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The Longest Voyage: Magellan’s round-the-world expedition 1519-1522

January 30, 2020 – 12:47 am

El V mas L

The five ships of Magellan’s Spìce Armada in the exhibition at the Archive of the Indies in Seville.

In the 16th century, the port city of Seville was firmly on the world map as a trading centre, with ships sailing across the Atlantic to the New World and bringing back untold wealth in gold, silver, and unusual plants and spices.

One of these fleets was Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition to the Molucca islands, in modern-day Indonesia. His spice flotilla of five ships made an unscheduled round-the-world trip while looking for valuable spices, making the first-ever Pacific Ocean crossing. Spices were highly valuable and sought-after in this era.

Magellan’s three-year voyage (1519-1522, though he himself was killed in 1521) changed the way people saw the world – his expedition sailed 68,000km, of which half was unknown to the crew. These journeys were a huge leap of faith, and crew were often press-ganged into joining.

Now you can discover more about his expedition at an excellent exhibition as part of the 5th centenary celebrations, at the Archive of the Indies in Seville: El Viaje Mas Largo (The Longest Voyage).

The exhibition traces the fortunes of each ship as their crews face storms, starvation and mutiny. The exhibition traces the fortunes of each ship as their crews face storms, starvation and mutiny.

It is a clever visual representation of the experience of the men aboard five ships, starting with scale models of the five ships: Victoria, Concepcion, Trinidad, San Antonio and Santiago set against a backdrop of Seville port as it was at the time. All their sails bear the distinctive red cross of St James (Santiago). Only one of the ships made the full circumnavigation.

Small scultures of human figures convey vividly the experiences and struggles of the ships' crews.  The entrance to the expedition – the first section is called “Dream”, about the planning stage.

The exhibition traces the voyage in six sections: Dream, Setting Sail, Exploration, Destination, the Return and Transformation.

Model ships follow timelines along the floor, marking their progress and inclusion (or not) in the fleet.

The routes of the ships are traced by lines on the floor, with key dates marked along these timelines, so you can see where each ship is at any point, and when one leaves the fleet. Smaller scale models, on the floor next to the white lines, add a sense of fun for children.

We learn about the historical context for the trip, Portugal’s territorial battles with Spain, and oceanic navigation in those days.

The fleet sailed from Seville down the Guadalquivir river in June 1519, setting off across the Atlantic from Sanlucar de Barrameda in September having stocked up with provisions. The exhibition explains what they took in the ships’ holds, in terms of food supplies and trading goods, as well as who the 270 crew were, their job responsibilities (seamen, officers, royal officials, craftsmen etc) and even their comparative payscale.

These details and personal stories help to bring the voyage to life, showing the human side of these adventurers, brave or foolhardy depending on your point of view. The exhibition uses audio-visual very well, with huge, immersive video screens showing terrifying stormy seas which would toss the ships about, but also smaller TVs where you can hear modern-dayexplorers talk about their experiences

While the main narrative is told on panels (in Spanish and English), this is supported by items such as jars of beans and pulses (the same as we’d eat today), and typical 16th century armour – helmets and swords.

They navigated the perilous narrow straits at the very far south of South America, finding a way through to the Pacific, which were then named after the expedition’s leader. These are physically represented by a narrow space which the model ships pass through – in reality, 570km long and as little as 2km wide.

Sculptures show the emotional and physical hardships suffered by the men on board. Moving, visceral culptures show the emotional and physical hardships suffered by the men on board.

Along the way, perils to be faced included mutinies, executions, shipwrecks and desertions. Scurvy and near starvation, resorting to a diet of rats, sawdust and ox-hide leather, washed down with yellow stinking water, thanks to a four-month stretch at sea. They had to cope with freezing cold and boiling heat. The men were pushed to the limits of human endurance, as shown in exquisite small sculptures of figures suffering extreme weather conditions and exhaustion.

All these extremes are powerfully conveyed, as is the excitement of finding the Indonesian jungle – large video screens with vivid primate and insect sounds offer an immersive experience, along with crafts which they would have found there.

The relative trading value of the goods taken on board ship, and the spice which they brought home to Spain. from the Moluccas The relative trading value of the goods taken on board ship, and the spice which they brought home to Spain.

Magellan was killed in the Philippines, and the ships finally arrived at the Spice Islands in November 1521, filling up with cloves and cinnamon. Eventually only the Victoria returned, captained by Sebastian Elcano, with just 18 survivors of the original crew on boards.

This is one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen in Seville. It uses highly engaging storytelling, with the effective combination of words, images, video and objects – the model ships whose course you can follow from one point to the next, and all the fascinating facts about what was traded, who deserted, and how they crews navigated their way through the perilous, unchartered waters. Families will enjoy the experience, as the multi-media aspect appeals to children, while imparting key historical material in a fun and easily digestible way.

An interesting fact: in 2019, Spain and Portugal made a joint application to UNESCO to honour the circumnavigation route pioneered by Magellan.

