Travel Safety Tips: Is Seville Safe?

Is Seville safe for a single woman to visit alone? 

Is Seville safe for a single woman to visit alone?

Clients asked me this question more than once, and in my opinion, the answer is yes. Of all the cities I visited in my life, I can say that Seville is the only one of them where I have not felt uncomfortable walking around by myself. As a young woman, I am perfectly comfortable walking around the city by myself both day and night.  The center of the city has a very convivial atmosphere. The days are long and nights even longer, people are out on the streets every hour of the day, so you’re never completely alone anywhere in the center.  However, you still have to be smart. I have some tips that should help if you’re traveling solo to Seville, or really anywhere in the world. 

Travel Safety Tips

  1. Use your common sense. Don’t wander off into lonely dark alleys at 2AM, don’t leave your bags open or unattended and don’t carry your wallet or phone around in your back pocket. Basically, don’t draw unwanted attention towards yourself. 
  2. Try to not look like a tourist. Walking around with a camera around your neck, a map in your hands and an I Love Sevilla T-shirt will just make you an easy target for people trying to take advantage of tourists.
  3. Stay aware of your surroundings. It’s good to know where you are, so you won’t accidentally wander off into the bad part of town. When out on the streets, I’d recommend carrying your bag in front of you at all times, and move away if someone gets up into your personal space a bit too much. I once had my phone stolen out of my bag because I was not aware of what was happening around me. While looking at some clothes in a shop, a woman was standing right next to me, looking at the same rack of clothes. She was standing quite close to me, so close that it made me feel uncomfortable. My first thought was that this was probably because she wanted to look at the same blouse I was looking at. So I moved out of her way, but every time I moved away she moved with me. This should have made some alarm bells go off in my mind, but unaware as I was, I didn’t really think that she would be trying to steal something from me. I just walked away after I got too uncomfortable, and 5 minutes later when I went to the cash register, I opened my bag to grab my wallet and realized that my phone was gone. When I tried to call it it was already turned off, and nowhere to be found. Ever since that day, I always carry my bag in front of me and immediately grab it when someone gets into my personal space. 
  4. Don’t be alone all the time. This might be difficult as a solo traveler because you don’t always have someone around you. Let other people (maybe your family at home) know where you are and what you’re doing. Whenever you feel uncomfortable, talk to the people in your surroundings and let them know that you’re traveling solo. Even though this might sound weird, it will often make the other person look out for you. Whenever I have a solo traveler on my tours (since I work as a tour guide in Seville), I always tell them what parts of town they should avoid, and try to give them helpful tips on where they can go and maybe meet other travelers or locals. So chat with local service people such as waiters or tour guides. I would also recommend going on a tour on one of your first days in your new destination. Not only will you learn about the place and get a lot of historical, cultural and culinary insights, you might also meet some other travelers you can meet up with later on. 
  5. Don’t be too friendly. If your gut tells you that a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes, if you’re too polite or shy, people will walk all over you and that way you might be forced into a situation you really didn’t want to be in. So don’t worry about being impolite, because if somebody doesn’t respect you, they are not worth your time. 

Have you ever traveled solo to another country? And do you have any advice for other solo travelers? 

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Tapas in Triana: Casa Gago

There are so many amazing tapas bars and restaurants in Seville. Someone once told me there is one tapas bar for every five inhabitants of the city. Seville has around 700.000 inhabitants so you can imagine how many bars that will be. So many, that choosing a place to go for lunch or dinner might become an overwhelming task. That’s where I can help.

The Triana district in Seville, on the ‘other’ side of the river, is an amazing barrio that not enough people visit during their stay in the city. This district has so much to offer, from amazing restaurants, beautiful markets, and a rich and complex history. One of my favorite bars in Triana is one of my most recent discoveries, Casa Gago. My favorite typical Sevillian dish is Solomillo al Whisky, and I was told that Casa Gago makes a mean Solomillo. Of course, I had to go check it out.

Hidden between houses, in Calle Lucía de Jesús, you’ll find Casa Gago. A calm, cozy neighborhood bar that has been open since 2016. Even though it’s so young, it has already made quite the name for itself. It was my first time visiting and seen that I had heard so many good things about this place, I went in with high expectations. Safe to say, I was not disappointed.

Solomillo al Whisky in Casa GagoThe Solomillo al Whisky in this restaurant was exceptionally good. I find that many Spanish dishes do not look appetizing at all, but once you take a bite, there is an explosion of flavor in your mouth. This is what happened with this plate as well. As you can see in the photo above, it does not look that appealing, but the garlic, lemon and whisky flavor came together beautifully and I can definitely recommend Casa Gago if you want to try a good Solomillo al Whisky.

