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Lost in Translation

September 25, 2015 – 2:25 pm

As English speakers, I often feel we have an unfair advantage over our hispanophone friends and neighbours here in Spain. They speak the language of their birth, which does them well at home, and all over Central and South America. But for us, our idiom is the one most widely spoken around the world. Just being born an anglophone guarantees us the potential to learn a living almost anywhere as a teacher, translator or interpreter.

In an ideal world, all English text used in Andalucia, a region which depends heavily on foreign tourism (numbers were up over 7% in the first six months of 2015, with more than five million in total), would be translated, or at least seen, by a native speaker – those magic words which are the key to good, natural, idiomatic English. And in the past few years, to be fair, the standard has risen noticeably in general terms.

Google Translation App  Logo Google TM

However what is still too often preferred, due to time and budgetary constraints, is Google Translate. And what does that spell? Potential disaster – egg-on-face, laughing-stock, SM-viral calamity.

Now I can see the clear advantages of speaking Spanish words into your phone, and have the Google Translate app transform them magically into English for you. Very handy for visitors who don’t have a grasp of the language. But if you are a business, for whom the English-speaking market is important – Brits, Yanks, Canadians, Aussies, northern Europeans – then why, oh why, don’t you invest a not-huge sum into a solid, reliable translation which will not cast a shadow over your product or service?

Another bugbear is half-hearted semi-translation of a website. You see the flag, top right-hand corner, to indicate you can click choose your language. The first page, or sometimes even the first paragraph is in English, of varying quality, but then it reverts to Spanish. Oh, the sense of disappointment – your hopes are dashed. Why couldn’t they carry they carry it through and finish the damn job?

Who hasn’t seen an appalling mistranslation on a menu, hotel leaflet or website? Often they’re hilariously funny, sometimes they’re cringingly embarrassing. Recently, Sur in English, the Malaga newspaper, spotted some corkers on the Cervantes Theatre website. This august institution displayed the prices of “fertilizer” and “manure” for Philharmonic Orchestra tickets. In a Jeopardy-like game, Spanish speakers will realise that abono=season ticket has been confused with abono=compost. Oops. Manure over 65, anyone? Mature manure. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Additionally, and probably my personal favourite, a flamenco performer who goes by the name of El Carpeta, became “the folder”. How is a computer expected to tell the difference?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gnashed my teeth with English-speaking friends over coffee, as we bemoan the inability, or unwillingness, on the part of Spanish companies to understand the necessity of having a decent level of English on their promotional literature, both print and digital. Hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, theatres, tour companies. I have offered my services from everyone to the Seville Town Hall to small but successful restaurants. I have offered corrections out of the goodness of my heart – seeing poor English is the equivalent of nails scraped along a blackboard. STOP! MAKE IT STOP! NOW! I’LL DO ANYTHING!

We love people.  Screenshot

Here’s one good example, from a major city’s tourism department. Their main slogan is:

Welcome to a city full of persons who are willing to receive you. We love people!

Would that attract you to visit? Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue; not very natural-sounding. If you’re aiming at an English-speaking audience, here’s a left-field idea. Why not ask an English-speaker what they think of it? Canvas a few opinions? Or, even better, ask an English-speaker to come up with it in the first place. Or someone who is genuinely bilingual. They’re a rarity, at least away from the coast, but they do exist.

What mistranslation horrors have you seen on menus, signs, websites and other texts?


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Games of Thrones comes to Almeria

September 14, 2015 – 5:19 pm
The Acazaba of Almeria will be one of the locations for Game of Thrones Season 6. Photo: Michelle Chaplow

After the excitement of Game of Thrones Season 5 being filmed in the Alcazar palace in Seville last October, and subsequently in Osuna’s bullring,  the limelight has transferred to Almeria province this year, where filming of Season 6 will take place next month on the Almeria coast and in the Tabernas desert. This is the second season which has been filmed in Andalucia.

Staff have been spotted preparing scenery in the area of El Chorrilo de Pechina in Sierra Alhamilla, where Exodus: Gods and Kings was also filmed recently,  and the Faro de Mesa Roldan lighthouse near Carboneras. Sets are being constructed using materials specially prepared in Belfast and then transported to Spain, to be put together on location.

The Alcazaba in Almeria, the city’s Moorish citadel, is also to feature as a palace.

