We promise to uncover those hidden corners of Seville that even the locals don't know about. From the cool to the cutre, if it's here it's because it has touched our hearts. And we hope it will do the same for you.
Nine months ago I was considering moving to Barcelona. My head was turned after a trip to visit fellow Espanophile Raj, who like me had gone back to the bosom of Iberia after years slogging away in the English speaking world. The moment I arrived, the city seemed to offer everything Sevilla lacked; cultural diversity, cool cafes with cared about interiors, salty sea air, a paseo marítimo to stroll along and most memorably the best Mojitos I´d sampled in my life.
But on return, Sevilla firmly said ‘no, it’s not your time to leave’, and so stay I did, and this past weekend affirmed why I’ve made the right decision. As it happens, it was Raj’s turn to come south and dust off his Spanish which these rarely gets an outing. His trip coincided with the annual Noche en Blanco, in which cultural spaces open themselves up to the public until the early hours.
A night of culture needs a well lined stomach, and in my new hood the Macarena I barely need to walk twenty paces before I reach ‘Yebra’, one of the most well thought of eating establishments in the barrio. This isn’t a place to tapear (eat tapas), but don’t let this deter you as it dishes out a wide range of ‘raciones’ that while heavy on the meat quota, also have plenty for the fish and seafood lover, if not the die hard vegetarian. So after our tasty treats of Huevas with garlic prawns followed by bacalao, we headed off to check out the new Corralón on the block ´Rompemoldes´ on Calle San Luis.
Corralónes traditionally have been the home to artisans honing their crafts, and are usually slightly down at heel and dusty, but full of character. But Rompemoldes which literally means break the mold, takes the corralón to a whole new territory. These are artisan living/work spaces, and amongst its residents are art restorers, ceramicists, book binders and potters. But rather than the converted garages with a pull down, corrugated door front, these are modern, minimalist spaces that wouldn’t look out of place in Berlin.
As with traditional Corralónes, there is an inner patio, which is big enough to hold regular live music and cultural events. On this particular night, ´I Know a Little Place in Seville´ favourite, Dani Mata, was playing in one of his many incarnations, this time accompanying poetry/ art combo ‘Su Mal Espanta’. The night was so popular that by the time we arrived, they’d run out of beer, and despite my recent discovery of Cerveza Sin (non alcoholic beer), my accompanying revellers were more intent on consuming the ‘with alcohol’ variety, so our journey through the night continued.
On route to another Noche en Blanco venue we came across a large open door on Calle Castellar that beckoned us in with the promise of an art exhibition and as it turned out, an impromptu Blues Jam. The house was a veritable Bohemian hideaway, where a collection of Sevilla’s artsy folk had taken over its once dilapidated walls and made it home. Everything was taking place around the central patio, with the musicians jamming in what looked like the kitchen. Beer was served from a collection of receptacles, from ornate goblets to children’s cartooned glasses and the air was thick with testosterone and cigarette smoke. It felt a million miles away from the sometimes sanitised entertainment on offer in most major cities and left us all rejoicing in the unexpected turns of the Seville night.
The next day Seville continued to be at its most flamboyant, sensory busting best. After a morning sun soaked breakfast at cafe Hercules, our next stop was the Cartuja where more live music was promised in the guise of a Radio 3 homage to departed Sevilla legend Silvio. On arrival the queue snaked around the block, we decided to make the most of what other cultural delights were on offer and had a mooch around the Centre of Contemporary Art. Housed in a stunning monastery dating back to the 13th century, the modern art collections rest knowingly on the museum’s ancient walls, and while walking between exhibitions one stumbles accidentally across tiled patios and tumbling tombs.
After satiating our high culture appetites, we managed to catch the remaining minutes of Kiko Veneno and hipster combo Pony Bravo, who played to a very hot but excited audience. By which time the effects of our breakfasts had worn off and it was time for lunch. A ten minute walk through the unbearably hot October afternoon sun brought us to the door of one of Seville’s legendary restaurants, Sol y Sombra. Lying south of the river in Triana, just by the ‘Cachorro bridge’, I’d lost count of the times it had been recommended to me, but being a lazy Alameda resider, it had somehow escaped by blogging clutches. Until now that is.
You know somewhere is good when there is no outside space for that favourite Sevillian occupation of ‘being on the street’, and yet the place is packed inside. Sol y Sombra is traditional. Don’t expect any fancy fusion dishes on the menu here, in fact don’t expect a menu. You just need to look at the walls where a series of handwritten laminated cards have been stuck together to make one giant menu. Sol y Sombra is dark and cavernous, with ham legs dangling from the ceiling. We were perched precariously across a barrel, but the cosiness somehow added to the experience. The food was good quality fayre, at a reasonable price, but it’s the whole experience that makes it worth a visit. Even the toilet paper doubling up for serviettes didn’t deter our delight.
By this point, Raj whose Catalan living had left him longing for true Spain, had become a Seville convert. He like me, buzzed off the vibrancy and aliveness of Andalucian capital, and when we came across the hullabaloo of a random paso (religious procession), I thought he might just spontaneously combust with sensory overload. In one day to go from rock music in a monastery to medieval Semana Santa music and The Virgin is nothing out of the ordinary for a Seville resident, but to anyone else it must seem like a parallel universe.
And so ended 24 hours of Seville at its best. Raj left with the unmistakable mark of the city burned into his heart, and I had fallen in love again with the place I call home.