¡viva genevieve!

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Archive for the tag “Spain”

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!


Back Where I Belong

As I watch my deliciously golden mixture bubble away on the stove stop I hum to myself that tune by some rapper whose name I cant remember but whose song contains the words that express how I’m feeling at this moment, “ back where I belong, something about being strong, there’s nothing that I cant tryyyy, so put your hands in the skkkkyyy” (along those lines anyway) After being on the road for a good 3-4 months I have finally been able to get back in the kitchen. Where I belong (and no I’m not saying that just because I am a woman). One of the things that makes me happiest in this world apart from travelling, apart from working out to tunes by Beyonce and apart from eating (just eating in general) is cooking.

Since I have been staying in Sevilla in a real house I have been able to get a little creative again in the kitchen. There’s just one problem. This real house, it has no oven. What??! I know who doesn’t have an oven?! I was so shocked to discover this fact that I almost just turned right around, walked out the door and hopped on the next bus out of there. But what I realised is that it just means I have to be more creative. A challenge. So when I attended my first couch surfing cooking meeting I was racking my brains with what to make, I wanted to make the obvious and always moreish NZ (not Australian ☺) dessert, Pavlova, but I didn’t have an oven! So with a little help from my Grandad’s recipe and a little kiwi influence I came up with this velvety hokey pokey chocolate slice.

My Grandad uses ginger and apricots in his version and I always remember loving devouring this sweet delight whenever we visited him. His recipe uses sweetened condensed milk, something else I have fond memories about. I remember loving when my Mum would make her caramel slice because I would get to lick the spoon after she had used the sweetened condensed milk. I had a really bad realisaton making this slice as it dawned on me that I am in fact an adult now and if I want to eat sweetened condensed milk straight from the can then I can sure as hell do it and no one can stop me! Unfortunately I have now had to ban myself from buying sweetened condensed milk, add to that list Nutella as I had the same realisation the week before about this, my all time favourite flavor combination, and needless to stay the jar didn’t last long!

So with my slice I decided that I needed to incorporate a little kiwi in to it as it would be my dessert for the International couch surfing dinner, I thought hokey pokey would make a great addition to this slice because I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love hokey pokey! This recipe is great as you can add almost anything you like and it’s so simple. And the best thing, I didn’t need to use an oven! So the recipe…….

Velvety Chocolate and Almond Hokey Pokey Slice

Start with the Hokey Pokey


50gms Sugar
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup or Honey (I used honey as Golden Syrup doesn’t exist in Spain, it has a slightly different flavor but is still just as tasty)
1 Teaspoon Baking soda

1. Lightly mix the sugar and the honey together in a pot and boil over a medium heat on the stove. DO NOT stir once the mixture is on the stove top.
2. Let the mixture boil for about 5 minutes or so, the important thing is to watch it carefully and watch for a change in colour. You want the whole mixture to darken in colour to a nice golden brown.
3. When the mixture has darkened, the bubbles are bubbling and it looks as though it’s close to burning, remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the baking soda.
4. The mixture will foam and double in size and you can then pour the mixture quickly on to a piece of baking paper. Let sit until it has cooled.

*If the Hokey Pokey is chewy and sticky then it wasn’t hot enough when you added the baking soda, next time it needs to be left longer to bubble.
** This makes a small batch, double the quantities if you would like to have some left overs!

Chocolate Slice

200gms Best quality dark chocolate (This is important, I have tried it with cheap milk chocolate and the flavor just isn’t as good)
½ C sweetened condensed milk
50 gms Butter
1 portion of crushed Hokey Pokey
¾ C Chopped almonds
¾ C Dried cranberries

1. Melt the chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and butter over a low heat and let your mouth drool at the sight of this delightful mixture!
2. Crush your pre-prepared hokey pokey (which should have beautiful fluffy air bubbles throughout it) into small pieces with your hands or a blunt kitchen object.
3. Add hokey pokey, almonds and cranberries to the chocolate mixture and pour in to a small tin lined with baking paper. I used a loaf tin but you can use a cake tin if you prefer. Cover and put in the fridge to set. And there you have chocolate hokey pokey perfection!
4. Cut in to slices and enjoy straight from the fridge.

