Tasty tapas spots in Seville

I started this blog post in Seville after a scrummy meal but fell into a bit of a food coma before I could finish it. Now back in the UK over Christmas I feel this post deserves some recognition if only to remind myself where to make a beeline for when I’m back in Seville.

I’ll never forget our first night in Seville, we took a trip to the Alameda with crumbling stomachs and high hopes and were more than a little sad at the montaditos we ate. If you want more than a slice of chorizo on a dry roll I suggest making for 100 Montaditos. 100 Montaditos is a no-frills Spanish restaurant chain that specialises in freshly made montaditos with a great selection of fillings (plural!) at affordable prices. Montaditos rarely cost more than 2 euro’s each and if you have a sweet tooth try their chocolate Oreo montadito.

On the other hand for an authentic tapas meal that will leave you satisfied for hours and barely make a dent in your purse head to Taberna Coloniales San Pedro. We discovered this gem in the centre of Seville near the end of our stay but went back at least three times. The restaurant is cosy so you may have to wait at the bar with a sangria before a table becomes available, however the waiting staff are welcoming and friendly and once you order your food it is served in next to no time. My favourite dish was, Solomillo al Whisky.

Another authentic tapas restaurant worth visiting, arguably the oldest in Spain no less! is El Rinconcillo. Although there are a few seated tables, most people eat their tapas standing up with a drink in hand. The waiters offer a typically Andalusian experience and bring the tapas when ready. I enjoyed the comforting espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas).

One place I was grateful to stumble upon early on was Uno de Delicias which is located just opposite the Torre del Oro. Unlike the other restaurants this is a modern take on tapas. I’ve only been during the day but feel this restaurant doesn’t have the reputation it deserves. The tapas was really delicias! I particularly enjoyed the paella – best I’ve ever tasted.

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Make sure you have a late lunch as kitchens aren’t typically open until 8.30pm.

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Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda, here I am in Camp Granada

I could get used to these Spanish bank holidays. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception happened to fall on a Thursday which meant a four day weekend and us finally taking our long awaited trip to Granada (insert Camp Granada song). It also happened to be the first weekend in long enough when it didn’t pour with rain.

Granada is much chillier than Seville so I was glad to have packed my tartan scarf. Lying at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada you get amazing views of the nearby snow-capped mountains. It took three hours on the ALSA bus from Seville, which worked out to be a perfect opportunity for a siesta. My bed in my apartment in Seville doesn’t offer the same such luxury…or warmth.

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Granada is a walkable city with a young population owing to a third of people being university students. There are a few things I particularly like about Granada. Firstly, the local beer, Alhambra, tastes more like beer than its Seville counterpart Cruzcampo (sorry Seville!). Secondly, the free tapas. Many local tapas bars offer free tapas when you buy a drink. What’s not to love about stuffing your face with Albondigas (Spanish meatballs) and croquettes with every drink of Sangria? One of my favourite bars with standing room only was Bar Ávila II.

To burn off all those Albondigas take a hike up the hill towards the Alhambra. Although we missed the chance to go to the Alhambra there are plenty view points of the city and the fresh air and scenery is well worth it. We went in mid-December when a lot of the trees were golden with enormous autumnal leaves covering the ground.

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A further must visit destination is up the winding streets of the Albaicin neighbourhood to the Mirador San Nicolás where you get breath-taking views of the Alhambra, Granada town and Sierra Nevada mountains. No amount of time seems long enough to stand and take in the view, particularly worth seeing at sunset.

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Walking down the steep cobbled streets from the Mirador San Nicolás you feel transported to another country as the medieval Moorish architecture surrounds you. When you reach the bustling ‘Great Bazaar of Granada’ stop in one of the cafes for an Arabic tea and baklava.

For nightlife we headed to the student area around Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. We visited the Nightrain café and beat the locals at a game of table football – much to their disappointment! With Christmas just around the corner the streets of Granada were sparkling with lights and the main plazas had lovely little craft stalls. Definitely in the festive spirit now!

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Have you been to Granada, what was your highlight?

Córdoba in an afternoon

Our day trip had been planned for the previous weekend but due to too many Cruzcampo’s and the like we aborted plans to leave Seville, and our apartment for that matter. Lesson learned (for now).

With its Cathedral in a Mosque, or is that a Mosque in a Cathedral and its ancient Juderia (Jewish quarter) why had I not heard of this captivating city before? Córdoba takes just 45 minutes to reach from Seville on the fast AVE train therefore makes a perfect day trip. Our lack of Spanish however did make us translate, ‘boarding 20 minutes before departure’ as ‘departing 20 minutes late’, cue a mad dash to catch the train on time.

Being the biggest draw to the city we had the Mosquita or Mosque-Cathedral high up on our to do list, however prior to entering we took a walk along the nearby Roman Bridge which offers lovely views down onto the Guadalquivir river with its many birds, which at first looked like statues, and back across to the Mosquita and old town.

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The Roman Bridge of Córdoba – built in the 1st Century

I found the courtyard outside the Mosquita as appealing as the interior with many newlyweds getting their photos taken amongst the palm trees. Nonetheless the Mosquita doesn’t disappoint with its red and white arches which seem to stretch further than you can see. It really is unique with Christianity merging with Islamic influences and architecture.

