Palacio de las Dueñas

The Palacio de Las Dueñas is the Seville home of the Dukes of Alba, and until her recent death, of Cayetana, the 18th Duchess of Alba. Last year the house was opened to the public, and recenly I took a rather delayed opportunity to see it for myself.

The palace was originally built in the 15th century by the Pineda family, one of the original aristocratic houses of Seville, and was named for the adjacent Monastery of Las Dueñas (finally demolished in 1868). In 1496 the house was sold to Doña Catalina de Ribera, widow of Governor Don Pedro Enriquez, according to legend in order to pay for the ransom of Don Juan de Pineda, taken prisoner by the Moors during the wars against Granada. In 1612 it passed by marriage to the family of the Dukes of Alba, where it has remained ever since. In the 19th century parts of the palace were converted for a time into a boarding house, and Antonio Machado, probably Seville’s most famous poet, was born here in 1875.

From the outside, despite a substantial entry gate with a glimpse of garden beyond, it’s only moderately impressive, and it’s full extent really only becomes apparent once you pass inside. The main palace is essentially Renaissance, and built around three sides of the central courtyard (the fourth side giving onto the gardens), with additional wings and courtyards, and surrounded by gardens and outbuildings. Despite being near the city centre it’s an oasis of peace, calm and greenery, and it’s easy to appreciate why the family loved the place so much.

The tour begins in the front garden courtyard, where our handy audio guide explains some of the history of the Palace. Ahead of us is the apeadero, a typical feature of all grand houses, where visitors would have alighted from their carriages, but our route takes us off to the right to the stables, and through to the famous garden of the lemon trees immortalised by Machado. From there we come to the central courtyard, the heart of the old palace. This is built on two floors in the Gothic-Mudejar style with the typical columns, arches and decorative plasterwork of the period. In one corner the principle staircase, adorned with tapestries and with an outstanding ornate coffered wood ceiling, leads up to the private residence of the Dukes of Alba (not open to the public).

Arranged around the courtyard on the ground floor are a number of rooms that traditionally formed the public part of a late mediaeval palace. These include the chapel and is antechamber, where the extended family and their friends would gather for religious occasions, the Flamenco room, complete with a tablao for dancing, and of course, a library. All these rooms also serve to house an important collection of art and furniture collected over the centuries.

Tucked away beyond these are the Olive Oil Patio (so named because it was once used for storing olive oil), and the quiet space of the Santa Justa garden, which has a picturesque creeper clad balcony overlooking one corner, one of my favourite places in the palace.

The Palacio de las Dueñas is almost like a bridge between times present, and times past (at least if you were wealthy), and offers one of those rare glimpses into another style of life. It’s well worth a visit.

Calle Dueñas 5
Sevilla
Tel: +34 954 214 828
Palacio de las Dueñas Website

Hospital de los Venerables – Velázquez & Murillo

This year is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bartolome Murillo, probably Sevilla’s most famous painter, and has been officially declared the Year of Murillo. As part of the commemorations the Fundación Focus-Abengoa, in collaboration with the Prado Museum, London’s National Gallery, and others, has organised a very special exhibition comparing the work of Murillo and Sevilla’s other most famous painter, Diego Velázquez.

velazquez murilloThe two painters, born in Seville a generation apart (Velazquez in 1599 and Murillo in 1617), and having their formative influences there, nevertheless had quite different career trajectories, Velazquez leaving Seville to work at the Spanish court in Madrid in 1623, while Murillo spent his entire working life in Seville. It’s not known whether the two ever actually met in person (though they must have been aware of each others’ work), but while there is no record of a meeting, it’s not impossible as Murillo visited Madrid on several occasions, although art experts think that there was only limited reciprocal influence.

santa rufinaSanta Rufina by Murillo (left) and Velázquez (right)