I love how simple this recipe is, it’s rich so you don’t need a lot. This recipe makes a small batch to enjoy as dessert or with coffee.

The Future Looks Bright

*A few photos from Sevilla

It never ceases to amaze me the interesting and unique people you meet whilst travelling. When I am at home I very rarely come across the strange, the interesting or the down right nutty. Maybe its because at home I’m too busy with the life bubble of friends, family and work that I have already created to notice or to chance across these kinds of people. Or maybe it’s because in my far off New Zealand, we are just a different breed from the rest.

I have been in Sevilla for three weeks now, living in small town Gines, about seven kilometres from Sevilla centre. When I say small town, I mean small town. I once saw an oxen and cart parked outside one of the local tapas bars, just pulled up and parked right in front with his oxen to have a beer and some tapas. Those sorts of things you only ever see in small towns! I have been teaching English here for a couple that runs a language school from their home. I was initially really excited to start using my CELTA qualification and get this teacher role started, although I am enjoying it for the most part, what I didn’t count on was teaching a group of rowdy, disinterested and rebellious pre-teens. Well all I can say is I have a lot of respect for school teachers who deal with classes of 30 of the little monsters, I only have eight and I am barely holding on to my sanity.

When I am not squishing myself in to the role of English Language Teacher I have my spare time to roam and discover Sevilla. I have been opting to do this by meeting up with different travellers from all over the world for language exchange so I can attempt to become somewhat proficient at speaking Spanish. Last week I was joined by an American friend to practice my not so good and her marginally better Spanish conversation, we agreed to meet at Café de la Prensa on the Triana side of Sevilla which over looks the elegant Guadalquivir river, well-used by rowers and kayakers alike. The café has a great tapas menu; I can recommend the pollo rellena, stuffed chicken breast in a tasty Andalucían sauce.

When we arrived we were disappointed to see that all of the tables were already taken and we were contemplating rethinking our dining choice. I scanned the tables and I noticed an old slightly eccentric looking man sitting by himself at a table for four. He wore a dusty white suit, what appeared to be a cowboy’s bolo tie and he had donned a purple hat for the still sunny Sevilllian late afternoon. He sat alone with his cane outstretched and as I caught his eye he got up and motioned us over to his table. He looked as though he was maybe in his late sixties and grumbled to us (in Spanish) something about there never being any tables for one anymore. He motioned for us to take the table and he proceeded to ask for his check. Well that was very nice of him I thought, we were both hungry and eager to get in to the tapas selection ahead of us.

What we didn’t count on was that the quirky man in the purple hat was keen to stay for a chat, well all the better for us I guess as it was a good opportunity to practise Spanish. I didn’t follow much of the conversation as I am still struggling to hear Spanish via the very unique Andalucían accent, my friend however is much better than I am and continued to contribute to the conversation. At one point he did turn to me to tell me that I was a very intelligent woman. Well, I wont argue with that one Spanish cowboy! I graciously laughed and said my “gracias”.

He then said to both of us, well we thought he said to both of us “soy psicólogo”
“I am a psychologist”. Oh perfect I thought and proceeded to tell him all about my psychology studies and that I want to study sport psychology in the future. From there the conversation didn’t really continue how I had expected. He began describing us both in detail, what kind of people we were, our ethnic ancestry, our personality characteristics. At first I thought maybe because he is a psychologist he’s interested in personality traits etc. and that’s where he was going but then he said to me (in strong Spanish and intensity in his eyes) “ you are going to be very rich one day”. Well, ok (I laughed nervously) I wondered if I had translated correctly, he also told me that I will work for the rest of my life. Well I should hope that after working for the rest of my life I would be very rich, I’d be a bit disappointed (and exhausted) if I wasn’t!

