Seville by night

Seville by night

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Top ten tips on finding your feet in Seville

A fair proportion of the people who read this blog are adventurous souls who have made some life changing decision, upped-sticks from whence they came and come to live in Seville, a new city, in a new country, away from all the things that brought familiarity, if not a little boredom to their existence. I salute you dear friends, because whatever your story, it´s taken courage and a great leap into the unknown.

But it´s  hard at first. I´ve done it twice now, this moving to Spain lark, once when I was 22 and then at the age of 38, and both times it was tough. Everywhere you look there are large groups of people, laughing animatedly as they share fun times with their fellow guffawing companions, as you, a lone wolf, walks silently and unnoticed with a lump in your throat, back to your shared flat, lap top at the ready primed with your chosen website for watching TV series or movie streaming.

But little by little things fall into place. It takes time to make friendships, particularly if you don´t speak the same language as the majority of the population. I´ve done it both ways, not speaking a word of Spanish, and then second time round, with enough level to get by in most situations. But where ever you are on the Spanish-speaking-ometer, it´s still a tricky process to penetrate into Seville society.

So, just to make life that little bit easier for anyone new in town who finds themselves peering sadly through tapas bar windows at the happy faces within, here are my tips to start feeling like you belong.

1. Get a local breakfast hangout
 I didn´t get it when I first arrived how essential to Seville society breakfasting out is. Apparently it´s a basic human right and at just over 2 euros for toast and a coffee, utterly affordable by most. People here are creatures of habit so tend to go to the same bar at the same time of day. So, smile, be nice, strike up conversations with the bar staff, or the old man who´s always there sitting at the end of the bar. Or whoever, it really doesn´t matter, but it will at least make you feel like people know you exist, plus there´s nothing better than starting the day with a friendly ´Hola´ serving up a nice warm tostada, orange juice and coffee.

2. Take up a hobby
On the whole people knowing you exist front, attending something with some regularity is key, and a hobby be it salsa dancing, yoga, a running club, leaning how to Rollerblade, again it really doesn´t matter what the hell it is, but you want to do it with the same people at least once a week. For me in my first year in Seville it was Salsa classes and after a few weeks I had my own little salsa crew with social events throughout the week, should I have wished.

3. Get an intercambio
As an English speaker you are much in demand. Due to the pure chance of being born a native English speaker, right now in Seville that makes you hot property. Everyone and I mean everyone is learning English, but they have very little chance to practise. There are organised language exchange events on offer in Seville, but more often than not, it´s 20 Sevillanos, a solitary Swede and a Russian. I have nothing against Sweden or Russia, but what our little Spanish friends really want is a real life native English speaker. So when one does occasionally pop up, they are immediately surrounded, which if you´re a new in town Norman-no-mates and haven´t had a conversation for while in any language, will at least fill that gaping hole of loneliness, at least for a couple of hours.

I would recommend however trying to meet up with someone regularly on a one to one basis, as in terms of making some sort of lasting two way friendship, this is far more productive and pleasurable, plus you get to improve your Spanish.

4. Learn Spanish
It´s obvious, but vital. You need it, I¨m sorry, but you do to have any faint chance of feeling part of the place you´re living. But be patient. It takes time and commitment, and classes. Don´t expect just to pick it up from listening to some tapes. Go to class, get an intercambio, speak to random strangers and try to enjoy.

Here are some academies offering Spanish classes:

5. Choose where you  live and who you live with wisely
There´s a lot of dodgy accommodation in Seville, and some seriously strange people as well. It may be stating the obvious, but try and live with people who you think you might have something in common with. If you´re a student, don´t live with a 45 year-old woman with a cat and if you´re a 45 year-old woman avoid a house of Erasmus students. I struck gold when I first moved to Seville and shared a flat with a charming architect who´d himself lived abroad, and so without thinking twice he introduced me into his friendship group and many late nights of Ballentines and Coca Cola accompanied by drunken dancing.

Pick your area wisely. The centre is fun, a barrio more than half an hour walking from the centre probably isn´t. Most people start around the Alameda, Macarena or near to river. Triana is also a favourite, just make sure you´re not living in close proximity to a bar because you will never get a good night´s sleep again.

To find my first flatshare I used

6. Hang out where the international Boho set go
There are two bars in Seville where if you go often enough, you´re bound to make friends. First there´s ´Alfakeke´ on Calle San Vicente. Pierre  the owner´s French, he´s lived in the US, he understands what it means to be living away from home, and he´s a nice guy. And he´s managed to build up an international, friendly clientele who are warm and welcoming to the various waifs and strays who pass through its doors. Not far from Alfakeke is ´Anima´. An institution in the city´s nightlife, Anima plays hosts to twice weekly live music concerts on Thursday and Sunday evenings, where you often see the same friendly faces enjoying which ever happens to be the band of choice that particular evening.



