Tapa Thursdays: Sol y Sombra

Some places have now become tradition with me and the Novio when we have guests – everyone from a sorority sister and her husband to my own mother have had lunch in Sol y Sombra, a restaurant in the northern end of Triana.

The dimly-lit bar is remniscent of establishments from ages past – yellowing, cracked century-old bullfighting posters, a menu written by hand on the wall, dusty wine and brandy bottles resting under them. Those thin napkins that don’t lap up anything aren’t found – instead, you wipe your hands with rolls of toilet paper.

And there’s ham.

Like, dozens of hams hanging right over your head with little plastic cups for catching the sticky fat that rolls off the meat as it matures.

When the Nov and I took Danny and Javi last week, the mournful saetas were echoeing throughout the long, thin bar. At 2pm, the place was empty, so we set up along the bar, feet covered in albero.

The menu is replete with sevillano favorites – revueltos, fried fish, hearty meat stews. Food is only served in half or full rations, and not tapas, and vegetarian options are slim.

The one dish we always order is stewed bull tail, cola de toro. The tender meat comes with the bones and fat in all its glory, served with potatoes. On the last trip, we went all out – a round of croquetas, choco frito, pan-seared pimientos del padrón and the cola de toro.

If you go: Sol y Sombra is located on Calle Castilla 151, just around the corner from Ronda de Triana. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 1pm to 4pm and 8pm until midnight. Expect to pay 10-15€ a head with drinks.

 

Uno de enero, dos de febrero…Experiencing the San Fermines festival of Pamplona

Author’s note: This article was written by a guest author. While I have been to quaint Pamplona, I have never seen the bullfights or the running of the bulls that has made this city so famous. Therefore, none of the sentiments expressed in the post belong to me or to Sunshine and Siestas.

What images appear in anyone’s mind when they encounter the words “tour,” “tourist,” “touring,” or “leisure travel”? For me, it brings back memories of my stay in some of the best hotels in Costa Brava, my scuba diving adventure off the coast in Thailand, my long-distance trekking in the Lower Himalayas, and other countless visits in top destinations in the world. However, I’ve always known that tourism is more than that. It includes interacting with locals, tasting local cuisine in the region’s humble restaurants, learning more about the region’s history, shopping and haggling in bazaars and souks, or discovering less-known areas. In other words, to truly complete and enjoy a tour, I usually make an effort to experience a nation’s culture first-hand by doing what locals do every day.

Through my experiences, I learned that one of the best ways to experience a region’s culture is to witness and, better yet, join its festivals. Festivals embody and encapsulate a lot of the nation’s history and culture in a single event. For locals, it is a way to commemorate something significant, historical, or inspirational that made them the way they are today. For tourists, partaking in a festival is a way to learn something about the place while having a great deal of fun.

San Fermines

Spain is one of those countries where festivals are seemingly almost a daily occurrence, which is not surprising considering that it has a rich history and culture whose influence echoes to almost every corner of the world. Each Spanish city, town, village, or municipality may have its own plethora of festivals. And in Pamplona in Navarre, Spain, tourists can have more than just travel and leisure when they partake of the festival of San Fermin, locally known as San Fermines.

The festival, which is celebrated from July 7 to July 14 every year, is held in honour of the co-patron saint of Navarre, St. Fermin, which the festival is named after. It is considered as the one of the most popular and well-attended festival in Spain. In fact, every year, vastly more than 1 million people participate in the San Fermines.  During the festival, the entire populace wears white shirts and red scarves.  I’ve witnessed the San Fermines celebration – it’s spectacular!

Daily Events

Each day of the San Fermines festival is marked by daily activities that are fun, and sometimes dangerous, apart from the festival’s main attraction.

The Running of the Bulls – this event, which begins at 8 AM every day, involves masses of people running for their lives in front of enraged bulls: six bulls to be exact! The participants run half a mile of narrow streets in a part of old Pamplona, a run that usually lasts for 3 minutes, while being chased by big, strong bulls. The run ends at the bullring where the beasts will be held until the bullfight in the afternoon. Needless to say, the event is inherently dangerous. (Cat has walked these narrow, slippery cobblestone streets – it’s not for the faint of heart!)

The Parade of Giants – every morning from July 7 to 8, a parade of giant mascots is held in the streets of Pamplona. The giants, some of them over 150 years old, represent the rulers of different places and races. A skilled performer “wears” the giant costume while dancing to the rhythm of classical Spanish music. It’s a fun event as the giants playfully run after children.

