Over our last break from teaching, I had the opportunity to visit Sevilla, Spain for a bit. To say that I loved it there would be an understatement. I feel like it is a very livable city and even started to look up international schools just to see what the job situation is like. Of course, that's wishful thinking on my part, as I just signed a contract to stay at my school for another year. I would not rule it out for the future, though. In many ways, Sevilla reminded me Manfredonia, the small Italian town I nannied in. In both places, siestas are a big part of every day life, Sundays are reserved as family time and all of the shops are closed, dinners are typically later, the weather is subtropical, the currency is the same, the food is so fresh, and the people were generally warm and friendly. Even the set up of the apartment I stayed in was similar to my past home in Italy. I do miss Manfredonia and would like to visit again, but if I were somehow be able to live in Italy, Manfredonia would not be my first choice. With about 60,000 people, it was a little too small for me. Sevilla is a much larger city, has many attractions, and I feel like it has just enough going on where I would neither feel bored or overwhelmed. If only...
Anyway, for our stay Rachael and I decided that we wanted somewhere cozy and comfy, so we searched on Air Bnb. We were surprised at just how affordable some of the options were. As a whole, I found Sevilla to have a lower cost of living than what I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. It probably helped a bit that I went during the off-season, too.
We decided on staying at a place in San Lorenzo which is the "old town." Our host, Pilar, greeted us upon arrival and gave us the low down on her place. It was very clean and I felt 100% safe staying there. The wifi was fast (a treat for us since we live in China) and Pilar really wanted to make her guests feel at home. She provided us with her What's App ID so we could contact her if we had any questions. There were all kinds of provided toiletries, and she went the extra mile and gave us sparkling water, dark chocolate, apples, muffins, tea, milk, and coffee. Those snacks were SO useful because we weren't used to the eating schedule. Eight o'clock is a very early dinner in Sevilla, but so late for me! Another reason why I loved Pilar's place was because although the location was central, it wasn't RIGHT in the center by the cathedral. It took me about 20 minutes to walk there from her place. This allowed me to take in more of Sevilla, as I chose to take a different route toward the center each day. Besides discovering various streets and neighborhoods, we also opted to walk along the river. I really don't think I would have ventured out to this part of Sevilla if I had already been in directly in the city center. I guess what I'm trying to say is that at Pilar's place I felt like I got more of the local experience in a residential neighborhood, and I'm glad to have avoided staying in a super touristy area.
I saw some of Sevilla's main attractions, but for part of my trip I just took it easy by taking long strolls around the city, trying out new restaurants, and just relaxing. All in all, I had an excellent time was quite enamored with the city.
* Shopping Street (near Calle Velazquez/Calle Tetuan area)- For our first full day in Sevilla, it was quite rainy, but Pilar placed two umbrellas right outside the door for us--so thoughtful! Rachael and I wanted to go out and do some sightseeing, but we decided to stop and do some shopping beforehand. We went into El Corte Ingles, a Spanish department store, first. There were so many different beauty counters on the first floor, and we felt like we were in heaven. Of course we splurged and got new lipsticks from Mac--I got a purple one called 4 Eva. We each bought palettes, too! I got Kat Von D's chrysalis eyeshadow palette, and Rachael got the new Too Faced Peaches one. Then came the clothes. We both left with several new outfits and felt amazing about our purchases because we live in China, so there are only a few stores with clothes that fit us. I loved just going into a department store, picking what I wanted, and then having everything look good to the point where I only buy items that look truly great on me. In China, sometimes I just buy it if it fits. The really nice cashier realized that we weren't Spanish and explained with a lot of motions that we could get a tourist discount if we signed up for a card on the first floor. It was so thoughtful of her to do that because we totally wouldn't have known, and she saved us some cash. We stopped for a drink and snack at the cafe in El Corte Ingles and then continued on our shopping excursion. We may or may not have made several more purchases at NYX, Parfois, and Mango. Of course we went in many more stores than that. Let's just say that we shopped so much that we spent almost the whole day out and didn't have any time to sightsee. Both of us were 100% okay with that since there were lots of stores that China doesn't have. Rachael informed me that the reason why there are no NYX stores in China is because NYX doesn't test on animals, and all makeup in China has to be tested on animals before it can be sold there. I really didn't know that and was sure to stock up on some NYX goodies. We ended our day of shopping with some gelato from La Abuela.
* Seville Cathedral- Of course this UNESCO world heritage site is a must-do in Sevilla. When we went, the line wasn't too long--we only waited about 10 minutes. The price of admission was 9 Euros. The cathedral is huge and you can seriously spend hours in there. One cool feature of the cathedral is the bell tower. When we were in Marrakech about ten days earlier, we were told that the minaret on the Koutoubia Mosque is practically identical to the bell tower in Sevilla. We saw both with our own eyes and are inclined to agree. It was neat that we were able to travel to Spain directly from Morocco and see the Moorish influence on the architecture!
