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Posts from the ‘Markets’ Category

Seville | A Day Trip to Sanlucar de Barrameda

Sanlúcar de Barrameda is the small seaside town at the mouth of the River Guadalquivir – directly across from the Doñana National Park (you can cross on a small ferry) – just over an hour’s drive or bus ride from Seville. This makes it ideal for day trips or long weekends away from Seville, especially in summer, when the sea breezes keep it cooler than its bigger neighbour.

sanlucar (1)Plaza Cabildo

It’s history goes back at least to Moorish times, the Barrameda part of the name deriving from the Arabic for “water well of the plateau”, but it fell to the Christians in 1264. Its heyday was during the great age of exploration in the 16th century, and both Columbus and Magellan set sail from here. In the mid 17th century it went into decline, although its fortunes were somewhat revived by its role in sherry production.

sanlucar (3)Bodegas Barbadillo

Nowadays Sanlúcar is best known for prawns and manzanilla sherry, and it was these, among other things, that brought us there, but more of that later. We arrived mid-morning at the little bus station in the modern seaside resort part of town. From here many people will head straight for the beach, but we had a different objective. The beach could wait. First stop was actually a late breakfast, a simple but tasty Serrano on toast and coffee at any of the bars in the Plaza Cabildo, the pretty little central square in the Barrio Bajo, the lower town. Sitting in the morning sunshine in one of these quintessential Spanish squares, with its little fountain, statue of famous local person, and a couple of palm trees, with a coffee or a beer ready to hand, is one of life’s great simple pleasures. Another is visiting local food markets, and this was our next stop. The Sanlucar market is just off the central square, immediately beneath the steep hill up to the Barrio Alto, the upper town. As well as the main hall, stalls and small shops spill out into the adjoining streets, and the whole area has a pleasantly busy vibe. Highlights were the street seller selling live camarones, the little shrimps used in the tortillitas, and a brace of model clowns outside one of the small shops.

sanlucar (4)the famous Sanlucar prawns

From the market a short walk takes you up to the Barrio Alto and, for us, the main purpose of our trip – manzanilla sherry. More specifically a visit to one of Sanlúcar’s famous sherry bodegas. Bodegas Barbadillo has a number of locations around the city, but the visitor centre and museum is next door to the impressive 15th century Santiago Castle overlooking the lower town. Although it wasn’t my first visit to a bodega, the experience is always enjoyable. The atmosphere inside these high ceilinged rooms with their ranks of sherry casks is always special, and there’s always something new to learn about the arts of sherry making. And sherry drinking too, as the tour finishes with a tasting of some of the bodega’s sherries and young wines.

After the tasting it was time for lunch. We started with a quick snack of the famous Sanlúcar speciality tortillitas de camarones (shrimp fritters) at the equally famous Casa Balbino on the main square before moving on to the Puerta de la Victoria just up the street.

sanlucar (2)sunset on the beach

No visit to a seaside town is complete without a trip to the beach, and in Sanlúcar to the Bajo de Guia (Pilot’s Wharf), where in days of old ships going up river would pick up a local pilot to guide them through the tricky channels to Seville. Every August the beach here plays host to what are claimed to be the oldest horse races in Spain. We missed those on this occasion, but still got to sip our sherry cocktails at Cafe Azul looking across the river and watching the fishing boats heading back to the unloading quay a little further up the river. Sanlúcar, and especially the bars along the Bajo, is famous for its prawns, so after cocktails we headed to Casa Bigote for a sample.

I could happily have spent the rest of the waning afternoon sitting around looking at the peaceful view, but it was time to head back to the bus, and home to Seville.

Seville | Day Trip to Triana

The neighbourhood, or barrio, of Triana lies across the River Guadalquivir from the city of Seville, and is often regarded, especially by the people who live there, as a separate city, quite distinct and different from its big sister Seville, and so if you have the time it’s worthwhile spending a day “across the river” soaking up some of its special atmosphere.

