Rooftops, Cava, and Game of Thrones. Welcome to Seville

Seville if you go once, you be back again and again and again.

Seville, the Southern Spanish city and capital of the Andalusia region is a city unlike any other. I have to admit despite my love of travel, Spain wasn’t really high on my list. I had heard endless stories from friends who traveled to Spain in their late teens, early twenties and most stories revolved around bars, clubs and beaches. Likewise the British families we knew seemed to view Spain as a sun and resort destination. So it fell off our radar also because we were too lazy to just understand how much more and I mean much much more Spain had to offer and how diverse it really is.

So back in 2015, @benton8tor started talking about wanting to visit Spain, I started ignoring him and preparing my argument for why we should visit Rome. (back in 2014, @benon8or paid a hefty like transatlantic airfare hefty price for a parking and speeding ticket in Italy, he was pretty bitter ). However, being someone reasonable adults which include absolutely no sulking fits, we compromised and greed to do both Spain and Rome. I had read a little about Seville and Granada bu we ended up picking Seville. I thought it was because of its proximity to Sherry production, I later learned it was because of it Game of Thrones connections. and the food… oh my the food is simply delicious.

I mentioned Seville is in Andalusia in Southern Spain. This is more important than I realized, Spain s exceptionally regional. For instance, paella should come from Valencia etc.. Seville takes pride in its Moorish culture an architecture and it is truly on of the mos visually stunning cities I have ever seen. Courtyards with plants, inlaid stone and tile work, clean beautiful streets, Seville was a site to behold. From he Golden Tower to the Cathedral, to the Place de’Espagne, http://www.andalucia.org/es/turismo-cultural/visitas/sevilla/otras-visitas/plaza-de-espana-2/ Seville was a site to behold. But the Alcazar, oh my gosh. IMG_4232The Alcazar is now a museum but was a former Royal palace. It is beautiful  and beyond beautiful. The tile work and stone work is almost incomprehensible in its beauty. the gardens and water features are equally gorgeous. Full of history, you can easily spend a day there. And if you are a fan of Game of Thrones, you will definitely want to see it as many of the scenes of the Water Gardens of Dorne. Both the Alcazar and Place de’Espagne are well well worth it. http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/

 

As is the rooftop patios. Seville is literally full of them and hey afford stunning city views, usually a pool and poolside drinks. Our hotel the Fontecruz Sevilla Seises http://www.fontecruzhoteles.com/hotel-fontecruz-sevilla-seises/ had a beautiful rooftop with views of the cathedral and poolside drinks. Seville is very hot in the summer, often 40 degrees so a poolside dip can make all the difference. that and the mists they spray you with both on the patio and street level. But part of he fun of the rooftops is the drinks, Spain is famous for its reds and Sherries. Both are exceptional but its cavas on a a hot day with their crisp flavours, light bubbles and overall deliciousness really captured my heart. that said, Spain’s wines should be tasted as much as possible, far more diverse than we often see, the reds can be both light, fruit forward and full bodies, with deep flavours from several regions. The wine pairs exceptionally well with the food here but hat is a whole other post. Suffice it to say, try the gazpacho and oxtail lasagna for sure!  In fact if I would have to go back to Seville just so Ben can eat that lasagna again and hen talk about it for the next 364 days. and shop. Seville’s artisans produce beautiful tile work ,jewelry, and clothing. Seville has fabulous streets for wondering and exploring shops, spices, stopping for wine and hen continuing on your day with more exploring.

Seville is also and easy spot for day trips to the beautiful villages surrounding. Seville if you go once, you’ll be back again and again and again.

Port or Sherry? Porto or Jerez ? Both Please

But take a chance on Jerez and Porto, and sherry and port. I guarantee you’ll be back for more.

Most people if not everyone know, i love wine, in particular reds from France (especially the Rhone) so it should come as no surprise that I love port and sherry, fortified wines and in the case of port sweet. Or maybe it does. Certainly the majority of wine drinkers I know detest both port and sherry. But that is not the fault or either port or sherry. Rather I lay the blame on Harvey’s Bristol cream sherry or a ruby port, cheap, smelling and tasting like cough syrup. I can’t blame them. However this is prevalent in Canada, In Europe it is much more common to understand the diversity of both port and sherry.

