Seville Snapshots: The Battle of the Towers

My life has been lived next to rivers. Every home I’ve ever known has been in a city where the river runs through it, so it was no question I had to find a place blocks from the Guadalquivir when I moved to Seville. From the Triana side of the city, the commanding skyline had very few blips, just the spires of churches, the Giralda tower and the Torre del Oro, where gold was kept during the New World Exploration. Nowadays, the tower hosts a small naval museum (with free entrance every Tuesday) and is a reference point for the city.

But that may all change.

Further up river, the construction of the Torre Pelli has the UNESCO up in arms. In fact, this skyscraper will effectively change the city skyline the way the setas did a few years ago, and the organization is threatening to put Seville on their blacklist and strip the Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias of their world heritage status. During a visit in January, the organization effectively called for the construction to be halted, and even at only half its height, it makes a statement.

Do you think skyscrapers are right for Seville or small Spanish cities? Many thanks to Fiona for her insight via the Andalucía Blog!

If you’re new here, check out my first entry in a series on photogenic Seville, which will be posted every Monday. If you’d like to participate with your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. Don’t forget to follow Sunshine and Siestas on its new Facebook page!

How La Roja Made Me Love Fútbol Again

My first experience with Spanish fútbol was a Fútbol Club Sevilla game in September 2007. My grandma and I melted like butter in the sun and got seats high in the grada, next to a man who spilled over his seat and shouted COÑO every time the rojiblancos lost possession of the ball.

Helen asked how I liked it, and I pined for Hawkeye Football.

For me, fútbol was little more than an excuse to get some friends together to drink beer and casually comment on a game. I had played as a kid for years, hanging up my shin guards to focus on school and gymnastics in 2000, years before Spain’s national team was even on my radar.

In the summer of 2008, however, I spent my months missing Spain and working at Banana Republic Factory Store. My boss, Erik, approached me one July morning with a proposition: Work my 90 minutes of break simultaneously and call with updates. What updates?

The Euro Cup tournament had begun, and my boss assumed I’d be interested in watching it.  I obliged, and found it was me who was then yelling COÑO and TIRA, COÑO and ME CAGO EN LA MÁ! as Spain battled Germany in the finals. After 90 grueling minutes, la Furia Roja came out on top, a taste of what to expect in South Africa two years later. I was impassioned.

Xabi. Iker. Piqué. All part of my vocabulary. I played Wave Your Flag for my students Friday on the opening day of  the 2012 Euro Cup and tears pricked my eyes as I remember watching countless games and scheduling my social calendar around them during the World Cup – US, Mexico, Germany and Spain made up the countries of nationalities of la familia, and we ate guacamole at Juan and Marco’s while cheering on Mexico, found a beach bar to watch Spain-Uruguay and convinced Kirsten to not wear any black, thus giving away her German heritage before they lost to Spain in the semis. I once even watched a game by myself, back against the wall, just to not risk missing the first ten minutes to return home after work.

When I walk into Plaza María Pita in La Coruña, I remember the excitement leading up to the final. Carrying a plastic bag full of cold beers, we waited hours for the square to fill while Waka Waka was played on repeat. With the crowd ebbing and flowing with every corner, card and kick, we all found ourselves at different points of the plaza. At minute 82, I told Lauren I would rather pee my pants than miss the last few minutes of a tied game. As I squatted over a toilet where I didn’t even bother to turn on the light, an eruption occurred. I rushed out to see if someone had scored, pants still unbuttoned.

In the end, an extra 30 minutes was tacked onto the game. Nerves were tense as people around us hugged us in close. No one spoke. Tikitaki. Back and forth went the ball. Iniesta in from the right side. Strikes. Past the goalie’s hand. straight into the net. As Reina put it, “He wrote the script for our success.” Spain had brought faith to a country in the midst of its worst economic crisis, had united a nation in the name of balompié. I felt like I was a part of the greater picture, swept up in the craze and into numerous hugs and high fives from strangers (including the defeated Dutch).

Two years later, I’m with Inma cheering on La Roja as they play a friendly with China. The game isn’t especially interesting, but it was the last time they’d play before their debut in the Cup this evening with Italy. I cheer the chants loudly enough to lose my voice, straining my neck around someone in front of me with a goofy hat to see the corner kicks. Explain to Inma what fuera de juego means and why cards are given.

Finally, after five years, I have found a way to move past my need for tailgating and Gary Dolphin, and I feel that La Roja is my Spanish team to believe in.

Euro Cup FAQs:

The Who, What, Where: During the month of June, 16 qualifying teams from across Europe will go head to head to determine the continent’s best football club, with the final on July 1st. Poland and Ukraine are sharing the hosting duties this time around.

Spain’s Desafío: Be the first team in history to win back-to-back-to-back Eurocup (2008), World Cup (2010) and Eurocup (2012). Apart from being a team of depth, La Roja’s players don’t play with their egos to feed as they do in the national league. Spain is grouped with Italy, Ireland and Croatia and plays their first game tomorrow at 8:45 pm against the azzurra from our Mediterranean neighbor. Teams to watch are the usual heavy hitters: England, France, Holland and Germany, two of whom were teams Spain beat during their World Cup run.

