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Summer in Seville – Pick of the Palaces

July 25, 2017 – 12:32 am

Outdoor events rule the scene in summertime Seville, as temperatures climb to the 40s on a regular basis (105F). Here are some of the cultural events on during July and August, from music, theatre and dance to outdoor cinema.

One of the most long-standing events is the Noches en Los Jardines del Real Alcazar, now in its 18th season.  These concerts in the gardens of the royal palace, next to the Charles III Pavilion, take place from Monday to Saturday until 9 September, and include flamenco, classical and world music.

Especially recommended are dates featuring superb Seville Royal Symphony Orchestra oboeist, Brit Sarah Roper, who plays on 3 August in a duo with guitarist Maria Esther Guzman, and on 5 September in the MeSaMoR Trio, featuring Maria and flautist Vicent Morello. For the full programme, and to book tickets (avoid the online booking fee by collecting tickets in person, see alcazarsevilla.org Concerts take place at 10.30pm, with the gardens open an hour earlier.

 

This season of concerts and plays continues until the end of August. This season of concerts and plays continues until the end of August.

In an equally historic, though less celebrated setting, the 12th-century Palacio de la Buhaira in Nervion, you can see concerts almost every night until 17 August and then plays until 31 August, in Noches en el Palacio de la Buhaira. Music includes opera recitals and soundtracks. Performances start at 10pm. For more, see this page.

Algaba

In the Macarena district of the old town, behind Feria market, Palacio de los Marqueses de Algaba has a season of theatre which lasts until 24 September. Find out more here.

The Tobacco Factory sees a varied season of events. The Tobacco Factory sees a varied season of events.

Another historic building, the Fabrica de Tabacos, hosts a season of cultural events, including flamenco, movies, poetry and theatre. See the full programme here.

 


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Sorolla’s garden paintings at CaixaForum in Seville

July 13, 2017 – 9:28 pm

 

The exhibition is on until 15 OctoberThe exhibition is on until 15 October.

 

For all garden lovers, this art exhibition – Sorolla: Un Jardin Para Pintar - is a treat.

The show of paintings by the Valencian artist, which has just opened at CaixaForum, a major new cultural centre in Seville. runs until 15 October.

Joaquin Sorolla was an internationally-renowned post-impressionist painter who worked in the late 19th and early 20th century, with many exhibitions in Paris, London and the US.

Sorolla loved gardens, and often visited the Alhambra and Alcazar of Seville; his paintings are known for their exquisite use of colour and light.

 

A tiled bench with pool in Sorolla's garden in MadridA tiled bench with pool in Sorolla’s garden in Madrid.

 

In 1911, the artist decided to design his own house and garden in Madrid. He wanted to bring together his studio, living quarters, family and a beautiful outside space. In the heart of Madrid, on Paseo de General Martinez Campos, he built a house with a wonderful garden consisting of several Andalucian patios, inspired by his favourite spots in Granada and Seville, complete with fruit trees, Moorish-style pools and fountains, and tiled benches.

Plants were chosen carefully for their colours – rose, oleander, azalea, hydrangea and lilac – with many shades of white, pink and blue. Many of the plants, trees, tiles and statues were brought from Andalucia.

You can visit his house and garden, now the Museo Sorolla, an oasis of tranquillity in the vibrant Spanish capital – which is exactly as the painter envisaged it, for himself and those closest to him.

 

The Patio Andaluz in Sorolla's house in Madrid, by SorollaThe Patio Andaluz in Sorolla’s house in Madrid, by Sorolla.

 

Painting his garden became a source of great pleasure to Sorolla, and this exhibition in Seville portrays his love for this very personal sanctuary, right up until 1920 when illness prevented him from continuing to paint.

The exhibition consists of more than 170 paintings, drawings, sketches and photographs, mostly from the Museo Sorolla in Madrid.  It’s fascinating to see how his vision for the garden developed through from rough scribbled notes, to careful detailed plans.

 

Handwritten note from Clotilde and Maria, Sorolla's wife and daughter, to the painter, with pressed flowersHandwritten note from Clotilde and Maria, Sorolla’s wife and daughter, to the painter, with pressed flowers.

 

Other delightfully personal exhibits include hand-written notes with pressed flowers from the painter’s wife and daughter to him – a deeply thoughtful and touching gesture in these days of instant messaging across the globe.

Although many of the paintings of Sorolla’s own garden are similar – or at least variations on a theme – it is fascinating to see how he drew from the famous Moorish gardens of Andalucia’s greatest monuments, continuing the Moorish style.

If you go as a family, don’t miss the excellent hands-on children’s activities within the gallery, themed around the exhibition.

CaixaForum is open daily from 10am-8pm. It is located next to the Torre Sevilla, on Camino de los Descubrimientos, with the entrance on Calle Jeronimo de Aguilar. There’s an underground car park; street parking is difficult on weekdays during the day, but easy in the evenings and at weekends.

Family visits to the exhibition are available at weekends, while guided tours take place daily on Monday and Thursday to Sunday. In September there are poetry readings and concerts.

 

 


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Teen Star Mozart Dee Comes to Andalucia

June 22, 2017 – 8:28 pm

This month music fans in Torrox Pueblo and Estepona have a treat in store.

