Hola Seville

Hola Seville

SPAIN

Apr 03, 2019

When I decided on Seville as the location of my next long weekend away, I thought oranges, bull fighting, flamenco dancing, and the worlds largest cathedral, I genuinely had no idea that Seville had such a complex and multi-layered history. From Gypsies, Arabs, Moors, Germans and Romans, the current culture, food, and dance is a melting pot of very diverse influences, and the fruit to be bared extends beyond oranges!
With a two hour flight from London, and ten degrees warmer it felt like an obvious choice for a much needed break, and change of scenery.

Seville is an entirely flat and condensed city, making it a perfect destination for a solo female city break, with ease of walking and exploring and feeling completely safe when doing so. Over the course of four days, I would have managed to see a fraction of what sunny Seville has to offer, and so I have listed the things that I most enjoyed during my trip. Having done many city breaks, the one thing I always commit to, is accepting that it is impossible to do it all within such a short space of time. My only commitment to myself, was to take in this new environment, and enjoy myself, and that I did.

Playa De Espana

As I walked up a very wide foot path approaching the Playa De Espana on the left hand side, Parque de Maria on the right, along with a sea of other tourists, I couldn’t help but wonder if the beauty of Playa De Espana would be drowned out by the hoards of other visitors. The beauty of this monument actually surpasses all expectations, and is a breath-taking art-deco fused with Spanish renaissance revival, semi-circle long stretch of buildings including museums and government buildings. The colossal size of the monument meant that the tourists resembled ants, and you are still able to capture some great pictures, without too much invasion from other tourists. As well as the architecture there are boat rides, a water fountain and street performers.

Flamenco Show

Having asked several locals to recommend the best flamenco show in the city, La Casa Del Flamenco regularly came up as one of the best in Seville. https://www.lacasadelflamencosevilla.com/ tickets are priced at 18 Euros per ticket, and the show lasts 60 minutes long without a break. There are three shows each night, and you can very easily book tickets online, with tickets emailed and downloadable to your phone. I recommend booking at least 24 hours in advance, because same day availability tends to be pretty limited. The show was passion filled, emotional, and dramatic, basically everything I expected a Flamenco show to be, because the history of Flamenco originates from a place of suffering and poverty. The venue does not allow for pictures or videos to be recorded during the performance, but at the end of the show the dancers and musicians perform a short re-enactment, for the sole purpose of photographs for the audience.

  • Dancers and Musicians

  • Flamenco Dancers

Walking Tour

Walking tours are a great way to explore new cities, and learn about the culture and history from a local tour guide. I especially love free walking tours, because you tip/pay at the end of the tour, on the basis of satisfaction and enjoyment, which incentivises the tour guide to do a great job. I covered off all of the main tourist attractions on a free walking tour arranged by my hotel, however there are many options available online, and the company that I used for my second walking tour was https://www.heartofsevilla.com/en/ . Heart of Sevilla run an array of tours across Seville, and I enjoyed “Welcome to Flamenco Tour”, which was a smaller than usual group, as free tours typically attract group sizes ranging from 15-20 people. This particular tour lasted for 2 hours, and the length tends to vary dependent upon number of sights visited and size of groups, I personally paid 10 Euros.

Welcome to Flamenco tour group

Food Tour

As a self proclaimed foodie, I always opt to do a food tour when abroad, because visiting great restaurant is limited to the number of meals multiplied by the number of days in the country. That combined with reviews online sometimes being flooded by people who do not necessarily have the same food expectations to my own, I take both google and trip advisor reviews with a pinch of salt. Food tours allow you to visit up to a dozen bars/restaurants in one afternoon, and tend to be heavily focussed around traditions and not necessarily the tourist hotspots.

