Thursday, June 28, 2012
Tapas-crawling in Seville
We got an extra bank holiday this year to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (God save the Queen!) and jetted off for a week-long holiday in sunny Spain with my kid sister. Andalucia has been on top of my list of places to see ever since taking on an architectural history class during my university days at Berkeley. I was intrigued by the fascinating blend of Islamic and Gothic architecture of grand palaces and mosque-cum-cathedrals such as Seville's Alcazar, Mezquita of Cordoba, and the magnificent Alhambra of Granada. Thanks to the new route from London Gatwick to Seville from both EasyJet and Ryan Air, getting to the gateway of Andalucia has never been easier!
We started our grand tour of Andalucia in Seville, the fun-loving city best known for flamenco, sherry, and oranges. Seville is a beautiful city full of charming pedestrianised streets, buzzing bars, and picturesque riverfront. While in Seville, we followed a strict Spanish regime which involved waking up late, taking a 3 hour siesta at 2:30pm, eating dinner at midnight, and bar-hopping until late.
By day, we visit all the major attractions, starting with the impressive Gothic cathedral and Moorish bell tower (Giralda). The Cathedral occupies the site of a 12th century mosque and today, the only remnants of the old mosque are Patio de los Naranjos and minaret built in 1198. The Cathedral is much larger than I expected, and no doubt, a stunning piece of architecture.
The Cathedral is also the resting place of Christopher Columbus, who if you need a lesson in history, discovered America in 1492. Since it was a local holiday, the Cathedral was free and open to the public to celebrate San Fernando, the patron of Seville with a lively procession inside the church.
Plaza de Espana located inside the leafy Parque Maria Luisa is lovely spot for relaxing especially in the early evening for an impromptu picnic or stroll around the semi-circular plaza which was once the centrepiece of the 1929 Exposition. There are also several museums and dazzling fountains to enjoy within this beloved tranquil park.
You cannot miss the Real Alcazar, the royal residence of generations of kings and caliphates. Photos do not capture the intricate and exquisite details of this beautiful palace. You enter through Puerta del Leon which takes you to the Patio de la Monteria, a grand courtyard decorated with plasterwork by the finest craftsmen from Granada. Throughout the entire palace, you can admire the gorgeous Islamic facades in the Mudejar styles. Neatly laid out with terrace verandas, pavilions, and perfectly manicured gardens, the Gardens of the Alcazar is a delightful refuge from the unforgiving heat.
Seville is full of charming neighbourhoods. Be sure to get lost in the narrow alleyways in Barrio Santa Cruz, the former Jewish ghetto and enjoy a late evening tapa crawls of patata bravas, croquettes, jamon y queso around Matteo Gago and Rodrigo Caro. You can also take a walk along the riverfront to see all the major sights in the neighborhood of Arsenal including Torre del Oro, Tetro de la Maestranza, and the 18th century bullring.
From here, you can head across the river to the working class neighbourhood of Tirana. Previously a gypsy enclave, Triana is now a popular hangout with alfresco bars spilling out on Calle Betis. It is not only famous for pottery and ceramics, but also for its food market at the end of Isabel II bridge.
Eating and drinking in Seville is far more reasonable than Madrid or Barcelona; you can eat well without feeling the pinch on your wallet. We probably stopped by at least a dozen tapas bars around the city and gladly recommend the following:
Bodega Santa Cruz (Calle Mateos Gago): An old-school tapas bar with local vibe. Standing room only unless you can snag an outdoor table. Order a few cervezas and tapas and then move on. In fact, you can't go wrong with any of the tapas joints on this street.
Enrique Becerra (Calle Gamazo 2): Located on the same street as our flat; traditional Andalucia cooking; very good tapas but a bit more pricey.
Taberna Coloniales (Plaza del Cristo de Burgos, 19): classic tapas bar; portions are generous and prices are very reasonable. The fritura de pescados is very good. If you don't fancy cerveza, then you can order Tinto de verano, a refreshing summer red wine with a splash of fizzy lemonade.
Other tapas bars include: Boreas, Nueva Victoria, Bar Eslava, and Bar Teresas. After spending three days exploring and eating our way through the picturesque city of Seville, it was time to move on to Cordoba.