American child prodigy Mozart Dee is playing two concerts: at La Casa in Torrox Pueblo on 28 June, and at the Fuerte Hotel Estepona on 30 June. (Info about Concerts)

These appearances are part of the 16-year-old singer and musician’s European summer tour, otherwise known as the Mozart Ignite Tour. (#MozartIgniteTour)

She and her parents were based in Frigiliana for five years, when Mozart was between the ages of 5 and 10, travelling during the summer months, and living and going to school in the Axarquia village in the winter.

Since 2006, Mozart has been home-schooled, or as she says, “world-schooled”, travelling from country to country with her parents, visiting 48 in total. Currently based in Los Angeles, Mozart is trilingual, speaking English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, and has worked professionally in all three languages.

She lists her musical influences as Ed Sheeran, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, Jesus Corbacho Enrique Iglesias and currently Halsey and Rixton. Playing the violin since two years old, and piano since three, Mozart started writing songs at the age of four. No slouch on the literary front, she loved Shakespeare as a toddler. Her early creative development was no doubt helped by the fact that her parents are both artistic-performer types – mum is an actress/writer, and dad a visual artist/creative director.

In addition, Mozart champions environmental and social issues, and is an actress. With a very high IQ, she has already finished her first year of college.

Mozart will be travelling with her parents first of all in the UK, where performed at the Baltic in Newcastle (8 June) and gave a keynote speech at Tech on the Tyne conference (9 June) about being a world-schooled digital nomad tech-teen.

In total, her trip will cover nearly 3,000km, merely a dainty footstep compared to her global wanderings.

You can follow Mozart on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube at MusicByMozart
To read more about her, see our in-depth interview


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The Reign in Spain – the Spanish Monarchy in the 20th century

June 22, 2017 – 3:45 pm This fascinating book ofers an in-depth look at the Spanish monarchy, from Alfonso XII to King Felipe. This fascinating book ofers an in-depth look at the Spanish monarchy, from Alfonso XII to King Felipe.

For anyone with an interest in modern Spanish history – the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of the Spanish Royal Family, from Alfonso XII in the late 19th century, through his son Alfonso XIII, exiled as the Second Republic is declared in the 1930s; the Civil War and Dictatorship, and Juan de Borbon’s court-in-exile; to Juan’s son King Juan Carlos and the Transition in the 1970s and 1980s, and his grandson, our current King Felipe – this book is highly recommended.

The Reign in Spain: Fall & Rise of the Spanish Monarchy is written by dedicated US hispanophile, W Kristjan Arnold. He penned this self-published book after being unable to recommend a tome on Spain’s recent history, especially in regards to the monarchy, when asked for one by friends and family. “You should write a book!”, they told him. So he did – and it took him 10 years, plus four more to edit.

The result of this labour of love is an extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive, in some cases hour-by-hour, telling based around the conflict between Spain’s two heads of state in the 20th century – the royal family and Dictator Franco. It doesn’t go into great detail on King Juan Carlos’s abdication in 2014 and the events leading up to it, about which I’d love to hear more, but that’s another whole book in itself.

As ever such books, we see themes like duty and loyalty, betrayal and courage, intricate plotting and diplomacy. A monarchy divested of all its official power and authority – Juan de Borbon, Count of Barcelona, exiled king-in-waiting held court in Italy, then Portugal – yet by playing cautious, carefully-planned, chess-like moves, restored after decades thanks to the patience, skill and dedication of Juan. The story is narrated from the point of view of one of the king-in-waiting’s most trusted advisors, and gives us a behind-the-scenes insight into the machinations of his council in exile, with the action starting as an ailing Generalisimo (referred to by this courtier, in frequently colourful language, as “the Prick”) prepares to name his heir.

It is an extremely dense book, with much detail, which is rather heavy-going in some places (the letters from Juan, Count of Barcelona to Franco go on for many pages). Also, some of the phrasing is odd, and in my own view the book could have been further edited to reduce its 450-0dd pages. Having said that, reading the actual missives between the king-in-exile and his nemesis, General Francisco Franco, is illuminating in how they subtly score points against each other, push their own agendas, and negotiate for Juan’s son, Juan Carlos, to be educated in Madrid and effectively prepared and groomed as Franco’s successor.

The most gripping sections are the dramatic parts, which were the decisive moments in the country’s history.

  • Alfonso XIII (of the eponymous Seville hotel) and his English queen – Victoria Eugenia, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, and known as Ena – flee into exile with their children as the First Republic is declared in 1931.
  • Juan and Franco finally agree terms for Juan Carlos to be declared formally as Franco’s heir.
  • Juan Carlos weighs up carefully what to say in his first, crucial speech as King, setting out his values, beliefs and aims, taking the first steps to establish a democracy, and subsequently ousting his first Prime Minister.
  • The attempted Coup d’Etat by various generals in 1981, and Juan Carlos’s calm handling of the potentially explosive crisis, which won him the support of many Spaniards.

My own knowledge of recent Spanish history is reasonable, if nothing special, but this book filled in the gaps, and fleshed out those key periods. The main characters, with their strengths and flaws, are vividly brought to life. Whatever his later misjudgements and indiscretions, Juan Carlos` deft and delicate handling of highly sensitive situations, and a sense of political acuteness, were instrumental in Spain’s return to a peaceful democracy.