I did a tour called ‘Tastes, Tapas and Traditions Tour’, with https://devoursevillefoodtours.com/ this tour cost 82 Euros, for a 4 hour tour visiting 8 different venues for food and drink. The group size was fairly small, a total of 7, and we wondered around the streets of Seville not only eating and drinking, but also having the cultural and historical ties explained. I describe this particular tour as a buffet, we ate a little bit of a lot, and I would not recommend this tour on the basis of not being good value for money. All of the food and drinks, tasted were very nice, however because it is very cheap to eat and drink Seville, this felt extremely overpriced. The tour guide was very nice, and enthusiastic about the information that she imparted with, but having done several food tours before, this fell short on expectations on variety and portion sizes.

The Cathedral

As you would expect for the worlds largest cathedral, it is beautiful and enormous. Like many places of worship in Seville, it was formerly a mosque and converted into a church, and so clearly visible is two styles of brick work which allows your to distinguish older parts of the building work, to the more recent Christian extension. Well worth seeing during the day, and it comes to life at night. Difficult to get in one photograph as it is really is that big. I was happy to witness this beauty at ground level, but there is an option for tours, and also to climb to the top.

Two amazing tapas restaurants

La Brunilda

This back street tapas restaurant, was fortunately for me a few minutes walk from my hotel. The tapas was great value, ranging anywhere from 3 to 7 euros, for a broad tapas variety, great food quality, and attentive yet casual service. One word of warning, expect to see a lot of pork all over restaurant menu’s in Seville, to say it is popular is an understatement and dried Iberico pork is a must try, it is absolutely delicious.

  • Beetroot gazpacho with goats cheese and black olive powder

    €4,50

  • Salt cod fritters with pear alioli

    €3.80

  • Grilled Iberian pork shoulder with glazed sweet potato, idiazabal cheese

    €5.50

La Bartola

The food here was just divine, and this was my favourite restaurant of the trip, it basically ticked all boxes of La Brunilda, but the service and food were just that bit better.

  • Burrata Salad

    €9.00

  • Roasted Lamb with Cous-Cous

    €5.00

The Real Alcazar of Sevilla

Wondering around the Alcazar, I could not fathom the fact that this was once someone’s home. An enormous grounds of regal beauty, from paintings, to grand pianos, ceiling murals and a large beautiful outdoor grounds, this former palace is a lovely space to potter around and take in all of its beauty. It cost 9.50 Euros, and I decided to purposely miss the early morning queues, which I had heard can often result in 1-2 hours queues for entry. At 3pm, I queued for 15-20 minutes, though if you wish to visit during peak times, you can always pay extra for a queue jump ticket online.

Orange Wine

There is no shortage of Orange trees when wondering around the city streets. Apparently the majority of Oranges are exported to the UK, and the Spaniards hold onto a small proportion of the oranges to produce the famous Orange wine. I liken it Port, as served in small measures its a dark, very strong, and a sweet spirit. I did not taste any orange, but it was very nice and so I had a couple. A small bar (hole in the wall style) is most famous and was the only recommended bar selling it, ‘Taberna Alvaro Peregil’, is located on a busy road full of bars and a restaurants, and you will most certainly wonder past, when roaming the streets of Seville, so worth keeping an eye out for.

Seville was everything I had hoped it would be, it was safe, great and really affordable food and drink, loads of sight seeing, great weather, and the locals did not stare at this tall black girl wearing brightly coloured clothing wondering the streets of Seville alone. Seville, you were ace! x

Seville was everything I had hoped it would be, it was safe, great and really affordable food and drink, loads of sight seeing, great weather, and the locals did not stare at this tall black girl wearing brightly coloured clothing wondering the streets of Seville alone. Seville, you were ace! x


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Jambo Zanzibar

Jambo Zanzibar

TANZANIA

Oct 18, 2018

Beautiful Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a beautiful island off the east coast of mainland Tanzania, and is made up of 52 islands, two of which are large, Unguja (Zanzibar) and Pemba Island, and the remainder small islands.

Muslims, Hindus and Christians live harmoniously in Zanzibar, though the majority of Zanzibaris are Muslims. Local attitudes towards tourists dress code is very relaxed. On sight seeing tours, such as boat trips and island tours shorts and vests are the norm. When walking through the city of stone town, tourists are respectful of the local customs, and whilst still comfortably wearing my usual holiday gear, you will not see tourists walking through the city in a bikini top. Beaches are very laxed, and typical beach wear is worn by all.

