Saturday, 21 February 2015

Beer is good for you (apparently)

Us Brits get short shrift as a bunch of binging boozers who run riot like vikings through the streets of our own nation and any other we may frequent on our travels. It´s true, there´s a definite ´let´s get pissed´ philosophy that exists in the UK that you´ll rarely find in Seville (unless you´re at a serious botellon session where inebriation seems to be fairly high up the list of objectives for the evening).

But in Blighty, mid week it´s not uncommon for someone to nurse a sparkling water as they have their own personal non-alcohol pact of ´not on a school night´, while here in Seville that seems to be a bit of a foreign concept, quite literally. I remember the first time a Sevillano proudly announced that they didn´t drink water, only beer and coffee, after all both contain H20 in some form and must therefore hydrate to the same degree. Indeed it´s one of the many ´Guiri´ stereotypes to see a hot looking northern European or American, tenaciously grasping their 1.5 litre of water as they march around the city  in the searing heat, but very rarely will you see a local doing the same.

You see in Seville beer, and to be more precise, local brand ´Cruz Campo´ is king. Any hour after about 11.30am is beer o´ clock, and one beer is never taken in isolation, after all they are served in teeny tiny glasses, and so what harm can it do to slide another one down. Beer is part of the bedrock of society, doctors have been known to prescribe drinking beer for its vitamin and nutritional components (casting aside for a moment that it does actually contain alcohol) and immaculately turned out grannies think nothing of quaffing a few cañitas´ with their multi-generational families.

Ok, yes it´s true, I do admit on a hot day, there is nothing like an ice cold cerveza to quench your thirst. And hot days there are many, so in the peak heat of summer, that thirst quenching beer can be something that becomes a daily occurrence from midday onwards.

But anyway, cultural observations aside, if you want any chance of getting under the skin of the local peeps, you will indeed have to drink beer, and if you happen to tire of the virtual monopoly of Cruz Campo on the beer taps in the city, then there´s a new bar in town to throw a bit of variety into the mix.

´Maquila Bar´ on Calle Delgado, just the other side of the Alameda, is a stylish, minimalist beer joint for lovers of craft beers and cool hipster vibes. They boast a micro-brewery at the back that produces their own artisan beer called ´Son´, but they also have a whole host of other fancy pants cervezas including organic, non-gluten, dark and non-alcoholic either on tap or in bottles.

Fronted by Eloy del Rio, a self-professed craft beer enthusiast who prior to Maquila launched Los Palillos in Alfalfa, he works alongside a tight team of experienced staff, including head chef Daniel Torres . The food is aspirational, I tried the ´Ensalada de ventresca de Atun confitada con verduras asadas´ which was a really tasty tuna salad with roasted vegetables and a zingy vinaigrette. There´s a lot of meaty dishes, so if you´re vegetarian you might be limited to the home made chips, but you could strike lucky with the ´Guiso´ (stew) of the day which won´t always contain pig derivatives.

I haven´t been at night, but when I´ve cycled past, Maquila is always very busy, and there is a high beard, skinny jeans quota, which would suggest that Seville´s burgeoning hipster massive have found a new haunt to spread their ironic wings. But if you´re totally uncool and just love beer, you´ll be welcome too. And fear not if you´re Spanish isn´t up to scratch either, Eloy and most of the staff have a good grasp of beer related English.

 Maquila Bar Calle Delgado 4, 697 81 38 49


Sunday, 15 February 2015

CNN, Seville and me on TV

Back in the day when I lurked behind TV cameras in tellyland, London, I occasionally found myself accidentally on the other side. And contrary to the vast majority of the population these days who crave to be on TV, it was an experience that brought me out in a cold sweat and I swore to avoid it at all costs ever again.

 Fast forward a few years, and I´ve realised that those things we avoid at all costs are the very things to grab by their horns, when they present themselves in our paths. So when CNN somehow got hold of me as a possible contributor for their travel programme CNN Go in Seville, I took a deep breath, and said yes.

A few sleepless nights and one stress migraine later, I found myself staring down a lens, pretending it was a nice lifelong friend, walking and talking, cycling with a mini camera attached on to my bicycle and basically doing what I thought was make a complete twat of myself. But actually it´s not at all bad, apart from my initial rabbit in headlights bit at the beginning, which my new compassionate self will let slip by.

