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Seville | Van Moustache

Van Moustache are Rafa Torres and Paul Laborda, a Sevillano duo inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt, a French gypsy widely regarded as one of the all time great jazz swing guitarists. Having lost the use of the third and fourth fingers of his left hand in a fire at the age of 18, he developed a unique style of playing. He was active throughout the 1920s and 30s, mostly as a member of the Quintette du Hot Club de France with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli (claim to fame moment: I once met Mr Grappelli at a music festival in Canada many many years ago).

Here you can see Van Moustache playing live at the veoapartment Christmas shindig at La Taberna de Pasos Largos in calle Feria. It was a fantastic night.

Seville | Everything you always wanted to know about oranges….

Seville is, as we all know, famous for its orange trees and oranges, but if you’re not a jam-maker, botanist or citrus fruit farmer, it may come as a surprise to learn that this is the season when the oranges are harvested. There are probably lots of other things you don’t know about oranges, but luckily for you we are here to ask all those questions you could never be bothered to ask.

orange harvestoranges being harvested in the centre of Seville

Oranges are grown in lots of places, but where did they come from originally?
Oranges are thought to be native to south-east Asia, probably north-east India, southern China and Vietnam.

How were they introduced to Spain?
Oranges were introduced to the Eastern Roman Empire from India in about the 1st century, and gradually spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. They were brought to Spain by the Moors in the 10th century. It is sometimes said that Hercules, also credited with being one of the founders of Seville, stole the first oranges from the Gardens of the Hesperides, where they were called Golden Apples.

orange blossomfragrant orange blossom (azahar)

Why are they called oranges?
Ultimately, this is a similar question to “why is water wet?” However, the Indian word for orange was “naranyan”, which means “inner fragrance”, and most European languages use similar names, such as Spanish “naranja”. In English, it was originally a norange (no, that’s not a typo).

Sweet oranges are obviously good to eat, but why choose to plant bitter oranges?
Precisely for that reason – people wouldn’t eat them and the trees would remain decorative throughout the season until the fruit were harvested. In fact, decoration and shade were the primary reasons for growing orange trees. In China they were also thought to bring their owners happiness and good fortune, and this tradition may have spread with the trees.

What are they used for?
In the Middle Ages the use of oranges was primarily medicinal. Later they were used for perfumes, wines and flavourings, particularly sweets, and since the 17th century (when sugar from Caribbean plantations became available in large quantities) the majority of bitter oranges have been exported to England to make Seville Orange Marmalade. Also exported was the Spanish word for jam – “mermelada”.

Poires au Chocolat Seville Orange Marmaladephoto: Poires au Chocolate – click here for a great marmalade recipe using Seville oranges

How many oranges are there in Seville?
On the official count there are 31,306 orange trees in the city of Seville, producing just over 4 million kilos of oranges.

There’s still time to get to Seville to see the orange trees in full fruit, or in full bloom. A few weeks after the harvest (late February-early March) is orange blossom season, when for about three weeks the city is full of the smell of the azahar. This is one of the best times of year to visit Seville, but book an apartment now, while there’s still space!

Seville | The View from Triana Bridge

Every city has its impressive and/or beautiful monuments, the things that residents boast about, and visitors come to see, but often it’s the less spectacular sights and sounds that capture the heart and make a place feel like home.

0131_betis-blue-1-01view from our Betis Blue apartment

The Isabella II (Triana) Bridge in Seville is definitely one of those places. It connects the old city of Seville proper with the neighbourhood of Triana on the other side of the River Guadalquivir. Triana, whose origins go back to Roman times (it is thought to be named for the Roman Emperor Trajan, who was born nearby), has always been a neighbourhood outside the city walls (an arrabal in Spanish), a marginal community that was something of a refuge for “outsiders” such as the gypsies. It also sat astride the main road westward to the Aljarafe and the coast, which is why the Muslims built a castle on the site of what is now the Triana market, followed in 1171 by the famous “bridge of boats” that was the only crossing of the river until it was finally superseded by the Isabella II bridge in the mid 19th century. The castle, meanwhile, became first the headquarters of the Order of St George, giving it its modern name of Castillo de San Jorge, and then from 1481 to 1785 of the Spanish Inquisition. By about 1800 the castle was demolished, and became the site of the Triana market.

lovers locks-001lover’s locks on the Isabel bridge

With their working class and immigrant roots Trianeros have always regarded themselves a breed apart. Many of those who sailed on the voyages of discovery and trade to the New World came from there, as did many famous flamenco artistes and bullfighters, for whom this was the way out of the ghetto. During Semana Santa (Holy Week) the processions of El Cachorro, La O, La Esperenza, and La Estrella are among the most fervently followed in all Seville, and the annual July fair of Santa Ana, Seville’s second largest, has been held since the 13th century.