7. Go Irish
Despite being half Irish, I´m not one to seek out the local Irish bar in town, but a lot of people do. And the main guys in Seville are ´Merchants´. They are the self proclaimed number one sports bar in Seville, but if rugby or some sport involving kicking or throwing a ball is your cup of tea, then Merchants is the place to watch it. Plus there will be other people of the same sport watching ilk congregating, which I assume must be fun.

If you want to take your Irishness even further, why not join the Gaelic football team. You don´t have to have any Emerald connection, or even necessarily any prowess at the sport, just be willing to turn up to practise on Sunday mornings near the Olympic Stadium.

8. Say yes
When I arrived in Seville I had decided to say ´yes´ to anything and everything (within reason). One of the joys of living abroad is that you´re no longer confined by the social codes and norms of your country of origin. You can do whatever you want, with whoever you want. Be prepared to strike up unlikely friendships with people you might not have considered ´suitable´ at home. Be open. Be free!

9. Shop in your local fruit and veg shop or market
Buying fruit and veg in Seville is fun yet terrifying at the same time. If you´re learning Spanish, it probably tips more highly on the terrifying scale, but once you crack a smile from the lady serving your cebolla or she calls you 'hijo/a' (that's son or daughter and a perfectly normal greeting in these parts) , you´re on your way to winning her over and having one more person who acknowledges your existence.

10. Talk to strangers
A good friend of mine from the UK, who shall remain nameless, felt so lonely one Saturday night as he wandered the streets of Madrid, that he followed a bunch of English people who were obviously going to a house party, through the door of the party he wasn´t invited to, and into a life long friendship with someone he met there. I´m not suggesting you go to such extremes, but DO talk to that person who you keep seeing in the same cafe, or why not go up to that table of people at the concert and ask if you can join them. They will almost certainly not say no, and if they do, sod them.

And on a similar note, contact bloggers who are also strangers of course. I´ve met up with a few people who´ve contacted me through this blog, in fact this very post is inspired by someone who got in touch asking for tips to find some friendly faces in town.

Good Luck!

Small is beautiful

Small is hot right now in Seville. From micro theatre to tiny ´fit them in your pocket´ size pooches, it´s never been a better time to be petite and bijoux. But leading the pint sized pack is ´Casala Teatro, the cosy yet glamorous theatre in Triana Market that at full capacity, fits a mere 28 people in its plush red velvet seats.

Housed in converted adjoining butchers' stands, the theatre gives artists the chance to get up really close to their audience, from whom there is literally no escape. Acts range from music concerts of various genres, theatre pieces, comedy to children's puppetry, and just because its small don´t expect there to be a drop in quality. Artists have to be utterly at the top of their game while performing in such an intimate setting as any slip up stands out a mile.

Last night it was the turn of Lucky Eye, offering their unique blend of Jazz/Flamenco with a twist of pop. The group, which is a new project for both jazz singer/songwriter Esther Weekes and flamenco guitarist Tino Van Der Sman, accompanied by Antonio Montiel on percussion, has been a labour of love in which they've organically developed their own style drawing on their unique backgrounds of jazz and flamenco. The songs, mostly original and showing off the talents of both artists to their full, were perfectly complimented by the sophisticated 1950s cabaret style atmosphere that Casala exudes.

Casala Teatro, Mercado de Triana stand 11 and 12, Tel 657 31 68 64

For more information on Lucky Eye:

Friday, 16 January 2015

My little guide to Yoga in Seville

Finding a yoga class to suit your needs is a tricky process. Is it something dynamic you´re after, or more slow and relaxing, how about something that will get your kundalini energy rising, or promises to unblock your chakras? Or maybe you just want a good stretch without all that spiritual malarkey? It can be a dizzying process and that´s without throwing in the curve ball that the classes will most probably be in a language you´re not familiar with. But it´s a process that´s worth persevering with, because for every person there is the perfect yoga class, and never more so than right now in Seville, where there is an abundance of yoga on offer from slick operations offering a broad range of classes, to more intimate one man/woman bands teaching in cosy, bijoux spaces. All it takes is a bit of patience and tenacity and a few helpful pointers from those in the know (in this instance me) to guide you on your yogic path.

Yoga in its essence is about the union of body, mind and spirit, and in its fullest sense is much more than just the postures (or Asanas) that many people are used to doing. So most classes will include something called Pranayama, which are breathing exercises to free up the prana (your internal energetic system) and often some meditation at the beginning or end to further quieten the mind. Personally I love a class that incorporates all these elements, but maybe it's not for you, in which case perhaps a class that's more dynamic or posture focused would suit.

