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Pushing the boundaries of Spain’s favourite dance: Beyond Flamenco

November 20, 2014 – 9:42 am
Rocio Molina, one of flamenco's most exciting dance stars, in new documentary Mas Alla del Flamenco.

Rocio Molina, one of flamenco's most exciting dance stars, in new documentary Mas Alla del Flamenco.

Living in Seville, considered by many to be the cradle of flamenco, I have written quite often about such a very Andalucian music and dance form http://blog.andalucia.com/?p=15076 on this blog. Two years ago I had the good fortune to attend the premiere of the movie Flamenco Flamenco http://blog.andalucia.com/?p=2105 in the Seville Film Festival. This documentary depicted the top stars of today’s scene, largely in terms of dancing (baile) and singing (cante).

In the recent 11 edition of the Seville Film Festival http://blog.andalucia.com/?p=15554, another film on this entrancing and intriguing topic had its premiere: Mas Alla del Flamenco (Beyond Flamenco), directed by Javier Vila.

My interest, and love for, this musical form means that I’ll always try to see any film about it. Aficionados would say you should only see it live, and I have done many times  http://blog.andalucia.com/?p=4175 but the beauty of these documentaries is that they bring together the absolute cream of today’s stars, all in one 90-minute feast.

In the case of this feast, it was a delectation of the most cutting-edge, out-there contemporary performers who are pushing the boundaries of the form - turning it inside out and upside down. Rocio Molina, described by the Guardian as “exceptional for the spectrum of her ideas”, and by the New York Times as “one of the best dancers in the world”, Eva Yerbabuena, and Israel Galvan, all impressed with their creativity and originality.

The film was recorded at the 10th Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival, an annual event which is considered one of the most important showcases for musicians, dancers and singers in the world. It also features insightful comments from critics such as Donald Hutera of The Times and Neil Norman of The Stage. Norman says that he reckons the reason why the English love flamenco so much is that it personifies the kind of intense emotion which we shy away from. It’s like being “fed and nourished,” he says. ”Something deep down we can never express because we’re too reserved - flamenco is like a  dream come true.” He certainly has a point.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the film, for me, was seeing the creative process of the artists, as they work at coming up with sequences for their shows. Israel experiments with dancing on top of a wobbly table, using the rhythmic rocking as part of his performance, while working with a French contemporary composer and pianist. Rocio collaborates with a Berlin-based Korean hip-hop artist – the resulting performance was, for me, one of the high points of the film, a work of extraordinary skill and subtlety involving the use of shadows.

Eva Yerbabuena is a lyrical, dramatic dancer who tells stories in her performances, as seen in this film.

Eva Yerbabuena is a lyrical, dramatic dancer who tells stories in her performances, as seen in this film.

Her style of dancing is less elegant than traditional flamenco, and has outraged the more conservative strands of the establishment, but she is extremely communicative and quite fascinating to watch. Eva Yerbabuena stands on a platform which is also used as an instrument of percussion, showing a series of dramatic, moving gestures.

When you see them finally performing their artistic creations, by turns frenzied and contemplative, in front of an audience in the festival, these seemingly random movements suddenly make perfect sense. Having an inside view on how these new performances, new combinations and collaborations, come together, was a privilege. Where else could you see Estrella Morente singing in the corridor, or Farruquito rehearsing with his dance partner?

The film is beautifully shot – Tomatito from behind, so you can only see the back of his guitar, the curve edged with light, and his black, curly hair backlit. Another wonderful visual image is the Korean dancer, Honi Wang – just her loose trousers with light catching their outline. Very simple, but striking.

Flamenco dancer Israel Galvan is known for his minimalist experimentation and is always exploring new ground.

Flamenco dancer Israel Galvan is known for his minimalist experimentation and is always exploring new ground.

In more comments from the film, which were infinitely more interesting and useful than those in many such documentaries, one choreographer said that the young flamenco dancers are “allowing flamenco to be relevant to our world today”, which I think is an important point – perhaps some purists are shocked, but a new generation of fans may be more receptive to dancers who wear less classical costume and have different, more  types of moves. Obviously it’s not just about appearance, and some dancers in the film do adhere to a more familiar form, in couples, wearing typical flouncy dresses.

