Seville | Hotel Doña María

doña maria

The Doña Maria is a four-star hotel that boasts a perfect central location just across the square from the Cathedral, and close to the Alcázar Palace and Barrio Santa Cruz, making it ideal for sightseeing. These days it seems to be best known for its busy modern roof terrace, which is open year-round, where both guests and public can enjoy a drink while admiring the excellent view of the Cathedral and Giralda Tower. An upper terrace has a small swimming pool reserved for guests, and regular live music events are scheduled during the summer. Check their Facebook Page for concert details.

The building is a Casa Palacio dating back to the 14th century, and though there aren’t really any clues to such antiquity, the hotel, which opened in 1965, does still have the elegant style and manner of a bygone age, including some interesting old prints on the walls. There’s a substantial lounge with a pretty plant-filled patio next to reception, and a separate bar next door.

doña maria (2)

The hotel has 64 rooms, mostly variations on double rooms, although triple rooms, and double rooms with a salon are also available. Our second-floor room was a superior double with two 105 cm single beds (double bed also available), and was quite spacious, with a balcony that had a nice view of Virgen de los Reyes square. It was equipped with a desk, minibar/fridge, TV, and ample closet space. Nice bathroom with twin sinks, good water pressure, and a standard selection of toiletries.

The room was clean and comfortable, with nice firm mattresses, and charming old-style décor. My only real complaint about the room was the lack of power outlets, making it difficult to keep our devices charged. However there was decent free WIFI throughout the hotel and multi-plug extension cords are available at the front desk if, like me, you travel with phone, tablet and laptop.

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Although there is no restaurant, a standard buffet breakfast is available in the Patio de Cristal, and there are lots of tapas bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. Hotel staff are happy to give you recommendations.

The perfect location and the rooftop pool and bar are the main attractions of this hotel, making it a good mid-priced option for a stay in Seville

Hotel Doña Maria
Calle Don Remondo, 19
Sevilla
Tel: +34 954 224 990

Disclaimer: Myself and my companion were invited as guests of the hotel, but all opinions here are my own.

Foodie Hub Tapas Awards

foodie hubAbout three years ago my Twitter pal Niamh @eatlikeagirl got in touch with me about joining a new foodie venture called Chowzter, headed by the dynamic and totally food obsessed Jeffrey Merrihue @jeffreymerrihue, who is also at the helm of @mofilm, as well as being the driving force behind Chowzter (now the newly rebranded @FoodieHub). So okay, I put up my Seville page on Foodie Hub, which I was very pleased with, and then last summer (2014) Jeffrey showed up close to my doorstep and asked if I was free one day to show him my favourite bars in Sevilla. Well, if there is something I LOVE doing it’s exactly that. Plus I was interested in actually meeting Jeffrey. And it was so much fun. We did a crazy afternoon “tapeo extremo” visiting an outrageous number of Sevilla bars in a ridiculously short amount of time, and then repeated the exercise a couple of days later in Malaga with the newly initiated Victor from @WeLoveMalaga. And not only was it great fun, but I got to meet Jeffrey, which made all the difference from this simply being an interesting project I was adding my name to… well, to being a wonderful and crazy foodie adventure that just gets better and better.

jeffrey me (2)

Fast forward to Summer 2015… Jeffrey was going to be back in Marbella and suggested a meet-up/dinner with all the FoodieHub Spain experts, which (of course!) promptly morphed into an epic tapas weekend in Malaga & Marbella, and also gave birth to the FoodieHub Essential Tapas Guide. I love that this is a “living online guide” that is always growing as we add more to it. Here are some highlights from our Malaga FoodieHub tapas tour…

malaga foodiehub tapas tour (1) malaga foodiehub tapas tour (2) malaga foodiehub tapas tour (3)

After this “light lunch” we were whisked away to Marbella for the Main Event. The Essential Tapas Awards event and an exquisite beach-side dinner at the elegant Restaurante Santiago. Rather than MORE food pics I shall just post this lovely photo taken by Victor, which for me captured the gorgeous ambiance of the setting where we dined like royalty.

victor

Here is a shot of the awards handed out earlier in the evening…

foodiehub winners

It was an amazing weekend and really great to meet up again with some of the Spain food experts I already knew, as well as getting to meet the others. But the extra special treat for me was after I came home and got to present the FoodieHub award for Essential Traditional Tapa to my “family” at Bodeguita Romero. Father and son Pedro & Alejandro Romero were thrilled that their spectacular pringá montadito had won.

romero (2)

romero (1)

You can download the free FoodieHub app here, and keep up with global foodie news on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Also check out the amazing FoodieHub YouTube page, but only if you’re not hungry! It’s a real honour – and also lots of fun – being a part of the FoodieHub team.