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The Mosquita courtyard
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The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba – Fast Fact: The Roman Catholic Church and Vatican have prevented Spanish Muslims from praying here

Córdoba is a city of ‘what was’, it was once the capital of Islamic Spain before seeing a decline in prestige and population following the Catholic Kings reoccupation in 1236.

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Calle Cardenal Herrero

The street running to the north of the Mosquita (Calle Cardenal Herrero) has an array of tempting souvenir shops, and we stopped for a cheap tortilla at Bar Santos. Taking a wander through the winding streets is a treat with the Jewish Quarter and its white-washed walls being a personal highlight. There is a very small Synagogue dating from 1315 in Calle de los Judios, which turns out to be one of only three remaining in Spain.

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Our trip was a taster of Córdoba, I’d love to return for seconds.

Have you ever been to Córdoba? What’s you favourite day trip in Andalucía?

Cádiz you were a gem

Arriving in Spain in mid-October we were keen to venture to the sea before winter arrived. For that reason our first trip was to the ancient southern-port city of Cádiz. We chose to take a coach, which worked out a little cheaper than the train and took just under 2 hours from Seville. There was a hairy moment when we realised we’d need to run for a taxi to get to the bus station in time – organising six woman can be tricky at times! We booked an Airbnb apartment for the night which happened to be located right in the central square, Plaza San Juan De Dios, a 5 minute walk from the bus and train station.

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Plaza San Juan De Dios

I quickly fell for the charm of the city which seems to have a community feel with locals mingling in the different Plaza’s. While we were there a small festival just below our apartment attracted families and we made the most of the comedy performances and live music – Impromptu dancing on the balcony did take place.

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Festival for all – Plaza San Juan De Dios and the view from our balcony

The main beach in Cádiz, La Caleta, did not disappoint as it is clean and sandy with plenty of space for sun worshippers. My peely-wally (Scots; pale) skin thanked me for some much needed Vitamin D and a refreshing swim. We also sparked up conversations which is always nice, especially when the men are muy guapo.

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Sunbathing and swimming in the sea at the end of October

My first time having Lobster. It is still the best meal I’ve eaten in Spain. Sometimes paying a little extra and following TripAdvisor advice pays off. The restaurant was called El Alijbe, which is just off the main plaza (address; Calle Plocia, 25, 11006, Cádiz).

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Lobster Paella – top scran!

Pargue Genovés is a nice green space in the city and offers a good opportunity to sit and eat ice cream. This is a little kitten I found in the park and a passer-by got a piece of plastic out the rubbish bin so we could give it some water. I’m a massive cat lover and wish I could take the little fur ball home.

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Always making friends with the feline variety

Before we left we took the opportunity to go up the Torre Tavira, the official watchtower of Cádiz which is somewhat hidden on a side street. This tower is also a camera obscura, although we didn’t hang around until the English guide came. It costs 6 Euros (camera obscura included) and I would say the views were worth it.

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view from Torre Tavira

I’d love to return to Cádiz one day. It really is a gem.

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I hope to see you again …

Sunshine, Sangria and Siesta

It has been 4 weeks since I escaped from the drudgery of bedpans, medication rounds and 5.30am alarms to come and live in the land of sunshine, sangria and siesta. Surely the best solution to nursing burnout.

Having taken a month off work in July to do a CELTA qualification (Certificate in Teaching English to Speaker of Other Languages) I applied for an 8 week programme teaching English in a language school in Seville. Despite speaking no more Spanish than Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2 (hasta la vista baby!) the programme seemed to offer just what I needed to ease me into living abroad. The Erasmus programme, ‘Teach Seville’ offers a work placement, accommodation, flights, Spanish lessons and an allowance. Shame Brexit happened and these opportunities might not exist in future.

Since arriving I have been a little lazy with learning Spanish, however a good opportunity to speak Spanish and meet new people is during language exchanges which happen weekly in cafes and bars around the city. These exchanges are called Intercambios which is essentially a type of speed-dating without the dating part. Though I’m sure many relationships have blossomed from that first ‘hola, ¿cómo te llamas?’

Living in the Macarena district, outside the city wall, remember that ‘90’s classic with the killer dance routine? Well anyway it took a good day and a half before I got that ‘wow!’ moment and discovered what makes Seville so special. Not to discount the charm of the Macarena district the main highlights of Seville are found in the central Casco Antiguo district or Old Quarter.

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Los Del Rio – La Macarena
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Avenue de la Constitucion

On our first evening we ventured to the ever popular Alameda which is a wide pedestrianised area with cafes and bars. We ate some montaditos and drank what would be the first of many Cruzcampo cervezas. Montaditos are tapas-sized filled rolls and Beer or Cervezas are drunk like soft drinks in Spain and are cheap, with a caña generally costing 1 Euro.

Living in Spain so far has been a refreshing experience. It’s the middle of November and although we have started using the Brasero (Typical Spanish under table heater) the days are bright and warm and Edinburgh isn’t calling me home yet.

Tell me about a risk or leap of faith you’ve taken?