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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.

Seville | Plaza Doña Elvira



elvira (2)Doña Elvira Square

Even in Seville, a city justly famous for its charming squares and other nooks, the Plaza de Doña Elvira in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, even today still known as the old Jewish quarter, has to be one of the prettiest and most enchanting places you will ever see. It’s quite small, and is lined by orange trees and colourful tiled benches around an area of cobbled paving, flowerbeds, ornamental streetlights, and a central fountain. It’s reputed to be the birthplace (in what is now the Hotel Doña Elvira) of Dona Ines de Ulloa, the unrequited passion of Don Juan Tenorio, one of Seville’s most quintessential figures, immortalized first by Tirso de Molina, and later by Mozart in Don Giovanni.

elviratypical tiled bench

The approach to the Plaza along Rodrigo Caro street, around the walls of the Real Alcázar, is one of the most picturesque in the city, and anyone visiting the city should take the time to follow it. In Roman and Vizigothic times this area was outside the city walls, and was only enclosed by the Moors the ninth century. The pattern of narrow streets for which the Santa Cruz is famous, and which is typical of mediaeval Islamic cities, was created at this time, and the area of the modern square was probably occupied by a small block of houses.

elvira (3)After Ferdinand III reconquered the city for the Christians in 1248, he allocated this neighbourhood to the Jews and enclosed it with high walls (the only remaining piece can be seen in Calle Fabiola). There was often tension between the Jewish and Christian communities, but in the years following the Black Death (1349) and the great earthquake of 1356, these tensions mounted until in 1391 the Christians went on a rampage through the Jewish quarter, looting, burning and killing. Most of the remaining Jews fled, or were scattered around the city.

After the pogrom, Henry III gave the neighbourhood to Don Pedro Lopez de Ayala, and it was his daughter, Doña Elvira, who gave her name to the square. Their palace occupied part of the modern plaza, and had a small stable yard open to the street, forming a small square known as the Plaza de los Caballos. In the 16th century the yard was rented for the comedy theatre popular at the time (this was contemporary with Elizabethan theatre in England, with which it had much in common), and was known as the “Corral de Doña Elvira”.

Later, after the local authorities had banned the theatre performances, the yard was used as a warehouse, until in 1826, as part of a plan to revitalise the area, it was demolished, and the square enlarged to its present size (it probably acquired its current name at the same time), with the central fountain and benches. In 1924, as part of the preparations for the Spanish-American Exposition of 1929, the streetlights and flowerbeds were added, giving the square its modern appearance.

elvira (4)tiled plaque on the Doña Elvira house

We have a great selection of holiday apartments in this neighbourhood to give you the perfect base for exploring.

Granada | Museums

Although famous first and foremost for the great fortress and palace of the Alhambra, Granada is by no means a “one-horse town”, and has a wealth of history and culture to discover in its streets and monuments, and also in its many museums.

0228_carnero-granada-apartments-terrace-alhambra-views-spain-01view of the Alhambra from our Carnero apartment in the Albaicin

Until the 11th century Granada was a minor provincial town in the Caliphate of Córdoba, but in the mid 13th century, after the defeat of the Almohads (Moorish Kings of Seville) by the Christians, it became the capital of the Nasrids, the last Moorish rulers of Spain. They took over a small hilltop fortress called the Alhambra, and in the course of two centuries turned it into one of the most spectacular places on earth.

Two of Granada’s most important museums, the Alhambra and the Fine Arts are actually housed in the Carlos V Palace in the Alhambra complex. The Alhambra Museum has a large collection of ceramics and other objects used in the Nasrid palace complex, and of Mudejar art in general. The Fine Arts Museum has a collection of paintings and sculptures by artists such as Alonso Cano.

entrance to patio of Casa Castril

entrance to patio of Casa Castril

If you want to go right back to the beginning, the Archaeological Museum is the place to be. It has a huge collection of objects from the paleolithic era through to the end of the Moorish period. This museum is currently closed for renovations, though some of the exhibits can be seen at the Museo de la Memoria de Andalucia.

