Monday, 25 January 2016

Uniquely Seville - El Rincón del Buho

There's something terribly romantic about elegant decay, when a once imposing grandeur has been stripped bare by peeling paintwork and crumbling plaster. I'm not advocating that Seville's historic buildings be left to wreck and ruin, but on wandering around the Casco Antiguo in almost every street there's an ivy-strewn, façade that hints at a decadent past.

'El Rincon del Buho' is a prime example. Once a Corrala de Vecinos and then an hermandad Rociero, for the last six years it's been a cultural association and general meeting place for creative souls of the barrio. An obvious draw being its regular schedule of concerts of every genre, exhibitions, yoga classes etc, but also the extraordinarily good value 'Menu del dia', perfect for any bohemio in need of a substantial meal.

For 4 Euros you get to choose two dishes from a wide selection, including several for vegetarians. In the past I've had  vegetable rice, choco with potatoes, vegan bolognese, there's usually some sort of vegetable, creamy soup, all tasty and extremely filling. Then there's dessert, plus wine/beer and bread.

It's important to point out that El Rincón del Buho isn´t a restaurant or bar and that all money made from serving food and other activities is ploughed back into keeping the association going. Indeed technically if you´re there you should be a member or socio, just a matter of filling in a piece of paper and doesn´t cost a céntimo.

Lunch is more than just filling a hole at el Rincón. It´s an experience of feeling like you´ve opened a portal into a Sevillano, parallel universe that few people have entered. Frequented by characters in the true sense of the word (not sure what that makes me in that case), you can expect to eves drop on conversations about existensialism, politics, lucid dreaming and if you´re lucky, you might even get to chip in.

It´s most definitely not a fancy, sanitised joint for cool kids to hang out in and that´s probably why I love it.

El Rincón del Buho, Calle Parras 31
Menu del dia - every lunchtime

Friday, 22 January 2016

When you need a bit of countyside in the city

Sometimes my very DNA screams ´Get thee out of the city´. Now I´m with dog, it´s not so easy to hop on a bus and heh presto I´m surrounded by trees and black-footed pigs. So sometimes it's a case of 'any rural port in a storm will do' and when the urge comes upon me, I have two urban/rural escapes that scratch that campo itch.

If it's a quick fix I'm after, I head to El Huerto Rey Moro, on Calle Enladrillada in between Plaza Pelicano and Plaza San Marco. The largest public space in the old part of town that hasn't been built upon or used for commercial purposes, it was once the vegetable patch of a 15th century house, then lay abandoned for centuries and was finally brought into its current use as a community allotment in 2008.

Depending what time of the day you find yourself there, there could be people toiling over their organic vegetables, a bread making workshop, a kids party or nothing at all. Either way it gives me a chance to sit on a bench, listen to the birds and watch Sunday my dog sniff around the edges.

But sometimes it's striding around the green spaces I'm after, in which case it's the Alamillo Park for me. Not the bit with hundreds of people picnicking with music at high volume or kids screeching as they fall off their birthday roller skates. No, nestling along the river is a quiet stretch of orange groves, replete with dirt tracks, wild flowers and the occasional jogger. Somehow it manages to remain a secret from the weekend hordes with their fold up tables and chairs, thus giving me the countryesque fix I much need. It's easy to get to, after crossing the Alamillo bridge it's a quick hop down some stairs that lead directly to the riverside, if you find yourself at the main entrance, you've gone too far. 

Right now a few of the perfectly formed, orange trees are bursting prematurely into bloom, but come March when it's true orange blossom season, it's a sensorial treat, rather like a living, breathing aromatherapy session offering itself freely to lift up our spirits. But whatever the season, it's the perfect spot to recharge those batteries, depleted by late nights and one too many cervecitas.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chi Kung - Get some balance in your life

That fella Descartes who once said 'I think, therefore I am' might have done society a bit of a disfavour. We're all just constantly thinking, problem solving, mulling over, worrying, predicting, reflecting back. God, I feel mentally exhausted just thinking about it. Oh dear, there I go with the whole thinking thing again.