El Viaje Mas Largo is on at the Archivo de Indias, Avemida de la Constitution, 41004 Seville (tel 954 500528) until 23 February 2020.

Opening hours: Tues to Sat 9.30-16.45, Sat&Sun 10.00-13.45.

For more information see here.


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Art exhibition in Seville: Jardines del Alcázar

January 17, 2020 – 12:39 am



One of Seville’s most celebrated and loved monuments is the Alcázar, or Royal Palace. If you’ve ever visited, you’ll know that its gardens are heavenly.

Designed to walk around and enjoy, rather than simply to admire, they are dotted with little paths bordered by plants, fountains and tiled seats. You can find plenty of shady spots to sit down and read a book, or just be; scented with herbs and fragrant blooms, they are a wonderfully calming place.

Separate walled areas, patios essentially, were designed for privacy, or perhaps secret assignations; on a practical level, the many pools fed by channels of trickling water provide a cooling effect, a much-needed balm in sweltering southern Spanish summers – a welcome legacy from the Moors, who also revelled in the aesthetic delight of reflections.  And with ttheir myriad flora – more than 180 species – the gardens are heaven for horticulturalists: you can spot tall, elegant palm trees, citrus, fig, almond, agapanthus, jacaranda and many more.

Thanks to all these delightful elements, the gardens are an alluring subject for paintings – indeed, they were a favourite of Sorolla, the Spanish impressionist painter whose work was celebrated in the highly successful exhibition “Spanish Master of Light” at the National Gallery in London this year.

So when an invitation to a group exhibition of paintings of the Alcázar gardens popped up in my inbox last week, I knew it was a must-see.

The paintings are displayed in the arcade around the patio, which gives a feeling of space and light. The paintings are displayed in the arcade around the patio, which gives a feeling of space and light.

The show is being held at the Fundación Valentín de Madariaga, a cultural and social foundation with gallery space which is housed in a delightful building near Parque María Luisa (close to the Casa de la Ciencias); it was originally designed as the USA Pavilion of the 1929 Expo. The foundation has an unusual central patio, asymmetrically shaped, surrounded by an arcaded portico which lends itself perfectly to displaying pictures.


Artist Jill Roland Gosselin with one of her paintings, Artist Jill Roland Gosselin with some of her paintings,

Four artists, three Spanish and one English, are showing their interpretations of these gardens with their stunningly clear light so typical of Seville, which brings the trees, pools and vividly-coloured azulejos (ceramic tiles) into sharp focus.

Jill captures the tones and textures, from a large pool reflecting the ochre wall behind, to the Grutesco Gallery seen in the distance. Jill captures the tones and textures, from pools reflecting warm stone walls and trees, to the Grutesco Gallery seen in the distance.

The English painter, Jill Roland Gosselin, has captured beautifully the shapes and colours of the gardens; stone fountains, tall palm trees, rippled pools backed by a vivid blue sky. You can see definite shades of Sorolla in how she captures the luminous light. Jill has lived, and exhibited, in France, Indonesia and Madagascar.

Miguel Redondo Vazquez's works are more impressionistic. Miguel Redondo’s works are more impressionistic.

The other painters are Pilar Diaz Paniagua, Ricardo de la Fuente and Miguel Redondo: the latter two show their work at the Plaza del Museo art market on Sundays. All the works share the same joyous feeling you get when walking through a magical garden on a sunny day. There are no human figures in most of them, or indeed animals, but they are strong, bright and life-affirming.

Javier has worked as a gardener at the Alcazar for nearly 20 years. Javier has worked as a gardener at the Alcazar for nearly 20 years.

I was fascinated to meet Javier, one of the 20 gardeners who work hard to keep the gardens looking so beautiful. He has been tending the flora – borders, hedges, flowers, trees and more – for 19 years, and his favourite plant is the gingko biloba tree, which turns a spectacular shade of yellow in autumn. Javier admitted that sometimes he’s so absorbed in his job, he forgets how awed visitors are by the gardens – taking friends and family around reminds him of their charms.

Javier’s hot tip for visitors to the gardens is to download the Kleos app, which plays music to match the native country of each plant, for a full synesthetic experience.

Jardines del Alcazar is on at the Fundación Valentín Madariaga until 18 February 2020.   Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10-14 and 17-20- Weekends and holidays, 10-14.

 For more information about the exhibition, see here.



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Two Andalucian cookbooks: Fiona Dunlop and Jose Pizarro

October 12, 2019 – 11:35 pm


Fiona Dunlop's fascinating book looks at the Moorish influences on Andalucian cuisine.

Fiona Dunlop’s fascinating book looks at the Moorish influences on Andalucian cuisine.


In his latest book, London-based restaurateur Jose Pizarro takes us through his favourite dishes from the region.

In his latest book, London-based restaurateur Jose Pizarro takes us through his favourite dishes from the region.


Andaluz: A Food Journey Through Southern Spain by Fiona Dunlop (Interlink)
Andalusia: Recipes form Seville and Beyond by Jose Pizarro (Hardie Grant)

In this post I’m going to look at two recipe books about the gastronomy of this wonderful region.