Almerian locations will represent either Dorne (as was the case with the Alcazar in Seville) or Essos.

Other locations include the Muralla de Jayrán, and the Cautivo de Tabernas, where 100 horses will be used, making it likely that this location will be Essos, home to the Dothraki, a nomadic horse-riding warrior tribe similar to the Mongols.

Shooting will take place from 10 to 23 October, with 2700 extras being used – 1800 men and 900 women.

Season 6 is expected to air in April 2016, like previous seasons of Game of Thrones.

To see which movies were filmed around Almeria province, see our list of films shot in Andalucia. The other Spanish locations for this season of Game of Thrones (Juego de Tronas in Spanish) are Girona, in the north-east, and Peñiscola, in Castellon.

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Is the future of bullfighting, and other taurine events, in doubt?

September 1, 2015 – 10:15 pm
Sevillano bullfighter Curro Romero outside the city's Real Maestranza (bullring).

If you’ve been following the Spanish news over the summer – wherever you may have spent the last couple of months – or indeed if you’ve been reading the international press, you may have noticed a glut of stories on injuries and deaths from bull-related events here in Spain.

A total of 12 people died during July and August at corridas (bullfights) and encierros (bull-runnings, when bulls are let loose in the street and “run” to a bullring, by far the most famous and well-attended of which is San Fermin in Pamplona, with 15 deaths in its 90-year history), mostly at smaller pueblo fiestas in the provinces of Valladolid, Toledo, Navarra, Valencia, Murcia, Castellon, Madrid and Alicante.

Anti-bullfighting slogan, seen more and more these days.

Injured matadors

In addition, two bullfighters sustained serious injuries caused by cornadas (goring by a bull’s horn – yes, there’s a word for it in Spanish) – Saul Jimenez Fortes, in Salamanca, received a horn upwards through the chin (the photos are horrific but also horribly fascinating, especially if your sympathies lie with the four-legged beast), while the other was gored in the guts. Fran Rivera Ordoñez, ex-son-in-law of the late Duquesa de Alba and joint investor in the new Lonja del Barranco gourmet market in Seville, darling of the prensa rosa (gossip magazines and TV shows), sustained a cornada which was so serious that the horn went right through his body as far as his spinal column, without – incredibly – damaging his internal organs. He was given immediate treatment in the small emergency room at the Huesca bullring, before being operated on in hospital by a surgeon.

Fran’s father, the bullfighter Paquirri (Fran shares his nickname), died of a similar injury in 1984, before such onsite life-saving facilities were available; his grandfather Antonio Ordoñez was also a famous matador, and good friend of Orson Welles. Such injuries are not uncommon, but what was interesting was the reaction on Social Media – far from sympathetic to the young Paquirri. Many questioned the relative news-worthiness of a wealthy man risking his life voluntarily to kill a dangerous 500-kilo animal, and getting hurt in the process, against a general backdrop of continuing poverty, unemployment and hardship suffered by so many Spanish families. Most Tweeters were unconcerned, and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

Washington Post

Press reaction

Then the Washington Post ran a story asking if the end was nigh for these (blood)sports. And last week, El Pais in English joined in the debate, asking “Is Spain turning its back on bullfighting?” The English-language news website quoted the number of bullfights being held in Spain as having dropped by nearly 60 per cent between 2007 and 2014. The article also said that showing bullfights on state broadcaster TVE has not been a success, with viewers falling below one million in August for the first time ever.

Bullfights are banned in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, but in the rest of the country they still take place from March to October, with numbers varying depending on what you read: from around 400 to 2,000 corridas are held every year, with 7,200 bulls being killed. Small pueblo events seem to be growing – with 16,000 this year, up by 2,000 on 2014, according to the Culture Ministry – but major bullfights are on the wane.

According to figures quoted on the BBC provided by a professor of Extremadura University, bullfighting produces 280 million euros per year, generating 59 million euros in tax. Another figure quoted, in El Pais, was 3.5bn euros, with 350m euros in sales tax, along with 200,000 jobs. Who is to say which one is accurate – it was pointed out that some such figures may include total hotel occupation in the town during an event, assuming all visitors are there to attend the taurine event.

Public opinion

I personally have noticed a huge shift in public opinion since arriving in Andalucia in 2003. Then, the anti-taurino movement was so small as to be barely noticeable; most people seemed to be either actively pro, or indifferent, with very few strongly opposed. Now the idea to ban bullfighting is very much on the public consciousness; many groups have appeared, with active Social Media presence – for example on Facebook – denouncing the cruelty of the sport, and garnering tens of thousands of supporting comments.