The locals are very friendly, and generally curious to understand where you are from, and the intrigue heightens as a black female of African origin, but from the United Kingdom, by way of Jamaica. I was made to feel very welcome, and at home, though the warmth I experienced extends to all visitors to the island.

Similar to travelling to places like North Africa, and Turkey the locals actively try to encourage you to purchase through light conversation, though there does come a point, where you have to politely smile and keep on walking, otherwise you could spend the day talking to dozens of sellers willing you on to make a purchase.

With a full two weeks on the island, we decided to spend one week in tranquillity, a place called Matemwe, which is the North East of the island. We stayed in a boutique bungalow in the middle of a village, and by the coast. The bungalows were beautiful, though the manager of the hotel was truly awful, so I wont say a great deal, beyond stay clear of the Kasha Boutique Hotel. Staying here allowed for far more relaxation than I would have liked, and a huge reliance on taxi-ing across town to do sight seeing, visit beaches and to go partying. Matemwe was wonderful, but for me Zanzibar came alive on the second week, which was spent in the city of Stone Town, which is the South East of the island, and we stayed in a central location, at the Hilton, Shaghani Street (which comes very highly recommended), which was a 10 minute walk away from loads of great restaurants, the beach and shopping areas.

There are a few reasons that I love to travel, the first is change of scenery, the second is change in climate, and the third and most important is for the food. For this reason I am going to share with you my best food and drink experiences, along with my reviews of some other great things to do on the island.

Food

Zanzibar’s culinary scene is a reminder of how history impacts the present, and how all that we experience today whether architecture, food, and traditions, they all are firmly routed in history. The Arabs, Indians, Portuguese and the British have all left a trail of their presence in Zanzibar, an whilst in some instances it was under the negative circumstances of colonisation, slavery, and trade wars. What remains there today is an island that has clear culinary ties with its past, which led to a diverse and amazing culinary experience there today.

For breakfast

Hilton Hotel, Shanghani Street

Like many large hotel groups, the Hilton hotel serve buffet style breakfasts very well, catering for all tastes every day. My most enjoyable breakfast was a traditional Zanzibari breakfast, of Beef Sausages with Spinach, Arrow Root, and Maharage ya Nazi (kidney beans cooked in coconut milk), which is also one half of Tanzania’s national dish.

Not a breakfast for someone wanting something ‘light’, it reminded me of a traditional Jamaican breakfast including Ackee and Saltfish, Yam and Green Banana, which my dad would have on a Sunday when I was growing up. A heavy breakfast, but delicious and flavoursome.

Breakfast at the Hilton is priced at $15 US Dollars (£11.53) per day.

Arrow root, Maharage ya Nazi, Beef Sausage and Spinach

For Seafood

Beach house restaurant and bar, Shanghani Street

This restaurant embodied the multicultural history of Zanzibar in both the interiors and décor of the restaurant, and also on the menu. The menu uses a map to pin point key influences, with accompanying dishes e.g Oman, India and Zanzibar.  The beach house lured me in as I walked to another nearby location for lunch, because of the pristine reception and breath taking views, visible from the street.

Beach house restaurant

I ordered the “Pemba Island Bouillabaisse”, which was mix of seafood served in a garlic, and pepper based broth including  Crab, Red Snapper, Cigale, and topped with croutons. It was delicious, the seafood fresh and the service pretty good. Priced at 18,000 Tanzanian Shillings (£6.00)

Pemba Island Bouillabaisse

£6.00

For Traditional food

Lukmaan Restaurant, New Mkunazini Road

I have mixed feelings writing about this restaurant, it definitely is a must to visit, with a large range of traditional foods, at really low prices, though the service and disorder left a slight sour taste. Upon entering the restaurant, two things were not explained.  The first is that you are able to  order at the counter, and collect/pay for your food there, or you can opt for table service.  The second is that prior to prayer and 45 minutes afterwards NO food is served, and so we proceeded to wait 1.5 hours for food that was already cooked, and simply needed serving. The clued up diners were able to wonder into the restaurant after pray time, and get served within 10 minutes! So the service left something to be desired, but the food was good.

