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Navigating through Seville by map, this square was marked as 'Plaza de Encarnacion' and I was expecting some suitably grand old religious building, not this vast, suspended amorphous lattice of steel. The builders are still finishing it off. It boasts an (appropriately) underground archaeological museum and there's going to be a restaurant on top. The platform underneath looks a little bare and Stalinist. Its official name is the 'metropol parasol'. The Sevillanos have already dubbed it 'the mushrooms'.

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This ridiculous, beautiful and mostly empty confection was constructed for an exhibition in 1929 and I've been wanting to visit it ever since I saw it in the film 'Lawrence of Arabia'. Back in 1995, when my archaeology mates and I were living unemployed in Bristol, we watched that film on VHS far more times than was healthy.
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NO8DO

19/11/11 18:19
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Seville's motto, which is to be seen everywhere. Apart from Amsterdam with its 'XXX', and maybe Rome with its 'SPQR', I haven't seen many such successful brandings of a city as this. The amalgam that is London doesn't even have a single identity.

NO8DO is a rebus. The 8 is not really an 8 but a skein of wool, a 'madeja' in Spanish. Say the whole thing "no madeja do" and it sounds like "No me ha dejado", which means "It [Seville] has not abandoned me".

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Seville's cathedral is one of the largest in Europe. Parts of the 12th century mosque that previously stood on the site were recycled and incorporated, including the large minaret which is now the cathedral's iconic tower (the 'Giralda'), and the mosque's courtyard with its inlaid geometric water channels. Although I knew all this it was still a little surprising to see Islamic and Christian gothic pressed up against each other. It felt like being given a tour of Canterbury cathedral and then being shown the older, Hindu part of the building. Culturally, subconsciously, I am the product of an inward-looking Christian bubble.

The interior is vast. I expected vast but was still surprised by the size of the solid silver altar, a team of men crawling all over it with polishing cloths. Christopher Columbus is there too. He travelled almost as much after his death as he did in life, his bones being transferred from Spain to Dominica, then Cuba, then back to Spain again, spending a while in a convent in Seville and then ending up in this heroic, 20th century pre-Raphaelite-looking monument in the cathedral. I quite fancy something like this for myself, please.

In contrast to Britain's Occupy protesters, who are being evicted by St Paul's cathedral, some young unemployed Spanish school teachers had set up a permanent protest inside their cathedral, seemingly with full consent.
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This room entertained me. It is hung with 16th century tapestries commemorating the conquest of Tunis in 1535, an early-modern D-Day involving the Spanish, Genoese and Portuguese. My education of that period was basically confined to northern Europe and I'd never heard of this event. It makes the Spanish attempt to invade England 23 years later seem less foolhardy than I assumed. One of the tapestries is a huge map depicting the fleets of ships surging forth from Italy and Spain towards the African coast, but upside down, so Africa is at the top. Another attempts to depict various stages of the battle in some technical detail. You have canal boats, earthworks with carriage-less cannon, soldiers hiding in fox holes with canon balls embedded in the soil around them, rotting bodies, drowned sailors and buildings exploding. It's all quite perplexing.

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