Sunday, 28 June 2015

Keep cool and carry on 2015

Have you heard the one about the Northern European tourists who decided to come to Seville in July and August, proceeded to march around the streets in the baking 40 degree afternoon heat before passing out in a sweaty, sodden mess? Doesn´t sound much like a jolly jape, does it? That´s because it´s not. Seville in summer is to be treated with the uttermost respect and is not for the faint hearted (I mean literally, if you have a heart complaint, best come in March or April).

So if you want to stay out of Accident and Emergency and spare a few Euros for an already cash-strapped Spanish Health Service, follow my annually updated guide to surviving summer in Seville.

1. Become a night owl

Please, please, please put any silly idea of doing anything, be it everyday chores or touristy stuff, out of your pretty heads between the hours of 12pm and 8pm. I know that´s practically a whole day, but that´s just how things roll in these parts. If you head out on to the normally bustling Alameda during these no-man´s hours, you´ll be greeted by only the hardiest of cerveza drinkers (insert alcoholics here) and maybe some passing tumbleweed.

Anyone who has any sense (and air conditioning) will conserve their energies until the streets have started to cool down, which can be as late as 9 or 10pm. Long siestas are of course obligatory, which will leave you fresh and ready to enjoy the hopefully cooler summer nights.

The powers that be in the city understand this, and lay on a whole season of cultural events to entertain the folk who for what ever reason haven't abandoned ship and headed off to the beach. The picturesque gardens of the Cartuja monastery play host to 'Nocturama', a series of live concerts featuring up and coming pop, indie and electronic groups from around the country. Starting at 9pm every night and tickets costing from 7 Euros, it's like a mini festival every Wednesday and Thursday in August until the beginning of September.
http://nocturamasevilla.es/

If you want something a little more civilised then check out the 'Noches en los Jardines del Real Alcázar´ which are 75 concerts over 75 nights. The music covers many musical genres from the city´s eponymous Flamenco to Baroque, classical, world music and jazz. The setting is enchanting, and is a chance to visit the stunning gardens while basking in the melee of exotic aromas such as jasmine and and lady of the night, all again at a very reasonable 5 Euros or 6 Euros if bought on Internet.
http://www.actidea.es/nochesalcazar2015/

The Centro de Iniciativas Culturales de la Universidad de Sevilla (CICUS) also get in on the act with their summer programme of music and open air cinema, which has a cooler, hipster vibe.
http://cicus.us.es/21-grados-en-el-patio-del-cicus/

Plus more open air film is available in the enormous courtyard of the atmospheric Diputatión buildings, but make sure to go on Sunday evenings when films are shown in original version or face putting up  with some dubbing barbarity.
http://www.asomatealpatio.es/

2. River life

In a Seville summer the River Guadalquivir becomes a place where those that haven´t made it to the beach can fool themselves into forgetting that they live in what is affectionately known as the 'frying pan of the world'. Those of you who have followed my blog from the start or who live on Spanish shores will be familiar with the term ´Pijo´, which is roughly translated as preppy or sloany, and from what I can tell a lot of the bars by the river tend to be a natural habitat for this variant of the local population. But don´t let this deter you, there are some stunning spots where you can sip on your ice cold beer or overpriced Mojito, while staring across at the beautifully lit Giralda or Golden Tower. Head to any of the bars on Calle Betis in Triana, or if you fancy a bit tropical greenery with your cocktail, Puerta de Cuba seems to hit the spot.
http://www.puertodecubasevilla.com/en

However, if sloansville isn´t your bag, Espacio Pescao Crudo further along the river on the Paseo de la O lays on live music, themed food nights, and not a Ralph Lauren shirt in sight.
Pescao Crudo

3. Raise the Roof

I know they say heat rises, but in Seville in summer life happens on ´azoteas´ which is the Spanish for roof terraces and any hotel worth its salt will have one, as will most apartment blocks and even municipal buildings.

