Seville Snapshots: Costaleros Practicing for Holy Week

The capataz knocks once. As if mechanically, the 40-off men beneath the wooden structure heave together, resting on their heels, hands gripping the wooden beams above their heads.

A second knock, and they launch into the air together.

On the third, the simulation float has rested on their shoulders, and they begin a coordinated dance down the street, walking in sync as they practice for their glorious penitence – Holy Week.

You all know that I paso de pasos (and the crowds, and the brass bands and even the torrijas), but the grueling pilgrimage from one’s church to the Cathedral and back fascinates me. No one bears the brunt more than the costaleros, who must pay for this prestigious position within their brotherhoods and seek penitence through their labor, carrying over 100 pounds for an average of eight hours.

In the weeks leading up to Viernes de Dolores, no less than 60 brotherhoods will crisscross the city to practice, placing cinderblocks on top of the metal float to simulate the large statue, each depicting the final moments of Jesus Christ’s life or of the weeping Virgin Mary. For ten days, Seville is full of religious fervor as the ornate pasos descend on the city center.

For an official route plan with approximate times, check here. You can use this to either catch the processions, or totally avoid them!

What are your Holy Week plans? Have you ever seen Semana Santa in Seville?

Seville Snapshots: Calle Pureza, the heart of Triana

Soy Ana, de la Calle Pureza

Kelly never fails to let people believe she’s trianera, a resident of the Triana neighborhood of Seville. When I called this barrio home for three years, we’d often wax poetic about just how special it felt, that it was more a feeling than monuments or a glossy exterior. Triana is the old fisherman’s barrio, where squat houses crumble next to soaring church spires, where a tapa is bigger and cheaper than in the center. I had all of my people here – the man around the corner who made my coffee, the woman at the laundromat who would re-wash a garment – for free – if she wasn’t satisfied.

Even the natives – those who have grown up and attended school in the neighborhood – swell with pride when describing a neighborhood where gypsies sing flamenco on the streets every now and again and azulejo tiles line the hole-in-the-wall bars.

While walking down Calle Pureza, a street that snakes through the heart of Triana, I heard a hoarse “cuidaaaaaao” as I was fumbling with Camarón’s settings. I was on the way to shoot the wedding of a guiri friend and her sevillano boyfriend, nervously changing between auto and manual. An abuelo weidling a shopping cart wizzed by me, dodging oncoming traffic as he carried nearly a dozen long septres towards the pristine basilica. I raised Camarón to my face and shot.

 Olé mi Triana.

I had a great time shooting Andrea and Carlos’s wedding in early June, and I’m as happy as they are with the results. If you’re looking for someone to shoot an event, engagement pictures, etc. in Seville, get in touch! Alternately, I’m looking for guest bloggers for the upcoming months. Send your stories and photos to sunshineandsiestas [at] gmail [dot] com.

Seville Snapshots: Who’s That Nazareno?

Smell that? It’s incense. Feel that? That’s some sevillano whose trying to push his way past you.

Yes, amiguitos, Holy Week is upon us, the stretch of time between Viernes de Dolores until Easter Sunday where sevillanos dress in their finest, women don enormous combs and black lace veils and pointy capirote hats dot the old part of town. The faithful spend all day on their feet, parading from church to Cathedral and back with enormous floats depicting the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

I’m not much of a capillita, but ten days of religious floats means ten days of travel for me.

That said, I’m off to Dubrovnik, Croatia and the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, country #30 on my 30×30 quest. Where will you be during Semana Santa? Do you like Holy Week, or would you rather get your fix in a Holy Week bar?

My Favorite Holy Week Bars in Seville

Danny and I decided to make one last stop for the night, mostly fueled by our bladders than our ganas for another beer. I ordered a Coke and dipped into the bathroom while Danny paid.

Two minutes later, as I left, the lights had been lowered, and Danny looked pale under the glow of a projector. He pointed to a screen, which showed an image of a bloody Jesus from a black-and-white film.

“Oh, you get used to that,¨I cooed, but he had already downed his beer and was halfway through the door. Novatos.

“Not cool, Cat. We’re no longer friends.”

