Seville Snapshots: Horse Carriages

Last night, after my friend Karen’s book party, I fell asleep curled up listening to a heavy downpour while I hogged both sides of the bed. For someone who craves summer and the smell of chlorine coming off my wrinkled skin, I don’t exactly love Fall.

THERE! I said it.

This morning, after an entire week at home researching the motorcycle helmet market for a project, I had no choice but to buncle up, brave the rain and get into town for errands. The skies were a cobalt grey, sign of more rain to come this weekend. But the thing I love most about the rain is how the vibrant colors of Seville’s city center always seem to stand out more. The salmon pink Salvador church, the albero grit on the cathedral are even more striking when skies are overcast.

I was especially taken by the romantic horse carriages available for rent in the city center. As someone who grew up with a horse, I often think of my mother when I walk downtown or hear the clip clop behind me in Parque María Luisa. This coches de caballo seem to be nostalgia tugging at my sleeve – both for our childhood horse, Pudge, and for the Seville that existed in its heyday.

If you’d like to contribute your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. There’s plenty more pictures of the gorgeous Seville on Sunshine and Siesta’s new Facebook page!

Tapa Thursdays: The Effervescent Jamón Ibérico

Some thing are just better experienced than written about.

Among my favorite moments of my five years in Spain are the “early nights” that turn into café con leche as the sun rises the following morning, the way my feet magically stop tripping over themselves the minute I don my flamenco dress, and the hours mulling over great food with gorgeous Seville as a backdrop.

Food has given me a greater understanding of Spanish culture and family life, as well as the way people socialize. I’ve come to scrutinize wedding fare, steer clear of certain establishments and get filled to the brim with tó lo bueno.

The common theme throughout virtually any dining experience? El cerdo ibérico, Spain’s prized pig.

I suppose it doesn’t help that Kike’s father owns a farm that raises pigs until they’re nice and fat, ready to be sold to a matadero and served for a Christmas splurge. Pork, a food I once ate reluctantly, is now a staple in my diet.

I dragged the Novio along to the annual Feria Internacional del Cerdo Ibérico, a ham fest in one of Spain’s foremost regions in production. Under the Denominación de Origen de Huelva, 20 million euros are earned yearly from the production and distribution of the hind legs, called a pata. I’ve been waxing poetic for years about the fair, one in which you can eat, drink and practically be Miss Piggy for under 20€, stocking up on artisan products and anise.

It’s one of those things you’ve just got to experience.

What it is: One of Spain’s most expensive pork product, jamón ibérico is thinly sliced ham from the hind leg of an acorn-fed pig. The meat is conserved in salt, then hung to dry for a year or two. The white part, called tocino, is fat and considered to be the tastiest part.

Where it’s from: The mountain range that separates Andalusia from Extremadura is the hotspot for jamón in the south. Here, pigs feast on acorns until the springtime matanza, when they’re slaughtered. The best places to eat ham are in these small villages.

Where to get it in Seville: Many establishments offer tapas and plates of ham, particularly in the center and at smaller bars in outlying neighborhoods. Try it on a mantecaíto sandwich at Bodeguita Antonia Romero, C/ Gamazo, 16.

Goes perfectly with: Good friends and a glass of fino. Ham tends to end up on panes, on montaditos and in tacos, or small bits as a garnish.

Check out my second appearance talking on Spanish TV, around minute 31:30

http://www.canalsuralacarta.es/television/video/viernes-19-de-octubre/31222/13 – Even my neighbor from 2ºIzq. has seen me!!

The Feria del Jamón y de Cerdo Ibérico is held yearly in the village of Aracena, 90 kilometres northwest of Seville. The fair tends to take place the third weekend of October, but the village can be visited year-round and boasts many beautiful sites.

Seville Snapshots: Santa Catalina Church

When my friend Nancy came to visit nearly five years ago, she had two goals in mind: to not eat anything with a head on it, and to see as many Catholic temples as she could.