We ordered eight dishes between two, which was far too much….but it all of came to a total of 14,000 shillings (£4.68)!

Chapati, Red Beans, Plantain, Fried Fish and Peas and Carrots

For Lunch

Emerson Spice, Secret Garden, Tharia Street

I absolutely adored this secret garden, so much so that I visited twice during my week in Stone Town.  It is an example of when all things wonderful come together, and create magic. The team wearing vibrant mustard Kanzu’s (which is the traditional male clothing) were warm, hospitable and gave 10/10 attentive service. The pop of colour continued throughout the garden to crockery, napkins, and artwork.

The garden was surprisingly quiet, given that it was located in the middle of the shopping area, The high stone walls allowed for a lovely lunch and a well needed relief from the sun. Last but not least, the lunch was simple, flavoursome, fresh and great value for money. We ordered the Fish cakes, thought I forgot to take note of the price..I assure you like everywhere in Stone Town, it was good value for money.

Lunch, setting and service were absolute perfection.

  • Emerson Secret Garden

  • Fish Cakes, Secret Garden

For Cocktail’s

Beach house restaurant and bar, Shanghani Street

Zanzibar is otherwise known as a “spice island”, due to the number of spices farmed, used domestically and also exported across the world. This is evident, whilst eating and drinking around Zanzibar, and very apparent in what I can only describe as the most delicious gin based cocktail, that I have EVER drank.

Going by the name of ‘Ginger Kiss’, it ingredients included spiced gin (of course), cinnamon, ginger, and spiced ice cream.  Priced at 18,000 Shillings (£6.00)

  • Ginger Kiss

    £6.00

  • Ginger Kiss

    £6.00

For Dinner

Emerson on Hurumzi Restaurant, Hurumzi Street

Emerson on Hurumzi is a part of the same group who run the Emerson spice, secret gardens and tea rooms. What this group does very well is creating beautiful and comfortable spaces, with great food. My final night was spent sat on the floor enjoying a selection of tapas style dishes including Changu parcel, fish cakes and goat curry. Serving a fixed five course menu for $30 dollars (£23.34), and was also the only restaurant that I needed to book a table for throughout the two weeks in Zanzibar. With limited capacity, and being in pretty high demand, it was a necessity, two days in advance. A $10 deposit was also required to secure the booking.

  • Emerson on Hurumzi Restaurant

  • Tapas

For a refreshing drink

No idea where, random street corner!

Now I appreciate that the below is diabetes in a cup, and at home, I do not actually drink soft drinks or any drinks with added sugar. However I made the exception for my holiday, I fell in love with two sugar filled drinks. The first was Stoney Tangawizi ginger beer, and the second was sugar cane juice with lime. It was a lot of work for the seller to produce the sugar cane juice, but the results were sweet and refreshing.

  • Stoney Tangawizi

  • Sugar cane juice

To avoid..

Forodhani Gardens

In all of the reviews that I read, this was described as a night market (which it is), and a hub of local street food served by dozens of vendors (which it also is). What the reviews fail to mention is that in the same way there is ‘encouragement’ to buy in the shopping markets, this is mirrored here. The main difference is that 90% of the food vendors are selling exactly same food, as the vendor before and after, which is laid out for hours, and heated upon you selecting your options. Whilst the food is cheap, there are no prices listed on anything similar to tourist shopping area.

Possibly because I work within the industry, I am really mindful of food safety, and so I limited my purchases to a traditional mango soup, which is usually drank for breakfast by the Zanzibaris. This breakfast is also commonly available on street corners around Zanzibar, so I would suggest 

Beaches

Zanzibar’s beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, white fine sandy beaches, with crystal clear blue seas. Dependent upon the time of year you choose to travel, the tide can effect the amount of seaweed on the beaches, and this varied from beach to beach.

