Saturday, 28 June 2014

Keep cool and carry on 2014

It´s been a funny old year weather wise in Seville, literally blowing hot and cold from one week to the next.  But fear not heat lovers, one thing you can guarantee with Seville is that one way or another the infernal summer will be here with no intention of departing until the end of September. So peeps, if you´re planning on being here in July and August, brace yourselves and get ready to sweat.


So here are my top 5 tips on staying cool this summer. It´s a public service announcement really, because if you´re new to the city and ignore my advice, you´re on a one way trip to heat exhaustion and hospital.

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 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 Thursday and Friday from the end of June until the beginning of September.
http://www.nocturamasevilla.net/

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 basquing in the melee of exotic aromas such as jasmine and and lady of the night, all again at a very reasonable 6 Euros.http://www.actidea.es/nochesalcazar2014/

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/

More open air theatre 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 the natural breeding 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

Or seek out the very un-pijo riverside joint, Espacio Pescao Crudo further along the river on the Paseo de la O, where there is live music, themed food nights, and not a Ralph Lauren shirt in sight.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Espacio-Pescao-Crudo/1489159701297780?fref=ts


3. Raise the Roof
I know they say heat rises, but in Seville in summer, life happens on ´Azoteas´ which are the roof terraces. Any hotel worth its salt has one, most apartment buildings do too, as do 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 jewel in the crown seems to be 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 on Calle Trajano, if you want something a little more low key.
http://www.emecatedralhotel.com/
http://www.hotelcasaromana.com/es/?

Many of the city´s cultural activities happen on multitude of roof terraces, such as the annual Entretejas series, which organise live music events, cinema screenings and poetry recitals throughout the summer months. http://entretejas.org/ Or if you just want to have a drink on a roof, head to La Trompeta Verde, which overlooks the much missed Corralones en Calle Castellar, and mixes a Terraza with a more Perro Flauta/ bohemian vibe. https://www.facebook.com/trompeta.verde


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, because firstly it's one of the most relaxing places I've ever visited, where everyone pads around talking in hushed tones while immersing themselves in baths of scented water, and more importantly inside you can forget about the hellish heat that awaits you on leaving. 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 beveridge of choice. Despite living in Seville for almost 4 years, I´ve only recently ventured into La Pastora, a 50 year old summer terrace bar, nestling against the historic city walls, that provides a welcome respite against the sometimes oppressively hot nights. This is a tourist free zone and there´s ample room in the garden for big groups. The food is 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!












Sunday, 22 June 2014

Ice Ice baby

Sevillanos are experts in thirst quenching and heat-beating activities. Most prominent on the list is of course steadily imbibing small glasses of Cruz Campo beer, but also during the summer months ice cream eating makes a daring bid for poll position.

Ok, so we´re not in Italy, and while there are some city centre establishments that peddle the lesser quality products such as Carte D´or, there are also a growing number of artisan ice cream joints selling a plethora of flavours to suit the most demanding of palates.

So as a celebration of the first official day of summer (although we actually hit 40 degree mark on the thermometers as far back as early May), here are my top 4 ice cream shops in Seville.

1. Bolas Helados Artes-Sanos

If you´re a Spanish speaker you might notice the play on words here, and their ice creams really do feel like a work of art. They are the kind of heladería (ice cream shop) that vary their flavours according to the season, which for me is a mark of a quality establishment. Right now, it´s fig season and so much to my fig loving delight, they´ve got a delicious fresh fig ice cream, which along with the rest of the flavours is made daily, and is free from any artificial flavours or colourings. They´re smack bang in the tourist area of Santa Cruz, which means they´re kind and patient with tourist types, and there´s a little seating area outside for you to perch your heat exhausted behind and lick away before everything melts.


2. Freskura
Another quality purveyor of iced goods is Italian Heladería Freskura in the Alameda. Slightly hidden away in a cobbled corner, Freskura is another artisan ice cream maker, and if you peer out the back you can see the kitchen where all the action takes place, confirming their promise that their ice creams are made daily and on site. As well as the usual ice cream suspects, they´ve got a whole load of Italian cakes and desserts on offer, so if you´ve already had your first ice cream of the day, you could satisfy your sweet tooth with a homemade Tiramisu or slice of chocolate tart.