For me, the week-long revelry that surrounds Seville’s Holy Week has meant just a ten-day travel break for me. Living in Triana’s vortex of cofradías meant that braving Semana Santa, locked inside my house while life-sized depictions of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ passed below my window. Paso de pasos, quite frankly.

Still, I have become more and more fascinated in the pageantry and culture of Holy Week, and often take guests to bars full of musty busts of the Virgin Mother, spiderweb-covered chalices and black and white photos of anguished Christs to explain the parts of the cofradía and their symbolism. Plus, I kinda love having Jesus watch me have a cold glass of beer and snack of olives, I guess?

Bar Santa Ana – Calle Pureza, Triana

Far and away my favorite of the bunch is Bar Santa Ana. It’s the typical old man bar around the corner from your flat where you feel intimidated to walk into, but secretly have always wanted to – dozens of images of the nearby Esperanza de Triana and San Gonzalo brotherhoods. Bullfights are run on TV while you sip your beer, tabbed up right in front of you on the bar, and the countdown to Palm Sunday hangs over your head while you eat from a huge tapas menu.

La Freqsuita -  Calle Mateos Gago

With a name like the fresh one, La Fresquita has a lot to live up to with its beer. Still, it’s served cold and often accompanied with olives or even a pocket calendar. The small space – its biggest downside – is covered floor to ceiling in pictures of processions and a countdown to Palm Sunday. Since the bar is right off of the main tourist sites and centrally located on Mateos Gago, many patrons spill out onto the sidewalk in front of the bar.

Kiosko La Melva – Manuel Siurot, s/n (at the cross of Cardenal Ilundain). Hours depend on the boss, Eli.

My weekday bar is always Kiosko La Melva. Once a shack used to provide workers from the ABC Newspaper offices with their midday snacks and beers, the small structure is unbeatable for cold beer (which only costs 1€!) and small, delectable fish sandwiches. Eli and Moises, the wise cracking buddies who man the bar during the mornings and evenings, collect memorabilia from Semana Santas past to fill the bar’s small interior. Their favorites? The Jesus del Gran Poder and la Macarena, who are associated with the Real Betis football club! You can take the 1 or the 3 bus to the bar, which is located near the Virgen del Rocio Hospital. Closed when raining, Saturday nights and all day Sunday.

Garlochí – Calle Boteros, 26, Alfalfa.

Seville’s tackiest bar deserves a mention here, although it’s become a bit of a tourist attraction. Wafts of incense arrive to the street as a lifelike Virgin Mary, eyes towards the heavens, guards the door. The plush decor and aptly named drinks – like Christ’s Blood – make it a favorite among tourists, but there’s a “Garlochi Lite” next door with cheaper drinks and not so many eyes starting at you as you pound your cervezas.

As a non-capillita, I had to ask my dear friend La Dolan for her top picks for Semana Santa bars around the city. She told me of Carrerra Oficial, just steps from Plaza San Lorenzo and the Basilica del Jesus del Gran Poder that has put a replica of the famous church’s facades as part of its decor. The bar is on Javier Lasso de la Vega, 3.

Have you ever experienced Semana Santa in Seville? Or been to a Holy Week bar here?

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!

Seville’s Best Neighborhoods for Living

So, you’ve gotten the visa, packed your bags and moved to Seville. The first order of business (after your cervecita and tapita) is looking for a piso and a place to call home while you’re abroad. While living in the center of Seville can mean a long commute or blowing half of your salary on rent, it is undoubtedly one of the most liveable and lively cities in all of Spain. 

Choosing a neighborhood that’s right for you is imperative for your experience in Seville. After all, you’ll be living as a local and skipping the well-developed tourist beat. Each has its own feel and character, and not every one is right for you and your needs. Ever walk in a place where you can see yourself – or not? Here’s a guide from a seven-year vet to the most popular neighborhoods in Seville’s city center, from what to expect from housing to not-miss bars and barrio celebrations.

But should you choose a place to live before you make the move?