This is not a quick beach read, but is for history lovers, hispanophiles, and Spanish residents who want to know more about the turbulent recent past of their adopted home country.

 

 

 

 


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Across the Alpujarras in a campervan named Pepa

May 10, 2017 – 1:30 pm

 

About to head up into the mountains - the van's roof window was an instant hit.

About to head up into the mountains – the van’s roof window was an instant hit.

 

We all have our lists of places we want to visit – in Andalucia, top of mine for some years has been the Alpujarras, the mountainous region south of the Sierra Nevada in Granada and Almeria provinces. I read the Gerald Brenan book about living here in the 1920s and 30s, South From Granada, soon after arriving in Spain, as well as Chris Stewart’s more recent Driving Over Lemons series, both of which describe the area and its inhabitants in invitingly lyrical but also intriguingly realistic terms. In addition, an unusual cultural project had piqued my curiosity, more of which later.

However this remote area of small villages with centuries-old customs is located right over the other side of Andalucia from where I live – Seville. So I was delighted when I was offered a campervan for the weekend to go away in with my family. As my eight-year-old daughter, Lola, has long been fascinated by campervans, and has always yearned to sleep in a little house on wheels, it was a no-brainer to head off to the Alpujarras for a couple of nights on a sunny spring weekend.

 

front seats

 

We picked up our pretty blue polka-dotted Ford campervan, named Pepa (like my mother-in-law, to my husband’s delight; Lola van was otherwise engaged, to my daughter’s disappointment), from Flamenco Campers, handily located near Malaga airport (they offer pick-ups). Gonzalo carefully explained how everything works – upstairs, the spacious top bed comes down; downstairs, the sofa folds into another double. If you want to eat inside, the driver’s and passenger’s seats turn 180 degrees to face the sofa seat, and a table pops up. He also lent us bedding, as well as folding table and chairs – after all, the best part of camping is eating alfresco.

 

The compact kitchen, which comes complete with fridge, gas cooker and sink.

The compact kitchen, which comes complete with fridge, gas cooker and sink.

 

All this ingenious use of space (the outfitting company is Westfalia, world-leader in campervanning) will be familiar to seasoned caravanners, but was new and exciting for us. My daughter wasted no time in neatly arranging all the dried goods in their own kitchen cupboards, and placing toys and clothes in others. The food went in the fridge, and the inevitable tech gadgets were plugged into the numerous sockets – cigarette-lighter type while you’re driving, and regular sockets when you’re stationary and plugged into a power source.

We refused the kind offer of a portable chemical toilet, preferring to take our chances with the campsites’ facilities. Well-briefed and prepared, with our handy folder containing brochures of campsites around Andalucia, we set off. My husband drove as I have a shoulder injury which makes driving for long periods uncomfortable. He loved manoeuvring the van, which was steady and stable – and, best of all, highly economical in fuel consumption.

 

The town of Orgiva, the start of the Alpjuarras route.

The town of Orgiva, the start of the Alpjuarras route.

 

It’s an easy journey by motorway from Malaga along the A-7 to Motril, and then inland up the A-44 and climbing the A-346 to Orgiva. Once you’re in the High Alpujarras, on the A-4132, the scenery is truly breathtaking, with soaring peaks and lush slopes. Indeed, the best part, for me, was the windy mountain roads themselves, which hugged the steep sides, snaking up and down in zig-zags that almost went back on themselves. We passed fields planted with row upon row of almond, orange and lemon trees, as well as vines. The meadows were ablaze with colour, spring flowers in blue, purple and yellow. And then the villages, splashes of white spread across the mountain sides.

 

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Typical Alpujarras mountain road, with stunning scenery. One of southern Spain's best drives!

Typical Alpujarras mountain road, with stunning scenery. One of southern Spain’s best drives!

 

As the passenger, I had fabulously scenic views through the high windscreen and open side window, and my camera worked overtime. Lots of handy dashboard pockets accommodated my notebook, maps, camera bag, sunglasses and mobile phone, so they were always to hand. The kids sat on the massive triple sofa-seat, with a big space between them for toys, games and snacks. A sliding window was handy for fresh air when queasiness struck my son Zac (though this was best tackled, unfortunately, by him stealing my beloved front seat and top photo spot).

 

Parked up in the shady Alpujarran  campsite of Balcon de Pitres.

Parked up in the shady Alpujarran campsite of Balcon de Pitres.

 

Gonzalo had recommended a campsite called Balcon de Pitres, in the village of the same name, along the A-4132. As it was already quite late when we started climbing, we drove through famously pretty Pampaneira or Bubion, spotting brightly-coloured jarapas (traditional cotton rugs) but didn’t stop – another trip beckons. The campsite was deliciously rural and peaceful, shaded by trees and blooming with flowers – even the bathroom block was delightful, covered with wisteria and roses.

 

Alpujarran scenery - dramatic and unspoilt.

Alpujarran scenery – dramatic and unspoilt.

