Monday, 30 June 2014

The lovely Avenida de la Constitución

The Constitution Avenue in Seville is a busy, wide road that connects the Town Hall on Plaza Nueva with the square of Puerta de Jerez. This 600m long road is probably the most well-known street in the whole city as most of the big fiestas, such as the processions of the Corpus Cristi or the Semana Santa, goes through here. It is always nicely decorated during Christmas, too. 

It´s also one of my favourite places as the houses are all very pretty and well kept.

The street went through huge changes since the 18th century as it seems that every generation wanted to make its mark on it. This is where all the new innovations came alive first in the town, the first buses, the first metro at Puerta de Jerez, the first stop of the tram, the Sevici bike stations… Apparently there was even talk about installing a pedestrian conveyor belt here. Fortunately this didn´t come to fruition.

The first house you come across when you turn your back to the Town Hall is the Adriatic. This is probably the most photographed private house in the whole town. It was built in a ‘neomudejar’ style between 1914 and 1922 by José Espiau y Muñoz, the same architect who built Seville´s most expensive hotel, the Alfonso XIII. The bottom part of the building is occupied by a great pastry shop. 

Marvel as you pass the numerous gorgeous buildings as you walk down here. You will find the Cathedral and the Archivo General de Indias on your left.

Don’t forget to have a look at one of the loveliest secret squares of Seville, the Plaza del Cabildo. It´s all hidden behind the tourist shops and even some of the Sevillans themselves don´t know about its existence! It used to be a private area where priests were trained, however a few years ago it was opened up to the public and now everybody can access it. If they can find it!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Seville’s bikes, the Sevici

As I have mentioned before, Seville is a city without hills, meaning it’s completely, utterly, totally flat. This is an advantage that comes handy when you climb to the top of the Giralda tower, the highest point of the city, and can see 360 degrees for miles and miles. It is also great when you want to do sport, for example running or cycling. And this is what led the city to set up an extensive and ingenious cycling network, the Sevilla bici, which is shortened to Sevici.

I have always been a fan of city bikes however in London I never considered it successful. There are just simply too many people and the distances are too big to really take advantage of the scheme. Here however it works perfectly well. The city is small so during your allotted free half an hour you can actually cover quite a distance. The stations are numerous and close to each other and there’s a great app that you can download to help if one of them happens to be full. The network is surprisingly extensive and goes all the way out to the suburban areas. And the best thing, the cycling lane (called carril de bici) is part of the pavement, not the road, so you don’t have share your space the road with the cars. Hallelujah!

Not to mention the fact that it is very cheap, it only costs 30 euros for a whole year! As far as I remember in London it was 30 pounds for only a month. Even in Barcelona it was 45 and it was said to increase to its double soon. Even when you consider the price of the Seville Metro (only about 70 cents for a single journey) that you’d have to use daily for me it was still a great deal cheaper to use it to go to work.

So, how does it work exactly?
Very easy. You go online, find their official website and fill out the form (you can do this all in English, God bless them!), pay the required amount and wait. After 30 days your card will be looking at you from your mailbox with your name neatly printed on it. All you need to do now is to rock up to the closest Sevici station, activate it (the instructions on the screen will be in English if you filled out the form in English, NEAT!) and you’re ready to hit the town! When you get where you wanted, dock your bike in an empty spot, make sure you hear the double beep that signs that the bike is properly docked and that’s it!

An added bonus is that the people here are actually bike-aware, meaning they won’t stand and chat in the middle of the cycle lane like the tourists do in Barcelona, which is always helpful. The cyclists are very patient and won’t ring their bells if you don’t start within 2 milliseconds of the traffic light changing to green, like they do in London. It’s all very civilised and relaxed.

Just like everything else here in this gorgeous city.  

Friday, 27 June 2014

Jerez de la Frontera

The town of Jerez is famous for three things: sherry, flamenco and horses. On one cloudy Sunday we set out to see all three for ourselves.

As soon as we got off the train I had the overwhelming urge to get my camera out and start taking photos. Usually stations are soulless and colourless places however the Jerez Train Station itself is beautiful. It is decorated with a hint of the Moorish style and its walls are full of colourful tiles.

As soon as we got into the centre we were surrounded with the colourful dresses of the many flamencas who ‘escorted’ us to the main square. This was the first time that I saw so many flamenco dresses in one place and I really liked them! If you have the chance, go and see the Jerez Flamenco Festival when the country’s best artists show off their skills.

After a short walk through the center we headed over to see the town’s pride and joy, the horse show of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.

The show is held in a 19th century building called the Palacio de las Cadenas. It took my breath away to watch these magnificent stallions and their riders showing off their skills! These animals are of pure beauty and I couldn’t take my eyes off them throughout the hour long show. The commentator spoke in Spanish so we didn’t understand much but I caught that these horses are very intelligent and go through a rigorous training.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos or videos during the show but we took some shots of the stables, the buildings and the training grounds.

Even though we don’t know much about horses the skills of the horses and their riders was obvious to both of us. If you’d like to see the show, you can book your tickets on the school’s website.

After the horses we were off to sample the best of what Jerez can offer to its visitors, its world famous sherry. There are many bodegas where you can go but we chose one of the biggest names, the Bodegas de Tio Pepe. We quickly signed up for a tasting session for two (!!) then had a little nose around while waiting for the tour to begin.

We were taken around the grounds by a little train and learnt everything about the history and the making of this drink.

Finally, the tasting session! For some reason we chose to choose four different types of sherry. As I don’t really like drinking I found it too bitter. I could only drink one of the four glasses so it was all down to Paul to finish the remaining 7 glasses!

If you’d like to sign up for a tasting session you can find more information about it on the Bodega’s website. I would suggest going in the summer as the grapevines that are grown to give shade are priceless. Of course in February they weren’t in their best shape.

About 2 hours later we left the Bodega in a slightly intoxicated but nevertheless very merry manner and walked around the city a bit more. We had a look at the Cathedral.

Some other nice parts of the city.

Jerez is well-worth a visit if you are in Andalusia. The train journey is just over an hour from Seville, making it an excellent day trip. Try to time your stay for the Jerez Horse Show to be part of a truly Spanish fiesta.