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Posts from the ‘apartments’ Category

Seville | Christmas in Seville

christmas market ayuntamientoArtisan market and City Hall lights

Yes, it’s that time of year again. And as the weather closes in and the shops fill up with too many people, maybe you should be thinking about doing Christmas somewhere else this year. Like Seville.

So why Seville? Well, for a start, it’s warmer. It’s not exactly beach weather, but it is one of the warmest places in Europe at this time of year. It’s also one of the most welcoming and festive, and whether you’re a resident or visitor there’s always something to see or do. In some ways it’s quite like many other cities. From early December the city lights up, with Christmas lights in all the major squares and thoroughfairs. The shopping districts are crowded, too, especially in the evenings, and the singers of Christmas carols are out and about, adding to the general hustle and bustle. Fresh roasted chestnuts are a big thing here as well, and you can see the sellers with their little charcoal stoves on handcarts on every street corner, providing a little something to overcome the gentle nip in the air.

belenBelén (nativity scene) in the Arqillo de San Francisco

Some things are just that little bit different, though. One thing you’ll notice is the popularity of Nativity Scenes, called Belens (Bethlehems). Not only does almost everyone have one at home, they’ll also queue for hours to see the best public ones, which can be impressive. Check out the ones in the Cathedral, beside the Ayuntamiento, outside Corte Inglés and in the Cajasol building in Plaza San Francisco.

setas marketLa Magia de Navidad

Perhaps because of the relatively mild, light evenings of southern Spain Christmas Fayres and markets are also a big thing in Seville. The annual Artesan market in Plaza Nueva and the Belen market next to the Cathedral are good for unusual presents, but there also the “Magia de Navidad” fayres around the Metropol Parasol and in the Alameda de Hercules, complete with donkey and rides, and fairground rides for the kids, as well as the stalls selling jewellery, leather goods and fast food. These last right through the holiday period to January 6, just before the children head back to school.

157-IMG_20131208_152238All the fun of the fair

Perhaps the biggest difference of all, though, is that in Spain, the day for giving presents is not Christmas day (although it’s becoming more common these days), but Epiphany (January 6). This is, after all, the day when the three Wise Kings – Los Reyes Magos, Caspar, Melchior and Baltazar – brought their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. The day before there is a big parade through the streets, the Cabalgata de los Reyes, with the kings and their assistants on floats throwing sweets to the children. It’s one of the year’s most popular events and draws huge crowds.

Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) and Christmas Day (Navidad) are for the family, and on Christmas Eve even the bars and restaurants are closed so that staff can enjoy the traditional Christmas Eve family meal at home.

151-IMG_20131208_153512Anyone for a ride?

Other holiday season traditions include the Day of the Innocent Saints (December 28), the Spanish equivalent of April Fools Day, and the eating of twelve grapes while the bells chime for New Year. Finishing them before the bells stop brings good luck for the next year.

Whatever your requirements there’s still time to book a holiday apartment with us over the Christmas and New Year holiday.

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.

ice cream (2)

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.

ice cream (3)

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.

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.

mill

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.

kevin bacon

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

Seville | The Church and Plaza del Salvador

For many tourists the main reason for going to the El Salvador church is to buy a joint entrance ticket to the Cathedral, so that they can get in without having to endure the, often rather long, queues at the Cathedral. Now this is fair enough, and it’s a useful trick to know, but can mean that the El Salvador church itself is often overlooked. This is a bit of shame as it’s an important historical and architectural site in its own right, and the area immediately around it has a good claim to being the original heart of the city.

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Principal Facade of El Salvador Church

La Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador, to give it its full and proper title, is the second largest church in Seville, only the Cathedral being larger. The present building is in the baroque style, which is relatively recent (as these things go – it’s still old), having been completed in 1712 after nearly forty years of work. Like the Cathedral the interior is gloriously (or ostentatiously, depending on your point of view) ornate, with a major league gold altarpiece, and important artworks. These include the two statues of the Christ that are used for the Semana Santa, El Cristo del Amor by Juan de Mesa, and Jesus de la Pasion by Martinez Montañes (there’s a statue of Montañes in the Plaza outside).