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t smart for me to pay a deposit on a house I’d never seen. I hadn’t met my roommates or staked out the nearest supermarket. While I lived in Triana happily for three years, I’d suggest renting a bed or room in or near the neighborhoods you’re interested in before making a decision about where you want to live for a year. After all, a bad living situation can make or break your experience in Spain.

Not all neighborhoods in Seville are listed on this post (not even where I live!). Consider more than just price or location: think about commute to work, ease of public transportation, noise and the people you’ll live with.

El Centro

photo by Christine Medina, run on Sunshine and Siestas

Seville’s beating heart is the most centric neighborhood, El Centro. Standing high above it is the Giralda tower, the once-minaret that guards the northeast corner of the third-largest Gothic cathedral in the world. This, along with the Alcazar Royal Palace and Archivo de Indias, forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site (whose status was threatened by the controversial Torre Pelli recently). Life buzzes in these parts, from the public meeting point in Puerta Jerez to Plaza Nueva’s Town Hall. Housing costs tend to reflect the fact that you’re smack in the center of it all, hence the apt name.

Not to miss: having a drink at Hotel Dona Maria next to the Cathedral or in Plaza del Salvador, the interior patios of Salvador which was once home to a mosque, the winding Calle de Siete Revueltos, cheap and oversized tapas at Los Coloniales, the fine Museo de Bellas Artes and the art market out front on Sunday mornings, Holy Week processions, having a pastry at La Campana Confiteria, the view from Las Setas.

Santa Cruz

The traditional Jewish neighborhood of Seville borders the historic Center and oozes charm. That is, if you like Disneyland-like charm. The narrow alleyways are now lined with tourist shops, overpriced bars with lamentable food and hardly a native sevillano in sight. For a first-time tourist, it’s breathtaking, with its flamenco music echoing though the cobbled streets. For the rest of us, it’s to be avoided as much as possible.

Rents here are typically not cheap. For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 450-700€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 300 – 400€.

Not to miss: chowing down a pringa sandwich at Las Columnas, Las Cruces festival in May, the Jardines de Murillo and its fountains, free entrance for students to the Alcazar and its gardens, the beautiful Virgen del Candelaria church (one of my favorites in all of Seville), having a beer at La Fesquita surrounded by photos of Christ crucified.

El Arenal

The neighborhood, named for its sandy banks on the Guadalquivir, boasts a number of gorgeous chapels, the bullring and the Torre del Oro, as well as the gintoncito crowd sipping on Gin & Tonics at seemingly every hour. Wedged in between the Center and the Guadalquivir River, the houses and apartments here tend to be cramped and overpriced, having belonged to families for years. Still, the neighborhood is lively and the taurino crowd ever-present. This is the place for you if you’re too lazy to walk elsewhere and are attracted by the nightlife, which is as varied as old man bars and discos.

For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-500€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 200 – 300€.

Not to miss: the café con leche and tostadas at La Esquina del Arfe, a bullfight at the Maestranza (or at least a view of those trajes de luxes along C/Adriano), the churros lady at the old city gate, the tranquility of Plaza  El Cabildo and its stamp stores and turnstile sweets, the 4,50€ copas at Capone.

Triana

Disclaimer: I’m 100% biased that Triana is the best place to live and wish the lure of free rent and hanging with my Novio on a daily basis didn’t take me away from my querido barrio. Trianeros believe that the district west of the Guadalquivir should be its own mini-nation, and with good reason: everything you could ever need is here.

Once home to the Inquisition Castle (Castillo San Jorge, at the foot of the Triana Bridge) and the poor fisherman and gypsy of Seville, Triana is emblematic of Seville. Quaint homes, tile for miles and churches are Triana’s crown jewels, and it’s become a favorite among foreigners. While it boasts few historic sites, Triana is all about ambiente – walk around and let it seep in, listening to the quick cadence of the feet tapping in its many flamenco schools. Some of the city’s most beloved bars, shops and even pasos are here, and the view from the river-flanked Calle Betis is gorgeous.

The homes here are a bit older and a bit more rundown, though Calle Betis has some of Andalucía’s most expensive property values. Typically, if you opt for El Tardón or the northern section of the neighborhood, prices are more economical. For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-400€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 250 – 350€.

