Monday, 31 July 2017

24 hours in Seville

Whilst in the south of Spain, perhaps enjoying the beaches or Marbella, or the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, why not include a day in Seville

The capital of Andalucía is blessed with studding architecture, food and is even the home of flamenco!

Here’s our guide to the perfect 24 hours in Seville.

Hola Seville!

Start the day early to enjoy the cooler weather if visiting in the summer, and grab breakfast at one of the café’s around Calle San Pablo. If you can stomach churros at this time of day, get them from the Churros Y Patatas hole in the wall.

After, stroll towards Plaza Nueva and the winding streets to the north, before refreshing yourself with some gelato from Plaza del Salvador whilst enjoying the view of the church.

Next, head south towards the Giralda and Seville Cathedral and take time to enjoy their beauty and architecture. If you’re lucky enough to head the bells of the Giralda ring, you’re in for a treat!

Time for lunch? 

Check the queue for the Real Alcazar at the Lion gate, and if it’s stretching any longer that the end of the wall, bee line to Plaza de Alianza for a tasty lunch overlooking the fountain. On your way you’ll pass a cute ceramic shop which is great for authentic Andalucían style kitchen wares, so do your souvenir shop here.

After you’ve satisfied your tummy, join any line for the Real Alcazar, being sure to top up your water bottle, and re-apply sun screen. I’d recommend allowing 1-2 hours to explore the palaces and gardens which are one of Seville’s main attractions and a real contrast to so many of the architectural styles found around Europe. The North African influence is staggering and beautiful, and if the basis for much of the styles around the rest of southern Spain.

If you’re still on your feet afterwards, make for Plaza de Espana; a wide semi-circular space with ceramic tiling and a big fountain which was used as a filming location for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Seville by night

Seville is the home of flamenco, but is also home to some amazing restaurants. Eslava boasts some of the best tapas in the city and despite its modest decoration will be full from opening so be prepared to book or get your name on the list asap. The ribs, egg on boletus cake, and manchego cheese ice cream all come highly recommended!

Tata Pila offers a contemporary Andalucian and French inspired menu, as well as a delicious wine list. This popular local spot is a real treat with a great vibe and we loved the mushroom and truffle croquettes and beef tenderloin!

Great – now I’m hungry.

Monday, 1 May 2017

5 things no one tells you about running London Marathon

You're full of an unspeakable amount of pasta, drunk so much water you could drown, and trained for 3 months to get your legs ready. You're so ready to run London Marathon and so far everything they've told you is true; the queue for the loo IS insane, and the expo was great fun. But, caution runners, there are a few things no one told you. I'm here to spill some jelly beans...

1. The road will be sticky

Trying to grab a carbohydrate gel from your pocket, or the hand of a Lucozade stand stranger will mean a fair share of them end up on the floor, and trod on by one of the 39,449 other runners taking part. This gel explosion, combined with the heat of the tarmac will make the floor around fuel stations sticky, something you hadn't planned on facing and can't possibly train for unless you want to put double sided sticky tape on your shoes.

2. Inexperienced runners will fart a lot 

Some of your fellow runners will decide the day of the marathon is the right moment to give these gels a go, not realising the effects they can have on your unprepared stomach. Cue running through an endless stream of farts which you can't avoid. Just watch out for that one person who's fart actually wasn't a fart at all, not that they've noticed/care/can do anything about it. 

3. You'll run more than 27 miles 

Do yourself a favour and turn off your GPS. Yes the course is 26.2 miles, but unless you stick to those little blue lines on the floor the whole way, the likelihood is you will actually run closer to 27 miles, technically making you an ultra runner (but don't say that to an actual ultra runner). 

4. There's a lot of public peeing 

Before you start, you'll queue, and queue some more (especially if you're a woman) to pee. Then after the start line you'll see people quickly nip off to the dense shrubbery at mile 0.1 for a last minute tinkle whilst the residents of Blackheath pass by walking their dogs. It's ok as no one's looking; the cameras are still fixed on the watching the Royals watch you start the run. Farther along the course people will stop at the provided loos, queuing again, until the tunnels. The tunnels are where anything goes and apparently it's perfectly acceptable to head slightly to the left hand side and pee in the street. There's no cameras in the tunnels - this is why.   

5. Chaffing in places you didn't know you could chaff 

You've lubed up under your arms and (for some) plastered your nipples and the wonderful St. John's ambulance people have even been there to soothe fresh chaffing from your fuel belt - it's a warm day after all - who would have known! But, when the 26.2 miles are done, and you step into that hot, restorative shower, you'll feel the burn of 5 hours of salty sweat running into sore spots you didn't know you had, and are too stiff to Savlon. From your back to your butt cheeks, nowhere is off limits. It's times like this you need a friend - a good friend, perhaps with a memory impairment - to help you heal before you vow never to run a marathon again. That way they might not remember your vow when you announce you've entered the next years ballot just a week later. 

Good luck to everyone who has received a place in the ballot, or is running for a worthy charitable cause!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Memories of: A long weekend in Berlin

I'm walking down Under den linden, a soon to be leafy avenue and tourist highway in Berlin. It's still early in the year so the leaves aren't there yet and there's s chill in the air. It's a beautiful day, and the historic district of Mitte has something new around every corner.

It's not surprising to walk past a pop up book shop on a Saturday morning, especially as we'd passed an art market no more than 10 minutes ago, but the location of this one opposite Babel Platz, the sight of a Nazi book burning on 10 May 1933. As people dart across the road to see the small memorial I carry on towards Branderberg Gate which stands proudly at the end of the avenue, and former East Berlin.

Mitte is one of only 2 Berlin districts that straddles for the former East/West divide which split Berlin in two in 1961. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 families were reunited and historical East Berlin was open again to the public. Today in Mitte you'll find world class museums, the cathedral, Opera House and many other historical sights you'll read about in the guide book, but you'll also get a slice of Bavaria, excellent food and cool neighbourhoods

Thanks to the GDR welcoming other communist states, the Vietnamese population in Mitte and other formerly east Berlin districts is high and on the road between Alexanderplatz and Hackesher Markd you'll find plenty of great places to eat including Madami. Believe me, after a day of beer and currywurzt, a summer roll and bowl of pho is going to be exactly what you want.

Speaking of currywurst (fried sausage with chips covered in ketchup and curry powder) it's better than it sounds, and should always be eaten in the go. Grab some from Curry 61 near Hackesher Markd before walking to the riverside and enjoying the view of the Berliner Dom.

If there's one things Germans know (other than cars and roads) it's beer. The railway arches west of Alezanderplatz are bursting with trendy bars which range from pull-your-our-pint to table service beer houses. Brauhaus Lemke offers a tasting board for the perfect introduction to the cities offering, with everything from IPA to wheat beer in atmospheric surroundings with on site brewing.

Whilst exploring the usual sites like Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall or seeking out the Hitler bunker, stop by Nikolaiviertel for a small view into countryside Bavaria. This protected village is a stark contrast to the post war cement architecture found in much of Berlin, and Zum Nußbaum
 does great schnitzel and meatballs in very cosy surroundings. You're just as likely to be seated at a table next to a local smoking a pipe as a couple of other tourists.

If there's one thing to take away from a visit to Berlin, it's that it it can be whatever kind of city you want it to be. History seeker, nightlife reveller, or new hipster, there's something for everyone and a surprise around every corner!