It took me a long time to drink either. My first foray was Christmas 1998. @benton8tors parents served me sherry, Harvey’s Bristol cream sherry. I brought champagne every Christmas since then. However, I knew in the back of my mind, there had to be more o sherry but I was to preoccupied with discovering red wines and champagnes to find out.

Fast forward to 2015 and a wine store in England hosting a port tasting. My introduction into good ports! Fast forward 1 more year and @benon8tor and i are in Seville, about an hours drive from Jerez de la Frontera,  the sherry capital and home of its production. IMG_4214Now @benton8tor really likes sherry so he wanted to do tastings, try the different styles, and really discover sherry. I wanted to eat tapas and sit rooftop and poolside at our hotel overlooking the cathedral but unfortunately it isn’t all about me so I wen with good grace to Jerez. Our first stop was Tio Pepe http://www.tiopepe.co.uk/. Tio Pepe is omnipresent in Spain when it comes to sherry.. Bonus points they offered a tapas and sherry tour! But it didn’t start for another hour and a half. The staff at Tio Pepe were very helpful and suggested waiting in a cafe on the square. Which turned out to be a great idea. Southern Spain in August is very very hot and Jerez is fairly arid so a cafe with some petty views an a tortilla (Spanish omelet) was a perfect was to kill some time. Once again, the service was awesome.

The Tio Pepe tour was good, informative but a little corporate. However the sherry is awesome.We had 4 tastings, a ranging from dry to sweet and all made differently as you’d expect. I was embarrassed to admit I didn’t understand the diversity of sherry and the nuances. How could a dry sherry still have a taste of hazelnut and 20160828_195228sweetness without being sweet. Why did the sweet sherry remind me of Christmas cake and not just pure sugar? It definitely awoke a taste for sherry. Unfortunately we didn’t have more time n Jerez but I want to go back and visit and taste at the smaller sherry bodegas. However that night back in Seville (one of the most stunningly beautiful cities) we did sit poolside and enjoy a rebujito, a refreshing sherry cocktail made with dry sherry, sprite or tonic water and mint.

With a love of sherry now certain, it was time to conquer Port and to do that you best go to Porto. Which is what we did. Porto is the epicenter of Port production. In fact the entire side of the river bank is depicted to port houses. We were lucky enough in Porto to visit Port houses (Kopke and Sandeman) do part tastings at the Wine Box http://www.thewineboxporto.com/ ( a must do) and tour the Douro Valley, home of port production and fabulous views.

Port is diverse as Sherry, if not more so. The menu at the Kopke Port house https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g580268-d6965338-Reviews-Casa_Kopke-Vila_Nova_de_Gaia_Porto_District_Northern_Portugal.html showcases just how diverse port is, you can have white port, rose, ruby and tawny, all aged differently , made with different levels of sweetness. Despite all the tastings, I still found myself drawn to the tawny ports, aged ones in particular. the nutty, Christmas cake, dried fruit taste of an aged tawny port with a blue cheese? out of this world!

Sandeman is as omnipresent in Porto as Tio Pepe is in Jerez. http://www.sandeman.com/ That said, they have amazing port offerings and some of the best views of the Douro Valley. In fact to truly appreciate port, tour the Douro Valley with its terraced vineyards, beautiful river and some of the most relaxed and petty settings to sip your port, smell the wisteria and watch the world go by.

Both Porto and Southern Spain are often overlooked as tourist destinations in favour of there more famous regions. Spain has Barcelona and Malaga, Portugal has Lisbon and Madeira. But take a chance on Jerez and Porto, and sherry and port. I guarantee you’ll be back for more.220

Tapas Time

Located in the heart of Andalusia in Southern Spain, to call Seville a jewel would be vastly underestimating its amazingness.

I have to  admit, I was a little hesitant to go to Spain, @benton8timg_4141or had always wanted to go but I resisted. ‘Why go to Spain when you can go to France?’  I thought. We eventually compromised and decided to visit both Spain and France (totally great compromise by the way) We picked Seville based on its proximity to Sherry production and sun and hot temperatures.Not knowing much else as the bulk of my time was spent preparing for Provence, We were ready to find out jut how much Seville had to offer.

