It was time for another family holiday minus my brother Hugo who, since his teenage years, doesn’t really “do” family gatherings. Dad booked the three of us into Hotel Casas de El Arenal (which was very nice) in Seville for four nights. Whilst this was my parents first visit to Seville, this was my second after spending a few days here when backpacking around Europe in 2012. Despite visiting before, I have little memory of Seville mainly because it was one of 16 countries I travelled to that summer and one hell of a good place to party. It was all a bit of a blur.
Getting lost in the back-alleys of Seville is one of the best things to do here. Old buildings and cobbled streets have such character and you are never short of a hole in the wall selling tapas and fresh beer. Beer comes cold in small 1/3 pint glasses. Sangria, I’ve been told, is mainly for the tourists. Locals seldom drink it. Both are equally to my taste.
The first thing to note about Spain is the different daily schedule compared with the rest of Europe and America. A typical Spanish person would wake at, say 8am, have an espresso and go to work/go about their morning. Breakfast is a little later around 10am, or they may grab a pastry before. Between 2pm till 5pm in the afternoon most shops and restaurants close and everyone goes for a nap. They eat lunch during this time. Back to work between 4pm to 7pm and after they may meet with friends for a drink and a tapa (a small plate of food). They will then return home to the family around 10pm at night and eat dinner. Nightlife and prime TV kicks off at 11pm. I’ve never liked the idea of napping mid-day and eating so late, although I’m sure I could get used to it.
Spanish people are very laid back, friendly and are careful drivers (except Carlos). We went on a cycle tour around the city of Seville where I learnt a lot about the history and the buildings there. More up my street was the evening food tour. We were taken around several local tapas bars before heading for a degustation menu at a modern Spanish restaurant. Both the food and wine were certainly very good. However, if you were a gluten intolerant vegan in Spain, you’d be screwed.
White bread comes with every order with pork and cheese dominating the menu. There’s heaps of fried fish, croquettes, fried chips and every vegetable seems to be drenched in olive oil. This isn’t to say Spain doesn’t have some excellent dishes. It does. They just come with a side of unimaginable weight gain. I guess if I lived here though the bread and cheese and cured meats wouldn’t be such a novelty. I most certainly wouldn’t be in “holiday mode”. The Spanish also don’t over indulge as much as us Brits. That may be another reason for the beautifully sculptured bodies of most of the women here.
Being a fairly large city with a big University and certain areas being rather “hipster”, Seville has an array of vegan-style cafes and juice bars. Mum and I love vegan food so made sure breakfast took the form of an Acai bowl with fresh fruit and a juice. Our lunch, a healthy salad. Dinner was a more extravagant affair with both my parents lovers of fine dining. We ate at some truly amazing restaurants such as Mama Bistro. This was all washed down with some fantastic Spanish wine and Sherry. Dismissive that no wine would top that of New Zealand and South Australia, I may now be partial to some European wines.
We visited the main tourist sights, the Plaza de Espana and Real Alcazar. Here we had a guided tour around the chamber/housing quarters of the Spanish royal family. It was all very grand but not really my thing to be honest. I’m not much of a history/museum person. I did like this painting of one of the royals though, she mirrors exactly how I look and feel after my holiday of indulgence. Seville has a nice vibe to it and has enough to keep you occupied for a good week or two especially if you like shopping and history.
After a few days in Seville we headed south to Ronda, which is one of the white villages in Audalucia in the Provence of Malaga. I love exploring new places and Ronda didn’t disappoint. Perched on the side of a gorge it boasts beautiful views and like Seville, has many small cobbled streets to roam through. We stayed at La Perla Blanca, a couples retreat about 8km outside of town. This meant it was difficult for me to get into town without my dad who was the only named driver on our hire car. I did miss being amongst the action but at least our place was relaxing and we felt comfortable there. Surrounded by couples isn’t exactly my idea of fun but it did provide me with much entertainment watching the occasional domestic argument and canoodling. The pool was wonderful, as was the fresh breakfast basket placed outside my door each morning, the unlimited 24 hour coffee and the help-yourself drinks cabinet.
Ronda was our “holiday within the holiday” as Dad calls it, so we didn’t do much except eat, drink and relax. We hired top-end road bikes for half the week and enjoyed a scenic ride to other white villages near by. The village of Setenil de las Bodegas was our last stop and my favourite as it has been built into the rock face. We sat under the overhanging rock face and enjoyed a small beer and an ice cream. The following day I turned back 5km into the ride as my knee was hurting. I spent the day feeling guilty sipping wine by the pool. Mum and dad returned home a lot later than expected and told me I had made a good decision. Despite being a haven for cyclists, Ronda and the surrounding area sure is hilly! They came back looking absolutely exhausted.
Whenever I go away with my parents I am always treated to some extravagant food and drink. Dad loves to research the best restaurants in town and booked a table at Bardel which is run by famous chef Benito Gomez and has a Michelin star. We sat down to a 21-course tasting menu, filled with all sorts of weird things like snails and octopus. It was a truly memorable experience, I think we were there for about five hours in total!
We visited the famous bull ring in Ronda which was interesting. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed watching a fight though as I love cows (and bulls) and bull fighting is cruel. Ronda is famous for its wine, sweet sherry and olive oil and I certainly consumed my fair share during my week there. I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Ronda with its glorious weather, great food and beautiful surrounding countryside. Thanks Dad for a great holiday.