It’s about moving away from uniform styles, but not leaving them behind altogether - the festival embraces a wide variety of treatments. As Donald Hutera puts it: “The younger generation is taking it to places it hasn’t been before, playing with form, and that keeps it alive.” Another comment which spoke volumes about the power of flamenco  was: “The emotion and visceral impact lasts, and gets under your skin. Flamenco touches through sight, sound and soul.”

Whether or not you are familiar with traditional flamenco, if you like being privy to the most ground-breaking developments of an art form with a rich heritage going back a century, I’d highly recommend this film.

Mas Alla Del Flamenco is showing tonight at the Festival de Cine Iberoamericano de Huelva. http://www.festicinehuelva.es/index.asp#spv=41&npv=-2092129582&ssv=9

Here is a trailer of Beyond Flamenco.

 

MÁS ALLÁ DEL FLAMENCO / BEYOND FLAMENCO. TEASER CASTELLANO. from javier vila on Vimeo.


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Seville European Film Festival 2014 – starts tonight!

November 8, 2014 – 12:17 am
The Seville Film Festival starts today and lasts till next Saturday, 15 November.

The Seville Film Festival starts today and lasts till next Saturday, 15 November.

The Seville Film Festival starts today and lasts till next Saturday, 15 November. Tonight Seville, whose Alcazar Palace was recently used as a set for the fifth season of one of TV’s biggest series, Game of Thrones http://blog.andalucia.com/?p=14234, hosts another major screen event – the 11th Seville European Film Festival.

As usual the festival is divided into sections, with around 120 works showing in total.

The sections include:

Official Selection – in competition for Giraldillo awards

Focus Europa - the invited country this year is Austria

Las Nuevas Olas – refreshing, original views from contemporary cinema

Short Matters! – Short films

SEFF Para Toda La Familia – family movies

Panorama Andaluz – Andalucian films

EFA – in competition for European Film Awards

 

These are some of the films which caught our eye, including a couple of intriguing creative genius biopics:

 

This film was adapted from "The Blind Man of Seville".

This film was adapted from "The Blind Man of Seville".

La Ignorancia de la Sangre
(Official Selection: 7 November at 12.30pm, Cines Sur Nervion, and 9pm, Teatro Lope de Vega; 8 November at 10pm, Nervion; 11 November at 12.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion)
Very loosely adapted from (or inspired by) the Richard Wilson thriller, The Blind Man of Seville, which was also made into an English TV series by Sky. A murder mystery, it is set in Seville and Tangiers. In Spanish. See trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sk7zT3GONs.

 

Mas Alla del Flamenco
(Panorama Andaluz: 12 November at 8.30pm, Teatro Lope de Vega)
This documentary looks at the most talented contemporary performers who are pushing the boundaries of flamenco baile as they appear at the 10th annual Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. In English/Spanish. See trailer here http://vimeo.com/68679440.

An off-beat comedy about a young family in New York's Lower East Side.

An off-beat comedy about a young family in New York's Lower East Side.

Swim Little Fish Swim
(SEFF Joven: 8 November at 12.30pm, Cines Sur Nervion; 9 November at 7.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion; 15 November at 7pm, Teatro Alameda)
Franco-American comedy about an unconventional family in New York who take in a French lodger. In French/English. See trailer here http://swimlittlefishswim.com/en/trailer/

Mr Turner, about the landscape painter, has had glowing reviews.

Mr Turner, about the landscape painter, has had glowing reviews.

Mr Turner
(Official Selection: 12 November at 12 midday and 5.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion; 13 November at 10.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion)
Extremely well-reviewed Mike Leigh film about the English landscape painter William Turner, played by Timothy Spall who won an award at Cannes for his performance. In English. See trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn4zSR_5ioI

The biopic of the fashion designer was nominated for several Cesar awards, the French Oscars.

The biopic of the fashion designer was nominated for several Cesar awards, the French Oscars.

Saint Laurent
(Official Selection: 9 November at 9.30pm, Teatro Lope de Vega; 10 November at 10.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion)
Film about the French fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s. Produced by Luc Besson. In French. See trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhkSXbmm-uQ

The films are showing at various venues around the city, including the multiplex at Nervion Plaza, Teatro Lope de Vega and Teatro Alameda.

For more information you can download the full programme here http://festivalcinesevilla.eu/uploads/descargas/PROGRAMA%20DE%20MANO%20SEFF%202014_web.pdf

 

 


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Joe Strummer: the Spain years. “I Need A Dodge!”