One is by the ebullient Extremaduran-turned-Londoner restaurateur, Jose Pizarro and the other by travel and food writer Fiona Dunlop.

Fiona’s book follows an interesting format: like her previous work Mexican Modern for which she interviewed top chefs from around Mexico, this sees her travelling around southern Spain talking to 20 cooks and teams behind Michelin-starred establishments, but also from small beachfront restaurants in out-of-the-way towns. She has already written about Spanish food in her book New Tapas.

Dividing up a huge and diverse region – geographically and gastronomically – like Andalucia is always tricky: Fiona opts for east/centre/west: from coastal Almeria across the olive fields and mountains of Jaen, the hills and beaches of Granada, Malaga’s  lesser known inland Axarquia, and on to the plains of Cordoba and Seville, finishing in Cadiz and Huelva, seafood heaven with plenty of pork thrown in.

At the start of each section is her introductory travelogue of the area and its main towns. Of Seville, glorious baroque city in the west, she says: “The city is the heartbeat of wheat fields, olive groves, and vineyards, stretching south to Jerez, while the bucolic Sierra del Norte is plundered for its game, honey and vegetables.”

Some of the stand-out recipes in this book are the wonderfully-named zaramandoña – cod, tomato and red pepper salad, from Nuestra Tierra tapas bar in Almeria; Mozarabic monkfish with a sauce of sweet wine, raisins, and pine nuts from El Faro in Cadiz; and, in the Sierra de Huelva, at the renowned Arrieros restaurant, we find Iberian pork tenderloin with dates in quince and chocolate sauce. A wonderful taste of the Middle East, Iberia and American cultures in just a few Spanish dishes.

But what makes this cookbook really buzz for me is the first section, on the Moorish period of Andalucía, when the region was ruled by Arabs and Berbers from North Africa for eight centuries, reaching its peak during the Caliphate city of Córdoba. Fiona explains how strongly their cuisine and agriculture influenced the local customs and dishes: citrus fruit, rice, figs, chickpeas, almonds. pine-nuts, saffron and many more products were all brought across the Mediterranean.

Fiona tells us about the 10th-century musician Ziryab, who brought the idea of the three-course meal to the Caliphate: salad or soup, followed by fish, fowl and vegetables, and finally fruit and nuts to “close the stomach”; he also pioneered escabeche, the pickle-marinade so beloved in today’s Andalucia.

All this gives a clear and detailed context to the recipes which follow; additionally,, as someone who lives part-time in Andalucia, Fiona also explains that it’s a personal venture for her: “this book, in search of Al-Andalus through its culinary legacy, is my ode to the entire region – its momentous past, its bewitching landscapes, and its charming, garrulous, truly egalitarian, often surreal, and ever generous-hearted people…”

What the reader gets is an extremely palatable mix of history, travel and food. Taste Andalucia’s past through the recipes, and explore its hidden corners with this entertaining and erudite writer.


Originally from Extremadura, the region just to the north-west of Andalucia, Jose Pizarro is a restaurateur with three restaurants in south-east London and the City, and a pub in Surrey.

He has already published books on Basque Country and Catalan cuisine, and in this volume we get the full gamut of Andalucian cooking, with its extraordinary range of local ingredients thanks to the fertile soil and bountiful seas.

Divided into four sections – meat, fish, vegetables and desserts – each recipe has a short introduction peppered with anecdotes of people he’s met and dishes he’s served in his restaurants, like salmorejo with smoked sardines, “At Pizarro… it was a big success.”

There is a good balance between today’s ubiquitous favourites – tuna tartare, with which he explains about the ancient almadraba tuna-fishing system – and much-loved classics which are less familiar to a foreign audience, like pan de higo (fig bread). Simple yet tasty options which showcase typical local ingredients – salad of mojama (dried tuna) and pickled apple, or papas aliñas – potatoes with peppers, onions and vinegar, as served in Bodeguita Romero in Seville.

The Moorish element is also present in Jose’s book, with Moorish wild boar stew, an aromatic feast of meat with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, raisins, chocolate and orange. From Jose’s personal reference, we have his mother Isabel’s pork ribs, with wine, oregano, garlic and lemon. We learn about techniques for the famous sardines cooked on a long wooden stick, at a restaurant in Sanlucar de Barrameda: “Baldonero used olive and oak wood for the fire. The sardines are cooked as they are with no extra oil, and you can tell they are done when their eyes turn white. This is absolutely the healthiest way to eat fish.”

The desserts section is as comprehensive as I‘ve seen in a cookbook on Andalucian food: from gañotes (fried honey pastries) made by Franciscan nuns in Ronda, to marmalade soufflé puddings by Jeannie Chesterton, a Scottish chef who runs a gourmet b&b in deepest rural Sierra de Huelva. One simple but little-known classic is the torta de aceite, a thin, crispy olive oil biscuit which dates back centures. Commercial versions come flavoured with orange or cinnamon, but he uses fennel seeds.