You see our bodies somehow have ended up as being mere means of transport for the overactive lumps of jelly on top of our shoulders. We don't really pay attention to them until they start to fail on us, where as in fact they are constantly firing out warning signals saying 'What about me? I don't want another coffee. Hang on a moment, I'd really like to sleep more than 5 hours a night... pleeeaaasssee, just listen to me.'

And so time passes, our minds get more neurotic and our bodies fall apart. It's like this massive, big surprise and then we wonder how it all happened.

But it's not too late dear friends. You can get your old mind and body working in perfect harmony thus leading to optimum health, both mental and physical... Step in Chi Kung (or Qi Gong). A therapeutic practise rooted in Chinese medicine, it involves gentle exercises combined with mindful breathing to restore equilibrium once more to our entire beings.

Its proclaimed benefits (many proven in scientific studies) include:
emotional balance, relaxation and stress reduction, improved heart functioning, lowering cholesterol, improved lung capacity, strengthening the nervous and immune systems, improved sleep, weight control, improved muscle tone, joint maintenance, diminished possibility of osteoporosis and last but not least, the expansion of ones consciousness (my own personal favourite).

I attended a class for beginners on Monday with Guillermo Rabal, an experienced practitioner who took great care to explain the benefits of each exercise. Perfect for someone dipping their toes in the Chi Kung waters for the first time and in need of some careful and patient explanation, all of which Guillermo was delighted to provide.

I felt both relaxed and energised afterwards and my body was very grateful to have had a long awaited reunion with its errant master, the mind.

Classes are Mondays at 6pm at La Barca del Buda, Calle Moravia 6 and cost 30 euros per month for one class a week.

Guillermo Rabal 607 785 576

Thursday, 14 January 2016

A homage to 'El Jueves Market' calle Feria

I'm not much of a market person. I'm not much of a browser or a bargain hunter, or a shopper at all in fact and then throw in a crowd and you can't see me for dust. So 'El Jueves' market hasn't really held much draw for me in the five years I've lived here. But, it is a photographer's dream, regardless of your view on second hand markets.

Every Thursday from 7am - 3pm Calle Feria is blocked off from Castellar to Correduría in order to host the oldest street market in Seville (dating back to the XIII) with a plethora of antiques, religious artefacts, second hand clothes and a high quota of tat. Visually it rates pretty high on the kitchometer, which is always a personal joy.

So here´s a little visual feel of a typical day of ´El Jueves´ (from a Guiri´s eye view).

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

You don't have to be a middle class twat to be a foodie in Seville

I used to live in an area in South London called East Dulwich. On entering you were asked, 'are you a foodie? Do you know your Shoyu from your tamari, your shitake from your chanterelles ? Are you insistent on shopping only in local, organic shops, even if you have to take out a second mortgage to do so?' If the answer was yes then you might just be allowed to take up residence. Obviously I've made all of that up, but taking away my wild exaggerations, you at least get the picture.

But Seville is refreshingly different. The love of food is wonderfully democratic. You just need to venture into one of the covered food markets 'de toda la vida' and you'll see wrinkled grannies enthusiastically eyeing up tomatoes, before moving on with excitement to the jamón. Where I'm from we've lost our connection with quality ingredients, or at least if you want them, you pay through the nose in a trendy deli. Yes we've got supermarkets coming out of our ears, but once it's been individually wrapped in plastic, pre-washed, sliced and god knows what else, it's barely recognisable as the raw material it once was.
But as they say 'Spain is different', or let's make that Seville. To give you an example let's take the humble chickpea. To a Brit, a chick pea is something that comes in a can, right? We have no idea of the different kinds of chick pea (castellano and blanco lechoso just for instance), how for quality and taste you'd never buy tinned or bottled chickpeas - you must buy the dry ones, soak and then boil. And this is the same from the humblest kitchen to the wealthy elite.

And in most neighbourhoods you still find individual shopkeepers who hold their own against the supermarkets. Like newly opened 'A Granel' on Calle Leon XIII in the Macarena. Having just opened before Christmas its tempting façade invites you in to an Aladdin's cave of culinary delights. Owned by Javier, who used to be a ham cutter at El Rinconcillo, it's stuffed full with products from Extremadura, many of which pig-related, but also barrels of sweet wines to be bought be the litre, cheeses, Spanish wine, legumbres and olive oil. Incidentally 'a granel' means to buy in bulk without the usual commercial packaging.
Although he's just been there a short while, he's already a big hit with the local retired population who are usually a good barometer for quality and price. And despite the celebration of all things jamón, it still gave me a warm feeling just hanging out, trying some cheese, buying the obligatory chickpeas and having a quick swig of mistela from the barrel before sauntering off into the Macarena night.

