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Seville | Feria de San Miguel

feria san miguelThe Feria de San Miguel in Seville is the short bullfighting season in autumn that falls on or close to Saint Michael’s Day (Michaelmas) on September 29. “Saint” Michael is not, strictly speaking, a saint, but an angel, one of three Archangels whose names appear in the bible (the others are Gabriel and Rafael). When taking time out from being commander of the heavenly hosts, he’s the patron saint of, among others, police officers, fire fighters, the military and paramedics, and also, more prosaically, of grocers (but not of bullfighters).

The bullfights of the Feria de San Miguel at the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, only last two days, Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th, both at 6pm, with tickets available online.

To coincide with the fights, the Abaceria San Lorenzo is hosting a three day event (September 25-27) with a menu of traditional beef dishes prepared from the Toro de Lidia, the unique breed of bulls raised for the fights. These will include steak tartare, beef sirloin, beef neck with tomato, rib eye steaks, chops, “babillas” with saffron, and red beans with beef cheeks, cola de toro (tail), meatballs and hamburgers.

cola de torocola de toro (oxtail)

Toros themed decoration and sculptures by Jacinto Oliva and Jesus Iglesias will add to the atmosphere of this traditional and rustic abaceria.

We still have a variety of quality holiday apartments to rent in Seville throughout the San Miguel weekend.

Seville | The Jews and the Old Jewish Quarter

santa cruz 030Corner of Agua & Vida (Water & Life)

The Barrio (neighbourhood) of Santa Cruz is perhaps the best known and most iconic in the historic centre of Seville, with its patchwork of small squares and picturesque narrow streets that help to keep the heat of the summer at bay. It’s also the oldest inhabited part of the city, dating back to the time of the Romans and even beyond. Although it was only for some 250 years of its more than two thousand year history, part of its romance certainly comes from the fact that this was the old Jewish quarter of the city in the late mediaeval period of the Christian Reconquista.

No one really knows when the Jews first came to Seville, or Spain (known to them as the Sepharad) generally. The first definitive written record is from the Vizigoths at the beginning of the 6th century, but they seem by then to have already been a substantial and well-settled community, numerous enough to be considered a problem by the Vizigothic kings, especially after the conversion of the Vizigothic royal family to Catholicism in 587. They had probably first settled in number in the diaspora that followed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in 70 AD, but some believe that they were here much earlier, equating Tarshish of the Old Testament with the realm of Tartessos in southwestern Spain.

santa cruz 019-001Casa number 6

The Golden Age of the Jews in Spain was under the Caliphate of Córdoba in the 10th century, a period of unusual religious tolerance, when Jews came to the cities of southern Spain from all over Europe and the Mediterranean and mingled with Arab scholars and Christians to create a unique culture. It was all too brief. After the end of the Caliphate a renewed influx of fundamentalist Moslems led to renewed persecutions. Many Jews fled to the Christian realms to the north, where, despite mistrust and sometimes hostility, they were generally welcomed as valuable allies against the Moors, and in 1248, when Ferdinand III captured Seville, it was the Jews who presented him with the keys of the city.

1-juderia wall-001Wall of the Jewish Quarter

It is this event that marks the beginning of the Jewish quarter as it’s remembered today. Although the Jews were confined to the Jewish quarter, which was separated from the rest of the city by its own wall, a short section of which can still be seen in Calle Fabiola, and had to wear a yellow badge to identify them, they enjoyed a century or more of prosperity until the civil war in the time of Peter I. Increasing hostility on the part of the Church, and the anti-Semitism of Peter’s rival Henry, culminated in Seville in the great pogrom of 1391, when a mob broke into the Juderia and murdered some 4,000 Jews. In the aftermath many more fled, and others submitted to baptism and became conversos. Two of the three main synagogues became churches, including the Santa Cruz church (now the Plaza Santa Cruz). Although (or perhaps because) many of the conversos were wealthy, and also suspected of keeping to the old religion in secret, they remained targets of hostility. Finally, in 1478, the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition, which claimed its first casualties in 1481, before expelling all unconverted Jews from Andalucia in 1483. The Jewish quarter was no more.

0007_veo-2Plaza Santa Cruz

Much of the area underwent a decline in the following period, but with programs of urban renewal in the 18th century, in the Napoleonic period, and particularly in the preparations for the 1929 Spanish-American exhibition, it gained a new lease of life as a tourist attraction. Today it sees tens of thousands of visitors a year, who come to enjoy its colour and its history. Its little squares, such as the Plaza Elvira, Los Refinadores and the Santa Cruz are indeed among the most beautiful in the city, and the narrow streets with their tiles and balconies work their magic on even the most blasé. Plenty of places to sit outside a bar and watch the world go by too, and some of those little secret places like the Plaza Escuela de Cristo or Santa Marta which you might miss if you don’t know how to find them. The shades of Don Juan and Doña Iñes de Ulloa still walk these streets, brushing shoulders with Carmen the tobacco girl and Cervantes, and many another.