0131_betis-blue-1-apartment-14view of Triana from the Seville side of the river

The bridge itself, with its arches and iron rings, is highly distinctive, and if you’re walking across it you may notice that the railings are often festooned with padlocks, sometimes bearing the names of those who have chosen this way of “plighting their troth”. At the Triana end the Carmen chapel and the roof of the Triana market above Saint George’s castle are also instantly recognisable. It’s certainly worth taking the time to pause midway across the bridge and looking down the river at some of Seville’s other landmarks. On the left are the wharves of the old river port, once one of the busiest and most important in Europe, where the sailing ships moored to load and unload the riches of the Americas. Beyond are the Torre del Oro and the towers of the Plaza España, and on the right the unusual shape of the old Moorish dock.

Our Betis Blue apartments on the Triana river front are the perfect place to be a part of this special atmosphere.

Seville | 10 Typical Tapas

People often ask me questions like “What is your favourite tapa?”, to which I usually answer “what’s your favourite song?”. Obviously it’s impossible to choose just one, but I can tell you about the most typical/popular tapas (or foods in general) that people eat here. And so, in response to popular demand, this is a list of 10 very typical – and delicious – Spanish tapas. It’s not definitive. It has a regional bias towards Andalucia (no Pulpo a la Gallega, no Paella, no Fideuá), and some personal biases too (no Ensaladilla Rusa or Callos a la Madrileña). And there’s plenty of common dishes not included because this is a top ten, not a top fifty.

jamonjamón Ibérico de Bellota

Cured ham Jamón is close to being a national obsession in Spain. Hams can be seen hanging from the rafters in all the best bars, and every tapeo should begin with a plate of it served in those wafer thin slices. The best quality is Iberico, made from the Spanish black-footed pig (pata negra), but Serrano is good too.

Fresh Anchovies (boquerones) The Spanish and Portuguese are said to eat more fish and seafood than any other people on earth, except the Japanese and Icelanders. One of the most popular fish is boquerones, which are either fried in batter al limón, or marinated in vinegar. Delicious either way and nothing like the tinned variety you may be used to.

Tortilla de Patatas I was in two minds whether to include this as it’s so not exotic, but it’s so typical I felt I had to. A traditional thick potato omelette, though it can be made with other vegetables too, cooked to a firmer texture than a typical English omelette (although some people prefer a more runny centre) and cut into slices. Comfort food goodness.

tortillatortilla de patatas

Croquettes These really don’t need much explanation, except to say that they are unlike the French variety, with bechamel instead of potato, and various fillings (ham, mushroom, cheese etc), rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. The best are satisfyingly crunchy.

Pavia de Bacalao  Bacalao (cod), usually salted, is one of the staples of Spanish cooking. Pavia is a traditional battered cod (a bit like the fish in fish and chips), crispy and crunchy on the outside and flaky on the inside, but bacalao can be served in dozens of different forms.

Solomillo al Whisky Pork sirloin grilled and served with a whisky and garlic sauce. Can be served with other sauces, but this is the best.

Gazpacho is the best known of the Spanish cold soups that are so refreshing on a hot summer’s day, although I’m making it do duty here for cold soups in general. The majority of these are tomato based (my favourite is actually salmorejo, served with a garnish of chopped boiled egg and jamón), but you should also try ajo blanco, the white garlic and almond soup that’s the oldest known cold soup variety.

gazpachoa cold cup of gazpacho

Gambas al Ajillo Prawns in sizzling hot oil and garlic, with the odd red chili pepper thrown in for a bit of bite. Prawns are ubiquitous in the tapas bars, and come in all shapes, sizes and methods of preparation, but I think this is the most “Spanish”.

Meatballs (albondigas) Usually pork, sometimes beef, and quite often (albondigas being broader in meaning than meat balls) seafood, especially chocos (cuttlefish), served in a thick sauce, either gravy or tomato based. Like a lot of traditional dishes it was originally an economical filler- and nothing wrong with that.

Pork cheeks (Carrillada or Carrillera) Possibly my favourite tapa (though it’s a close call), pork cheeks are braissed on low heat for three hours or more until they’re super tender, and served in a sauce made from their own juices, garlic, and whatever else the bar’s secret recipe calls for. Miss this one and you’ll regret it forever.

Find out more about tapas and the art of the tapeo over here.

Felices Fiestas! Happy Holidays!

christmas 2014
The Veoapartment Team wishes you a very Merry Christmas!