PRESS SECTION - The Arbuturian Seville November 2012
Seven Days in Andalucia
November 4, 2012 Article by Tom Leahy
I don’t know if there is a Spanish version of that well-worn phrase La France profonde, but if there is you could happily apply it to Andalucia. For here you will find all that is good and bad about modern Spain. There are the high-rise beachfront monstrosities of the Costa del Sol – a legacy of the building boom fuelled by the bankrupt banks. But there is also the beautiful white-washed hill towns of the interior; the pueblo blancos, the thrilling romance of Seville, the wild Atlantic coast of the Costa de la Luz, and the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. And then there is the food. Oh, the food. They might say it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive, but, reader, I travelled hopefully, I arrived and I ate my fill.
Just seven days isn’t enough to do justice to Andalucia’s numerous and undoubted charms, so priorities must be identified and incorporated into a suitable itinerary. For me, that meant splitting the little time I had into four days in Seville, followed by three in Vejer de la Frontera, a charming pueblo blanco, fifteen minutes drive from some of the nicest beaches on the Costa de la Luz.
Where to stay though? Ignoring what De La Soul might have had to say on the subject of magic numbers, travellers whose trips echo mine might be well advised to put their chips on lucky number seven instead. Why, I hear you ask? Well, in Seville I had the pleasure of staying at Casa Numero 7. A boutique hotel tucked away on the edge of the Barrio Santa Cruz, owned by an anglophile member of the Spanish aristocracy from nearby Jerez, one enviously-named Gonzalo del Río y González-Gordon. Meanwhile, in Vejer de la Frontera, I was lucky enough to bag one of the four rooms and two of the seven balconies at Siete Balcones (y un Patio), a beautifully artistic retreat nestled in the winding alleyways of this hilltop hideaway.
Seville is not the most obvious of places to find a hotel that has been designed as an homage to the English country house but, ignoring the blue skies, 35 degree heat and hum of the air-conditioning unit, you could confuse a stay at Casa Numero 7 with one at a smart friend’s pad somewhere in the Hampshire countryside.
Our comfortable room was decorated with patriotic prints (a bulldog putting the wind up three poodles, for one) and sketches of English country houses; the breakfast room was attended upon by a white-gloved waiter who served plates of eggs and bacon; and the sitting, or should I say ‘drawing’ room boasted crystal decanters of whisky, back copies of Country Life and pictures of Senor del Rio y González-Gordon meeting a variety of luminaries, including the Prince of Wales. Casa Numero 7 is not a place for those who wish to be fawned over, but as a quietly comfortable, stylish and discreet base from which to explore Seville’s many attractions, it can’t really be bettered.
What of those attractions? The Cathedral, la Giralda and Alcazar are ‘must-sees’, the Alcazar especially so, but to my mind it is the food and drink which is Seville’s real trump card. Good tapas bars, great tapas bars and the odd crap tapas bar, they are all there to be tasted and explored. Clichéd perhaps, but it is here you find the ‘real’ Seville: old, young, local, tourist, all clamouring for food, drink and a good time.
Plates of jamon iberico de bellota and bowls of chilled salmorejo at Vineria San Telmo; tender pig’s cheeks and fresh, locally caught tuna from La Azotea; and glasses of crisp Manzanilla or Fino everywhere you go. My highlight though was the prenga at Bodeguita Romero: shredded roast pork, a smear of morcilla (Spanish black pudding) and a little bit of chopped chorizo all served in a small, crisp bread roll. Sounds modest, tasted anything but. Ideally you would consume it leaning nonchalantly against the bar, shooting the breeze with your friendly host – prenga in one hand, cold beer in the other.
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