October 30, 2014 – 11:41 am

Joe Strummer, lead singer of the Clash, in Granada in 1984/5 - a still from the documentary.

Joe Strummer, lead singer of the Clash, in Granada in 1984/5 - a still from the documentary.


 

Here at the Andalucia.com blog, we’re always interested in quirky stories about the British in Andalucia, such as an English soldier who fought against Napoleon for Spain, buried near Seville , a certain Mr Henderson’s railway from Algeciras to Ronda,  and Laurie Lee’s fabled journey in the 1930s.

Not so long ago, a square in Granada was named after Joe Strummer, founder and lead singer of The Clash, described as “one of the most overtly political, explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history”. Strummer visited Spain on numerous occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, and was quoted as saying that he wanted to give up music and open a ferreteria in Granada. At the time of his mid-1980s visits, he was pondering his musical future with the band, and was at a turning point in his life.

Now a Barcelona-based British indie film director, Nick Hall, has made a film about Joe Strummer in Spain, based around the American Dodge car he lost in a Madrid car park in 1986. The documentary is called I Need A Dodge! and looks at Strummer’s sojourns in Spain.

Nick Hall explains how the idea for the film first came about: “Soon after I started investigating Joe Strummer’s ‘refuge’ in Spain in 1984/5, I heard a recording of an interview on Spanish national radio from the 1990s. In the interview Joe talks about a car he had in Madrid some years earlier. One day he left the car in a car park but couldn’t remember which one. And there it stayed. In the interview Joe appeals to the Spanish people to help him find his car. I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to Joe’s Dodge and what he was doing in Madrid without the rest of The Clash. I thought I’d dig around a bit…”

Hall explains about the effect the musician had on Spanish people: “Joe Strummer touched many people’s lives in Spain during this period. He became friends with the biggest stars in Spanish music and produced an LP for a local Granada punk band [called 091]. Everyone I have interviewed for the film tells an interesting, and sometimes funny, tale of their time with a rock star at a crossroads in his life. I believe it’s a story that needs to be told and an investigation that needs to be completed – just in case!”

The film features interviews with members of 091, Radio Futura (a famous Spanish rock band, which Strummer asked to help him buy the Dodge)  and The Clash, as well as some of Joe’s closest friends.

Hall also reveals that Strummer “spent months on end here; over a year and a half period he was here more than he was back in London.” “I had this image in my head of Joe Strummer going off to dig up [Spanish poet and radical Federico Garcia] Lorca and discovering – the contrast would be huge. It’s difficult to imagine now, the contrast between the life with the Clash – he’d been playing in Shea Stadium – compared with life in Andalucia in 1984.”*

Strummer first visited Spain in the 1970s, the filmmaker says:

“Before [the Clash] he lived in a squat with two sisters from Malaga. He had a girlfriend from Malaga [Paloma Romero], who went on to become the drummer from the Slits. That is the connection. Richard Dudanski, who was his big friend, they had a Romero sister each, and they all traveled to Malaga in ’73 or something. They’d talk about Lorca. [Dictator Francisco] Franco was still in charge then. He was very interested by Spanish culture and politics. Spanish Bombs would have come out of that. And once the Clash was falling apart and he needed to run somewhere, he went back.”*

Here are the lyrics from Spanish Bombs, about the Spanish Civil War, which was on the band’s massively successful album London Calling:

Spanish songs in Andalucia
The shooting sites in the days of ’39
Oh, please, leave the ventana open
Federico Lorca, dead and gone
Bullet holes in the cemetery walls
The black cars of the Guardia Civil
Spanish bombs on the Costa Rica
I’m flyin’ in on a DC-10 tonight

Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon

Spanish weeks in my disco casino
The freedom fighters died upon the hill
They sang the red flag
They wore the black one
After they died, it was Mockingbird Hill
Back from the buses, went up in flashes
The Irish tomb, drenched in blood
Spanish bombs shatter the hotels
My Senorita’s rose was nipped in the bud

Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon

The hillsides ring with, “Free the people”
Can I hear the echo from the days of ’39
With trenches full of poets
The ragged army, fixin’ bayonets to fight the other line
Spanish bombs rock the province
I’m hearin’ music from another time
Spanish bombs on the Costa Brava
I’m flyin’ in on a DC-10 tonight

Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon

Spanish songs in Andalucia, Mandolina, oh mi corazon
Spanish songs in Granada, oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon

And Hall comments on the Clash’s huge popularity in Spain:

“Well, he sang about Spain. Can you imagine? Spain wasn’t on the map then, in terms of British-American rock music. And there’s only so much flamenco and copla a young person can take [laughs]. Young Spanish people were listening to what everybody was listening to. There was a punk movement. The bands that were coming out of the young crowd were influenced by the British bands more than anything, and for one of them – one of the most important – to be singing about Spain, that would be massive. They only played three gigs in Spain, ever [in 1981], but it feels like they were always much closer to Spain. Those three gigs left a mark.”*

 

Here are the dates for the film’s showings, but sadly thus far there is nothing planned for Granada or other cities in Andalucia. Let’s hope they can find an interested venue.

 

30/10/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Barcelona
01/11/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Madrid
01/11/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Bilbao
01/11/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Pamplona
20/11/14 Phono-Cinema at Bestia Festival Montevideo
tbc/11/14 Phono-Cinema at Bestia Festival Mexico City
For more information about the film, go to ineedadodge.com

* These quotes are from an interview on musicfilmweb.com

 

Here is the trailer for the film.

 

 

 

 


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Autumn – gathering season in Andalucia

October 15, 2014 – 2:58 pm
olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Ripe olives ready to pick.

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Jars of seasoned olives at a food fair - they're a very versatile ingredient.

There are many activities you can join in with around Andalucia at this time of year, as natural products are harvested in the sunny autumn, as morning mists rise, jumpers are pulled on and fires lit. Nights are chillier as the days get shorter, but daytime is still delightfully warm.

In the Sierra Sur of Seville, you can have a day picking and preserving olives - start off with a breakfast at the farmhouse featuring, you guessed it, olives. Did you know that Spain produces more than 250 types of olives, both for table and to be made into olive oil?

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

An olive-picker in action.

Then you go into the fields with expert pickers to see how it’s done – there’s a lot more skill to picking olives than just grabbing the fruit off the tree. This process is known as el verdeo.

Later back at the farmhouse you can learn how to prepare and preserve the olives you collected - the aceituna aliña (seasoned olives) of the area is famous.

And naturally, the experience finishes with a tasting of different types of the popular Andalucian speciality, accompanied by wine, beer or other drinks. You can also choose the option of staying to have lunch in the farmhouse – a traditional meal of rice, meat, and pastries.

This activity takes place near the town of Arahal in Seville province – contact Foodies Andalucia for more details.

In November last year I went with my children to see olives being picked, this time to be made into “liquid gold” - otherwise known as olive oil – in deepest Jaen. It was a real eye-opener for me, and fascinating to see the journey from branch to bottle. Those olives were of the picual variety, and I’ve been a convert to this strong, spicy oil with a (natural) brilliant green colour ever since.

 

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Freshly-foraged fungi in the Sierra de Grazalema.

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

A very tasty dish of freshly-picked wild braised mushrooms.

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Mushroom tapa route in the Cadiz hilltown of Cortes de la Frontera.

 

For fungi fans, many towns around the Sierra de Aracena and Sierra de Grazalema offer mushroom-hunting expeditions, and special seasonal menus featuring foraged fungi. Always best to go with an expert, so that the meal cooked with your spoils is safe. One of the hotels in our new Special Hotel Collection, Hotel Castellar, is in prime mushroom-picking territory.

If you prefer just to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour, restaurants in these hill towns, such as Aracena and Cortes de la Frontera, offer special mushroom menus and tapas routes.

Autumn in Andalucia is also the season for many other delicious natural produce, such as persimmons, figs and chestnuts, many of which have their own local fiestas.

These days it’s called agricultural tourism, but really it’s just learning about traditional techniques which Andalucians have been using for centuries, to gather and prepare their natural bounty for the table.


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Spain NOW!

October 3, 2014 – 2:51 pm
See the best of Spain's contemporary cultural scene this autumn in London.

See the best of Spain's contemporary cultural scene this autumn in London.

From next Thursday 9 October until Tuesday 25 November, you can see the best of Spanish creative talent in London, in the sixth annnual season of Spain NOW! – Contemporary Spanish Art and Culture.