If you´re a tourist you´re in luck, because hopefully if you´ve been prudent enough to check into a hotel with a pool, you´ll be able to lounge around under a sombrilla, while drinking something wet and ice cold. I´ve heard of some locals booking into a hotel if they´re stuck in Seville for the weekend, just so they can join in the poolside activities, because for some reason, elsewhere in Seville, public open air pools are decidedly thin on the ground. But if you don´t happen to be a patron of the hotel, you can still drink in their terrace bars, and the city´s slightly pretentious jewel in the crown is the decidedly hip, EME hotel, whose roof terrace is within spitting distance of the cathedral. You pay for the privilege in the bar prices, but the EME isn´t the only hotel with a roof terrace in town, you could also try Casa Romana, Terraza Puerta Catedral or Espacio Azahar if you want something a little more low key.


Many of the city´s cultural activities happen on multitude of roof terraces, such as the annual Redetejas series, which organise live music events, cinema screenings and theatre throughout the summer months on private roof terraces. And the Microteatro guys have got in on the act also offering cultural activities from the comfort of their terrace.

4. The Moors weren't stupid you know

Before I came to Seville I had no idea how ingrained in the fabric of the city the Moorish influence was. It was after all part of the Al Andaluz kingdom for 500 years, and the city's architecture remains the most noticable reminder of this time.

The Moors were big on water features, through which they created their own little gardens of paradise, and the gardens of the Royal Alcazar Palace are testament to this. You can spend hours mooching around from one shady corner to the next, reading a book or imagining the city's pre-christian history. If it's too hot to visit during the day, you can check out the night time visits which also include a guided tour, with theatrical enactments representing historical events that happened within the palace walls. http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/

Or, while we're on the topic of water and Moorish times, you could head to the Arab Baths. I know this sounds slightly counter intuitive, why on a dehydration inducing, boiling hot day, would you choose to hang out in the some steam baths? But seriously, it's an option to consider. Firstly because it's one of the most relaxing places I've ever visited - think padding in hushed tones before immersing yourself in a bath of scented water - and more importantly inside you can forget about the hellish heat that awaits you upon leaving. And as a 2015 update the baths have opened a roof top terrace complete with infinity pool and juice bar. http://www.airedesevilla.com/

5. Hang out with the locals

Sometimes though on a hot summer night, rather than being entertained on a terrace, you just want to find a cool breeze and quench your thirst with your cold beverage of choice. Current local hot spot is the fairly recently opened Mercado de Feria bar with outside tables at the back of Feria Fish Market, where you can get a tapa and a drink for 3 Euros and from Thursday-Sunday be entertained by some low key, live music. Or if you really want to mingle with the locals ´La Pastora´ has a huge garden for big groups and specialises in local favourites such as fried fish or cold tapas like ensaladilla or patatas aliñadas. Just bear in mind that prices are based on weight, so if you have a large tapa, you get a large bill.

Bar La Pastora. C/ Muñoz León, open 8.30pm - 1.30am

So there you have it. With this, you will survive the heat, remain hydrated or should I say lubricated and be culturally enriched. Result!

Monday, 22 June 2015

´Best breakfast in town´ title challenger

It´s been a while now that La Cacharreria has been the undisputed champion of breakfasts in Seville. Open any hipster guide and there it pops, tempting you in with its delicious homemade jams and luscious cakes. But that´s the only snag, unless you happen to nab one of the two tiny tables outside, there´s no choice but to cosy up within its bare-bricked interior. All well and good on a damp Seville winter´s morning, but right now before 11am is the only time you can sit outside until night falls without melting into a sticky heap, so breakfast ´al fresco´ becomes a premium.

Last week a new contender stepped into the ring, with a culinary pedigree that got me salivating at the mere thought. La Cuba in Plaza San Marco, is the new venture from the team behind ConTenedor, but don´t go expecting the same high-end elaborate cuisine as their self proclaimed slow-food original offers. That´s not to say the food isn´t good, it is just La Cuba isn´t equipped with a kitchen as you would know it. In fact it would appear at first glance that inside it isn´t equipped with anything at all. That´s because the main focus of La Cuba, apart from the food, is the terraza outside nestling at the foot of San Marcos Church. In fact it´s a table outside or nothing, because step inside the bar itself (to go to the loo for example) and you find yourself amidst chopping boards, juicers and all sorts of culinary capers.