I’d recommend both of these books as Christmas presents for lovers of tapas both traditional and contemporary. Each has its own list of recommended restaurants in the major cities and beyond, as well as mouth-watering food photography and atmospheric shots of villages and dramatic landscapes. Buen provecho!


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World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit 2019 in Seville

April 16, 2019 – 12:51 pm
Barack Obama was the main speaker at the WTTC Global Summit in Seville.Barack Obama was the main speaker at the WTTC Global Summit in Seville.

Every year, the travel and tourism industry gets together in a different city to meet, catch up, discuss the major issues of the day, and hear about new developments. The event is so important within the sector that it’s known as “the Davos of tourism”.

This year, the 19th edition of the conference, which is called the Global Summit, was held in Seville on 2-4 April. The theme was Changemakers, referring largely to environmental and social initiatives, from sustainable tourism to reducing waste.

High-profile speakers

Fibes Conference and Exhibition Centre was the venue for speakers such as the First Lady of Kenya, the Spanish Prime Minster, the former president of Mexico, as well as CEOs of many top travel and tourism companies, such as TUI and Hilton.

The high-profile nature of one guest speaker in particular, the 44th president of the United States, ensured that world attention was focussed on the event, and on Seville, during the first week of April. Obama’s arrival in Seville was covered feverishly in the local media, from what time he would arrive, to where he would stay, and what he would eat.

The former POTUS elected to stay at the Alfonso XIII, Seville’s most celebrated hotel, with regal connections and a litany of past celebrity guests, from Grace Kelly to Tom Cruise.

Tourism boom

The conference kicked off with the presentation of WTTC’s annual report into the economic impact of global tourism: over 300 million people employed in the sector – or one in ten on the planet. Over the next 10 years, 1 in 4 new jobs created (100 million in total) will be in tourism.

In Spain specifically, 14.7% of jobs are in the travel and tourism sector, with over 600,000 new jobs created over the past year, and the industry seeing 2.4% growth (WTTC Economic Impact Research February 2019).

<br /><br />
Telefonica CEO Jose Maria Alvarez Pallete, talked about how technology is set to transform travel.Telefonica CEO Jose Maria Alvarez Pallete, talked about how technology is set to transform travel.

Looking to the future

Many of the speakers in the Wednesday session “The Future Is…” , including Telefonica CEO Jose Maria Alvarez Pallete, and Gloria Guevara, CEO of WTTC, talked about how technology is set to transform travel over the next few years, using biometrics (such as face-scanning) to speed up passport controls. They also referred to driverless cars and drones to bring your luggage, although I think those developments are further ahead.

Alvarez Pallete explained that in emerging economies, 57% of people will be aided by tourism by 2030 – up from 45% today – everyone involved from guides, to people selling goods from a stall. He also mentioned that the benefits of tourism should be spread among small and medium-sized businesses, which need to be digitised so they can be included in growth.

Closer to today’s reality are the concept of personalised experiences, and virtual reality to transport visitors to historical sites back in time (such as Past View, an innovative and successful concept from a Seville-based company). In addition, the advent of 5G digital cellular networks (at least 200Mbps) will speed up communication.

Pedro Sanchez mentioned that Spain received 83 million visitors in 2018.Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez mentioned that Spain received 83 million visitors in 2018.

Spain and tourism

In his speech, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez mentioned that Spain received 83 million visitors in 2018; it is an open and tolerant society, he said, and tourism is a way of tackling intolerance. He also emphasised the importance of diversifying destinations, saying that rural tourism has huge potential for growth, and can help in the fight against depopulation. Sanchez pointed out that the treasures of Spain’s interior which are worth discovering.

The PM stated that the Spanish are open people with a constant capacity to surprise. He said that tourism is a way of understanding the world, and that tourism creates a meeting between cultures, a mixed society with mutual respect, more important than ever to prevent walls from being built.

 Seville Mayor Juan Espadas said Seville needs more 5* hotels of the calibre of the landmark Alfonso XIII.Seville Mayor Juan Espadas said Seville needs more 5* hotels of the calibre of the Alfonso XIII.

Seville’s stock as a destination rises

Speaking about the impact of the conference on the city, Seville Mayor Juan Espadas said that Seville needs more five-star hotels of the calibre of the landmark Alfonso XIII.

During the summit, Hilton announced it would be opening new establishments in the city, including a five-star GL, and Room Mate also said it was searching for a suitable property. Another exciting development for Seville meetings with Emirates and Delta airlines to try and set up direct flights to the city from Miami and New York.

Obama’s travel tales

The former President thrilled the crowd (he was greeted with an ovation before even speaking) by talking about his own travel experiences. He revealed that, for him, travelling with his daughters was the most rewarding experience: “When you’re able to watch that sense of discovery in your children’s eyes, that’s more special than anything else.”

Obama recalled a trip to Europe in his mid-20s, which he described as a memorable part of his own self-discovery. On a bus journey from Madrid to Barcelona, he befriended a fellow traveller – Obama spoke no Spanish, and the Spaniard no English, yet they shared bread, wine and companionship during the trip.