However, it’s clear from the 19 paintings in the exhibition, 10 by Murillo and 9 by Velázquez, that there were common influences in the cultural world of Sevilla in the 17th century. This shows itself in both the choice (or commissioning) of subjects, especially in religious subjects pertaining to Sevilla such as the Saints Justa and Rufina and the Immaculate Conception, as well as of Saint Peter and the Adoration of the Magi, and the highly naturalistic style of the scenes of everyday life.

day to day lifeEveryday scenes by Velázquez (left) and Murillo (right)

It’s also appropriate that the exhibition is being hosted in the Venerables Hospital, a building that is of the early 17th century, and which has both a historical and current associations with the two painters. Around mid-January the exhibition, which continues until February 28th, surpassed the 50,000 visitor mark.

Velásquez | Murillo | Sevilla
Hospital de los Vernerables
Plaza de los Venerables 8
Open 10.00 – 18.00 (last entrance at 17.30)
General Admission: 8 euros
Free Admission Tuesday 14.00 – 18.00

Sherry On Top

sherry on top

Last night (July 6th) I had the good fortune and privilege to be invited to the first of a new season of music & wine events in Sevilla with the title Sherry on Top. Organised by the Consejo Regulador de los Vinos de Jerez, in conjunction with the Asociación de Hoteles de Sevilla y Provincia‘s #summerHOTELtime initiative, it aims to attract people to some of Sevilla’s best hotel rooftop terraces with a programme of live music, sherry tastings, and exclusive sherry cocktails designed by the hotels’ bartenders.

sherryontop (1)

Last night’s event was held at the Hotel Inglaterra in Plaza Nueva, one of Seville’s most popular rooftops. Comfortable and elegant, with fabulous views of the Town Hall, El Salvador Church and the Cathedral, it was a pleasant place to spend a balmy evening out of doors, and many of the great and good from the worlds of sherry and hospitality were there, including the newly re-elected head of the Consejo Regulador, Don Beltrán Domecq. As always at such events it was also a good opportunity to renew acquaintance with old friends and make a few new ones.

The tasting was hosted by Carmen Aumesquet and Pepe Ferrer, and featured a Fino, an Oloroso and a sherry Cream cocktail. Live music was provided by Los Quiero, who turned out to be rather good, playing music from the 50s-60s-70s, including some forgotten favourites.

sherryontop (2)-001

Altogether a very nice evening, and I hope to attend a few more of these events over the summer, on from now until the end of September. Check the links below for the upcoming venues and performers and be sure to reserve your spot as space is limited. Salud!

Sherry On Top Webiste
Sherry Wines Facebook

Vinos de España – Una Pasión

vinos de espana
Tomorrow Sevilla will host the third edition of “Wines of Spain. A Passion”, a gathering of wineries organised this year by Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo, presenting the enormous diversity and richness of Spanish wines to fans, professionals, and wine lovers alike.

The event will be held in in the heart of Seville at Casa Bucarelli, an idyllic environment that combines beauty and history of the city. 42 Spanish wineries will be featured with a selection of over 200 fine wines. There will be a diverse representation of producing areas, designations of origin and wines: Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Somontano, Cádiz, Priorato, Jerez, Toro, Rioja, Mallorca, Extremadura, Navarra, Txakoli, Wheel, Cava, Ronda, Ribeiro, Valencia, Arianza, Ribera del Duero, Madrid, among others.

Vinos de España Una Pasión
May 12th
11.30 am – 7.30 pm

Sevilla Feria 2016

feria sevilla 2016 (1)

Some scenes from the Feria de Abril in Sevilla. The portada this year was a “Homage to Dance” and the winning design, by Eduardo Morón Espinosa, was inspired by the Argentinian Pavilion for the 1929 Spanish American Exhibition, now the Antonio Ruiz Soler Conservatory of Professional Dance.