´old´ cheese, sun dried tomatoes, avocado, rocket on toast
Breakfast errs on the side of fancy. Granted you´ve got a whole load of toasted options, but instead of the usual tomato and olive oil staple, there are wildly exotic possibilities like ghee and homemade jam, hummus (exotic in these parts), roasted peppers and aubergines with anchovies, and sun dried tomatoes, rocket, manchegoesque cheese with avocado.

And that´s without even getting to the ´bols´ (which are breakfast bowls filled with a whole bewildering, smorgus board of stuff). It was after I had consumed my avocado, cheese and rocket toast extravaganza that I noticed the non-breaded goods options, so I can´t speak from first hand experience. But the menu does include intriguing combinations such as organic goats cheese yogurt with homemade muesli or possibly the most mind blowing breakfast combination of  them all; avocado mousse with cocoa, agave syrup, cayenne pepper, muesli and fruit.

It is easy to get a little bit over-awed by breakfast at la Cuba, particularly when choice in most other places is limited  to ¨tomate triterado o en rodajas¨ (tomatoes mushed or sliced). The menu is extensive and slightly bonkers, though does try to cater to all dietary limitations providing a key for any possible allergy or intolerance issues.

Apart from breakfast they´ve got a fresh, lunch and dinner menu with light, inventive salads, hot and cold soups (I tried their deliciously wholesome warm, pumpkin soup ladened with roasted vegetables and croutons), salmon tartar, venison tataki and cheese/ham/ pate platters.

It´s only been open a week, so time will tell whether Seville will go wild over ghee and jam on toast or not, but I for one am already planning my next trip back to try some avocado mousse, agave syrup and muesli. I may never look back.


La Cuba, Plaza San Marco
Breakfast served 9am-1pm daily except August when it closes at the weekend.


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Estraperlo - Organic Treasure

It´s easy to bandy about the term 'hidden gem' and without it this blog would have no content. But in all honesty sometimes the places I write about are gems and sometimes they are hidden, but rarely are they the two words together. And indeed a hidden gem if you´re running a business, has its drawbacks. It´s all very well for the ´in the know´ to give their loyal custom, but there comes a time when a few hoi palloi wouldn´t go a miss.

This perhaps is the case with the beautifully discreet, organic store Estraperlo. ´Estraperlo´ means contraband in Spanish and this could explain why it is so hidden away from passing trade. But what it sells is very much above the law, in fact more than that, its products are positively good for you. Estraperlo sells organic food such as fruit and vegetables, grains, quality olive oils, artisan wines and beers and more exotic fayre such as fresh seaweed and ingredients for Asian cooking.

Located on the shady side of the Alameda close to the restaurant Al Ajibe, it´s not a place you just stumble across, as beyond the gate there´s a secluded courtyard and then the shop within. I say shop, but in reality it´s much more than that. At the back there´s a working kitchen from which a daily menu of tapas are cooked to be taken away or as I did this week, eaten at a giant wooden, shared table. As well as that there are regular cooking workshops that seek to push the boundaries beyond the usual suspects on offer. Coming up there are workshops on Thai cooking, making pestos, tartars and ceviches, plus a monthly ´Murder Mystery Dinner´ that I definitely hope to be writing about in a future post.

I assumed, due its location in Boho Alameda that it would be on the pricey side, but both the organic products and the tapas menu are eminently affordable and utterly delicious. So far I´ve only bought tomatoes and lettuce, but for the first time every in my life I was brought close to tears by the bursting flavour of a humble tomato. And the tapas were simple, tasty and vegetarian friendly.

So if you want to find the definition of hidden gem in Seville, at Estraperlo you´ve got it!

Estraperlo, Alameda de Hercules
http://www.estraperlosevilla.com


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Wanna stay cool? Say no to Nylon

Top heat beating tip for the day; eschew nylon at all costs. It´s obvious really, 40 degree heat plus synthetic fibres = pongy armpits and less friends. But step foot in any shop on the high street and you will be greeted by an array of man made fabrics that no amount of anti-perspirant can temper.

