Thursday, 17 December 2009
Mercado de Artesania / Christmas Market

Running up to Reyes, around the 5th of January, the Mercado de Artesania is open in the Plaza Nueva. You can find all sorts of original gifts for friends or yourself! There is plenty of variety: jewelry, ceramics, children's toys, leather goods and more. We always find a few gifts here.

Posted by Jeff at 10:14 AM CET
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Angelito's Christmas Play

Our nephew Angelito is in his first year of colegio. This was also his chance to be a part of his first Christmas play as an enano - an elf or dwarf. He was dressed in green which helped us identify him from the others!

The play was of course filled with chaos.

Setting up, some of the elves are not sitting in their place.

Pirates! Each group of children visited Joseph and Mary to leave them gifts. Many of the characters in the play, such as these pirates, I don't remember from the bible. But maybe I just didn't read it carefully enough.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus. The angels look bored.

Our elf is sitting next to a small Santa.

Looking back to find mom and the two grandmas.

Still distracted, but having fun...

Posted by Jeff at 9:42 PM CET
Updated: Friday, 18 December 2009 9:51 AM CET
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Chocolate Belen

Every year by "chocolate artists" in La Campana:

Posted by Jeff at 10:39 AM CET
Updated: Friday, 18 December 2009 9:41 AM CET
Friday, 11 December 2009
Sevilla5 Christmas dinner at Bar Santa Marta
Topic: Christmas

Every year we celebrate the traditional company Christmas dinner. This year was in Bar Santa Marta.

On the way from the office to the dinner we stopped for a drink

Inside the dining room of Bar Santa Marta

The other side of the dining room

A few drinks before the dinner starts

Dinner starts, with plenty to eat. We had a traditional Christmas meal which included starters of jamon and cheese, then gambas (shrimp). Next were croquetas and an assortment of fried fish. The main dish was swordfish or solomillo (pork loin).

Angelito was one of the smaller guests...

During the dinner

At the end a toast to the holidays and the new year.

Posted by Jeff at 9:54 AM CET
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Holiday Lights
Topic: Christmas

December 4th was the first night for the Christmas lights to be turned on in Seville. It also marks the start of a 4 day weekend with the holidays on Sunday and Tuesday. We took a stroll around the city.

In La Campana we found a replica of La Giralda made entirely of sugar

A few blocks away was this belen in the trunk of a car. This guy shows up during Semana Santa and Feria as well, with something similar in the back of his car.

El Corte Ingles also changed their lights this year

We turned up Tetuan / Velazquez

Then back on Calle Sierpes

The corner of Sierpes and Sagasta

Now towards the Plaza Nueva

Tables ready for diners, although it is quite cold

The Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall, nativity scene

Adjacent was the Christmas tree

In Plaza Nueva everything was lit up and included a sculpture exhibit

More of the Plaza Nueva

And more of the Plaza Nueva

A look back

And on our way home people were still in the Plaza Salvador

Posted by Jeff at 9:50 AM CET
Updated: Saturday, 5 December 2009 10:38 AM CET
Thursday, 3 December 2009
How Seville can be the coldest of cities

People can mistake Seville for being spring like: all orange trees, blue skies and sunshine. And while the climate is of course relatively mild don't be surprised if you feel a chill during your visit in the late fall or winter months. And it's not always the outdoor temperatures which will chill you the most. Plenty of my German and American friends who come from colder climates complain of being cold wherever you go, especially in their own houses. The majority of apartments have no central heat. And everything has been built for warm weather: smaller windows don't let the sun in, central patios keep the building unpleasantly cold. Plus marble floors and cement or tile walls radiate cold instead of heat. I think I get most of my warmth outside in the sun. And outside is where I notice the milder climate unless it is raining. So don't be fooled. We get cold in Seville, too!

Posted by Jeff at 11:25 AM CET
Updated: Saturday, 5 December 2009 10:37 AM CET
Saturday, 28 November 2009
More Updates to Exploreseville

A quick post as I've finished up some new photo albums of towns and cities in Andalucia. This include some recent trips as well as some older ones I have been meaning to post for a while - new places include Vejer, Medina Sidonia, Punta Umbria, and others I've forgotten now. I've also launched the Holidays in Seville section to get you up to date on all the activities which are just around the corner.

Posted by Jeff at 2:54 PM CET
Friday, 27 November 2009
Thanksgiving in La Ramira

We wanted to thank Anita & Bertil for the excellent and wonderful spread for Thanksgiving. Just walking into a house which smells of turkey and pumpkin would have been enough. But we were lucky to share it with new and old friends, and even take in a little football at the end of the night. And for the second year in a row a certain dog (I will not name names) tried unsuccessfully to rob us of the turkey.