A rock music festival, offered for free in exchange for cancelling Toro de la Vega.

There is even a political party with a bullfighting ban on its agenda – PACMA, the Partido Animalista, which is against cruelty to animals; it garnered nearly 500,000 votes at the last general election. Spanish celebrities are supporting PACMA’s campaign against the brutal Torre de la Vega fiesta in Tordesillas – where a bull is chased through the streets and then in fields, speared by hundreds of people on horseback carrying long wooden lances – with the theme “Rompo una lanza” (I break a spear). A demonstration to protest about the event is planned in Madrid later this month. Some major Spanish singing stars offered to stage a free music festival in Tordesillas, if the mayor agreed to cancel the Toro de la Vega fiesta.

On the one side, the defenders talk of age-old traditions, their right to carry out their local fiestas as they have done for generations – in some case centuries – without interference, and bulls living a charmed life in the campo as they prepare for their final appearance. On the other, the attackers talk of unjustifiable cruelty, of causing intense suffering and pain, both physical and mental, to an animal. Recently, a female protestor jumped into the ring to comfort a dying bull – you would never have seen such an action ten, perhaps even five, years ago.

For me personally, the attitude of the Spanish corrida aficionado mentality is summed up by a vehemently pro-bullfighting man I heard interviewed on Spanish radio. He stated unequivocally that animals don’t feel pain, so what does it matter if the bull dies a slow death, bleeding copiously from any numbers of wounds? There’s no meeting point between those who love it and those who hate it, no common ground. Here’s a thought – why not have bullfighting where the animal isn’t actually killed, as in Portugal and France, or the alternative version where men (casually dressed, so without the same aesthetic impact of the traje de luces) jump over the bull? Such activities also involve a high amount of skill, speed, physical prowess, and above all raw courage and sang-froid. Well, would you put yourself in an enclosed space watched by thousands with a half-ton snorting, angry beast? Exactly.


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Bobadilla/Antequera-Granada high-speed rail link gets 62m euro

August 17, 2015 – 9:40 am

Today, a new investment was announced for the Antequera-Granada high-speed rail link, with AVE trains due to start running in 2018. Andalucia’s budget for 2016 includes 62 million euros to  finish this AVE route linking Antequera (Santa Ana Station), the geographically central junction of the region, with Granada, while nearby Bobadilla was an important junction on the old train network.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that the PGE (Presupuestos Generales del Estado)  was allocating 192m euros to the Bobadilla-Granada line (half of the province’s total budget). This will be a relief to many since the current works which were halted in 2014 remain a construction scar on the landscape and EU funding had to be returned for not completing the works by the previous deadline.

Antequera is already served by the Seville – Malaga line, which continues on to Madrid from Seville.

Andalucia was the first region to have the revolutionary pointy-nosed trains, which can travel at speeds of up to  310km/h. AVE means Tren de Alta Velocidad Española. The first route which launched was the Madrid-Seville service, starting in 1992 in time for the Expo 92 in Seville.

The current AVE train routes are these:

Additionally, last month, the EU assigned 140 million euros of funding, via FEDER (Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional, the European Fund for Regional Development) to the Bobadilla/Antequera-Algeciras line. This will help to develop the Mediterranean Railway Corridor.

The section from Algeciras to Gaucin (station in El Colmenar village) – popularly-known as Mr Henderson’s Railway, built in 1892 – gets 19.5 million euros for security installations

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The heat is on – 10 top tips to cope in a southern Spanish summer

August 15, 2015 – 9:46 pm

Whether you have made Andalucia your permanent home, you’re staying for a long sojourn over the summer months, or you’re just here on holiday (or planning to be shortly), you will be aware of the extreme heat in July and August, especially in the inland cities such as Seville and Cordoba where the mercury routinely hits 40 degrees C, or 104 F. So what can you do to cope with these absurdly high temperatures? Here we offer some handy tips.

Teprerature Forcast

1) Use air-conditioning, but within moderation. While it’s hard to survive without those cooling blasts of air, too much air-con isn’t great either, for your health or your bank balance, if you’re the one paying the electricity bill. Many people will put it on for 20 minutes or so in the bedroom before retiring, to cool the room down to a bearable temperature for falling asleep. If you’re going to a restaurant or house with air-con, take an extra layer as you can soon feel cold.