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Bullfights – Spain has always been associated with bullfights. Each afternoon from July 7 to 14, fully costumed toreros step out into the arena and perform their dance with angry, powerful bulls. The stadium is always full during the afternoon, and those interested are advised to book tickets ahead of time if they wish to check out bullfights.

Classical sports – Forget football, basketball, and other modern Spanish sports. During the San Fermines festival, tourists and locals are re-introduced to traditional Basque sports that were once played hundreds of years ago. Every afternoon, in a square near the city’s citadel or bullring, local Spaniards and tourists either watch or participate in sports like hay bale lifting, woodcutting, stonelifting, and Jai ali. You can bet on your favourite “athlete,” by the way.

Fireworks Shows – at the end of the day, the city launches a fireworks show. These colourful shows in the sky have been a part of San Fermines since 1595, and  Pamplona has been hosting international fireworks competitions since 2000. During the night, thousands of people sit down on the grass around the city park to marvel at the exploding, brilliant colours in the night sky.

Take part of the San Fermines, one of the most popular festivals in Spain.

Author bio: Ariana Louis is a backpacker, traveller, and blogger. For more than a decade, she has experienced spending hotels in Costa Brava, exploring the jungles of Thailand, hiking the wilderness of the Lower Himalayas, and travelled to the corners of the globe. She keeps a cool photo blog of her adventures which also includes practical travel and adventure tips.

I’m headed to the Tomatina festival this August, a bit more my style than the heart-pounding (not to mention, life-threatening) action. Have you ever been to the San Fermines festival? Was it absolutely mad?!

Death in the Afternoon

Like it or not, bullfighting is intrinsic in sevillano culture. Hemingway’s favorite pastime is both hemmed and hawed and considered a great art form, but this piece of southern folklore is alive and well in Seville’s Maestranza bullring, which hosts some of the most revered festejos and brings in the biggest names in bullfighting.

Aside from the gory part of bullfighting, I personally love the image of a bullfighter. Slight body, slicked, jet-black hair, traje de luces glimmering in the afternoon sun. What’s more, the plaza de toros in Seville is de leyenda – the mustard yellow and white colonnades offset the bluest of skies and the yellow albero dirt that lines the elliptical plaza. The pomp and circumstance of the whole thing is as breathtaking as a Virgin passing silently over the Guadalquivir River during Holy Week, alit with candles. And, really, I just wanted to bring Camarón along to get closer.

We enter the gates of the Maestranza by way of a narrow, uphill alley, the same the bullfighters take past snapping camera flashes. The toreros are celebrities in their own right – rich, often handsome and ready to face death by way of a 500-kilo animals with two piercing horns and plenty of mala ostia. Our seats are in the sol – sunny – section, but the cloud cover in the late afternoon means we’re pleasantly comfortable and have paid 20€ less for the event. People surround us on all sides – old men in caps with their grandchildren next to them munching on sunflower seeds, wealthy sevillanos with sideburns and fancy seat covers, guiris like us with cameras poised.

The clip clop of horses sounds in the inner bowels of the arena below me. Pages with long plumes enter the ring as the band plays from high in the sombra section. They present their hats and the bullfighters enter gallantly, a cluster of photographers crouching as the toreros gaze at the crowd before them.

We’ve come to a novillada, where young bullfighters gain experience on smaller bulls and often in bullrings of a lesser division. But here, in the Maestranza of Seville, the bulls are agile, strong and weigh in at almost 500 kilos. We’ll see each – Conchi Ríos, Emilio Huertas and Álvaro Sanlúcar – fight two bulls. One of the opponents will die, and the other survive.

At 7pm sharp, the Puerta Gayola opens and the sounding of two cornets pierce the silent arena. Out comes Medialuna, and his statistics are announced on a placard over the door. Despite his size, he seems a bit flojillo as Conchi measures him up. Bullfighting is traditionally a male sport, but Conchi is treated equally, her cuadrilla or band of picadores, banderilleros and mozo de espada as grand as any. Using a heavy pink and yellow cape, called a capote, they measure the bull’s strength though a series of passes known as a verónica during the first third of the act. Conchi has a matador’s body and only the lavender colored ribbon in her hair gives away her gender.