Since I had to work, I let Nancy loose with little more than a map, marked with circles around all of the places I thought interesting and worth a visit. She, instead, gravitated towards the churches. Her walk down Calle Imágen took her all the way to Santa Catalina de Alejanría, a mudejar style church right next to the bus depot and steps away from the Duquesa de Alba’s house.

The church has been closed to the public since 2004, upon which is was deemed in ruins. Despite the local government proclaiming its worth, no public money was put towards its restoration, even though immediate action was called for eight years ago. Locals have called for the intervention of the Cultural commission in the city to finance the project, but it may be that St. Catherine’s is closed forever.

You can sign a petition for the call to action by sending an email to elrinconcitocofrade@yahoo.es (Asunto: “Por Santa Catalina”) and leaving your full name.

If you’d like to contribute your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. There’s plenty more pictures of the gorgeous Seville on Sunshine and Siesta’s new Facebook page!

Sampling Spanish Food: Five Must-Try Tapas

As Seville competes for the World Capital of Tapas, a nod which would give the city another UNESCO World Heritage mention, restaurants and tapas bars around the city are adapting to an eating culture that is evolving towards gastrobar-meets-down home atmosphere. Seville’s tapas culture is a major city attraction.

Many stories about its origins exist, but the practice is universal: bar patrons hop from one bar to another, sampling small plates of food. These can encompass hot dishes or cold, and can be meat, fish, vegetables or anything in between. While Spanish cuisine is considered important, Basque and Catalàn tend to be the heavy hitters in this category.

What sets Seville apart is the participation, making every day special enough to eat out. Tapas can take on so many different forms, making it impossible to get a real taste for Spanish food in a quick trip. Here are five-star dishes that will give you a starter tutorial in Spanish gastronomy:

Pulpo a la Feira

What it is: Boiled octopus served over boiled potatoes, with drizzled olive oil and sweet paprika.

Where it’s from: Typically eaten in the northern region of Galicia, popular varieties include al horno (baked) or a la plancha (grilled).

Where to get it in Seville: Casa Miró is perhaps one of the most famous Galician style restaurants in Seville, but try the pulpo at La Azotea (C/Jesús del Gran Poder, 31), served over mashed potatoes with a mozarabe sauce.

Goes perfectly with: pimientos del padrón, a sometimes-spicy-sometimes-not flash-seared green pepper.

Salmorejo

What it is: A thick, cold soup made with tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar. Often served with chopped bits of ham and boiled egg.

Where it’s from: This dish is one of the most typical in Córdoba and is a thicker, sweeter version of gazpacho.

Where to get it in Seville: Salmorejo is a staple in most well-established bars in Seville, though not all of it is homemade. It’s pretty good at Bodegas la Pitarra, especially when dipped in even more bread!

Goes perfectly with: Fried eggplant, a ham and cheese mini-sandwich, Córdoba’s other famous dish, the flamenquín.

Paella

What it is: A rice dish that’s often made with seafood, meat and vegetables.

Where it’s from: Believed to have been created in the Albufera region of Valencia, paella is a common dish on the Mediterranean Coast and at barbeques (I mean it!). Rice is a common crop is Spain, and the availability of cheap flights to this region, like from Belfast to Alicante, make it an easy weekend trip.

Where to get it in Seville: On Sundays, La Cocina del Dr. x (Evangelista, 36, Triana) serves rice or paella. If you’re willing to go a bit further out, the duo from L’Albufera in Los Bermejales (Avda. de Europa, 19) cooks their rice to perfection and even serves it to you from the flat, cast-iron dish. Paella takes a while to make and is ordered by the person, so allot enough time or call ahead .

Goes great with: itself. Since paella is a dish that encompasses the major food groups, just keep digging in.

El Serranito

Pepito de Berenjena and fried cheese

What it is: a hearty sandwich stacked high with a pork sirloin or chicken breast, tomato, a slice of ham and a fried green pepper between two hunks of bread.

