November 1, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain, Traditions, Travel, Travels in Spain

As we walked Sevilla’s labyrinth of streets, my friend snapped pictures of the yellow and white buildings, the cathedral and the lush, green patios. Meanwhile, my camera remained nestled all lonely in my purse. It was my third trip to the city and I wasn’t as inspired by the usual sites.

But then, suddenly, I spotted a humble statue of the Virgin Mary wedged up above into the corner of one of Sevilla’s quaint little buildings. I grabbed my camera and captured a quick shot. Walking another 100 feet, I reached for my camera again – above me yet another Mary, but this one colorful, made of tiles, and flanked by two lanterns. Every few blocks or so, I would spot her thoughtfully displayed on the yellow-trimmed facades. With each one I grew more bewildered and hypnotized by her sorrowful gaze and how she was almost always showered in radiant colors of blue, gold and red. I was becoming engulfed in my own little scavenger hunt, scanning the city walls to see where I might find her next.

I suppose during my several visits to Sevilla it had never occurred to me the excess of Marys around the city. Living in Spain has gotten me quite used to the abundance of Catholic images, street names and, well, people names. (The names “Inmaculada” or “Concepción” no longer perplex me – that said, I don’t think they are on my short list of future baby names.) While I’m not a particularly religious person (I’ll go with the very cliched “I’m spiritual”), I find myself fascinated by these symbols, such as Mary, as much for their beauty as for what they say about the culture. And who wouldn’t be curious about the image of this stunning lady, plastered throughout one of Spain’s most famous cities?

So then, you may ask – why so many Marys, Sevilla? Well, it turns out that the city is an especially Catholic one, not to mention that it happens to be famed for hosting Spain’s most famous processions during Holy Week. When this religious week arrives, people flock to Sevilla to witness float-like structures (often of the Virgin Mary) hauled solemnly across the city. Onlookers watch in admiration, clamoring to get near it, as though it were the Pope himself. Needless to say, Mary is quite a famous lady in this country, but even more so in Sevilla.


Beyond just the Marys, Sevilla seems to represent everything that one might imagine Spain to be – hot and sticky summers, yellow and white buildings with flower-filled window boxes, soulful flamenco wherever you turn, and a passion for bullfighting. It’s a city to get lost in (whether you like it or not, really) given its jumble of twisting and turning narrow streets, in which you’ll find yourself dodging cars like a torero dodges bulls. I’d already fallen in love with the city for these reasons, however – this time my fascination was a bit more Mary-related.

As our two days in Sevilla came to a close, it became abundantly clear to me that my search was not over. So the morning before we headed home, I rose early with my no-longer-lonely camera in hand, and set out to go Mary hunting on my own. The air was crisp and the city still seemed to be yawning and stretching as I got lost in its quiet streets with my eyes glued to the building walls. Coming upon my new favorite gal, a big grin would spread across my face (a possible fist pump may have been involved a few times too) and I would start clicking away, drawing strange looks from the few people that passed by. I couldn’t help it, though, there was just something about Mary.

*To see all the pictures of Mary that your heart could ever desire, and more, visit the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page.

September 4, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Traditions, Travels in Spain

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As if Spain isn’t already great enough, sharing it with friends makes it just that much better. This last week I was able to share my love of Spain with my dear friend Robin. We tried to mix it up a little so that her itinerary wasn’t a carbon copy of Kim’s, but of course even though there was some overlap, I couldn’t complain. I am officially an expert on giving the walking tour of Madrid, and I will gladly do it many, many more times.

Her trip began with a return to the last day of the running of the bulls here in San Sebastian de los Reyes. While exciting, I must say this time around was a bit more intense than my previous experiences. Several people were trampled during the run, and then in the actual Plaza de Toros it was a similar outcome. I learned quickly that bulls and people together are only fun to watch when nobody gets hurt. I think I will pass on the actual bull fights….

During Robin’s trip we made the journey down to Sevilla for a night. It had been over a year for me since I had last visited the South, so I was super excited since it is my favorite part of Spain. Sevilla was as beautiful as ever and boy did we ever luck out with the weather! Usually during this time of year Sevilla is scorching hot, but lucky for us it was relatively mild with a refreshing breeze. In fact we’ve had impeccable weather during Robin’s entire trip.

After our trip to Sevilla we took Robin out to Avila, a city I visited earlier this year and fell in love with. We really wanted to share the charming city surrounded by its famous walls, along with a fabulous restaurant that I had discovered via one of my English students. Robin loved it, so our mission was accomplished!

Upon our return to Madrid we took Robin to a Flamenco show, as well as dinner at one of our favorite restaurants – La Favorita. The restaurant is owned by the opera school here in Madrid and the waiters are actually students who do various operatic performances throughout the evening. For Robin this was especially close to her heart since she sings opera.

In addition to Flamenco and our night of opera, we also had the chance to have dinner at our friends Carolina and Jose’s house. Then last night we took Robin to the same restaurant we took Kim – a restaurant that is nestled in the caves of a local town – each table having its own little cave. A very special way to sum up a fabulous trip.

So now it’s back to reality for me – well almost. I have one last excursion before I really return to work. This weekend Jacob and I will be heading out to Ibiza for a friend’s birthday. After that, I will officially end my hiatus from work and begin my new job here in Madrid. I hope to keep the weekends filled with new adventures though as there are so many more to be had here! More to come very soon….