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  • ellenday2002

Beautiful Southern Spain

This Spanish adventure occurred in September 2023 so this blog is only five months late! A long weekend in Seville was a belated 21st birthday present from my lovely uncles, who know how much I love Spanish culture and food. The week after was a family holiday spent in Tarifa, a scenic coastal municipality located the southernmost end of the Iberian Peninsula. Spending time with family, in the sun, whilst eating tasty food- what more could you want?!

 

My parents went to Seville a few years back and told me how much I’d love it and, to be fair, they weren’t wrong (well my mum never is 😉). We stayed pretty centrally, only a five minute walk from the cathedral and the Alcazar- two absolute must-visits in Seville. The sun was shining the whole time and the heat wasn’t too unbearable (as an inglesa it’s pretty easy to be overwhelmed by the heat!). I’ll start by saying that this is probably my favourite city I’ve ever visited- the vibes were immaculate, the scenery was beautiful and the food was great. A big contribution to the immaculate vibes I mentioned were the people- they were kind, patient and made a real effort to speak to me in Spanish despite me sometimes being slow in my response back. They were even patient when my mum, attempting to ask for a bit of cold milk on the side with her tea, instead asked for ‘leche fresa’. This means strawberry milk and slightly confused the waitress. However, after an explanation from me and a little chuckle, she did in fact end up bringing ‘leche fria’.


One of my highlights was the Royal Alcazar, where we had a very enthusiastic tour guide who showed us the different types of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim influences that you can see in the exquisite architecture. I also loved experiencing a live Flamenco show. With such deep ties to Seville’s history, I knew it was crucial to go to one and I loved it- the passion of the singers and the skill required for flamenco dancing (especially the cape work) was amazing to witness. In terms of food, my favourite restaurant we visited was De La O. It had an incredible location and, if you sat outside, it had a scenic view of the Guadalquivir River. I didn’t order a starter but after trying some of my mum’s chicken liver pate, I sort of claimed it as my own. It had the smoothest texture, a rich umami flavour and was paired with a sweet, citrus chutney that married everything together. It’s probably my favourite starter ever! For mains I did end up actually eating my own- a filling bowl of hoisin noodles with melt-in-the-mouth braised duck. These aren’t Spanish dishes I know- there’ll be more on that next, where I talk about Tarifa.

 

We then drove from Seville down to Tarifa, situated right at the bottom of Spain where you can see Africa across the sea. I loved Tarifa. The environment was very relaxed and, as it wasn’t too touristy, it felt pretty tranquil. I, once again, enjoyed speaking/practicing Spanish, and was overwhelmed by the kindness of locals when I did. I remember one lady in particular having the biggest smile on her face after hearing me speak English to my family but then make a reservation with her in Spanish.

The main thing we did in Tarifa was eat- my favourite hobby! Being the only member of my family to like fish actually came in handy here as I was able to order the most beautiful seafood dishes without having to share- tempura prawns and tuna tartare were my favourites. We also had some great tapas dishes here- patatas bravas with a smoky chilli sauce, perfectly charred Padron peppers with crunchy salt and jamon croquetas with a creamy, cheesy centre and the crispiest coating (La Lola and No.6 Cocina Sencilla were my favourite restuarants). Fun fact about Padron peppers: while most are mild in flavour, around one in ten are extremely spicy- something my whole family experienced at least once during the week!


One night we switched it up and had Italian food where I got a pizza with pistachio pesto, mortadella and, in case that wasn’t enough, a ball of burrata in the middle. So indulgent but so delicious! To continue with the pistachio theme, we were regulars at an ice cream shop in Tarifa called Gioelia Cremaria that had the nicest staff and the most delicious ice cream with lashings of pistachio crema. During our various trips I had every intention to switch it up and try a new flavour but I just couldn’t- every time I saw the pistachio crema I was drawn in and resisting was impossible!


In between all the eating, we had a few trips to the beach, enjoying watermelon mojitos at the beach bar whilst watching the kite-surfers. We explored the town, finding cute independent stores and cosy coffee shops. As my mum is the main organiser, a hike was on the itinerary which, despite my complaining, was actually very enjoyable. We hiked through the woods and up to wind turbines and, as I’d never stood right next to one before, I didn’t realise that they're absolutely humungous! Scarily big, in fact!


I could write another ten pages about how much I loved visiting these parts of southern Spain but that may be too much! To prove that I really did love it- I’m actually heading back to Seville in June- under a year later, and I’m just as excited as the first time!



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