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Seville Between Rice Paddies and Salt Marshes

The Guadalquivir Salt Marshes

Stretching across a tract of some 2,000 km2 in the river estuary, between Seville, Huelva and Cádiz, they are part of the Doñana National Park, one of Europe’s largest wetlands. It is home to over 100 bird species which are endemic to the ecosystem and create a stunning spectacle whenever they take off into flight. A land where the birds can be imagined playing flamenco, and the red crabs clapping in unison.

The area provides ideal itineraries for what seasoned travellers like best – to wander off on their own. Literally getting lost here, however, is not that difficult, what with hundreds of unmarked footpaths winding between the rice fields.

Seville’s Amazon

Our itinerary starts along the course of the Guadalquivir and its countless effluents branching off near the river mouth, a picture postcard reminiscent of the Amazon. Located here is Isla Mayor, a town of just over 5,000 inhabitants. Surrounded by grasslands and crop fields, the town appears to turn into a genuine island when flooded. For hiking enthusiasts, there are also a number of routes through the town which can be done by bicycle.

Canoeing devotees should make a point of visiting the Brazo de los Jerónimos, a canal thick with reeds and rushes, which makes paddling along it a unique experience.

Going Back In Time

Crossing from one bank of the Guadalquivir to the other can only be done by taking the Coria del Río ferry. This delightful crossing spanning 300 metres in just 3 minutes is reminiscent of some fast-paced American movie set on the Mississippi or in the Everglades. The crossing takes place with passengers jostling for space with cars, tractors, fishermen, goats and farm motorcycles and is an experience in which time seemingly stands still.

A stunning sight to be had from the riverbank is when a merchant or cruise vessel sails inland with the high tide just a few metres away, bound for the port of Seville, or in the direction of the Atlantic. This astonishing, surreal image will remain in your mind’s eye forever.

Having reached Coria, the itinerary takes us downstream as far as Puebla del Río, along the Calle Arrozal, a land trail winding between poplars and carpeted in spring with grass and wild flowers. On this side of the river, you have the chance to visit such towns as Poblado de las Colinas or Utrera.

Finger-licking Cuisine

After a boat ride, it’s time to enjoy some molletes (muffins) ortoast with colorá lard to regain your strength. This is the most traditional breakfast in the area and any bar worth its salt will offer this spread based on pork lard sprinkled with speckles of meat condimented with garlic, red pepper, oregano, bay leaf and other spices. Even Paco de Lucía himself was bowled over by this delight on the senses, to which he dedicated a few notes and chords in some of his more celebrated melodies.

But, the culinary offerings of these Sevillian wetlands go much further still. Indeed, they are as varied as the landscape itself.

If you happen to be here in June, you can attend the Feria y Fiestas del Arroz y del Cangrejo (Fair and Festival of Rice and Crab), which lasts for five days and provides such typical dishes as tomato crab, crab tails with garlic or sauce, pepper shrimps, duck with rice and salted bleaks.

Restaurants like El Tejao, Sevruga or El Estero offer delicious dishes of crab, elvers, duck, giltheads or bass, served up with the inevitable rice, on the banks of the Guadalquivir.

To taste another essential dish in this area, pheasant with rice, head for the Arco de Colina restaurant – their quality and prices will leave you aghast.

Dare to venture into the Guadalquivir salt marshes? Check out your Vueling to Seville here.

Text by Laura Llamas for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS


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Five Point Guide to Enjoyment at Seville’s April Fair

The countdown has started to the days when Seville gets decked out in all its colour and finery, dressed up once more in polka-dot and flounced skirts, parading about on horseback and in carriages, a time when Sevillians again dream full blast and the monumental gate at the fairground lights up to announce the start of theFeria de Abril.Each year hordes of visitors – what with locals, regulars, celebrities, tourists and passers-by – descend on Seviile’s fairground to experience what is possibly one of the leading Andalusian festivities, El Rocío notwithstanding, of course. Now, what should newcomers to the Fair do, and what should they know, in order to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb? Here are some pointers to attending the April Fair without dying in the attempt.

