Food to try in Andalucia
Fritado de pescado – mixed fried fish
Gazpacho/Salmorejo – the cold salad soup (Salmorejo is the Cordoban version and comes up more the consistency of a ‘dip’ – nice with bread!)
Piquillos – tiny peppers – extra good stuffed with bacalao (salt cod)
Dulces: the wonderful
Tortas de Aceite, beautifully wrapped in blue and white greaseproof paper, flavoured with fennel. Sevilla is the sweetie capital of Spain: you can often buy them from convents – mazapan (marzipan sweets), yemas made from egg yolks, polverones – a dry (polvo means dust!) shortbread type of cake.
Be sure that whatever time of year youGranada is a great place to go shopping! There are streets and streets of interesting shops to look in; but the main reason you will come to Granada is to see the stunning Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens. This was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain before they were finally expulsed in 1492.
go, it will be crowded. Try to buy your ticket in advance: all branches of the BBVA bank sell them or you can buy on line at www.alhambraticket.com. The ticket will be for timed entry to the Nasrid Palace – you can enter the rest of the complex beforehand. If you cannot manage to buy your ticket in advance, arrive as early as you can and buy your ticket at the car park at the Alhambra – it will still be a timed tick and the wait for the Royal Palace could be as much as 3 hours. (Or you could try the alternative strategy of arriving after 16.30 hours.)
The gardens are very beautiful – superbly kept; the Royal Palace is stunning, with its intricate Mudejar carving and
tranquil patios; the Torre de la Vela in the Alcazaba affords a lovely view of the city and the mountains. There is a kiosk selling 2 or 3 different bocadillos (sandwiches), as well as cold drinks (both soft and alcoholic) and crisps.
A recommended bar is La Sacristia on c/San Matias, 8. A tiny bar reported to be “.. like the Tardis on the inside ..” The owner has covered the walls with personal religious icons.
Recommended by Pat Aldridge.
Seville, where the streets are lined with orange trees, home of Flamenco and tapas! Seville consists of an old town which contains all the sights and is a pleasure just to wander, and a mass of residential and industrial suburbs.
Shopping is good along c/Sierpes and the parallel c/Tetuan, and there is a Corte Ingles on Plaza del Duque de la
(the week leading up to Easter) sees fervent activity in Seville. Numerous solomn processions fill the streets at all times of day and night. The precious virgins are carried on routes through the streets by hooded penitents called Nazarenos in Seville. The most widely adored is La Macarena whose beauty receives cries of ‘Guapa, Guapa’ when she is paraded on Good Friday. The various fraternities of the city wear different coloured robes – the hoods were
later adopted by the Klu Klux Klan in the USA and can seem sinister because of this: they have absolutely no connection. If you want to stay in Seville for Semana Santa, expect to book up a long way in advance and pay twice as much as normal.
Seville has its own airport, served by the big scheduled airlines (BA, Iberia). Alternatively you could try a ‘no frills’ flight into Malaga (Easyjet, Go-fly) and hire a car. It’s around 2 hours’ easy drive on toll-free dual carriageway/motorway. Easyrentacar have their car hire offices at the airport at Malaga, with their lowest price £9 per day. Parking can be a problem in Seville, so check at the hotel you book if they have parking (you will often have to pay extra for this.). You could also fly into Madrid and take the high-speed AVE train which takes about 2 and a quarter hours.
The strange sign NO8DO that you see everywhere stands for the words “No me ha dejado” (She has not deserted me) spoken by Alfonso the Wise after the city remained loyal to him during a conflict with his son during the Reconquest (13thC). The symbol in the middle is not an eight, but meant to be a skein (as in wool). The Spanish for a skein is madeja, so if you put it together you get something that sounds like the phrase – No (madeja) do.
The 2 main sights are the cathedral and the Alcazar palaces. The latter is not to be missed, and not open on Mondays, so plan accordingly.
Catedral & Giralda
The catedral and its bell tower named after the weather vane on top of it (la giradilla) is a popular attraction and hence there is always a big queue. In high season it will stretch around the building; in low about 100 metres. Around 1.30/2.00 pm it could be smaller as the lunch hour approaches. Opens at 11.00 am til 5.00 pm Mon-Sat (2.00-4.00 pm Sundays). It sometimes closes on public holidays, when they post a notice on the door to inform you. Entrance €4.5.
As you pass in through the entrance you will find yourself in Patio de los Naranjos (orange tree patio), which is a pleasant place to linger. You can climb the bell tower for views over Seville: the climb is extraordinarily via slopes instead of stairs – good news for knee sufferers!
The inside of the cathedral itself is absolutely vast (the 3rd largest in Europe after St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London), with the main chapel an orgy of gold and baroque. I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so much gold in one place!
Don’t miss the final resting place of Columbus (Cristobal Colon), his tomb supported by representatives of the four kingdoms of Castille, Aragon, Leon and Navarra.
For my money this sight is 100 times better than the cathedral (so why are the queues often shorter?). The moorish alcazares (palaces) rival the Alhambra at Granada easily, except for the gardens, which don’t touch the Generalife. It’s a delight to wander the many beautiful patios and salons with their intricate mudéjar detail and azulejos. Many of the buildings were commissioned to be built within the old moorish palaces by various kings and queens of Spain. Opening 10.30 – 5.00 pm Tue-Sat (10.00 – 1.00 pm Sundays). Entrance €4.5 (well spent!)
Take one of the horse and carriages – it might be touristy, but it’s a great way to orientate the sights of the city. Times and prices vary, but in general it’s around 20€ for about 45 minutes. Try not to look too keen for the best price!