0131_betis-blue-1-01view of the Isabel (Triana) bridge from our Betis Blue apartment

The name is thought to derive from the Roman emperor, Trajano (pronounced Trahano in Spanish), who was born in Italica, the Roman city a little to the west of Seville. While it’s not known exactly how long there has been a settlement here, it’s certainly the oldest of the barrios outside the old city walls, dating back to at least Moorish times. It was in the late Moorish times that the first bridge across the river, the famous bridge of boats, was built (where the Isabella II bridge – usually referred to as Triana bridge – is now), with the original Castillo San Jorge, Saint George’s Castle, at its western end. It was then known as the Gypsy quarter, the Gypsies, or Gitanos, having arrived there sometime in the 15th century. As a poor neighbourhood it supplied many of the sailors who explored the New World, and was intimately connected with the worlds of flamenco and bullfighting, which offered a way out of what was effectively a ghetto.

manu jara dulceria (1)Manu Jara’s “dulcería”

Start your day out with churros and chocolate at the Seville end of the bridge, or some tasty pastries at Manu Jara in Calle Pureza (opens 10am, closed Mondays). Once properly fortified, it’s time to pay a visit to Triana market. Although this was substantially renovated some ten years ago, it still retains much of its traditional charm, with decorative tiled stall fronts (though the names now often don’t correspond to the business of particular stalls), and the colourful displays of fresh fruit, fish and other produce for which Spanish markets are justly famous. I rarely come to Triana without coming here, just for the enjoyment of strolling around until it’s beer o’clock and time for a little refreshment at one of the many market bars.

triana chapelThe market is built over the ruins of Saint George’s Castle, once the headquarters of the infamous Spanish Inquisition, and now a museum of tolerance. Emphasis here is on reflection of man’s inhumanity to man, so you won’t see any instruments of torture or other sensationalist displays, but rather an invitation to reflection on the cost of intolerance. Entrance is free, and for me it’s an interesting window on the past. Outside, stop and admire a different aspect of the religious impulse, the chapel of the Virgin of the Carmen designed by Anibál González.

Behind the market is what’s left of the old ceramics district. Although only a shadow of its former self, there are still some craft workshops and you can pick up a nice decorative piece or two as souvenirs. It’s also worth visiting the newly opened ceramics museum (in Calle Antillano Campos, next door to the famous Santa Ana ceramics shop), which I found fascinating, with examples of the old kilns and the equipment that was used, and something of the history of the industry.

castillo san jorge (2)Saint George’s Castle seen from the Isabel bridge

For lunch, walk up the main street of San Jacinto to Las Golondrinas (Pages del Corro, 76), or if you’re feeling adventurous check out Puratasca (Numancia, 5 – almost impossible to find) for innovative tapas in a wonderfully kitsch 70’s ambiance. For something more traditional try Sol y Sombra (Castilla 151) and their famous “solomillo al ajo”, with almost as many slow-cooked garlic cloves as pieces of pork tenderloin.

ceramics trianaceramics shop in Triana

In the evening the place to be is Calle Betis, the street that runs along the bank of the river opposite the bullring and Torre del Oro. It’s one of the best nightlife spots in Seville, with lots of bars and restaurants with terraces looking across to the old city where you can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine and some traditional seafood as the street gradually comes alive around you. My own favourite place is the Primera del Puente (Betis 66), which serves some of the best fish and seafood around. Tapas at the bar, or raciones on the riverside terrace, the quality is always excellent. Finish the evening at Lo Nuestro, a popular flamenco bar on Calle Betis, or at La Anselma on Pages del Corro.

0131_betis-blue-1-apartment-14view of Betis street from the “other side” of the river, Seville

Of course you could live like a local in one of our excellent holiday apartments in Triana, and take day trips across the bridge to Seville. Take a stroll with us through Triana on our short video.

Seville | 5 Ways to live (almost) like a local.