Carmona | Parador Hotel

parador carmona (3)
I’ve been to this Parador several times over the years – for events, or just for a drink at the bar when visiting Carmona – so when I had the opportunity to stay overnight recently I naturally jumped at the chance.

The Carmona Parador is the one that serves Seville, and is about a half-hour’s drive from the city, in the little town of Carmona. Like its larger neighbour, Carmona has a history that stretches back almost three thousand years to the time of the Phoenicians, and was also an important town in the Roman period. The hotel, which opened in 1976, can be found in the Alcázar del Rey Don Pedro (the Palace of King Peter) on the top of the hill at the eastern edge of the town. Originally a Moorish fortress, it was substantially rebuilt by King Peter in the 14th century in the Mudejar style (like the Alcázar in Seville), and became one of his favourite residences. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly due to its location – my stay here was in July, and during the day Carmona was extremely hot, but at night this hilltop location catches the cool breezes, and it was very pleasant to sit out on the balcony and relax in the perfect evening weather.

parador carmona (1)Although quite a lot of the old walls are still standing, in various degrees of preservation, the hotel is a mainly modern building, but it retains many original features and decorations, such as tiles, stonework and wood beamed ceilings, as well as a beautiful central courtyard with pillars and a central marble fountain. I particularly liked the recurring 8-pointed star motif of the shutters and on the woodwork of doors and cupboards, and which gave the hotel a unified decorative theme.

The hotel has all the general facilities you would expect of a good 4-star. There’s a restaurant, bar/lounge with a pleasant terrace overlooking the surrounding countryside, as well as a proper swimming pool in a garden area below the hotel. There is also a children’s pool. The one drawback is it’s a bit of a trek down a winding stairway to get there, though this is at least partly compensated by a splendid view of the castle/hotel on the hill above.

parador carmona (2)[click on images to enlarge]

My superior double room was spacious and airy, with a super comfortable bed, a good size desk to work at, table and chairs and a shelf for the suitcase. There was also a large balcony with a good view (in fact, the balcony, and being an extra floor up, is the main difference between the standard and superior double rooms). Cool terracotta tile floors, and the carved wooden doors of the closet gave it a “period” feel that I liked. The bathroom was adequate, with very good water pressure, and the towels were nice and thick. A hairdryer and plenty of toiletries were also provided. We were also given a complimentary bottle of chilled water and some nibbles, a boon in the hot weather. One quibble was a shortage of power outlets for charging or operating phones and computers, but the free WiFi was available throughout the hotel, no passwords required. The buffet style breakfast was one of the best I’ve seen, with plenty of variety, including several cooked egg and meat dishes, a cold meat and cheese section, breads and pastries, cereals, fruit, juices, and coffee was brought to the table.

Last, but by no means least, it was a handy base for exploring the picturesque old town of Carmona, with its charming little streets and attractive squares. I really enjoyed my overnight stay, and cannot praise the hotel staff enough. Excellent professional service at every turn.  I hope to be back again before too long, next time to try the hotel restaurant.

Carmona Parador Hotel
Alcázar del Rey Don Pedro
Carmona, Sevilla
Tel: 954 141 010

Sherry Sipping in Sevilla

sherry sipsSeana Rizzutto Yee AKA @SherrySips

Some of you may know about my sherry epiphany a couple of years ago, which resulted in the creation of my Introduction to Sherry tours (chosen by The Telegraph this year as one of their top ten food and drink holidays in Spain). Sherry has become quite important in my life and I am always eager to learn more and share that knowledge.

So when I found out that Seana Yee was coming to Jerez I got in touch via Twitter in case she had time to come to Sevilla. Seana lives in Portland and was here on a sherry odyssey lasting the better part of two weeks, visiting bodegas in Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María (sound familiar?). I think because it was becoming apparent that we knew so many of the same people, and also that the planets and stars aligned just right, Seana found she had a free day and took the train to Sevilla to spend last Sunday with me. And what a day it was!

