Sevilla State of Mind

In Seville, I ate jamon iberico. My brother-in-law, Danny, who studied abroad in Seville, was very adamant about us eating as much jamon iberico as we possibly could during our stay. And now I know why. It was amazing! The food situation in Seville was far better than Barcelona’s and the overall atmosphere of the city was so incredibly old school Spain, it made for one of the most charming and authentic stops we have made thus far. Squeezing Seville into our jam packed travel schedule to salsify my brother-in-law and sister was probably the best decision we made. (Thank you Becky and Danny!!)

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Side note: Seville vs. Sevilla – to us it is known as Seville, but to the locals it is known as Sevilla. I’m never really sure which one to use… So I may refer to it as both. It’s the same thing. And he L’s in Sevilla are silent ­čÖé

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Seville was all sorts of sexy, which is a word I had yet to use on my blog up until now. The city was so rich in history and so uniquely gorgeous it was love at first sight. Home to Spain’s most colorful architecture and festivals, it’s no wonder the population’s way of life is so relaxed. The Seville natives live life to the fullest. As my sister often reminds me, they work to live, while us Americans live to work. A European concept I have grown to love. Much different than Barcelona and Madrid, Seville locals still take a siesta – a couple hours in the middle of the day where businesses shut down and the people head home to enjoy some relaxing time with their families before heading back to work. Much like it was in Spain back in the day, siestas are still important, however, the city is becoming more Americanized as time goes on. My husband and I were worried we would have absolutely nothing to do for two or three hours in the middle of the day, but we didn’t have a hard time finding fun restaurants to enjoy tapas and the local beer (Cruzcampo) during that time.

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Important note: during the hours of 2pm and about 6-ish, people don’t typically spend time outside. We learned this the hard way. We arrived by fast train early Sunday afternoon. It was a long ride from Barcelona to Seville, almost 6 hours of traveling. We headed straight to our hotel – Hotel Palacio de Villapan├Ęs – which was located on a hidden narrow road. The city was so quiet, I could hear myself breathe. We thought maybe it was because it was Sunday, but that wasn’t the reason. It was because we arrived during the hottest part of the day, between 2pm and 6pm…The time of the day where people think you are crazy if you step into the sun. We didn’t know this, so we dropped our bags off in our room (highly recommend this hotel.. we loved it!) and set out to explore the streets of Seville. After approximately four minutes of walking, we were dying from the heat. Seville gets uncomfortably hot in the months of July and August, but the travel books warn you that mid to late June can be just as bad… And that’s when we were there.

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Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Seville, which sounds strange as us Americans like to make dinner the most valued time to dine. It does in fact make a lot of sense though. Families gather every day for a few hours in the afternoon during siesta and then go back to work until early evening. So why wouldn’t lunch be the biggest meal there? I love breakfast and I do enjoy a big dinner, but lunchtime has never completely sparked my interest. But when in Seville, we dined over excessive tapas, bottles of wine and Cruzcampos at lunch followed by a relaxing couple hours back in the air conditioned hotel. Our first tapas experience was at a place called Bodega dos de Mayo… Which was about a four minute walk from our hotel and where we stopped once we got too hot to be in the sun any longer. We shared tapas ranging from jamon iberico (the best ham in the world and so much better than your typical prosciutto), flamenquin (a tapa my sister, Becky, recommended as it is her favorite! It’s hard to explain what it is, but if you are ever in Seville, order it. Trust me.), potatoes bravas (typical Spanish potatoes) and many, many more.

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Seville isn’t a city where every single restaurant and bar provides English speaking menus, so we found ourselves winging it in a lot of situations…. Not always working in our favor as we would get dishes we weren’t super enthused with. Like fried fish tapas and creamy mushrooms… Not my favorite. Also, as I mentioned in my Barcelona post, my two years of high school Spanish got me nowhere. It was kind of fun just pointing to things on the menu and then being surprised though! It forced us to try all kinds of new foods and we found ourselves loving more than less.

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After a filling lunch, we decided to stroll through the scorching heat of the city for the rest of the afternoon. I have never sweat the way I sweat that day, no bueno. Despite the heat, it was really nice having the streets to ourselves. There was literally no one on the roads and all of the beautiful side alleys were ours. We didn’t have to share with anyone and I liked that. All the sweat and SPF usage was worth it. Seville is not that big, you can walk the entire city in just a few hours passing over the bridge to Triana, where really neat old buildings topple over one another and fabulous ceramics are made. We wanted so badly to get some ceramics for our home (our future home), but given our current suitcase situation, we just couldn’t swing it.

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As I have mentioned before, dining in Europe on Sunday nights is never easy. The world shuts down and you are left fighting for a table at one of the touristy restaurants that’s actually open. Here in Seville, the night life was a bit more robust. There was a row of restaurants lining a beautiful street, all with outdoor seating and live entertainment. Entertainment in the form of old men strumming their guitars and singing Spanish melodies while serenading couples at their tables. We dined over tapas and local wine and witnessed a rather drunk man at the scene of a crime. Exciting stories like these are far from my daily tales, so I’ve been eager to tell it!

