I was never in doubt that I would instantly warm to Seville, but the fact that it was actually warm in December and January made me fall for it even more. Those heading there in the height of summer best be prepared for some serious siesta time as the temperatures can soar into the 40s, so I would suggest that if you can, save your Seville sojourn for autumn or winter. At this time of year, the famous Seville orange trees are still laden with fruit, and while the mornings and evenings are a little chilly, the afternoons are often bathed in sunshine – perfect for sightseeing and tapas bar hopping!
However, weather warnings aside, I would whole-heartedly encourage everyone to visit Seville, whenever they can because the city is quite a looker and brimming with a sparkling personality. The city’s star attractions do not disappoint; the Cathedral is rather breath-taking, Plaza Espana is as grand as they come, the Real Alcazar is probably one of the most stunning sites I’ve visited to date, and even the divisive Metropol Parasol has a certain charm and appeal.
I imagine what draws most people to Granada is a visit to the Alhambra, the stunning fortified palace sitting at the top of the city. However, what might make them stay a little longer is the proximity to the ski fields of the Sierra Nevada in winter and the nearby beaches in summer. The heart of the city itself is also worth a wander; there are mix of wide boulevards and narrow lanes where you can shop, marvel at the architecture, and of course, eat and drink. Unsurprisingly, the latter two are my favourite past-times whenever I find myself in Spain.
A certain someone and I have always had a soft spot for tapas, even back when we were in New Zealand, I remember gorging ourselves silly at this one place in Auckland… but I think we really fell in love with it when we visited our first Spanish city together – Barcelona. Everything we had previous to that just paled in comparison; this was the real deal and ever since then, we’ve been excited about all the food we’ve had in the country whether it’s been fine dining in Madrid, pintxos in San Sebastian or a food tour in Seville. I think the Spanish have a wonderfully civilised drinking culture where they usually serve some sort of nibble alongside their beer or wine.
A certain someone and I are DIY-type travellers. We book all our flights and hotels, we stumble on sights unassisted, we manage to eat quite well on our own; why would we need someone to guide us along? The thought of joining a tour has always filled us with dread and distain because we’re not fans of organised fun and we hate following people. We like to wing it and do our own thing, winging it has worked out well for us so far but recently I’ve come round to the idea that there is a time and a place for certain tours…
We still won’t be going on package holidays or shuffling behind a person with a flag for days on end, but a few hours we can handle. If we hadn’t joined a walking tour in Sofia, we wouldn’t have learnt anything about Bulgarian history and without the wine tour in Bordeaux, I wouldn’t have set foot in any of the gorgeous chateaus. With these enjoyable experiences in mind, we decided to take a chance on a food tour and book the Tastes, Tapas and Traditions Tour with Devour Seville.
I uncovered two fun facts about El Pirata when I did my customary restaurant google: it’s been serving tapas in Mayfair for over twenty years and is Fred Sirieix’s favourite restaurant. Any restaurant which can last more than two decades in this city is all very impressive but who the heck is this Fred fella and what does he know about good food? More googling reveals that Mr Sirieix is the country’s most famous maître d’ but obviously, those of you who watch First Dates already knew that.
While you’re judging my sheltered TV-watching habits, I was judging Fred’s taste in restaurants. In a recent Guardian article about the best things certain people in the know had eaten in 2016, he mentioned the black rice, the langoustines in tomato sauce, and the ham. We hadn’t intended on copying his order, but rice, prawns and pork are some of our favourite things, and according to our waiter, they are some of El Pirata’s signature dishes.
Over the last few days, weekends jaunts and week-long holidays have dominated our lunchtime conversations in the office. It’s the time of the year where everyone has either just come back from a trip or are about the jet off so there have been plenty of stories, recommendations, and even some debates… Where’s best for a beach holiday? What’s a great cheap and cheerful destination? Any hidden gems to reveal? And we couldn’t go past discussing our favourite destinations! I immediately piped up with Barcelona, and I was not alone in picking this Spanish city as a favourite!
We all agreed that Barcelona has a bit of everything which could almost make it the perfect city. Huge call. If you like strolling, it has endless streets to wander and admire the architecture. If you just want to laze in the sun, there’s a choice between park or beach. For the shopaholics amongst us, there are a mix of markets, boutiques and familiar favourites. And finally, if you’re all about the Spanish food and drink like I am, Barcelona is overflowing with fantastic restaurants and food stalls at every corner. The hotspots, and there are many, from high end to tapas to markets are fairly well-known so I thought I’d share some of my favourite alternatives…
A certain someone once proclaimed that dining ‘tapas style’ was his favourite way of eating. This might be controversial as I know the small plates ethos isn’t for everyone but I would happily agree with him here. It’s absolutely perfect for someone like me who suffers from incredible plate envy, has major menu indecision, and quite frankly, sometimes just wants to order everything. With tapas, you technically can… if money was no object. That’s really the only downside to this wonderful way of eating, get too carried away and sometimes the bill can sting you!
So to save you from diners regret and tapas induced crimes against your bank balance, I’ve got three places where you should splash your cash for small plates of goodness. Of course, London is loaded with Spanish tapas restaurants but here are a couple of my favourites…
Most people will tell you that you’d be crazy to visit Boston in the winter; the New England weather may be notoriously changeable but the one constant at this time of year is the cold. Having experienced it myself, I can’t disagree with those people but hey, we should all be a little crazy sometimes right? Boston winters may not be as beautiful as the springs or autumns, but there’s a certain elegance to the snow covered streets glistening in the sunlight and those cloudless bright blue skies. Not to mention the fact that you can follow that red brick road all the way round without having to push past the hoards of Freedom Trailers!
By the time we arrived in Boston we were suffering from a bit of diner’s fatigue- it was nearing the end of our epic trip and we had wolfed down some seriously good food, but the downside of that is it makes you really miffed at the seriously average food. So we wondered, would Boston be in the awesome or average category?