These days in Seville you'll find almost all styles of yoga on offer. Hatha (the more traditional style of yoga) is always a good place to start from, particularly if you have limited experience, strength or flexibility. Right now Vinyasa flow seems to be all the rage, which tends to be dynamic and as you can guess from the title, involving movement between the postures. Ashtanga is perhaps the physically toughest yoga class to attend as bookending each posture is what is called a 'vinyasa', which is like a mini sun salutation combined with a press up, and if you've eaten too many mince pies or have little upper body strength, it will almost certainly leave you feeling sore the next day (or two). Iyengar is slowly coming onto the scene in Seville, in which props such as blocks, straps and chairs are used to support rather than force the body into the postures. This can be particularly effective for those who find themselves rather high on the inflexibility scale or are recovering from an injury. And finally Kundalini yoga which works to awaken the snake-like Kundalini energy lying dormant in the base of the spine through the use of chanting, mantras, breath work and some yoga postures. 

Classes in Seville on the whole operate from Monday to Friday, forget it if you fancy a Saturday morning yoga class, it may happen in London, but definitely not in Seville. Most centres offer morning and afternoon/evening classes, and are generally priced at around the 10 Euros for a drop in class, or once you've found the yoga class for you, prices varying according to how many you commit to per week. The more you want, the cheaper it works out per class, and some centres now offer passes in which you buy 5 or 10 classes and then have a fixed period to use them by. Just a word of warning, you may well be expected to pay a joining fee as well.

But how about if you know what style of yoga you want to practise, but your Spanish doesn't extend much beyond 'una cerveza por favor'. Fear not, there is a little community of English speaking yoga teachers who have opened centres or teach classes here in Seville, and other classes where the teachers can at least give you a few words of explanation in English. But if you speak a bit of Spanish, I really recommend opting for classes in Spanish as there's no better way to broaden your anatomical vocabulary: where else would you introduce words like omóplato (shoulder blade) or párpados (eyelids) into your everyday parlance.

So now to the important bit. Here´s my guide to a selection of the yoga on offer in Seville in no particular order. I apologise if I include haven't included your favourite teacher, it's not an exhaustive list, and as much as possible I've included those that I've had direct experience of and/or that offer some classes in English.But please leave any other suggestions in the comment box at the end.

La Shala

Nestled on a quiet corner, in close proximity to the Macarena Basilica, La Shala is an intimate and friendly yoga space lovingly guided by British Yogi Antonia. Classes, which include Hatha, Vinyasa vibe and pregnancy yoga are usually in Spanish, but for the Vinyasa classes additional guidance can be given in English. There's a particularly attractive pricing scheme whereby for 50 Euros you can attend as many classes as you would like per month.
c/ Orden de Malta, 3, 41003 Sevilla
T. 635 149 123


Located close to the Alameda, Diksha is somewhere to take your yoga practise if you want explore the spiritual elements of yoga. Silvia brings her serene and wise presence to the classes which are about much more than just stretching and relaxation. Classes are never the same and usually incorporate pranayama exercises, chanting and sometimes Yoga Nidra, which is like a guided visualisation, as well as yoga asanas. Silvia can also give you a helping hand in English.
Calle Relator 15, Alameda de Hercules

Good Yoga

American Michelle Goodrick offers Iyengar Yoga from her newly opened studio, once again close to the Macarena Basilica, which is equipped with all the appropriate iyengar props such as blocks, straps, chairs etc. Michelle's classes tend to be small and intimate which gives her the chance to adapt each session to the physical needs and experience of her students. Michelle also offers Yamuna body rolling which is a technique originally from New York combining massage and yoga through the use of rubber balls which miraculously free up restriction, both muscular and energetic. Michelle's classes are great if you've got some musculoskeletal imbalances that need working on, rather than seeking spiritual enlightenment, although who knows, it may take you one step closer to Nirvana along the way.
Calle Becquer 19
Tel: 647 891 415

Vida Yoga Para Todos

Opened just over a year ago, this fully equipped yoga centre aims to make yoga accessible to everyone. They probably have the fullest complement of classes stretching throughout the day, including Kudalini yoga, with a wide variety of teachers. They are the most affordable offering a trial week free of charge where you can attend as many classes as you wish, and if you decide to continue, per class they are probably the best priced in Seville. They also boast a shop in the reception where you can buy health food products and yoga teacher training courses are available. Two of the teachers Candela and Patricia speak English and are happy to translate for any non Spanish-speakers.
c/ San Hermenegildo, Nº13.  41003 SEVILLA
Teléfonos: 955227015 / 654695226


Another Brit teaching yoga in Seville is Elly Chamberlain, who has her own studio Salavinyasa behind the doors of Planeta Propio on Calle San Luis. Elly´s classes are Ashtanga focused with morning and evening classes available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Elly mostly teaches in Spanish, but once again for obvious reasons can switch to English at any time should the need arise.

