¡viva genevieve!

Embracing change through travel and culinary discovery

Archive for the tag “Food”

Sevilla: Eats, Treats and Citrus Streets

It has come time for me to move on from sunny Sevilla and carry on with the journey. It’s time to stop taking midday siestas, partaking in tapa tasting and sipping on tinto veranos and start planning to head to lands of cooler and crisper air. Whilst basing myself here in Sevilla to teach, learn and explore I have managed to get to know the city pretty well and I have made some fantastic friends along the way, the great thing about the Andalusian people is that they are always arms open wide, boisterous and ready for a cerveza and a fiesta. The following list is just a small sample of my Sevillian favourites: the things that I highly recommend and that make up the best memories of this city that I will take away with me.


Tapas, Tapas and more and more Tapas

I’ll start with the food as it seems to be the centre of my universe still even though I am no longer an athlete. Andalucía is probably the most known region of Spain for tapas, tapas are everywhere but here they are particularly a core part of the lifestyle. The best tapas I had here were at Espacio Eslava a well-priced and beautifully presented tapas bar (you can see the food we had on “World Table”) Bodeguita Romero is also one to check out with very traditional options. The tapas dining experience really is my favourite way to enjoy food, you get to try so many different flavours, the meal ends up being cheap and you are full and satisfied by the end of it. My recommendations are:

Solomillo con whiskey – Pork tenderloin cooked in garlic and whisky sauce, so simple but so full of flavour and a great one to mop up with bread.

Morcilla – Ok this one sounds gross but it is actually so tasty and very rich, it’s the Sevillian style of black pudding and is usually served in a bocadillo.

Ibérico – Anything with Iberian pork is amazing and beautifully tasty! These acorn feed pigs really are a cut above the rest, you can taste this in many ways including jamón ibérico or ibérico secreto.

Cola de toro – Bulls tail, this is usually stewed and only available on some occasions. I was only able to try bulls tail croquettes which were delicious.

Chocos fritos – Similar to Calamari but a bit thicker, these are fried pieces of a sort of cuttlefish, served with a squeeze of lemon.

Flamequines – These are a sort of pork schnitzel roll with goats cheese and ham. Can’t go wrong!


A Piece of Royalty in the Centre of the City

The Royal Alcázar is probably the best thing you can see whilst in Sevilla. It is one of the most beautiful palaces in Spain and arguably the world. With a strong Moorish influence, this huge palace and complex is like a secret garden amongst the city. The architecture is unbelievable and the tiles and gardens are like nothing else. There is usually always a line but it really is well worth the wait and the 9.50 euros. It’s a must do.


Maria Luisa Park

This large public park is a sanctuary of greenery, beautifully tiled and crafted spaces and pathways to explore. Again it’s one of those places that will surprise you being right in the middle of this big city. It’s a great place to wander for an afternoon and requires a decent amount of time to be truly appreciated.And it’s free, what’s not to love!


Plaza de España

Another free and beautiful part of the city is Seville’s Plaza de España, it seems most of the cities in Spain boast a plaza by this name but Seville’s is by far the most impressive. The tile work across the whole plaza is unfathomably amazing and one of those sights you just can’t quite capture on film. You can hire a boat to paddle around the small river that runs in front of the plaza for a peaceful afternoon.

Experience the Flamenco

A trip to Seville is not complete without at least hearing a little of that charming Spanish guitar. The flamenco is a strong part of the culture here and is evident with the countless number of shops selling flamenco dresses and fans. I never went to a paid show as I thought they may be a bit touristy and overpriced, however there are many bars that have free flamenco on show and as long as you are drinking you can sit and experience it. Some of the bars don’t play until midnight so if you aren’t much of a night owl you probably won’t get the best flamenco show (according to locals) but it’s still pretty amazing if you ask me. One of the most popular and easily accessible free shows is with La Carbonería a very cool whole in the wall type bar with flamenco most nights and at a reasonable hour. The guitar is a really core part of the show and the dancers perform with a whole heap of passion, it’s an impressive art form.


The Sweets that God Giveth

Although I am not religious in my bones I really love the tradition here to purchase sweets and pastries from the local nuns to support them and the convents. There are a few to visit in the centre and all have some of their own uniquely homemade treats. I went to the <emConvento de Santa Ines on calle Doña Maria Coronel and it was such a unique experience. Firstly you choose your holy sweets from a menu board and yell through your order via a lazy susan, the nun on the other side (whom you never see) spins your sweets over to you and you then part with your cash and spin it on back to the nun. We chose a specific Santa Clara biscuit which had a melt in your mouth texture and a distinct cinnamon and star anise flavour. Its great really, you leave with a full belly and a sugar high and surely some brownie points with the big guy up top.