A Granel, Calle Leon XIII 5
Tel 663 622 709

Monday, 11 January 2016

Micro Coffee Revolution

Yesterday I found out an interesting fact. Did you know that the coffee beans consumed in Spain are roasted with sugar and that when you compare them to a well-roasted, quality coffee bean the Spanish variant is black in colour, with a much stronger coffee kick, compared with its select, golden brown cousin? I kind of guessed as much when, with my morning tostada, I gulp down a coffee thick as treacle, as harsh as a sharp-tongued fish wife and with the potential to launch a rocket. In my heart of hearts, I've always known it's not terribly good for me. But when I'm paying 1 Euro for the pleasure, I kind of accept what I'm given.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Since before the summer there's been a quiet, coffee revolution bubbling away like a 1980s coffee percolator, in the form of a burgeoning group of micro coffee toasters. First to spring up was Virgin Coffee Sevilla, the petite and bijoux coffee house that toasts its own varieties of Arabica coffee to be drank at pretty little tables at the foot of the Setas near Plaza Encarnación or bought to be consumed at home.

With no inside space it´s perfect for a pit stop on a clement day, but if it´s a cosy cup of coffee you want then best head to Torch Coffee, a newish coffee house that is part of the world wide Torch Coffee cooperative that seeks to promote seasonal, ethically sourced coffee, empowering people in the process.

My quick lesson in coffee came thanks to the two sisters who have set up the Seville operation, coming from an American/ Guatemalan background, they've studied the art of coffee with the greats and pride themselves that you'll never find a coffee on sale in their shop that's been roasted for more than a month, after which it begins to lose its flavour.

The choice of coffee includes the usual suspects of capuchino, latte, macchiato, expresso etc, but the coffee changes regularly (yesterday it was Guatemalan). One of the sisters is also trained as a baker and there were a whole host of delicious cakes and desserts on display and I can personally vouch for the chocolate cheesecake which was divine.

The interior is smart and minimalist and with Wifi available it's the perfect place to hang out or work if needs be. Oh and I should mention the coffee's pretty good too.

Virgin Coffee, Calle Regina 1, local 6

Torch Coffee, Paseo de las Delicias 3

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Rock away your January blues

Yesterday I was in a bit of funk. January can kind of do that to you. Not even a trip to the organic food market in the Alameda could raise my spirits. A WhatsApp invite to a gig starting due to start an hour later stirred me out of my malaise, so off I trotted, dog in tow to the Garrapateria on Calle Castellar. 'Una Garrapata' is something I've become quite familiar thanks to my aforementioned pooch and is a tick, not the kind you see encouraging you to 'Just do it', but the ones that attach themselves to animals and proceed to suck their blood and/or spread diseases. So presumably a garrapateria would be somewhere to buy ticks or maybe where they just hang out for fun.
Either way, La Garrapateria is a private rooftop, sitting above cultural association 'La Trompeta Verde'. The words 'private rooftop'  evoke an air of exclusivity and elite glamour, which is definitely not the vibe at La Garrapateria. Winding your way up some grimy stairs, which are sure to have seen their fit bit of action over the years, it's hard not to enter with some in trepidation, but on reaching the top you're greeted with a roof top buzzing with every variety of life.
Reggae Ska band  'La Pompa' were playing yesterday afternoon, making the most of the break in what recently has been daily deluges of much needed rain. The atmosphere was more summer festival than second week in January, the terrace a sea of smiling, sunglasses-clad faces, bottles of Estrella del Sur in hand, soaking up those precious winter rays, dancing and swaying or just hanging out.

Nearly all forms of Seville life could be found there; from somewhat addled, hard-living souls, to fresh-faced, enthusiastic erasmus students, all united by a love of music and cold beer. And even down in the dumps, little ole me managed to cheer up and bust some grooves, hard not to while listening to fun tunes, as the pale January sun disappears behind the rooftops.