Here it goes – while we were sitting there, clinking our glasses over, “cheers to our first night in Sevilla”, a very drunk man sprinted past our table… beer in one hand, humongous hookah in the other. Water spilling atop the hookah and beer spraying in all directions. Behind him sprints a woman hostess and a male server screaming things in Spanish that neither Mike nor I understood. All of a sudden, our waiter dropped his tray and started sprinting after the drunk man as well, as did other waiters from different restaurants all along that street. It wasn’t before long that the glorifying moment happened – the female hostess was spotted walking back up the street… carrying the hookah over her head as if she had just won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in a movie. Behind her were two male waiters (Both from different restaurants) escorting the drunk man up to the original hookah bar where this all began, probably to hold him in place until they called the police. The other waiters walked behind high-fiving each other in happiness. All of the restaurants on the row were packed with hungry customers eating dinner, and we all stood up and cheered as the “hookah stealer” shamefully walked past with his head down. Mike and I obviously participated in the standing ovation, claps and whistles. Hugs were going around and the entire restaurant community, servers and diners, for that night only, became one big supportive family. It was amazing! And it goes to show that in the city of Seville, they all really do have each other’s backs.

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Breakfast in Seville = tiny ham and cheese sandwiches on toast… which are so good because they are made with jamon iberico! How I know this – my brother-in-law’s best friend and wife, who my sister has become quite fond of, live there. So naturally, Monday morning we met them for breakfast! It is so nice to socially interact with people who speak your language and that you have even the slightest connection with. Jesus and Sarah have two beautiful young daughters and have been living in Seville together for years. Sarah being from Nebraska caused her to have that Midwestern charm that I know and love so much, and Jesus being from Triana, just over the bridge from Seville. They were so incredibly sweet and we had such a good time eating breakfast with them that we decided to meet for dinner that night too! Two meals in one day… That’s love. They gave us some great suggestions for sights to visit and things to do. They also gave us the low down on all things Seville – from siestas, to schooling, to the crazy hot weather, to the architecture, and the list goes on. It was an entire handful of information we continue to find interesting. It was great.

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Aside from eating and drinking extremely well, there is much to do in Seville! Being fully aware of the heat situation that was going to come over us at some point that afternoon, we started our Monday early. After breakfast we headed straight to the famous Cathedral & La Giralda. It was massive and so impressive. We had to stand in the heat of a line for about 20 minutes, but once we got inside we were so amazed by the iconic gothic architecture of the interiors that the wait was worth it. With 90m high ceilings and intricately decorated walls, the cathedral is really exceptional. If you happen to visit Seville and visit this church, be sure to go as early as you can. For heat purposes, obviously, but also because it closes early and you don’t want to miss out!

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The Alcazar Castle, Seville’s royal residence for many centuries, was next on our list of things to do. Mike and I both love palaces and old living quarters, which I have mentioned before, but this one I was particularly excited about because of its lovely gardens. The Alcazar has been rebuilt and redecorated many times in its decades of existence, first founded for the Muslim fortress and then slowly taken over by the Catholic Monarchs. Aside from the colorful tile that lined every room wall and entrance, the outdoor gardens and patios were exquisite. With a maze (an Alice in Wonderland type maze!) built in the middle and fountains leading to rose families, it was heavenly.

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In the middle of the city is this crazy bizarre piece of architecture that was built for… I’m actually not really sure of the reason. Some German architect visited Seville years ago and decided that one of the plazas would lend itself perfectly to a random curvaceous design of his. They then proceeded to build it and surround it with bars and restaurants. It looks really cool, but doesn’t quite fit in with the city’s old charm. Jesus was telling us that it was built spontaneously out of wood… Which is really silly because the extreme heat in the summers of Seville will cause it to slowly deteriorate. Wood probably wasn’t the best option, but I’m not an architect, so who am I to judge! It’s just really bizarre to me. We ate a big lunch in the plaza and then took a siesta. In blasting air conditioning.

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My sister has been to Seville with her husband a few times and is always raving about her favorite restaurant, Bar Santa Marta. She kept telling me it was the restaurant in the plaza. Well, Seville has at least ten plazas, maybe more, so that wasn’t very helpful. However, we did manage to find it and eat a late dinner there with Jesus and Sarah (Seville locals eat dinner around 10pm, with their kids and all. The reason being that no one wants to go outside until the sun sets as it is just too hot! They also work a little later than us Americans due to siestas, so it all makes sense. They’re theory is… If the kids are that tired, they will fall asleep. And so they did! Both of their kids passed out right at the dinner table over flamequin and tortilla. It was great!). The restaurant was far from fancy and nothing special, but the food was so good!! Probably the best tapas we had in all of Seville. Before we ate dinner, Mike and I got some drinks and tapas at one of Spain’s oldest bars, El Rinconcillo. This was another place my sister and brother-in-law told us about and it was awesome. Super old and really cool. If you are ever in Seville, you have to go here. It’s a must!

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Late Monday night was an exciting night for my husband. USA played Ghana (at midnight Spain time) in their first World Cup game and we were determined to find an “American” bar to watch it with fellow Americans. It was a hike, but we found an Irish pub near the bridge to Triana and got to sing in glory with a bunch of American college kids as the US kicked butt. My husband’s favorite night ever. Drinking at the bar with drunk college kids as they shouted chats at the television screen. We even met a boy from Wisconsin who was studying abroad in Seville! It’s a small world after all. (Please notice my husband’s happiness in the photo below with the fellow Wisconsin boy that we met…).

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Tuesday morning was rough as we were out rather late drinking tinto de naranja’s at dinner (tinto de naranja = the famous drink in Seville… a mixture of red wine and fanta (yes, fanta, the soda) on ice. Rather a strange drink, but my sister would have killed me if I went all the way to Sevilla and didn’t order one!!) and beers with college kids until 2am. Luckily, the train from Sevilla to Madrid was only a few hours long. Stay tuned to read more on Madrid! Until then, ciao!

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