The season, which first took place in 2009,  showcases cutting-edge Spanish arts: visual art, architecture, literature and dance at venues including the Barbican Centre, Sadler’s Wells, Maddox Arts, and 12 Star Gallery, with the creative hub at Hanmi Gallery in Ftizrovia.

These are some of the highlights:

 

14-24 October Photography exhibition by Ricky Davila at the 12 Star Gallery, Westminster, in conjunction with PhotoEspaña festival. Ricky has won the Best American Picture Prize and FotoPress Award.

 

23 October El Edificio, Screening of Victor Moreno’s documentary about the iconic Madrid building Edificio España, and talk afterwards, by Brendan Cormier, lead curator of 20th Century Design at the V&A.

This year's programme features art, film, literature and dance - the best of Spanish vanguard culture.

This year's programme features art, film, literature and dance - the best of Spanish vanguard culture.

 

7-9 November Open Studios Weekend – Spanish artists open their studios in various locations around London to the public

 

24-25 November Dance Performance at Lilian Bayliss Studio, Sadler’s Wells

 

For more information, see the Spain NOW! website. http://www.spain-now.org.uk


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Special Hotel Collection

September 30, 2014 – 10:20 am
Our new Special Hotel collection only features the finest establishments which we recommend personally.

Our new Special Hotel collection only features the finest establishments which we recommend personally.

When you’re booking your holiday in Andalucia, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best hotel in the best location.
With such a vast array of places available, how do you know which hotel to select?

We’ve just made it easier for you, by selecting an exclusive group of luxury hotels which we recommend as being among the most exceptional in Andalucia, and have visited personally to ensure they have the high standards we expect from a hotel in terms of outstanding style and service, and all in unparalleled locations.
 

Corral del Rey is an exquisite boutique hotel in Seville.

Corral del Rey is an exquisite boutique hotel in Seville.

Currently the Andalucia.com Special Hotel Collection, which has just been launched, has three hotels: Corral del Rey, a boutique hotel in the historic centre of Seville, with gorgeous interiors mixing Moroccan and Asian influences in a 17th-century Sevillano house with patio; its sister hotel, Hacienda San Rafael, a converted 18th-century olive farm midway between Seville and Jerez, with a garden bursting with colourful bouganvillea and oleander, three swimming pools and endless romantic corners; and Hotel Castellar, an elegant spa hotel on the doorstep of the Grazalema National Park, Europe’s largest cork-oak forest.

Hotel Castellar offers luxury in beautiful natural surroundings.

Hotel Castellar offers luxury in beautiful natural surroundings.

So when you’re looking for somewhere special to stay in Andalucia, perhaps for a birthday, anniversary or other family celebration, or even just a much-deserved break, you know where to find the most individual, superbly-located and delightful hotels, for an unforgettable experience: Andalucia.com’s Special Hotel Collection.


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La Vendimia – the grape harvest

September 17, 2014 – 4:05 pm
Manilva´s grape harvest takes place every year and is known as the ´Feria de Vendimia. Photo by Michelle Chaplow.

Manilva´s grape harvest takes place every year and is known as the ´Feria de Vendimia. Photo by Michelle Chaplow.

The calendar here in Andalucia is very much in tune with nature – marked by harvests of seasonal fruits, vegetables and other crops grown all around this fertile and highly productive area, from the lowlands with their rice, to the mushrooms in woodlands, and the rolling hills of olive trees.

One of the most important of these agricultural celebrations is the autumn vendimia, or grape harvest. Wine is made throughout Andalucia, but two of the most important regions are Jerez, where sherry is produced, and Malaga, home to the Malaga sweet wine, or moscatel as it’s made from sweet white muscatel grapes. This traditional event takes place on the Saturday closest to 8 September.

Even the smallest towns in Andalucia make their own wine – for example Manilva, a hilltop village in Malaga province, just inland from the coast, where a vendimia ceremony starts off with the grapes being blessed, as tradition dictates. The relationship between farming and religion in Andalucia is a close one; many consider the Virgin Mary to have qualities in common with a pagan “Earth Mother”. Manilva is known as Andalucia’s greenest village in summer, because of the abundance of verdant foliage in its terraced vineyards.