Spain’s Schedule: Spain plays its fellow group members in the first round: Italy today at 8:45 pm, Ireland the 14th at the same time and Croatia on the 18th. The two tops teams of the division will duke it out in the quarterfinals on June 23rd. The winner will be decided on July 1st at 8:45 pm.

Who are you rooting for?

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Baa, Baa Black Sheep: Sampling Ovejas Negras Tapas Bar

My friend Lindsay, fellow sevillana in a past life, has my back when it comes to new places in Sevilla. While catching up after Christmas over rebajas shopping, she practically dragged me to Plaza San Francisco to try a new restaurant she’d heard about called Ovejas Negras, Black Sheep.

I fully admit to loving the traditional bodegas and old man bars in Seville, where the tortilla is fluffy and the service always candid. Lately, however, as tourism keeps this country afloat, more and more gastrobars have been popping up in the city.

I thought back to living on Calle Numancia in the bustling Triana neighborhood. To Rafa and the crew, I became la vecinita, the neighbor, and often filled my belly on balmy summer nights with a finger or two of wine and some cheese. La Pura Tasca’s fresh take on mixing ingredients and inventive design left me craving some more modern.

Places like La Azotea, Zelai and the newer Robles Restaurant (reputed to be the best food in Seville) are now rubbing elbows with age-old eating establishments and tucking into the narrow, cobblestone streets of the old quarter. From first taste, I was hooked.

Located in the shadow of the commanding Puerta del Perdón of the Cathedral, Ovejas Negras is anything but the black sheep of the restaurant family. It stands apart from the multitude of tourist shops and rental apartments and pays homage to Seville’s old ultramarinos store, a shop where you could buy everything from powdered milk to meats by simply taking a number and waiting for the man behind the counter to fill your order. Typical Spanish products line the crude wooden shelves behind the bar, where, as tradition dictates, the bartender will ask “Quién es el último?” and take your order.

Traditional Spanish tapas show up on the clipboard menus, but the beauty of Ovejas Negras is the mix of new and international cuisine. I, like Lindsay, have taken so many people back to Ovejas Negras that I’ve already got my go-to list of favorites at the bar: creamy risotto with wild mushrooms, a french bread pizza with rucula and parmesan, spicy papas bravas and, per usual, a cold Cruzcampo.

The atmosphere in the place is always lively, and last night we were lucky to grab a spot at the bar, under Bonilla a la Vista potato chip canisters and Mahou bottles. Our plan was to introduce my visitors, Dave and Melissa from my high school days, to the tapas tradition, but the bright lights of the bar and the array of choices meant we’d get our fill just be ordering based on what our eyes and noses drank in.

When I could say that I was the next in line to order, I carefully recited what was on everyone’s list to try: wooden bowls of papas bravas, an eggplant and rucula sandwich, fried fish with an accompanying cream sauce, the risotto and small, sweet and sour empanadillas. The conversation flowed like the beer over the bustle of the street outside for the Corpus Christi celebrations. The portion size of the tapas is big enough that two-three between two people is typically enough, though I could have found room in my tummy for the not-so-mini hamburger or even a slice of cheesecake.

Later that night, we found ourselves at roof where Melissa asked for the kitchen menu. “Just wanted to see if the papas bravas here were any better!” she quipped before ordering them. Could the answer be any more obvious?

Ovejas Negras is located in the Antiguo Bodegón Pez Espada on C/ Hernando Colón, 8, just between the Town Hall and Cathedral. Hours are Tuesday – Sunday 13:00 – 17:00 and 20:00 – 00:00. Closed Monday. Tapas from 2,50€. Menu also available in English.

Been to Overjas Negras? What did you order, and what did you think? Know any worthwhile bars to try in Seville? Want to come with? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll get eating!

Seville Snapshots: Pasaje de Miguel Mañara

Remember learning idioms as a kid? Trying not to laugh when thinking about looking at a horse in the mouth, or having it come straight from another horse’s mouth? My kids have been trying their best to describe, with their limited English, what the meaning of “when the cat’s away, the mice will play,” and it doesn’t help that their teacher shares the same name.

Of all the idioms I use, both in English and Spanish, “A Picture is Worth 1000 words” is perhaps the truest. My mind makes mental snapshots on the daily, drinking in what I see around me. A horse-drawn carriage drinking water at a fountain. Ready, aim…click. Solemn Semana Santa processions, a black-cloaked nazareno looking at me with piercing, passionate eyes. Click. Seville is a city whose worldly delights can make immaculate photos, so part of my new project will be to show off this place through photos that bring to mind far more than 1000 words. I’ll try and limit it to 100, though.

The key to appreciating Seville is to look up. Looking up provides a glimpse of the martins circling over the buttresses of the cathedral, affords a whiff of jasmine or azahar, allows you to trip over the uneven concrete of a city whose history precedes it. Looking up means snapping a photo of the tiled underbelly of a balcony, catching glimpses of life for the thick-skinned sevillanos. Without this vista, the city is what it is – touristy, full of souvenir shops along Avenida de la Constitución. But just looking up, to the shuttered windows of the old quarter, the preserved minaret towers, now replaced with bells, and the blue sky that is ever-present in the Andalusian capital, makes the city as romantic as its mantra claims. No me ha dejado, not with views like these. Photo taken from Pasaje de Miguel Mañara.

If you’d like to participate with your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. Don’t forget to follow Sunshine and Siestas on its new Facebook page!

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