Tag Archives: travel

Seville | Day Trip to Carmona

Carmona is a pretty little town that takes about half an hour to reach by bus from Seville, making it an ideal destination for a day trip.

The old town is surprisingly ancient. The Phoenicians were certainly here by the 8th century BC, taking advantage of a defensible position on a ridge overlooking the rich agricultural plain along the River Guadalquivir. It was then occupied in turn by the Carthaginians, Romans and Moors, before being captured by Ferdinand III in 1247, the year before Seville, and all of them have left their mark on the town.

It’s best to arrive early, as a number of places close around 3pm (and in summer you don’t want to be out walking later than this because of the heat), so you can do your sightseeing before finishing the day with a leisurely lunch at one of Carmona’s many bars and restaurants.

The bus stops in the Paseo del Estatuto, a few minutes walk down the main road from the gateway to the old town, but a short diversion down Joaquin Costa will bring you to the Fuente de los Leones (Fountain of the Lions), with a view down the Alameda de Alfonso XIII. Turn left to get back to the main road and the church of San Pedro, which has a tower with a weathervane on top, in a style very like the more famous Giralda in Seville.

From here you can already see your next stop, and one of Carmona’s most important historic buildings, the Seville Gate and Alcázar (palace/fortress). It’s worth walking around this (follow the road to the left, and come back through the arched double gate. Entrance is through the tourist information office (remember to pick up a map of the town), and costs just 2 euros. It seems bigger on the inside than it does from the outside, and there is an exhibition in the Upper Prisoners’ Hall that gives you a good idea of the various stages of construction. From the top of the Torre del Oro you get a wonderful view over the town to the skyline at the top of the ridge, where the church of Santa Maria and the ruins of the fortress of Don Pedro (part of this is now a Parador Hotel) stand out.

From the Seville Gate head into the old town for a visit to the municipal market. Sadly, many of the stalls are no longer open, but there are a number of bars under the colonnades around the central square, and this is probably a good time to stop for a coffee or a beer. Once suitably refreshed carry on to the Plazas Cristo Rey (look for the storks), San Fernando, Las Descalzas, and Marqués de Torres, a rather winding route, but one that will take you along some of the most picturesque streets and past many of the most interesting buildings. Look especially for the church of El Salvador, the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), the Convent of las Descalzas, and the church of Santa Maria.

By now you’ll probably be ready for that lunch we mentioned earlier. Try La Yedra for some gourmet tapas or a full-course meal. Alternatively, make your way back to the Seville Gate and try the excellent traditional tapas at La Muralla. Opened three years ago by ex-Parador waiter Manolo, who clearly enjoys showing off his professional expertise. The food’s good, too.

From here you are just a short walk back to the bus stop and will be back in Seville in time for a siesta.

How to get there:

The M-124 bus from Prado San Sebastian leaves about once an hour. Check this timetable from the Carmona Town Hall for up-to-date times: Carmona-Seville bus schedule

By car take Avenida Kansas City and follow the signs.

Granada | Carmens

[Carmen Terrace 3]

Carmens are a type of house, typical of the city of Granada and its immediate surroundings, that are characterised by the incorporation of a garden area separated from the world outside by a wall, and including vines and fruit trees as well as flowers and other decorative plants. There are often fountains and small water features as well, so that the garden is cool and shaded and filled with the sound of running water. The houses are too small to be considered as palaces, although their owners would normally have been moderately wealthy.

The name Carmen comes from the Arabic Karm, meaning dwelling, and they had their origins in the early 17th century, when the city had been depopulated by the flight of the Muslims and Jews during the previous century, and there was space available for them, particularly in the Albayzin and Realejo districts.

Nowadays only a few are still maintained as private family dwellings. Others have become boutique hotels, restaurants, or apartments, and the views of the Alhambra and the Sierras which many of them have have made them much sought after by businesses involved in tourism. Our Casa Carmen holiday apartments are located on the Alambra Hill with magnificent views of the Albaicín.