Where it’s from: This is the Andalusian of fast food. It’s especially common in Seville (I only wish my host mom in Valladolid packed these for me instead of mortadella sandwiches!).

Where to get it in Seville: I’ve found that the biggest and best Serranitos come from the roadside bars in small towns. Many bars in the city serve mini versions of the sandwich for a taste.

Goes perfectly with: A cold beer. It’s hearty, so you’ll need something to wash it down!

Tortilla de Patatas

What it is: This list would not be complete without perhaps the most Spanish dish of them all – the venerable Potato Omelette. As simple as eggs, potatoes and onions, the dish can be tricky to master (especialy when you have to flip it and cook the other side!).

Where it’s from: This is perhaps the only Spanish dish common throughout the entire country.

Where to get it in Seville: Some like it cooked, some like the eggs runny, but I love the tortilla from Bodeguita A. Romero, served with mayonnaise (Calle Gamazo, 16).

Goes perfectly with: Just about anything. It’s actually eaten for breakfast in Madrid!

In homage to a city where the tapeo culture trumps even bullfighting and flamenco (read: it’s accessible and likeable to everyone), I’m starting a weekly Tapas Thursday section that will feature different small plates and where to find them in Seville. Hungry? Read on…

[this post was also selected as a part of the Best World Food posts on The Nomadic Family. More yummy scoop here.]

What’s your favorite Spanish dish? What tapas would you like to see promoted on Sunshine and Siestas? Feel free to upload pictures of dishes to Sunshine and Siestas’s Facebook page!

Learning a Language for Love

Ven, gorda, que te voy a dar un beso. Enrique held his arms outstretched as I let the words slowly formulate a sentence in English in my head.

When they did, I pivoted and strode into the bedroom, pouting as I sat on his unmade bed. Masked between a coax and the promise of a kiss, my new boyfriend had just called me fat.

When Enrique and I had met several months before, I was having a friend over for dinner at my flat. The smell of burnt tortilla de patata – and the smoke that accompanies it – wafted through my small place as I rushed to pick up a roommates’ notes and textbooks, cursing myself for deeming Arrested Development more important than cleaning. As I used a wet rag to dissipate the smoke, a buzz came from the telefonillo.

“Um, hey, hola,” I said clumsily into the speaker. The voice that came from the other end was masculine, not that of the other girl I’d invited.

Kike knocked on the door twenty seconds later, wielding a bottle of whiskey and a half-drank bottle of Coke. “This is for the party,” he quipped.

As we ate burnt tortilla, potato chips, cured meats and cheese that night, I marveled at how he could partake in conversations with me in English, my Spanish roommate in his native tongue and German with my other roommate.

“Yeah, I’m also learning Arabic,” he told me later that night.

Over the next few months, our bilingual texting and tapas grew more serious. I learned pillow talk in Spanish and corrected his preposition use in English, confessing to him that I didn’t think I’d ever get a good handle on castellano or even start learning a third.

Don’t word, guapa, practice is the one thing that makes a tongue perfect, he said in his smooth Spanish. Leaning in close, I kissed him hard. Pulling away, he laughed. “No, no, no,” he said in between belly laughs, “I mean that practicing speaking Spanish will help you improve!” The word  lengua means both tongue in your mouth and tongue that you speak.

Was it any surprise that the first time he told me he loved me, he did it in English so that I wouldn’t get confused? Those three little words were shouted over the pumping music of a discoteca, but I got the message loud and clear.

I often ask my students why they’re studying English. Most say to be able to travel and communicate, or to have better job prospects. In coming to Spain, I would have answered the same. But after falling for a Spaniard, it was clear: I would learn a language for love.

After fuming over the gorda comment, I finally got tough and confronted him. Um…tú eresmuy mean. He laughed and between breaths said, “This laugh? It’s called a carcajada!”

Always quick to point out a new word.