He talked about the insecurity currently felt by many people due to situations such as Brexit and populism in continental Europe. Obama stressed that one of the benefits of travel was to remind us of our diversity and differences. “Part of diplomacy is letting other people know that you recognize them. That you appreciate their culture and stories and history and memories,” said Obama, who made a point of visiting cultural sires while has was president.

“Malia and Sasha [Obama’s daughters ] want experiences. They like room service and spas, but what really excites them is being able to feel they’re interacting with a new culture – meeting people; the music, the food. So this industry needs to figure out how to capture the energy and vibrancy of young people.”

Fiona Watson Flores reporting on the WTTC Global Summit Spain 2019 in Seville.Fiona Watson Flores reporting on the WTTC Global Summit 2019 in Seville.

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Murillo – the biggest show for 30 years

February 1, 2019 – 11:33 am
Año Murillo

Seville celebrated the 400th anniversary of Murillo’s birth with a full programme of events, of which this is the last.

After a year of celebrations in Seville to commemorate 400 years since the birth of the Golden Age painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo, with exhibitions, films, theatre and concerts, the final event is a major exhibition at the Museo de Bellas Artes.

Murillo IV Centenario brings together an extraordinary collection of his paintings loaned from top museums all over the world: the Frick in New York, which hosted its own exhibition last year, subsequently at London’s National Gallery; the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; the Met; the Prado; the Louvre; and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.

The exhibition is themed in eight small rooms, which is a palatable and accessible way to approach this great baroque artist’s work. His subjects are largely religious, with many of the 55 paintings featuring either the Holy Family or saints.

Murillo IV Centenary is the most important show of the artist in over 30 years.

Murillo IV Centenary is the most important show of the artist in over 30 years.

Murillo is very much of Seville, and is deeply loved for it; he only travelled to Madrid, otherwise living in the city all his life, although he was influenced by Italian and Flemish painters. Velazquez, born in Seville, did not stay here, and is consequently held in lower popular esteem than his fellow artist.

Murillo’s Inmaculadas (images of the Virgin Mary) are familiar to all Sevillanos, as ideals of the beauty and spirituality which are part of the cult of Maria in these parts. The political-religious context is important for understanding and appreciating Murillo – these works were the Catholic church’s reposte to the Reformation in 17th-century northern Europe, which attacked Catholicism for its corruption.

Think of them as visual propaganda – the larger paintings were commissioned by churches and convents, designed to arouse the emotions of the faithful, convincing them that Catholicism was the one true religion. Copies of these works can be seen in basilicas in Central and South America, where they were used centuries ago to convert the hapless locals by colonialist rulers. Murillo was a genius at communication: his humans looked convincingly real, flesh and blood like their viewers – they are soft and approachable, both in content and style. Technically, his depiction of fabrics is superb, with all their folds and subtle tones.

Virgin and Child. National Gallery of Ancient Art, Palazzo Barberini y Galleria Corsini, Rome

Virgin and Child. National Gallery of Ancient Art, Palazzo Barberini y Galleria Corsini, Rome

The Virgin Mary is depicted as a loving mother with her plump, cute baby Jesus in such works as Virgin and Child. We see the closeness of the relationship between mother and son; her white gown signifies purity, while the blue cloak mean eternity. The lighting is exquisite, with the Mary and Jesus bathed and illuminated in a warm glow.

Murillo was an artist who wore rose-tinted glasses. When he was in his 30s, the plague struck Seville (as depicted in last year’s Spanish TV series, La Peste) and three of his 11 children died. Yet he never shows any sad or ill people in any of his paintings – even those of poor, scruffy street children in the later rooms of this exhibition look well-fed. However even the fact that he painted such scenes of social reality was in itself unusual; these were usually commissioned by Flemish merchants, rather than Spanish patrons.

The Marriage Feast at Cana. About 1669-1673 The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

The Marriage Feast at Cana. About 1669-1673 The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham.

Two of the most impressive works are in the Storyteller room: The Marriage Feast of Cana, scene of the first miracle, with its large vessels containing the water turned into wine, and The Adoration of the Magi, where the three kings represent three ages, and three continents: old European, middle-aged Asian/Arabic, and young African. Study the faces – their interactions are drawn with extraordinary skill, each figure showing its own emotions and attitudes.

Four Figures on a Step. About 1655-1660. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Four Figures on a Step. About 1655-1660. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

In Genre Paintings, the work whose detail is used on the poster, of the lady wearing spectacles, is the subject of heated debate in the art world. Just who are these strange characters in Four Figures on a Step? Actors? Prostitutes? A family? What are they looking at? Why are the boy’s trousers torn? Other paintings in this section depict young boys living outside the city walls, playing together. They’re probably orphans from the plague, trying to survive as best they can.

It is hard to overstate how influential many of these paintings were on artists that followed, especially the Inmaculadas. whose iconography played a key role in the church and its religious fervour. At an exhibition last year, Murillo and his Legacy in Seville, many copies of his work could be seen.