Planeta Propio, Calle San Luis 58b
Tel 678 91 74 32

Yoga y Vida

Experienced yogi Carmen Torres offers Hatha yoga on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Sadhana, near Puerto Osario. Unique to Carmen are her regular retreats at the spa town of Alange near Merida, where as well as filling your days with yoga and meditation, you get to wallow in the therapeutic thermal baths.
Sadhana, Calle Matahacas 8
Tel: 658 556 529

Paula Figueiredo

You couldn´t have a more personal experience than a class with Portuguese yoga teacher Paula. Taking place a stone´s throw from the Alameda in an intimate space that I think was probably once someone´s front room, she offers small group ´Integral Yoga´ classes Monday-Thursday in the mornings and evenings. Paula has been teaching yoga for over 12 years during which time she has gone on to train many other yoga teachers and can help out in English when needed.

Calle Joaquín Costa 34, bajo (parallel to the Alameda de Hercules)
Tel: 622 089 439/

Se Yoga (Yoga en Triana)

With the every increasing number of yoga spaces opening up around the Alameda and historic centre, it´s easy to forget that there´s a whole world going on across the river in Triana. And frankly it would have been my loss because by continuing to be my usual lazy bones self and not venturing further afield than half a kilometre from my house, I would have missed out on a little gem of a yoga studio space, within spitting distance of the river, close to Calle Betis. As soon as you enter and meander your way up the winding, tiled staircase, there´s a feeling of being part of a little yoga family. That's maybe because Lula, an Argentine with 12 years of teaching practise, has transformed the living room of her apartment into a tranquil yoga space. The style of yoga is Hatha and classes are very reasonably priced at 25 Euros for one class a week, and 35 for two, plus there´s no joining fee.
Se Yoga, Santísimo Cristo de las Tres Caídas, 1, Triana
Tel: 653 09 58 00

Other centres offering yoga to check out that I don´t have direct experience of include:

Friday, 19 December 2014

Mucho nice things to buy for Christmas

I´m always amazed when I hear people say that they love shopping in their free time. I hate shopping, the marauding crowds, queueing for changing rooms, examining myself in unpleasantly harsh lighting as I notice from various angles I´m normally not privy to, how the passing of time is running amok and queueing once more for an always understaffed cash desk. I can´t see any redeeming features, apart from possibly a purchase at the end, but more often than not, when I get my sparkly new buy home, there´s something left wanting. So, in general, I just don´t do it.

one of loulitas transforming numbers

But there are occasions, when I get overcome with an urge to spend. And just such an unusual event happened on Wednesday at the launch of the Christmas Muchomaskemarket on Calle Arrayán, near the Feria Market.

In the past I´ve gone with the intention of buying presents for the near and dear, and have left with something cutesy for little old me. This time, I was there for the free nibbles and wine, but before I knew it, I was leaving with a bag stuffed with one-off original multi-use reversible items designed and made by Loulitas, the clothing label of Lourdes Bermejo. For someone who can stand shopping, the idea that you can buy an item that can be a top, a skirt and a dress, or in its very simplest incarnation is reversible, moved me into a state of ecstatic frenzy. Lourdes combines a background in sculpture, fine arts, film and video and theatrical costume, and it´s not hard to see these influences coming into fruition in her unique work.

Elsewhere in the market there were stalls selling everything from handmade jewellery, artwork, restored wooden boxes and chests, more fashion, hand bound journals and illustration, all under the minimalist one roof setting of a longtime vacant commercial premises.

The market continues throughout the weekend and includes workshops on knitting techniques, wrapping presents, basic dressmaking and natural cosmetics.

Muchmaskemarket, Friday-Saturday 11am - 21.30, Sunday 11am-20.00
Calle Arrayán 12


Friday, 7 November 2014

Dolls, but not as you know them

One of the things I love about writing this blog is that it forces me to seek out any precious glimmers of creativity and passion that otherwise would pass me by. In the past I would never have visited a dressmaker´s studio after briefly chatting in a street market. But writing about Seville gives me the licence to be nosey, to take an extra special interest, to scratch below the surface, and I love it.

This was how I found myself inside Isabela Arias´ studio on the corner of Pasaje Mallol and Calle Moravia. Pasaje Mallol is a fairly unremarkable looking street, but is one that contains a high proportion of Seville´s creative energy, with the artisan rich Corralones of Plaza Pelicano at one end and the various artist workshops lining Pasaje Mallol itself, you can practically feel the creativity in the air as you pass by.