The solution dear friends is good old-fashioned cotton and if you want to go one step further towards fresh smelling loveliness, go organic. Verde Moscu, which has just transferred from happening Calle Regina to Calle Ortiz de Zuñiga in the ultra hip Soho Benita district, specialise in natural fabrics that are organic and/or locally designed and produced.

Run by a quartet of sociologists they impart their social vision into their business. At Verde Moscu there are no owners or workers, their clothing is fair trade and as much as possible they minimise the distance travelled by each item of clothing.

I love the simple yet stylish cotton summer dresses and T-shirts. Plus if you´re cut from vegan cloth there is animal cruelty free footwear to fit your principles, while any leather stocked is naturally treated rather than using chemicals.

The new shop near independent staples Isadora and La Importadora, is light and breezy, rather like their clothing ranges. Watch out for their uber trendy, vertical wall garden stocking over 40 luscious indoor plants, further imbuing the atmosphere with natural, plant goodness.

Verde Moscu, Calle Ortiz de Zuñiga 5
https://www.facebook.com/VerdeMoscu
http://verdemoscu.eu/es

Monday, 1 June 2015

It´s ok to juice alone

The other day I came across a very unusual sight: a twenty-something, male of the Sevillano variety sitting alone, sipping Moroccan tea while reading a book. I know to any seasoned traveller, this is something one does all the time. And on moving to another country, I can´t tell you the amount of time I´ve spent in my own company, hoping that someone might momentarily consider me intriguing and mysterious rather than a slightly tragic, lone wolf.

But for the indigenous population of Seville being alone is something to avoid at all costs. Much better to be surrounded by a bevvy of family or your mates of ´toda la vida´. And if you do happen to be alone for a moment, well of course there´s the solace of a smart phone to take the sting out of the temporary solitary confinement.

But this dude was choosing his own company. The signs were there. The tea pot, the book, the concentrated brow, even a passing friend couldn´t break his dedication to ´him time´. And the location was carefully chosen; the newly opened juice cafe ´Al Baraka´ run by a Moroccan/Syrian team. Positioned in the buzzing little square at the top of Calle Regina, it´s the perfect place for a non-booze fuelled hangout, with friends, but also without them. As well as the usual gamut of juicing options, there are also north African/Middle Eastern standards like hummus, stuffed vine leaves and falafel, plus hookah pipes and Moroccan tea.

I love ´Al Baraka´ because they provide a refreshing alternative to the all too ubiquitous glass of beer, the owners are sweet, plus the location is one of my favourites in Seville. All forms of life unfold around you; nuns marching past in starched habits, children screaming at the top of their voices, shop keepers going about their business, dogs sniffing each others bottoms, confused tourists clutching parchment thin, ragged maps and hipsters on route to la Cacharreria. And it is all there to be savoured with a cool glass of freshly made juice of your choice.

Al Baraka, Calle Regina 1
Opening hours 9am - 1am

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Reclaim the Roof

It´s every Brit´s dream to live somewhere in the sun with a roof terrace or a balcony. My dearest and bestest friend in London, who shall be known in this blog as ´the Windy Piper´, loves nothing more than wending away hours on his tastefully landscaped and expensively furnished West London roof top, despite temperatures that would leave most Sevillanos reaching for their winter coat.

Cut to the skylines of Seville where roof top terraces are a plenty but rather than being cherished havens for lounging and taking in starlit nights, they are on the whole desolate, sun bleached spaces, strewn with washing lines and the odd wobbly plastic chair. I include my own roof top with in this category. I´ve had big plans from the start of creating an urban garden, with a hint of Morocco. But it´s gone little further than a half thought idea and remains to this day tired, abandoned by good taste and barely frequented.


This lowly state of the highest spots in the building hasn´t gone unnoticed and Seville cultural trailblazers ´La Matraka´ have taken matters into their hands in the form of ´Redetejas´, an initiative to reclaim the usage of private ´azoteas´ (roof top terraces) for cultural purposes. They´ve created a global network in which ordinary folk can organise cultural events, be it live music, theatre, comedy etc, using as a setting their own roof top terrace. Redetejas provides the framework, but its up to the individual organisers to decide on the content and format.