* Triana for flamenco- I knew I wanted to see a flamenco dancing in Spain, but I didn't know where to go. I ended up opting to see a show at Orillas de Triana, and boy was that the right choice! I don't know about other spots in Sevilla, but although the room had other travelers, it didn't feel touristy or cheap. In fact, it felt quite intimate, and even on a Saturday night there was still just a small audience. I would still suggest to book ahead to play it safe though. There was a 5 Euro add-on charge for a drink and tapas, which was totally worth it. I had never really seen flamenco dancing before for an extended period of time, let alone in person. It was so, so incredible. Although I have no dancing talent whatsoever, I do appreciate the arts. This performance actually moved me to tears! There were different combinations of singing, guitar, and both a male and female dancer. If you want to see some passionate dancing and a stunning performance, I recommend this venue!
* Real Alcazar- I loved checking out this royal palace that has been compared to the Alhambra in Granada. The rooms were very grand, but the gardens had fewer tourists and were peaceful. Built mostly in the 1300's, this incredible palace is still in use today.
* Las Setas or Metropol Parasol- Las Setas means "mushrooms" in Spanish, which is an appropriate name for these mushroom-like structures made out of wood. For just 3 Euros, you can take an elevator to the top and take in some wonderful views of the city. If you show your ticket at the cafe, you can even get a free beverage. The locals have mixed opinions about Las Setas, but it's one of those wonderfully weird attractions I couldn't NOT see.
* Plaza de España Built for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929, this sight is not to be missed. I wasn't expecting such an impressive structure. Although I had seen photos of the plaza beforehand, I did not know how massive and truly magnificent it would be in person. Rachael and I spent some time exploring the ceramic alcoves and watching other tourists row their boats through the canals. The building is still in use today, as it houses some government offices.
* Maria Luisa Park- If you're going to go to Plaza de España (which you most likely are), you might as well go explore Maria Luisa Park as well since the park area is right next to Plaza de España. It's a pleasant place to walk around in or take a carriage ride through. It's free and full of little fountains and gardens. We didn't spend a whole lot of time there, but I could see how it would be a nice place to frequent for the locals.
When I mentioned how fresh the food in Sevilla was earlier, I wasn't kidding. Some restaurants had seafood that was just brought in, and the waiters told me that I could choose from what was delivered. Based on my choice, the chef would incorporate the ingredient I chose and tailor a dish to my tastes. Another reason why I loved the restaurant scene so much was because of all the different types of wine that were available! Every restaurant had a decent selection of wine, and often times the house red was just 3-4 Euros a glass. I may or may not have had a glass of wine with practically every meal. I would seriously go back to Sevilla just to try more restaurants.
Eslava- This was the first place Rachael and I tried for tapas. Located in San Lorenzo, it was a very short walk from our Air Bnb. We went at around 9, and since the weather was nice enough to sit outside, we went with it. We were lucky that we got there "early" because it started to get crowded later and all of the outdoor seating was taken up. We didn't know what we were doing really, so we just ordered about 6 tapas off of the menu and the house red to go with it. Every single dish we tried was amazing, especially the slow cooked egg on boletus cake. The service was really good, too. The waiters were so attentive that my wine glass was never empty. I looked up reviews of Eslava later and found that it is well-known throughout Sevilla for having high-quality and award-winning tapas. I really liked the atmosphere--it was laid back and not pretentious at all. How lucky were we to just go there not knowing how exceptional the place really was?
La Azotea- Rachael and I tried to go here one evening for tapas, but it was packed, so we had to go somewhere else. I ended up going back during lunchtime and was really impressed! This restaurant has a lot of fresh seafood, but I was craving a salad. I saw that there was a twist on one of my favorite salads, caprese. The caprese salad at Azotea had basil gummies and was topped with sorbet. It was so fresh, light, and such a creative combination of ingredients! Also, the waiters were pretty cute and smiled at me a lot, which is always a plus.
La Galantina- I ended up here famished after walking for 40 minutes trying to find a paella restaurant that was recommended to me. It turned out that it was closed, and La Galantina had paella on the menu and seats available, so I chanced it because I was too hungry to go much further. Although the waitress did not speak any English, she was kind and efficient. The paella was simple, yet tasty. What I couldn't believe were the prices, though. The paella, a bottle of water, a glass of white wine, and bread basket cost less than nine Euros!
Alameda 5- This restaurant is located on the corner of the square called Alameda de Hercules. I wanted to have a snack, and the terrace looked inviting, so I went for it. Although the terrace was pretty full, most people were just having drinks. The ambiance was nice and relaxing, and my appetizer of nachos was pretty tasty.
Edicion Limitada- This was where Rachael and I had our last meal together in Spain before she had to go to San Francisco. At first we were nervous because there was only one other party inside eating, so we thought that might be an indication of the food. However, about 30 minutes after we were there, the place started filling up. There were many light options, and we stuck to mainly ordering vegetarian tapas like the Asian noodles and cheese plate.
La Cacharreria- I went here because this cafe was ranked highly on Trip Advisor for having good breakfast. The place is SUPER small, so there was a long wait when I arrived. That was on a Sunday, so I opted to try to go back on Monday hoping it would be less crowded. Even on Monday, there were only two seats available at the counter, but that was just fine. There was a selection of smoothies, toasts, and bagel sandwiches to choose from. While I was there, I met a lovely Irish woman who was spending her last day in Sevilla. She said she wanted to spend her day at her favorite places, and chose La Cacharreria as one of them, so I think that says something!
In case it's not clear, I'd go back to Sevilla in a heartbeat! There are so many other places I'd like to visit in Southern Spain, and Sevilla would make a nice base.
If you've gone to Spain, what places did you visit?