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Recipe | Migas

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One of the great things about renting an apartment for your holiday is that you can go shopping in the markets and try out Spanish recipes using authentic local ingredients. But what do you do with what you have left over on the last day? One answer could be – migas! Migas is a classic “waste not, want not” poor people’s dish for using up your stale/dry bread, together with bacon or ham, onions, garlic, and a couple of eggs. And although this year the Seville summer seems reluctant to make way for autumn, cooler weather is not far off, and this filling winter warmer is a must for your Spanish cookbook.

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  • 2 cups stale bread, crumbled up in chunks
  • 1/2 cup water (more or less)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • chopped chorizo or ham or bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • pimentón (smoked paprika)

How much water you’ll need depends on how old and dry your bread is. The idea is to make it moist again, not soggy wet, so sprinkle water over your crumbly bread until it starts to plump up. Once it looks like it’s reviving a bit, put a cloth over it and let it rest while you get on with the other stuff. When the bread is looking good again, add the pimentón (either sweet or spicy) and toss until evenly coated.

In a large saucepan sauté the diced onion and thinly sliced garlic in olive oil until lightly browned and then add the chopped cooked ham. If you are using bacon or sausage that needs to be cooked then add it at the same time as you start cooking the onion and garlic and sauté over low heat. When it’s all cooked through remove the mixture to a bowl.

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Add a bit more oil to the same pan and once it’s nice and hot toss in the paprika-covered bread bits. Let it brown a bit, then stir it around, slowly adding a bit more oil if the bread is looking dry. Once you like the look of the bread’s toastiness stir in the onion/garlic/meat, mixing it well. Make an opening in the centre of the pan by pushing the mixture to the sides, making room for the eggs. Add a few drops of olive oil to the pan and add the eggs. Let them cook about half-way through then toss them with the bread mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Seville | The Macarena Neighbourhood

No, we’re not talking about the 1990s dance craze (though there’s a loose connection), or about the football stadium in Rio de Janeiro (it’s not even spelt that way). We’re talking about the neighbourhood of La Macarena that forms the northeast quarter of the historic centre of Seville in Spain. A largely residential area away from the main monuments – the Cathedral and Alcázar Palace – and its more touristy neighbour the Santa Cruz, the Macarena’s working class roots (it is said to have once been the poorest slum in Spain) give it an authentic local atmosphere with plenty to see and do.

macarena (2)La Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena

The name itself is thought to come either from Macarius, a wealthy Roman said to have owned a lot of land in the area, or more probably from Bab-al-Makrin, the Moorish name for the Macarena city gate that still stands at the northern end of San Luis street, next to the longest surviving section of the mediaeval city wall that was built to enclose the new northern extension of the city in the 11th century.

The Macarena’s greatest claim to fame is probably the statue of La Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena, the Virgin of Hope, the most popular of the statues of the Virgin that take part in the city’s Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions. She was created in the late 17th century, probably by the famous sculptor Pedro Roldán and/or his daughter Luisa, and is the patroness of bullfighters. Even today, her appearance in the pre-dawn hours of Good Friday draws huge crowds onto the streets. She can normally be seen in the Basilica of Macarena, beside the city gate.

macarena (1)the Macarena Gate

La Macarena is also home to the city’s oldest provisions market, on Calle Feria, and to the oldest street market in Europe, El Jueves, the Thursday market. This antiques/second-hand/bric-a-brac market got its charter in the 13th century, and is still a fun place to come and look for a bargain, or just to feel the vibe. The provisions market, mentioned by Cervantes, moved off the street into its current quarters next to the Omnium Sanctorum church in the 18th century. Come here for all that fresh fish and fruit and veg, and the little bars around the outside, especially La Cantina, which serves the freshest seafood tapas in Seville. Behind the market, in the Palacio Algaba, you can also find Seville’s Mudejar Centre, a small museum that celebrates the culture and achievements of the city’s Moorish period. Worth a visit to find out how the past has influenced the present.mercado feria entrance to the Feria Market

One of my favourite things to so, here as in other parts of Seville, is just to wander around the neighbourhood streets, and see what you stumble across. For me, surprise treats have included some of the artesan workshops, particularly Rompemoldes, the old San Luis church, the Garden of the Moorish king, and the faded splendour of the Pumarejo Palace. Rent one of our apartments in the neighbourhood as abase and just go exploring this whole other Seville.