The clip-clopping commences and the picaderos enter the ring through a gate adjacent to our seats. Fully armored, the horses are blindfolded and I cringe as the whole weight of the animal nearly knocks over the horse. A long rod with a hook on the end is driven between Medialuna’s shoulder blades. Conchi’s banderilleros, the three men designated to put the small flags into the bull’s mighty back take wing. The second act of the tragedy comes at a price – the bull is weakened due to the loss of blood, and it seems certain that he will meet his end. The small banderillas are fashioned after the Spanish, Andalusian and Murcian flags, paying homage to Conchi and her cuadrilla (from the region of Murcia) and the plaza.

Once the banderillas have been fixed, making the bull look as if it had won ribbons at a state fair, Conchi takes off her montera hat, saluting to the crowd. Now comes the final faena of the fight, where she manuevers the muleta, a small red cape, around the bull, using short grunts and movement to make the animal barge towards her. Though the animal passes far away from her, I’m intrigued by her foray into the sport.

Her first attempt to drive the sword between the shoulder blades, thus severing the main artery and killing the bull as cleanly as possible, is unsuccessful. Before the day is out, we’ll see five more bulls from the novilleros all hoping to present themselves as full matadors in the coming years. Álvaro Sanlúcar has a baby face and seems unsure of himself at times, while Emilio Huertas is so convincing in his second faena of the day, the band finally starts playing a paso doble as he puffs out his chest and taunts the creature.

“Oh, he’s going places,” says Cait, our resident toro aficionado. His faena is flawless (well, to me) and his efforts earn a standing ovation from the crowd. I take a kleenex out of my purse and wave it in the air, a petition to the judges to award him a special prize – an ear for his bravery and artistry. The ear is cut, and Emilio humbly takes it. Patting backs and hugging commences as he holds it triumphantly in the air and walks slowly around the ring. Fans throw flowers, hats and even painted fans at the young torero.

Placing his montera back on his head, he catapults himself out of the ring and leaves the last bull of the evening to Álvaro. He’s a fierce one who charges as soon as he catches movement. By this point, I’m already thinking about dinner (and I love bull tail, for the record). The trio walk slowly back out of the gate designated for them when it’s all over, symbolizing their triumph over death.

Not to add fuel to the fire, but have you been to a bullfight? What are your impressions of it? If you’re not into the gory stuff, please vote for me on Kaplan’s How to Teach English blog competion. My entry appeared on this blog last week, and your vote here with my name and blog URL could mean a free iPod for you, too!

¡A Vivir, que son (seis) días (de Feria)!

I’ve written for Backpacking Matt and The Spain Scoop about my favorite fiesta of the year: the Feria de Sevilla. Curve-hugging dresses, horse carriages and thousands of bottles of manzanilla sherry characterize the fiesta más alegre of the South just weeks after the gold-laden pasos are stored in their temples.

While in my surrogate caseta, Los Sanotes, my friend Susana’s cousin came to look for me. Yanking my beer out of my hand, she introduced me to a 60-something couple who were standing, dumbfounded, against the wall of the temporary tent. Introducing myself, they fired a million questions at me (whereas I asked just one: Would you like anything to drink?) about the history of the Feria, what it costs to be a member of a caseta and how to best go about enjoying themselves. For as much as I know about Feria – pescaíto etiquette, the names of the streets and how much a jar of rebujito costs – Feria is all about viviéndola. Being with friends, having a buen rato while wearing an enormous flower on yourself and admiring the trajes de gitana are all just a part of the week at the Recinto Ferial.

If the Feria is all about living it up, I’m all lived out. Three rides in horse carriages, two broken shoes and having to wash my flamenco dress three times to get all of the dirt out must mean that this ferianta did more than her fair share of dancing sevillanas and capturing the essence of the fair in pictures. Below each picture is a line from a sevillanas song (a four-part flamenco lite that’s heard emanating from each of the 1000+ casetas) with a link to the song on youtube. As the popular sevillana, A bailar por Sevillanas says, Si Ud. no ha visto la Feria, se la voy a enseñar (If you’ve never seen the Feria, I’m going to show it to you):

Ya huele a Feria, y olé, ya huele a feria

Once the somber processions and palios-encased Virgins are safely back at their churches, the construction of the main gate, called La Portada, is nearing completion, dry cleaners are working overtime to press volantes (ruffles), and the talk of Feria is imminent. Ya huele a Feria, it smells like Feria, and ¡olé!

La Feria se ilumina con su belleza

While the carnival rides and casetas are open, the fair doesn’t officially begin until midnight on Monday, after the traditional pescaíto fried fish dinner. The mayor waits until precisely the right moment to flip the switch that lights up the main gate, called the portada, and the thousands of paper lanterns, farolillos, that illuminate the street. Almost immediately after this moment, called the alumbrado, the bands start up and everyone starts dancing. ¡Olé, esa feria!

