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Seville | Triana Ceramics Museum

ceramics museum (1)award-winning interior design by AF6 Arquitectos

The Triana district of Seville has long been famous, among other reasons, as an important pottery and ceramics producing area (the Plaza España was designed partly as a showcase for Triana ceramics). However, although you can still find pottery shops, and even a few small scale workshops, in the Alfarería (a place where pottery is made or sold) neighbourhood behind the market, the industry is sadly not what it once was, and it’s perhaps a sign of the times that one of its most famous landmarks has recently opened as a museum.

The Ceramica Santa Ana, on the corner of San Jorge and Callao streets, has one of the most famous frontages in Seville (decoration and signage in ceramic tile, of course), and still functions as a shop and showroom, and the Centro Ceramica de Triana (the museum) can be found in the building next door, which used to be the Santa Ana pottery factory. It’s not much to look at from outside, but as soon as you walk past the reception area you realise that this is because everything faces inwards into the main courtyard – the principal production area of the factory. The exhibition areas are in the buildings overlooking the courtyard, which have a facing of randomly sized pottery tubes called a celosia, which provides shade for the interiors while still allowing light to enter. The installations, designed by Miguel Hernández Valencia and Esther López Martin of architects AF6, are a blend of traditional and modern, partly inspired by the objects that were left lying around when the factory closed.

ceramics museum (6)mural made from baked clay pieces found in the factory

Not surprisingly, given the availability of suitable clays in the immediate vicinity, the history of pottery making here goes back a long way, at least as far as the Romans. Indeed, two of Seville’s patron Saints, Justa and Rufina, martyred here in the 3rd century, are traditionally said to have been potters. Under the Moors new techniques were introduced, and the craft of making decorated tiles in particular reached its peak. Later Italian and Flemish styles flourished, but there was a gradual decline until the 19th century, when an English potter and trader named Charles Pickman opened a modern factory in the Cartuja. Other entrepreneurs followed suite, and the revived industry reached a new peak in the early 20th century. Failure to modernise, however, led to another decline and many of the local manufacturers went out of business in the 1960s and 1970s.

ceramics museum (2)restored 18th century hand-painted tile panel

The core of the new museum is still the old kilns, which are of various ages stretching back to at least the 16th century, the ponds for storing the wet clay, and mills and basins for pigments. Upstairs there is a temporary exhibition about the restoration work carried out by the museum, and two permanent exhibitions, one detailing the history of local pottery making and techniques, with collections of locally made pieces, and the other about the neighbourhood of Triana, its traditions, and its fierce sense of local pride. These make it an excellent area to rent an apartment and experience the real character of a local neighbourhood. Below you can watch a video showing the restauration of the museum.

Seville | 7 Secret Corners of Seville

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fountain in Plaza Cabildo

Chances are that if you come to Seville you’re going to do all or most of the standard tourist sights – the Cathedral, the Alcázar, the Plaza de España and the Metropol Parasol are my personal big four, and are worth a few hours of anybody’s time, and there are other well-known attractions, too. But there are other places, each with their own special charm or story, that you quite probably wouldn’t find, or whose significance you wouldn’t realise, unless they were pointed out to you. They’re not really secret, of course, but some of them are hard to find (others are hidden in plain sight), but I think they’re all worth making the effort to visit. There are a few others that didn’t make the final cut for one reason or another, such as the Atarazanas, Plaza Doña Elvira or the Corral del Conde, and other locals could probably add some more, too. But here are my personal seven favourite secret corners of Seville.

Roman Pillars in Calle Marmoles

On the corner of a couple of quiet residential streets between the Barrio Santa Cruz and the city centre you might stumble across three pillars that are all that’s left of a Roman temple. These are the oldest structures still in situ in Seville, though two more columns from here can be seen at the entrance to the Alameda de Hercules. Their rather humdrum location just makes their age all the more impressive.

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pillars of Roman Temple

The Judería Wall in Calle Fabiola

Okay, it’s just an unremarkable short section of ten-foot high wall, with no plaques or memorials to tell you what you’re looking at, but this is, in fact, the only remaining section of the wall that once enclosed the late mediaeval Jewish quarter, separating it from the rest of the city. A good place to stop and ponder on human stupidity for a moment. Then go and have a beer.

 

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the Wall of the Juderia

Plaza Cabildo

The Plaza Cabildo is a half-moon shaped square that can be reached through a covered passageway directly opposite the main entrance to the cathedral on Avenida de la Constitución. The flat side is part of an old internal city wall, but the semicircular building with the decorated “eaves” is from the 1930s. Of interest is a little shop that sells confectionary and other items made in some of Seville’s convents, named El Torno after the little turntable that kept you from seeing the nuns, and on Sundays there’s a collectors’ market.