2) Shower regularly. Nothing cools down your body temperature like a shower (as well as ensuring you’re sweet-smelling!). If you’re not going out afterwards, don’t dry off completely, as the water left on your body will keep you cool for a precious few more minutes.

3) High temperatures mean that we sweat a lot, and we need to drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids – at least five litres per day to keep hydrated, as well as eating salty food or snacks to replace the salts. This is especially true for young children and old people, who can quickly become dehydrated, and who need to be closely monitored. Beware of headaches, as these can be a sign of dehydration.

4) Mad dogs and Englishmen… get your errands done in the morning, before the mercury has risen too much – it will still be in the bearable high 20s or low 30s. Stay in the shade, drink water, don’t exert yourself physically. By 1pm you’ll be ready to jump in the shower/pool/sea.

5) If you have a long enough cable, put a fan in or near the window at night, so that it draws in the cooler evening air into your house – many buildings hold the heat for many hours after it’s cooled off outside, hence why you see locals sitting in the street. Also, no-brainer – close curtains and shutters during the day to keep the sun out, then open them again at night to let that refreshing night fresquito air flow in..

6) Put a flannel in the freezer – the ice-cold, damp piece of fabric will provide a few minutes’ welcome relief.

7) Wear natural fabrics – a cotton sarong, which is loose, breathable, and leaves your arms free when tied around your neck, is perfect for wearing at home, in the garden, or around the hotel.

8) Make sure your laptop doesn’t overheat – use a stand with a fan to dissipate the heat, and make sure the air vents are free from dust so it can “breathe”. Don’t leave your mobile phone out in the sun or in a car either, as it could overheat and shut down. Always leave devices in the shade – if they do overheat, take out of cases to cool down, and close battery-draining apps.

9) Wear a hat – shades your face from sunburn, protects your head from sunstroke. Baseball hat with peak or safari hat with a brim, or large floppy straw hat.

10) It’s extremely draining physically to move around when it’s this hot, so do as the Spanish do, and take a siesta during the hottest hours.

From hot sun to cold water – the dangers

One other important point to bear in mind is that if you’ve been lying in the sun, and your body is at a high temperature, and you jump or dive into cold water, the shock to your body of such a sudden and extreme change in temperature might cause you to feel faint or dizzy. Obviously this would be extremely dangerous while in water, especially the sea. There were three cases of drowning last week in Andalucia, two people in their 70s and one in his 50s, and at this stage it seems likely that the causes of death were cardiac arrest. Advice is to splash your body with water to reduce its remperature before going into the water.

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Adios Cilla

August 7, 2015 – 9:03 am

What’s your name and where do you come from?”

For many of us, back in the 1980s and 1990s, Saturday nights were all about watching Blind Date before going out. With her red hair, broad smile and warm manner, Cilla always set the nervous contestants at ease, as they chose their potential partner from three possibles. For those around in the 1960s, she was a popular singer.

So it was very sad news that the much-loved presenter, singer and British national treasure, Cilla Black, had died last Saturday, 1 August.

Cilla passed away at the age of 72, suffering a stroke while staying at her house in Estepona.

Long-term Estepona lover

She has been coming to her villa in the seaside town near Marbella every August for nearly 20 years. She would spend time with other British celebrities such as Paul O’Grady, Dale Winton, Cliff Richard, Jimmy Tarbuck and Max Clifford, frequenting a variety of establishments from upmarket Villa Tiberio, La Sala in Puerto Banus, karaoke venue Live Lounge, to Peggotty’s Fish and Chips.

Apparently the entertainer had a reservation for her preferred table in her favourite restaurant in Estepona town, Robbie’s, the night she died. Cilla had arrived at Malaga airport the previous day.

Cilla is said to have fallen while on her terrace and knocked her head on some furniture, causing a stroke. She was found her by eldest son Robert – her other two sons, Ben and Jack, were also staying in the villa. The singer and TV personality had been widely quoted as saying she didn’t want to live past the age of 75; she was suffering from arthritis, osteoporosis and hearing loss.

Cilla’s life

The Liverpudlian, who was born Priscilla White, first found fame as a singer in the 1960s, with hits such as Alfie and Anyone Who Had A Heart. In 1969 she married her manager, Bobby Willis, and they lived in Denham in Buckinghamshire.