 

That night a strong wind picked up, so we ate indoors at the campsite’s restaurant – a big bonus being so close – with hearty fare and huge portions. Cosy inside our heated van, having brushed our teeth in the little sink, we listened to the gusts and fell asleep – kids upstairs, adults below. The next morning was calm, and I went exploring and found a little stream behind the site and soaked up the views. The Alpujarras is very well-served with natural springs, and you see fountains in every village, as well as by the roadside.

 

The stage of Un Teatro Entre Todos, the open-air theatre in Laroles.

The stage of Un Teatro Entre Todos, the open-air theatre in Laroles.

 

One of my main reasons for wanting to visit the Alpujarras was an open-air theatre in the village of Laroles, in the extreme east of the area, so that’s where we headed after breakfast. After winding up to Trevelez, the highest village and closest to the peak of 3,000-odd-metre Mulhacen, the scenery changed, becoming drier and less verdant, but no less stunning.

 

The seats of the theatre are hand-carved from local granite.

The seats of the theatre are hand-carved from local granite.

 

The theatre in Laroles, Un Teatro Entre Todos, is an award-winning community project spearheaded by a dynamic and creative Englishwoman, Anna Kemp, who fell in love with the area when working on a movie adaptation of the aforementioned Brenan novel, set in nearby Yegen. The theatre was built in 2014 and has run a season of plays every summer since 2015, featuring top Spanish and international performers.

 

Pepa the campervan parked up in Laroles.

Pepa the campervan parked up in Laroles.

 

Inspired by the Minack in Cornwall, it is built around a traditional, circular threshing platform called an era – most villages had them. Seating rows have been built into the hillside, using local slate under the auspices of a stonemason. The setting is, of course, stunning, with almond and olive trees, and views for miles. After spending some time imagining how it would be at night, with actors on a lighted stage – we explored the village’s steep streets.

Having traversed the High Alpujarras in our van, we decided to head down to the Costa Tropical. Although much of this is taken up by plastic tents under which vegetables are grown, we found a good campsite in the seaside town of Castillo de Baños – being off-season, you can just turn up and pick your pitch. Ours was next to the sea, with only a fence and some bamboo separating us from the sand.

 

Cooling off at the campsite in Castillo de Baños on the Costa Tropical.

Cooling off at the campsite in Castillo de Baños on the Costa Tropical.

 

A nicely-designed pool, with rocks, slide and waterfall, was a lucky bonus. After dining on salad and a veggie fry-up (sausages and burgers) cooked in the bijou kitchen (two gas rings), we played card games and slept to the sound of the waves gently lapping on the beach. The bathroom block proved less impressive than Pitres, but was still passable.

 

Beach at Castillo de Baños - grey sand but spotlessly clean.

Beach at Castillo de Baños – grey sand but spotlessly clean.

 

The first rule of family holidays is that The Pool Must Be Used, so we waited for it to open, had a jumping, sliding and somersaulting session, and then set off along the coast towards Malaga, stopping to admire the clifftop views of Almuñecar, Salobreña and La Herradura. We were sad to bid goodbye to Pepa, and headed back home to Seville – but hopefully we’ll see her, or one of her compañeras, again.

Although personally I prefer to have a little more living space, as a thoroughly spoiled hotel reviewer, a short adventure of two or three nights is great fun – the kids would have happily carried on for a week! Fresh air, sea or mountain, meeting other campers and their dogs, and the feeling of flexibility and freedom make it an ideal way to travel around an incomparably scenic region of Andalucia.


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New caseta for tourists at the Feria de Abril in Seville

April 28, 2017 – 4:52 pm

 

The portada (gateway) of the Feria
This year’s Feria portada (gateway) celebrates the 25th anniversary of Expo 92, and the Murillo 400th Anniversary too.

 

Big changes are afoot at one of Seville’s biggest annual events, the April Fair, known in Spanish simply as “La Feria”.

As well as the Fair starting two days earlier – tomorrow night, Saturday, rather than Monday – and including a national holiday (1 May, Dia de los Trabajadores, which falls on a Monday this year), there will be WIFI zones, and a new caseta for tourists.

What is a caseta?

A caseta is a tent, usually small, and green- or red-and-white striped; more than 1,000 of them line the sandy pavements of the recinto (fairground) in Los Remedios, to the south-west of the city centre. They’re the heart of the Feria, where Sevillanos eat, drink, talk and dance; tables and chairs in the front part, decorated individually by each caseta’s group, and the bar at the back – where you’ll often find the liveliest atmosphere.

At the Seville Fair, unlike others around Andalucia, most casetas are private, and you can only enter if invited. This means it is virtually impossible for tourists to experience, as they’re unlikely to have an “in”. The smaller ones are generally owned by families, groups of friends, or associations – these make up the vast majority. Larger tents, more like marquees, are either owned by private companies, trade unions, political parties or the city council, which has free-entry casetas for each city barrio, so that the citizens of Triana, Macarena et al can enjoy their jamon, rebujito (sherry and lemonade) and Sevillana dancing without the expense of hiring a caseta.

 

A group of feriantes at the Feria de Abril in Sevilla.
A group of feriantes at the Feria de Abril in Sevilla.