There’s no audio guide, but a handy little booklet (in English or Spanish) explains each painting. Family activities for this exhibition, available at weekends, feature a pack of cards with details to spot in various paintings – great to absorb kids’ attention, and even better if there’s a group of them who can compete to spot the object, animal or person in question first. watch out for the statue of Murillo outside the museum, in the Plaza de Museo.

Murillo IV Centenario is at the Museo Bellas Artes until 17 March 2019. You can see the guide to the exhibition here. A guided tour, available for groups in English as well as Spanish, is highly recommended for a greater understanding of the works and their context.

Read the biography of Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) on

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First Michelin stars for Jerez and Jaén, and three-star chef Dani Garcia makes shock announcement

December 19, 2018 – 1:08 pm


Guia Michelin España Portugal 2019 - Dani Garcia.

Guia Michelin España Portugal 2019 – Dani Garcia.

Jerez and Jaén each now has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Lú Cocina y Alma and Bagá respectively. Both have exciting tasting menus, offering largely local, seasonal produce prepared and presented innovatively as you’d expect.


Lú Cocina y Alma, Jerez


Juanlu, the chef-owner of LU in Jerez, uses traditional French sauces in his dishes.

Juanlu, the chef-owner of LU in Jerez, uses traditional French sauces in his dishes.

Lú is the brainchild of Juanlu Fernández, who previously worked as Angel León’s head chef at three-Michelin-star Aponiente for ten years.

The restaurant only opened in December last year, but soon gained a reputation for quality and flair. He is an aficionado of French cooking, particularly the sauces of Escoffier such as bechamel and hollandaise – one of his dishes is squid with hollandaise of its own ink, while another is Bresse duck in perigourdine sauce.

Diners can choose to pair their meal with selected wines, which naturally include some Sherries.


Bagá, Jaén


Bagá is an intimate restaurant in Jaén.
Bagá is an intimate restaurant in Jaén.


Bagá, located in the San Ildefonso barrio of Jaén, seats just 15 diners and is named after the Arabic word for the flower of the olive tree. This is apt for a restaurant in the capital city of a province whose economy is based around the fruit.

Chef-owner Pedrito Sanchez Jaén works in a minimal kitchen space measuring 6m2, equipped only with an induction plaque, a microwave and a Thermomix. Previously he worked with Dani Garcia, who this year earned his third Michelin star for the eponymous restaurant in Hotel Puente Romano.

Pedrito is keen for his clients, especially those who choose to eat sitting at the restaurant’s small bar, to have a direct connection with the kitchen staff.

Dishes at Bagá include kidney of mild-fed kid with caviar, and gazpachuelo of sea anenomes, with many featuring the local “liquid gold”, as olive oil is known.


Dani Garcia, Marbella


Dani Garcia closes its doors for good.
Dani Garcia will close its doors for good in October 2019.


On 18 December, Dani Garcia announced to his staff, and then communicated to the wider public using a video of this meeting published on Instagram, that on 22 October 2019 he would be closing his restaurant in the Hotel Puente Romano. His shocking and completely unexpected decision came 22 days after winning his third Michelin star.

The gourmet alta cocina restaurant will reopen as a steak house serving burgers costing 15-20 euros shortly afterwards, part of Dani’s commitment to quality cuisine for all audiences and budgets, and to raise the level of the mid-range restaurant sector.

In an interview with La Vanguardia, 42-year-old Dani described the high emotion of winning his third star: “You already know that you will never taste a better flavour than that one, because you will not win three stars for the first time in your life.”

On opening more Michelin-star restaurants: “I do not see myself replicating Michelin star restaurants; I don’t imagine myself giving everything I’ve got to have another restaurant with the highest score, at least in the next eight years. I prefer to focus my life on something else, because the taste of the three stars is going to stay there all my life and it is without a doubt the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me in my professional career.”

On other future plans: “We need to create a couple of other concepts which I think would work, one of meat, and the other of tapas for 20 euros, as well as continuing to grow the Bibo formula. Next year we will open in Qatar, and we have exciting possibilities of opening in other places too: London, Dubai, and Barcelona – I’d love that.”

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Breaking the silence

November 14, 2018 – 8:28 am


The film is released in Spain on 16 November, and has been shown at various film festivals around Europe.
The film is released in Spain on 16 November, and has been shown at various film festivals around Europe and beyond.
Maria leaves flowers for her mother, killed under Franco's dictatorship.
Maria leaves flowers for her mother, killed under Franco’s dictatorship.


The Seville Film Festival, which is on until 17 November, always offers a broad range of movies, from drama to documentary, shorts to animation.

The films shown in this festival, now in its 15th year, do not shy away from difficult subjects, and a good example from this year’s programme of a film which tackles sensitive territory is El Silencio de Otros.

The documentary, which has already won two awards at the Berlin Film Festival, and is nominated for an EFA (European Film Award), follows a group of brave and determined people who are seeking justice for crimes committed under General Franco’s dictatorship. It was filmed over a six-year period, and is directed by Spanish filmmaker Almudena Carracedo and her American partner Robert Bahr.