Last Saturday saw the launch of Redetejas Vol 7 in Seville, kicking off the 2015 season of mini azotea events. After parting with just 3 Euros and picking up my wrist band and map that afternoon, I pitched up at what looked like an office building on Calle Cuna within spitting distance of Plaza Salvador. A mini bar selling the ubiquitous botellines of Cruz Campo was present, along with some fake grass and plastic chairs. And at just after 8pm the first cultural encounter kicked off with ´Mansilla y los Espias´ taking to what I can only loosely call a stage.


With these kind of events, the calibre of the acts can be a bit hit or miss and I must admit when I saw the drawn features and intense stare of who I could only imagine was Mansilla, a saxophonist who wouldn´t have looked out of place in a semana santa band and the beaming, wild locked, double bassist, I wasn´t holding out much hope. But contrary to my misconceptions, they were mesmerising. Front man Fernando Mansilla, performed in dry, desolate spoken word, piling on layer upon layer of existential angst, coupled with biting commentary on the hapless state of modern society. The forty or minutes or so breezed by in a second, all against the dramatic cityscapes of church towers and the cathedral.


Next stop was a ten minutes stroll to Calle Jerónimo Hernandez, where after entering the front door we found ourselves winding our way up some stairs and onto a boho, plant bedecked private roof top. This time it was jazz courtesy of Miguelo Delgado and Anita Franklin who started off with some of their own compositions and filled the rest of the time with some soul classics. And the final stop off was the roof top bar of de-rigeur, hang out ´Micro Teatro´ which wasn´t so much a private space, but cosy and intimate none-the-less. Performing there were forces of nature ´La Maravilla Gipsy Trio´ who are currently riding the quest of the Balkan gypsy musical wave. More than just a music trio, they are are a full blown, entertainment act, complete with well thought out jokes, audience participation and a small boy called Martin playing a plastic accordian. I must make special mention of percussionist Rafael Rivera´s disturbingly mobile eye brows and facial plasticity, which had me transfixed while disgusted at the same time.


The Redetejas season goes on for the whole summer, not just in Seville but all over Spain and they´ve even made it as far as Mexico. As well as attendees and artists, the organisers are always on the look out for people who are interested in coming on board and organising an event on their own azotea. Or if you just want to go along and check out one of their roof top routes, go straight to the website where you have to register to get more details and then it´s just a matter of enjoying a night of intimate, roof top magic.



For more invitation go to http://redetejas.org/

Saturday, 23 May 2015

When in doubt; Ensaladilla

I´m easily confused and more so the older I get. When a waiter reads out a long list of possibilities I can guarantee the only one that sticks is ensaladilla. So more often than not, if I find myself in a state of utter brain freeze, ensaladilla is what I order. And somehow, it´s always a winner as with a cold beer and accompanied by some picos (little breadsticks), I come away feeling full and happy.

Ensaladilla is best described as a kind of cold Spanish comfort food. Generally you´ll find some roughly mashed potatoes, lashings of mayo, boiled carrots, the odd pea, tuna and if you´re really pushing the boat out, a few pink prawns. Haute cuisine it´s not, but a decent beer accompaniament, it is.

So on a balmy May evening, looking for an outside eating alternative to the always heaving terrace of Las Coloniales, I found myself in the shady enclave of Plaza Leandro. Under the heaving bows of an ancient tree were an adhoc collection of metal tables belonging to ´Las Cinco Farolas´ and with just one left, it was ours for the taking.

The owner, who it turns out is Russian, reeled off a long list of tapas and in an instant I felt my the haze descend and before I knew it the words ´ensaladilla´ were coming out of my mouth. The deed was done and I expected nothing more than the usual heap of potato/ tuna mush. But to my surprise this was actually the best ensaladilla I´d eaten in Seville. The clue came from the Russian influence; in many places ensaladilla is also known as Russian Salad, the original reportedly having been created by chef Lucien Olivier in 1860 for his restaurant ´The Hermitage´, a well known restaurant of its day in Moscow. The modern equivalent is now eaten all over the Spanish speaking world and almost certainly bears no resemblance to the Russian original.