 

With the limited space of the recinto - it is not small, with 13 streets and 240,000m2, but many feel the Feria needs a larger area – there is always a long waiting list for casetas at the Feria, and many groups have been hoping to secure their own base for years. So the decision by the Ayuntamiento (city hall) to use a large caseta, previously rented by Abengoa, the troubled Seville-based multinational sustainable energy company, for tourists, was controversial.

 

Invitation to caseta for tourists at Sevilla's Feria de Abril 2017.
Invitation to caseta for tourists at Sevilla’s Feria de Abril 2017.

 

The city hall is distributing 30,000 of these invitations around Seville’s hotels, so that tourists know there’s a caseta at the Feria which they can head straight to. The address of the caseta is Pascual Marquez 225-229, at the furthest end from the entrance, near Calle de Infierno funfair. It’s also next to three free-entry public casetas.

English, French and German spoken

This caseta is also public, but its purpose is firmly focussed on making tourists at the Fair feel welcome at what can be a huge and bewildering event. Staff from the Seville Tourism office will be on hand to explain and answer questions, from 12.30 to 7.30pm, in English, French and German; menus will also be available in these three languages. The caseta accommodates 400 people, so there should be a lively atmosphere. The caseta will also have cashpoints and live Sevillana dance shows.

The QR code shown on the invitation links to Google Maps, so tourists can easily find their way to the caseta using their mobile phones – maybe more useful than the somewhat minimal plan on the invitation.

 

Simple map to show where the  tourists' caseta is located. The QR code links to the location on Google Maps.
Simple map to show where the tourists’ caseta is located. The QR code links to Google Map’s

 

As well as some Sevillanos feeling that locals should have had priority for a much-sought-after vacant lot, I’ve read comments on news websites about a perceived danger of the Feria becoming simply a tourist attraction, and adding that this hallowed event should be exclusively for Sevillanos. Sadly, that attitude is fairly prevalent among certain sectors of Sevillano society, although whether one caseta could change the fair’s atmosphere to such an extreme extent remains to be seen.


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Spain is the world’s number one tourist destination!

April 20, 2017 – 12:59 pm

 

The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017 ranked Spain as the world's top tourism destination.
The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017 ranked Spain as the world’s top tourism destination. (Source: World Economic Forum)

 

For the second time, Spain has been ranked as the world’s top tourism destination, above France and Italy. Among the country’s key strengths recognised were that it is extremely well-prepared for visitors, with a superb infrastructure and outstanding cultural attractions, and the high value placed on the essential importance of tourism to the economy.

The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2017, which is produced biannually by the World Economic Forum, covers 136 countries and measures “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country”.

Spain beat the other 135 nations with a total of 5.43 points, taking top ranking for the second time running – in 2015, the country made its debut in the top spot.

Its closest European competitor is France, in second place with 5.32, followed by Germany in third with 5.28 – these top three countries have kept their positions from the previous index in 2015. The UK is fifth, with Japan ahead in fourth place, while the US takes sixth spot.

The factors which were seen as decisive were the tourist service infrastructure and cultural resources and business travel, both classified as the second-best in the world, while prioritisation of travel and tourism took fifth position in global rankings. You can search for each country’s global ranking by factor within the report.

 

One of Spain's biggest tourist attractions is its beaches.
One of Spain’s biggest tourist attractions is its beaches.

 

According to the report: “Spain’s success can be attributed to its unique offer of both cultural (2nd) and natural (9th) resources, combined with sound tourism service infrastructure (2nd), air transport connectivity (9th) and strong policy support (5th). Spain’s T&T sector has not only benefited from the recent ease of its fiscal policy, but also from diverted tourism from security-troubled Middle East. These developments, however, do not take anything away from Spain’s ability to provide an excellent environment for the T&T sector to flourish. The challenge now is to continue to find ways to improve, given the sector’s maturity. While Spain’s ground transportation is ranked in the top 15 economies, it has started to show signs of initial decline, suggesting that upgrades and modernizations are expected. In addition, the business environment (75th) can be improved, as dealing with construction permits remains burdensome (104th), and there is room to improve international openness further (43rd, down two places).”

The penultimate factor may strike a chord with homeowners here in Andalucia.

In 2015 Spain headed the TTCI ranking for the first time ever, “thanks to its cultural resources, infrastructure and adaptation to digital consumption habits”.

 

Spain's heritage is also highly valued - the Alcazar of Seville is a jewel of Mudejar architecture. Photo: Fiona Flores Watson
Spain’s heritage is also highly valued – the Alcazar of Seville is a jewel of Mudejar architecture. Photo: Fiona Flores Watson

 


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10 things to do in Andalucia when it rains

February 19, 2017 – 12:39 pm
-Contemporary art at the CAC Malaga. © Michelle Chaplow
Contemporary art at the CAC Malaga.