Isabela who works under the name Hisabelia, is a designer with a background in theatre costume design and the dramatic arts. Brought up surrounded by dress making and design, it was a foregone conclusion that she would end up cutting patterns and running up wondrous creations.

But life as ever can take you to places you never imagined and in Isabela´s case motherhood and the challenges of working around bringing up a child have brought new inspiration to her work.

Unsurprisingly as well as her one off creations aimed at adults, she has found great joy in creating super cute outfits for children. When I say cute, I don´t mean in the sickly sweet 1950´s way most parents choose to dress their children here in Seville. Hisabelia´s designs are like mini versions of stuff I´d like to wear, fun dresses in interesting fabrics with an eye for detail that you won´t find on the racks of Zara or Mango for kids.

But that´s not the end of the story. A time spent working from home confined to the kitchen table, Isabela for sake of space moved into the world of miniature fashion, in the form of bespoke dolls wearing exquisitely made outfits that look like they could be straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Each doll has a story to tell from the dastardly moustachioed fox to the slightly grotesque but lovable gonch with the Pinocchio nose. Then there is the Dior style chic mademoiselle, dressed in stripes and nonchalantly wearing a flower in her hair, who I´m sure has had some romantic tryst with the aforementioned fox.

As with all of Isabela´s work, these are individual works of art, and not something to grab off the shelf and discard at a moment´s notice. As she call´s it ´Slow design for happy people´. And as a child, if I had been decked out in Hisabelia designs whilst clutching one of her dolls, I would most certainly have been a happy little person.

Contact Isabela in advance if you want to pass by her studio, but she is definitely delighted to show you her work or talk through any design needs you may have including revamping any old clothes. You can also order online if you´re not based in Seville.

Hisabelia (Isabela) Calle Pasaje Mallol 31
Tel 622 887 461

Friday, 24 October 2014

Black Sheep and its tasty friends

Here in Seville, I´ve realised I´m an inverted snob. I suspected as much living in London where you had to drag me kicking and screaming to Hooray Henry infested areas such as Chelsea and Fulham. Surely in a city so far from the infamous British class system I´d be happy to hang out with everyone, even if they do have a tendency to wear chinos and Ralph Lauren polo shirts.

But no, my little foible has followed me to deepest Andalucia, where Pijos (the Spanish equivalent of sloans) abound, and elicit the same recoiling effect as their counterparts in Blighty. But the thing is, this overt poshism somewhat limits my experience. Certain areas such as Arenal, become ´no-go´ zones but in the end it´s me who misses out.

Such was the case of tapas bars of the moment ´Ovejas Negras´ and ´Mamarracha´. I´d heard of Ovejas Negras a while back, but its proximity to the Cathedral had ´Watch out there are Pijos about´ ringing in my ears. So, in a cutting my nose to spite my face kind of way, I just decided to stick to what I knew, i.e. the various eating establishments lining the Alameda de Hercules. Until that is a Galician friend who was new in town, and free from such self imposed restrictions suggested checking it out, and in I stepped, scanning the room for the fire exit, in case I was launched into a pijo phobic panic attack.

Sitting, perched on a stool by the bar, I needn´t have worried. Ovejas Negras is smart, but in an exciting, finger on the pulse kind of way, and the food doesn´t disappoint. We ordered the Risottazzo, which is basically a mushroom risotto, but the flavour and texture was far from basic. Risotto outside of Italy can be tricky to pull off, I´ve tasted some bland, gloopy stodge in my time, but the offering at Ovejas Negras was a creamy, mushroom delight with a depth of flavour that turned me into a ´crazy Harry met Sally moaning in public lady´. I also tried the fish and chips, a tastier twist on the British variant, with moist battered cod chunks nestling on a bed of tartar sauce and spiced up, chunky chips.

Ovejas Negras opened in 2011 under the helm of Argentinian Juan Manuel Garcia and his business and life partner, Andaluza Genoveva Torres Ruiz. Together they had worked in an array of international kitchens, including under the chef one loves to hate, Gordon Ramsay in LA. So with a wealth of experience and influences under their belt they have literally taken the mid priced tapas market by storm, bringing pop art, urban interior style, and kick ass service to what was a tired and conservative offering. Most importantly, the food doesn´t suffer, it´s intelligently put together, envelope pushing enough, but not too much to scare the locals and there´s an eclectic mix of clientele who are drawn by the buzzing atmosphere and plaudits from far and wide.
But things don´t end there for Juanma and Genoveva. Just along the street they´ve opened Mamarracha, which is currently even more of a hot ticket than Ovejas Negras, boasting a hot coal oven and a vertical garden passing itself as a wall covered with 450 plants. And then there´s La Chunga, down by Triana Bridge, recently celebrated as one of the best breakfast joints in town, so it seems fair to say, thanks to this dynamic partnership, Seville´s gastronomic landscape has been changed for ever