I was invited to have lunch one afternoon at the private (and massive) City Hall caseta, so I went along with my friend and colleague Aldara Arias de Saavedra from We Love Tapas and we were shown a fabulous time by Diego Torres, editor of Sevilla Selecta magazine, who was in charge of coordinating all the food for the event. Afterwards we took a stroll around the grounds. It was a lovely sunny afternoon but heavy rains earlier in the week had taken its toll and the thousands of colourful paper lanterns that typically cover the lights had literally been washed away. There are rumours that next year the feria may start on Saturday (instead of the traditional Monday at midnight opening) and last for ten days. We shall see…

feria sevilla 2016 (4)arriving at the feria

feria sevilla 2016 (6)flamenco in the Ayuntamiento caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (9)cold manzanilla served in a chilled metal teapot

feria sevilla 2016 (10)this year’s spring fiestas poster

feria sevilla 2016 (8)Andalusian products

feria sevilla 2016 (7)Inés Rosales for dessert

feria sevilla 2016 (22)Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (5)Diego and Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (19)lovely head scarf on this lovely amazona

feria sevilla 2016 (18)chatting each other up

feria sevilla 2016 (23)We Love Tapas chicas Ania and Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (15)washed away paper lanterns

feria sevilla 2016 (24)feria shoes…

feria sevilla 2016 (29)kids playing outside a caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (17)two young girls singing sevillanas

feria sevilla 2016 (21)beautiful colours

feria sevilla 2016 (14)horse whisperer

feria sevilla 2016 (13)carriage ride

feria sevilla 2016 (12)hombres

feria sevilla 2016 (11)taking a break

feria sevilla 2016 (28)big and little

feria sevilla 2016 (27)amazona

feria sevilla 2016 (26)chicas!

feria sevilla 2016 (20)inside a public caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (16)late afternoon shadows

feria sevilla 2016 (25)the wheel – would’ve gone up but it was way too speedy

Feria de Abril Sevilla

Semana Santa 2016

ss 16 (2)people waiting for processions, contemplating that other Great Power… 4G

After last year’s “warning” 😉 about coming to Sevilla during Semana Santa, followed by the Twitter shit storm inadvertently caused by me posting this photo on Instagram, I am going to stick with a simple photo essay this year. It was a lovely and gentle Semana Santa for me, running into some processions by happenstance, seeking out others on purpose, and generally enjoying the ambiance since most of my time wasn’t spent in La Bulla (the very Sevillano name for the crush of humanity that congregates on the procession routes). And while I’d never actually choose to get caught up in a serious bulla, I have learned over the years that when this happens, just relax and ride it out. Though it does help to know which little side streets will get you off the main route, and after more than 23 years in Sevilla I am quite experienced in “procession dodging” when I actually need to get somewhere. So for Semana Santa 2016 here are 16 pics I took while out and about this week…

ss 16 (1)mini-nazareno

ss 16 (10)the San Bernardo procession in Cuesta del Rosario

ss 16 (14)chairs galore! Plaza San Franciso

ss 16 (13)Cristo de la Fundación, San Bernardo

ss 16 (12)Los Negritos

ss 16little boy waiting for the next procession

ss 16 (11)group of people from nursing home with “preferred seating” supplied by local bars

ss 16 (9)Virgen de los Ángeles, Los Negritos

ss 16 (8)elegant ladies dressed “de luto” (in mourning)

ss 16 (7)Cristo de la Salud, Los Gitanos

ss 16 (5)costaleros taking a break

ss 16 (6)off-duty Centurian posing for pics

ss 16 (15)María Santísima de la Esperanza Macarena

ss 16 (4)Cristo de la Expiración (El Cachorro)

ss 16 (3)
El Cachorro was created in 1682 by Francisco Antonio Ruiz Gijón. It depicts Jesús at the moment of dying on the cross (Cristo de la Expiración) and is a splendid and very moving work of art. Legend has it that the artist found a gypsy dying in the street in Triana and his face was the inspiration for his Christ. This is one of my favourite processions though I don’t get to see it every year. Glad I made time for it yesterday.