Kendwa Beach

My favourite beach in Zanzibar, this beach was a large open space, beautiful and clean. Its the type of beauty that you could simply sit and take in for the entire day, and so we did exactly that.  The openness does mean that there is no shade on the beach apart from the restaurants.  As well as restaurants, there are hotels, stalls and water sports available on this beach.  Located on the far north of the island, this beach was a 45 minute drive from Matemwe.

Kendwa Beach

Nungwi

Nungwi was a further 15 minutes north of Kendwa beach, and was another beautiful beach, with white fine sand, this time of the year suffered high tides with seaweed along the beach.

Nungwi Beach

Kwale Island Beach

I was able to visit this beautiful beach on the Safari blue tour, which includes a boat ride, optioning snorkelling, visiting a Baobab tree, lunch, and the visit to the most beautiful sandbank. This beach was a 45 minute boat trip from Stone island.

  • Kwale Island

  • Kwale Island

Night life

Wakiki

If you want to go to a club that feels remotely African in anyway, avoid this club like the plague. For the same reason I do not want to go on holiday to eat English food, I do not want to go on holiday to party somewhere that looks and feels like England, where African’s are the minority, and those present were entertainment for the European men/women. Its the kind of place I avoid at home, and so definitely would not want to experience this in Africa. The music was euro techno/house, so all in all my idea of hell.

Bwani

Bwani is a traditional club, playing different types of music, but mostly afro beats. It is really casual, and I would have felt overdressed if I had worn a party dress. It is mostly locals with a few tourists, and all in all good vibes, and it is on until 5am most nights of the week. The one area of this club that should be condemned are the toilets, they were truly GROSS.

Taperia

A tapas restaurant by day, a cool bar with live music by night, and we stumbled across this bar we could hear the live music blaring out into the street as we walked back from dinner. We returned to this bar three nights in a row to see different reggae bands perform, and mixture of locals and tourists dancing away on the small dance floor. Good vibes.

6 Degrees North

A relatively small roof top bar, playing music on a Friday night, this was the place to go as Taperia finished fairly early at 12am. Good DJ (for me a good DJ plays the music I like..so that included R&B, Reggae, Hip Hop, and some pop music) , nice cocktails, but a really small space, good vibes and again a mix of locals and tourists.

CCM

This was described to me as a bar, but I would describe it as a community hall serving drinks, with a stage with a traditional Zanzibari band performing. What was lovely is that its the type of place that people go to with families, friends and partners, some of which got up to dance, with a 100+ audience, its the type of venue that exists to keep the traditions of old school music alive. It was 99% locals, the 1% was my friend and I, definitely one to check out.

Shopping

Darajani market

Is a huge market mostly used by locals for food, textile, and general household items. Interesting to visit to have a wonder, and on the weekend is very busy. I purchased some material, and was able to find a dress maker to make me some clothing items for £7 a piece.

Tourist Shopping

There are hundreds of stalls in the centre of Zanzibar, running along Gizenga Street, and Kenyatta Road, you could quite easily spend hours wondering around shopping for jewellery, paintings, arts and crafts, ornaments etc. Similar to the bazars in Morocco, the sellers enjoy the haggle, and you can usually push your originally quoted prices down by 60%, not because your mean, just because the sellers starting point always seems to be an over inflated price.

Site Seeing

There are tons of different sight seeing tours available, I strongly recommend using Trip advisor for tour guides, as many tend to share the contact details of the tour guides, which was mostly my reference. There are many spice tours available, as spices are one of Zanzibar’s biggest exports, I visited tortoise aquarium’s, prison island, and a Stone town tour by foot, which was great to learn the history, whilst seeing what remains of history in different guises, one of the most powerful being the slavery museum.

In summary Zanzibar was safe, affordable, hot, full of beauty and great fun. The only downside was that the bees were humongous, the mosquitos ate there way through my deterrent, and chomped at my skin, and the bats at night were scary has hell!

Asante Sana (Thank you very much) Zanzibar, you were amazing!!