She bought the villa in Estepona in 1996, naming it Casa Roll, a culinary pun which attracted much admiration on Twitter after her death was announced. Bobby died in 1999, and her son Robert became her manager. In 2013, Cilla celebrated 50 year in showbusinesses with a TV special.

Her autobiography, What’s It All About?, was published in 2003. ITV recently screen a drama starring Sheridan Smith, called Cilla.

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Atararazanas project approved

July 29, 2015 – 2:51 pm

After many years of prevarication, consultation and administrative wrangling, the Royal Shipyards of Seville, which date from Alfonso the Wise’s reign in the 13th century, are finally going to be restored and converted into a cultural centre.

The 25-million-euro project, presented by Fundacion La Caixa and Fundacion CajaSol, was approved by the Comision Provincial de Patrimonio Historico de Sevilla (Consejeria de Cultura) this week.

Back in 2008, the Junta granted a 75-year lease of the building to Fundacion La Caixa. Originally mooted as a Caixaforum cultural centre, which are renowned for their avant-garde architecture and high-quality exhibitions, the mudejar Atarazanas (shipyards) will now be funded as a Fundacion La Caixa centre, with the main Caixaforum transferred to the Torre Pelli, Seville’s new, and only, skyscraper. The  178m-tower was initially built by CajaSol bank, which was taken over by La Caixa during the construction process.

The project has been presented by Seville architect Guillermo Vazquez Consuegra, who had undertaken many commissions in the city: he designed the extension to Fibes Exhibition Centre; was responsible for the refurbishment of the Palacio San Telmo; and converted the Pabellon de Navegacion, which he also created for Expo 1992, into a museum.

Centro Cultural Atarazanas will have an open ground floor, so that visitors can fully appreciate the medieval arches, half of whose columns’ height are buried under the ground. The first floor, built by Carlos III as an artillery store at the end of the 19th century, will be an exhibition space.

Located close to the Cathedral and Alcazar, between Avenida de la Constitucion and the riverside Paseo de Cristobal Colon, the refurbished Atarzanas will form an important element of the monumental area of Seville.

The new cultural centre has been described as “un centro cultural de divulgación científica, técnica, artística y cultural” (a centre for scientific, technical, artistic and cultural dissemination).

Here is a short video (in English) about La Caixa Foundation.

La Caixa Foundation

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Historic houses opening to the public in Seville this autumn

July 17, 2015 – 3:27 pm

If you are planning a visit to Seville once the intense summer heat has dissipated, then you may be pleased to hear that, from this autumn, two important historic monuments with aristocratic heritage will be available to visit for the first time.

One is the Palacio de las Dueñas, the home of the late Duquesa de Alba, who was Europe’s most-titled noble and a familiar face in the city. Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart possessed numerous properties all over Spain – from city palaces and castles, to country estates and seaside villas; it said that you could cross the country from end to the other without setting foot off her land. But the Duchess’s favourite, especially in her later years, was her 15th-century palace in the heart of Seville.

Alf Cay holding hands.
Duquesa de Alba celebrated her wedding to Alfonso Diez at the Palacio de las Duenas, with press and adoring crowds packed into the street outside her gates.

This is where Cayetana spent her final hours surrounded by her family, before passing away last November; in happier times, it is where she celebrated her third and final wedding, to Alfonso Diez, with adoring crowds packed into the street outside her gates. The 80-something bride ventured outside with her new husband to dance for the delighted throng.

Sevillanos were, and indeed continue to be, fascinated and intrigued by this colourful woman, of highly aristocratic birth yet of the people. Cayetana was a larger-than-life character, rarely out of gossip magazines and TV programmes, ceaselessly commented on for her unconventional fashion sense, her family’s foibles and her unending appetite for travel. She was also a passionate devotee of Seville’s most emblematic events and traditions – bullfighting, flamenco, Semana Santa and Feria – right up until her death.

Entrance to the palace.
Entrance to the palace, which dates from the 15th century and has an impressive art collection.

So the opportunity to see inside her home, to look at her furniture, photographs, and other personal items, will be grabbed with great enthusiasm and excitement. The palace’s art collection extensive with important 19th and 20th-century Spanish paintings, as well as a watercolour painted by Jackie Kennedy when she visited, plus works by the Duquesa herself, who was a keen artist and found great solace in her painting.

mach plaque.
Tiled plaque commemorating the birthplace of poet Antonio Machado.

