Archives for posts with tag: History

Helen, the other language assistant at my school, was Julia’s and I’s first official out-of-town visitor who hadn’t been to Sevilla before! Julia and I felt a great responsibility to give her a wow-worthy tour of the city we love. She put her day completely in our hands, and we attempted to blend together an itinerary of history and culture, sights and activity and of course, fabulous food to give her a slice of Sevilla life!

11:30am, Alcázar

The Alcázar, former Moorish fortress and later Catholic palace, is an opulent display of mudéjar architecture (architecture heavily influenced by Islamic design but not necesarily built by Muslims). Exquisite tile and plaster work, sprawling gardens, and gurgling fountains feed the visitor’s imagination to give an idea of how a by-gone era defined luxury. The fortress walls today serve to block out the noise of traffic and crowds, creating a modern tranquil escape in Sevilla’s city center.

1 pm, Lunch

Spanish tortilla with garlicky mayo

We decided to take Helen to a tapas place close to our apartment called Bodeguita Antonio Romero. I’ve already praised their delicious piripi montaditos in a previous post. They also happen to serve the best Spanish tortilla I’ve tried (not to be confused with the flour tortillas in Mexican cuisine, Spanish tortillas are kind of like a sliced potato omelet). Being a vegetarian in Spain, Helen has become a Spanish tortilla connoisseur since it is often the only menu item without meat in many places. To our delight, she gave this tortilla her seal of approval.

2:30pm, Plaza de España in María Luisa Park

The Plaza de España was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition that took place in Sevilla. It’s moat has been under reconstruction for the past several months, but serendipitously opened in time for the beautiful day we had yesterday. We took advantage of the non-cold to hop in a rental row boat for some unique perspectives of the Plaza.

Julia and Helen, launching our row boat

Fellow boaters in the Plaza’s moat

Plaza de España tower

Many horse carts park and wait for clients in the Plaza

We really enjoyed this pony and donkey. They seemed to have formed a special alliance being dwarfed by all of the horses around them.

4:30pm, Feria de Gastronomía y Artesanía

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After our row boat excursion, we were met by our friend Joanna, and all together we ventured to this Feria de Gastronomía y Artesanía, or Gastronomy and Crafts Fair, where we found lots of samples to nibble. Julia and I picked up an orange balsamic vinegar- orange trees are everywhere in Sevilla!

6pm, Ending the day on a sweet note at the Dos Jotas Mesón

Almond, vanilla and chocolate montecados from Filella bakery

Samples proved to not be sufficient enough to sate our hunger after all of our excursioning, so we attempted to stop at a café for something more substantial. The good weather combined with a Saturday evening resulted in a complete people jam in the city center. We resorted to retiring to our apartment, where we had a stockpile of cookies from the nun’s cookie fair we attended last weekend, and we supplemented those with some montecados, popular powdery Spanish cookies, from one of our favorite bakeries. I will be posting more about montecados, and other Spanish sweets, in honor of the Christmas season soon!

With the weather as our co-conspirer, Julia and I had a lovely time playing tour guides for Helen!

Besos,

Jenna

 


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Yesterday, a couple of friends and I took advantage of a sunny day to travel outside of Sevilla to a little town called Carmona. As one of our Spanish friends described it, Carmona is a “pueblo, pueblo, pueblo.” Translation: it’s itty bitty! But it is known for its quality tapas as well as some Roman ruins that were discovered on the outskirts of the town in 1885 that date back to the 1st century BC!!! Here is a photo record of our time in Carmona…

Exploring the ancient ruins…

The ruins included several tombs, as well as an amphitheater where archeologists guess gladiator fights took place! Any statue or pottery remains were inside the little museum on-sight, so the tombs were basically empty pits. Still, it was very interesting to see what’s left and imagine people in that spot over 2000 years ago!

Our tapas trail began when 2 girls from the group were brave enough to approach a gang of older men, tricked out with newsboy caps, tweed and Ray-Ban sunglasses (the elderly man uniform of Spain), to ask for a recommendation. They pointed us to a place near-by.