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Ola Porto!

Ola Porto!

PORTUGAL

Jul 07, 2018
This was a long weekend away, with a few firsts. My very first solo weekend away, and my first time in Portugal. The right decision on all counts, as Porto is friendly, safe for solo female travellers, easy to navigate (with the help of google maps and uber!), and has plenty to do…..and more importantly to eat and drink. My only culinary expectations were to have amazing port, and my expectations were surpassed as I not only had amazing port, I enjoyed phenomenal wine, delicious traditional food, and dipped my toe into Porto fine dining too.

Porto is aesthetically charming, buildings packed in close proximity, it is colourful, ceramic and coastal.

My first stop was Quinta Do Castro, which is vineyard located on the Douro River. Epic views of the acres of vineyards, and unusually placed swimming pool overlooking the river. To my surprise, they actually produce more wine than Port, and the factory, and cellar tours were followed by a wine tasting, and hearty three course lunch. Some of this vineyards largest export markets are Switzerland, and Germany, but I do not recall seeing much Portuguese wines heavily featuring within restaurants within the UK, that is not to say they do not feature. The producer explained that the UK is a growth market for Portuguese wine exports, and one with great opportunity due to the the volumes of wines that Brits consume. My visit was a full day trip, with a 90 minute train journey to/from the centre, and so with 3 hours of travel, and a lot of food and drink, I concluded day one with a early night.

  • Douro River

  • Wine Cellar at Quinta Do Castro

My favourite places to travel, are those rich in culture, and tradition and so organised by a company called Taste of Porto, I arranged to do a “vintage food tour”, which was 3.5 hours wandering the streets of Porto, and trying all of the traditional foods of Porto. Firm favourites included Loja das Conservas (House of Canned Foods), where they had every fish type imaginable and seasoned in a variety of ways. I also learnt that Porto is one of the largest exporters of canned fish into the UK market, producing on behalf of big brands such as John West.

Loja das Conservas (House of Canned Foods)


Next on the trip was a place called Mercearia do Bolhao, where I enjoyed a few different dishes, my favourite being a hearty bread with smoked ham and sausage through it called Folar de Murca.

Folar de Murca

My favourite and most ‘familiar’ dish on this food tour was at a restaurant called Tacso. A dish called Patanisca de Bacalhau, which is codfish deep fried in egg, flour, parsley and onion, was near identical in both taste and looks to one of my favourite Jamaican snacks Saltfish fritters. Portuguese migrants went to Jamaica back in the 1400s, and as a result Jamaican cuisine takes influence in a couple of dishes.

Patanisca de Bacalhau

The perfect end to the vintage food tour was of course tasting the cities most obvious and popular export, Port. The port was delicious, but ended up being a lowlight because the food was just so good. The number of restaurant stops totalled 7, and by the end of it, I was bursting by the seams. A food tour is a really hassle free way for a solo traveller, or even a group to be guided throughout the centre of porto, tasting the traditional foods at a really reasonable price.

Port
Porto is a great walking city (wear flat shoes though, it is very hilly), and the best way to do this was by being shown the sites of the city, by the locals. A company called Porto Walkers, arrange for free of charge city tour lasting over 2 hours, taking you through the history and key landmarks of the city. Ceramics have heavy feature on many building, churches and restaurants.
On my final day in Porto, still having almost half of my trip spending money (it is really cheap to eat in Porto), combined with the heavens opening up, I decided to treat myself to a Porto Michelin star experience. Having been so impressed by all the food and drink consumed so far, I figured, it would be worth its while, and I was right. I contacted several restaurants on the morning of the booking (to my surprise such a small city hade several one Michelin star restaurants), and managed to book a table at Antiqvvm. Opting for the tasting menu (of course), each dish presented like a work of art, with views and service to match. An absolutely perfect way to end a spectacular city break, and food tour in Porto.
When travelling on a short weekend break , you have to accept that you simply will not see it all. The part of Porto that I will definitely be returning for to explore the coast. Porto, you were amazing, I will be back! x

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