Viña Galvana 2017

This week I was invited to a private tasting for this year’s edition of Bodegas Delgado Zuleta’s D.O Cádiz white wine Viña Galvana. Delgado Zuleta is of course best known for its sherries (it’s said to be the oldest bodega in the marco de Jerez), especially Manzanilla La Goya, but also produces local white wines.

The 2017 Viña Galvana (85% Palomino Fino and 15% Muscat) is a fresh, light wine with a bright pale gold colour and a touch of fruitiness, and pairs well with fish and seafood. Perfect for the summer weather. The label pays tribute to one of Sanlucar’s most popular events, the annual horse races on the beach which take place every August. The cata was presented by Jorge Pascual, the Director-General of Delgado Zuleta and enologist José Antonio Sánchez Pazo, with promotion by @ProbandoGastro.

The event was hosted by Cinta Romero and her team at La Cochera del Abuelo, who also provided a light post-cata lunch. Thanks to everyone who helped organise this very pleasant event.

Night Visit to Venerables Hospital

It seems that 2016 is to be the Summer of the Night Visit in Seville, as a number of important historic buildings open their doors as darkness falls for unique experiences in some of Seville’s special places. I’m planning on doing several of these, and last Tuesday was the first, a night visit to the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes, in the heart of the Barrio Santa Cruz. The visit, conducted by our guide Sergio Raya, was to be partly by “candlelight” (battery-powered) to better recreate the atmosphere of the hospital’s early days.


Central Patio

Those early days were in the 17th century, a time of both great wealth for some, great poverty for many, scarred by general economic decline and repeated outbreaks of plague. The relief of hardship fell partly on the church, but mainly on the religious brotherhoods (hermandades) that are now better known for their role in the Semana Santa celebrations. One of these was responsible for founding the forerunner of los Venerables in what is now the Calle de Jesus de Gran Poder in 1627. It moved to Calle Amparo in 1659, and in 1675, while under the direction of Justino de Neve y Chavas, it was granted some land and houses on its present site in the heart of the Santa Cruz by Don Pedro Manuel Colón y Portugal (a descendant of Christopher Colón/Columbus), Conde de Gelves and Duque de Vergara. Building work took twenty years to complete, with Neve himself dying in 1685, but in 1698 the Hospital was formally blessed by the Archbishop of Seville.

The hospital is laid out in two stories around a central patio-courtyard, one of the most unusual in Seville as the central area is below the level of the surrounding colonnaded gallery, and the circular fountain is sunk still lower. Although visually pleasing, the primary reason for the unusual design was apparently the problem of drainage.


Church and High Altar

Our first stop was the Hospital’s most important building, the Church (tending to men’s souls being more important than tending to their bodies). Although not large, the Church is densely furnished and decorated, with works by Valdés Leal, Juan de Oviedo, and others making it one of Spain’s most important Barroque church interiors. The symbolism of the paintings and sculptures was intended to reinforce the idea of the centrality of the Church and Clergy in the moral life of the nation and the source of all moral authority.

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Ceiling of the sacristy

From the Church we went on through the sacristy, which has a remarkable painted ceiling intended to make the room appear much higher than it is, to the sacristy patio, one of the areas of the complex not normally open to the public. This was in fact where the hospital’s first patients were housed before the completion of the building. At one end is “the back door” which gives access to Calle Consuelo, and at the other a door leading into another small patio with a fascinating history of its own. This was once the Corral de Comedias (a type of small theatre, similar in artistic and social function to the contemporary Globe Theatre of Shakespeare) de Doña Elvira, in its day (1578-1632) the most popular in Seville. It took its name from Doña Elvira de Ayala (born 1377), whose Palace was in the nearby Doña Elvira Square, the theatre being in the palace gardens. Theatrical luminaries of the day whose works were performed here include Tirso de Molina, Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega.


Patio of Corral de Comedias

Next stop was the hospital ward on the lower floor (there was another on the floor above), a large open room with a high ceiling supported by a row of arches down the centre. The patients’ beds would have been arranged along the walls on either side, a model common to hospitals almost until modern times. From there we went up the main stairway with its ornate cupola with the Papal tiara and Saint Peter’s keys to the upper gallery. On the side next to the church a door leads to a screened balcony inside the church. Further on is the library, created in 1981, and housed in the original refectory, from the far end of which a narrow stairway leads up to our final stop, the Torre Mirador (watchtower), which has a mudejar style ceiling and views over the Santa Cruz, which looks very different from this height.

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Cupola of main stairway with Papal tiara and keys.

Thanks are due to both Focus Abengoa and Engranajes Culturales for the organisation of this fascinating tour, and more about other night tours and cultural experiences can be found here.

Velá de Triana

The Velá de Triana, or Velá de Santiago y Santa Ana to give it its full and correct title, is a traditional market fair that dates back to the 13th century, and is Triana’s largest annual street party. It’s held in late July, (this year July 20-July 26) and draws large crowds from all over the city.

There’s a stage for concerts in the Plaza del Altozano, local associations and hermandades set up booths and stalls along Calle Betis, and there is a small funfair for children towards the San Telmo Bridge, There are lots of activities during the week, including concerts, rowing and fishing competitions, an exhibition of old photographs in the Castillo San Jorge, and the Cucaña (which I finally saw for the first time this year), where the contestants (mostly young men, but some women, too) get a chance to show off by snatching a flag from the end of a greasy pole projecting over the river.