3. Heladería Rayas
A Seville institution, Rayas for many years cornered the market in quality ice creams. Conveniently close to the main shopping streets and Plaza Encarnación, its ice creams are luxuriously creamy and mix tradition with innovation. So if you´re right in the heart of the city centre, and find yourself wilting under the heat, then they´re definitely the place to head to.

4. Heladería Villar, Avenida de la Cruz Roja 74, La Macarena
As regular readers will know,  I reside in the working class district La Macarena. So faithful as I am to barrio life, it´s only fitting that my local Heladería should feature. If you want to see real Seville life unfold in front of your eyes, then get yourself one of their delicious ice creams (my current favourite combo is their black cherry with dark chocolate), bagsy yourself a table outside and just people watch. It couldn´t be further from the cool boho vibe of the Alameda or touristy Santa Cruz, but if you wanna see grannies in their finery, teens in the throws of first love and toddlers high on sugar, then this is the place for you.

Bolas Helados arte-sano, Calle Puerta de la Carne 5, Barrio Santa Cruz,
http://www.bolasheladosartesanos.com/

Freskura, Calle Vulcano 4, Alameda
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Freskura/22269175752

Heladería Rayas, Calle Almirante Apodaca, near Plaza Encarnación
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Helader%C3%ADa-Rayas/150914944957009 

Heladería Villar, Avenida de la Cruz Roja 74, La Macarena
http://www.heladeriavillar.es/ 


Monday, 2 June 2014

Jammin´ Triana style

Summer´s here, where horribly hot days are followed by deliciously, balmy evenings. TVs are firmly switched off as every night is an opportunity to loiter around on a street corner, feeling the warm breeze caress bare arms. This is why we live in Seville. These blissful evenings quickly erase the memories of the unbearable daytime heat, like to a mother, a baby´s giggle blank out the excruciating pain of childbirth. 

And for a city that´s landlocked and an hour away from a hint of cooling, sea air, the river gives you a tantalising taste of being by water. Triana is where most of the nocturnal riverside action takes place, but somehow, what with being an outrageous extra 15 minutes by bike, our paths very rarely cross.

But yesterday evening, I headed across the river, with the promise of some musicians jamming somewhere, with that somewhere turning out to be slap bang on the river on a ´come as you find me´ terrace belonging to the Espacio Pescao en Crudo (Raw Fish Space). The jam element took a while to turn into full audience participatory flow, with initially a hardcore group of musicians playing reggae, bossanova and latin jazz, but before long there was some rap thrown into the equation, with musicians of all permutations soon coming out of the woodwork.

The vibe was Seville summer at its best, low key, impromptu, with just enough Cruz Campo, Tinto de Verano and canines to keep things entertaining. It was the first jam session organised at what is normally a space for Triana residents to do workshops, yoga etc, but would without a doubt make a welcome addition to the social diary for those endless, hots nights of summer.

Espacio Pescao en Crudo, Paseo de la O 26, Triana
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Espacio-Pescao-Crudo/1489159701297780


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Let's do brunch darling

This week is Feria. If you happen to head down to the dusty enclave of Los Remedios you´ll be greeted by a scene that has barely changed in one hundred years. Row after row of wooden marquees, bedecked with an assortment of brightly coloured adornments, jostle for prominence as traditional Sevillanas blare out, only occasionally taking a breath for some rumba. Stunningly beautiful and unnaturally svelte women of all ages, poured like melted honey into tightly fitting flamenca dresses, stand nonchalantly, sipping teeny tiny plastic glasses of refreshing but hangover inducing rebujito. Throughout the day until the sun goes down, horses parade along the dirty streets, mounted by traditionally attired men, often with a flamenco dressed female accessory balanced precariously behind. The imagery is surreal, yet manages to conjure up all the stereotypes of Spain in one full sweep.

It´s easy to imagine that Sevilla as a city has stood still in time. From the architecture, to the fashion, to the die hard following of centuries old traditions, it knows how to stick to tried and tested formulas, in an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' kind of mentality. But as I've often written about here in this blog, if you look closely enough there are incremental changes a foot. They may happen a wee while after other cities in Spain, but they do happen none the less. 