Then the grapes are ceremonially trodden – though don’t get the idea that this is just for fun: the grape-treaders may practise for up to a week to make sure that their rhythm of stamping is perfect. As they get tired from their highly aerobic grape-treading, the crowds will cheer on the treaders, encouraging them to continue with their labour. The first drink of this unfermented, foot-pressed grape juice is considered lucky, while as part of the vendimia festival the vineyard owner with the largest racimo (bunch) of grapes will often be awarded a special prize – and enjoy the higher status which this accolade brings.

Young, unfermented wine which costs less than 2 euros per litre.

Young, unfermented wine which costs less than 2 euros per litre. Photo by Fiona Flores Watson.


 

Bodegas Salado in Umbrete produces 300,000 litres of mosto every year. Photo by Fiona Flores Watson.

Bodegas Salado in Umbrete produces 300,000 litres of mosto every year. Photo by Fiona Flores Watson.

Mosto, or very young unfermented wine (must, as in musty), is available from October, and is best drunk within a few months. The mosto of Umbrete, an even smaller town in the Aljarafe región west of Seville city, is a local speciality, and townsfolk come to the Salado bodega, a family-run winery which dates from the 19th century, to fill and refill their plastic containers with the grapey liquid.

Such wines as Rioja, cava and sherry are already widely appreciated, but now more Spanish wines are finally being recognised for their superb quality, and excellent value for money. The Spanish wine industry is on the up, so the vendimia is a big reason to celebrate los vinos españoles!


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A fantastic choice of tours in Seville

September 7, 2014 – 1:28 pm
Seville's catedral is one of the city's most famous monuments which you can see on a guided tour. Photo by Sophie Carefull.

Seville's cathedral is one of the city's most famous monuments which you can see on a guided tour. Photo by Sophie Carefull.

If you’re visiting a historic city like Seville on holiday, and you only have a limited amount of time to see the highlights, a good option is to take an organised tour. The cathedral, Alcazar (Royal Palace), Santa Cruz former Jewish district, Maria Luisa Park and Expo 29 site – all Seville’s most important monuments can be visited with an expert to bring the city’s history to life.

A huge choice of ways to explore the city with a qualified guide is available, from open-top buses, enjoyable when the weather is reliably sunny most of the year, to boats and on foot.

You can take a Guided Tour around Seville, visiting the bullring, Santa Cruz, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the cathedral and Alcazar, finishing up with a glass of wine; or for those who prefer to see the city from the confort of their own seat Panoramic Sightseeing Tour, with a view of the bullring and Expo 29 pavilions from an open-top doublé-decker bus.

Another historical gem you can see on a tour of Seville is Plaza España.

Another historical gem you can see on a tour of Seville is Plaza España. Photo by Sophie Carefull.

If you prefer, you can go on foot to see the Torre del Oro, a medieval Riverside tower, and the 100-year-old Maria Luisa Park with its Plaza de España, centrepiece of the Expo 29, on the Walking Tour; or the Monumental Walking Tour, visiting the main monuments in the city – the cathedral and Giralda, and Alcazar. Or take a walking tour which includes a visit to the exquisite Mudéjar Alcazar: Historic Walking Tour and the Alcazar.

You can also take the hop-on hop-off bus around the old centre, and a Guadalquivir River Cruise to see the city from another perspective – the river Guadalquivir. For a bird’s eye view, go up to the Rooftop Walking Tour.

For a memorable evening out in Seville, the Night Tour with Flamenco Show - takes you around the city when the sun has gone down, and watch the most famous Spanish dance of all at a traditional tablao: flamenco, accompanied by traditional Sevillano tapas. Or you can see a Flamenco Show at one of the city’s top venues, accompanied either by a drink, tapas, or dinner.

If you’re coming with children, an excellent option is a day out at Isla Magica theme park, with rides and attractions galore, as well as a 4D cinema, boat rides and horse shows.

But you don’t have to be staying in Seville to explore this romantic city – there are also day trips from the Costa del Sol, which include return bus trip and lunch.

Whatever you want to see in beautiful Seville, whenever and however you want to see it, by day or night, from the road or river, there is a tour for you. Enjoy!


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New Kitesurfing World Record set in Tarifa on Sunday

August 29, 2014 – 9:26 am
Virgin

The Kitesurfing Armada Spain in Tarifa yesterday - Sunday 31 August.

