White weddings and for taxis, red is the new green..

We didn’t have a plan today, great for me but barely credible for Susie who researches and organises everything. We began by crossing the river at Puente de Miraflores, walking along the riverbank and crossing back over on the Puente Romano into the lower city centre. There aren’t good views of Cordoba from the opposite bank, trees and bushes are in the way. To get up to the Roman bridge we walked under it and up a ramp to the street. There were one or two stalls at the roadside, one of which caught our attention as she was selling ‘bio’ drinks. Susie ordered a multi fruit one which she blitzed and I thought I’d try a ‘bio’ lemonade, both in non biodegradeable plastic cups. Again she blitzed every ingredient, asked if I’d like mint in it to which I agreed and presented a very chilled and un-lemonade looking drink in a fetching dirty yellow colour. I took a sip from the straw and immediately my mouth shrivelled up. It was possibly the most acidic thing I’ve ever had and fairly undrinkable.

We sat on a bench near the bridge observing the tribes of walking groups, whilst I prised my mouth open periodically to sip the lemonade. Horrible it may have been but it had been paid for. Like many other European cities, weddings are held on Saturdays and while we sat, there was a steady passage of well dressed guests heading towards town. A bride and groom appeared with a photographer to our right and off they walked down a cycle path by the riverbank, the brides long flowing white gown doubling as a very effective dead leaf sweeper…

I finally drained the lemonade (and am still suffering from it’s after effects) and we wandered in the direction of the Mezquita, passing the ubiquitous buskers on the bridge. One was playing an accordion and making such elaborations to the melodies as to render them unrecognisable and a boy/girl duet who were actually so good we gave them some change. It may have been as much as two Euros…

The area round the Mezquita was packed with tourists and we found its inner courtyard full of an after wedding throng. The bride and groom were about to exit and I was shooed away from the gates by a harassed official photographer. The newlyweds stood beaming and we got caught in the thrown rice overflow. I suppose we should be grateful it wasn’t cooked paella. We quickly tired of the masses of tourists and sought refuge in on of the small patios, which housed a couple of leather shops. Strolling on, we had a quick lunch in another patio, which was a tapas restaurant. The huge number of visitors we mingled with really was too much and we jointly decided to return to the apartment.

After our afternoon siesta we got ready for our evening dinner reservation at Choco which has been awarded a Michelin star. A taxi ride away, we turned up early and the waiter asked us to seat ourselves at an outside table to have pre dinner drinks. At 8:30, we were ushered into a gold and bamboo themed comfy seating area where we had more drinks and three appetizers. The maitre’d collected us and took us through to the kitchen for another appetizer which was smoked in front of us. Finally we were shown into the restaurant proper where we were presented with a choice of two tasting menus, one slightly shorter than the other. Naturally we chose the one with more courses.

With due regard to it’s star rating, we were a little underwhelmed with the dishes. The flavours and ingredients, were perhaps a little too subtle for my own taste. The presentation and service were wonderful,  even folding your napkin if you got up from the table. They called us a taxi and we sped home, sometimes cornering on two wheels and once through red lights. We got home, tired, happy and amazingly in one piece…

I’m writing this the next morning and as again we have no definitive plans for today, this evenings blog may have less words and photos…you should be thankful for small mercies…

 

Apparently, oranges are the only fruit..

This morning we met Paulo and Dominic for breakfast and introduced them to the delights of Pan Y Pui. We said a fond adios to them, the bakery owner, his staff and ultimately Seville. Seville is a beautiful city and we think it is worth going back to..if only for the chocolate croissants…

We arrived by taxi at the coach station, located which bay number our coach to Cordoba would depart from and waited. Then it turned out the coach adjacent to our bay was the coach we needed, luckily we found out well before it went. Two hours and another taxi ride later we were here. Our apartment is called ‘Petitgrain’ and has orange trees growing by the side of the road outside our window. It’s delightful and we have a small private patio.

Susie had booked an after dusk tour of the Mezquita, I managed to take one photo inside the courtyard before being told that photos we not allowed….

The tour was very atmospheric, as they illuminated the interior as the guide walked us through. I found the mosque much more interesting than the later Christian additions, which seemed rather out of place. We exited an hour later and made our way to the restaurant where earlier we’d made a reservation. The meal was good though we were both almost falling asleep over it. Neither of us could face dessert, which just proves how tired we were….and on that note, I’m off to bed….