When he calmed down, he explained that gorda was a pet term that people give to one another often, the same as feo (ugly), rey (king) and pequeño (small one). I had a lot of studying to do.

As our relationship has evolved, so have my tastes for Spanish food, the destinations on my Been There list and the number of experiences we’ve been able to share together – often in two languages. His handle of English and willingness to learn more has allowed him to entertain my best friend while I had strep throat during her visit, understand both football and baseball and say hello to my parents on Skype each weekend.

At an American’s friend’s wedding to her Spanish mate last year, she read her vows in Spanish for his family to hear; he did the same in English for hers. I was too busy wiping my tears away as gracefully as possible to remember exactly what he said, but it was to the effect of, being in a bilingual relationship means giving you twice as much of everything: friends, foods to try, vocabulary to say “I’m sorry,” holidays to celebrate together and laughing at the other’s language blunders.

Nearly five years later, Kike and I are now in a unilingual relationship: Castilian Spanish is the only language that we ever speak to one another. I love you is te quiero, kiss has become besito and baja la basura de una vez is as common for him to say as jó, haz la cama de una vez is for me.

Our one exception? Our pet name for one another is no longer in Spanish.

Has learning another language helped you to travel? Fall in love? Get a promotion or pay raise? Sound off in the comments!

 

Writer’s note: Sending lots of abrazos for those of you who gave my page a like, both on Facebook and through the competition page. Sadly, tons of great writing went unnoticed when Kaplan International, the sponsor of the contest, decided to make the spamming more important than content. While I ended up with over 200 likes and within the Top Ten, there were posts with 6,000 likes that had little to do with what the contest asked. Reagrdless, you guys mean the world to me, and I greatly appreciate your shares and great feedback, and I likely wouldn’t keep blogging like a maniac between a new job and a master’s program if it weren’t for you guys. Mil gracias!!

 

Seville Snapshots: Arcos de la Frontera, Cádiz

Having just arrived in the southwestern Spanish village of Arcos de la Frontera with a government grant to teach English, the first two thoughts that I crossed my mind were the following: This Andalusian town is stunningly beautiful, and These Andalusian women are stunningly beautiful. As a photography enthusiast (and perhaps at the risk of discrediting myself), I have to admit that taking impressive-looking pictures in any of Cádiz’s pueblos blancos is, ahem, just about a sure shot.
When I started dating Esmeralda, a preschool teacher at that school and who is now my wife, it was springtime in southern Spain, which is of course feria season. While Sevilla’s April Fair is by far the most famous, nearly every village, no matter how small, boasts its own week of colorful festivals, and within a couple weeks of each other, both Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa María each throw formidable (and fully open to the public, as opposed to in Sevilla) spring fairs.
Needless to say, the first time I saw Esme in her flamenco dress at one of these fairs, I was floored. I told her that I would love to do a photo shoot of her in full feria garb on my apartment building´s azotea (rooftop area of most Andalusian residency buildings, mostly used for hanging clothes to dry), which had a privileged view of the village, with the San Pedro and Santa María churches, and the Moorish castle, crowning the almost proto-cubist stacks which form the medieval white Old Town of Arcos.
These photographs are just two of a series which carries a great deal of emotional, and aesthetic, significance for me. I no longer live in Arcos de la Frontera — we moved to the Sevilla area a little over three years ago — and my understanding of this region and this country has grown far more complex over the last few years. But they say that first impressions can last a lifetime, and I’m determined to hold on to this vision of Spain’s simple luminous beauty as long as I can, especially during one the darkest period’s in this country’s history.
You can reach Lincoln by checking out his text and photo blogs:
I also want to give a shout out to this Antena3 initiative to defend Spain’s image in the fallout from the infamous NYT article: http://www.antena3.com/noticias/sociedad/buscamos-fotografias-espana-que-publico-the-new-york-times-participa_2012100300098.html
If you’d like to contribute your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. There’s plenty more pictures of the gorgeous Seville on Sunshine and Siesta’s new Facebook page!
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