Take for example the concept of brunch. With most places serving tostada and its regular bed fellow, jamon until what would be an Anglo Saxon lunch time, it's not surpising that brunches have been slow to hit the streets of Sevilla. But in the recently opened 'Kok tu Cocina' on Calle San Luis, they are seeking to buck the trend. The main focus of Kok is cooking workshops and tasting sessions (this month you can learn how to make cupcakes, cookies and gazpacho), but every Sunday and public holiday, they open their doors to serve brunch to the more adventurous of the local population.

As culinary classes are the focus, the centre piece of Kok is the huge open plan kitchen, where you can see the cooking action unfold. A table laden with freshly made and ready to eat produce sits enticingly nearby. Brunch consists of 3 courses, the first being freshly squeezed orange juice or whatever is the juice of the day, plus tea or coffee. The second, a huge bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt and muesli or a selection of artisan breads, accompanied by cold meats, cheese and homemade jams. The final course is essentially the egg course, a choice between Eggs Benedict (poached eggs on top of crispy bacon slathered in a Hollandaise sauce) or scrambled eggs and bacon.

Kok had barely been open a month the day I stopped by for brunch, and there was a definite buzz in the air, despite it being a relaxed Sunday morning. You know that something is hitting high on the trendometer by its sizeable hipster quota, and I definitely saw a fair share of skinny jeans and impressive facial hair on show. So it may be worthwhile calling in advance to make sure you get a table or  face rugby tackle an achingly hip Alameda local to the ground.

Price wise, it's a big leap up from the classic tostada and jamon costing between 9 and 15 Euros depending on the courses you partake in. But if you want to ride the nu wave of culinary delights that is slowly hitting Sevilla, then dig deep into your pockets and join the brunch revolution.

Kok Tu Cocina, Calle San Luis 46, Sevilla 609 23 25 98
Brunch from 10am Sunday mornings and public holidays
www.koktucocina.com
https://www.facebook.com/koktucocina




Monday, 5 May 2014

Operación Feria

Last year I learned a valuable Feria lesson. I´d decided to go Guiri cool and bought myself a secondhand red wine coloured Feria dress, with no fancy bells or whistles and slung on a pair of black high heeled boots. It all sounded fine in principle, after all, I´m not from round here, there´s no point trying to outglam the effortless yet expensive gitana style that permeates the feria ground.

So off I trotted feeling quite pleased with myself, that is until I got to the Feria and felt like the poor relation. Around me was a sea of immaculately decked out Sevillanas, with hip hugging outfits that on occasion dazzled the senses. And here I was all dark and dreary. So, in that moment I made a pact to zhuzh myself up before I set foot again onto the hallowed feria turf in anything resembling a traje de flamenca.

Someone who had a reputation for being an expert in zhuzhing was Viki or LaVique as she´s known in the world of fashion design and theatrical costumes in which she operates. Working out of her workshop in Planeta Propio on Calle San Luis, where her designs can be bought off the peg, Vicki had worked wonders on a friend´s dress last year, but somehow I left things until far too late, the pre-feria madness had already kicked off and Viki was up to her eyeballs in lunares.


So she directed me round the corner to her friend fellow seamstress Marilene who shares a workspace called La Fibra near Plaza Pelicano, where as a rule she designs and makes men´s one off´s. Marilene seemed unfazed by my request to sew some life into my dowdy number, and quickly made some suggestions of how to up the zhuzh quota. I just needed to purchase the extra material myself and we´d be business.

So off I hopped once more, dress in bike basket, to Arias Almacenes, just off Plaza Encarnación, purveyor of dress fabrics for all occasions, but with just a few weeks to before Feria, the aisles were rammed with spotty materials of every hue. I must admit to feeling rather overwhelmed by the dizzying array of materials, and almost found myself shelling out a small fortune, until I found the perfect turquoise colour to compliment the dark burgundy of my dress. And what with neither my dress nor the material I wanted to buy being anything like current Feria dress fashion, the two meters I needed cost me less than 10 Euros.

And so I left the dress and fabric in Marilene´s capable hands, with the prospect of an extra volante (frilly bit at the bottom) and some cap sleeves to greet me on my return two weeks later. And as you can see from the photo, she came up trumps.