When he finally got up to leave so we could order something to eat he left with some final, and I’m sure very wise and life changing words. But unfortunately neither of us could really understand him. He continued to talk of our futures as we left, about my friend’s impulsive nature and my quiet nature and then he hobbled off with his Spanish cowboy image and his elegant walking stick. I mentioned to my friend that he had been an interesting psychologist; I couldn’t quite work out if he was psychoanalysing us or predicting our future. She turned to me and said “ Oh no that’s not what he meant, he must’ve said “soy psíquico!” the Spanish translation for “psychic”, easily confused with “psychologist”! Oh now I got it, we just had our futures read by a real purple hat wearing Spanish cowboy psychic and we didn’t even know it! Well I’m not sure if he was just one of the nutty strangers I spoke of earlier or maybe he was the real deal …… I will never know, and now I wish I could understand more Spanish! But hey the future looks bright apparently, lots of money and lots of work to come, vamos a ver. ¡viva the odd and curious!

Captured by Cádiz

The first sight of Cádiz that came emerging out of the azul sky and sea that surrounded my peripheral was the grand and baroque style cathedral of Cádiz. The cathedral that took over 100 years to build greets the port and the shoreline of Cádiz with imposing style and grace. I took my first day trip from my new base in Gines, Sevilla to this popular weekend destination, I opted to take the ferry across from Puerto de Santa Maria instead of taking a direct train, to get the complete and full experience of my first meeting with this historic Spanish city.

I think it was love at first sight, Cádiz really turned up with an exceptional first impression. You can feel the Andalusian roots in this city from the refreshing stark white houses and buildings inlaid with unique and colourful tiles to the overwhelmingly long tapas menus and that feeling that there really is no reason to rush or worry. Being in the very south, you can see and feel a Moroccan influence amongst the city’s most prominent buildings and the fresh sea breeze is inhaled from every corner of the city due to its position on a narrow stretch of land embraced on all sides by the sea.

The beaches here are relaxed and beautiful (not as beautiful as NZ beaches but pretty close!) I passed my day at La Playa de la Caleta in the old city between two castles that lie at either end of the beach like outstretched arms reaching out in to the sea. This particular beach was a set for the James Bond movie Die Another Day and really was quite striking with the colourful little local dinghies beached at low tide and the old stonewall running alongside the sand border behind me. Cádiz really makes you fell like you are on holiday, even if it’s just for a day. I recommend taking the ferry over as it only costs 4 euros one way and is a more scenic way to arrive. The Mercado Central is a must visit too; one of the great things about Spain is all of the open air markets where you can purchase all kinds of fresh produce from coconuts to calamari. Hopefully the beautiful beach weather will hold for a few more weeks here so I can explore more of the beautiful coast that Andalucía has to offer. ¡viva holding on to summer!

Fierce Festive and Independent

When I arrived in the small yet large city of Girona, what captured my attention on initial contact was the red and yellow stripes layering the sepia toned buildings rising high on either side of me. The bright red and yellow streaked up and down the apartment buildings, running from the edges of windowsills and flickering intensely a top the roofs. These stripes are worn by the Catalan flag that represents the Catalonian region of Spain. Spanning four provinces, Barcelona, Girona, Llieda and Tarragona, Catalonia (or Catalunya) is home to approximately 7.5 million people. The flags presence here is very strong. I had known about Catalonia’s wish for independence from Spain for a few years now after my first visit to Spain in 2007 but I have never really felt the intensity and importance of this independence until arriving in Girona this year.

The other notable eye catcher there was that a lot of the promotion of Catalan independence was actually in English. At my hostel there was an English flyer advertising free books detailing the history of Catalonia all in English. The English words “Catalans want to vote” are sprawled across an apartment block in bold and self-assured white letters. It seems there is an important ground swell of movement happening in Spain and Catalonia at the moment and the people of Catalonia want the rest of the world to know about it. They want the rest of the world to care and promoting their independence in English is a way to reach more people and gain their interest. As far as I know their struggle for independence is not something that is particularly well known at home in NZ.