Posted by Jeff at 7:08 PM CET
Updated: Friday, 27 November 2009 7:25 PM CET
Monday, 23 November 2009
"Knight & Day"

The idea of a Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz film does not excite me. Nor does the name! Either way, it took over the center of Seville for several days, with some merchants complaining about the amount of compensation they received. Surprisingly we did not see much of either star although their doubles made the news on several occasions. I have heard reports of car chases and a crash with the tram but nothing has been confirmed. As it is a movie the limits of reality are always going to be stretched: apparently a running of the bulls scene was also filmed in Seville.The filming then moved to Cadiz where several bulls escaped on a Sunday and ran through parts of the city. Eventually they ended up at the beach! Unfortunately two people were injured and the production was suspended for a day while they reviewed security.

Not many films have used Seville as a backdrop, although recently the numbers are going up. "Mission Impossible 2" had a brief scene where they mixed Semana Santa with some kind of pagan holiday in a representation which likely offended most sevillanos. "Kingdom of Heaven" used the Alcazar for a scene. A recent film called "The Limits of Control" was probably the best for seeing a lot of Seville, but don't be fooled that Bill Murray is in it. Just a brief scene at the end. But there are a lot of street scenes in the city center. Finally the movie version of "Carmen" was filmed in Seville as was "Lawrence of Arabia" many, many years ago.

Posted by Jeff at 11:45 AM CET
More photo albums, shopping section, more things to do!
Topic: Site Updates

I've spent the last week being and overcoming being sick. In between I've launched a lot of new photos albums of Seville's churches. These are photos I've had for a long time as you can unfortunately tell by some of the older images (when my camera was on its last legs). Soon I'll be adding photos of different towns and cities as well as some updates to the side trips section.

As the holidays near I felt I should also update the shopping section of the site. You'll find plenty of new categories, my recommendations for stores and places to shop, and more. It took many more hours than I had planned. This seems to be the case with everything recently.

Finally, many of you have given me some positive feedback about the 57 Things to do in Seville section. In response I have added many new items and it's now 85 Things to do in Seville! These are activities and ideas for diversion which are often overlooked. I have tried my best to keep them to original things and stay away from the obvious like "see the Cathedral", etc. A few more ideas have popped into my head and I hope to make it to 101 things!

Posted by Jeff at 11:37 AM CET
Updated: Sunday, 29 November 2009 12:27 PM CET
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
A new look for flamencotickets.com
Topic: Flamenco

One of my many side projects, we just launched a new and updated design for flamencotickets.com. And we have expanded to offer tickets in other cities, including Granada, Madrid and Barcelona. The upgrade has been needed for a while. Visit the site and check it out!

Posted by Jeff at 11:32 AM CET
Updated: Sunday, 29 November 2009 12:33 PM CET
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Restaurante ConTenedor
Topic: Restaurants

Today we finally tried a place which caught my eye almost a year ago. ConTenedor is a little off the beaten path on Calle San Luis, just in front of the Iglesia San Luis de los Franceses. And in keeping with the "franceses" of the church, the restaurant has a French feel to it. The food is wonderful, and the atmosphere relaxing and open.

From the outside:

Inside there is plenty of color. The floor plan is open and on a sunny day it really is a pleasant place where you can enjoy a long lunch.

One of my favorite parts is the open kitchen where you can watch all of the action, as well as smell everything cooking.

We were four people and shared 4 different dishes. Our first course was pate. Some of the best we have had in Sevilla

Next was the arroz con pato, or duck with rice

Then the venison stew...

Finally a very rare steak (recommended rare) with cream of potato which was wonderful.

And of course it wasn't complete until we had dessert!

Again, I can highly recommend this place. From the quality of food, to the atmosphere, the smells coming from the kitchen. The whole experience was wonderful, and perfect for a Saturday afternoon meal. ConTenedor can be found on Calle San Luis just in front of the church San Luis de los Franceses.

Posted by Jeff at 10:30 AM CET
Updated: Sunday, 29 November 2009 12:27 PM CET
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Halloween in Seville

As an American, Halloween brings back memories of fall, trick or treating, carving pumpkins and all the little arts and crafts I made in elementary school. Most everyone (where Halloween has traditionally been celebrated) is familiar with the holiday's growth over the last 20 - 30 years, to the point where adults are as happy for its arrival as their children are. Something similar has happened in Seville, where the holiday's popularity has grown every year since I've arrived in 2003. There are now many stores where you can find costumes instead of just one or two. Halloween candy can even be found. More and more children dress up for school, although nobody goes door to door asking for candy. And I used to post on exploreseville.com several locations where you could find Halloween parties in Seville. But there is no longer a need as almost every bar or club in the nightlife scene has started hosting Halloween parties. Halloween is on the local news and in the newspapers. Others may look at it like a cultural invasion but I'm happy to see it in Seville. Although mostly it makes me miss home!