Seville | The New Aquarium

I was rooted to the spot as the big shark turned lazily above me then dived swiftly downwards, a streamlined silhouette against the light shining on the surface of the water. Was this it? Was this how it was going to end?

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Fortunately not. The shark was inside the big tank at Seville’s newest attraction, the Acuario de Sevilla, and I was safely outside, along with what seemed like a hundred other journalists and bloggers who’d come to the press event to mark the grand opening last Tuesday. The dignitaries would arrive shortly for the announcements and photo ops, but me, I was just there for the fish.

And there were fish aplenty. According to the handouts about 7000 specimens belonging to 400 species, distributed through 40 specially built tanks. There were also crocodiles, turtles, crabs and other denizens of the deep to delight, and sometimes amaze the eye. There was also a display of some of the junk that gets fished out of the sea, just to get you thinking a bit.

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The sharks were the obvious stars of the show, but my favourites were some of the less obvious exhibits, such as the octopus and the cuttlefish, and those unfish-like fish the rays and skates. And the swarms of tropical fish. And the crocodiles. And – well, you get the picture. Or in this case, pictures.

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The new aquarium has been a long time coming, with not a few delays to the completion of the project, but now it’s here it’s a welcome addition to the activities and attractions that Seville has to offer, especially for children when the weather is either too hot or too wet. You can find it at the far end of the Las Delicias Wharf where the cruise ships berth, an area that has been undergoing a lot of renovation in recent years, and now boasting a riverside walk and a number of bars and restaurants.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay veoapartment has a wide range of apartments nearby.

Seville Aquarium

Calle Santiago Montoto (Puerto las Delicias)
Opening hours Mon-Thur 10am to 7 pm (Nov-Feb)
10am-8pm (Mar-Oct)
Fri- Sun 10am – 9pm (10pm Mar-Aug)
Tickets €15 adults €10 children, disabled, pensioners. Discounts for families and groups.

Cordoba | The Palacio de Viana

About an hour and a half away from Seville by train, Cordoba is one of Spain’s great old cities, once the capital of Moorish al-Andalus and regarded as one of the most enlightened, sophisticated cities of the European Middle Ages. It was a place where Moslems, Jews and Christians lived for the most part harmoniously, creating a cultured, intellectual life that was not to be equalled again for many centuries. It’s famous above all for the Mezquita, the Grand Mosque of the Caliphs of Cordoba, but away from the monumental area it is also a city for people, and one of its most captivating aspects is that it is a city of flowers.

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This is best shown by the festival of the Patios of Cordoba, which is held every May, when the private patios of many buildings, with their plants and fountains, are opened to the public, but streets adorned with the typical blue flower pots of the city are common all year round. In the spring and summer months they are alive with flowers and I love to visit the city at this time of year to enjoy its colours and smells.

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Not surprising, then, that one of my favourite places to go in Cordoba is the Palacio Viana, also known as the patio museum. Now about 500 years old, it originally belonged to the Marqueses de Villaseca, and acquired its modern name when it was bought by the Marquis of Viana in the late 19th century. It was eventually sold to the CajaSur foundation in 1982, and turned into a museum. From relatively small beginnings it has grown over the centuries by buying up surrounding properties, and now boasts no fewer than 12 patios, as well as the main garden.

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The modern grand entrance into the Patio de Recibo was built to impress visitors with the wealth and power of the owners, and features a colonnade around the perimeter. To one side is the carriage house, where you can see the Marquis’s carriage and (a personal favourite) a sedan chair, which looks really heavy for four men to carry! From here you go into the older parts of the palace. The little Patio de Los Gatos, or courtyard of the cats, will certainly charm you as it always charms me. In mediaeval times it was a Patio de Vecinos (neighbours), where the common people lived, and to one side is the palace kitchen of the early 20th century.

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Beyond that are the Patio of the Oranges (a Moorish style garden), the Patio de las Rejas, which means bars or gratings, which gets its name from the bars that separate it from the street, and allowed those outside to look enviously at those inside, and the Patio de La Madama (the lady of the house), perhaps the most picturesque of all the courtyards.

