If there’s one thing that I would like to see returning this year, it’s the long weekend escape.
In a time where planning a summer holiday has felt as risky as plotting corporate espionage, the idea of indulging in a three-night escape is irresistible. Times are changing and travel is making a come-back, so get your passport ready! Which brings me on to my idea of the perfect destination for a weekend escape between March and May.
I fell in love with this sublime city situated in Southern Spain during my time as an au-pair, where I was fortunate enough to live with my host family for two months in an apartment on the Calle Albareda – a narrow but bustling street which leads you straight out to the heart of the city. Yet, despite the warmth and excitement that pulsates through the streets, Sevillians move at a pace of their own: people in suits smiled into their coffees on their way to work, parents on the morning school-run chatted excitedly over one another, and students from the local university wandered through the old town with the same admiration as a tourist fresh off the plane.
But it’s not just the terracotta walls or the constant smell of churros wafting across the city that makes the city so special – it’s the time of year too. And there is no better time to visit Seville than in the month of April, when the Catholic residents celebrate Semana Santa – a two-week long festival that spans before and after Easter Sunday. The joy and energy cascading through the city rivals Times Square at Christmas, and there is no place in the world quite like it. If you do decide to visit Seville at this time of year, here are some of the unique wonders of the city that you simply can’t miss.
Whatever the time of year, visiting La Plaza de Espana during your holiday should be top of your list, but seeing it in Spring is quite special. At first, you will be struck by the beauty of Maria Luisa Park, which holds enough ponds, wildlife and exotic flowers for you to get lost in for hours. Then eventually, you’ll stumble across one of most decadent European buildings you’ll ever see, stretching end-to-end in a complete brick semi-circle with a tower at either side, boasting a rainbow of colour from the balusters to the bridges. In front of the impressive building is a 500 metre canal, earning this destination its reputation as the “Venice of Seville”.
Here you can enjoy horse and carriage rides, nature-spotting, bicycle routes, and you can even rent a small boat and head to the water. But during my time as a broke au-pair, my favourite thing to do was to sit in the shade and spend the next few hours watching the incredible performances of the flamenco dancers, who seemed to never tire of kicking their heels and clapping their hands for anyone who wandered past.
While I can’t speak for the high-end gastronomy scene (I may have mentioned, I was penniless childminder), I could afford to enjoy the incredible street food on offer at almost every corner. My perfect day of eating in Seville, if I had to choose, would look like this.
I’d wake up, and head straight to Las Setas. Las Setas is an oddly modern construction at the centre of Seville, designed to look like a giant metal mushroom. While the locals aren’t that fond of it, it offers a great view point from above, and some much-needed shade beneath it on the hotter days of the year. And, around Las Setas, you can find some of the most delicious churros dipped in rich, dark melted chocolate. In the UK, this is a very indulgent treat. In Seville, this is breakfast!
For lunch, I’d wander into any of the metre-wide, hole-in-the-wall spots where you can buy the simplest, yet most delicious sandwich you’ll ever taste. Crusty bread, topped with freshly carved Iberico ham, and finished off with creamy manchego cheese. Heaven.
For something sweet, I’d head over to La Cacharreria on the Calle Regina, a small and cosy cafe where you can enjoy an espresso and some of the best homemade chocolate chip cookies you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating. I would usually buy a bag of them on my way home from the school-run, as they were my secret weapon in a battle over homework.
Like most Spaniards, a heavy supper isn’t a priority in Sevillian culture. Instead, you can head to any bar that takes your fancy, order a cocktail and feel very happy in the knowledge that bocadillos are just around the corner. Bocadillos, in Spanish culture, are small sandwiches that are considered the perfect companion to a night of drinking and socialising. These delicious little bites take bar food to a whole new level!
As you can probably already tell, you can enjoy this beautiful historic city on quite a reasonable budget. But my favourite things to do that are free to enjoy in Seville at Spring are found in nature. If you head back in the direction of the Plaza de Espana, you can find many aspiring yogis practising in Maria Luisa park. And it’s easy to see why – the swans on the lake, the harmony of birds, and the warm Sevillian sun make it the perfect place to relax and unwind.
And I couldn’t finish a tribute to Seville in Spring without mentioning the orange trees. Ripe for plucking in Easter-time, the city is bursting with these delicious citrus trees, and you’ll be delighted to find that every street smells like a Jo Malone candle. What could be better than that?
So, if you’re looking for a sweet escape this Spring, consider Seville.
Food, flamenco and freedom – there’s plenty to enjoy!
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