Plaza de España & Parque María Luisa
Take a wander in the park with its quirky fountains and then around the semi-circular Plaza de España with its tiled montages of all the main towns in Spain. They’re in alphabetical order, so start at one end and try to guess which town will be at the other!
Plaza de Toros – the Maestranza
Bullfighting is still big here and Seville’s ring is one of the finest in Spain. The season runs from April to October if you want to try to get tickets for a corrida. If you’re not into bullfighting it’s still worth visiting the ring on one of their timed sightseeing tours (€3) – the empty ring is a fairly awesome sight – and it is one of the truly Andalucian sights with the vivid combination of white, red and yellow – how Spanish can you get?
Flea market and pet market (Sundays)
The flea market takes place on Sunday mornings along Alameda de Hercules and is like a huge carboot sale. The pet market takes place around Plaza del Alfalfa and is packed with people selling puppies, rabbits, birds, fish and rodents. All the animals looked in good condition and I wonder why people find this way of selling animals so much worse than a high street pet shop. Both markets are packed, so hang on to your valuables!
Seville is flamenco, but unfortunately your chances of seeing an impromptu show in a bar are pretty minimal.
There are plenty of places offering proper shows, with or without dinner.
This sort of show has never been my cup of tea, but as it was Seville we gave one a go. Although expensive at €45, it was professionally done and the meal was good with a bottle of wine for 2. The one we went to was at the El Palacio Andaluz, Avda Maria Auxiliadora 18.
Los Gallos in Plaza de Santa Cruz is a much smaller venue but highly recommended. The price is around 27€ and
you have to book. Shows at 21.00 and 23.30 hours. Tel 95 421 6981 / www.tablaolosgallos.com
Hotel/Bar and Restaurant Suggestions
Hotels tend to be expensive in Seville compared to the rest of Spain. It’s essential that you stay in the old town and I have no hesitation in recommending the Hotel Simon*, a 17th century senorial house, 200 metres from the catedral. It was apparently Seville’s best hotel before the civil war and it now has an air of faded glory about it, with its leafy inner courtyard, antique furnished breakfast room and grandiose marble staircase. It is only a one-star and the rooms can be a little disappointing in terms of size and view so I would ask for a room towards the top of the price range, but the staff are friendly and accommodating and they serve breakfast til 11.30!!!
Tapas in Seville
Tapas in Seville don’t follow the usual ‘glass case rule’ (tapas) so don’t be put off going into a bar just because you can’t see much on offer. They will all serve tapas; look for their menu. Another thing: the portions seem to be twice the size of the rest of the country! Generally a media racion (half portion) will be a heaped teaplate – so it’s best to ask the barman before you order “Como es una racion?”. A couple of drinks will cost around €3 and in the older bars the barman will chalk your bill on the bar – be amazed that you and dozens of others will come and go from the bar and he will always remember which bill is yours!
In Seville you will not be disappointed, tapas-speaking, whichever bar you choose, but you have to make your way to El Rinconcillo, c/Gerona, apparently the place where tapas began. The interior is a dark atmospheric, old-style bodega. Choose your tapas by way of the menu on the bar and watch the barman chalk up your bill on the bar top.
El Kiosko de las Flores
was a popular bar just across the river in Triano next to the Puente Isabel with a great view of the Giralda, but since moving to c/Betis just opposite the Torre de Oro (golden tower) has lost it’s casual atmosphere and become more restauranty.
Bar Tino is tucked away in c/Tarifa and ideal for a break from shopping. Tapas are good – particularly the ham and cheese – and a G&T will set you back 3€.
Cerveceria Giralda on Mateos Gago, 1, gets a mention in all of the guide books. The atmosphere is good and it’s always packed, but is a bit on the pricy side and there wasn’t much in the way of choice of tapas when I went. Perhaps I’ll try it again next time!
c/Javier Lasso de la Vega, is a chain that serves ‘montaditos’ (things on bread). You help yourself to what you want, preserving the cocktail sticks so that the waiter can calculate the price of what you have eaten at the end! Round cocktail sticks 1.15€ / flat ones 90€
If you’re looking for a ‘proper’ meal, try El Buzo, c/Adrián, where we had a good meal but for around £40 for 2, with 2 courses and wine.
At the eastern end of the Costa del Sol, Nerja is a very British resort. There are plenty of bars owned by Sheila and Vic, et al. It’s main claim to fame is its Balcon de Europa which is a ‘balcony’ formed on a rocky promontary with fine views out across the sea towards Africa. The beach is long and sandy and accommodation is more apartments and villas than hotels. The centre is backed by several large urbanizaciones which are well-kept and a popular place to stay as long as you don’t mind the climb up the hill from the beach! (A bus service runs regularly down to the beach, but it’s worth bearing in mind – in fact Nerja is reported as wheelchair-UNfriendly.)
Worth a visit at Nerja are its caves with paintings believed to be 20,000 years old. Tel 952 529520.
Noche de San Juan (23 June) sees a great beach party lasting the whole night. Families and groups of friends set up tents, build a bonfire, eat, drink and make merry. There’s usually a band and dancing and stalls and beach bars with food and drink.
A recommended bar in town is Bar Delores on c/San Pedro, 2. You can choose your seafood and they’ll cook it in vast quantities. Main courses range between €4.5 and€7.2.
This is a lively local bar which is a real bit of Spain in a tourist resort. Watch out for the dog that runs round in circles, barking, to celebrate the scoring of a goal on the TV!
Also worth a try – Marisqueria La Marina on Plaza La Marina.
Recommended by Pat Aldridge.