An excess of dead flying ants

There’s a lot to be said for queuing but there’s even more to be said about having a holiday that consists of more than standing in lines in the blazing sun. Today we had a lot of one and saw too much of the other. Not that we were in any queues. Anyone who regularly reads my blog will know that I do not do queues!

The beauty of going to places that not many people have ever heard of is that queues are unlikely. Or they consist of about five people, four of whom are lost.

And so it was this morning when we visited the Hospital de la Caridad.

Mirinda in the church

We strolled in and wandered around without any form of queue whatsoever. And the place was excellent. Lots of lovely Murillo artworks (Mirinda claimed we’ve now had enough art for the whole trip) and religious iconography scattered around with bits of Moorish influence to underline the changes in style.

The founder of the hospital was a chap called Don Miguel Manara. There are two stories about his early life. The official Catholic version has him being a good saintly chap who, when his wife died was so devastated that he pledged his riches and life to serving the poor by carrying them to a hospital he founded.

That story is all well and good, however, the real story is somewhat different.

Don Miguel Manara was a bit of a wild boy and he was the inspiration for Byron’s Don Juan. He decided, having seen an opera at the age of 14 to go out and make love to a woman, any woman and he found that he liked it. He spent the next 20 odd years carousing around the world having sex, fighting duels, killing people indiscriminately, basically having a damn good time and to hell with the consequences.

Then, one night, returning from a particularly entertaining orgy, Don Miguel happened to be coming down the Coffin Road (the road via which the charitable people would carry the deceased destitute who couldn’t afford funerals) when suddenly he was stunned by a vision. He was confronted by a group carrying a coffin within which his body resided.

No doubt he turned whiter than he probably already was and vowed, there and then, not only to straighten out his crooked ways but to also build and maintain a hospital for the poor. And so began the Hospital de la Caridad.

I reckon the second version is much better and far more likely to be true. The reason for the sanitised version is, I think, because when it came time for the canonisation of Don Miguel, the brothers of the local chapter decided to cleanse his past a bit before attributing any miracles to him. As we all know the Vatican doesn’t mind the pontiff being extremely hypocritical but saints are another matter entirely.

There’s not a lot to see of the hospital given it’s actually still a hospital and I don’t think the old destitute patients really want people looking at them being sick in their beds. Still, what there is to see is well worth it.

The church is full of some amazing paintings. The Murillo’s are superb especially the two huge ones that have recently been restored. Instead of being high up on the wall and very difficult to see, the restored originals are presently completed and sitting at floor level in a special room while copies are in situ in the church. As Denise pointed out, it means we can see them really close up, sort of like the Painted Ceiling in Greenwich which we had to climb the scaffold to see late last year.

Detail of Moses striking the rock to make water by Murillo, late 17th century

Sadly I didn’t manage to get a photo of the comedy camel at the other end of the photo above though I think Mirinda did so that may get included in some later post.

One more art thing…Murillo’s depictions of children always seem to be full of life and joy (I’m ignoring the one of a kid with ringworm I saw in the church) just as most people want children to be. The child on the horse and the young girl holding the jug above are perfect examples.

I hadn’t heard of Murillo before our last visit to Seville but I’ve grown to be quite fond of his work and rather enjoyed this renewal of our acquaintance.

We were tempted to go to the bullring after the hospital but were in desperate need of refreshment so, instead, we headed down to the riverside and a small but convenient kiosk. I noticed it was just passed beer o’clock so I had a delightfully cold one while Mirinda had coffee and Denise had tea.

The tea was a bit of a battle to get, almost as bad as the one she had this morning after her morning coffee was too strong. We’ve tried to tell waiting staff she likes it weak but they never understand. They even fail to understand the Spanish for weak coffee. Tea is a different kettle of problems. They aren’t really particularly knowledgeable when it comes to leafy stuff. Still, she managed to get what she wanted, eventually.

After our refreshments and rather than go to the bullring (after I’d almost convinced them that the building behind us was a theatre and not the bullring) we decided to go on a cruise up the river which is always delightful.

And so we did. We even managed to run into Polly while we were there.

On the boat with Polly

Polly told us that she’d left Dennis in the queue for the bullring because she figured he’d be there for the full hour the cruise took and she might as well enjoy the breeze in her hair rather than the heat from the cobbles on her feet.

