Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seville & Cadiz, Spain

Sun in Sevilla and Cadiz!

Flamenco, tapas and the beach :)
After our relaxing time in Cordoba, we headed south into Andalucia, to Seville. The sun was shinning bright, and we were so excited. We’d travelled around Europe during the winter months, starting in Norway with -7 degrees temperatures on average, and now we were in Spain, feeling like it was really summer. How amazing is that. Pity we had so much winter clothes, and not much summer clothes…

Anyway, after finding our hostel, which we’ve decided is the best hostel we’ve stayed at during our whole trip away; it’s called The Oasis Palace Backpackers Hostel at Calle Almirante Ulloa, 1 41001 Seville. The hostel is centrally located, very clean, facilities are amazing, and the atmosphere is electric. This particular hostel (as the Oasis Hostels have a few around Spain) is fairly new, so the mattresses are still comfortable, the bathrooms are modern and the décor is pretty good for a hostel, it really does look similar to a ‘palace’ as you enter with it’s grand staircase. They have free breakfast every morning, a functional kitchen (a tad small for the amount of people, but reasonable) and loads of activities on every day/night to meet new people and get involved in the Spanish culture. 

We stayed in the biggest dorm room with 14 beds, but the room was sectioned off, so we only had 8 beds in our area. There was loads of space in the room so it didn’t seem crowded, an ensuite bathroom, but also a shared bathroom in case the ensuite bathroom was in use. The staff were very friendly, and they even have a permanent staff member located on the help desk on the first floor, to answer any questions you had.

Gaffa's perfectly made bed...which is why you are not seeing mine!
After settling in, we took advantage of the help desk and asked where was best to try some local tapas. The guy recommended a place called Taberna Coloniales in Plaza Cristo de Burgos. When we found it, it was not lunch time yet, so we got a table straight away and ordered some cold tapas dishes first to fill our tummys, with some vino also! When the kitchen opened we ordered a couple more hot dishes to try. We will definitely be doing a separate review about this tapas restaurant, as it was probably the best tapas we ate during our time in Spain, the only other contender was the pintxos in San Sebastian, which we’ll get to a little later on…

After we finished lunch, we stuck around abit to enjoy just relaxing in the sunshine, soaking up the chilled out Andalucia atmosphere. Next we decided to walk around and do some sightseeing. We saw the Seville Cathedral, Alcazar de Seville, and then sat at Puerte de Jerez where there were some beautiful water fountains.

Seville Cathedral
Alcazar de Seville
We then walked on towards Jardines Christina to the Torre del Oro, and the Plaza de Toros. The Plaza de Toros is where the bull fighting competitions are held. We didn’t do the tour to go inside, but you can. It was a little bit pricey for our budget. Gaffa managed to get a sneak peak of the inside though, while the workmen were exiting the arena.

Torre del Oro
Plaza de Toros - Bullring
Inside the Bull Ring
That night we decided to embrace the Spanish culture and partake in a free Flamenco dance lesson that the hostel was offering in their bar area. Not knowing what to expect, Gaffa and I were excited to try some new moves to see if we were capable of dance lessons for our wedding, haha.

There were about 10 people standing around the bar on the top floor of the hostel waiting for the dance lesson. The flamenco dancer only spoke Spanish but had some help with English from the bar tender. First we learnt the basic hand movements of Flamenco, then we learnt the basic beat: uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco… then the first few basic steps. We did this over and over again, and then we did it one by one, so she could correct us. There was a lot of stamping involved, and wearing Onitsuka Tigers (flat shoes) was not a good idea for stomping in Flamenco dancing! Gaffa got told by the teacher that he was too tense, and needed to relax. After we were comfortable with the basic steps, she taught us some turns and some more steps. We did this over and over again, and then started dancing the steps to some Flamenco music. It was a good experience, some great fun, but our feet were hurting after the stomping for an hour!  It was especially nice to share the dancing with Gaffa - we got to partner up towards the end.

The next morning we ventured off to check out the Plaza de Espana in the Parque de Maria Luisa. The plaza is just beautiful, with its tiled alcoves, each representing a different province in Spain, filled with glazed ceramic tiles. The sun was shinning bright, and the coloured tiles around the Plaza were just beautiful. It was still low season, so there was no water in the canals. I’m sure it would look amazing in the summer. We walked around all the alcoves, and took photos of all the places we’ve visited in Spain and the places we were yet to visit, and also up and around the bridges. 

This is one Plaza that I would definitely recommend going to see. The detail in the tiled alcoves and bridges are so pretty. The park that the plaza is in is also great to walk around also.  From an artsy come architecture point of view, this place screams technical and yet looks like a piece of elaborate artwork.  Well Done, Sevilla!

Time for lunch! Where did we go? Of course, back to the same place we went the day before. This time it was a bit later in the afternoon, and when we arrived at the place it was full. We had to put our name on a chalkboard list to wait for the next available table. There were about 5-6 groups waiting in front of us, so we just stood around enjoying another glass of vino, and tinto con limon for me! This just shows how popular this tapas restaurant is. On the first day we ate there, we weren’t sure why people were writing their names up on the board. But we finally realised that they were putting their names on the list, for a table later on in the afternoon. 

About an hour later, we finally got our table in the sun. We tried a few different things from the menu, to provide a more in depth review for our readers! Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery at the Plaza, so I didn’t take any photos of the food on this occasion. Thankfully we had a back up with Gaffa’s iPhone!

For dinner in Seville we decided to save some money and make dinner ourselves. The local supermarkets were affordable, and the kitchen in the hostel was well equipped to make dinner. Gaffa searched the shopping aisles for more yummy wines, and somehow eventually emerged with a carton / 1 litre box of vino tinto...which to his great excitement only cost 69 cents!! It was drinkable and had some flavour, not like the white rioja Gaffa was drinking earlier in the day - but hey, when you are getting close to the end of your budget (or you want to be cheap like us) you go for the crappy carton stuff and make the best of it!!

The next day we decided to take a day-trip down to the Andalucian coast to Cadiz; since the sun was shinning brighter than ever. When we arrived at the train station we walked through the town and to the beach - following a scenic walkway which was painted purple on the streets of interest. It was a pleasant, but sweaty walk but the destination was a delight.

Alcove @ Plaza de Espagna - Cadiz
We spent a few hours on the beach, sun baking and relaxing. The beach was enclosed by two cathedrals. It took a while to suck it up and jump in the water, it was like a thousand pins stabbing into your body - ice cold! Gaffa loved it, he kept going back in for more...he misses the ocean when he's not diving, so this was a good alternative I think! Then we headed back via the sea side. Cadiz is a very quaint small town, with some nice beaches, worth a visit for a day if you’re in the area.

Cadiz Beach

Cadiz Coastline
Seville is a must see city in Spain, not only for its food, its architecture and atmosphere, but especially in summer, to relax and enjoy the sunshine. I would definitely be coming back to this city!

Gaffa's Spanish Tan - 3hrs in the sun!!
Is he wearing white shorts under the swimmers or is that pommie-flesh?
 Next stop: Valencia!

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