Way, way way more than I believed possible. Located in the heart of Andalusia in Southern Spain, to call Seville a jewel would be vastly underestimating its amazingness. Seville is quite truly a stunning city, much of the beauty with its history steeped in the Moorish architecture that dominates Seville’s architectural highlights.

We drove into Seville. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have nerves of steel and a tiny vehicle. Streets in central Seville are very narrow and wind around the cathedral turning in one ways when you least expect it.

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Street width

Once there get ready to enjoy yourself.We booked a wine and tapas tour our first night to get acquainted with Sevillian food, wine and landmarks.Our guide met us in front of the cathedral and

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Orange wine

took us through the old town and Jewish quarter for a traditional tapas experience. Our first stop, we were given an aperitif of traditional wine flavoured with Seville oranges. I wast sure what to expect and still find it hard to describe the flavour. It was refreshing and good but also and acquired taste.

 

 

Next stop was a typical tapas bar, favoured by the after work crowd for a drink and tapas. We tried delicious wine from the Rioja region paired with cured meas and cheeses and flamenquin a breaded deep fried cheese and pork dish. Down the winding streets to my favourite stop of the night, more wine, this time white paired with an medieval dish, goats cheese and tomato marmalade and a sardine tapa.

Above left to right Salmoreja, medival taps on left top and bottom left rebujito with braised pork

It was delicious and my foray into Spanish whites proved to be light and crisp. We also enjoyed Salmoreja , a cold soup similar to gazpacho but richer includes ham and bread but is still silky smooth. We finished off the tastings at another restaurant a bit moreimg_4017 off the beaten path, where Ben had his favourite dish ever, oxtail lasagna, we also had braised pork and potatoes. All of this was complimented by a very refreshing Sherry cocktail called rebujito. Truly stuffed we walked back towards the centre, with our guide Chel a flamenco dancer explaining the finer details of Moorish architecture, including how they kept their buildings cool. Very much needed in Seville where temperatures often reach 40 degrees, but many of the streets mist you as you walk by, keeping you cool. We finished at a rooftop patio with a Spanish doughnut and  a Cava. Enjoying the view of the city sipping on a cava is truly one of my favourite travel moments.

As I mentioned, Seville can get hot. Many of the hotels have pools and if you are lucky a rooftop terrace and or pool. We were lucky, our hotel had just that. After a day seeing the sights, sherry tasting, hot air balloon riding or simply shopping, it is heavenly to come back to the hotel, sit by the pool on the rooftop and enjoy a dip in the pool or simply a glass of wine or Sherry Cocktail while you enjoy the breathtaking views of Seville and the catherdral.http://www.fontecruzhoteles.com/hotel-fontecruz-sevilla-seises/ It also helps that you can enjoy breakfast on the patio underneath lemon and Seville orange trees.

Seville is famous for the Alcazar ( The Royal Palace developed by Moorish Kings)  and the Place De Espana a beautiful plaza. The Alcazar was simply amazing, full of hand painted

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Royal Alcazar

tiles, intricate woodwork and beautifully manicured gardens, there is simply nothing else like it. You could send hours there and you should.http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/  @benton8tor lost his mind and any shred of coolness he had when came upon the sunken garden where scenes for the water gardens of Dorn were filmed for Game of Thrones. Channeling my inner Leslie Knope, I totally mocked him for his obsession while be remaining somewhat supportive. Place De Espana is equally stunning and time should be sent there as well.

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Finally don’t miss a walk along the river and over to Triana. We had the best patas bravas of our tip in Triana along gazpacho finally. Gazpacho is lighter than salmorejo and if often served in a glass. All paired with a Spanish red wine that managed to be rich and refreshing. We said goodbye to Seville with a Spanish brandy for @benton8tor and a cava for me, sad to leave.

Seville was so much more than I could have imagined and I was glad I was open minded enough to expand those travel horizons. Seville I’ll be back.

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Place De Espana