But the offering from ´Las Cinco Farolas´ was in a class of its own, the difference being more hard boiled egg than potato giving it a chunky texture rather than the usual formless mush. Personally speaking it was a pure delight, so much so that today I´ve returned with the specific intention of ordering ensaladilla rather than just doing it out of sheer panic. There are also other decent tapas on offer, ranging from the classic spinach and chickpeas to Russian sausages with a dash of proper mustard. And all under the benevolent, leafy shade that beats a Cruz Campo sombrilla anytime.

Las Cinco Farolas, Plaza Leandro 1
Las Cinco Farolas Facebook page


Friday, 8 May 2015

48 hours in Seville

It´s Friday night, you´ve dumped your bag at your hotel or AirBnB apartment of choice and now what? Your guidebook, which incidentally hasn´t been updated in about 10 years, shows a bewildering array of the best tapas bars in town or must see Flamenco shows. But really, do you want to be rubbing shoulders with every other Tom, Dick or Hans in town? If you´re anything like me, you´d rather merge seamlessly into the local crowd, or at least not stick out like a fold-out map wielding, slightly sun burned, sore thumb. So with this in mind, here´s my capsule 48 hours itinerary which will guarantee you the best weekend of your life.

Friday
Dessert at Brunilda
8.30pm: There´s one time when being a ´Guiri´ or foreigner is something of an advantage in Seville and that is in the instance of feeling peckish at a sensible hour. Rather than holding out until the locals finally decide to chow down, why not head off early to one of the city´s swathe of affordable yet envelope pushing eateries such as Eslava, ConTenedor, La Azotea, La Brunilda or Perro Viejo, where your only chance of getting a table is doing it on northern European time.


10pm: Ok, tasty food done, now it´s time for some entertainment. Alongside Jerez, Seville is a mecca to Flamenco enthusiasts. I´m no expert, but given a choice, I´ll always rather see some flamenco in a peña, which is basically a social club for Flamenco aficionados. Compared to a few years ago, the peñas are fewer on the ground, as many have been closed down after noise complaints from  neighbours, but one that continues to shine brightly is The Niño de la Alfalfa on Calle Castellar which has shows on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm. Get there a bit early as if there´s a known artist performing it can fill up pretty sharply and leave you straining to see at the back.

Roof top bar the Hotel Inglaterra
12pm: If you´re a flamenco nut, you might want to stay put all night at the Flamenco Peña where the real fun starts after the show, otherwise why not take yourself off to one of the city´s many roof top bars dotting the city. Personally, I´m not a fan of the EME which is constantly rolled out as the Azotea (roof top) bar of choice, all style over content in my books, but you could try the neighbouring Doña Maria Hotel, Hotel Inglaterra, Hotel Fontecruz or the Terraza Puerta Catedral, which while petite and bijoux boasts weekend concerts and DJs. And for close proximity to the Alameda try Hotel Espacio Azahar, or Roof, the terrace bar at the Casa Romana Hotel. Be warned, drinks tend to be on the pricey side.

Saturday
Ok, you´re on holiday, it´s Spain, so there´s no rush to get up at the crack of dawn. Weekends in Seville are about moving slowly between various eating and drinking opportunities, breakfast being the first and my own personal favourite.

10ish: La Cacharreria on Calle Regina is undoubtedly THE breakfast place in town. Tiny, bare bricked, with beaming, yoga practising staff, this features in all the fashionable go-to guides for Seville due to its uniquely delicious brunch style offerings, ranging from the home made seeded bread and jam, the health busting juices, coffee that doesn´t take the roof of your mouth off, home made cakes to die for and a giant bowl of fruit, yogurt and muesli that will keep you going until dinner. It is small and outside space is minimal, but even if you´re propped up at the bar, it´s still worth it.