We met late morning and did a quick tour of the Metropol Parasol (which hadn’t existed when Seana was last here) before setting off in search of churros. Instead we ended up having tostadas and cava (don’t ask) at La Azotea in Barrio Santa Cruz, which proved to be a good start to what was to be my first ever Tapeo Extremo con Jerez.

sherry sipping collage[click on image to enlarge, but not if you’re hungry… or thirsty]

First up was Las Teresas for some jamón, queso and caña de lomo, paired with wonderful Botaina amontillado from Bodegas Lustau. Seana had a bodega tour (her last) booked with Lustau the following day so this proved to be a nice preview. Then we stopped in at Casa Morales for some fabulous lomo en manteca – we told barman Diego we were looking for a special manzanilla and he pulled out a bottle of manzanilla pasada from Bodegas Sacristia AB… perfection. Then we headed over to visit my “family” at Bodeguita Romero. Of course Seana had to try their famous pringá montadito, along with Pedro Romero’s equally famous papas aliñás… with these we had a nice Alfonso oloroso. Moving on to my favourite braised pork cheeks in town, Alejandro Romero recommended Palo Cortado Leanor from Bodegas Gonzalez Byass. We were pretty much stuffed at this point but I wanted to take Seana to the home of the “crackburger” La Brunilda, which was just around the corner. We were too full for a burger so opted for some lovely payoyo cheese from Cádiz instead, which was paired with La Bota de Manzanilla 55 from Equipos Navazos.

Last but not least I took Seana to meet the lovely Silvia Flores @vinosyflores who works as sommelier and event organizer for the Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience. There we enjoyed a perfectly chilled glass of Tío Pepe en Rama 2015 (which I’d had the pleasure of trying at the annual presentation earlier that week) and then Silvia surprised us with a glass of Apostoles VORS Palo Cortado and a plate of exquisite Michel Cluizel chocolates. Oh my!

palo cortado

We headed back to my place after this for a short rest before going to an early flamenco show at the Flamenco Museum. Then we said our “hasta luegos” as Seana left to catch the train back to Jerez and I headed off on a tapas tour. Honestly, in just one short (and seriously sherry-filled) day I felt like I’d made a friend for life. I’m also thinking of adding a Gourmet Sherry Tour to my repertoire after this, to complement the “beginners course”. We shall see.

Thanks so much for coming to visit me, Seana. Our love of sherry and cats shall endure! xx

You can also follow me and Seana on Instagram (go on, you know you want to)…
SherrySips  |  azahar

Seville| Las Casas de los Reyes de Baeza

hospes sevilla

Hospes Hotels Las Casas del Rey de Baeza

As you all know, I don’t get to travel much, and certainly not nearly as much as I’d like to. But a week ago today I got to take a “day trip” to a one of the most beautiful hotels in Sevilla . The hotel Las Casas del Rey de Baeza (longest name ever – try tweeting that several times a day!) is part of an exclusive chain of luxury hotels called Hospes Hotels, most (all?) of which are restored palaces. I have to say that it was interesting to see – and experience – how the other half lives…

My 24-hour staycation getaway was lovely and it was very nice that my friend & flatmate Peter was able to come with me. We got there around 5pm and, after getting settled in the room (mostly me taking tons of photos and both of us going WOW) we retired to one of the lounge areas just off a lovely plant-filled patio to read our books and enjoy some cava. Heaven.

After a couple of hours we went back up to the room, changed for dinner and went to try out the Senzone restaurant. They had us booked for a couple of tasting menus but we never like eating the same thing, so I convinced the waiter to bring us a selection of this and that to share. It was all very good but there was something about the place that made it feel “hotel-y” in a way the hotel itself didn’t. But we still enjoyed it very much. Back up to the room and I took a luxurious bath in the massive circular tub while Peter curled up with his book. By this time we were both pretty zonked so it was lights out and and I have to say the bed was amazingly comfortable. We were supposed to have been given a standard room with twin beds, but got upgraded to a deluxe one – nice!

Next morning we went down for brekky, not quite sure how things worked, and were told we could either have the buffet breakfast or order off the menu. So we decided to go for it and tucked into the buffet as well as ordering some very nice bacon & eggs. After all that we were so stuffed that all we could do was head for the fireplace lounge, sink into the big fat leather sofas and read some more.

Suddenly it was check-out time but we really didn’t feel ready to leave, and that wasn’t a problem. We were told just to leave our packed overnight bags in the room and later we could ask for them at reception, which gave us some extra time to go upstairs and enjoy the rooftop for awhile (see pic on the right).

I took so many photos that I really didn’t know what to do with them all, so here are a couple of collages (click on them to enlarge) of the hotel and our room, and of the food. It really was a fabulous getaway and many many thanks to Hospes Hotels for making it happen.

Senzone Restaurant

[click on collages to enlarge]

Disclaimer: Myself and my companion were invited as guests of the hotel, including dinner and breakfast, but all opinions here are my own.