Another older man greeted us at the restaurant, and helped us arrange tables for our larger group. Then, he proceeded to go inside, return with a glass of red wine, and plant himself in a chair in the sun facing the plaza, letting a younger man working there take care of our table. What a work day!

We had a tapas sampler that was beautifully presented and had some stand-out dishes- the calamari and the Russian salad (cold potato salad) were very good.

After basking in the sun a bit, we moved on to Round 2 of our Tapas Trail experience. The second place was closer to a typical tapas experience- no fancy presentations, just simple platters of food. Their croquetas*, fried potatoes and bread were all amazing. Plus, the tables of the cafe sit in the shade of a part of the ancient city wall!

Papas bravas= fried potatoes with a “spicy” sauce (in Spain, their heat tolerance is generally very low, so when you see “spicy” on the menu, you should translate that as mild to perhaps not spicy at all), and a generous amount of mayonnaise (also a note on Spanish mayo- the quality of Spanish mayo is much better than the US. Many people grew up here with their mom’s homemade mayo, and so they don’t accept gloppy stuff that tastes like Best Foods)!

A close-up of some croquetas and fries.

*Croquetas= a cooked filling (like ham, cheese, spinach, etc.) mixed with bechamel (a French white sauce), coated with breadcrumbs and fried. There are many variations on croquetas in Spain, and a lot of them are delicious! Also, their fries are no McDonalds fare- they’re often fried in olive oil, which I think gives them a less greasy and crunchier exterior. Since they’re freshly made, they also taste more like an actual potato.

I would recommend Carmona to anyone who visits Spain and is interested in seeing a little town outside of the big cities. It was such an easy day-trip from Sevilla. We had plenty to do for the afternoon, and returned to Sevilla with our bellies very satisfied! Ending the trip with some ice cream was the sweet ending to the day…

Besos,

Jenna


Granada!!! It is such an enchanting city with a mix of exotic winding streets in the Moroccan quarter and charming plazas in the center, resting in the shadow of the stately Alhambra and snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada. I studied abroad here 2 years ago, and the trip felt like a kind of homecoming.

Julia and I interspersed foodie missions with explorations of the city, in the process re-visiting some beloved favorites and discovering new ones. Welcome to Granada…

1. Chocolate y churros in Plaza Bib-Ramblas at Bar Alhambra

By far the thickest drinkable chocolate I’ve ever tried- when the waiter plops the cups onto the table, its contents barely budge. The greasy churros make for very indulgent complements. The advisability of eating this is questionable- for me, it resulted in a headache and a long series of strange dreams that night. However, if it is drugged, which is entirely possible given it’s addictive quality, the Granadinos don’t seem to mind- if you glance at the surrounding tables, every single person is partaking in the same guilty pleasure!

2. Flamenquín from Braulios

Though Americans may claim deep-fried Twinkies, Spaniards can claim flamenquín- a dizzying combination of cheese and serrano ham rolled in a pork chop, fried to a crisp and served with fries and mayonnaise. Another stomach-whopper like the chocolate and churros, the flamenquín is an excess in protein as the chocolate is in sugar. It is a traditional dish from the city of Córdoba, but is also a special of the classic restaurant Braulio in Granada. Worth trying  at least once!

3. Cookies from a convent

There are lots of nuns in Granada, and they include baking cookies with their religious duties! Delicious cookies at that. Securing some nun’s cookies involves placing an order through an intercom system, laying some money on a large lazy-susan type apparatus that protects the nun from being seen, and receiving in turn a box of tightly packed cookies. The cookies tend to have different kinds of ground nuts. Others are like jelly candies coated with coconut. And yet others are like butter cookies. Fantastic fuel for hiking up to see the Alhambra.