I asked her how they’d managed yesterday. She said that after the five hour queue at the Alcazar, they then switched across the plaza to queue at the cathedral for a further three hours. She said she managed to see a lot of people. When I asked where they’d eaten she said they didn’t. The queue for the restaurant was too long and by the time they reached the door, the place closed for the night.

In the meanwhilst, the boat slowly chugged up then down the river, the voices from the speakers telling us about the bridges across it. Last time we were in Seville we took the boat cruise and it’s nice to see that some things just never change. It was fortunate we’d forgotten all about the bridges because it was important to relearn. Especially the fact that one of the bridges is in the Guinness Book of Records. We still don’t know why.

Not the record bridge

Back on land, we headed for the Rio Grande restaurant for some much needed sustenance. We ordered more food than we needed then sat back and ate it. The starters were fine. Denise and Mirinda’s meals were fine. My main meal was very, very long in arriving…though after arrival it was actually really nice.

Mr Grumpy from Madrid, our waiter, had forgotten to add my salmon dish to the overall order. He told us it would take two minutes. While everyone scoffed at this extraordinary fast turnaround, inside I was hoping it would take a little bit longer than that in order to cook properly. 

It took at least 15 minutes and was cooked perfectly.

We left the restaurant after about three and a half hours and headed for the Triana Bridge (the one designed by Monsieur Eiffel) in order to cross over to the bullring. This took longer than expected because the bridge was not where it was supposed to be.

While it was quite a distance, it did give me a splendid opportunity to admire the vast quantity of dead flying ants littering everywhere. There were quite a few live ones in the terrace restaurant but along the path it was like a full scale, genocidal massacre. It was almost as if some evil power had left the decimated Ant Air Force along the banks of the river as a warning to any other foolish invading force. Wasps perhaps or stick insects.

I cannot find anything that can explain this density of slaughter except that flying ant swarms tend to increase in magnitude during the hotter months and this year had been a rather warm one. Whatever the reason, there were a lot of little dead bodies all over the riverside footpath.

And of course, by the time we reached the bullring, there was a long queue (we didn’t see Dennis so we figured he’d gone to find another, longer queue) so we decided an ice cream was a much better option. So we strolled (very slowly) up to the little area where we went to see the Flamenco last time and Denise bought us all ice cream cones. They certainly beat standing in a queue, particularly given the heat of the day.

By the time we’d finished slurping our delights, it was time to return to the hotel for our siesta.

Well worth the wait

After this obligatory siesta we headed out at 8:30pm for a small tapas dinner. I was given the choice so I selected Peko Peko, a Spanish/Peruvian fusion tapas place not far from the hotel. And I’m so glad I did.

Mind you, things did not look particularly promising when Mirinda and Denise ordered cocktails only to be told that they couldn’t make any because of staff issues. Mirinda looked like she was going to have a jolly good argument with them but the cute as a button waitress managed to remain unscathed and we set about eating some delicious food.

And I managed to have some paella. Most of the time you can only get it for two but at Peko Peko you can have a small tapas version for one. I do love a paella. And I certainly loved this one. It went perfectly with my Iberian ham. And Peruvian beer.

As most people who know me know, I always like to try a country’s beer when eating their food so it only seemed natural to have a bottle (or two) of Cusquena, a delightfully crisp golden lager. Perfect on a hot night.

While at Peko Peko Mirinda and Denise had a grand old time studying a couple sitting directly behind me. They were both stuck to their phones. She was even playing a game at one stage. They barely put them down to eat. We wondered if they were texting each other or, I posited, Facetiming each other across the table.

There were many theories as to their story but, basically, they appeared to prefer the company of their phones to each other. Given they were both married (perhaps to each other) it seems a little bit sad. Someone should tell them that human contact is nothing to be afraid of. But not me because I don’t really care.

After dinner we went for a meandering, getting-lost kind of walk which managed to take us through some sort of space/time warp thing enabling us to cross the city without actually doing it. It was most strange. Mirinda took complete credit for this impossible feat of navigation. We didn’t argue, it was just very, very weird.

Denise trying to lift her usual bucket of alcohol
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