On Sunday more than 350 kitesurfers broke the world record on Playa de los Lances.

On Sunday 352 kitesurfers broke the world record in Tarifa, on Playa de los Lances.

    Yesterday, Sunday 31 August, kitesurfers in Tarifa broke the world record for the most kitesurfers sailing together at one time.

    A new Guinness World Record was set, of 352 kiters, breaking the previous one of 318 set in Hayling Island, UK, last year.

    A precursor to the PKRA World Kitesurfing Championship, which takes place in Andalucia’s “Capital of Windsurfing” from 30 August to 7 September, the attempt was hosted by 10-times World Champion Gisela Pulido, who won the Masters of Kiteboarding in Tarifa in June. Sadly Sir Richard Branson, whose global company Virgin sponsors the PKRA and is himself a keen kiter and serial record-breaker, setting a world record for oldest person to kitesurf across the English Channel in 2012, was unable to attend.

    The “parade” of kitesurfers sailed on their downwinder in a 3.5km-long area located 1km off Playa de los Lances, towards Valdevaqueros, starting from the Best Pro Center at km81.5 on the N340. All 352 of them had to be surfing at the same time within a stretch of one mile.

    Part of the proceeds from entry fees went to Virgin Unite, the company’s charity arm.

    For more information about the event, see Virgin Kitesurfing Armada.

Watch a video about last year’s Virgin Kitesurfing Armada event on Hayling Island, Hampshire. Branson himself took part in breaking the world record.


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Musing on an expat’s sojourn

August 27, 2014 – 8:53 am

Like many expats – indeed, most of the ones I know, especially those with young children – I’m coming to the end of my summer sojourn in England.

As always – this is my ninth August spent here, I’ve only missed one, during my first pregnancy, and never again – my thoughts turn to what I like and miss most about the two countries, my birth home (England) and my adoptive home (Spain).

I’ve now spent as many years living in or near Seville as I did living in London. Two different cities, two different experiences – one fast-paced, stimulating, stressful but with a certain monotony; the other slower, less pressured, more varied, and infinitely more fulfilling. Nine-to-five office job (with perks of lunches, parties and press trips), versus the freedom of freelance, with its crazy, unpredictable hours. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to make the change will appreciate the variation in financial stability, but also the increased “quality of life”.

So what do I miss about Spain when I’m spending a few weeks in England? My son’s willingness to chat to strangers – people in shops, in the pub, in the street – so normal and welcome in Spain, causes some consternation here in more closed England. People with dogs will usually chat, but others look confused and embarrassed by a small boy they don’t know talking to them. The friendliness of Andalucians is priceless.

The weather, obviously – it’s one extreme (we’ve had torrential downpours, electrical storms, hail and 2 degrees at night since we’ve been here) to the other (upper 30s, 40 in Seville today). But England when it’s warm and sunny, and you’re outside in the garden, sitting on the lawn, watching your kids run around playing hide and seek – that takes some beating. The fierce heat of the summer in southern Spain is what sends adoptive Andalucians back north in July and August, but the warmth of the sun is also what draws many of us there.

The food – sheer variety, fads – is as mind-boggling as ever – the new things, after cupcakes and macaroons, seem to be flavoured popcorn and salted caramel everything – even Tesco has this fashionable savoury-sweet flavour now. Chorizo is still in everything, from squid stew to chicken casserole to paella. Spain has its food trends too: burgers are big currently, as is unusually flavoured (non-tomato) salmorejo - beetroot, strawberry, watermelon.

The anniversary of the First World War, in 1914, has filled the TV schedules and book stores, and monuments have marked the occasion – the Tower of London has an installation with thousands of blood-red poppies. I tried to explain to my kids about all the young men who sacrificed their lives in unimaginable conditions, but it’s hard for them to grasp such a foreign concept. The pictures are from another world.

I love medieval fairs in Spain, but they are usually commercial rather than educational, even if in appropriate dress and with period food. Historical recreations sound dull and ditch-water, but we went to a marvellous Tudor Day at a local Elizabethan manor, Kentwell Hall, where actors dress up in costume, speak in English of the day, and explain about their craft – fletchers, felters, alchemists. I would dearly love to go to a similar event in Spain to find out what life was like in the time of the early Bourbon empire.

Do you visit your home country in the summer? What do you enjoy most while you’re there?


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