Ovejas Negras, Calle Hernando Colon 8, Tel 955 12 38 11

Mamarracha, Hernando Colon 1, Sevilla, Tel 955 
12 39 11 

La Chunga, Calle Arjona 9, Sevilla, Tel 600 34 11 39

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Live music in Seville, all you need to know

Seville is a city that unabashedly boasts about its status as simply the best city in the world. I have concrete evidence of this assertion. For the last month I have been asking university students a list of inane questions, one of which was the following: 'If you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?´ To which I would say 80% of those questioned answered, ´Seville, of course´.

In fact English writer Laurie Lee observed in his pre-civil war novel ´As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning´ based on his journey across Spain, that the Sevillanos were ´All part of the city - the adored Seville - to which even the beggars claimed pride of belonging... It was a city of traditional alegria, where gaiety was almost a civic duty, something which rich and poor wore with arrogant finesse simply because the rest of Spain expected it´.

In fact revered institutions such as UNESCO have confirmed the city's standing by numbering a selection of its historic landmarks such as the Cathedral and Alcázar Palace on its world heritage list, as well as classifying the Andalucian capital as one of the  UNESCO Cities of Music.

Fair enough you would think on the music front. After all Sevilla alongside Jerez, is the beating heart of Flamenco, and one would imagine as soon as you step off the airport bus, you must surely be greeted by someone serenading you with a flamenco guitar. But many of the professional musicians who ply their wares around the city, would beg to differ, saying it´s impossible to make a living, mainly due the prohibitive nature of live music legislation in city centre bars and music venues. In fact even in the Flamenco world, long standing Flamenco institutions such as the Peña Torres Macarena have been forced to close by the local council, much to the despair of the Flamenco community.

You see it is impossible to get a live music licence in Seville if you are situated in the city centre. Why? Because almost every music venue has got a neighbour who is at their wit´s end living above, someone equally fed up living opposite, not to mention the ones wearing ear plugs every night who live next door. As a result, live music is done on the hoof, in a low key, need to know basis. Very few places charge on the door, so consequently musicians are playing for next to nothing and venues remain open only until the police call halt to proceedings after one noise complaint too many.

But this doesn´t mean there isn´t a live music scene, you just need to scratch below the surface to find it. In fact some of the most electrically charged gigs of my life have been here in Seville, crammed into tiny spaces with a maximum of 30 people. So today´s post is a homage to the best live music venues in town.

1. La Bicicleteria
I´ve waxed lyrical about this little gem of a bar before, because in all my years on this planet, I´ve never experienced anything like La Bicicleteria. It´s tiny, dark, decorated with odds and sods picked off the street that are somehow thrown together to make a bohemian hideaway from the traditional masses. It´s hard to imagine how you can squeeze any live musicians inside without it bursting at the seams, but somehow each Tuesday night they do, although once the music starts the toilet is out of bounds as the stage lies directly in front of the only loo. I´ve seen some of the most intimate and electric gigs in the bicicleteria, and unlike many live music events in Seville, the music takes precedence with Andres and David, the guys who run it, actually hissing the crowd into quiet attention.

La Bicicleteria, Calle Feria 36, push the door even if it looks shut.
Live Music Tuesday nights about 11pm

2. Taberna Anima
Another stalwart of the live music and artsy scene is Taberna Anima. From first inspection it´s easy to be fooled into thinking that Anima is just a traditionally tiled, spit and sawdust bar, but its place as a die hard supporter of local musical talent means that every Thursday and Sunday evenings Anima fills to the brim with an international crowd seeking out anything from Jazz to middle eastern music.

Anima Taberna-Galeria, Calle Miguel El Cid 80
Live music Thursday and Sunday evenings from 9.30pm. Check Facebook for details

3. Peña Flamenca Niño de la Alfalfa
In the wake of the demise of the Peña Torres Macarena, a good bet to see live flamenco with baile is the Peña Niño de la Alfalfa inside the Corralones on Calle Castellar, with performances going on Friday and Saturday nights. Get there early, because it can fill up depending on who's performing.

Peña Flamenca Niño de la Alfalfa, Calle Castellar 52, entry C
Flamenco Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm

4. La Casa Fundida
If you want to go really small and intimate while straying across the other side of the river into Triana Market, then La Casa Fundida could be the adventure for you. Plus you get to eat while you listen to local singer songwriters, with a selection of tapas on offer to delight your taste buds.