After breakfast, you´re perfectly positioned for some shopping on Seville´s of the moment street Calle Regina recently rebranded Regina Market. If you´re a foodie you can stock up on Spanish delicassies at Botellas y Latas where ex-Chef Carlos is happy to give you cooking tips, fashionistas can head to Verde Moscu and La Seta Coqueta, art lovers to Un Gato en Bicicleta and if you´ve forgotten your favourite organic beauty products, try Bien y Bio.

At the top of Calle Regina, you´ll find yourself in Plaza Encarnación, once a non-descript part of town, but now host to Seville´s controversial, modern architecture talking point The Setas. Setas mean wild mushrooms in Spanish and from afar as they span either side of the plaza, they do resemble some sort of mushroom/waffle hybrid. The Setas hold 3 ´experiences´ within their structure. Underneath you can find the Antiquarium housing the ancient Roman remains unearthed when building began, on the ground level there´s the traditional food market and then crane your neck upwards and you´ll see the undulating walkway that boast some of the best views of the city. It costs a very affordable 3 Euros to go up and in true Seville style, you can stop for a beer at one of the terrace bars at the top.

1pm: If you want to get a true picture of Seville weekend life then head to Plaza Salvador anytime beteen 12.30 and 3pm. The fairly inoquous square, once only known for its historic 17th century church, is transformed into decibel bursting, hive of cerveza quaffing activity, as Sevillanos gather en masse to talk extremely loudly, show off and eat fried fish.  The only drinks available are sold from the narrow, spit and sawdust bars at one end, so be prepared for jostling and beefing up your bar presence in order to get served.

1.30pm: If you´re new to Seville you probably won´t last more than an hour in Plaza Salvador, in which case it´s chance to take advantage once again of ´Guiri´ eating hours and head to Ovejas Negras near the Cathedral, which starts serving lunch from 1.30pm. Juanma and his gang head up a cool, new breed of fusion tapas eateries proliferating the city, injecting both style and taste at affordable prices. Get there early before hordes arrive.


4pm SIESTA - your body will give you no other option but to indulge in this very sensible southern European afternoon ritual.

Prawn capirote take centre place at Duo Tapas
8pm: On a Saturday night, it´s got to be the Alameda de Hercules to the north of the historic part of the city. Once only frequented by drug users, pimps and prostitutes, it´s now the Boho, going out hotspot in Seville. Start the evening by getting your bearings and go for a stroll around the tree lined avenue where there are a whole host of bars to hang out in and people watch. Some of the best tapas bars can be found at the Calle Calatrava end, with my favourite being Duo Tapas, both for its reliably delicious dishes and the buzzing canteen atmosphere inside and perfectly positioned terraza outside.

I love the desserts at Duo Tapas, but you could always work off your straining waistlines by strolling over to hip, artisan, ice cream hangout Freskura and indulge in one of their handmade italian gelatis. If you happen to be here in June or July don´t miss their fresh fig flavour. Who knew ice cream could be delicious and seasonal?

Midnight: From the witching hour onwards the Alameda comes into its own and is awash with drinkers, yoof strumming flamenco guitars, dogs hanging out and sniffing each other´s behinds and lots of cerveza fuelled excitement. Just opposite Freskura is Cafe Sonoro, which I´ve been reliably informed has the best selection of quality spirits in town and tends to attract a loyal over 30 crowd. If you want to see and be seen then primely positioned Cafe Central or Corral de Esquivel can´t be beaten, just don´t go expecting cutting edge music or the like: in Seville socialising is just that, talking, more talking, drinking beer and then some more talking. But if you find yourself in need of a nightclub then stumble a few paces along nearby Calle Relator and you´ll find Munich, the nearest club in the vicinity.

Sunday:
classic breakfast: tostada con tomate y aceite
Any time until 2pm: If you can face the Alameda again by day, then for me this is my favourite place for a leisurely, traditional breakfast. Piola and Cafe Hercules offer the tostada and coffee classic to well after midday. And there´s no where I´d rather be on a sun-soaked Sunday morning, then sitting outside a café on the Alameda.