Posted by Jeff at 10:48 AM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 31 October 2009 11:07 AM MEST
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Adventures in LIDL

There are plenty of grocery stores to choose from in Seville, and while we generally choose Mercadona or El Corte Ingles, there is always a little time for a trip to LIDL. LIDL is a German owned grocery chain with a number of locations in Seville (and much of Spain). It is known for its cheap prices. We have fun making a visit about once a month in what amounts to a treasure hunt. While the majority of items they sell cater to Spanish customers, there are plenty of international items to find. Every month they bring in items from different countries - this week it's Greek and next week it's British. Theses are always some kind of cheap, off-brand items. And I'll be the first person to say stay away when they do the American week. There were no brands I recognized and everything we tried was awful. But other countries fair better and we've hunted down some hard to get items such as spinach and tomato wraps. And when I go back next week I'm not sure if I'll be able to pass on that 5 Euro bottle of Ouzo. Ok, I will pass on that. But when you are looking for something international you never know what you may find at LIDL.

Also worth mentioning are the bazaar and holiday periods. The bazaar is where they sell anything and everything in LIDL: clothes, electronics, kitchen ware, band saws, lights, pencils, backpacks, children..well, maybe not children. The selection is always minimal but the deals can be very good. This has led to a small, loyal and crazed following of LIDL shoppers who show up every week on the morning the merchandise arrives to buy up everything and anything good. Finally, for expat during the holidays there are all sorts of goodies to be found - Christmas chocolates and cakes, decorations, lights and more. And even items for Halloween, although these are easier and easier to find in the city as the holiday grows in popularity more every year.

I don't hold stock in LIDL but I feel like every trip is a treasure hunt. So I guess they've got me hooked.

Posted by Jeff at 9:14 PM MEST
Tuesday, 27 October 2009

..was venison blood sausage (morcilla de venado) and octupus (pulpo). I didn't think a thing about it until several hours later, which means I've been in Spain for a long time now. Oh, and it was delicious.

Posted by Jeff at 10:33 PM MEST
Thursday, 22 October 2009
A little flamenco site
Topic: Flamenco

Sometimes I need new sites to distract me from all of the work I have to do on others. So I created a little site as a guide to flamenco in Seville, which is now online at sevillaflamenco.com. Keep in mind it is new and I'm still working a little on it.  For now you can find information about flamenco bars, tablaos, schools, stores and more. There is more to come!

Posted by Jeff at 10:40 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 29 November 2009 12:33 PM CET
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
The best of intentions...
Topic: Site Updates

jalbum at work...

Working on any web page can be full of frustrations. The behind the scenes management of information and photos is an endless job in my case, and today a very frustrating one. I'm working on a new photo album format, something many people won't even notice! Over the last 4 days, I've spent 20 - 30 hours organizing and customizing a new format. Today they should have been published, except in checking every detail I forgot one, which led to me having 60+ albums with no images to upload. I chose the wrong way to do it. I missed a detail. So now I am back repeating maybe 3 or 4 hours of work. I am using jalbum, a great free application, and it's no fault of the software - just my error, which makes this a long and unhappy day.

Posted by Jeff at 7:34 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 29 November 2009 12:34 PM CET
Sunday, 11 October 2009

While I've had a card for almost a year, I found I had little use for Sevici initially. Recently I have become a frequent user as the need to travel longer distances has come up. Sevici is the city bike rental system where you can rent a bike quickly at hundreds of points around the city. With a year long pass one pays 10 Euros and can have free use of the bikes for up to thirty minutes. Anything over that is charged at 50 cents per half hour. Sevici also has passes for one day and seven day rentals, which you can do on the spot at any terminal. If you are in Seville long term it is definitely best to get the year pass.