La Casa Fundida, Triana Market stand 46a
Check Facebook for details of gigs

5. Malandar
What you call in Spanish ´un clasico´of the live music scene in Seville. Got a bit confusing for a while as it seemed to reincarnate as a gay disco called Luxuria, while retaining the name Malandar for its dates as a concert venue. Malandar plays hosts to touring bands and local favourites such as Dani Mata and el Callejon del Gato who play this Friday 10th October.

Sala Malandar, Avenida Torneo 43

6. Terraza Puerta Catedral
Don´t be put off by the fact that this is a terrace bar nestling on top of tourist boutique apartments. The bird´s eye view of the cathedral and the intimate setting make the concerts very special and worth a visit. On Thursdays its Flamenco, Fridays and Saturdays other live music and Sundays DJs.

Terraza Puerta Catedral, Avenida de Constitución 22, buzz door to be let in

7. Alfakeke
Another case of how many people can you squeeze into a tiny bar without it bursting at the seems, but somehow it seems to work. With Pierre at the helm, Alfakeke has intimate gigs every Saturday evening, starting at a sensible 9pm in order not to rile the neighbours. Music varies from blues, jazz, swing to anything with a tune, and smiles are guaranteed.

Alfakeke, Calle San Vicente 13. Gigs every Saturday night from 9pm

8. Naima
One of the few places that you can see live music, albeit Jazz, most nights of the week is Naima just off the Alameda. I´m not a regular, for no particular reason, but it seems to be a favourite with the jazz loving community.

Naima Cafe Jazz, Calle Trajano 47

 9. La Caja Negra
 Another institution of Sevilla nightlife, La Caja Negra has a variety of live music, depending on the night. It regularly plays host to Flamenco often featuring young and upcoming dancers and musicians, but you could equally see anything from from spanish rock to Argentinian singer songwriters. It´s also somewhere to carry on drinking once the nearby Alameda bars have closed.

La Caja Negra, Calle de la Fresa 15, Alameda

10. Fun Club
Fun Club is a proper concert venue in the heart of the Alameda, playing host mostly to indie guitar bands, and is a popular hangout with Seville´s student population. If you stay on after the band it turns into a nightclub.

Fun Club, Alameda de Hercules 86


Monday, 6 October 2014

Voy al Chino (I´m going to the Chinese)

The first time I lived in Spain, circa the mid 1990s, ´I´m going to the Chinese´ generally indicated that I was going to the local Chinese eatery to feast on a generic Spanish variant on Chinese cuisine. Mono sodium glutamate in vast quantities was to be expected, as was a mere hint of spice (nothing too much for the delicate palates of the indigenous population) and meat that somehow managed to be both chewy and slimy all at the same time.

Fast forward almost 20 years  and ´voy al chino´ has taken on a whole new connotation. You see almost every shopping street has at least one Chinese shop, bulging at the seems with odds and sods, some useful, but otherwise generally erring on the side of tat. Operating on different opening hours to your average Spanish shop, ie not shutting over lunchtime and the afternoon, the Chinese corner shop has carved out a niche for those last minute needs, you know the kind, when you´re one ´barra de pan´ short or find a fridge worryingly empty of Cruz Campo beer.

´The Chinos´ are lifesavers, and as much a part of the Spanish urban landscape as the Estanco tobacco shop once was. But local feeling can be frosty, and rumours abound about dodgy deals between the Spanish and Chinese government allowing Chinese businesses to open up and operate tax free.

 Ironically, in most Chinese supermarkets you´d be hard pressed to find any Chinese ingredients, apart from in my blog de jour, the ´Hiper Oriente´, found just off Plaza de Duque and in its sister shop near Santa Justa station. These two Aladin´s caves dedicated to Asian cooking specialise in ingredients for Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indian food, so they´ve pretty much got the whole of Asia covered. They also sell some organic products like grains, rice cakes, cereals, and randomly gigantic bags of PG tips (for any British readers who miss their daily brew).

I find myself gravitating there every few months, coming away with an eclectic bag of delights, many of which have sat untouched in the cupboard for months. But one day I really will make something with the arame seaweed that I thought I couldn´t do without. Unused products aside, Hiper Oriente is Guiri foody heaven, and is perfect for those moments when you´re craving a Thai Green Curry and know that if you don´t make it, no one will.

Hiper Oriente I, Calle Aponte 8 (near Plaza del Duque)
Hiper Oriente II, Avenida Kansas City 1 (between Nervion and Santa Justa)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Style and Content

Being hip and of substance is a tough call to manage. Having lived in London, a city that is continually looking for the cool and the fresh, I arrived in Seville jaded by the exhausting, unquenchable thirst for the cutting edge.