Granada | 5 Fab Tapas Bars

Although Seville is acknowledged as the “capital of tapas”, most towns and cities in Andalusia have a thriving tapas culture that is a little different in each place, and Granada is no exception. There are plenty of local hangouts all over the city, but the streets around Calle Navas and Plaza del Carmen are “tapas bar central”, and give you a nice range of choices in a relatively small area.

One feature of the Granada tapas scene that seems unique to that city is the many bars that offer a “free” tapa with your drink. But beware! As the man said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. It’s actually included in the price of the drink, which makes the drinks more expensive in Granada than in other Andalusian cities as a result.

These are our recommendations for five of the best places to eat in Granada, from cheap and cheerful to upmarket gourmet tapas.

Los Diamantes
Their are two of these, but the original eatery in Calle Navas is still the best (the second location in Plaza Nueva is very touristy). Fried fish is the speciality of the house, but the thinly sliced fried aubergine (often served as the first “free” tapa), is not to be missed.
Navas 26
Tel. +34 958 227 070

Bar Avila
Busy little bar where you can choose your “free” tapa. The “jamón asado” (a bit like a ham donaire kebab) is the house speciality. There’s lots of good seafood, too, but give the fried octopus a miss.
Veronica de la Virgen 16
Tel. +34 958 263 928

El Mentidero
A friendly local bar with excellent traditional tapas, including some meat dishes that you grill at the table on a hot stone, for which it is justly famous. Owner and maître d’ Fiti will take good care of you and make you feel at home.
Piedra Santa 15
Tel. +34 677 862 459

La Moraga
A branch of the gourmet tapas chain, and a relatively new addition to the tapas scene in Granada, La Moraga has some great tapas and excellent wine at reasonable prices, in a very comfortable and spacious bar. There is also a nice sidewalk terrace. Make sure to order the bulltail burger, the speciality of all La Moragas everywhere.
Rector Morata 3 (just off Plaza Carmen)
Tel +34 958 221 507

A short walk away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the Senzone restaurant is hidden away inside the beautiful shady gardens of the Palacio de los Patos Hotel is an oasis in the centre of the city where you can stop in for anything from a couple of tapas to a full meal, and enjoy them in calm, peaceful surroundings.
Solarillo de Gracia, 1
Tel +34 958 53 57 90

Granada | Miradors in the Albaicín

[view from San Nicolás mirador]

If you’re in Granada, the main reason is probably that you’ve come to see the Alhambra. You may already have been inside the complex, wandered around the palaces and gardens, and climbed the towers of the fortifications, or you may still have that pleasure to come. Either way, it’s worth the effort of making your way up into the Albaicín, the old Moorish quarter of the city that faces the Alhambra across the deep, narrow valley of the River Darro, for a totally different point of view of this amazing fortress.
There are a number of miradors (lookout or vantage points) where you can get the best views, of which the best known is the Mirador San Nicholas. From here, you can see exactly why the fortress was considered impregnable. You can also see the the slightly-out-of-place Palace of Carlos V, and the tiny figures of myriad tourists on the walls and towers. Just below the mirador is a little terrace bar and restaurant called the Huerto de Juan Ranas, where you can enjoy the sight with a long, cool, if slightly pricey, drink. A bit further up, but with the advantage of being directly accessible by the little minibuses that serve the Albaicín, is the Mirador San Cristobal.

Walking up the hill into the Albaicín is quite strenuous, and the hillside faces south, so the best times to do it, especially in summer, are the early morning or the evening. But whenever you go, be sure to wear comfy shoes! You can find several good tapas bars on the way up. Our favourites are Mesón el Yunque in Plaza San Miguel Bajo and Bar Aliatar in the Plaza Aliatar. If you want to splash out then the Carmen Mirador de Aixa in Carril de San Agustín offers exquisite views and excellent food.

After dark the walls of the Alhambra are spectacularly lit up and it’s definitely worth going up a second time, though you may want to take a taxi back down afterwards rather than braving the steep narrow streets, which can be tricky to navigate even in daylight.