The longer I live in Sevilla the more I see and read accounts of my beloved adopted city by various expat bloggers living here, or by travel writers passing through, and while some are good and honest accounts (I don’t have to agree with them all) there are also many that are frankly just crap. My feeling is… DON’T write about something you haven’t actually experienced first hand. Also, try to approach your topic with an open mind, not with an already fixed agenda. Sometimes I wonder if some of these travel writers have actually been here. And as for the massive expat community here… as long as you are still calling somewhere else “home”, I wonder if you’ll ever really experience Sevilla – or Spain – other than through foreign eyes looking at a foreign culture. I’ve never thought of anywhere else as “home” since arriving in Spain back in 1992. And while I love showing visitors the joys of Sevilla, I guess also feel very protective. Because it is my only home.

Andalucía Sabor 2015

andalucia sabor 2015
This year saw the 5th edition of the Andalucian Fine Food Exhibition (Andalucía Sabor), which was held in the Palacio de Congresos from September 14-16.

This biennial event is organised by the Department of Agriculture, Fishing and Rural Development of the Junta to promote the best of Andalucian produce and gastronomy to a world market. It brings together professionals from every part of the gastronomic world from primary producers, through the Consejos Reguladores to chefs, wholesalers and distributors, and the press. As well as the exhibition stands activities include tastings of oil, ham and wine, ham cutting and cooking competitions and demonstrations, and round table discussions.

In other years I have focussed on the conferences but this year I spent most of my time checking out the products and watching the presentations and workshops. Here are a few of the highlights…

Continue reading “Andalucía Sabor 2015”

A Day at the Fair

feria 2015 (1)portada

feria 2015 (10)bubbles

feria 2015 (9)striking a pose

feria 2015 (6)elegant amazonas

feria 2015 (5)amazonas sharing lipstick

feria 2015 (4)thirsty work being an amazona

feria 2015 (3)mutual respect

feria 2015 (8)standing having a cold beer (while others had VIP seating)

feria 2015 (7)deceptively benign looking ride

feria 2015 (2)la noria

photos from my azahar Instagram account

It’s Sevilla’s Biggest Party…

feria 2015 (1)… and you’re not invited.  😉

Okay, not quite. You are very welcome to go to the Feria but unless you know someone with a caseta (the little stripy marquees) then you will end up crushed into one of the 19 large public ones. With over 1,000 private casetas that’s a lot of exclusion, which seems not very in keeping with what is meant to be a festive local event. Sound like sour grapes? Well, it isn’t. When I first moved to Sevilla over 22 years ago I found myself invited to Feria all the time, including the “noche del pescaíto“, followed by the “alumbrao” (lighting up of the gate and grounds at midnight on the Monday) and all-night partying. There would also be (private) lunches and long evenings going from (private) caseta to (private) caseta. I don’t know when it got tedious for me, but after a few years of this I would make my excuses when the invations came in, and limited my feria-going to one afternoon of taking photos of the splendid horses and colourful flamenco dresses.

feria 2015 (2)

This year I did something a bit different, which was to take in the “pre-feria” on the weekend before the official opening. To be honest, I didn’t know you could just walk in or that the casetas would be open for business. But I was there with a friend taking some photos of the portada and we saw people wandering in, so we did too. Many of the casetas were still having finishing touches done, but we saw several (private) ones full of people and then came across the large Distrito Casca Antiguo and, since it was open, decided to stop in for a beer. The calm before the storm.

feria 2015 (3)As I sit here writing this a few invitations to meet at the Feria have come in by email or text message.  And the other day I was even asked to do a radio interview about Feria (!!) which I turned down for obvious reasons (I don’t think it would have been the interview they were looking for). But you never know. I may end up popping over to people and horse watch for awhile. And before you write me off as a grumpy anti-feriante, I’ve already booked some time off to spend a couple of days at the feria in Jerez, where the casetas are open to everyone and the horses are especially beautiful. Just feels friendlier there somehow.

Feria de Abril
April 21 – 26th