Under Spain’s 1977 Amnesty Law, which included a “Pact of Forgetting” (Pacto de Olvido), you cannot bring a prosecution in Spain for a crime committed during those 40-odd years. So the group, which starts off as a few people and finishes with over 300, takes its lawsuit to Argentina, under “universal jurisdiction”, whereby a national court may prosecute individuals for any serious crime against international law, regardless of where the alleged crime was committed, and regardless of the accused’s nationality or country of residence.

If that makes the film sound dry, it’s anything but – however it’s essential to understand the context for the fight being waged by this group of Spaniards, undertaken an Argentinian judge. The case started in 2010 and is still ongoing.

The human aspect is what carries such a powerful impact in this film. Elderly Maria, dressed in her simple black dress, leaves flowers by the road in memory of her mother, killed by Falangists in her town when she was a small girl. Faustina, Maria’s mother, is buried in a mass grave, and Maria wants to inter her properly in a Christian graveyard. Maria’s voice is a hoarse whisper, yet her force of spirit as she stares at the camera is unmistakeable; around her neck she wears a necklace with a photo of her beloved mother.

Chato Galante sits in the cell where he was imprisoned for seven years on charges of “illicit propaganda and illegal association” at the end of the dictatorship. While incarcerated, Chato was beaten and tortured by a policeman, he claims, who still lives 10 minutes away from him in Madrid, and who has never been charged.

Another woman speaks of how she was told her baby had died, after she gave birth as a single mother in Le Linea de la Concepcion. The stolen babies scandal  is thought to have affected at least 200,000 mothers from the 1940s to the 1980s (systems set up under Franco continued after his death), with some estimates as high as 300,000.

These stories are told honestly and plainly, with painfully raw emotion, yet without falling into sentimentality or mawkishness – a remarkable feat.

Each of the victims and survivors – still traumatized by events that took place decades ago, but keen to seek justice, desperate to find their relatives’ remains, or bring their aggressor to account – represents thousands more who are in the same situation, but haven’t yet started the painful and difficult process, due to not wanting to open old wounds, or to cause conflict within their own family. It is thought that 100,000 bodies still lie in unmarked mass graves around Spain.

They haven’t dared speak out until now, as the fear that accompanied life under a dictator is not easily forgotten. As the Argentinian judge, Maria Servini de Cubria, was quoted in an interview, “What you see is people’s fear and terror of giving testimony. Sometimes they want to omit names, or they won’t provide details of the circumstances in which the events took place.” So far, no prosecutions in this case with 311 plaintiffs, known as the Querella Argentina, have been brought.

This is a film with a clear agenda, an aim – to “break the silence”: crimes were committed on a astonishingly widespread scale, with total impunity. Few people outside of Spain are aware of the depth and extent of Spain’s murky past, until now ignored or forgotten, yet still a source of terrible suffering for so many.

Since the film was made, the enquiry has been broadened to include further offences committed during the Franco era, such as sexual assault and forced abortion. Another recent development is that Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist party is now in government, and it is thought that under the Historical Memory law – introduced in 2007 by Sanchez’s fellow socialist Zapatero in order to help locate missing bodies among other processes, but ignored by the subsequent Rajoy administration – the group may have more success, especially in tracing the remains of victims.

For anyone with an interest in Spain’s recent past, this is a fascinating and moving account of a painstaking and tremendously difficult search for justice. However readers should be aware that the past remains a highly divisive issue in Spain, and should be approached with extreme caution when talking to Spaniards.

El Silencio de Otros is on general release in Spain from Friday 16 November.


UPDATE 19/12/18: The film has been included in the Academy Awards shortlist for Best Documentary Feature . The next stage for the 15 documentaries which have been shortlisted, out of 166 entries, is the Oscar nominations – these will be announced on 22 January 2019.




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New guide to film and TV locations in Andalucia, including BBC 4’s The Plague

September 8, 2018 – 3:10 pm

Film Tours 1

Andalucia has long been a favoured location for TV and film productions, thanks to its wide-ranging landscapes, from mountains and beaches to desert, notably HBO’s hugely successful series Game of Thrones. Scenes from the medieval fantasy series’s seventh and final season were shot at Roman site Italica, near Seville earlier this year, and will be aired in 2019.

Film Route 2

In addition, legendary movie heroes such as James Bond and Indiana Jones were seen diving, riding or flying across Andalucian coasts and landscapes. Many spaghetti westerns were shot in the Almeria desert – The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, For a Fistful of Dollars and other classics.

A new website,, takes you around the region, with its vastly varying scenery, to visit locations of films from STar Wars prequel Attack of the Clones to 1492: Conquest of Paradise (about Columbus’s discovery of the New World).

The website is available in English, Spanish and German.

You can search using three criteria: by route (by theme, movie, TV series, or type of location such as beach), by film (over 100 of them), or by Andalucia’s eight provinces.