Wandering round casas…..

Which is all we did today. It’s our last full day in Seville and it’s been hotter than previously. Our intention was to try to get in to the Alcazar but neither of us felt like standing in a line and risking heatstroke so plan B was worked out…

There is a Seville walking route which takes you round five Casas Palacio . We’d seen two yesterday and whilst we couldn’t fit in all of the other three we were determined to visit two of them.

Walking north we headed for Las Duenas, in which gardens feature strongly. It’s truly beautiful, if a little museum like…

After seeing Las Duenas, we stopped off it the Japanese restaurant we found yesterday for a light sushi lunch and walked south, past our apartment to Casa de Salinas. We found the gate locked but could see a digital timer counting down the 14 minutes to the next guided tour. The beep went off and sure enough someone did turn up. I was disappointed she didn’t go and take something out of the oven but instead took our money and gave us a personal tour of the house. Salinas is still occupied by the owners and their family. In fact there was going to be a family wedding there this coming weekend.

More compact than the others and without a garden the tour didn’t last long. It was however fascinating.

Wilting a little we came back to the apartment and got ready to meet two friends of Susies, Paulo and Dominic. They’d flown into Seville that afternoon for a weekend break and we were to meet them for dinner at their hotel. We passed a lovely evening together and they were good enough to walk part of the way back to our apartment with us, just so they could get lost too…

Off we go to Cordoba tomorrow, catching the coach at 12:30…..I hope the next place is a bit quieter…

 

Visiting the Condesa’s palace…

Today we found a little gem. Not one you can wear or even a midget one you can chew but a gem of a house. The Casa Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija will not be on every tourists must see list in Seville. We think it should be..

Originally built in the 16th century and remodelled in the 19th, it was bought by the Countess of Lebrija, Dona Regla Manjon y Mergelina in 1901 and she spent the next 13 years reconstructing it in her own unique style. She bought original Roman mosaics from private collections and decorated the house with Roman, Greek and Persian statues, Louis XVI furniture and 17th century ceramic tiles. To some it may seem a little ‘wacky’ to mix all these things together but it seems to work and the house is deeply etched with her character.

We trundled on after leaving the house, slightly stunned by it and found ourselves by some tables set outside a restaurant. Ah, beer stop I thought, so we did.

Our next objective was the Alameda De Hercules a long thin open space framed by two tall Roman columns. Impressive they are but today, somewhat spoilt by the setting up of a fun fair for tomorrow, Spain’s National Day.

We headed back home, via the wooden mushrooms and found a great Japanese restaurant where we had a light sushi lunch..(no beer, I know my limit). We’ve had a small siesta and there are actual clouds in the sky. We’re off to El Traga again tonight. Can our stomachs stand such strain? You’ll find out tomorrow…

How we met El Grumpo, walked on mushrooms and drank smoothies in the mist…

This morning we began by visiting Casa de Pilatos a fifteenth century house, with beautiful tiles and ceilings and wonderful gardens. Well worth a visit and only a short walk from our apartment here. It was getting on for noon when were wandering back and we thought we’d try a recommended tapas bar for a drink and a quick snack. It was there we not only had substandard food but encountered El Grumpo, the most bad tempered waiter in Seville. He made it a pleasure to leave the bar. No wonder the place across the square was three times as busy…

On we walked, fortified by insipid prawns and the blandest potato salad this side of the Spanish border till we came upon Plaza Encarnation and the wooden structure known locally as Incarnations Mushrooms . We’d tried to visit these the other day but the area was closed. Today however, our way was clear. We used the escalator to get to the base of the structure, then went down to the lift to reach the platform at the top. Yes, I know it sounds a bit strange, just bear with me..

In the ‘basement’ there is an exhibition of the Roman and later archeological discoveries made when excavating the foundations. It reminded us very much of the Borne Center in Barcelona. Exiting the exhibit, you catch a very snazzy, mirrored lift to the top of the parasol and walk round…..then back down..