I´m not alone in the programme, there´s also Juan Delgado fashion and food photographer, Rocio Molina who´s super hot right now in Flamenco, and some DJ bloke. But anyway, I think they´ve done a pretty good job for giving you a feel for the city, so I hope you enjoy.

CNNgo Seville Part 1 Taste of Seville

CNNgo Seville Part 2 A photographer´s Guide to Seville

CNNgo Part 3 a Musical Tour of Seville

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Seville Essential Tapas Mix

Seville has been the place that I´ve lain my hat now for over 4 years, and in that time I ´ve witnessed its culinary stock rise beyond all recognition despite the never ending proclamations of economic gloom and doom. At this juncture a few locals might disdainfully arch an eyebrow at the suggestion that their hometown hasn´t always been the centre of the eating out universe. But as a non-pork consumer, I can only begin to describe how wearing a tapa of spinach and chickpeas can eventually become despite how delicious it might have initially seemed.

But of late there have been some healthy winds of change in town, and a new breed of modern yet affordable tapas bars now jostles for space amongst the more longstanding eating establishments on the block. And in my mind, this can only be a good thing. So I thought it about time that I pay homage those places that consistently serve up tasty morsels to the famished masses, so here, in the words of Pete Tong, is my Top 10 ´Essential Tapas Mix´.

1. La Brunilda
Tucked away in ´pijolandia´ or in other words Arenal, is Brunilda, a place that had been whispered with reverence in my ears for a while now. ´It´s impossible to get a table´ is the general consensus. And it kind of is, unless like us you pitch up before even they open their doors, and even then there´s a queue forming. But having eaten there a couple of times now, I understand the hype. The food, while featuring some of the usual suspects of tatakis, risottos etc somehow takes things to a whole new level in taste, presentation and freshness. I particularly loved the buñuelos de bacalo with a pear alioli and the desserts are a knock out. The decor is of the moment minimalist bare brickwork although despite this it somehow manages to remain cosy inside. With all this high praise, one would imagine the prices to be astronomical, and while not at the cheapest end of the market, Brunilda sits comfortably in the mid price range. A definite must for any stay in Seville.

La Brunilda, Calle Galera 5

2. Sidonia and Duo Tapas
Hailing from the same owner, I´ve waxed lyrical about these two in the past, but they never disappoint. Both offer a modern take on the classic tapa, presented exquisitely and served with panache, all at affordable prices.

Sidonia, Calle Calatrava 16
Duo Tapas, Calle Calatrava 10

3. Eslava
Eslava is one of those places that you save up for special occasions. Not because it´s ridiculously expensive or particularly fancy pants, it´s just a wonderful dining experience that you want to reserve for those particular moments like birthdays, parents coming to town, promotions at work etc. It might also be that it is a bit of a rigmarole to get a table, as unless you´re perched at the bar, there are only a few tables at the back, and always a long waiting list to be seated, but it´s always worth the effort as the food is delicious. Everything is incredibly fresh and you can find a mixture of classic dishes like Salmorejo for instance, alongside more experimental modern variants such as their award winning dish which is a melt in the mouth, bite sized egg, balanced on a mini boletus mushroom cakey thing. The service is friendly and efficient, and they´re prepared for non Spanish speakers with an English menu at hand for those awkward lost in translation moments. And here for once it´s an advantage to feel like eating dinner before 11pm at night, as your almost guaranteed to get a table if you arrive at the much more anglo saxon time of 8pm.

Calle Eslava 3

4. ConTenedor
Offering a Tapas menu by day and restaurant food in the evenings, Contenedor is a culinary oasis in the slightly edgy backwater of Calle San Luis, which runs two streets parallel north of the Alameda. The moment you set foot inside the door, you know you´re in for something special. The decor is Boho chic, the lighting intimate and the food simply delicious. They pride themselves on selecting the best ingredients and changing the menu regularly to fit in with what´s in season, so compared to some places it might weigh a little heavier on the pocket, but as an overall experience, it´s worth it. Inside you´ll be in good company as the clientele feels artsy and cool, as do the waiting staff, who are helpful and mostly multilingual.