To experience it best rent one of our Santa Cruz apartments, and spend a few days living in one of Europe’s most atmospheric neighbourhoods.

Seville | Ice Cream

So, it’s August, and officially high summer, and everywhere from Blackpool Promenade to Bondi Beach (yes, I know it’s winter in Sydney and in England you can’t tell the difference, but I like my alliterations) a young person’s fancy turns to – Ice Cream.

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Spain, and my own city of Seville, is no exception. Now ice cream may not be the first thing you associate with this part of the world (flamenco, bullfighting, paella and sangría probably top that list), but think about it. Today is set to top out at 37ºC, which is normal for this time of year, but in the city, and with the sun directly overhead, it’s going to feel hotter. You want to dance? Fight a bull? Eat lots of carbs? Drink sangría? (Well, okay, maybe that one). No. When venturing forth from the air-conditioned comfort of your apartment, you need an ice cream.

Now these days there are plenty of places in Seville where you can buy ice cream, and new ones open up every year, but more of that later. First, the burning questions of the day. Just how did people survive summer in places like Seville in the days before air-conditioning and refrigeration (and therefore ice-cream)?

For most people, of course, thick walls, shade and a long siesta were the only recourses available. In the cities, narrow streets and plenty of trees also helped to shield people from the worst of the sun. For the wealthy things were a little better. Exploring the tiled rooms and patios of the Alcázar Palace, for example, shows how clever building design, greenery and fountains, and no doubt a few fan-wielding servants, can take the edge off the summer heat. More surprisingly, perhaps, frozen “desserts”, usually a mixture of ice and fruit, have been known for at least two thousand years, and the Arabs had started adding milk to these delicacies, so a kind of proto ice cream has been known in Spain for a long time. It would have relied, however, on supplies of natural ice stored from winter or transported from high mountains, and would have been an expensive rarity in a city like Seville. It was only with the invention of refrigeration in the 19th century that ice cream developed its modern form, and took its first hesitant steps towards global domination.

In Seville ice cream is mostly sold by specialised shops, many of whom make their own onsite, and comes in a wide range of flavours from standard vanillas and chocolates to exotic fruit and nut combinations. It’s thick and creamy, like an Italian “gelato”, which is surprisingly lower in calories than the “soft-serve” ice cream standard in northern parts of Europe. Below are some of of our favourite places for ice cream in Seville.

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Heladería Rayas
Almirante Apodaca, 1
Tel: +34 954 221 746
website

Widely regarded as the best, and one of the most venerable, the first Rayas opened its doors at this location opposite the Plaza Cristo de Burgos in 1980, and still does a roaring trade. There is now a second shop near the Puerta de Triana.

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Freskura
Vulcano, 4
Tel: +34 645 859 198
website

Freskura is just off the Alameda de Hercules, and as well as a full selection of ice creams also has desserts and pastries.

ice cream (4)

Heladeria La Fiorentina
Zaragoza, 16
Tel: +34 954 221 550
website

Another well-known and popular stopping place, La Fiorentina has both traditional and modern flavours, and also does excellent granizadas (half-frozen fruity drinks).

ice cream (5)

Amorino
Granada, 2
Tel: +34 954 227 428
website

Amorino, part of an international chain, recently opened a Seville branch just off Plaza Nueva in the city centre, and there is also one in the Gourmet Experience in El Corte Ingles (Plaza del Duque). It has a nice ambiance, and some great ice-cream.

Seville | Top 4 Must See Sights

Although different people have different priorities for the kind of holiday they want, and what they want to do (or not do) with their time, there are enough reasons for choosing Seville to suit most of them. First, there’s the weather. Spain has long been a popular destination for sun-seeking northerners, and although July and August are actually too sunny for some (including me, and I live here), the spring and autumn are as near perfect as you’re likely to find anywhere. Warm enough to be out and about (or lounging by the pool, if that’s what you’re after) in shorts and T-shirt without being uncomfortably hot or cold, and for eating al fresco. And Seville is the perfect place to come for both those things. Beautiful, colourful gardens and neighbourhoods of picturesque narrow streets and small squares to wander through, and lots of little tapas bars to stop in for a glass of wine and a snack.

santa cruz 019archway in Barrio Santa Cruz

But although these are some of my favourite things to do, and in general beat the usual sightseeing type of activities, a city as venerably old and culturally important as Seville is going to have a few places that you have to go and see – both because they are actually well worth seeing, and because you don’t want to have to admit when you get home that you went to Seville and didn’t see them. So this is my list of the 4 things you have to see in Seville, in between the things that are actually important.