Statue of Einstein (courtesy of Wikimedia)

Statue of Einstein (courtesy of Wikimedia)

If modern is more your style you may want to visit the Science Museum. This is also a great one for the children, with lots of activities and interactive displays to awaken their interest in how things work. There’s a planetarium, and sections on the biosphere, perception and exploration, and also an observation tower that looks out over the city.

The Jewish contribution to the religious, cultural and intellectual life of late mediaeval Granada is remembered in two museums, the Sefardi Museum in the old Jewish neighbourhood of the Realejo, and the Palacio de Los Olvidades (the forgotten). Both give an insight into the daily life of the Jews in Granada, with collections of domestic and religious items and lots more.

For a closer look at the life of the Moors in Granada, pay a visit to the recently opened Casa de Zafra, a Nasrid mansion in the lower Albaicin that was incorporated into a convent. The tranquil courtyard with a pool is typical of the architecture of the period, and makes you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.

Coffins of the Catholic Kings (courtesy of Wikimedia)

Coffins of the Catholic Kings (courtesy of Wikimedia)

Coming into the Christian period, the Royal Chapel (next to the Cathedral), has a collection of Royal and personal belongings of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, while the Casa de Los Pisa is home to the Museum of Juan de Dios (John of God).

Another very popular museum is the Sacramonte, which looks at life in the “Gypsy” neighbourhood of the Sacramonte. The area is famous for its cave houses, and the museum recreates a cave house of 100 years ago, and includes lots about the history of the neighbourhood and of Granada. There are also stunning views of the Alhambra and Albaicin from the area around the museum, that are worth making the journey for all by themselves.

Alhambra Museum and Fine Arts Museum
Palacio Carlos V
Tel: +34 958 027 900/929

Archaeological Museum (Casa de Castril)
Carrera del Darro, 41
Tel: +34 958 225 603

Science Museum
Avenida del Mediterraneo, s/n
Tel: +34 958 131 900

Museo Sefardi
Placeta Berrocal, 5
Tel: +34 958 220 578

Palacio de los Olvidades
Cuesta de Santa Inés, 6
Tel: +34 958 100 840

Casa de Zafra
Portería de la Concepción, 8
Tel: +34 958 180 079

Royal Chapel
Plaza de la Lonja, Gran Via, 5
Tel: +34 958 222 959

Juan de Dios (Casa de los Pisa)
Convalencia, 1
Tel: +34 959 222 144

Sacramonte Caves
Barranco de los Negros, s/n
Tel: +34 958 215 120

Seville & Granada | Valentine Getaways

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, and the best places to spend a romantic weekend are rapidly filling up. But don’t despair if you’re the sort of person who leaves these things till the last moment; we still have holiday apartments for rent in two of Andalucia’s most beautiful destinations, Seville and Granada.

Both cities are famous for the picturesque narrow streets of their old towns, the exotic splendour of their Moorish style palaces (especially Granada’s Alhambra on its hilltop), and their Cathedrals (especially Seville and the iconic Giralda Tower), as well as the lively bustle of their tapas bars and the rhythms of flamenco. But for that special holiday you also need that perfect base of operations, and for that you can’t beat a cosy little apartment in the thick of the action. Here are some that are still available.

Granada

0228_carnero-granada-apartments-terrace-alhambra-views-spain-01

Carnero – A charming one bedroom apartment in a Casa Palacio with an inner courtyard full of plants, located in the maze of streets just off the River Darro in the heart of the city. Wood beam ceilings and wood flooring give it a warm traditional feel. Highlight is the view of the Alhambra Palace from the large balcony outside the bedroom.

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Carmen Terrace 1 – A cosy studio in a Casa Carmen (a house with a walled garden unique to Granada) on the Alhambra Hill, with a private terrace and garden area. Highlight is the glass wall that runs along one side of the apartment with a breathtaking view of the old Moorish quarter.

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Sacramonte Cueva 2 – Once in a lifetime experience is this one bedroom cave house (with all mod-cons) in the famous Sacramonte neighbourhood, high enough up to be above the Alhambra. It’s the gypsy-bohemian part of the city, and it’s worth going to one of the flamenco shows in the caves here. Highlight is really the totally unique atmosphere of the cave itself.