Not to miss: Calle Pureza’s temples and hole-in-the-wall bars, slurping down caracoles at Bar Ruperto (or try the fried quail), the Santa Ana festival along Calle Betis in late July, the ceramics shops on Antillano Campos, Las Golodrinas’s punto-pinchi-chipi-champi meal, the afternoon paseo that the trianeros love so dearly.

Los Remedios

Triana’s neighbor to the south is Los Remedios, where streets are named for Virgens. The apartments are enormous and suitable for families, so don’t be surprised if you have three other roommates. While there’s not much nightlife, save trendy gin tonic bars, the barrio is located along the city’s fairgrounds and comes alive in April, two weeks after Easter. If you’re looking for private classes, this neighborhood is where a lot of the money is (so ask up!), and the many schools and families mean there’s no shortage of alumnos.

There’s also a university building, so cheaper student housing can be found in the area just south of República Argentina. For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-500€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 200 – 300€.

Not to miss: Asuncion’s pedestrian shopping haven, the VIPS boasting American products on Republica Argentina, Parque de los Principes’s lush knolls, the ambience in the surrounding bars during the Feria, Colette’s French pastries.

Alameda

source: ABC online

My host mother once warned me not to go into the Alameda, convinced I’d be robbed by the neighborhood’s hippies. While dreads and guitars are Alameda staples,  the barrio is, in fact, one of the trendiest and most sought after places. By day, families commune on the plaza’s pavement park and fountains. By night, botellones gather around the hip bars and vegetarian restaurants. From the center, it’s a nice ten-minute walk. This does, however, lend to litter and noise. The pros are obvious: close to nightlife (and most of the city’s GLBT scene, too) and the center, and well-communicated (especially for the northern part of the city).

For a studio or one bedroom, expect to pay 350-500€. For a shared apartment, you’ll pay 200 – 300€.

Not to miss: Viriato’s gourmet hamburger, the cute shops on nearby Calle Regina, Cafe Central on a Friday night, Teatro Alameda’s offerings, El Jueves morning flea market, the Feria market and its hidden fish restaurant. 

Macarena Sur

source: Dominó por España blog

Ever heard that famous song by Los del Río? Yep, it was named for Seville’s famous life-sized statue of the Virgen Mary, whose basilica and procession in the early hours of Holy Friday draw crowds and shout of “¡GUAPA!” Rent prices here are lower, bars more authentic and fewer tourists. The markets bustle, and the winding roads beneath plant-infested balconies are breathtaking. It’s also not uncommon to see processions or stumble upon a new boutique or pop-up bar. It’s also located just steps away from Alameda and encompasses Feria and San Julián, making it easy to get to the center, Nervión and Santa Justa.

Studios and one bedrooms run about 350 – 500€, whereas a bedroom in a shared apartment are about 200 – 350€. 

Not to miss: Plaza de los Botellines, Calle Feria and its market (and the freshest Cruzcampo I’ve encountered!), numerous kebab shops for a late-night snack, the Macarena basilica and old city fortress walls.

Nervión

The city’s business center is located in Nervión, where houses are meant more for families. This means they’re bigger, newer and better-equipped (most apartments for rent come already furnished with the basics). Still, Nervión is well-connected to the center, airport and Triana, is sandwiched between the central train stations, and boasts a shopping mall and the Sevilla Fútbol Club stadium.

This area is enormous – it stretches essentially from the first to second ring road in the area due east of the center. Many students choose to live here because of its proximity to many university faculties, like business, education and travel. The apartments tend to be newer and come unfurnished. Studios and one bedrooms are not common and expensive (think 500€), and sharing a flat will run you between 275 and 400€.

Not to miss: n’Ice Cream cake and ice cream shop, the Cruzcampo factory, El Cafetal’s live music on weekends, Nervión Plaza Mall, Parque La Buhaíra’s summer concert series.

Where do I live? Currently in a working class neighborhood where prices are cheaper, parking more abundant and noise almost non-existent. BUT I’ll be moving back to Triana before the end of the summer!

Where are you planning on living, or live already? What do you like (or not) about it? 

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