Vámanos pa la Feria, cariño mío

I’ve worked out a math equation: the less days that remain until the alumbrado, the more antsy I am. This year, as in years past, we’ve gone to have a few drinks before dinner on Sunday and enjoy the fairgrounds without people or horse carriages. The Calle del Infierno, with its circus tents and carnival rides, is the only really lively part, which means we get special treatment in the caseta. This year, I decided to skip out on the alumbrado and get a good night sleep, only to be restless and not fall asleep until 3am. I wanted to shake Kike awake and say, ¡Vámanos a la Feria, cariño mío!

Debajo de la portada, se la voy a enseñar

Imagine this: a maze of more than 20 streets, all named after bullfighters, more than 1000 red-and-white-and-green-striped tents, and a mess of people wearing brightly colored dresses. Add in all of those pesky horse carriages that clog the streets until 8pm, and there’s simply just one place to meet: under the main gate. There’s a whole lot of public casetas clumped nearby (PSOE, Garbanzo Negro, San Gonzalo), so this is a good place to begin your afternoon if you’re waiting to meet friends.

Me gusta el mosto en noviembre, y mirar al cielo azul

Feria is about as propio to Seville as the Taste of Chicago might be to my native Chicago. It’s a whole big gathering of people admiring beautiful Andalusian women, Jerezano stallions and drinking local wine. One of my favorite sevillanas is Los Amigos de Gines’s Yo Soy del Sur, I’m from the south, which pays homage to all of the best things about Andalucía – the bullfights, the crops, the never-ending blue sky, the pilgrimages. I get chills listening to its slow compás, these are my customs, and I never want to lose them. Ojalá

Se enamoró mi caballo de una yegua de Castilla

If I could bring two people to vivir la Feria, I’d have my dad chugging beers with Kike by night and my mom riding in Leonor’s horse carriage by day. From the early morning hours until the last call of 8pm, the streets jingle with cascabeles as hundreds of horse carriages parade around the Real. It’s not cheap – the little licence plate needed for circulating on the streets costs 86€ an hour!! I love living the feria by day to admire the stately Andalusian stallions which carry manzanilla-wielding men and gorgeous gitanas on their backs, and am lucky enough to have friends who bring carriages! Now if only I’d spot the Duquesa de Alba!

Me gustan los toros serios y los toreros con arte

Apart from the horses, the toros de lidia bravely stare down toreros six times a day during the week’s corridas. Nothing says Feria like a stroll around the fair in the morning, mantilla firmly on your head, with an afternoon at the Maestranza. From this point in the year, the Sunday afternoon bullfights officially start. While I’ve been just once to a bullfight in Seville, we do get to enjoy a mini session at my school: the preschoolers dress up as the toros and bullfighters, and we all chant, ¡Torero, torero! as the jury decides to award the valiant baby bullfighters with an oreja or two. Arte, pero arte.

Me metí en una caseta que estaba llena de pijos, todo el mundo en traje y hablando de su cortijo

As I’ve talked about the casetas before, it’s important to note that they’re private and guarded by door guys. I once invited my friend Lindsay to Susana’s, and she told the portero that she was friends with the guiri inside. He shook his head and said, no foreigners here! Most of the tents are owned by businesses, political organizations, the armed forces and big groups of friends, but there’s no denying it – most of the people who own the tents are rich enough to pay for them. It’s not cheap – Kike and I pay 75€ for the year, but we’re just two of the hundreds of socios . Whenever I am invited to a new caseta, I like to take in the ambience of the people who are talking about their horses, wearing nice suits, and have obviously come from money. I’ve been to some of the bigger and nicer tents in Feria, but prefer the less pretentious ones (and this hilarious sevillana – I went in to a tent full of preppy people, everyone wearing a suit and talking about their horse farm).

Mírala cara a cara, que es la primera

Once night falls and all of the socios have had dinner, the flamenquito bands arrive for live music and two lines of dancers form to dance sevillanas. This four-part dance is like a coqueteous encounter between two lovers: each step, they seem to get closer and more sensual. You can dance with up to four people, either boy-girl or girl-girl (but who care if you dance boy-boy!) and the music doesn’t stop until 5am. My favorite memories have been dancing – with friends, with socios, with my partner, with my students – and each year I feel more confident in my dancing. In Los Sanotes, I’m often invited to dance, and I swear it’s the least American I feel during the entire year.