You can even find out which films made in Andalucia were nominated for, and won, Oscars – examples include grand-scale epics like Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

In addition, filming anecdotes offer interesting titbits about various stars including Peter O’Toole (partying hard), 007 Pierce Brosnan (huge tortillitas de camarones fan) and GoT‘s Daenerys, Emilia Clarke (birthday party in Osuna complete with Targaryen cake).

One of the most recent TV series featured is La Peste, which was aired in Spain earlier this year.

This exciting murder-mystery drama, set in 16th-century Seville ravaged by bubonic plague, is now available to UK viewers on BBC 4 as The Plague. If you missed the first two episodes shown last week, you can now watch them on the BBC iPlayer.

Watch a trailer here (in Spanish).



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First-ever Facebook guide – to Seville!

June 18, 2018 – 11:07 pm



Written by Sevillanos, the guide covers places to eat, listen to live music, and see the city as enjoyed by locals.

Written by Sevillanos, the guide covers places to eat, listen to live music, and see the city as enjoyed by locals.


Last week, the first-ever guidebook compiled using content provided by Facebook users was launched.

The 52-page guidebook to Seville features places for tapas, dancing swing and tango, and hunting ghosts, all suggested by more than 20 Sevillano Facebook communities and pages. Interestingly, the branding is fairly discreet, with just one logo on the introduction page, as well as wide use of the corporate blue.

It is divided into six sections: Gastronomia; Musica; Libros, Poesia y Recitales; Rincones; Una Sevilla Desconocida; and Naturaleza (Gastronomy; Music; Books, Poetry and Recitals; Corners; Unknown Seville; and Nature).

The introduction says (translated from the Spanish): “With this guide, we wanted to show Seville as seen by its own people, through the communities which exist in various areas of the city. Groups created by Sevillanos who use Facebook to connect through common interests and causes, or to meet up and see each other in person… The cultural richness of Seville is reflected in the communities which have participated in this guide, bringing their vision and advice so that anyone can discover a city with many interesting traditions, but also modern and innovative, and constantly changing…”

At the launch, I spoke to one of the sources of tapas bar suggestions, Chencho Cubiles of the eponymous Facebook page De Tapas Con Chencho. His 13 picks range from simple restaurants which only open at lunch time, serving typical local dishes, to the latest fusion joints, as well as non-Spanish cuisine, including Mexican and Japanese. How did he pick them from the huge choice available? “These are the places which I love eating at – my own favourites,” he says.

The music section of the guide covers a wide range of genres, from rock and roll, with suggestions for live music venues, bars and festivals, offered by the Facebook group Rock Sevillano, to jazz, plus dance – salsa, tango and swing.

One of the most interesting sections, for those wishing to venture off the beaten tourist path, is the one on the Macarena barrio, compiled by the Associacion de Comerciantes Macarena Facebook page. This mentions some fabulous medieval churches, flamenco peñas (clubs) and shops, in this area to the north-west of the city centre, straddling the ring road which marks where the old city walls once stood.

Another quirky, off-the-beaten-track section is Haunted Seville, by the Facebook group Sevilla Ghost; dare to enter a church crypt which hides a pantheon of famous Sevillanos, or an abandoned American military hospital.

Below is a video of the launch, featuring some of the contributors, as shown on Andalucia Directo TV programme.

You can see the online version of the guide here.





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Murillo moves to the street

May 4, 2018 – 8:12 pm Murillo, Seville The programme has theatre and music performances in Seville from May to November 2018.

After two major art exhibitions, showing both his paintings and those which were influenced by him, the celebrations for Año Murillo - the 400th anniversary of Seville’s most famous painter – are changing gear.

From this month, you can see and hear parallel events themed around Murillo and his historic period en la calle – music, theatre and literature in the street.

On weekends in May, you can see a series of performances of Tras las Muellas de Murillo which recreate “Sevilla de Ultramar” – the city which was both the port and the gateway to, the New World, at the economic and commercial centre of what was then the world’s most important empire. Audiences will hear texts of great Golden Age writers such as Cervantes and Lope de Vega.

Theatrical groups, with musical accompaniment, will recreate the atmosphere of 17th-century Seville. They will take place in outdoor locations such as Plaza del Cabildo and Plaza de la Contratacion, both close to the cathedral, as well as Casa de la Moneda close to Puerta de Jerez, and also at the Hospital de la Caridad in the Arenal area, between 11am and 2pm on Saturdays and 11.30am and 2.30pm on Sundays. These are free of charge.

In June and July (6 June to 28 July), from Wednesday to Saturday, you’ll be able to see Los Niños de Murillo a performance which combines live art, dance, lighting and video to present the other side of Murillo. Apart from his religious paintings, which show the Virgin and child, and saints, Murillo also painted street children – cheeky rascals sharing a snack or playing with dice. These images will be projected onto the Torre de Don Fadrique, a historic tower in the Convent of Santa Clara.

With a break in August and most of September, from 28 September to 9 November, you can see Romances de las Niñas de Murillo, starting in the Antiquarium. Murillo will be serenaded by girls singing old ÇSpanish romantic and folk songs, recalling Moorish stories, frontier wars and long-distance loves.

For more information, including exact timings, see here.


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