In addition, the palace is the birthplace of the much-loved Sevillano poet, Antonio Machado, who famously wrote:

Mi infancia son recuerdos de un patio de Sevilla
y un huerto claro donde madura el limonero…”

“My childhood memories are of a patio in Seville
and a bright garden where a lemon tree grows…”

The palace is scheduled to be opened to the public in October. Watch this blog and our Facebook page for more details.

Casa Rosa, the latest attraction you can visit in Seville this autumn.
Casa Rosa, the latest attraction you can visit in Seville this autumn.

The other is the Casa Rosa, a pretty, candy-pink French-style villa with magnificent gardens at the far end of Parque Maria Luisa.

mach plaque.
Itinerary for visit to Casa Rosa´s gardens – starting at the house, point 2.

The house was part of the vast estate of Palacio San Telmo, the palace which is currently used as the offices of the Junta de Andalucia’s President.

The palace was occupied in the second half of the 19th century by the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier (he was French aristocracy, she was a Spanish princess; they were cousins), who created an estate, comprising gardens, orchards, and hunting grounds, which stretched as far as Plaza de Americas (built subsequently for the Exposicion Ibero-Americano 1929).

A large part of the Montpensiers’ San Telmo estate was converted in Parque Maria Luisa in 1914, and the park was chosen as the site of the Expo 29.

The Dukes built Casa Rosa for their tailor, Juan Cruz, in 1880; it was extended in 1894 by the Marchioness of Angulo, who named it Villa Eugenia, and again in 1927, as part of the urban reorganisation for the 1929 Expo. In the 1990s the Junta de Andalucia carried out a refurbishment, and a decade later Casa Rosa stood in as the temporary offices of the Junta President while Palacio San Telmo was restored.

Villa Eugenia/Casa Rosa brought a new style of architecture to Seville, with its rectangular shape, mansard roof, look-out tower and Art Nouveau entrance canopy. These late 19th and early 20th-century features blend with the mudejar-style azulejos (ceramic tiles) for which Seville is famous, made just across the river in Triana.

Situated at the far end of the original San Telmo gardens, beyond Plaza de Americas between Avenida de las Palmeras and Avenida Manuel Siurot, now-named Casa Rosa has been described as a “joya romantica“, a romantic jewel.

In the gardens, which are shaded by scores of tall palm trees, you can see 100 botanical species from five continents, across a 7000m2 area. The visit will follow a set route, taking in the house’s patio, pond, aviaries, and old stables and zoo.

Casa Rosa and its gardens will be open for guided visits from 7 October. To book a visit, click here.

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Cultural events in Seville for summer 2015

June 29, 2015 – 9:50 am

In visitor figures released last week for May, Seville’s position as number one destination in Andalucia was confirmed, with overnight stays by foreign visitors who stayed a night in the city up by almost 10%.

Visitors to the Alcazar are up year on year by 11.5%, with the best May ever, and up over 13% so far this year – the Game of Thrones effect, perhaps? Several episodes of season 5 of the hugely popular HBO drama series, aired from April to June this year, were filmed in the palace and its gardens.

As every year, there’s a full programme of events for hot summer nights in Seville, from open-air movies to concerts and theatre.




Now in its 16th season, the night concerts in the Alcazar Gardens are the highlight of Seville's summer outdoor season.
Now in its 16th season, the night concerts in the Alcazar Gardens are the highlight of Seville’s summer outdoor season.


Best venue: Concerts in the Alcazar Gardens. To 12 September

From flamenco and jazz to classical, outside in the beautiful gardens, next to the Gallery, which recently featured in Game of Thrones as the Water Gardens of Dorne. Monday to Saturday, 10.30pm (doors open at 9pm – get there early to enjoy the moonlit scented air without the usual crowds). Printed programme available.

For more details see here.



Live music on Wednesday and Thursday nights in August:
Live music on Wednesday and Thursday nights in August: “not a month, a country”


Best for undiscovered bands: Nocturama. To 4 September

Concerts in the gardens of the CAAC,  the historic monastery where Columbus planned his voyages and now a contemporary art centre. Pop, indie and on Wednesday and Thursday in August and early September, 10pm (doors and bar open at 9pm).

