Seville, Sangria and Winter Sun

Plaze D’Espana

Before we left for this trip packing was quite an important part of it. Two destinations, 4 flights, one hand luggage only trip and the other the full monty hold luggage.  We were off to Seville for pleasure and Valencia for football . Some may think football is a pleasure and usually it is but when you top and tail it with a nice meal and some vino, but I hate away matches.  We’re often caged in like animals, nobody sits in their allocated seats and every one smokes! Surrounded by armed police in riot gear, although saying that, I do remember going to a match in Madrid and the police there were all exceptionally handsome so that’s something to look forward to.

As I was unable to carry more than 3 kilos it was down to the other half to get the luggage from A to B then C to D then back to C and finally back from B to A!  We had one 23kg and one 15kg bag.  I gave him my special luggage weighing scales and he reports back that one bag is 40 and the other 19! Now I do like to pack for every eventuality, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a 40kg bag. However he was insistent so back on my knees I went to try to downsize and repack.  Fifteen minutes later weigh in again, nope still not right.  I unpacked again, he weighed again. Nope. No good. So I decided to take a little control back and asked him to put his glasses on! I didn’t notice he wasn’t wearing them, and he didn’t seem to notice a problem. Sure enough it was calculating pounds not kilos, so fuming (and swearing), I repacked for the third time and off we went.

Hampton by Hilton, Gatwick Airport

It was an early start from Gatwick and feeling way too old for 4.30am wake ups we booked a room at the Hampton By Hilton in the North terminal. It was sparkling and still smelt new. The rooms were  lovely but the pillows were terrible and I regretted not squashing my bamboo pillow in the suitcase. On the plus side there was no noise from the outside flights and it took us just 15 minutes to get from the hotel room, to the bag drop, through security and sat at our table having breakfast!  Very impressed. 

During the flight I started thinking about how lovely it would be to just follow, my other half sat next to me with not a clue of the hotels we were staying in or the things I had planned. Even though this was a birthday trip, it wasn’t a surprise, and this is the case wherever we go.  I’m the planner in this couple, and as much as I’d love to be able to just arrive somewhere, I wouldn’t be relaxed not knowing where we were staying, the location and type of hotel or any of the itinerary including bars and restaurants.  He’s so laid back, a part of his character I was instantly attracted to when we first met and one which often annoys the hell out of me now!!  Of course, I don’t plan every minute of every day, we always have what I like to call ‘free time’, for a day or so.  He loves to get under the skin of any city we visit and after many years of screaming rows because of this I know better now and just follow him down the less travelled streets rather than get anxious and panic that we’re going to get lost or attacked or murdered!!  He usually leads us to some well-hidden local taverna that tourists have yet to discover.

First night in Seville at the Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia. What a gorgeous place this is. Right in the centre, don’t drive there unless you’re accustomed to driving through a drainpipe. The roads are so narrow and all one way. Ubers are plentiful and cheap. The hotel is both charming and different.  It’s not for those who love symmetry, full of winding open pathways and arches with rooms randomly dotted around where you least expect one to be. It has a rooftop pool, too cold for this time of year, but good to know for our next visit. 

We went out for a wander and lunch. I subconsciously gravitated back to a tapas bar I’d visited before, La Catedral on the Calle Gago, THE street to walk down when looking for lunchtime tapas, the food was delicious 6 dishes for 2 of us, more than enough for lunch then a meander through the cobbled streets and a little pit stop along the way. 13,500 steps! I love the way of life there. It has a great vibe with Tapas bars on every street and corner, with most people happy to stand outside and have a drink whilst they wait for a table and no sense of urgency. We, however, weren’t those people. 

It’s a cuttlefish cigar!!!

We went to Eslava for dinner. This was somewhere I’d seen the last time I visited with my girlfriends but didn’t stop at. The queue for a table was way too long for us oldies.  It was 9pm and we were both hangry.  Lucky for us attached to the tapas bar was a gorgeous little restaurant with the same kitchen. There were only 2 occupied tables when we arrived and I was a bit dubious about the menu but thanks to an amazing maitre d’ who selected 3 tapas and 2 main courses for us, it was absolutely delicious, especially the cuttlefish cigar with bechamel sauce, and by the time we left  at 11pm there were no empty tables. 

At this point of our trip I’ll skip a few days.  We had an early am flight to Valencia for the Chelsea champions league match. With only one full day there I don’t feel a review is appropriate as we certainly didn’t do it justice.  This is a place that truly deserves a proper three-day city break so we will be returning , probably during the summer so we can enjoy the wonderful beaches and when we have more time to peruse. If I had to sum up Valencia in one sentence it would be this; beautiful beaches, sexy policemen in full riot gear, wonderful architecture and delicious tapas! If you’re going to watch the football do your own research rather than rely on your partner to tell you the colour of the opposite team, otherwise, like me, you will sit in the away side looking like you support the home team!

Back to Seville and our next meal was at El Rinconcillo, the oldest tapas bar in Seville. This was one that had been highly recommended as a must try.  However, this was my most disappointing meal of the trip.  The place was mobbed, décor was old and gorgeously traditional, which was the nicest thing about it.  Luckily we had booked a table as most people were standing and eating, quite a Spanish thing to do but not one I like doing.  The waiter who showed us to our table was beyond rude, as were most of the staff there.  To ask for anything you had to speak really, really quickly, or he was gone before you had finished your request.  He wasn’t concentrating on us when taking our order, always looking elsewhere and when asked for his recommendation he just said ‘all is good’.  Couldn’t really find any decent tapas to share so we went for single plates and ended up having more Italian style food than Spanish.  He had squid ink rice with cuttlefish and I had mushroom risotto.  Presentation was non existent and it tasted just OK.  It didn’t help that our waiter had the most terrible body odour and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.  Shame. It’s reputation is obviously all it needs and I doubt my negative opinion will make any difference to its success, it must be doing something right to have been going for 4 centuries!

Hmm

We did a tour of the bullring which was very interesting.  I hate doing these kinds of things with my other half.  He spends hours looking, staring and reading, despite having the audio guide, and I just like to listen, glance and wander through.  He’s so frustrating that even the guide was getting impatient, he was the last one out of every room we went in to!

Lovely place for lunch after this which has outside seating on the main road parallel to the river but set back far enough for the fumes not to be an issue.  Fluvial, we had mixed croquettes then he had an amazing giant prawn and I had a chicken Milanese salad.  I could eat all that again in a heartbeat.

The rest of the weekend was spent doing a bit of sight seeing, Plaza D’Espana is a must see as is the Alcazar Palace and gardens, I suggest buying skip the line tickets in advance for this one, a great time saver as the queues are always long, even in December.  A few more bars were visited, we bought crisps in a cone from a stand to go with our drinks and even had a few jugs of Sangria, it’s not just for the Summer you know.

We spotted Jesus on his cross and mobile phone (!) and discovered a few lovely places to eat that we’d never heard of.  Sunday lunch was spent at Miss Tem, a gorgeous little place with a lovely interior (it had been raining at this point), more delicious food and not too expensive either,  and I wondered why I had put on weight when I got back home!  Our last lunch was a bit of a splash out at the Ena restaurant at the Hotel Alfonso XIII.  We sat outside on the terrace underneath the heaters and watched the world and the horse and carriages go by.  A lovely end to a wonderful trip, and I can safely say that Seville is right up there as one of my top European destinations to visit.

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