Esa gita, esa gitana, se conquista bailando por sevillanas

When Susana first took me to try on my very first flamenco dress, I knew not to expect anything else but a lot of drinking and feeling very awkward in my tight dress. I was a hot gitana mess, but each year I feel just a bit more flamenca and love that the Novio has some amazing moves when it comes to dancing sevillanas (even if I have to drag him onto the dancefloor!).

Pasa la vida, pasa la vida y no has notado que no has vivido

Before you know it, the tents are coming down and the fairground is vacant. Seven days pass by in a blur of sherry and polka dots, but some of my most treasured times in Seville have been had at the fairgrounds. The famous sevillana Pasa la Vida by Albahaca talks about how life moves by so quickly and often we forget to live it, but the opposite happens to me during Feria. I can sleep four hours a night and stand dancing for 14. I feel sexier shaking my culo in my dress. I feel confident in calling everyone I know and finding them somewhere in the Real to have a drink.

When it’s all over and life goes back to normal, some little spark inside me seems to kind of flicker out, like my Amigos de Gines sing in my absolute favorite, Algo se muere en el alma. I’ve got to wait 51 excruciating long week to pin the flower back atop my head and my espartos to my feet. Something, indeed, does die in your soul.

Ever been to the Feria de Sevilla? Any good stories to share? Celebrity sightings?

92 Reasons to visit Seville

In working on an article for The Spain Scoop, I paid a visit to the Seville Tourism Board’s website. On the main page, to coincide with the World’s Fair in Seville’s 20th anniversary, the board proposes 92 reasons to visit Seville.

Among my favorites are things I enjoy about living here, like 88 (eat a montaíto de pringá), 74 (buy a flamenco dress),  55 (eat el jamón bueno bueno) and 58 (sleep a siesta). Then I remember the insane amount that I still have before me to do, like visit Doñana National Park, spot the Duquesa de Alba, see the Derbi between Mi Betí and Sevilla FC, walk el Rocío to Almonte.

I do think they gave up towards the end, as the last reason is, because you feel like it. So, so sevillano of you, VisitaSevilla. But who really needs to list 92 things to do in and around this glorious city whose history stretches back over 2000 years, whose sunsets are breathtaking and whose cuisine is tó lo bueno. Seville is more about feeling it and living it than seeing it.

Take a look, and tell me what’s on your Seville itinerary, or the reasons you’ve been here before. The Tourism Office hooked me up with this year’s Fiestas de la Primavera poster, and it can be yours if you’re chosen!

Everybody Was Pueblo-Timing

Everyone in Spain is, sorry to tell you, not fútbol- or flamenco-obsessed. Not everyone in Spain loves jamón. Not everyone in Spain speaks Castillian. But, yes, everyone in Spain has a pueblo (and not-so-secretly loves it).

I learned this during my second year at IES Heliche. While discussing holidays (summer vacation for you gringos), I asked if anyone was going to a second home of theirs. Virtually all Andalusian families spend their summer months away from the sweltering cities at the hundreds of kilometers of coastline down here, so I expected to hear names of beaches within an hour’s drive (for the record, the lack of beaches is one of my extreme dislikes about Sevilla, along with the ever-shrinking airport and lack of live music – the good ones, I mean).

Nearly everyone in Olivares listed their summertime destination as Olivares. Like the ones below:

Ok, I assumed, there’s a financial crisis, and it’s likely that people are sticking around their hometowns, trying to stay in the shade. Qué no, the olivareños were simply moving house across town to their parcela – or little shack houses – with pools. Why leave your pueblo when all of your friends are around?

En fin, the pueblo is to Spaniards as our dogs are to Americans.

For ages, Ismael and I considered Olivares to be our pueblo, but I don’t feel the same way about Olivares as I do Kike’s town, San Nicolás del Puerto. With 700 inhabitants, this town is totally pueblarino and found high in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla.

While nothing can compare to a city as vibrant, folkloric and beautiful as Sevilla, I do love my pueblo time.

Cheers (with cough syrup)

The Sierra is home to several specialties, including the Miura brand anís flavored with guindas - a small, red cherry. I personally think it tastes like cough syrup and haven’t had so much as a sip for years. Still, bottles of the rojo líquido are consumed most often in the Sierra as an after-meal drink.

The Sierra’s crowning gem is Cazalla de la Sierra, a breathtaking pueblo blanco full of old men and wine cellars. Monica and I ended up here after hiking the Vía Verde last Spring, and this is where the famous anís is produced, bottled and packaged.  I tend to refer to anís as a grandpa drink (see here and see also: Monica’s love for old men and their attraction for her), but the serranos guzzle it down, served in a stout, bell-shapped glass with just one ice cube. Ask for un miura con un hielito and you’re set.