The hot days, citrus streets and the enchanting music of Sevilla have left me with some beautifully etched memories to take with me, my love for Spanish food and language has been strengthened but I think now it is time to get back to my own lifestyle where naps are only for lazy Sundays and dinner isn’t consumed in the middle of the night (: What a wonderful way to extend the summer and enjoy a bit of Spanish living. ¡viva the Sevillian Civilian!

Meeting the World one Couch at a Time

I have realised that my idea of travelling isn’t one that has me visit the most popular tourist sights in a whirlwind tour of a city or town where I leave with a surface deep knowledge, appreciation and memory of that city. What I have realised over the last few months is that I am happiest travelling when I am meeting people, local
people and learning about their city through their eyes. I am happiest when I am getting lost in a small, underrated part of a city that has bigger and more well-known attractions to offer.

So when I set off on my journey I went with the intention of using the couch surfing website in order to see a different side of the places I wanted visit. Upon telling others of my plan I was faced with a varied array of responses. Some were positive like “wow that’s such a great idea, I wish I could do that” some were non-committal like “hmm that’s kind of cool” and some were shocked and discouraging like the customs officer in San Francisco airport who interrogated me on whether I had in fact thought about what is going to happen when I wake up in the morning in a bath full of blood stained ice missing my vital organs and feeling pretty stupid.

Well, although I was faced with that particular response a moment before I was to meet my first couch surfing host, I decided to go with my loud and confident gut instinct that said, “hey you never know until you try!” Of course I can understand the hesitation and the scepticism over a website that brings strangers together in the confines of their homes that are usually not privy to the safe and watchful eye of the public like when you arrange to meet someone at a café or bar, but I like to think that a project such as Couch Surfing tends to attract like minded people. I like to think that everyone uses the website for the same reasons that I do, to meet, to learn and to help others on their quest to see the world and expand their minds. Unfortunately, of course, like anything conducted via that seemingly limitless World Wide Web that we love to hate, there are going to be people who are not of like mind (or sound mind!) and who abuse the project.

It is unfortunate also that the consequence of travelling alone as a young woman is that I put myself in a targeted position of vulnerability no matter how much I feel that I’m channelling Beyonce on the inside. Of course men also face certain risks when travelling but for women it is just a whole different world. I feel I have to be extremely judgemental about who I talk to or agree to meet with on Couch Surfing. Do they show themselves half-naked in any of their profile pictures? Do they have any strange comments on their profile? Do they look like they think they are gods gift to women? Do they use xos and winky faces when commenting about women they have couch surfed with? Do they offer to share their bed with me? What age are they? And lastly, do they have a creepy “I’m going to knock you unconscious, tie you up and hide you in my secret basement” kind of face? These are all very important questions I ask myself when agreeing to surf someone’s couch.

Being a young woman on one of these sites I have had many propositions from various men asking me if I want to stay with them where they will take me here and there and buy me this and that and if I want I don’t even have to wear clothes. Most of these men are old enough to be my father. And in response, I politely decline, “No thank you kind sir, I don’t quite feel like being an unsolved murder mystery today”. I have even had one young man try to come on to me within five minutes of meeting (literally five minutes!) I was meant to couch surf with him and he agreed to meet me at the train station near his house, which to my surprise meant somehow to him that we were on a date. He couldn’t believe that I wasn’t there to sleep in his bed and he couldn’t get his head around the fact that I wasn’t interested in him! Needless to stay I checked myself in to a hostel that night.

Despite a few strange incidences, for the most part my Couch Surfing experiences have been above and beyond amazing. The people I have met have taught me so much and have shown me that there are many truly genuine people out there, no matter where you place yourself. It’s just a matter of being aware, being smart and trusting your instincts. The majority of people on the site are genuine couch surfers through and through and want nothing more than to learn and share their travel experiences. So I have compiled a list of tips for new comers to the site, I highly recommend using it on your travels even just to meet for a coffee with someone, it’s a project that opens up so many doors and brings new ideas, people and experiences in to your life.

1. Start off by just using the site to meet other travellers, sign up, create a profile and start meeting! I love using the site this way, as especially when you are traveling alone, it’s so nice to meet someone for a coffee or to see some of the sights together. I have made many great friends this way.

2. Don’t stay with someone unless they are a person you would stay with at home. For me I wouldn’t stay with an unknown 45 year old man who lives on his own in my own country so I wont do it half way across the world. I’m sure lots of these men are lovely, normal people but you have to look out for yourself!