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Moorish Arches in the Church Courtyard

But my favourite parts of the church, which also show us the long history of the site, are to be found outside. In the courtyard you can still see the arches that date from the Moorish period, when the Old Grand Mosque (built in 893) stood here, and also the minaret that forms the bottom two thirds of the bell tower (the bells were added later). Although replaced as Grand Mosque in the 12th century (when the new Grand Mosque was built where the Cathedral is now) it remained a Moslem place of worship even after the Christian reconquest of 1248, only being converted to a church in 1340. Eventually, having fallen into ruinous disrepair, it was demolished to make way for the new building.

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Minaret and Belltower

In Moorish times the area around the Mosque was an important commercial centre, particularly the Plaza Jesus de la Pasion, popularly known as the Plaza del Pan (bread), and the Alcaiceria del Lozo (the pottery market) and the Alfalfa. Even in modern times there is a row of small shops built into the side of the church in the Plaza del Pan.

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Shops behind the Church

But the history of the site goes back even further, as the original building here was the Roman Basilica. The Plaza del Salvador has probably been a civic space since the building of the Roman wall (which ran along the side of the square opposite the church) in the time of Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. The Roman forum was just a short distance away in what is now the Plaza Alfalfa.

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Los Soportales

Other things to look out for include the Iglesia del Antigua Hospital de Nuestra Señora de la Paz (now San Juan de Dios) on the opposite side of the square to the El Salvador (in the 16th century it was a plague hospital), the Cervantes plaques in the Plaza del Pan and Alcaiceria (places mentioned by him in his novels), and Los Soportales, the columns supporting the houses in one corner of the square. This is a building style that has virtually disappeared, but was once common. Finish your explorations with a cold beer at one of the popular bars here.

For somewhere to stay in this fascinating ancient part of the city try one of our range of city centre holiday apartments.

Seville | The New Seville Eye

noria seville (1)

Seville’s latest tourist attraction, La Noria de Sevilla (Seville Ferris Wheel), opens for business this Saturday, June 27, following its inauguration on Thursday. Situated at the end of the Muelle de las Delicias, where visiting cruise ships dock, it’s part of a new “tourism hub” to the south of the city’s historic centre that already includes the Seville Aquarium and riverside bars and restaurants, and connects directly to Maria Luisa Park and the Plaza España, and by the riverside walkway, the New York Wharf, to the historic centre.

noria seville (2)the VIP cabin

The wheel was manufactured in Germany and shipped via Rotterdam to the port of Seville, and has been erected on a specially prepared plot of land between the aquarium and the port entrance. The project cost over 7 million euros in total, and the new wheel is expected to attract 350,000 visitors a year, also benefiting the aquarium (there is expected to be a joint ticket for both attractions available) and local businesses.

noria seville (3)a different perspective of the Cathedral

The wheel is 40 metres in diameter, and will take riders up to 50 metres above ground. Although this is quite modest compared to, for example, the London Eye (135 metres), or the Las Vegas High Roller (at 167 metres the world’s tallest), it will provide great views of the river, the park, and the World Heritage sights. There will be 30 cabins and for 7.50 euros (5.50 for children under 4 years old) you get to go round four times, which takes just under 15 minutes. There is also a VIP cabin for 20 euros, with darkened windows for privacy, a glass floor and television, which lasts twice as long. All of the cabins are air-conditioned with optional music, and a “help button”. Coming soon: a shop, a tapas bar and cafeteria, and a VIP area.

If you’re looking for a place to stay we still have apartments available to rent in the historic centre within easy walking distance of the wheel and other sights.

La Noria de Sevilla
Muelle Las Delicias
Open: 10 am – Midnight