While we are lucky to have sunshine most of the year round in Andalucia, paradise is never perfect. We need rain to feed our lakes, rivers, reservoirs and our precious crops of olives, grapes, almonds and many more besides. The rainiest months are November and February to April – so what can you do to entertain yourself and your family if the heavens open while you’re on holiday in southern Spain? Apart from the obvious roofed shelter provided by ubiquitous, and often impressive, religious edifices, here are a few indoor ideas:

1. Seville – Ole ole ole!
What better way to escape from inclement weather than with the passion and colour of flamenco? The Museo del Baile Flamenco, in the heart of Seville’s old town, is very much a living celebration of one of Andalucia’s most famous cultural forms. Learn about the music and dance in interactive exhibits, see paintings of flamenco artists, watch a live performance, or take a class. More>

2. Art and archaeology together in Malaga
Opened in late 2106, the new Museo de Malaga, in the old customs house, ups the city’s already impressive museum offering yet another notch. With Malaga’s fine arts and archaeology collections gathered together in one building, you can gaze upon 5th century BC Phoenician masks and paintings by Murillo, Velazquez and Goya. Allow plenty of hours to take in so many extraordinary historic objects – 15,000 in total, many unearthed in the city’s streets. More>

3. Contemporary art in Malaga
A world-class contemporary art centre, the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo (CAC) in Malaga has featured during its 14 years works by internationally-renowned artists such as Ai Wei Wei, the Chapman Brothers, Anish Kapoor, Marc Quinn and Marina Abramovich. Art is a universal communicator, so this visit is great for those of us whose Spanish can’t cope with linguistic challenges. Good café, too. More>

4. Benalmadena – A butterfly’s wing
A top choice for families, the Mariposario (Butterfly Park) in Benaldamena has 1500 butterflies, as well reptiles, birds and small mammals. They live in a beautiful environment among tropical flowers and waterfalls, where you can also see different stages of reproduction, including caterpillars and chrysalis. More>

5. Driving force in Malaga
You’re spoiled for choice for museums in Malaga, but one of our favourites is the Museo Automovilistico (Automobile Museum) in the old tobacco factory. This impressive car museum has many models of auto customised by artists; it also has an excellent collection of super-elegant hats, and painting and sculpture shows. More>

6. Cordoba’s Jewish roots
Centuries ago, Cordoba had a large Jewish community. Learn about Sephardic (Spanish Jews) culture at the Casa Sepharad, including the main ceremonies celebrated, as well as dress, language and music. More>

7. Granada: Here comes the science…
Located just outside the city, Granada Science Park is full of interactive and educational exhibits, about technology, engineering, physics and geology. The Exploration Hall has hands-on fun for little ones, and there’s also a Planetarium. More>

8. Granada: Captain Caveman
Since prehistoric times men have been sheltering in caves, so why not check out troglodyte life for yourself? You can stay in cave houses around Guadix, but if you’re in Granada city, in the gypsy quarter of Sacromonte, you can visit the Museo de Sacromonte which explains all about these unusual dwellings. Mora>

9. Aracena: Ham hunting
If you’re in the Huelva area, and you’re a fan of jamón ibérico (Iberian cured ham) – and what carnivore isn’t? – go to the Museo de Jamon, to see how this Spanish gastronomic essential is produced. Then visit the Cinco Jotas factory in Jabugo – this is one of best producers in Spain. The tour ends with a tasting and a chance to buy some premium-quality wafer-thin porcine delight to take home – a packet is more suitcase-friendly than whole leg! More>

10 Silver screen in Seville
Seeing a movie may not seem like a typical holiday pastime, but if they’re showing one you haven’t had time to see, and it’s raining,, then why not? Avenida 5 Cines cinema in Seville shows version original (non-dubbed, with Spanish subtitles) movies, many of which are English-language. With five screens, usually some showing low-budget art house offerings, they cater to most tastes. Many cinemas on the Costa de Sol also have VO films. More>


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12 places to visit in Andalucia in 2017

January 27, 2017 – 12:08 am

Andalucia is full of cultural and gastronomic treasures, from Moorish castles to the best prawns in Spain. Some of these are, at long last, starting to receiving wider recognition, with international attention being focussed on our diverse landscapes, extraordinary monuments and unique culinary history.

Across the region’s eight provinces, each with its own distinctive gastronomy and historical delights, you can find a wealth of places to discover and dishes to sample.

We have selected ten unmissable experiences which we recommend that you check out when visiting Andalucia in 2017. Can you complete the dozen by suggesting two more?

 

 

1) Dolmens of Antequera

 

El Romeral dolmen, recognised as UNESCO World Heritage last year. Photo: Michelle Chaplow

El Romeral dolmen, recognised as UNESCO World Heritage last year. Photo: Michelle Chaplow

 

Last year, these three dolmens were declared World Heritage by UNESCO, the seventh site in Andalucia. Located close to Antequera, with its stunning El Torcal rocky mountain range, this ensemble of prehistoric tombs is one of the most magical places in Spain, with a history going back 5000 years. The ensemble also includes the Peña de los Enamorados, or Lovers’ Rock. Read more about the Dolmens of Antequera here.