3. If their profile pictures are all of them posing topless and doing a muscle man photo shoot, they are probably using Couch Surfing as a dating site. If that’s what you’re in to, go for it, if not, next profile!

4. If they write, “clothing optional” on their profile, probably not a good choice.

5. If they write, “shared sleeping surface” or “can sleep up to four people in my bed” again, probably not a good choice.

6. It’s best to look for families or couples; I find it feels a little safer; I also try to stay with women if possible.

7. If they offer a room to yourself and not just a couch they are probably true surfers! After all, if they have a spare room they have the option of renting it to you but they are offering it for free, I think these people tend to be genuinely interested in cultural exchange.

8. Go to a couch surfing meeting! They happen in cities and towns everywhere, usually once or twice a week at the same place and it’s a great place to meet new people, people who you may want to stay with later on. It feels a bit more comfortable if you have met the person already. And there are usually so many people there; you are bound to make new friends.

Overall I always recommend Couch Surfing to others as something they should look in to when travelling. I have had many unforgettable experiences and I have made so many new friends, I have also met some people I don’t wish to meet again but that is the beauty of Couch Surfing. You never know who you will meet or what you will learn. So go dip your toes in the water and start surfing! ¡viva new stories from the couch!

*Photos below of my Couch Surfing experiences

Where have all the people gone


Walking down the streets of Milan passing Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and other equally unattainable shops for a penniless, solo traveller like me, all I can hear is
the flopping of my jandal clad footsteps. Maybe the slight whistling of the breeze as the evening begins to cool, but nothing else, just floppy footsteps.

I arrived here with my accommodating couch surfing host for the night who studies here but has been on vacation like the rest of Italy it seems. Even he is surprised at the eerily quite Saturday evening of a usually lively and vibrant city. We even walked to a hidden garden that encompasses a beautiful apartment building and is home to several flamingoes (flamingoes?! Rich people!) just to hear them squawk and break the ghostly and unusual silence.

As I have discovered, August is the best time to visit Italy …. if you don’t like people. If however you are a people person like me and you like to people watch most of all, August is the worst time to visit Italy. It seems every single person goes on vacation during the beginning and the middle of August. And I mean every single person! Many shops and restaurants are closed, apart from the very touristy ones and in most places I have been I am able to walk down a normally busy street without seeing a soul.

Because of this I only needed one night in Milan, my host kindly took me to see the entire city and to enjoy an apertivo where for the price of 9 euro you could enjoy a cocktail and all you can eat bar snacks. This is a perfect way to have dinner and drinks for a budget traveller like me! I enjoyed pasta, olives, salads and prosciutto all for this price.

This morning I woke up and decided to leave Milan early and visit Lake Garda, a beautiful lake about 20 minutes from the romantic town of Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet. I took the 1.5 hour train from Milan to Peschiera di Garda sitting next to a very elderly and lovely Italian woman. She fidgeted the whole way with her sagging stockings and pedantically cleaned her seat and arm rests several times. We tried to converse with my Spanish and the 10 or so words I know in Italian and her 20 or so words she knows in English. She asked me why a girl from New Zealand would want to visit Italy and I told her that I love the food culture here, the history, the flavours and of course the wine. At least that’s what I think I told her.

I figured out about 20 minutes in that from our conversation she had thought I was a student at chef school in New Zealand, travelling Italy to learn from different chefs in different regions (I wish that was how I was travelling!). I am not sure how this happened and I didn’t have the heart or the words to correct her, so she continued to ask me about what I learn at chef school and I continued with the unintentional charade, I think I told her that I learn about Italian and Mediterranean food history or something along those lines. I am fairly sure she even scolded me for coming here for the food and not the art or the churches, young people don’t appreciate these things she says.

I felt uncomfortable about lying to such a sweet woman so I was a little relieved when she departed the train a stop before me. Maybe she will go home and tell her husband about the NZ student chef she met with a passion for Italian cooking and how sad it was that she wasn’t more interested in going to church. I left the station by foot to Meet hostel, my bed for the night, where I realised where all of the people had gone. The empty streets of Milan in August open up to the bronzed body lined beaches alongside the lakes of Italy. With the water and the beach within my reach and a glass of prosecco in hand I have found a place to start my holiday from my holiday! With my Help Exchange all finished up (at least for now) I have decided that tanning by the lake is well deserved, even if just for the day, and tomorrow I can head to Verona to search for my very own Romeo. ¡viva my first day of holiday!

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