A couple of months ago I took a few days out and travelled to Sevilla with my mummy.  I haven't been away with her on holiday or for a weekend break for years, so it was lovely to catch up and explore a warm, beautiful city neither of us visited before.  I do enjoy Spain; I've been to Barcelona, Madrid twice, Valencia, Granada, Malaga, Menorca, Ibiza and, ahem, the Costa del Sol and enjoyed it every time - the sunshine shines, the good and cheap cava is plentiful, the architecture, culture and history is something to behold and the food never fails to disappoint.  I'm pretty sure my last supper would include a hearty plate of jamon iberico.

Sevilla is the biggest city in the Andalusia region and has a complex history of Roman, Arabic, Christian and Muslim influences on everything from architecture to cuisine.  The city is full of churches, cathedrals and palaces and the most notable buildings are a curious mix of gothic, medieval, Renaissance, Moorish, baroque or Mudéjar in style and a world apart from the beauitful architecture we have in dear old Blighty.

Catedral de Sevilla

We visited two of the city's UNESCO World Heritage sites - the Alcázar Palace and the Cathedral, which sit next to each other in the heart of the Old Town. The Alcázar is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe; it's beautiful and massive so definitely worth spending a good couple of hours to wander round marvelling at the dozens of rooms and gardens.

Nearby, the huge, medieval Cathedral of St. Mary houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus (because he set sail to discover the Americas from Seville port), an awful lot of gold ornaments and La Giralda, an important Spanish-Muslim monument which was originally built as a minaret of a mosque before being coverted to the Cathedral's bell tower.  We climbed the 300 feet to reach the top of it, but the grey skies and drizzle (Seville may be warm in early Spring, but it rains a lot, apparently) spoilt the view a little.

view from the Giralda stairs

... and the top of the Giralda

One of the highlights was a horse-drawn carriage through the city and Parque de María Luisa to the beautiful Plaza de España which is a big crescent building built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition featuring alcoves decorated with murals depicting each province of Spain, with a moat split by beautiful, ornate bridges.

We stayed at Corral Del Rey, one of the nicest hotels I've ever been to, a small, 13 room luxury boutique hotel run by the people behind the Hacienda de san Rafael, voted by Tatler as the 'most heavenly hideaway' in 2010 and in Harper's Bazaar's top 100 hotels in 2012.

It's in a great, quiet location on one of the narrow streets of the Barrio Alfalfa old quarter in the heart of the city, with impeccable interiors; original wood carvings, luxurious marble and limestone bathrooms, rustic wooden shutters, big, soft beds and beautiful linen (loved the scallop hem bed covers).  There's also a rooftop terrace with a plunge pool (unfortunately it was too cold to use), which must be fantastic at dusk after hot summer's days.

We couldn't resist breakfast in bed in our lovely suite one morning.  The staff are great and upon arrival, the attentive manager Rocio armed us with maps and local recommendations...

Flamenco originated from Andalusia, so we visited the Museo del Baile Flamenco to see a fantastic performance by two incredibly fast, clapping dancers joined by a guitarist and singer onstage, which reminded me of the fun dance show we saw at Lola's in Valencia.

Our favourite foodie discovery was Abades Triana, a modern restaurant sat on the River Guadalquivir, overlooking the lit-up Triana bridge.  The food was outstanding, the decor cool and stylish, all minimal and white with palms and big glass windows.

There we tried a vino blanco called Mencal which was an interesting four grape blend of moscatel, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and torrontes which was superb.

the view from Abades Triana

We visited Zelai, a trendy, relatively new restaurant serving modern, innovative dishes, including chunky tuna tataki on a bed of cold chopped tomatoes (which was fantastic but too large for a starter), a delicious plate of ham and a beautiful tuna dish decorated with flowers. Top marks for presentation.

If you're after more of a traditional meal, Becerrita is lovely with charismatic staff who continue bringing out plate after plate until you're stuffed.  Definitely a good spot to refuel after walking around the city all day.  I particularly enjoyed the cold cucumber, tuna and egg starter, which sounds unusual but tasted fantastic.  The squid and potato salad was pretty great too.

If you're in Seville, you have to visit Alfonso XIII Hotel - we visited the gloriously ornate 1929 landmark with its elaborate arches, ceramic tiles and marble floor for a glass of Cava in the beautiful fountain courtyard.

Alfonso XIII Hotel

sampling some award-winning tapas plates at Bar Europa 

making a quick break for refreshments and pastries at Robles Laredo

If you fancy exploring a slightly less tourist-y city in Europe, this charming little city comes highly recommended.  Thanks for having us, Corral Del Rey and Sevilla, thanks for the lovely weekend!

you can never have enough photos of fruit trees

Abades Triana from across the river

Christopher Columbus' tomb

a bride in front of the cathedral