Tomorrow is the big day, so with my matching complimentos (accessories) all sorted, it´s just a matter of immersing myself in Youtube clips to see if I can remember anything beyond La primera (the first) of the Sevillanas.

Lavique, Planeta Propio, Calle San Luis 58, Sevilla. Tel: 619548139
www.lavique.blogspot.com

Marilene d'Sastre, Lafibra, Calle Juzgado 17, Sevilla. Tel 673607137
www.marilenedsastre.wordpress.com

Arias Almacenes, Calle Puente y Pellon 9
http://www.almacenesarias.com/

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sing while you´re winning

Back left
I was always a rather confident child, never happier than while performing in a Shirley Temple fashion, dressed in an assortment of frilly numbers to a captive audience of assorted parents and family members. But somewhere around adolescence, everything changed. I didn´t quite turn into Kevin the teenager, but suddenly I was ravaged by self-conscious angst that brought my days of carefree dancing to an end, as a veil of shame and embarrassment overtook me, which has lasted pretty much into adult life.

But not long ago I had a bit of a realisation: life is too flaming short to worry about embarrassing oneself in front of a crowd, so rather by accident, this weekend has turned into the first tentative steps of becoming shameless once again and unleashing my inner all singing, dancing queen self.

I must admit this wasn't exactly my intention as I entered Merchants Irish pub, who were hosting an 'Open Mic' night on Friday. Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Macarena neighbour and fellow Guiri Renny Jackson who while not performing himself, was tirelessly encouraging members of the public to come up on stage and share their talents. I must point out at this juncture, it was not remotely within the realms of possibility that I might head up on stage, as in my mind, I have no talent to share with the world at large. But after it was clear that this also applied to some other of the brave revellers who undeterred took to the stage, and after one almighty shove by my confidence coach and friend Esther, I found myself terrified and blinking into the lights and with no idea of what the heck was going to come out of my mouth.

But luckily something did, New York, New York as it happens, and boy did I milk my moment in the spot light. You see, if you're becoming shameless, you must not care if you do it badly. I forgot the words, la'd la'd my way through a fair amount of the song, carried on when it was clearly time to stop, and I loved it. It felt liberating.

So much so the following night, I was back on stage at Karaoke Mikro just off the Ronda de Capuchino, a dark vortex of a bar dedicated to loosing all sense of time and space and a home to hen parties, lone wolves and frustrated crooners. This time I blasted out 'Don't you want me baby' by the Human League, possibly a little too well for my perdiendo la verguenza (losing my embarrassment) purpose, not enough bum notes or awkward silences, but anyway, I guess I shouldn't hide my shining light under a bushel every time.

So, I've got the bug. I still care far too much for my own good what people might think if I embarrass myself, but I am already planning my next performance at the Open Mic, which may well involve an emotional recital of 'Where be the blackbird to?' by the Wurzels. Miss it at your peril.

Merchants Malt House, C/ Canalejas, 12, 41001 Sevilla Tel: 954 21 45 00
http://www.merchantpub.com/

For information on the ´Get the Folk Off´ Open Mic Nights contact Renny Jackson
https://www.facebook.com/rennyjacksonmusic?fref=ts

Kareoke Mikro, Calle Madre Dolores Marquez (opposite petrol station on the Ronda de Capuchinos)
http://karaoke-mikro.blogspot.com.es/

Friday, 25 April 2014

Room for more?

Change is a foot in Seville. A city that is by its nature inward looking, is taking baby steps towards broadening its horizons and as a result tastes are expanding. It still largely happens under the umbrella of tapas style eating, but there´s a refreshing breeze of  international cuisine washing over many an eating establishment.

One of the more recent arrivals is ´The Room Art and Cuisine´ on Cuesta Rosario, in Alfalfa. Large windows and a canteen feel will feel very familiar to anyone hailing from cities like London, Berlin and New York. It feels modern and edgy and has an innate buzz, as diners, many of which look of the guiri ilk, tuck into tapas from across the globe accompanied by large glasses of wine.

