructed in 1799 with designs by two Spanish architects.  inside, remains of the medieval wall are conserved, as well as rooms with 19th Century decoration.

Cathedral de Cadiz in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Cathedral de Cadiz in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

The Cathedral, with its gold dome and Baroque facade, was begun in 1722, when Cadiz was at the height of its power.

Birthplace of composer Manuel de Falla in 1876  in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Birthplace of composer Manuel de Falla in 1876 in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

The house in the above photograph is where the famous Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla, was born on 23 November 1876; he passed away in 1926, leaving behind music beloved by his fellow countrymen and music lovers around the world.

Cadiz column in Plaza de Espana in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Cadiz column in Plaza de Espana in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Typical residential building in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Typical residential building in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spai

Residential portal decoration in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Residential portal decoration in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Iglesia Carmen mass in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Iglesia Carmen mass in Casco Antiguo (Old Town), Cadiz, Spain

Eat local — Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Snacks at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Snacks at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

We enjoyed a delicious tasting menu luncheon over the course of several hours at Restaurante RiFF (“GOURMEETINGPOINT”) in Valencia, Spain.  The Michelin one-star restaurant, run by Chef Bernd H. Knoller, is well known in the area for its modern interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine.  In addition to the luncheon Menu “Peque”, there are two more extensive tasting menus that are available for both lunch and dinner.

Pictured above — “SNACKS”:

arroz con algas — rice and seaweed cracker (on the black slate tile)

palomitas son especias — spiced popcorn (ground coriander, smoked paprika, cinnamon and pepper)

crujiente de garbanzos y semillas de hinojo — garbonzo (chick pea) cracker with caraway seeds

coca valenciana de sardina — cracker with tomato and local Valencian sardine

An additional snack at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

An additional snack at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Chef Knoller personally comes by each table to discuss the menus and to take the order for the meal.  To accompany the meal we also chose the wine pairings, predominantly local wines.

Pictured above — Additional “SNACKS”:  papada 100% ibérica con pan y especias —  Ibérico pork fat dipped in bread crumbs and spices

“Bloody Mary” — White tomato juice with vodka and spices

Dispensing

Dispensing “Bloody Marys” at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Tapas at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Tapas at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

TAPAS:  judias con salsa “Tonnato” — Frenched green beans with Tonnato (tuna) sauce

mojama casera — smoked red tuna with almond mayonaise and pickled red onion with balsamic vinegar

tzatziki — cucumber soup with yogurt, chopped cucumber, dill and roe

Homemade bread and Lagrima EVOO at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Homemade bread and Lagrima EVOO at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

The Lagrima extra virgin olive oil was so delicious we bought a bottle from the restaurant to take back to our kitchen, aboard the ship.  It will also serve as a reminder of a wonderful afternoon in Valencia (at RiFF).

Ensalada de verano con algas y ajo negro at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Ensalada de verano con algas y ajo negro at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Ensalada de verano con algas y ajo negro — summer salad with lettuce, sliced zucchini, seaweed, white shrimp crudo, shredded beet, black garlic sauce and shrimp foam

Wine pairing: Gelber Muskateller 2014 (Austria) — steely, dry, fruity and good acid

Arroz de rucula y queso manchego at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Arroz de rucula y queso manchego at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Arroz de rucula y queso manchego — risotto with Manchego cheese, rocket (arrugula) and roasted pine nuts

Wine pairing: Viognier 2013 (Bajo Arangon) — from Central Spain, has a floral nose, good acid and dry

Pescados del patín at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Pescados del patín at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Pescados del patín — Pan sauteed skate with cabbage and green pea puree

Wine pairing: St. Laurent 2013 (Palatinado – Alemania) — a dark cherry Pinot Noir

Melocoton asado con estragon y café at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Melocoton asado con estragon y café at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Melocoton asado con estragon y café — Roasted pear with tarragon sauce with crunchy coffee and ice cream

Wine pairing: 2009 Freixenet Malvasia — a sherry-like sparkling wine made in Spain from Malvasia grapes

Café at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

Café at Restaurante RiFF, Valencia, Spain

To accompany our café (espresso)  and tea, we were served:

merengue de cerveza negra con flor de sauco — Black beer meringue wafers with whipped cream

caramelos caseros de flor de azahar — caramels with orange flower water

In addition to being a delicious and wonderful exploration of local Spanish and Mediterranean cuisines, our luncheon probably qualifies as one of the best meal bargains in a Michelin one-star restaurant in Europe — 30 Euros, plus 3 Euros for bread (a traditional “cover” charge in European restaurants).  At current exchange rates, that’s about US$36.  The wine pairing was only an additional 16 Euros (US$17.60).

Address: Carrer del Comte d’Altea 18, 46005 Valencia, Spain.

Eat local — Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Exterior view of Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Exterior view of Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

The modernist Mercado Central in the center of Valencia, Spain’s historic district was designed by architects from Barcelona and built in 1914.  It is considered the oldest continuously operating food market in Europe.  Reputedly, with 400 interior stalls, it is the largest covered food market on the continent; the market spans 8,000 square meters (over 80,000 square feet).

Typical Spanish breakfast -- churros and hot chocolate -- at a cafe outside Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Typical Spanish breakfast — churros and hot chocolate — at a cafe outside Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

We headed over to the market before breakfast to arrive while there was a good selection of the fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood.  Before we went shopping, however, we stopped at an outdoor cafe outside the Mercado Central for a typical Spanish breakfast — churros and hot chocolate.  A great start for the day!

Mercado Central (Central Market) stained glass windows, Valencia, Spain

Mercado Central (Central Market) stained glass windows, Valencia, Spain

Mercado Central (Central Market) interior, center aisle, Valencia, Spain

Mercado Central (Central Market) interior, center aisle, Valencia, Spain

The market is a venerable feast for the senses with its fresh, high quality products, ranging from an abundance of seafood, meats, vegetables and fruit from the farm, including Valencia’s famous eponymous oranges.  There are also several coffee and pastry stalls among the numerous vendors.  The market is a favorite with professional chefs, home cooks and tourists, alike.

Mercado Central (Central Market) domed ceiling, Valencia, Spain

Mercado Central (Central Market) domed ceiling, Valencia, Spain

The market is architecturally beautiful and well laid out, making shopping a pleasure.  We went home with 3 reusable nylon shopping bags full of purchases — great ingredients for daily breakfasts (more healthy than churros!), and several lunches and dinners to be prepared in our kitchen on the ship.

Olives at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Olives at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Mushrooms at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Mushrooms at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Fresh fruit at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Fresh fruit at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Jamón ibérico at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Jamón ibérico at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Mid-morning snack -- Jamón pizzetta -- at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Mid-morning snack — Jamón pizzetta — at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Cookies at Forn Pastisseria at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Cookies at Forn Pastisseria at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Gamba Rayada & Rojo (shrimp & red shrimp) at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Gamba Rayada & Rojo (shrimp & red shrimp) at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Cigalas (scampi) at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Cigalas (scampi) at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Red Mullet at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain

Red Mullet at Mercado Central (Central Market), Valencia, Spain