Carmona – historic town

Chicas, you will be proud of me – with ‘The Spaniard’ away in Madrid on some pretext or other, I determined to have a very cultural weekend in his absence.  It started on Friday afternoon when my lovely friend Miguel kindly took me to visit Carmona.

All the streets in Carmona are beautiful

Carmona is a small and ancient town about 30km outside of Seville and I highly recommend a visit there.  It’s one of those places that is so full of history, beautiful buildings and local colour that you want to photograph absolutely everything you see (which I pretty much did!).  Like Seville, you can see evidence of all of the stages of Carmona’s history, with its power battles and changes of rulers and culture, in the impressive buildings that remain.  The main city gate, dating from the 9thcentury, has remnants of wave after wave of settlers: Eastern Mediterranean, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors and finally Christians.

Ancient city gate 'Puerta de Sevilla'

The Alcazar (fortress palace) which majestically dominates the highest point in Carmona, was originally built by Muslim rulers in the 11th century, but later taken over and redeveloped by Christian King Pedro ‘The Cruel’ (he sounds an interesting type…).   This magnificent building is now a very swishy Parador (state owned hotel), where it is almost impossible to get a booking as it’s permanently full.

The palace fortress (Alcazar) now a hotel

However, they do let ordinary folk like you and me come in to have a drink on the terrace balcony, with fabulous views over the vega – which Miguel and I took full advantage of.  Miguel had just had his family lunch (it was 6pm for Pedro’s sake!), but I was ready for a tapa too.  He chuckled indulgently when I said I would have a beer, implying that it was a bit early – our Spanish friends really are on a different time schedule to us Brits!

Enjoying the view from the Alcazar balcony

The historical power changes are just as visible in the religious buildings.  At the church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion, for example, a 15thcentury Gothic building full of the gold and silver treasures and ornamentation of a Catholic church, the orange tree patio of a mosque remains, where Muslims would perform their ablutions before praying.

Muslim courtyard and Christian bell tower

Within this courtyard is the last remaining evidence of the Visigoth temple which existed before the mosque, in what I am reliably told, is one of their calendars.  I know you’ll be imagining some colourful pictures of Visigothic children at play, with days of the month neatly set out underneath, but no, this was a white pillar with some messy carving on it.

Visigoth Calendar

OK, on Saturday I just lounged around in a lazy manner, but on Sunday the cultural theme continued when I went to the Book Fair (Feria del Libro) with my new friend and published poet, Lola Crespo (not to be confused with the British Lola implicated in my first blog post – in fact I’m going to change her pseudonym to Krissie, to avoid confusion…).  Spanish Lola (her real name, she is a respectable person who needs no protection!) was doing a book signing at one of the stands.

Lola signing her book 'Gramatica Malva'

Afterwards, she took me to a remarkable performance by a poet called Fernando Mansilla. Even though I couldn’t understand all of it, the rhythm and music of the words and his very deep gravelly voice, were amazing.  He did some of the poems to the accompaniment of music.

The guy on the double bass (see below) was just back-up, but I thought he was fit and you deserved a treat after the history lesson…

Hasta pronto chicas! x

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Speaking the Lingo – some handy hints

The Spaniard is very strict about making me speak and write in Spanish – almost all of the time.  In fact, we just had our first row about it.  Well, to be fair, I had a row with him about translating something I’d written into Spanish for me.  I went off on one when he had the temerity to suggest I should try it first and he would correct it – instead of reacting to my rant, he graciously capitulated and did it for me.  Frankly, I think this was a clever ploy on his part to move me from righteous indignation and fury, to shame-faced sorry person in seconds – and it worked!

The Spanish language has fewer words than English, (have a look at the relative thickness of the Spanish and English sections of an English/Spanish dictionary – Exhibit A).

Exhibit A

I guess this is because the English language stems from many different sources – all those people who conquered our shores gave our language a lot of sources and nuances, whereas Spanish is mainly Latin, with a bit of Arabic thrown in from when the Moors occupied the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages (any word beginning with ‘al’ comes into this category).

Having fewer words means one word is often used for many different meanings, almost to a ludicrous extent… Take the word ‘pasar’ – even in my poxy little Oxford Minidictionary (the only one that would fit into my Ryanair baggage weight allowance) – it lists its meanings as: pass, put, strain, spend, swallow, show, tolerate, give, happen, come, go (come and go!).  I guess it’s all in the context, but this makes it quite difficult.  For example, my friend Miguel introduced me to his wife’s aunt, Tia Esperanza, last week, who kindly said I was ‘very blonde and very fine’.  Unsure what she meant by ‘fine’ (fina), I checked out the OM when I got home, to find she could have meant: slender, shrewd, keen, polite, refined or dry (pretty sure this last only applies to sherry!). I still have no idea which she meant…

The Trusty OM

It’s also difficult for them trying to translate into English – the Spaniard told me I was really hitting him the other day.  Bewildered (I am not abusing the poor man, I assure you), I looked up ‘hitting’ in the OM – it seems to have an implication of ‘affecting’ someone emotionally, as well as punching them.  Hope it’s a positive effect – still not sure….

One thing that makes Spanish easier for us Brits however, is that every word we have that ends in ‘tion’ or ‘sion’ is the same in Spanish as it is in English (e.g. education = educacion, television = television).  This means, you start out already knowing 100s of Spanish words – just put the emphasis on the end of the word and lisp a bit when there’s a c involved (e.g. educacion pron. educathion).

On the other hand, there are occasionally what are known in the language teaching trade as ‘false friends’ – that is a word that sounds exactly the same, but has a different meaning… I discovered one of them in a rather embarrassing manner at the pharmacists, when asking for something for my constipation (I know, too much info, but bear with me).  I couldn’t understand why she kept offering me Lemsips, until, on consulting the trusty OM, I discovered constipacion is having a cold – bunged up nose… The word for constipated, in case you need to know, is ‘estrenido’ – you can remember that, sounds like ‘straining’….

Back soon with more startling insights.

Hasta la vista x

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