Sevilla to me is an ideal city to explore and visit for a travelphile. It is rich in history, and the set-up, the architecture makes it a treasure trove to explore easily on foot. I will not spend much detail on the classic must-see places as those can be found in any travel guide book or good ole tripadvisor.com. Instead I’ll share the highlights that made the most lasting impressions on me.
Definitely spend hours wandering visiting the key sites of the Alcazar, the Cathedral, and the Plaza de Espana. For us, it was a novel thing to observe the beautiful and intricate Moorish influence on the architecture, and the incorporation of outdoor gardens (specifically the Alcazar). Having previously been more familiar with architecture from Rome (classical)? -Makes me see the depth and appreciate the potential depth of the realm of historical architecture (vs. when I was younger, I could not understand why one would care so specifically of each architectural detail and the style/era it belonged to…).
This was the balcony of our lovely airbnb where we stayed in Sevilla–perfect location, with easy walking distance to the main sites. (We didn’t get much use unfortunately of the lovely balcony because we were busy exploring the city) Lovely view of the tower from the balcony…
Walking around town, through the narrow alleyways, they would randomly open up into charming triangular plazas I think they call this the mushroom?..It does kind of look fungular hehe –and at night it had cool blue up-lighting, a surprisingly modern structure in this historically rich place. Only one side of the magnificent Cathedral of Sevilla—huge massive square structure with intricate carvings decorating the borders of the stone walls, and framing the great entryways.
The wall of the Alcazar (formerly the palace for past Moorish kings)– Heh the pointy ramparts reminded us of Super Mario Brothers… Ancient wall as you enter the Alcazar High archways and warm colorful and hyper-detailed tiles The Alcazar has a lush garden interior with mazes and fountains and random peakcocks Underground water reserve of the Alcazar–where it was said during the super hot summers (and man it gets HOT here) the royals would hang out here where it was dark and cool, the water providing humidity relief from the arid outside heat.
On a side note, this was also in a recent episode of Game of Thrones…heh it seems we are following to all the Game of Thrones locations (2 years ago we were in Croatia–Dubrovnik (King’s landing) and here it is the Dorn palace 🙂 The amazingly detailed stone carvings, giving a sense of delicacy, like overlaid lace, despite it being stone.The round doorways and arches further soften the stone walls. Golden geometry…domed ceiling More beautiful stone work A peaceful beautiful courtyard…ahhh wouldn’t that be nice to add to your home–just in the middle, opening up to a calm rectangular pool of water and orange trees
PLAZA DE ESPANA
Beautiful wide spanse, perfect for strolling off the daily heavenly overdose of tapas and wine 🙂
For our flamenco experience (our first time watching a performance) we went toe the Museo del Baile Flamenco – highly recommended. Apparently, this was also where the Japanese prince visited as well as Prince Charles’ girlfriend the duchess…
Ahh the performance! Amazing passion–moments when I couldn’t breathe and I felt my heart pounding..a sweat breaking…all of this sounds dramatic–overly so, exaggerated even, but it truly happened while watching the amazing performances of the flamenco. First a dance with the female and male flamenco dancers, with the wonderful acoustic guitarist and the singer. Then a solo of the guitarist—amazing blending of melodies seemingly effortlessly flying from his fingers–rich full bodied woody sounds…then the solo of the female in her bright yellow dress–up to 40 pounds! Which she elegantly and flamboyantly kicked around with flare….then the solo singer who had very poignant words, he said it all in Spanish but I understood (I have found that I actually in the remote accesses of my mind, understand quite a bit of Spanish, more than I can seemingly speak…) He said that Flamenco does not have a single language–does not need it. Flamenco’s understood through el corazon, the heart.
And indeed there need be no translation when seeing and listening and thus FEELING the raw emotions brought to fiery life by the dancers and the music…the amazingly rapid percussive beats of the dancer’s feet and emotions washing over their faces, expressions and through the movements of their bodies.
Last but not least, we so enjoyed taking a trip across the bridge to the Triana neighborhood, framed on one side by the Canal de Alfonso. We went in the evening after yet another delicious Sevilla meal and grabbed a drink at one of the numerous restaurants lining the street parallel to the Canal.
We watched the lights from the bridge sparkle off of the canal; the reflections became a live Monet painting, with the water playing strokes of vivid orange brushes of light, bobbing up and down. And in the distance, the regal Giralda tower and the architectural features of Sevilla on display.
We even happened upon a religious festival–though I was not able to find out which it was–but a la Anthony Bourdain (episode in Granada) they carried a large and heavy gilded religious statue with the parade of people and live band. It was like 11PM at night, and so we counted ourselves lucky to have randomly stepped into this cultural occurrence 🙂
Ahh Sevilla, this beautiful city opened up our eyes to the wonderful south, having only previously visited the north east city of Spain, Barcelona. We took an easy 1 hour flight from Barcelona to Sevilla (making the flight just in time after having a much an indulgent late night prior). Fred was in charge of alarm duty, and unfortunately turned the alarm OFF instead of hitting snooze.