Sierra-Style Soirees

One of my favorite times to visit the pueblo is during their ferias, fiestas and romerías, all in the name of tourism, saints and, well, fun. San Nicolás is the birthplace of San Diego, and just about every male in the town is named after him (and the Novio wants his third child to be a flesh and bone sacrifice to him, too. Honest.) My pueblo is famous for its Halloween in July, Carnaval celebrations, Romería - a kind of pilgrimage to a hermitage -  and the same día de San Diego.

Here’s an excerpt from a blog I wrote after my first San Diego:

 After my usual siesta in Kike’s childhood bed, I took the main road in to its intersection with the main road out. There, sandwiched between the houses on Calle Diego, next to my favorite bar, was a charranga in full-swing and scores of small Diegos running around. The nearby owner of the camping, Diego (duh), welcomed me with a beer and I sang him the customary saint day song (Many children in Spain also receive gifts on the day the feast of the saint which bears their name is celebrated. San Enrique, for example, is July 13th. To my knowledge, there is no Saint Cat!), taught to me recently by my babies at school. The town was fuller than ever – Inma came from Córdoba to see her mother and ask that her son be baptised in the same church as she and other generations in her family had, and an old friend of Kike’s, María José, brought her small children and husband for the first time. The bailes, typically held on Saturday, were cut short due to the early morning parade to follow the next day.

 Small town festivals are often more raucous, more inviting and even more fun than the Fallas, San Isidro and Feria that Spain has become famous for.

Jamón, Jamón

Ask anyone what’s to be found in the Sierra, and the answer is undoubtedly JAMON. Spain’s great meat reigns king, and the famous Iberian ham is raised right in the mountains that run along the border of Andalucía and Extremadura. Kike’s father makes a living off of raising and selling pigs to the local matadero, so we have a leg of ham – hoof and all – in our house nearly every day of the year. While I can’t say I loved jamón when I came to Spain, the taste has certainly grown on me.

There are two types of pigs raised in the Peninsula – serrano and ibérico. The difference lies in both the color and the feed, which give the paletillas and patas their distinctive taste. Regardless, both varieties are trimmed, dipped in salt and hung to dry for up to two years before being sliced in thin rations for consumption. Ibérico’s pata negra is considered a delicacy for many palates, and its taste comes from – lo juro - the acrons the pigs munch on. Exportation has increased with relaxed laws in the US for serrano hams, but the minute I can have a real slice of guarrito in Chicago, I’ll feel like my parents can finally taste a part of the pueblo closest to my corazón.

Gastronomic Gems

Speaking of jamón, the food in the Sierra couldn’t be better: from guisos made by grandma to fresh chorizo and goat cheese, I always eat well in the pueblos. In San Nicolás, where tourism is slow – save the bikers and horseback riders among the Vía Verde – there’s no plethora of restaurants to choose from. In a normal weekend visit, we can hit all of them, and often venture into neighboring villages Alanís de la Sierra and Constantina for a meal, too.

By far the best eatery in the vicinity is Batán de las Monjas, a rustic-style restaurant owned by Diego. Part homestyle restaurant, part new-age dining (Diego’s son studied at a culinary school in NYC and now is one of the lead chefs at Seville’s famous La Bulla), the place oozes pueblo charm is the resting place for the livery that feasts off of bellota in hills surrounding the village. Typical prices for entrées are will run about 7€, so it’s easy to fill up for cheap. The migas in winter and creamy gazpacho in summer have won my heart, and Diego and his family always make me feel at home – even when not with the Novio!

A Cambio de Aires

San Nicolás has a truly privileged location, not only for its livestock, but also for its outdoor offerings. A Via Verde trail slices around the southern end of the village, making it accessible for bikers, hikers and riders. It’s normal to see bikes leaned up against Enrique’s bar on a sunny Sunday morning, giving the town an added tourism boost for the smattering of bars and eateries. There’s hills to climb, waterfalls to admire, a Roman bridge to jump from, wildlife galore and some of the warmest and down-home people you’ll ever meet. I’ve always felt like one more Marucha when I’m in San Nicolás, and for good reason – I’m accepted as one.

Have you got your own pueblo? What’s your favorite, FAVORITE thing about it? Been to the Sierra Norte de Sevilla? Tell me what to do next time!

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