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detail – Plaza del Cabildo

Plaza Santa Marta

This is another little square that you probably wouldn’t find if you didn’t know it was there. It’s at the end of a little alleyway behind the statue of the Pope in the Plaza Virgen de Los Reyes, which in less time than it takes you to say “Where does this go?” leads you from the bustle of the city centre to a quiet, secluded nook shaded by orange trees. Purely coincidentally the collectors´market was held here before it relocated to the Plaza Cabildo.

Baths of Doña Maria Padilla

This is one of my favourite places in the whole of Seville. They can be found in (or at least under) the Alcázar Palace. They’re rather inappropriately named, being neither baths, nor belonging to Doña Maria Padilla, although she was contemporary, being the mistress of Pedro I, who built the main palace. They are, rather mundanely, rainwater tanks storing water for the gardens, but the long vaulted chambers, the play of light on the water and the muffled quiet make this quite unique.

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Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla

Casa Moreno

This little abacería (a small specialist food shop with a bar in the back) in Calle Gamazo has an atmosphere all its own. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it looks semi-private and is full of locals, it’s really very friendly. Just go in, and have a beer and a couple of montaditos, and come away with that feeling you’ve touched the soul of Seville.

Plaza de la Escuela de Cristo

This tiny square, not much more than a patio, between the Santa Cruz church and the seminary, is the closest thing to a real secret on this list, as it’s only semi public, the entrance door (at the end of an alley off Calle Ximenez de Enciso) being locked at night. But with its cobblestones, orange trees, fountain and a cross in one corner it has an undeniable special charm.

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Plaza de Escuela de Cristo

In addition to these there are hundreds of buildings with charming courtyards or ornate decoration. Many of our apartments in the historic centre can be found in such locations, making you feel a part of this beautiful city.

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Patio San Isidoro apartment building

Seville | Spring Flowers

jacarandasjacaranda trees in blossom

With the equinox less than a fortnight away, the last week has seen a definite shift from winter to spring in southern Spain. It’s not as if winter is really tough here, of course, but the days are short and the nights chilly, and the blue skies and sunshine are harbingers of the year’s reawakening.

Spring has always been a good time to come to Seville. For a start, the weather is near perfect (as in most places the changing of the seasons can bring a little unpredictability), warm enough for shorts, sandals and T-shirts, but without the sweat and exhaustion inducing heat that will kick in during June. It’s the season for eating al fresco, strolling through the parks, gardens and charming squares with which Seville abounds, or relaxing on the terrace of your apartment with a siesta-time cocktail.

1-0504_macarena-seville-apartments-terrace-spain-01flowering plants on sunny Macarena Terrace

Early spring, around mid-March, is also the time for one of Seville’s best (and free) attractions, for this is orange-blossom season. The orange trees (around 30,000 of them) are decorated with the delicate white flowers of the azahar, and for around three weeks the air is filled with one of the most delightful scents known to mankind.

orange blossomazahar – aka orange blossom

The colours of spring are everywhere in the city, which is vibrant with flowers and blossoms of every hue. Particularly worth looking out for are the blossom of the almond trees, and in June, just when you thought it was all over, the purple of the jacaranda erupts for a couple of weeks, a blaze of glory to finish the season.

spring blossomsalmond blossoms in Maris Luisa Park

Seville is justly famous for its two Spring Festivals too, the first deeply religious, and the second its “have a good time” party week.

Semana Santa, Holy Week, leading up to Easter weekend, sees the streets full of processions with statues of the Christ and the Virgin Mary being carried to the Cathedral, huge numbers of penitents and Nazarenos in their pointed hoods carrying crosses or long candles, the smell of incense and the distinctive brass band Semana Santa music. Being a spring and rebirth festival flowers again figure prominently. Religious observance has declined, but the processions still draw huge crowds (especially the overnight processions on Thursday through to Good Friday morning), and are a moving and emotional experience. The celebrations in Seville are said to be the largest and most elaborate in the world, and are worth seeing even for the non-religious. They also say there are two types of Sevillanos – those that watch all the processions, and those that leave town for the week.

flowers virginflower-festooned procession float – photo courtesy of ABC.es

Two weeks later it’s the April Fair, La Feria de Abril. The modern fair grew out of an older horse and cattle fair, and during the day this is still evident in the horse and carriage parades. But the primary purpose nowadays is to dress up in your flamenco finery, put a flower in your hair, drink lots of rebujito (a mix of dry sherry and 7up), and dance the night away. The main venue is on a purpose built area of small marquees on the edge of town, but the carriages, horses and polka dot dresses can be spotted anywhere in town. April Fair is also the main bullfighting season, when the upper crust can be found eyeing each other up outside the bullring (a kind of Spanish Ascot) before the main event.

feria flowerswomen  at the Seville fair with “flowers” in their hair

More than any other time of year the spring is when Seville is at its most alive and colourful, and the chance to visit and experience its unique atmosphere is not to be missed.