As a result, we woke up over an hour later than what we were planning–scrambled to get ready and finish packing in 15 minutes, made the super jog/power stride walk with roller carry-ons, slowly dislocating the shoulder with each jostling bump, made it to the central bus stop (easy to get to and from the airport by the way! Just hop onto the designated A1 bus I believe, and it will drop you off straight at T1 (you’ll have to check to confirm but overall so very convenient).
Anyways I managed to develop blisters on the bottom pad of my foot—I have never thought you could get blisters there (usually its a small one on the heel or maybe at the edge of the foot, but a big solid one on the middle front!? Ah well, it was worth it because we managed to make our flight just in time 🙂
Upon arriving in the quaint little airport in Sevilla, we easily found the bus that would take us right into town. (Again the bus transportation in Spain was so convenient! Just walked out of the airport sliding doors and walked along the side walk following the clearly marked signs.)
While waiting in line, we started chatting with a very kind and warm older gentleman. As we rode in the bus he told us how he lived in a small remote town outside of Sevilla, and for several years, he would wake up extra early before work to watch from what it sounded like, a TV channel program that teaches English–and that, is how he learned to speak English! He was very eager to practice with us and we made a bargain of sorts, asking that he help us practice Spanish. So there we were on the bus, him speaking English to us and us, replying back in Spanish. When it came to our stop, he went out of is way to notify the bus driver to stop (we were sitting in the rear of the bus)–and after quickly teaching each other the phrase “it was nice to meet you!” (“encantado de conocerle“) we hopped off near the main bus station, located just outside of the main area.
Oh yes, about those winding, curving, maze-like cobblestoned streets, where my seemingly good sense of direction is made completely moot. I am turned around each time when we leave our AirBnB place off of the street Marmoles. I swear that it is the “bermuda triangle”–as each time without fail, either leaving the place or returning to, we must leave an extra 20-30 minutes for inevitably getting lost. But, alas the beauty of being on vacation is that you have no set schedule to keep and though bewildering, getting lost was actually rather fun 🙂
Quick description of our AirBnB (highly recommended!): A very tiny studio at the 4th floor, or attico, of a cute small building on the street of Marmoles. We have a wonderful patio and rooftop deck, that has views of the Giralda tower, of the Catedral, and then the Alcazar- basically a 360 view! We spent the majority of our time out and about wandering, so we did not get to enjoy our deck/patio much, but it was nice to return from the day or first thing in the morning, and take in the gorgeous views, church bells ringing…
We had such an eye-opening experience food-wise while in Sevilla. I feel we were introduced more to the gastronomically complex and creative type of tapas/food than what we had previously experienced in Barcelona, which was very fun to discover.
The first night, we went to CASA MORALES and then FREIDURIA LA ISLA, both recommended by our lovely local host. A hearty and warm traditional vibe, Casa Morales has been there for over 200 years, with dark wood counter tops and framing, transporting you back in time. We had wonderful chorizo picante–-slices of reddish sausage, that on the palette is soft and bright, spicy and richly meaty—not heavy and dense as I would have imagined the typical chorizo to be. Then the fried cod, fried bacalao, already seasoned salty and rich, and then with a light crispy layer of fried goodness outside, delicious and perfectly paired with our vino tinto de la casa.
We then walk across the little alley to a “fried everything” place, Freiduria La Isla, a bright white and blue little shop with a quick to-go window, as well as indoor seating. We order a racion de mixed seafood, with calamari, egg of hake, hake chunks—delicious and of course fried to a crisp, pairing perfectly with our vino blanco
I muse upon how our livers are going to need a HUGE detox when we return, since we have easily had at least 4-5 glasses of wine each night…yet it is not like we are drunk or wasted at all! It seems that by walking at least 9 miles a day and perhaps a mile at least after each tapas stop, and in between copas de vinas, that we seem to metabolize it just fine (I just hope our livers are as resilient…:) It is like the perfect and beautiful balance of combining fun exercise (taking in lovely sights) with purpose (to get to the next eatery), with intellectually and tongue-stimulating flavors with a happy wine buzz throughout. Ahh..if only every day could be like this!
Then the second day we wander around the town, and have a cute little brunch/lunch at LA CACHARERRIA—I have a much needed green juice, with a pan with a “lomo “ spread..a novelty to me –It is a basically a meat spread, which tastes like smokey meat deliciousness—and then generously drizzle the Spainard’s “banana” ish delicious addicting olive oil—so distinct and differente de los oilos de olivos de Estados Unidos…as you see I try to practice and remember my 4 years of Espanol…unsuccessfully.. hehe Anyways—and then they provide fresh macerated tomatoes which you scoop over it…and then sprinkle freshly dried oregano…just simple flavors and delicious.
The ambiance of this cute little cafe is charming, with stone walls that have insets upon which customers throughout the years have placed coins, making the walls sparkle when looked at from afar.