It’s a great way to spend a summer evening or two, strolling beside the booths, drinking beer or a sherry, and sampling the pescaito frito (fried fish) and green hazelnuts. The alumbrado, the switching on of the lights on Triana Bridge, took place at midnight on the Friday, and this year the festival ends with a flamenco performance in the Plaza del Altozano at 10.30 on Thursday evening. Maybe see you there?

A Day Trip to Cádiz

A totally different way to beat the heat in Seville is to follow the Sevillanos and get outta town! One of my favourite summer day trips is to Cádiz on the Atlantic coast, one of the most picturesque cities in Spain, with a history that stretches back around three thousand years. Not only that, but if there’s any summer breeze going, Cádiz, on a headland surrounded on three sides by water, is the place to take advantage of it.

Although it has plenty of that quintessential Spanishness, Cádiz has a completely different feel to it than Seville. The streets are generally straighter and longer, and generally pedestrianized, and there are a number of “grand plazas” that give the city an air of nineteenth-century civic pride. My favourites are the contrasting pair of Plaza Mina, full of trees and ornamentation, and the wide open marble-paved Plaza San Antonio.

But that’s for later. My first stop after arriving is usually the Cathedral Plaza and my favourite pastry shop for some elevenses with a view. This is the oldest part of town, and apart from visiting the Cathedral, its worth going through the Arco de la Rosa and taking a stroll through the Barrio El Pópulo to the Roman amphitheatre, which was rediscovered entirely by accident in 1980.

The next stop has to be the central market, only recently returned to the renovated market hall, for a browse around the displays of fresh fish and fruit and veg so typical of Spanish markets. The area around it is always full of life, too, with little stalls selling flowers, jewellery. and all-sorts.

For me, the best way to see most of the city is simply to walk around its edge, taking whatever detours I need to see things that I want to. There’s plenty of those but there are a few that I always want to go back to no matter how many times I visit. Foremost of these is the brooding mass of San Sebastian castle, and the causeway that leads to it, although unfortunately, the castle itself is not open to the public. The best view is from another favourite place, La Caleta Beach, where you can check out the Balneario de la Palma, a “Victorian-style” beach spa, and have lunch at the beachfront restaurant there, watching the sun sparkling on the water and the little fishing boats bobbing on the waves.

Further on are the fortifications of Santa Catalina Castle, built to protect the city in the 17th century. The little turrets that you see dotted around the seafront are called baluartes, and are a distinctive feature of the city. Also here is the Parc Genovés, a botanical garden with many species brought over from the Americas. This is a fascinating place, with an artificial cataract and the strange topiary of the trees on the main path.

Now’s the time to visit those plazas, before ending the afternoon with a drink and a bit of people watching in the Plaza San Juan de Dios, opposite the old town hall. It’s a short walk to the train station from there and during the pleasant ride home I look forward to arriving back in Seville just in time to meet friends for an evening tapeo.

Beating the Heat in Seville

Having started the Seville Concierge blog on June 21st, the longest day of the year, it seems appropriate to start things off with a post about The Heat in Seville. The three months from mid-June to mid-September really do get hot (100ºF is common) and you do need to adapt your behaviour to deal with it. The standard advice you already know – drink lots of water, put on sun block, wear loose clothes and stay in the shade – but you’ll also want some things to do that keep you out of the midday sun.

Museums, galleries and palaces. Depending on your interests Casa Pilatos has shady gardens and Casa Lebrija a typical cool Sevillano patio. The Museum of Fine Arts, which has a world class collection of classical paintings, should keep you occupied for a couple of hours, and has a beautiful plaza with big trees and those ceramic tiled benches that stay cool even when it’s hot. The Museums of Archaeology and Popular Culture are another good bet, and you can walk back to the centre of town through the green oasis of Maria Luisa Park as it starts to cool down in the evening.

Cold beer. Cruzcampo’s Glacial beer is served at -2ºC and will slake your thirst like nothing else.

Ice-cream. There are lots ice-cream parlours with dozens of different flavours to choose from. Head to Ben and Jerry’s in the Campana, or for Seville’s own specialists, Rayas, in either Reyes Catolicos or Almirante Apodaca.

Go to a movie. The Avenida 5 Cines in Marques de Paradas shows films in English – and also in air-conditioned comfort.

Go shopping. This needn’t be as strenuous as it sounds. All the shops are air-conditioned, and department stores like el Corte Inglés are big enough that you can spend an hour or so browsing without feeling under any pressure to buy anything.

If shopping’s not your thing you may prefer to settle down in an air-conditioned bar with a glass of one of Seville’s summer coolers, tinto de verano (red wine of summer) and gazpacho soup. Tinto de verano is a mixture of red wine and fizzy lemonade served over ice, with a slice of lemon. It’s what the locals drink; sangría is for tourists only. Gazpacho is a cold refreshing tomato and cucumber soup, usually served with ice in a tall glass.

Once evening hits make it over to one of Seville’s rooftop bars, and upgrade to a cocktail. The EME hotel and the Doña Maria are the most obvious, but show you know what’s what by going to the Hotel Inglaterra in the Plaza Nueva, or my personal favourite, the Fontecruz in Calle Abades, which has the coolest ambience as well as the best views. Cheers!