The Reales Alcazares (Royal Palace) is number one on the list, especially since being used for the filming of one of the locations in Game of Thrones. With origins dating back over a thousand years, and Europe’s longest serving official Royal residence, the 13th century palace of Peter I is regarded as one of the finest examples of Mudejar architecture in Spain, and the gardens are stunning too.

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The Mudejar Palace

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See is the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral, and was built during the 15th century on the site of the Grand Mosque, of which the Giralda Tower (former minaret and now bell tower) and the wall and outer gate of the Courtyard of the Orange Trees still remain. Inside the Cathedral are the world’s largest gold altarpiece, the tomb of Christopher Columbus and a crocodile. The highlight, though, is the view from the top of the tower, reached by a ramp, not stairs, and the highest point inside the historic centre.

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Courtyard of the Oranges

The Plaza de España in Maria Luisa Park was built as the Spanish pavilion for the 1929 Spanish American Pavilion, and is a magnificent colonnaded semi-circular building in a mix of styles from Mudejar to Regionalist surrounding an open space with a fountain and boating lake. It features wonderfully colourful tiles and bridges, and illustrations of scenes from the history of each of Spain’s forty provinces. An breathtaking backdrop that’s been the setting for a number of films, including Star Wars Episode II.

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Plaza España

The Metropol Parasol is the world’s largest wooden building and Seville’s contribution to modern architecture, completed just five years ago. Apart from being unique in itself it houses one of the city’s provisions markets, has Roman ruins in the basement, and a walkway on the top with views across the city.

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Metropol Parasol at night

Stay in one of our range of self-catering apartments to give yourself a base for all these activities. Happy holidays!

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Teodosio Terrace Apartment

Malaga Update

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View from San Nicolas apartment

I haven’t written anything about Malaga recently, so following a short visit there I thought it was time for an update on things to do, where to eat, and a quick look at some of our new apartments.

First up are three museums, which while not new, I’ve just recently visited. The Museum of Glass and Crystal is a fascinating exhibition with around 3,000 pieces spanning some 2,000 years of the art of glass making, set on the first two floors of a charming 18th century private residence (the owners live on the upper floors), complete with paintings, period furniture and a typical courtyard. In an hour-long visit you will be taken on a guided tour by one of the owners, whose enthusiasm and knowledge make this one of Malaga’s best small museums.

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Beautiful decorated glass from the Glass and Crystal Museum

Next was the Interactive Music Museum. For anyone, of any age, with an interest in music and musical instruments this is a must-see, with more than a thousand exhibits from around the world and through the ages. Unlike the “please don’t touch” rules of most museums, the slogan here is “please play them” (in Spanish tocar means both to touch and to play a musical instrument, so it’s a kind of pun), and each section of the museum has a space where you can experiment with some of the instruments and watch videos of others in use.

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Paco de Lucia and Robert Johnson – Interactive Music Museum

My personal favourite though, was the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions. This can be found in the 17th century Posada (coaching inn) de la Victoria, which has been lovingly restored to preserve most of its original appearance. From the moment I went in I was completely charmed, and spent a happy hour wandering through rooms devoted to the daily working life of a Malaga house, the kitchen, bakery and dining room, and others to local crafts and industries, notably fishing, wine making, and olive oil production. Upstairs is a complete change of style, with rooms showing the family life of the 19th century bourgeoisie, and exhibitions of ceramics and religious objects. The friendly greeting from the receptionist also helped to make this a really enjoyable experience.

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Olive Mill – Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions

On the eating front I can hardly believe that I had never been to legendary churro outlet Casa Aranda. You have to have breakfast here at least once during your stay, and follow it with brunch at one of the bustling bars in the Atarazanas Market. Also new and worth going to are the Croqueteria Añil (more than just croquettes of course), Café Estraperlo, La Luz de Candela (Candlelight) and Óleo, the Sushi-fusion bar in the Contemporary Arts Centre (not new, but new to me). Our top rated new find was the El Señor Lobo café, essentially a burger and sandwich joint in the Soho barrio. Genuinely new (it’s only been open a few weeks) I really wish it every success. With good food, humourous wall scrawlings, and a wonderfully friendly and enthusiastic owner it certainly deserves it.

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the “Kevin Bacon” sandwich at Sr Lobo

We are also pleased to announce that Veoapartment has several top quality new one and two bedroom holiday apartments available for rent in Malaga. Los Alamos and Madre de Dios 2 are both near the famous Plaza Merced in the historic centre with easy access to monuments and beaches. San Nicolas, in the Malagueta (one of the central beach neighbourhoods), has stunning views of the Alcazaba and the harbour. The San Lorenzo and Martinez Campos complexes both feature 1 and 2 bedroom apartments and are located in the Soho neighbourhood, the triangle of land between the harbour, the historic centre, and the Guadalmina River, which has become famous for its street art.

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Apartment Martinez Campos 2