No matter which of the above rental options you choose, from my brief experiences I have put together a few tips and details:

  • What you get:
    • A really heavy bike!
    • Adjustable seat
    • 3 speeds
    • Front and back hand brakes
    • Front and back lights
    • A bell - to warn and keep people out of your way
    • Small basket for your stuff
    • Cable and key for locking the bike
  • While you can get across the city quicker on a bike, keep in mind extra time may be needed to find a stand with available bikes as well as find a stand with available spaces to return your bike. If either is an issue you may be able to walk quicker. The kiosk/machine will indicate the next nearest location with free bikes.
  • Just because there are bikes on the racks doesn't mean you can take one. In general you'll find a few which are not registered with the machine, and therefore are not free to take. The same goes for returning them: you may see spaces free until you look closely and see an orange plastic wedge in the stand where you connect the bike. While there is no bike there, it means the stand is blocked.
  • Before you select the bike which you want to rent, give it a quick check, especially the below items. If there is a problem you can of course return the bike immeditely at no charge.
    • Tires are inflated
    • Hand grips are still on (people like to steal these for some reason)
    • Seat can be adjusted
    • Cable lock and key are not missing
    • Lights are not smashed out
    • Any other defects
  • When it comes time to return the bike you can double check to make sure it has been correctly registered by swiping your card at the kiosk and entering your PIN. Always check to make sure it is at least locked in.
  • Be ready for all sorts of "joy walkers" who use the bike lanes to walk, jog or push a baby cart. Also keep an eye out for those who simply don't realize there is a bike lane, both pedestrians and other motorists.

Overall, I've been pleased with Sevici. Most of the problems I've encountered come from supply and demand or vandalism! If only the bike weighed about half of what it does..

Posted by Jeff at 3:44 PM MEST
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
ESPN 360

As an American sports fan abroad, I've suffered through many years of watching sketchy online video of my favorite sports events, most notably ACC basketball. Much of this had to do with my connection speed, although online, streaming video has improved tremendously since 2003 when I first arrived. This year I have subscribed to the ESPN 360 College Pass, which includes hundreds of college football and basketball games. When you purchase early enough you get a good discount, at 100 Euros for the entire season (this compared to 70 Euros last season for subscribing for the basketball season only). Improvements have been made in the interface, although I'd still prefer to surf with a remote. But it's much easier to avoid the scores so you can log in and watch games the following day (something necessary for those of us living with a six hour time difference).

And while I am pleased with the service, it may not work as well for everyone depending on connection speeds, etc. I have been lucky enough that my set-up in the living room and internet connection is well suited: I have a computer connected to a 40" flat screen and a 10Mbit connection with Telefonica (note the speeds max out around 6 or 7 Mbit, as is common with any ADSL connection). I am able to watch full screen video without any buffering and with a decent quality. Rarely to I suffer from pixelation, even with a lot of action. While I think a 6Mbit would work fine, I would guess that with 3Mbits it may suffer in quality (both of these speeds are typical tiers in the ADSL service in Spain).

While I also have a Slingbox attached in a friends house in N.C., the only problem with this set up is the quality is tied to the upload speed where the Slingbox is located. As many upload speeds are limited, the quality of the video suffers. This is not so bad for TV programs but definitely an issue with sports. The Slingbox serves as a back-up, as well as a way to watch locally broadcast games which are not available on ESPN360. And the Slingbox has the advantage of being a one time cost (mine set me back about 100 Euros 4 years ago).

Posted by Jeff at 1:21 PM MEST
Thursday, 1 October 2009
Renewing my residency card

In early May I submitted my paperwork to renew my tarjeta de residencia, which you need much like a driver's license in the U.S. for all sorts of basic identification - giving a credit card at stores, presenting a police report when your office has been robbed (another story), in banks, etc. While a passport will do, it's not a good idea to take it with you every day, especially because it doesn't fit in your wallet! While it takes three months for the renewal process you can only submit the paperwork to renew it 1 month in advance! Of course this makes little sense, and while they gave me a paper certifying I was in the process of renewal, that expired on 1 September. And of course it is now in month 4 and the status is still "pending". As with any of these types of tramites it is good to be prepared. A few points of advice:

  • Show up early enough at the Plaza de España to get a number.  This means around 8 or 9 am. They do run out of numbers for the day.
  • Be prepared to wait at least 2 hours. At times maybe more.
  • Be prepared for the requisites to change. In fact you may want to visit the actual office before you renew to get a full list. Relying on information published on a web site is not a good idea, as we learned of 2 - 3 items which were not indicated on the official web site. We also learned that the application form had changed slightly from the form we printed off from the web site. For this reason (and for laziness) I don't publish a link here.
  • Be prepared for it to take longer than 3 months, and that there is no way to reach anyone by phone except for an automated system which will likely tell you there is an error. Expect the same on the web site where you can check the status of your renewal. Finally I was able to get the automated telephone system to accept my information and tell me it was still pending. I think maybe it was my error the first three times I tried, but who knows.
  • Make sure you don't have travel plans outside the country which go beyond the validity of your 3 month certified letter. Actually, I think they may still let you back in the country, but I didn't want to find out.

The good news is the person who attended us couldn't have been nicer. Maybe that we just our luck.

Posted by Jeff at 2:03 PM MEST

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