I was lucky enough to stay with a wonderful Catalonian couple in Banyoles for a weekend via couch surfing and here I learnt a lot more about the issue of Independence and the meaning it has to the Catalan people. Banners on the lakeside street reading “Catalonia is not Spain” got the message through very clearly. The region itself has become a great giver to Spain economically speaking and many feel that what the region gives to Spain as a country it does not get back in improvements to the region to aid in a better life for the people. But it is not all about money or economy for the Catalan people here, they are very passionate about their own culture and way of life, they have their own language which time and time again has been threatened in its existence like after the Spanish Civil War when Francisco Franco came in to power and tried to drown its usage.

My friends here seem to think that some non-catalan speakers think that the Catalonians purposely oppose using Spanish or that they turn their nose up at the idea of using the Spanish language but in reality it’s just strange for them to speak Castilian (Spanish) to each other because it isn’t their native language. It’s like people wanting you to speak Chinese to all your friends in your home country that speaks English. From what I’ve learnt from my Catalonian friends I think I have a better understanding of where this persistence for independence comes from. They basically just want the option to vote. This option is a life force to preserving their culture; they want their cultural values, their language and their history to survive amongst a force of oppression that is trying to control or to stop that preservation. I think I understand more clearly now and hey if someone tried to change my way of speaking and my way of learning and my history then I would want my independence too.

From Banyoles and Girona I followed the under current of wishful independence to Barcelona where it is probably less apparent but during the last week or so of September during La Mercé festival the message here is again clear and proud. La Mercé festival happens every year near the end of September to honour the virgin of grace and the patron saint and co-patroness of Barcelona. The holiday was officially recognised in 1871 but its origins date back to 1687 when Barcelona needed the virgin’s assistance to rid the city of a plague of nasty locusts that befell it. Since then the city has celebrated with the kind of festive enthusiasm that only the Spanish and the Catalonians have. Fireworks and gunpowder are used like confetti, dances and parades that involve giant papier-maché people tower over the masses of spectators and the crazy castell competition shows us who can make the highest and strongest tower of people without falling. I am not sure of the origins of the human towers but it is really very impressive to watch the skill of these castellers as they work together to provide a solid foundation for the child that effortlessly ascends the staunch and shaky adults like they are mere stepping-stones.

La Mercé came to a close with a spectacular fireworks display near the foot of the Montjuïc Mountain where the Catalan history and pride was displayed artistically through projection displays that took centre stage in front of what was an explosive spectacle of colour and light that rivaled the patriotic fourth of July fireworks that I experienced in San Francisco this year. Once it is all over life returns to normal in the busy and touristic Barcelona but for that week the whole city is buzzing with crazed enthusiasm and fervour over a holiday that encompasses so many bizarre and wonderful traditions. I missed the first two days which are full of running firework action but I still had my fair share with the parades full of boisterous mock-soldiers firing heart stoppingly loud explosions and the drum bands marching to their own fluid and rhythmic beat throughout the city’s centre. The closing fireworks are not to be missed and it is definitely one to be a part of if you have the opportunity to be there in September.

After spending nearly two weeks in Catalonia I feel I got a great sense of who the people are and what their way of living is about by talking to the real people of the region and letting them educate me on their beliefs and reasoning’s behind their want for independence. I guess for me it doesn’t affect my life in any way whether the people gain independence from Spain or not but I always admire an underdog and you cannot deny the passion they feel to hold on to a culture that is uniquely theirs so for that I high five the people of Catalonia. My personal journey here in Spain is to experience a new way of living and to immerse myself in a language that I have been practicing over the last couple of years, so for me Catalonia was not the place to stay, maybe if I decide to learn the Catalan language I will return for a longer stay but for right now I am surrounding myself by the rapid speaking Andalucían’s in Sevilla and preparing for 3 months of hilariously confusing misunderstandings, frustrating and confusing misunderstandings, siestas in the heat of the day and the experience of the southern way of life. Wish me luck!

¡viva the road to independence!

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