4. Piononos

The pionono is a pastry indiginous to a little town outside of Granada. It consists of a very thin rolled cake, saturated with a sugary syrup and topped with a little crown of caramelized pastry cream. They are served cold, and have a very pleasing medley of textures and not-too-cloying sweetness. They’re an awesome local specialty.

Of course, this list does not include everything we had to eat, like afternoon snacks with Carmen (the lady I stayed with during my study abroad), amazing vegan food from The Piano, or a home-cooked lunch of hake and potatoes and salmorejo (a cousin of gazpacho) made by Francisco, a foodie friend who owns a gourmet shop, La Oliva, in Granada.

Wishing everyone a happy and delicious rest of their day!

Besos,

Jenna

Although the last post may be deceiving, Julia and I did do other things in Paris than just eat. We had both done the requisite touristy things like ride the Eiffel Tower and see the Louvre before, and we were both interested in new experiences. So, we cobbled together an itinerary that we nicknamed our “Grand Garden Tour” and visited Giverny and Versailles in back-to-back day trips. Besides being a recipe for exhaustion by the end of our 2nd day, it was a really interesting study in gardening and aesthetic contrasts. The pictures below explain this best…

Day 1, Giverny:

Day 2, Versailles:

One garden designed to look natural, and the other transparently hyper-designed. Both supremely beautiful. Which garden do you think you would prefer to have in your backyard, if you could be Monet or Louis XIV?

Versailles was holding a fascinating art exhibition when we visited. Since 2008, Versailles has been been hosting year-long, single artist exhibitions with the aim of “bringing the chateau to life,” according to their program.  Takashi Murakami is this year’s chosen artist. You might recognize his name from his recent collaboration with Louis Vuitton. His works are inspired by manga as well as meetings between modern and ancient Japan and eastern and western cultures. Critics compare him to Andy Warhol because he manufactures his art like commercial products. His sculptures and paintings were dispersed throughout the palace and gardens in a way that invited comparison and contrast with their surroundings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t it interesting how this art contrasts to the works inspired by the gardens of Giverny, such as the familiar view below?

I think both artists could be called pioneers. Some people do not like the Murakami exhibition because they say visitors come to Versailles to see Versailles, not a modern art exhibit. What do you think?

Lots of food for thought!

Besos,

Jenna

Sun, cathedrals, street vendors, men in capri pants, women in Zara, late nights, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, gypsies with rosemary, tinto de verano…these are the characters and images that populate the streets of Sevilla in September. I’ve been here in Spain for 11 days. In that time, I have signed the lease on an apartment, walked a good portion of the city, eaten copious amounts of gelato (with an occasional break provided by frozen yogurt from Yogurtlandia!) and managed to embarrass myself a couple of times with my rusty Spanish. I am here to be a language assistant in a middle school in Jérez, a town of 250,000 south of Sevilla known for its equestrian school and sherry bodegas.

I’m living in the historic city center with my roommate from college, Julia. She’s teaching in a teeny-tiny town northwest of Sevilla called Valverde del Camino. It’s famous for its leather goods. Here we are in the Plaza de España, an impressive tiled wonderland built for the 1939 Ibero-American Exhibiton. It’s surrounded by a gorgeous Golden Gate Park-like place called Parque María Luisa.

For the past 10 days my mom was here helping with the apartment search, general settling into Sevilla matters and, of course, to do a little sight-seeing. This picture was taken at our adopted breakfast spot, Bar Alfalfa (yes, a bar is a perfectly respectable place to have breakfast here and yes, people are sometimes actually drinking at 11am on their work breaks!). This particular bar has amazing café con leches, fresh-squeezed orange juice and tostadas (toasted mini-baguettes with different toppings like tomato, cheese, ham, etc. and usually olive oil) for amazing prices. I have been there 10 times already! My mom left on Saturday, and Julia and I are already missing her- she was a strong connection to home!

I am so excited for this journey, and also anxious. I look forward to sharing it with you all! Thanks for stopping by the blog and please never feel shy to leave a comment!