When we last left off on my Spanish adventure, we had completed a jam-packed, fun filled day in Valencia. And once again, on minimal sleep, we were up at 6am to make it to the train station for our next leg: Seville! (pronounced Se-bi-ya not like The Barber of Seville. Come on, don’t be THAT American.)
This time we had a four hour train ride so we got in a decent nap which was good because I was dying. This was the first time that the thought, “Dear God, what have I done?!?” popped into my head. I had a dreadful feeling that I had bit off more than I could chew in my itinerary planning.
That is until we got into Seville, dropped our bags off at the hotel, and ran to a restaurant as fast as we could. We were starving. Did I mention how much I love Spanish tapas? Yes? Too bad, I’m going to say it again. I LOVE SPANISH TAPAS. OK, now I’m screaming at you. But look at this.
Grilled octopus in squid ink. I’m getting hungry just looking at it. I will tell you that the moment they put this in front of me all my sleepiness went right out the window. Good food just makes my heart beat fast like that. And it tasted even better than it looks! We also had skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. Both were delicious.
With our stomachs full we felt recharged enough to explore beautiful Seville. Our first stop was The Plaza de Espana in the Parque de Maria Luisa. This was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.
If you visit make sure you have Euros to pay for the row boats, which I desperately wanted to do. We were both fresh out and hadn’t had time to stop at an exchange center so I bartered with a local vendor to exchange U.S. dollars for a small fee. And, even though my boyfriend and I weren’t the best rowers at first, we got the hang of it and it was so worth it!
After walking through the beautiful park we made our way to Hotel Alfonso XIII, a very expensive luxury hotel our cab driver had told us was worth the visit. He claimed they had the best cafe con leche in town so, obviously, I had to check it out. The hotel was amazing and very upscale. I felt a little like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman as I squealed in pleasure at the wide array of scented lotions in the bathroom. We sat in the central courtyard which had natural sunlight and a serene atmosphere and got ready for our pick me up.
I’m still amazed at the fact that I can drink milk in Spain without my usual lactose intolerant reactions (shaking my head at you U.S. milk). And this one was wonderful! And yes, we also tried a cocktail because you don’t usually see those on the menu. In Spain it’s mostly beer and wine. This was a pear martini and quite refreshing.
Next we wandered through the streets of old town and, um, got really, really lost. Except we didn’t mind because the streets were so cute and I spotted many restaurants I’d love to check out. Almost two hours later (I’m not lying we were LOST. It was also Easter weekend so there were processions through the streets which made it hard to find a direct path.) we made it back to our hotel. We relaxed a little, then ventured out for dinner, vowing that tonight we WOULD go to bed early.
We walked along the outskirts of town to avoid the processions and made it back to the north side of Barrio Santa Cruz, AKA Old Town. We took a look at a couple spots but I quickly decided on one in the cute corner of a park because, well, it had twinkly lights and I’m a sucker.
I am so glad we chose this restaurant, though! To start we tried a liver and mushroom crepe in red wine sauce. I know this sounds a little weird, but I had vowed to try as many different foods as I could on this trip so I was in. And OMG!!!! This was one of my favorite dishes. It melted in your mouth and the sauce was so rich and flavorful. See? Risks pay off!
For our second course I had lamb, which I tend to be picky about only because I personally feel I cook this dish to perfection. But they rose to the challenge!
One thing Spanish food never lacks is flavor. My boyfriend had the Iberian pork because it is a classic dish in the Andalusian region. And while it looks a little messy, the flavor blew my mind! I’ve never had pork so tender and flavorful.
Once we finished off our truly amazing meal with a nice glass of rioja, we jumped in a cab and headed home. I’m proud to say we were in bed by 11:30pm! SPOILER ALERT: this is the only time the whole trip we got to bed this early.
We had to get up early the next day because we were going on a day excursion to Ronda, the most famous of the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) of Spain because both Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway lived there while they created their art. I was especially interested because the cliffs of Ronda inspired Hemingway’s famous cliff scene in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Before we got to Ronda we made a quick stop in Zahara for breakfast. Our tour guide wanted us to try some homemade bread from the local market. It was right out of the oven and tasted like a combination of a fresh baguette and funnel cake. It was slightly sweet and savory and needed no butter or jam because it had enough flavor on its own!
We also stopped for a quick espresso at the one place you could do so in this quaint town. If you want some rest and relaxation, a stay in one of these small white villages is for you.
Fueled and ready, we got back on the bus and made it into Ronda Spain.
I cannot make up these views. If I hadn’t taken this picture myself I wouldn’t believe it was real. This bridge separates the old and new towns in Ronda and is one of the most picturesque bridges in the world. On our tour of this magical town we saw the first circular bull ring (at one point all the bull rings were square!), toured the oldest home in Ronda, and even did some wine tasting. The highlight was trying a traditional dish, bull tail. It looks and tastes much like oxtail but I had to try it because it was a specialty in Ronda. It was very tender and delicious!
Back in Seville, we headed out to the Triana district for dinner on Calle Betis, a street filled with bars and restaurants overlooking the river. We tried an Andalusian favorite, croquettes, which are basically fried pieces of jamon or fish mixed with potato or sauce. (See picture at top of article) It was similar to the cod fritters we had in Valencia but a little heavier. They were good, but not my favorite. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of breading, but if you are this dish is for you!
We finished the night at a flamenco bar, Casa Anselma. This is a must see if you are in Seville! It doesn’t even open until midnight and goes until 4am! But I cannot even put into words the energy we got to experience. A whole room of people were singing and couples got up to do modern takes of Flamenco dance. It was such a rush we didn’t even mind that we weren’t in bed until 3:30am.
The next morning we got up bright and early (I told you I’m a scheduling fiend) to visit Real Alcazar, the palace in Seville. We even got to visit the chambers still used by the royal family when they visit by making advanced reservations. FUN FACT: the city of Dorn in Game of Thrones is filmed here!
After exploring these beautiful grounds it was time to eat! We wandered back into the winding streets of Barrio Santa Cruz to one of the restaurants I had spotted on the first day while we were lost. We had a delicious meal of seafood paella and sangria. Everything was cooked to perfection and you couldn’t beat the atmosphere!
We next wandered into La Casa del Flamenco for a traditional flamenco show. This was a different feel from the casual, modern experience we had the night before, but we were so glad we got to see both! The lines of the dancers were strong and powerful to watch, music was exceptional, and it was performed in an intimate setting.
I must also note that it was here that we discovered vending machines THAT SOLD BEER. I have never seen this in the U.S. I mean, it’s probably illegal. But how cool was it that while watching the show we could pop in a dollar and have a cold one? Viva Espana!
We were now off to our last meal in Seville. We picked a quaint courtyard restaurant in Barrio Santa Cruz that advertised vino y tapas. However, much to our amusement, there were no tapas. It was all full course meals. It turned out OK, though, because everything was spectacular! I had shrimp carpaccio for the first time in my life. It was so light and fresh that it melted in your mouth. Then we had oxtail and veggies. This sounds simple, but the Spanish have the magic touch. Everything is so rich and flavorful. No bland, steamed veggies here! And can I mention one more time how much I LOVE rioja?