1. Origins of the Feria de Abril

What was to become one of the most popular fiestas in Andalusia made its debut some time around 1846. It was created by Narciso Bonaplata and José María de Ybarra, two businessmen resident in Seville. It started out as a purely commercial, agricultural fair but then grew over the years – the first casetas (stalls) began to appear, as did the first decorative elements and it was eventually transferred to its current fairground and transformed into an entertainment event.

2. Where and When

The April Fair is held in grounds located in the district of Los Remedios. The best way to get there is by metro (get off at the Parque de los Príncipes or Plaza de Cuba stops), or the special bus service laid on by the Seville City Council for fair attendees. And no – do not go there by car, because trying to park can turn out to be a nightmare.

As for dates, the Seville Fair is usually held one or two weeks after Holy Week and lasts for six days, although this year, by popular vote, it will be extended by another day.

3. Once in the Fairground…

The fairground is divided into two areas – the Real de la Feria, where the casetas are located, and another known as the Calle del Infierno (Street of Hell), home to the various attractions, which the Sevillians have rechristened as cacharritos (“rattletraps” or “clunkers”). As the saying goes, “a friend in need is a friend indeed” and here, at the Seville Fair, you will need a well-connected friend to facilitate access to the casetas, the only place where you can experience the festivity in all its splendour. Not all the casetas are private, but there are far fewer public ones and they tend to be crowded.

4. Dress Code is Important

Part of the charm of this fiesta resides in the splendid colourfulness of the costumes worn by women, and the elegance of the suits worn by men. Sevillians take the garments they show off at the Feria de Abril very seriously and there are even flamenco fashion labels and catwalks that set the latest trends for the season. So, if you want to avoid being conspicuous, you could hire a costume (you’ll have to fork out about 150 euros a day for a Sevillian dress) or settle for adding some flamenco highlights to your apparel, namely such accessories as the typical flower, earrings, necklace and shawl. As for men, chino or peg trousers and a shirt, with a suit or sports jacket. Bear in mind that the ”Lunes del Alumbrado“ (Monday of Lights), also known as the Noche del Pescaíto (Night of the Little Fish), is the only time when flamenco attire is not worn.

5. “Rebujito” and “Pescaíto” – the Culinary Leading Lights

Rebujito is the April Fair drink par excellence. This combination of a dry sherry – manzanilla or fino – with Sprite, 7 Up or mint has its origins in an English cocktail from the Victorian era known as Sherry Cobbler, and is served up in all the casetas. Beware, though, as the hangover it produces is one of the most feared, so try not to get swept away by all the excitement and drink in moderation. The other leading light of Seville’s Fair is the fried fish or pescaíto frito typically consumed on the “Night of the Alumbrado”, with other notable favourites being chickpeas and codfish, bull’s tail and the churros and buñuelos (fritters) that mark the end of the fiesta.

Fire up and come to Seville’s April Fair, to be held from 30 April to 7 May – book your Vueling here.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Photos by Sandra Vallaure

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New routes from London to Spain with Vueling

Gatwick Airport now has direct flights to Malaga (Costa del Sol, Andalusia), Seville (Andalusia), Granada (Andalusia), Almería (Andalusia), Cádiz (Jerez, Andalusia), Menorca (Balearic Islands), Oviedo (Asturias) and A Coruña (Galicia).

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La Plaza de la Encarnación

The gateway to the Encarnación district, the most typically Sevillian area in the old quarters.

The actual design of the Plaza de la Encarnación is thanks to the German architect Jürgen Mayer. The Metropol Parasol redesign project of this hundred-year Seville square has undergone the construction of six laminated wooden parasols which provide an enormous and welcome shade for everyone who passes by, and at the same time preserves the archaeological remains of ancient Hispalis.

The square is an important hub of internal traffic communication in the old quarters and most metropolitan buses going to the centre of Seville stop here. This provides easy access for both locals and visitors alike from this square to the old quarters of Seville allowing them to enjoy and discover the secrets of the Encarnación district.

The sense of humour amongst Seville’s locals has resulted in them fondly referring to the square as the “square of the mushrooms”.

Image: Anual

Why not take a trip to Sevilla? Have a look at our flights here!

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