Evolving out of the team behind seminal Triana haunt Macuro, The Room draws its inspiration from many of the dishes created by chef/ artist José Ballestar Tovar for his award winning book Macuro Tapas. The menu is definitely international, bringing together most of the continents of the world, with varying levels of success depending on the dishes you choose. As a proclaimed chickpea lover, I adored the double dipping hummus offering, and the tuna burger laced with Japanese pickles and wasabi left me in a state of near ecstasy. My dining companion that evening, the well travelled Andrew Cartmell was equally impressed with his burger, proclaiming it to be the best he'd ever eaten.

I sense that The Room is in the process of finding its feet and its place in the world. Its team have big plans and boundless enthusiasm for its future, with proper cocktails and regular live music in the offing. On the international note, I hope my Yorkshire pudding suggestion makes it onto the menu, which in tapas form, slathered in roast beef and horseradish sauce, would go down a storm.

The Room Art Cuisine, Cuesta Rosario 15
http://theroomartcuisine.com/es/

A Breakfast Revolution

I have a confession to make, one that I thought I´d never utter: 'I'm sick of toast, oil and tomato'. While I´m writing this I can't help but peer nervously over my shoulder in case the tostada police get wind and I'm marched out of the city for committing heresy. But it's true, my love affair with morning breaded goods has cooled and we might be even embarking on a temporary separation.

But what to do? I've tried slipping in a few slices of Jamon to see if succumbing to the regional cured ham obsession will suffice to put some pep back into my morning ritual, but so far, it's not hit the spot. But luckily there's a subversive breakfast undercurrent pervading amongst certain eating establishments across the city, where they are daring to serve something other than the tried and tested fare.

A long standing morning vanguard has been the 'Cacharrería' on Calle Regina, just by the Setas. Yes there is tostada available, but it's made with dark and delicious homemade bread, replete with a savoury selection of hummus and cheese or a mini  homemade jams and conserves. If you want to go off piste, there's a more northern european selection of muesli, yogurt, fruit and eggs on offer, or you could just go wild and have a giant slice of one their signature creamy cakes. You do need a fair bit of bar presence though as with one person serving at the bar and having to clear the tables, it can take a while before you get served, but if you're not in a hurry, it's worth the wait.

Over in Alfalfa, new gastrobar 'The Room' has got in on the kicking tostada to the curb act. They already embrace a myriad of cultures in their main menu, so it's no surprise then that they've extended breakfast beyond the usual and include bagels, muesli, homemade jams etc.

And finally, if you're not quite ready to completely break away from your tried and tested toasty favourite, a newly relaunched and face lifted 'Quilombo' in the Alameda has the largest selection of toasted topping possibilities known to mankind or at least Sevillano-kind. Javi, the Argentinian boss, has had the audacity to mix cheese and ham, wild behaviour indeed, or at least it is here in Seville where it seems never the twain shall meet on top of a slice of toast. He's also got some great brekkie offers from time to time, for instance next week if you buy your breakfast there one day, the next day you can have the same breakfast on the house.

So, to all you breakfast lovers, tostada is not the only fruit, be brave and daring, try the odd egg, indulge yourself in some yogurt with a sprinkling of muesli, and why not throw some cheese into the mix to boot. You never know, you might just be surprised.  




Cacharrería, Calle Regina 14
The Room, Cuesta del Rosario 15, Alfalfa
Quilombo, Calle Peris Mencheta 6






Friday, 11 April 2014

When in Seville, do as the Moors did

Modern life is a fine balance where ever you live in our increasingly hectic world. Stress, while useful when running away from lions, torments to distraction and throws us into bouts of illness no matter how advanced we are in our fancy pants urbane living. Even in Seville it´s good to switch off or ´desconectar´as they like to say in these parts. Yes, I know it sounds hard to believe; how stressful can it get hanging out in cafés, gaily moving from tostadas, to tapas, to siesta and back agan. But despite not chasing one´s tail in a never ending rodent race, speaking for myself, some quiet time serves me well. And if this means lolling around in a Moorish inspired hammam, the more´s the better.