However after months of eating variations on the same theme, which in the case of a vegetarian tends to be spinach with chick peas or pisto accompanied by a tired looking egg, a small part of me began to yearn for a dash of culinary innovation. And as if by magic across the city there began a gradual proliferation of tentative toes was being dipped into the experimental waters of international inspired cuisine, and suddenly almost every restaurant worth its salt had some tuna tataki, salmon tartar or risotto on the menu.

But four years have passed since my feet first landed in Seville and the gastronomic landscape has indeed changed for the better. Case in point being ´No-Lugar´ on Calle Trajano. Owned by the same uber cool artist folk behind Red House Art Cafe, they´ve continued their successful interior design formula, with high-topped chunky wooden tables, designed for communal eating setting the vibe, set off by effortlessly stylish mix-and-match vintage crockery. You see at ´No-Lugar´ the devil is in the detail, and aesthetics are vitally important, even if it looks like it´s been thrown together at the last minute.

Of course it´s all very well dropping a slice of Berlin or Melbourne onto the streets of Seville, but it ain´t much cop if the food doesn´t hit the mark. I tried a decent sized tapas portion of Chickpea Chana Masala, which was beautifully presented complete with gnarled wooden spoon and more importantly extremely tasty. The vegetable stir fry was well executed as was the exotically monikered Maliki, comprising smoked Tofu, piled on red peppers with a Pedro Ximenez sauce. Despite the fact that no animals were harmed in the aforementioned dishes, this isn´t a vegetarian restaurant, there is plenty of meaty dishes again with a foreign flavour such as Chicken Biriyani, Chicken Tika Masala, Meatball Tagine and Ox Hamburgers with wild mushrooms.

 ´No-Lugar´ has been open now for a wee while, but continues to keep up its position of the place to be seen of an evening. The atmosphere at night is buzzing, the waiting staff multi-lingual and on the whole helpful, which in itself is a new trend to hit the eating joints of Seville, where previously client relations veered towards the surly.

This is the second time I´ve ventured inside No-Lugar´s class fronted facade. The first it felt a tad ´style over content´ but I´m pleased I´ve given it a second chance. In a city where ´if it ain't broke, don´t fix it´ modus operandi permeates through life, Seville can sometimes seem like a cultural back water, which is of course is also part of its charm. But it´s interesting to see that it´s the novel and the risk taking establishments such as ´No-Lugar´ that are not only keeping their heads above water, but powering ahead of the rest. And long may it continue.

No-Lugar The Art Company, Calle Trajano 16

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Gig with a view

So here I am, back in Seville after 2 verdant months in the South of England. As stunning a city as Seville is, I still feel a faint longing for rolling hills and gentle, hushed tones as I step back onto those familiar cobbled streets. But I´m all about the here and the now, which happens to be not at all that bad when I come to think of it. Particularly on warm, September evenings when the streets throb with ebullient life and limbs that are teak brown from a summer spent on Andalusian beaches.

I find my re-entry into Sevillian society is made that much smoother by encountering a few familiar faces, and if they´re friendly familiar faces, more´s the better. So first stop on my ´Operation the Guiri has landed´ was a quick pit stop at Alfakeke for a Friday night pancake care of Pierre´s Crepe making mastery. For anyone far from home, going to Alfakeke gives you an instant sense of belonging. It seems like almost everyone there is from some place else and while everyone seems to know each other, they´re also happy to open their world to someone new.

So with the ´I know what you did last summer´ chats done, and an egg and spinach crepe safely put away, it was a short stroll along Avenida de Constitución with the Friday night promenaders to my final destination, ´Terraza Puerta Catedral´. Positioned directly in front of the Cathedral, these are luxury holiday apartments, boasting a roof top terrace that leaves you eyeballing the gargoyles and communing with the gods. And on Friday and Saturday nights they lay on intimate live music gigs with free entry to the public against a backdrop that is hard to beat.

Last night was a newly svelte Miguelito Bueno, promoting his new album Toc Toc Toc and as ever singing like his life depended on it. Looking around the audience, everyone seemed entranced by Miguel´s visceral performance which had been further spiced up with some new fancy turns by keyboardist Rafael Arregui. It was an interesting contrast between the backdrop of the cathedral representing a timeless and palpably traditional Seville and the irrepressibly irreverent Miguelito and his band. But I´m sure even the ghosts of the cathedral must long for something different to the unrelenting Semana Santa marching bands that echo through the cloisters.

The Terraza Puerta Catedral is without a doubt a welcome addition to what can be a sparse live music scene in Seville. Be prepared for hotel drinks prices though, but I guess a small trade off against what´s got to be one of the best locations in the city.

Terraza Puerta Catedral, Avenida de Constitución 22 (ring buzzer)

Alfakeke, Calle Vicente 13 (Friday nights are Crepe night)

Miguelito Bueno