Seville

0623_flores-terrace-seville-apartment-01

Flores Terrace – This little studio apartment has it all. Rustic and colourful with its own private terrace, terracotta floors and wooden ceilings, in a Casa Palacio with a beautiful courtyard. Highlight? Click on the link and check out the cute bathtub.

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Plaza Santa Cruz B – One bedroom apartment in a typical Sevillano town house in the heart of the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, complete with courtyard and fountain. Highlight is the perfect location, close to everything, but still quiet and peaceful.

0053_corral-del-conde-apartments-seville

Corral del Conde 54 – This cute little apartment is in a remarkable 16th century housing complex built around a large communal courtyard. Greenery, wooden balconies, great Spanish atmosphere. Highlight must be the sense of living in the middle of the history of ordinary people.

0379_giralda-terrace-seville-apartments

Giralda Terrace 1 – The pick of anybody’s bunch must be this spacious luxury studio with a private terrace. Just have a look at that view of the Giralda. And it comes with complimentary flowers and bottle of wine, too.

Seville | Holiday Tips

Have you ever been somewhere on holiday, and discovered something near the end of your stay that makes you say, “I wish I’d known that before I came on holiday”? That’s a rhetorical question, of course, as it happens to all of us, and however much planning we do will probably continue to do so. Nevertheless, here are some tips that will help you avoid at least some of those moments when you’re in Seville.

First off, when is the best time to come to Seville? Spring and autumn have the best weather – warm enough for shorts and T-shirts, but not oppressively hot. On the other hand low season (winter and summer) means cheap deals on flights and accommodation. Try to avoid Semana Santa (Holy Week) and the April Fair unless you’ve come to Seville specifically for those events; the city is extra crowded and hotel and apartment prices are often double the normal rate.

If you’re staying more than a couple of nights (which you need to to do Seville properly), and particularly if you’re a family or a group, consider renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel. It gives you more freedom to come and go, as well as self-catering and laundry options, and often works out cheaper. These days there are lots to choose from in all size and price ranges.

Seville is a fabulous city for just wandering around, and if you’re in the centre (if not, the buses and taxis are cheap and easy to use) everything is within walking distance. It’s very easy to get lost in the mazes of small streets, though, so get a map from the tourist office. You could also try starting your stay with a walking tour, which will not only help you find your way around, but also give you an insight into the city’s past, and how it came to be what it is today. Principle must-see sights include the Reales Alcazares (royal palace), the Cathedral (there are often long queues, but you can avoid them by buying a combined entrance ticket at the El Salvador church), the Plaza España (González’s masterwork built for the 1929 Spanish-American exhibition) in Maria Luisa Park, and the modernist Metropol Parasols (the world’s largest wooden building).

Seville is famous as the birthplace of tapas, so get to know this typically Andalucian way of eating. It’s informal, and the bars are often busy, but don’t be put off or intimidated – really, the locals are friendly. If there’s no space, wait; people often go from bar to bar and don’t stay long in one place. Don’t order everything at once, just one or two tapas each to start, and order more as you need it. In some bars tapas are only available at the bar, so check before ordering. The bill is “la cuenta” and is usually paid at the end. There are also lots of tapas tours available if you want someone to show you the ropes, explain the food and give you helpful tips and suggestions. It’s also worthwhile visiting one of the local food markets to see how the locals shop.

Although the audiences are mainly tourists, the best way to see flamenco is still at a proper show – The Flamenco Dance Museum and the Casa de la Memoria are among the best. Book an early evening show and you’ll have plenty of time for tapas afterwards.

For the little things. It’s worth going somewhere high up for an overview (literally) of the city. The Giralda Tower and the Metropol Parasol are the best. Also try and catch the deep, dark blue of dusk over the Cathedral from Plaza Virgen de los Reyes. This is also the time when the swallows come out to hunt insects, and can be seen swooping around the tower and nearby streets. This is a magical time of day to be out and about.