And then my dear friends, it´s up to you to get all touristy. For the picture postcard Seville experience you could get lost wandering around the narrow streets of barrio Santa Cruz, once the jewish quarter, or cross over to working class district Triana, walking along Calle Betis or Paseo de la O to see the weekend artisan market . Then of course there´s the Cathedral and the Giralda Tower, the Alcázar Palace and gardens and the Torre del Oro or Golden Tower. And that´s without even mentioning Plaza de España and Parque Maria Luisa. So if you haven´t exhausted yourself from all that eating and drinking, knock yourself out on a final dose of history, before crawling once more onto the airport bus and your return flight back to a your comparatively humdrum normality. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

No words for Feria, just pictures

For once Feria has left me wanting more. After a Tuesday night dancing non stop to jazzy sevillanas and an afternoon hopping from caseta to caseta, I left on a high rather than a rebujito soaked frazzled mess.

So here are my pictorial highlights


La Portada
I´m sexy and I know it
Travel in style
ubiquitous street shot
chewing the fat
sweet

It´s all about the rebujito darling
You work it girl
The Queen of the Caseta    
volantastic  
taking colour co-ordination to a whole new level      

how else do you avoid getting your traje de gitana ruined

Friday, 17 April 2015

Living la vida loca en Calle Llerena

One of my first memories of living in Spain was back in 1990s Madrid overhearing an old granny call her grandson ´coño´. Without going into the finer details of the meaning, it is perhaps the worst possible word one can use in the English language, making coarse reference to a lady´s nether regions. But here in Spain it´s practically meaningless. Yesterday, I had another ´abuela/ coño´ moment, this time with 92 year-old Anastasia, the self professed ´door lady´ of traditional food store ´Romero Miguel´ on Calle Llerena, a tiny street in the depths of Pio XII in the Macarena district where time seems to have stood still.

Anastasia, apart from swearing like a trouper, ran the shop for most of her working life and despite her remarkable years, is as sharp as a tack. Sparkling like a little barrio diamond, she shows no signs of physical aches and pains, due mostly to consuming red wine with every meal (apart from breakfast I assume). Her shop with her son and daughter-in-law at the helm, is like stepping back in time, with row after row of jamon hanging heavily from hooks, products immaculately displayed in neat rows and 2 litre bottles of virgin extra olive oil priced temptingly at 7 Euros, a fraction of what you´ll find in the city centre.

You see head out of the centre and Seville is a different world and Calle Llerena is an enchanting oasis amongst the comparative modernity. Most of the street´s shops are multi-generational operations. Take the fishmongers with Manuel Maldonado behind the counter. His family has had the business for over 50 years and he´s the fourth generation to run it. I bought a gigantic ´pedazo´of tuna steak that tasted and looked nothing like the anaemic equivalent you´d find in any supermarket and of course at a fraction of the cost.

Then there´s Juana, purveyor of snails, whose market stall has been manned by her family for 70 years. The whole snail thing is something of an acquired taste, but right now it´s prime snail season. You buy them alive and wriggling, throw them alive into boiling water, which is when their final demise arises. So not for the tender hearted or the squeamish, counting me out sadly.

There is some new blood in Llerena though. Sisters Maria Jose and aptly named Macarena have just taken over the street´s fruit and vegetable stall. Until a week ago it had been lovingly cared for by its owner for almost 50 years. Competition is rife in the world of fruit and veg and in the Pio XII area there are more fruterias than demand according to Maria Jose. Mostly because for anyone wanting to start a business, it´s the one requiring least start-up investment.

And then there´s the street itself. Breakfast time it´s at its characterful best. The local bar/cafe is obviously the hot spot for residents of a certain age, who spend hours savouring their coffee and tostada while gossipping with their friends 'de toda la vida'. Here being elderly isn't a one way ticket to isolation. Life is still there to be enjoyed and celebrated. One day, I'd like to be one of those old ladies, perfectly coiffured, small dog on lap, sun glasses at the ready, moving from cafe con leche, to cervezita, siesta and then an afternoon promenade with friends. Actually thinking about it, that´s pretty much how I live now.