For more details see here.


This screen will be next to the river on the Muelle de las Delicias.
This screen will be next to the river on the Muelle de las Delicias.


Best screen: Open Star films by the river. 9 – 30 July

The world’s largest outdoor screen comes to Seville, on the Muelle de las Delicias, between Puentes de Los Remedios and Las Delicias. Two restaurants, live music, and a 350m2 screen (four times the size of a normal cinema’s). Action, thrillers and romance, with children’s movies (Cinderella, Annie, Penguins) on Sundays. Screenings at 10pm (doors open at 8.30pm).

For more details click here.

SThe huge patio of the Diputacion, home to outdoor movie showings.
The huge patio of the Diputacion, home to outdoor movie showings.


Best for foreign language: Films in the Patio de la Diputacion. To 14 September

In this large patio opposite the Jardines de Murillo (red building on corner opposite Puerta de la Carne, Menendez Pelayo 32). Daily showings at 10.15pm. Nearly all dubbed except for these in original version, on Sundays: Deux Jours, Une Nuit (VOS French, 5 July); Omar (VOS Arabic/Hebrew, 12 July); The Little House (VOS Japanese, 19 July); and Timbuktu (VOS English, French, Arabic, 26 July).

For more details click here.


Outdoor films are part of Sevillano summer life.
Outdoor films are part of Sevillano summer life.

Best barrio cinema: Cine Pumarejo. 2 – 30 July

Get in with the locals one of the Macarena’s most characterful squares with its crumbling mansion, beloved by the community and with its own currency, the puma. You can watch Spanish films, mostly comedies, on Thursday nights at 10pm.

For more details click here.


 A cultural smorgasbord at CICUS - poetry, theatre, flamenco, art and film.
A cultural smorgasbord at CICUS – poetry, theatre, flamenco, art and film.


Best for a bit of everything: 21 GRADOS. To 29 August

This one is more off-beat and literary, as expected from a university cultural initiative – open-air cinema (Orson Welles movies on Thursdays in July, in English; Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop on 25 August), music, theatre, exhibitions and poetry; flamenco on Thursdays. Events start at 10/10.30pm

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6th Copa Jerez: And the winner is…

June 12, 2015 – 5:36 pm

As I mentioned in a recent preview  blog post, last Tuesday 9 June saw the world’s foremost sherry-pairing culinary contest: the Copa Jerez.

Sommelier Ian Adams and Chef Michelle  Matthews in front of the judging panel
Copa Jerez 2105 winners, Sommelier Ian Adams and Chef Michelle Matthews, of 16 Romolo in San Francisco, in front of the judging panel.

Teams of chefs and sommeliers from restaurants in eight countries – seven from Europe, plus the US –  each had to produce a three-course meal, every dish paired with a sherry. The event took place in the cradle of the sherry industry: Jerez de la Frontera.

The idea of the competition is to show the extraordinary versatility of sherry; how the different types of fortified wines pair beautifully with every type of dish, from seafood to beef, cheese to chocolate. Each team had already won the national final in its country.

German sommelier pouring sherry for the jury German sommelier, Guido Walter, pouring sherry for judge Beltran Domecq, president of Sherry’s Regulatory Council.

Judges for this sixth biannual event were a glittery array of culinary and wine professionals:  Pita Roca, sommelier of El Celler de Can Roca, holder of three Michelin stars and recently voted (again) the World’s Best Restaurant; Pedro Ballesteros Torres, Master of Wines, and member elect of the Governing Council of the Institute of Masters of Wine; Michael Weiss, Dean of the Wine Studies Department of the Culinary Institute of America in New York; and Beltran Domecq, winemaker and president of the Regulatory Council of Jerez Wines.

A day of hectic action, drama, tension, highs and lows, ended with victory for Team USA: sommelier Ian Adams and chef Michelle Matthews, of 16 Romolo in San Francisco, won the competition, with Ian additionally taking home the prize for Best Sommelier.  As well as presenting – and justifying – each sherry, and how it matches the dish, along with the chef who explains their choice of recipe, the sommeliers have to explain each wine to the press.

A charming, articulate and self-assured wine professional, who isn’t even 30, Ian did an excellent job of explaining his sherry choices to an audience which was far from captive, or even static – we journalists were constantly moving between the kitchens, the judging room and the press area itself to watch the finalists in action.