Dinner was a huge highlight–recommended by Alan, called Eslava. It was brightly lit and crowded with people standing outside at makeshift tables. The waitress was kind and as we put our name down, she promptly took our drink orders, myself a crisp vino blanco and Fred had cerveza. And then even gave us some delicious olives to munch on.
Highlights here include the egg yolk, perfectly rich and runny, over a slice of morcilla (blood sausage), the BEST clams I’ve ever had in my life: Razor clams (Navajas). I have never seen them before–they are in tube like shells, and not at all in the typical clam shape.
Then we went back using the street Spierdes (a main road with lots of shops, much nicer to walk along than the original way we took to get to the restaurant, which was along a main thoroughfair–crowded with cars and of course dust and smog.) The walk back on this street was perfect for people watching, and for soaking in the feel/vibe of Sevilla.
We sat across at a little place (not very remarkable except for their delicious gazpacho served in a wine glass) and viewed the super crowded Bodega Santa Cruz–super popular but sadly we didn’t get to try it out. Maybe next time in Sevilla…
A thing about Gazpacho –This was another revelation for me food-wise. I had no idea that gazpacho could taste so delicious! A refreshing savory tomato with cucumber and garlic, a punch from a dash of vinegar and then a drizzle of the famous rich olive oil….so refreshing and absolutely addicting. It was completely different from the bland weak stuff that I’d had here in the US.
The next day we started our day with delicious tapas at Bar Alfalfa (we started our days late by the way–having our first meal when everyone was having lunch;) But it worked out perfectly because by the time we were ready for dinner, it fit right in with the Spanish norm of dinnertime starting around 10pm.
Its located on a corner at the meeting of many a winding streets and so while trying to find our way (numerous times during our stay here), we passed by it many times. We decided to finally check it out since it was our last day in Sevilla, and we sure are glad that we did! We crowded our way in towards the main bar and were met with the friendly servers who provided menus and also referred to the chalkboard on the wall.
A note about the ambiance of tapas bars–I actually miss this, the walking into a space, straight to the bar, and ordering. There is something spontaneous-feeling about just well, standing while you eat. Its as if you are more involved in some way, compared to passively sitting and awaiting the food to arrive on a pre-planned/plotted out plate. The food seems more exciting an experience for some reason.
Okay so this last restaurant needs its own separate section: La Azotea.
This was another place recommended by our friend, where apparently the chef or owner used to live in our hometown San Diego (Pacific Beach) and surfed and worked as a cook at the restaurant Costa Brava. Then he returned to Sevilla and opened this wonderful restaurant. Here we experienced NUMEROUS eye-opening (tummmie-opening) flavors that we had not yet experienced before, which is always so exciting and fun and is the essence of why I love traveling so much.
We perfectly showed up right when it opened, and already a crowd was gathering. We were the very first ones in 🙂 And so we chose some stools at the bar, wanting to be able to witness the action.
Two Standout Highlights:
Erase what you think you know about “Spanish Iberico Ham”…mistakenly likened to Italian Proscuitto (blasphemous to do apparently when in Spain, as a friend of mine mistakenly discovered)- the only commonality is that they are both from pork. One taste of true Jamon Iberico, I felt like I hit the hugest of epiphanies in regards to my idea of cured meat. Sure, I’ve had “jamon iberico” at fancy restaurants (paid a grip for a plate of satiny ribboned slices) but in my memory, they really did not stand out much–just another salty cured meat…with some richness but nothing earth shattering. And indeed I could see how having only experienced this caliber of jamon iberico, how one could make a comparison to proscuitto (which is of course delicious in its own right–but the depth, earthy, rich, complexity is completely different).
We ordered a plate, and watched as the server meticulously sliced robust (thicker than what I’d had in the US) slices of deep red from the pork leg mounted on the stand. Each slice had a perfect sliver of fat–which I realized balanced perfectly with the ruby red meat section. I placed a slice of jamon iberico into my mouth and was instantly hit with the following analogy:
When comparing the exquisite flavor of what I was tasting vs. the previous “jamon iberico” that I have had (in quotations since I now see what a sham those were vs. the real thing) would be in wine terms, like comparing 2 buck chuck Charles Shaw wine with a 2008 Caymus Reserve (or something to that effect)—Bright simple, a bit unbalanced towards salty vs. rich velvety smokey complex. Indeed, that was the disparity of difference. The Jamon Iberico had this addicting sweetness from the aged fat, creamy-balancing the round smokey meaty rich flavor, resulting in just a shock of deliciousness: Amazing!
Sea Anenome (Anenoma de Mar)
I have never had sea anemone before or never encountered it on a menu. They prepared this richly seafoodie flavored animal with scrambled eggs, the fluffy light creamy texture of the eggs seemingly highlighting the rich flavor even more. Topped with crispy fried slivers of potato, which texture-wise was perfect to contrast the soft creamy texture of the anemone scramble.
We also enjoyed delicious croquettes
A Curious Foodie-Travelphile's Random Thoughts & Experiences