Calle San Luis, 50

5. Ovejas Negras and Mamarracha
They´ve been around for a while, but it took me a while to cotton on, but Ovejas Negras and Mamarracha (owned by partners Juan Manuel Garcia and Genoveva Torres Ruiz) have just got the balance right in  Seville´s current gastronomic love affair with funky, fusion and fun. In Ovejas Negras you´ll find tapas, most with a creative twist while Mamarracha, who is more like the sophisticated sister of the two, is all about keeping it simple on the charcoal grill whilst accompanying your meat or fish with a selection of side dishes. Go to either and you´ll be guaranteed delicious food in a buzzing atmosphere at an honest price.

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

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

6. La Azotea
Rather unasuming from the outside and always rammed to the rafters, this stylish eaterie had been on my 'must visit' list since moving to the city. The food is modern and taste bud tantalising, the service scores 'bendover backwards' on the amenability scale and the wine list is second to none. I've only been to the original location on Jesus del Gran Poder, but you can also check out their sister restaurant on Calle Zaragoza and the more low key Abaceria on Calle Conde de Barajas.

Calle Jesus del Gran Poder 31
Calle Zaragoza 5

7. Al Aljibe
On a hot summer night there's no place I'd rather be than sitting in the intimate patio by candlelight in this delightful Alameda fine dining establishment. The menu nicely represents the direction in which many tapas bars and restaurants in the city are going with Ceviche and salmon tartar sitting alongside more traditional dishes. The restaurant's ethos to combine quality with reasonable prices and exquisite service with a cosy atmosphere, and I'd say from the many times I've visited it, they've achieved this with aplomb.

Alameda de Hercules 76

8. Zelai
If you've had your fill of quaint, tiled tapas bars and want to feel like you're in a cool, cosmopolitan city then head over to Zelai near Plaza Nueva, a sleek, uber modern resaturant that feels more Manhattan than Andalucia. The menu more than lives up to the surroundings, with culinary inspiration coming from the farthest corners of the globe. I loved the Tuna Tataki, and my meat eater chums were more than satiated by the succulent Solomillio de Buey.

Calle Albareda 22

 9. Los Coloniales
This was the first ever Tapas Bar I ever went to in Seville, and in the space of a few months I had become a regular visitor. Consequently, I´d started to get a bit tired of the menu. But having had a break, I found myself back within its familiar walls and it reminded me why it´s so popular with locals and tourists alike. The food is traditional, but tasty, and the portions are huge and incredibly reasonably priced, so for the hungry and on a budget, Los Coloniales is always a winner. There are in fact two restaurants of the same name, offering pretty much the same menu, one in the leafy quiet square of Cristos de Burgos with a much sought after terrace, and then a second near the Cathedral, which is a bit more touristy, but still value for money. Fine dining it isn´t, but it´s still worth a visit.

Plaza Cristos de Burgos 19
Calle Fernandez y Gonzalez 36 y 38

10. La Huerta Mediterranea
Just around the corner from Panduro is La Huerta, a jolly little tapas bar that boasts more than your average share of dishes involving vegetables. As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, Sevilla isn't a city to celebrate vegetables in its dishes, which can leave you feeling like you might be coming down with a case of scurvy if you've been eating out most nights of the week. But tucked away in the now road work free Plaza de los Terceros, this is a little treasure where you can get your vegetable fix, in a variety of interesting guises from leek quiches, vegetable revueltos (scrambled eggs) to cauliflower croquettes. There are plenty of options for meat eaters too, all of which can be enjoyed sitting outside in the tiny, bustling plaza that is its home.

Plaza de Los Terceros 9

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.

Good Yoga Seville
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 recently moved to what is probably currently the most beautiful yoga space at Esana, just behind the Setas (Metro Parasol).  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.

Esana c/ Jeronimo Hernandez, 4
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

Lavigne Yoga
Possibly the hardest working yoga teacher about town is Louise Lavigne, a Canadian by birth and a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher. She´s teaching pretty much right across the city in various yoga centres including La Shala, Espacio 800 in Nervion and La Maison in Los Remedios. Louise who has taught across the globe, teaches in English and Spanish depending on the venue and draws upon different styles of yoga in her classes including Vinyansa, Sivananda, Iyengar, Power Yoga and Anusara. She will also be teaching at the exciting about to open Oyoga centre that aims to bring a bit of New York and London to the Seville yoga scene. (more news to follow).

Contact Louise direct to confirm timetable and prices of classes.
Tel 693 287 669  

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