And this is where the Aire de Sevilla Arabs baths come in. Housed in an old palace in Santa Cruz, as soon as you step through its majestic doors into the cool patio within, any brain activity and decision making is short circuited and rendered useless. At every turn there is a helpful attendent to hand you towels, explain patiently for the umpteenth time how the lockers work and to usher you to where the bathing action is. The only decisions required are ´have I got the cojones (balls) of steel to leap (or crawl) into the freezing plunge pool and do I take my towel with me or leave it in my locker?´

The rest of the time it´s an amoebic existence of floating around in womb temperature liquid, drinking cool mint tea, sweating in the steam room and bobbing about in the jacuzzi. Frankly very stressful stuff. The baths also offer a range of massage and body treatments, all taking place in an atmospheric candlelit room. I was fortunate enough to receive a 30 minute relaxing going over, but there´s a mesmerizing array of more elaborate treatments such as a relaxing 4 hands ritual and the water massage to avail of.

You have to book online in advance to ensure you get a slot, as if you leave it too late the more popular times are usually taken, and it´s also important to remember to bring your swimming cossie, although you can rent or buy one there.You also get to wear fetching little rubber slipper thingies, which protect you from any outside invaders, so no need to bring pool shoes or the like. And check out the website for any special offers or events, such as the live flamenco on Tuesday nights, although I think this would have sent me into a catatonic stupor that I perhaps would never had made it back from.

Aires de Sevilla Baños Arabes, Calle Aire 15, Sevilla, Tel 955 01 00 25
http://www.airedesevilla.com/


Supermarkets aren´t so super, but that´s just my opinion

´Invention´ according to author Mary Shelley, ´does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” And right now Spain is in a state of chaos. Every day in my classroom at the University where I teach I look upon the strained faces of my students, and wonder, what hope is there of finding a comfy job, close by their families that will take them through to their retirement years (which as a point of interest is the ultimate dream of the majority). And the answer is fairly close to zero. But still they keep on plugging away with their studies, only to carry on with a Masters and then maybe a PHD in the hope that Spain and Andalucia rises like a phoenix from the ashes.

The current system has clearly failed the Spanish people. If they´re not being evicted from their homes by the banks and increasingly heavy handed police, they´re finding themselves left hung out to dry with no benefits from the state. The supermarket aisles filled with delights flown in from around the world, are no longer accessible, and every day there are more people attending the ´comedores´ (soup kitchens) run by stony faced nuns in starched habits.

For those who do have a few centimos in their pockets, more and more are realising that the crisis has sprung from the wild embrace of a system that promotes unsustainability and are looking for other ways to counter the until now unquestioned madness that has left the population dizzy with plasma TVs, flash cars and a ton of debt. Time banks, alternative currencies and social markets are popping up all round the country, and never more so in Seville, where you don´t have to be a dread locked anarchist to seek an alternative to the accepted system.

La Rendija is one such venture, that brings together local producers, fair trade products, organic goods and handicrafts. On entering it´s hard to get a handle on what exactly they have to offer, as it´s a veritable Aladin´s cave of delights. At the heart of their range is a selection of organic foodstuffs ranging from grains and legumbres, honey and jams, fair trade teas, coffees and chocolate, fresh eggs and artisan organic beers and wines. They´ve also got an impressive range of environmentally friendly, handmade beauty products and detergents presented in recycled reusable packaging.

Unlike the Puma and other social currencies, you are still dealing in Euros and centimos, but at the Rendija you need to become a member, and deposit 10 or 20 Euros a month in your account, depending on how much you spend. I just pay in cash when I remember, but probably the most sensible thing is to set up a direct debit.


Don´t expect to be able to do  your weekly shopping at the Rendija, but it´s somewhere that you can come to top up on your bits and pieces bought elsewhere. You know, like the olden days, when you bought your fish at the fishmongers, your veggies at the greengrocers and there were no giant trolleys fit to burst with grapes from Israel, blueberries wrapped in plastic from Argentina and legs of lamb from New Zealand. In Seville, unlike the British high street it´s still possible to survive day to day without ever stepping into a supermarket, and for that my heart rejoices.


La Rendija, c/ San Hermenegildo nº1. Plaza de San Julián
De lunes a viernes: 10.30-14.30 horas y de 18.00-21.00 horas.
Sábados: 10:30-14.30 horas
Tel: 955226007
 http://larendija.eu/