La Garrapateria puts on live music on an ad hoc basis, i.e. on weekend afternoons and in good weather, so the best way to find out is by contacting them via Facebook. Their intention is to promote young up-and-coming artists of every genre and you'll usually find a paella or a BBQ accompanying the compulsory cold beer.

La Garrapateria, Calle Castellar 48
La Pompa

Friday, 8 January 2016

Torres y Garcia... just be nice to people

It's been a bit of a personal, modus operandi from the start to just write nice things. Not from a pop positive, psychology point of view. I just want to celebrate the good and the great, because these days it's so easy to be mediocre. What I've realised over the last three years of writing I Know a Little Place in Seville, is that the aforementioned 'greats' all have something in common: what they do comes from the heart. From the one-woman, dressmaker to hipster, hangouts like No-Lugar and Red House Art Café; you know as the punter that you're valued and what you're about to receive is delivered with loving care and attention.

So I was really excited to be trying out the newest venture from the guys behind Ovejas Negras, Juanma Garcia y Genoveva Torres (hence Torres y Garcia). The concept of their biggest project yet (the bar occupies an eye watering 400m squared) is high quality, rustic cuisine and boasts a wood burning oven to make its own bread and pizzas. The interior is extremely stylish, the loos are unisex and the atmosphere buzzing, in an Arenal Ralph Lauren kind of way.

Sounds great right? (Ok so maybe not the Ralph Lauren bit). Of course there's the food. For me with my humblish tastes and rather large appetite, it didn't set my world on fire. After all, I paid 25 Euros including wine for some shared dishes and had to stuff my face with biscuits when I got home as I was still hungry.

But, even that I could have handled, if I hadn't been treated like an inconvenience and spoken to in brusque, English imperatives such as 'Come!' and 'Sit!' - normally reserved for a disobedient dog. Unfortunately, it wasn't a one-off experience isolated to just one member of staff. Indeed the waitress looking after our table was equally annoyed by our presence, sighing with what felt like contempt and or at best impatience, or at least that was how it seemed.

So, sadly eating in Torres y Garcia wasn't a life affirming experience like my first visit to Ovejas Negras was. Maybe it's the inevitable sacrifice made when you open five restaurants - something has to give and this case it is value for money and sheer human kindness.

Torres y Garcia
Calle Harinas 2
Facebook Page

My little guide to Yoga in Seville - 2016

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, although there's a limited offering now on Saturdays. 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 and maternity cover Louise. 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


Bringing a touch of New York and London to the Seville yoga scene is Oyoga, opened in 2015 by Lourdes Vidal. With a Vinyasa Flow emphasis (Oyoga is a Vinyasa Flow teacher training centre), classes are from 8am until 9.30pm Monday to Friday with an additional class on Saturday mornings at 10am. Teachers are Yoga Alliance registered, and the centre is modern, well equipped and expect orange hued colour coordination from the brand new blocks to the yoga teachers' lycra trousers. If your body's been battered by sport, Oyoga also offers an especially adapted Vinyasa Yoga for sport and appointments with Sports Medicine specialist Francisco Gallardo.
Calle Curtidurias 12

Good Yoga

American Michelle Goodrick offers Iyengar Yoga and her 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
Classes in Triana and Plaza de Armas (see website)
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.

Facebook page
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, but check with Lula direct.
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, Oyoga, Espacio 800 and Sala Bioespacio. 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.

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

Ruby Jagger

Pioneer in the Saturday morning yoga class is British Wheel of Yoga certified yoga teacher Ruby Jagger, offering Hatha yoga and once monthly Ashtanga. Her classes are given in English but cater to an international crowd. "I view yoga as a set of tools to be explored by students so that they can discover what works for them. I aim to develop their bodies within the postures while also working on concentration and meditation using techniques such as yoga nidra, mantras and yantras", Ruby says.

Her classes tend to be quite sociable and a post-class breakfast with the group generally follows. Classes cost 10 Euros and work on a drop in basis, just contact Ruby beforehand so she can arrange a yoga mat, blocks etc.

Saturdays 10.30am - 12pm
ESTUDIO 35, Plaza del Pelicano 4, Local 35, 41003
Ruby: 697948104/

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