 

 

2) NEW! Museum of Malaga – Palacio de la Aduana

 

Palacio de la Aduana, the former customs house, now the new Museo de Malaga © TYK / Wikimedia

Palacio de la Aduana, the former customs house, now the new Museo de Malaga © TYK / Wikimedia

 

After decades of restoration work, this new provincial museum was finally opened last month in the magnificent 18th-century Palacio de la Aduana, the old customs house, situated on the Paseo del Parque. The museum houses the combined collections of the Fine Arts Museum (formerly housed in the Picasso Museum) and the Archaeological Museum (which previously shared space with the Library).
With 18,000 m2, the museum has eight galleries – the first five are dedicated to archaeology, and the other three to fine arts. Among the 2,000-plus works in the fine arts collection you can see paintings by Spain’s most celebrated artists – Goya, Murillo, Picasso, Sorolla, Velazquez and Zurbaran, while the archaeology collection has more than 15,000 pieces, including Phoenician gold, Roman mosaics and bronzes, and Nasrid glass. Read more here.

 

 

3) NEW! Noor Restaurant, Cordoba

 

Michelin-starred Noor restaurant in Cordoba uses 10th-century recipes from Cordoba's caliphate era.

Michelin-starred Noor restaurant in Cordoba uses 10th-century recipes from Cordoba’s caliphate era.

 

This Islamic-era cuisine restaurant won a Michelin star in November. Chef-owner Paco Morales set himself the challenge of using only historic recipes from the most powerful Caliphate period of his city, in the 10th century. This means that at Noor (which means “light” in Arabic) no tomatoes or potatoes, two firm staples of Andalucian cooking, can feature in his dishes – brought back from the New World after the discovery of America, they weren’t used in Islamic Cordoban gastronomy. An intriguing idea which necessitated massive amounts of historical research  to ensure the recipes were authentic, not something you’d expect from every restaurateur. Read more about Noor here.

 

 

4) Huelva: Gastronomic Capital

 

Huelva: Gastronomic Capital Spain 2017

Huelva: Gastronomic Capital Spain 2017

 

This year Huelva is the Spanish Gastronomic Capital – famous for its prawns and jamon iberico, it’s a foodie’s paradise. You can sample the superb seafood and other local dishes at Acanthum, the city’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and this coast’s many resort towns have excellent beachfront restaurants.

 

 

5) Me Vuelves Lorca, Alpujarras

 

This annual open-air theatre festival takes place in Las Alpujarras in July and August.

This annual open-air theatre festival takes place in Las Alpujarras in July and August.

 

If you’ve ever been to the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, built into a cliffside overlooking the sea, or if you’re a fan of Lorca, then you’ll be interested in Me Vuelves Lorca.
This unusual theatre festival takes place every July and August in a tiny Alpujarras village called Laroles, part of an award-winning social project started by dynamic Brit Anna Kemp in 2013. The four-week season pays homage to Spain’s most celebrated playwright, Federico Garcia Lorca, who took stage performances to rural areas with his theatre group, La Barraca. What makes it different is that the theatre is outdoors, with panoramic mountain views, and the stage is an old circular wheat-threshing platform.

 

 

6) Castillo de Almodovar

 

Sword in display at Almodovar Castle, one of the locations for Game of Thrones Season 7.

Sword in display at Almodovar Castle, one of the locations for Game of Thrones Season 7.

 

During October and November, the seventh and final series of HBO’s historical fantasy TV series Game of Thrones was filmed in various locations around Spain, including three historic locations.
Castillo de Almodovar, a castle next to the river Guadalquivir in Cordoba province, has all the courtyards, battlements and towers you could want for daring duels and secret trysts. It’s great for families, with displays, models and spectacular views; unusually, it opens all day at weekends. The series will be shown this summer.

 

 

7) Roman ruins of Italica

 

Another location for filming Season 7 was Italica, the Roman site near Seville. Photo: Michelle Chaplow

Another location for filming Season 7 was Italica, the Roman site near Seville. Photo: Michelle Chaplow

 

Another location for Game of Thrones was this archaeological site near Seville, the first colonial city built outside Italy.
The gladiators’ pit seen here will be transformed into a stage, with the two narrow channels open and steps coming up from the pit. Other past filming locations near Seville include Osuna, where the bullring was  used for the big dragon battle scene at the end of Season 5. Coincidently 2017, is the 1900th anniversary of the death of Emperor Trajan, and the ascension to power of Emperor Hadrian, both born in Italica!

 

 

8) Royal Shipyards, Seville

 

The Atarazanas of Seville - the Royal Shipyards, where Game of Thrones Series 7 was filmed.

The Atarazanas of Seville – the Royal Shipyards, where Game of Thrones Series 7 was filmed.

 

Las Atarazanas, where many of the ships which sailed to the New World in the 16th century were built, were used for scenes which united a large part of the Game of Thrones cast. How do we know? Because they were all staying at nearby Hotel Alfonso XIII, where they were regularly spotted coming and going, as well as out and about in the city.

 

 

9) Alcazaba, Almeria

 

Ellaria and Prince Dorian in the Kingdom of Dorne, aka the Alcazaba of Almeria - you can visit locations for the Game of Thrones upcoming final season.

Ellaria and Prince Dorian in the Kingdom of Dorne, aka the Alcazaba of Almeria – you can visit locations for the Game of Thrones upcoming final season.

 

This Moorish fortress is the largest remaining such monument, and dates from the 10th century. Over the centuries, the mighty defensive edifice which guards Almeria city and port has been occupied – and besieged – by Moorish rulers, Christian kings, and their soldiers and servants.
The Alcazaba was used for filming a key scene in Season 6 of Game of Thrones. The Governor’s Palace and garden was digitally merged with the Alcazar of Seville’s Grutesco Wall. Read about the Alcazaba in Almeria here.