On the way back to the apartment, we stopped for smoothies at the same place as the other day. This time though, they had their ‘cooling’ system set up and as we drank, we were periodically swathed in fine mist, as if we were in a tropical rain forest.  It did nothing for Susie’s hair, though needless to say, mine was hardly affected…

This evening we tried El Traga, an up market tapas bar which is more like a restaurant. It’s great. Wonderful inventive food, friendly waiters and a super maitre’d who caught up with us at the door, thanked us for coming and complimenting the food and ensured us that we’d have the same quiet table tomorrow as we had tonight…oh yes, we’re going back….

Oh well, the end of another hard day exploring….the bar crawlers are wending their noisy way home and no doubt we’ll have the street cleaning alarm at 5AM…..

When is a paella not a paella?

When it contains seafood, or so we were informed today…..

Leaving the usual tourist sights and haunts today (after all we are explorers) we took ourselves over the river, to Triana and the market Always ones for trying something a little different, we were booked on a cookery course to make three traditional Spanish dishes, salmorejo, spinach and chick peas and paella….

We were given a short tour of the market by Jessica and shown hams from white pigs and black pigs (who are fed on acorns), fruit and vegetables, spices and olive oil. The kitchen is very modern, and you are given aprons to wear and have a workstation each. There were 14 of us today, a large family group from Taiwan, a man from Florida and two couples from Canada plus the foodies from France…

It was quite hands on, we all had a part to play in cooking the three courses. Above all it was tremendous fun, enhanced by Leo the chef and instructor who made everything easy to follow.

We blitzed tomatoes, chopped onions, diced garlic very finely and were shown how to debone a chicken. A couple of hours passed really quickly then we were ready to eat what we’d prepared. It was very tasty, especially the paella, which was spiced with toasted saffron and smoked paprika. Leo then prepared a simple dessert of mint leaves, lemon sorbet and cava, all blitzed up into a smoothie. It was probably the best thing I’ve ever done on holiday and we’d highly recommend it.

The heat here hadn’t diminished by the time we left and we waddled over the bridge, incredibly finding our way home without getting lost…there must be something in this Spanish beer..

A coach trip to Ronda…but will there be a welcome in the hillside?

I’m not a real fan of long coach journeys. Especially when they involve getting off and on several times and exclaiming ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ at the scenery that’s presented to you upon alighting the steps. I must admit though, that most of the scenery today would pass the ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ test with flying colours.

We were booked on a guided tour of the ‘White Villages’, Zahara de la Sierra, Grazalema, and Ronda. All of these are in stunning situations, and worth getting up at 7:15am to go and see. However, I can’t let the day go past without my own small observations and criticisms. First a few images to give you a small flavour of this stunning part of Spain.

Zahara is a small village tucked away on the side of a cliff. It’s obviously very popular with tourists and the small central square soon filled up with cars. Local bars and restaurants broke out the seats and tables as soon as the tourists flocked in. We had two of the strongest expressos ever!!

On we drove to Grazalema, where they were holding a Fiesta. Luckily it didn’t involve throwing tomatoes at each other or doing unspeakable things to donkeys. Personally, as I hate crowds, I think I suffered enough without those to add to the experience. The Fiesta was jolly, lots of locals enjoying themselves with quite a few in local costume. There were even two guys dressed as 19th Century soldiers complete with authentic rifles. I can’t help but imagine them as extras in another Zorro movie..Our coach driver managed to thread his way back into the village and scurry us off to our last village, though at 30,000 population, really it’s a town.

We arrived in Ronda (not The Rhondda obviously) hot, tired and a bit late. Our Spanish guide, who bless him wasn’t possessed with the loudest of voices, explained (I think) that he couldn’t give us a tour of the old town centre because guides that weren’t local aren’t allowed to take tours. So he left us to look round ourselves, nothing to do with the fact we were running an hour late.. The view from the edge of the cliff, which is partly on top of the old city walls is simply breathtaking. Time constraints, dehydration and tiredness deprived us of exploring further, though Seville and the area surrounding it, has been earmarked for future exploration.

The sun had set by the time we were dropped off the coach back in Seville. We were both ravenous, so we called in to what has become our local tapas place, ‘Bar Europa’ and topped up our tummies. Tomorrow we are off to a market on the other side of the river for a cooking course….I have first dibs on the dessert…