Malaga | A Postcard from Malaga

 

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Hi Mum, Hi Dad

Well, here we are in sunny Spain (yes, even at this time of year, though it can be a bit chilly in the mornings), and having a whale of a time. I was a little worried it might feel like an out of season beach resort, but it’s not like that at all. Lots of things to do here. There is a beach, of course, but we haven’t actually been hanging out there, though yesterday we took a long walk out along the coast road to the old fishing villages for a fab seafood lunch. Looks like St Tropez or one of those places, palm trees all the way along and little bars on the beach. There’s even a rather dilapidated almost Victorian bathing resort place that has a kind of rustic charm – tres romantique.

First morning, though, we went up to the old castle at the top of the hill to enjoy the view over the city. It was a bit of a climb up – should have taken Luke’s advice and taken a bus or a taxi, but it added a certain relish to the cold beer we had when we got there. And you really can see everything from up there, from the bullring to the harbour, the Cathedral – and lots of gardens. And the sea, of course. My first time on the Med! Hard to believe I’m really here.

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Afterwards we went down to the Alcazaba. That’s the old palace and fortress where the Moorish rulers used to live. It’s half the 1001 nights and half, well, a fortress. Towers and walls and whatnot.

In the evening I had my wicked way and we did some shopping in Larios, the main street in the old part of town. Not John’s favourite thing, but I didn’t spend too long or max out the credit card. Picked up a nice pair of shoes and a gorgeous handbag though, so felt I’d had a stab at it. And today he gets to get his own back and drag me round the Automobile Museum. But he still has to take me somewhere nice for dinner afterwards. Plenty to choose from, the food scene here is much more lively and varied than I expected.

What else? We’ve done quite a lot of just wandering around. Found some weird street art and the Roman amphitheatre, and an amazing old bar like a labyrinth. I still want to go to the harbour and have a drink looking across the water.

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Our apartment is really cute, and has everything we need, and feels much freer than staying in a hotel. And there’s one of those great fresh food markets just five minutes away. I’ve never seen so much fish and seafood in one place.

Well, that’s about it for now. The holiday seems to have gone really fast, but I’ve a feeling we’ll be back.

See you soon

Lots of hugs and kisses

Jenny

Seville | Spanish Lifestyle

1-IMG_20140216_133811street life in Seville

Although the notion of a Spanish national character can easily be overdone, there are some cultural biases that people from the English-speaking countries will probably pick up on. The Spanish are generally ebullient, noisy and outward going, with a smaller personal space than you’re used to, and this combination can make them seem a bit “in-your-face”, especially given a widespread lack of foreign language skills (the Swiss and the Belgians can look smug at this point; the Brits and the Americans should probably keep quiet). But really, they’re by and large friendly and hospitable.

Timetables. Partly as a product of climate, and partly because Spanish clocks are an hour out of kilter, everything happens later in the day than you’re used to. A lot of people don’t start work until 10, lunch starts at 2 not 12, and carries on through siesta until 5. Then everything opens up again until 8 or 9. Dinner (usually tapas if you’re eating out) is after that, and may carry on until midnight, especially in summer. In school holidays and at weekends you’ll also see lots of quite young children out and about at this time.

There’s a good reason why “siesta” is the most widely understood Spanish word in the non-Spanish speaking world – it’s just such a good idea. Although a long afternoon break is anathema to the corporatist work ethic of much of Northern Europe and America, it actually conforms to the natural rhythm of the human body. And in the days before aircon, or if you’re working outside, what else could you be doing in the heat of the summer sun? It also allows you to stay up late and get up early.

jamonjamón Ibérico de Bellota

When it comes to eating out the hustle, bustle and sociability of the tapeo is an essential part of Spanish culture in general, and Sevillano culture in particular. Despite the buzz, it’s essence is laid back and informal, with lots of sharing and conversation, and at the end of the evening, lots of lingering over a final drink. People often go from bar to bar, but no one ever tries to move you on to clear the tables for the next shift. Visitors often remark on how civilised this way of eating and drinking feels.

Before the tapeo, if work schedule and weather permit, is the paseo, the evening stroll. The Spanish live outside more than their northern counterparts, and on a warm spring or autumn evening what could be finer than a walk out of doors and perhaps a bit of window-shopping?

arenal (2)Bullfighting is still very popular in most of Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. They still kill the bull, and the ritual and symbolism are part of every Spaniard’s repertoire, even if they’ve never been to a bullfight. These days the social, see and be seen, aspects of attending a bullfight are as important as the fight itself (unless you’re a bull).

Religious processions are very popular throughout Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. Although strict religious belief and observance are in decline, Spain is still very much a Catholic country, and in Seville participants prepare all year for major events such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) which still draws huge crowds.

Even if (unfairly) the Spanish, especially in southern Spain, don’t have a reputation for working hard, they do have a reputation for knowing how to party. Every locality has its annual fair where they dress up in flamenco costume, dance the night away and drink lots of rebujito (a cocktail of sherry and 7up). In Seville the Feria is in April.feria flamenco dresses

All this, of course, just scratches the surface, and if you want to find out more about why so many people love Spain and its relaxed lifestyle, you need to come and stay in one of our holiday apartments and experience it for yourself.