The two largest spaces come next. The Courtyard of the Columns is a modern addition, but its fountains blend harmoniously with the older elements. It is used for events such as concerts and theatre. Alongside is the garden, with a formal area of low, square hedges around a central fountain and a grand oak tree. The two interior patios, the Courtyard of the Chapel and the Courtyard of the Archives, are the quietest and most tranquil. Finally, you come to the courtyards where the gardeners worked, and stored their tools. These include the Courtyard of the Well, which was fed from an underground stream, and provided enough water for all the patios.

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You can also take a guided tour of the inside of the palace, though admission is extra, and see the living quarters of the aristocratic owners and their collections of art and books, and other historical items.

Although it’s outside the main monumental area, I always try to make time to come here when I’m in Cordoba, and I think you should, too. I don’t know anywhere else that’s quite like it.

Palacio Museo de Viana
Plaza de don Gome, 2
Tel: 957 496 741
Tues-Sat 10.00 am to 7.00 pm Sundays 10.00am to 3.00 pm Closed Mon
July and August 9.00 am to 3.00 pm Closed Mon
Price 5 euros to the patios, 8 euros with entrance to the palace.
Website

Veoapartment Goes to the Beach

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Over the last few years veoapartment has established a reputation as one of the leading holiday rental apartment providers for the major cities of Andalucia – Seville, Granada and Malaga. But now, for the first time, we are offering a superb beach front apartment for that perfect seaside holiday.

The Virgen del Mar Apartment is a fully equipped holiday home right on the beach in the resort town of Rota. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms it will accommodate four people in comfort. A large living-dining area with big picture windows that let in lots of light faces the beach, as does the L-shaped terrace, where you can enjoy a meal or a drink al fresco, or just enjoy the view across the bay to the ancient seaport of Cádiz.

0666_virgen-del-mar-sea-views-apartment-terrace-rota-cadiz-19enjoy sea views from the comfort of the spacious living room

Although Rota is primarily a seaside resort, famous for its long stretches of sandy beach, its history goes back to Phoenician times, and something of that past can still be experienced in Rota’s old town. The mediaeval Castillo de Luna (Castle of the Moon), which is now the town hall and tourist information office, is well worth a visit, as are a number of religious buildings, particularly the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Expectación, the church of San Roque and the tower of the Convent of Merced (though the convent itself no longer exists). There’s a local museum, the Fundación Alcalde Zoilo Ruiz-Matos, and a botanical garden. Spend some time at the old Pesquero Astaroth fish market, and sample some of the local delicacies, such as Urta de la Roteña or Arranque Roteña (fish dishes made with freshly caught local fish), and the local red wine La Tintilla de Rota. For something more unusual the artificial fishing ponds of Los Corrales or the Bucarito pig and goat farm.

0666_virgen-del-mar-sea-views-apartment-terrace-rota-cadiz-20fully-equipped kitchen to prepare your market purchases

Rota also makes a great base for visiting other nearby towns and attractions. The three sherry towns of Jerez, Puerta de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda are all close by, and for anyone interested in wines a visit to at least one of the bodegas is an absolute must. They are fascinating places, full of the aromas of sherry and the sherry making tradition. All three towns have picturesque old centres where you can get lost in the winding streets and little squares. It’s also possible to take a catamaran ferry to Cádiz, and spend a day in this fascinating old city. My favourite places are the market, with its spectacular display of fresh fish, the old fortifications and the botanical gardens, though there’s lots more. Be sure to grab a coffee or a drink in the Cafe Royalty in Plaza Candelaria.

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On the other side of the River Guadalquivir from Sanlucar is the famous Doñana National Park, the oldest national park in Europe, and an area of great natural beauty with its sand dunes, lagoons and woods. Also nearby is the Cadiz bay nature reserve, an area of wetlands in the inner part of the Bay of Cadiz, a fascinating though rather desolate landscape of marshes and abandoned salt pans.

All in all, our Virgen del Mar apartment is a great location in any season to enjoy this very lively part of the the Costa de la Luz (coast of light).