Belgian team working in the kitchen
Belgian team, who won Best Starter Pairing, working in the kitchen.

The winning menu from 16 Romolo was:

Starter: lightly poached prawn (looks more like lobster or crayfish in the photo below) in escabeche, with shaved mojama infused in cold saffron tomato broth, garnished with chive oil and chives, paired with Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana Hidalgo La Gitana

Main course: Pan-seared sweetbread and roast porcini-filled fresh pasta, liquorice-infused veal demisec, creamy artichoke puree, shaved black truffle, paired with Amontillado from Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia

Dessert: Toasted orange and Marcona almond semifreddo with warm Amontillado-infused chocolate ganache, finished with sea salt, paired with Palo Cortado VORS Apostoles from Gonzalez Byass

The three USA pairings
Winning combinations: the three USA pairings.

Due to logistical problems (our driver couldn’t find the venue), the Seville press group missed the first course, and as a non-meat-eater I couldn’t try the main, but I can tell you that the pudding was phenomenally good – tangy, sharp citrus; rich, sherry-soaked chocolate; and a savoury touch from the salt, paired with a complex Palo Cortadot. Ian explained that the Palo Cortado which he chose to match the dessert was very well-balanced, including all the flavours from the orange to the savoury finish.

Ian told the judges that “it had been fun to begin the day with a wine from Sanlucar, then change gears and go to El Puerto de Santa Maria, before closing it out and coming home to Jerez” for the final sherry.

Ian Sherry winning sommelier checking the sherry's aroma
Ian Adams, winning sommelier, testing his chosen sherry.

I grabbed a few minutes with Ian after he presented his main course sherry. When I asked him where he had studied to become a sommelier, he told me that he had no formal training, but had “trained in the nightclubs of LA and the steakhouses of Texas.” Ian moved from being a bartender in Los Angeles to the world of fine dining in his native San Francisco, where he was introduced to the world of port, madeiras and sherries. “Sherry was one of the things I thought was really cool,” he says. Great to see the new generation taking up the mantle of sherry ambassadors – in the US, sherry is very popular as a cocktail ingredient.

Ian also explained how he fell in love with the story of sherry, partly through learning about the history of the land where it’s made. He made his first trip to Spain in April this year, to visit the sherry bodegas.

Danish (Thai) team presenting their desert The Danish team, who are both from Thailand, won Best Creative Pairing; here they’re presenting their dessert, with matching sherry.

The other winners of Copa Jerez were:

Best chef: Adrian Zarzo (Holland)

Best starter pairing: Belgium – Salted cod with crunchy skin, Belgian asparagus salad with oyster sorbet, botargo (cured fish roe) with yoghurt cream, paired with Tio Pepe Fino en Rama 2015

Best main course pairing: Holland – Lamb sweetbreads, lentils and shrimps, paired with Oloroso 1930 Almacenista Lustau.

Best dessert pairing: Spain – Chocolate and Pedro Ximenez cream, with aniseed, orange, nutmeg, coffee and cinnamon, paired with Pedro Ximenez Antique Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla

Belgium and Spanish team offerings
Belgian (Best Starter Pairing, in front) and Spanish (Best Dessert Pairing, at back) offerings.

Best creative pairing: Denmark – this team were a Thai chef and sommelier, whose first course was so complex, consisting of many different elements, that it caused a delay which nearly had them disqualified. I tried their dessert and, while it looked exquisite, in a beautiful bowl, the flavours were not to my taste – the salt was overpowering, and the muscatel wine with which they matched it tasted chemical.

Some interesting pairings from teams included Holland’s starter: beef tartare with horseradish and quinoa, paired with Bota de Fino 35, Saca de Junio 2012 from Equipo Navazos - the first time I’ve ever heard of red meat being paired with fino; normally it would be served with a more full-bodied sherry such as an oloroso.

Competing for the first time this year was Russia, whose dessert was superb –  a chocolate mousse with smoked nuts and a raspberry-basil sorbet paired with Pedro Ximenez – but sadly this team, which had the only woman sommelier out of the eight countries, did not win any categories; Germany and the UK also went home empty-handed (the German dessert was yet another chocaholic’s dream, while the British offering was a new take on the classic bread and butter pudding). Chef Carlos Martinez, of the Lyttelton restaurant in London, is Spanish – he hails from Valencia.

You can watch a video about Copa Jerez 2015 here.

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