 

 

10) Rio Tinto Mines, Huelva

 

The Royal Railway Carriage in the Rio Tinto Mining museum was built in Birmingham in 1892.

The Royal Railway Carriage in the Rio Tinto Mining museum was built in Birmingham in 1892.

 

If you’re interested in British industrial heritage, or you just love trains, then this mining park in Huelva makes an educational and varied day out. British copper mines in the town of Riotinto (named after the reddish-coloured river, from the ores), which operated during the 19th and 20th centuries, left a legacy of Victorian engineering and architecture.

Take a train ride, go into a mine, find out about the area’s geology and the colonial community in the museum, and visit a house in the English barrio, Bella Vista Ingles, where an English mine official lived.

 

We have selected ten unmissable experiences which we recommend that you check out when visiting Andalucia in 2017. Please help complete the dozen by suggesting two more? Post a comment below or on our Facebook page our Forum or Twitter


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Literary Andalucia

December 23, 2016 – 10:53 am
Andalucia Literary Guide for Travellers

An invaluable companion for anyone who is interested in the literature of Andalucia.

Andalucia – A Literary Guide for Travellers by Andrew and Suzanne Edwards (IB Tauris)

This is a thoroughly-researched, comprehensive guide to every major writer who has ever lived, or spent time, in Andalucia.

From Miguel de Cervantes to Michael Jacobs, Washington Irving to Chris Stewart, the book’s authors take an exhaustive journey across the region from west to east, cataloguing the impressions of illustrious visiting men of letters, as well as the works of those born in the region, or who chose to set their works in Andalucia. In total, over 100 writers are mentioned in varying depth.

The impressive range stretches across eras and genres of literature, with many from the last couple of centuries: iconic authors long associated with Andalucia such as Lorca, Machado and Hemingway, as well as those whose connections with, and influence from, the region are less celebrated, although still significant – Aldous Huxley, Hans Christian Andersen and George Eliot.

The literary journey starts in Seville, which has received and delighted the likes of Somerset Maugham and Lord Byron, as well as the bible-selling hispanophile George Borrow, who was fascinated by gypsies and spent time with them in Triana, then a dark and dangerous place. In the year of Cervantes’ 400th anniversary, you can trace the plaques around the city which mark spots mentioned in the Don Quixote author’s Exemplary Novels, notably Rinconete and Cortadillo, about two young hoodlums.

One of the most entertaining Seville sojourns is that of Lord Byron in the early 19th century, featured in the celebrated satire Childe Harold, as well as his (unfinished) version of Don Juan. Byron notes that “the freedom of women which is general here astonished me not a little, and in the course of further observation I find that reserve is not the characteristic of the Spanish belles.” In Childe Harold:

“Here Folly still his votaries enthrals,/And young-eyed Lewdness walks her midnight rounds:/ Girt with the silten crimes of capitals,/ Still to the last kind Vice clings to the tottering walls.”

This book moves province by province – the furthest west, Huelva, gives us Nobel Prize-winner Juan Ramon Jimenez and his faithful donkey Platero in Moguer, as well as British naturalist-writers who worked in Doñana in the park’s pre-UNESCO-recognized 1950s.

We end up with Laurie Lee in Andalucia. Lee’s description of Cadiz must be one of the most lyrical and unforgettable of any Andalucia city: “from a distance… a city of sharp incandescence, a scribble of white on a sheet of blue glass, lying curved in the bay like a scimitar and sparkling with African light.”

In terms of historical reach, the earliest mention is by Pliny, moving on to early Cordoban intellectuals Muslim Averroes, and Maimonides of the Jewish faith, touching on the region’s long multi-cultural past.

Anyone familiar with Andalucia will be aware that Gerald Brenan lived in Alpujarran village of Yegen in the 1930s, receiving Bloomsbury Set luminaries Woolf and Carrington in his house; what they may not know is a darker side of the story which this book explains. The daughter he had with his Spanish maid was taken away from her mother to be brought up by Brenan and his wife Gamel Woolsey, losing all contact with her maternal family.

One author which every British visitor to Andalucia should read, if they haven’t already, is the superb Michael Jacobs, a historian and translator who lived in the Jaen village of Frailes, as recounted in A Factory of Lights. Jacobs doesn’t follow the stereotype of restoring an old house, instead writing with insight and wry humour about the village’s characters and local events, including the traditional, back-breaking labour of collecting olives in the harvest.

Especially useful are short biographies of each writer featured (many more than I’ve mentioned here), plus a timeline of literary and cultural events in Spain along with pertinent political developments from 1100BC to present day, along with an index of works, writers and places.

If you live in Andalucia, and have any interest in literature, this book is well worth buying to surprise and delight with snippets about your own home province. Equally, if you’re interested in the region or are planning to visit – or someone you know is making the trip or has made their home there – it offers a valuable introduction to the history and culture, which are the essential context for these literary tales.

Read our pages written by the book’s authors on various writers mentioned.

To order a copy of Andalucia – A Literary Guide for Travellers click here.


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