You have seen them all over the Sunday supplements and the internet, particularly the blogosphere – 10 best this, 5 worst that, 10 things to do in X, and also 5 ways to live like a local in Y. Now for sure, some of these articles will give you some sound advice on getting the most out of your vacation, but there’s also a lot of stereotyping as well as inaccuracies involved. If you’re only here (in our case, Seville) for a few days you’re not really going to be living like a local. For a start you probably don’t speak much, or any, Spanish, an essential requirement for immersing yourself in the life of the city. Nor do the locals spend much time hanging out in the Cathedral or Alcázar palace, things you should certainly be doing while you’re here (there is an up side to being a tourist). But don’t worry. There are things you can do which will give you at least a taste of how the locals live. So here’s our list (written by a local!).

local tapas

Go on a tapeo

Going out for tapas is the locals preferred way of spending a sociable evening out, and it’s probably already on your list. The format is something like a pub crawl, but with food as the main item on the agenda, with drinks as the accompaniment, rather than vice versa. Have a couple or three tapas at each place you go to, then move on to the next. There’s no foolproof way of choosing the right places for a perfect tapas experience, and although there are some great places in the touristy Santa Cruz, such as Las Teresas and Casa Roman, getting away into the Arenal or the Macarena you’ll find bars like Casa Morales, Bodeguita Romero and Eslava that are always full of locals and have top quality food, too. As an introduction, and to learn the ropes, try a tapas tour with a local guide on your first night.

Visit a Local Market

Visiting a local market is an interesting and fun way to see how the locals shop, and if you’re renting a self-catering apartment (recommended, though we may be a bit biased) rather than staying in a hotel, it’s practical too. There are three markets in the centre, and another just across the bridge in Triana, and the displays of fresh fruit and veg, fish, seafood and meats should inspire you to do a little cooking. One important thing to remember is DO NOT TOUCH any of the fruit or vegetables. Just point at what you want and hold up your fingers to show the amount if you have no Spanish. And since there is no queuing, and very few market stalls are equipped with “take a number” machines, the correct thing to do is ask “quien es el último?” (who is last?) and then take your turn when they have finished.

local market

Siesta

There’s a reason that siesta is one of the few Spanish words to have been warmly welcomed into the English language. That half-hour nap after lunch aids digestion, calms the brain, and reinvigorates the body. It’s the original “power nap”. And if you’re here in summer (June through to mid-September), it’s really too hot to do anything else. So for a couple of hours everything shuts down, many of the smaller shops close, and peace and quiet descend on what is otherwise a bustling and buzzy city.

Fiesta

Contrary to popular stereotype life here isn’t just one long street party. Nevertheless, when the Sevillanos do them, they do them right. So if you’re here for Semana Santa, the April Fair, or one of the neighbourhood events like the Vela de Santa Ana in Triana, go along and mix with the locals. Another local tradition, churros and chocolate, is the ideal hangover cure after a night on the tiles.

Flamenco

There are two schools of thought on flamenco. One is that you should seek out some after midnight drinking club with an improptu flamenco “jamming session”. You might get lucky, and have the experience of a lifetime. Or you might get a couple of amateurs and be cold-shouldered by the actual locals to boot. Or you can go and see a proper flamenco show, at a venue like the Flamenco Dance Museum or the Casa de la Memoria. The audience will be mainly tourists like you, but the performers will be professional artists, and the quality and authenticity are guaranteed. On this one, even after the many years I’ve lived in Seville, I’m happy to be “just a tourist”.

local flamenco

Barcelona | Food Markets

Whether you’re something of a “foodie”, or just a regular visitor seeing the sights, no visit to a Spanish city is complete without visiting at least one of its markets. Apart from its obvious practicality if you’re self-catering in an apartment (better than a hotel if you’re a group or family and staying more than a couple of nights), it’s one of the best ways of experiencing the day to day life and culture of the locals – what they buy and how they shop, and usually with an opportunity to sample some of it at a market cafe or bar. If it’s a bit overwhelming you could try one of the many market food tours such as The Barcelona Taste or Aborigens to get your bearings, or enjoy shopping and then cooking your purchases with an Eat With verified local host.

