Living in Seville does funny things to you. Only a few years ago, I thought nothing of trudging from one side of London´s epic proportions to the other, just to hang out with my friends for a couple of hours. And then to get back home it was often a matter of loitering at bus stops in the early hours with the drunken masses, as my extremities gradually fell victim to frostbite.
But living in what often feels like a giant village, has brought out the sloth in me, in that getting me to venture further afield than my immediate neighbourhood requires some serious convincing. Before my barrio was the Alameda, and I genuinely thought that I wanted for nothing. Until that is, I moved to the Macarena.
The Macarena for me is Spain as I dreamt it to be all those years living back in my homeland, where I nostalgically recalled my formative days of living in Madrid. There, I had revelled in the old fashioned, quaint corners of Spanish life, with its brightly lit bars filled with old, gavel-voiced men smoking Ducados, perched elbow to elbow with fur-coated ´Señoras´ having their afternoon aperativo. I couldn´t get enough of the dusty, narrow shops selling passion killing corsets, bras and winceyette nighties, fit only for a matronly ´abuela´. Each time I pushed my trolley up the florescent aisles in the overpriced British supermarkets, I couldn´t help but reminisce about my local fruit and vegetable shop back in Madrid, packed with its tantalising array of fresh, seasonal delights.
The Macarena is not the Seville promoted in the guide books.There are no moorish, narrow streets, plazas are surrounded by busy traffic and there´s more dog poo than one should like to find on the streets of a modern European city. But it´s got charm in spades, charm in the sense that it´s not contrived in any way, there´s no sign of gentrification and it´s like a land that time forgot. That´s not to say it´s a sleepy suburb. The residents of the Macarena love being out and about of an evenings as much as your next Sevillano in the city, if not more so. On a warm spring or summer evening, every bar has a pavement terrace teaming with multi-generations of famililes, chattting animatedly (feel free to insert shouting here) about Semana Santa, La Feria, First Holy Communions or a baptism they´ve got in the offing. This is real Seville life, unsanitised for guiri tastes and if you´re brave enough to venture out of the city walls, it´s there for your enjoyment.
So here´s my run down of the best of the Macarena, or at least the part between Avenida de Cruz Roja and Leon XIII.
A hop, skip and a jump from my house is Desavío la Pará, a corner shop like no other. Most convenience stores these days have become the domain of the chinese supermarket, with most other shops maintaining the fairly limited Spanish opening hours. But Desavío la Pará opens early and shuts late and caters to all your last minute ´oh shit I´ve just run out of whatever´… needs. Opened about a year ago by Nati and Ale, they also offer delicious home cooked take away food, prepared by Nati´s fair hands, which on many occasion feeling utterly uninspired by the contents of my fridge, has saved the day with some homemade Spinach and chickpeas, ensaladilla or fish stew. Nati will also cook dishes to order, such as a kick ass, giant spanish omlette. I often just love going in there for a chat and a warmer, more down to earth reception, you´ll be hard pressed to find.
Desavío la Pará, Avenida de Cruz Roja, 36
Food comes pretty high up on my list of choice things to do in the Macarena, and there are two excellent tapas bars in close proximity to the Avenida Cruz Roja. Bar Yebra is a Seville classic, it´s somewhere that the local middle classes come to feast on fish, seafood and meat dishes, served in delicious sauces and with professional table service. A bit more down to earth, and easier on the pocket is Blanco Cerrillo, further down the Avenue by Santander Bank, whose stand out dish is the Boquerones en Adobo, but they also have a wide menu to suit all tastes including something for vegetarians.
Bar Yebra, Calle Medalle Milagrosa 3 http://www.yebrarestauracion.com/
Blanco Cerrillo, Calle Doctor Jimenez Diaz 16 (off Cruz Roja)
If you want to try something other than tapas, the guys from cool hangout ´La Bicicleteria´ opened about a year ago ´Con las manos en la masa´, a teeny tiny pizza joint on Calle Leon XIII, that I walked past a million times before I could find it, it´s that small. But they have a proper pizza oven and homemade pizza to die for, and a homely, yet cool atmosphere. While on the Italian themed front, the Macarena boasts one of the best ´Heladerias´ (ice cream parlours) in Seville. Heladería Villar is one of the central meeting points on Cruz Roja and is heaving at most times, but particularly on a Sunday afternoon or any infernally hot summer´s evening. Make sure you grab a numbered ticket to know when it´s your turn, and then choose from the wide selection of homemade flavours on offer. But keep your hands of the dark cherry flavour, because that´s mine!
Con las manos en la Masa, Calle Leon XIII 9
Heladería Villar, Avenida de la Cruz Roja 74
You can tell alot about an area by the variety of shops on offer, and based on the dizzyingly high number of fruit and vegetable shops, I have surmised that the Macarena more than fulfills its 5 a day quota. There are a staggeringly high number of fruterias, all packed with vibrantly coloured seasonal produce. Being someone who tries to lay my hands on local organic produce, my personal fruteria of choice is ´Las Comadres´ on Calle Leon XIII. It´s a shop to suit all tastes and budgets, if you just want your bog standard chemically enhanced veggies, they´ve got it, but if you want to go pesticide free, then they´ve got a bountiful supply of organic fruit and veg, plus pulses, oil, rice, pasta, eggs, bread and all at affordable prices.
Las Comadres, Calle Leon XIII 61 http://www.lascomadres.es/
And on the healthy living front, the Macarena has more than it´s quota of health shops selling natural medicines, supplements, beauty products and health foods. They´re normally called ´Parafarmacias´ or ´Herbolarias´. Ones of note are ´Parafarmacia Aloe Vera´ on Leon XIII where Enrique the owner is both a traditional pharmacist and expert in plant medicine and ´Centro Dietético del Sur´ on Avenida de Miraflores that cater to all the needs of those looking for natural options or who have allergies or intolerances.
Parafarmacia Aloe Vera, Calle Leon XIII 35
Centro Dietético del Sur, Avenida de Miraflores 40
So there you have it, my homage to the Macarena is complete. Be brave, and come try out some real barrio life. You might quite like it and never go back.