As you might expect, a city the size of Barcelona has quite a number of such markets, though the ones that the typical visitor is most likely to see are the three markets in and around the Ciutat Vella, the old city.

boqueriathe entrance to La Boquería market

La Boqueria

The most well-known of these is certainly Sant Josep de la Boqueria, located on the infamous Las Ramblas in the heart of the tourist neighbourhood between the Barri Gotic and El Raval. There’s been a market hereabouts since at least 1217, though the current building was constructed between 1840 and 1853, and although it’s still very much a working market it has now become a major attraction in its own right. There’s an impressive entrance, complete with a coat of arms surmounted by a bat*, but it’s set just a little way back from the street, so it’s surprisingly easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. The space inside seems huge, a cathedral of food, and with almost 300 stalls there’s plenty to choose from.

caterinaSanta Caterina is even more impressive when seen from above

Santa Caterina

Santa Caterina market, just off the Via Laietana in the La Ribera neighbourhood was the first of Barcelona’s covered markets to be renovated (in 2005), and is now most notable for its modernist undulating coloured roof, which you can get a good view of from the top of the nearby cathedral, and all that fabulous local fresh food of course. Less crowded than the Boqueria, with more space and light around the stalls and fewer bars, it nevertheless has a definite charm of its own, and it’s well worth taking the time to come here.

san antonitemporary installation for Sant Antoni Market

Sant Antoni

Sant Antoni is technically in the Eixample district, but really it’s right on the boundary with the old El Raval neighbourhood, where it was built in the 1880s to serve the new neighbourhoods of the growing city. Since 2009 it has been housed in rather shabby temporary accommodation on the Ronda Sant-Antoni while the original building is being renovated. Work should be completed, and the market restored to its proper home, in 2016, together with the famous Sunday collectors’ and books market. The original ground plan in the shape of a Greek cross,  surrounded by a circular covered gallery where the non-food stalls are housed, will be preserved, and the new building will also incorporate the medieval remains discovered during the works.

Other markets worth a visit include La Barceloneta, with it’s unusual roof, La Concepció in the Eixample which has a classic cast-iron and glass frontage, and Sant Marti in the eastern part of the city.

* The Bat is a heraldic symbol of the former crown of Aragon, and is thought to have originally represented a dragon. Officially it is no longer part of the coat of arms of Barcelona, but still appears on older versions and on some street furniture such as street lamps.

Seville | El Jueves Street Market

el jueves (7)

Go down to Calle Feria on a Thursday morning and you could be in for a big surprise, as a long section of the city centre end of the street and some side streets are taken over by the stalls of the El Jueves (Spanish for Thursday) market. Officially it’s an antiques market, but though you can find antiques here, the range of things on sale is much wider and more eclectic. Ceramics, paintings and furniture jostle for attention with second hand books and toys, watches and accessories, CDs and recycled fixtures and fittings. As with all such markets, it’s this almost anarchic mix of products, the possibility of the unexpected, of never knowing when you’re going to stumble on that unmissable bargain or perfect souvenir, that draws the crowds. Looking for a pepper mill to match your salt cellar? A lava lamp? A console for your old video-games? You just might find them here. If not, never mind, half the fun is in the browsing, the wondering why anybody would ever by one of those, or even what one of those actually is. Feel like a break? Go and sit in one of the local bars with a coffee and toast – or a cheeky cold beer – and just watch the bustle outside.

el jueves (1)

Time also to reflect on just how long people have been coming here on  Thursday mornings to buy and sell their wares. El Jueves is thought to be the oldest still-existing market in Europe, dating back to the 13th century, just after the Christian reconquest of the city (and there are rumoured to be one or two items from that era that have shown up every Thursday since then), when it was set up to help stimulate the economy Indeed, the very name of the street, Feria (Fair) reflects this history. Originally it would have been an agricultural and craftsman’s market. After the discovery of America it would doubtless have seen new exotic objects from overseas to add to the mix.

el jueves (4)

el jueves (2)

el jueves (5)

In the 19th century, the farmers’ market moved into its own building, now the Feria market, and the street would have begun to look something like it does today, with its small shops and businesses. But through all the changes, it seems the Thursday Market goes on forever.

It’s lunchtime now, the stallholders packing up, the buyers drifting away. You’re hungry. There are lots of places to eat, but our favourites are La Cantina and La Cocinera Feliz, the little bars inside the provisions market. Taberna de Pasos Largos and La Duquesita are good too.

el jueves (3)

If you want to stay in this authentically Sevillano part of town have a look at our Macarena and San Vicente apartment listings.