AfterlightImage (3)Another very successful dish we tried was Secreto Iberico. This is a special piece of meat, from the Spanish Black Iberian pig. This is also where the famous Spanish ham comes from. These pigs have a very special diet; they only live on acorns. Because of their diet, they have a lot of intramuscular fat, which is why their meat has such unique, rich flavor.
The Secreto is the part of meat between the shoulder and neck, and can only be found in the Black Iberian pig. People see this as the ‘best-kept secret’ of the Iberian pig, hence the name.
Casa Gago serves this delicious piece of meat with some mojo picón, a spicy sauce made of paprika, garlic, oil, salt, pepper, cumin, vinegar, and other herbs. Again, this dish looks quite bland, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had never tried this dish before, but upon trying it in Casa Gago I realized I missed out and I’ll be sure to order it more often in the future.

AfterlightImage (4)Last but not least, I tried the Adobo. This is a typical Sevillian dish, and perhaps one of the most popular. It is dogfish, marinated in a mixture of sherry vinegar, garlic, paprika and more. It has a very strong (and delicious) flavor and scent, which lures you into the bars. The adobo in Casa Gago is definitely not bad, in fact, it’s one of the better ones I have tried so far.

If you’re ever in Calle Tetuan, and you are wondering where the delicious adobo scent comes from, it’s Bodeguita Blanco Cerrillo. Their adobo is one of the best in the city, so if you’re planning on trying adobo, I’d recommend going there.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised here. We were quite late when we sat down for lunch, as it was almost 16:00 o’clock, so we were the last to leave. The waiter was very friendly, however, and we didn’t feel rushed at all. He even offered us a chupito after we paid the bill. If I lived in Triana, this would probably be my go-to bar.

Buying My Own Flamenco Dress!

I Bought My Own Flamenco Dress!

 

After going to the Feria once in 2017, I decided that for the next year I wanted to get my own dress. Just because I was so intrigued and excited by the idea of owning one of these dresses. Finding a dress was quite a process. Almost like buying a wedding dress (even though I have never bought a wedding dress in my life, this is just how I imagine wedding dress shopping would be).

I had been looking at dresses on the internet and shops I passed by on my way home from work, but I never really dared to enter a store because this ‘guiri

Guiri

Somewhat pejorative term for a foreigner, usually a tourist, who happens to be in Spain and stands out as being pretty obviously not a local. The term is usually used to refer to fairer-skinned people from the likes of Great Britain or Germany, but can be extended to any foreigner that is in Spain.

had no idea how you’re supposed to behave in a dress store. I realized I needed reinforcements. So I asked sister-in-law to go with me. She has 4 dresses of her own, and has lived in Seville all her life, thus she is an expert in this field. She explained what different types of dresses there are, asked me what type of dress I liked and based on that, she made some good recommendations. After figuring out – more or less – what I wanted, we went out on the street to visit some stores she already had good experiences with.

The first store had a book with all the available models for that year. We were going through the pictures and I saw some that I really liked, because they had a special type of skirt. My personal flamenco dress expert advised against buying a dress like this. As you probably already read in my last blog, these dresses are fashion sensitive. If you don’t have the funds to buy a new one every year, it’s best to go with the ‘timeless style’, which will be in fashion every year. Even though I liked this type of skirt a lot, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

After looking around in that first store, we found out that it was a bit too expensive. I had a pretty low budget of € 300,- (Yes, I know, € 300,- is a lot of money, but for a flamenco dress that’s a really really low budget) and most dresses there were over € 500,-. So we decided to go to another shop. The dresses there were items from last season. Prices there started at around € 200,- per dress, so that was a lot more manageable. Even though these outlets are great to find amazing bargains, unfortunately, I didn’t find my dress there either.

Flamenco Red Robin Custers

A week later, we went to another shop. Micaela Villa is a shop that I passed by a lot on my way home from work, and I had seen some dresses that I really liked there. There were two dresses I tried on there that I completely fell in love with. A dark red one and a dark blue one. The red number had a ‘fashionable’ skirt and looked really beautiful. I absolutely fell in love with this dress, and I almost changed my mind on the ‘not-fashionable-but-timeless’ policy, but eventually, I decided that € 300,- was a lot of money to spend on a piece I could only wear for one week and then never again.

In the same shop, I found another dress that stole my heart. And this one did have the timeless style skirt. It was a beautiful dark blue color that went really well with my blue eyes and blonde hair (at least, that’s what all the women in the shop at that moment told me). It fit right in my budget, so it was the perfect choice for me. It is definitely the most expensive piece of clothing I ever bought, but I’m so happy I did it. Blue Flamenco Dress

I left the dress there so the women at the shop could make some adjustments to make it fit me perfectly. I picked it up one week later and I was over the moon! However, my feria outfit wasn’t complete without some ‘complementos’ (the matching accessories you put on with your dress). I had to find a mantoncillo (a scarf that flamencas wear over their shoulders which they tie together with a broche), a flower and some earrings.  Choosing the right complementos required an in-depth study of colors and combinations that work well together. With some help of my sister- and mother-in-law I found complementos that fit me perfectly, which you’ll see in the pictures.

When you’re in Seville, don’t hesitate to walk into some of the flamenco dress shops and feel them and try them on for yourself. It’s lots of fun and it gives you the chance to feel like a true Sevillana.

What’s the most expensive piece of clothing you’ve ever bought?

Love,

Robin

 

The Flamenco Dress

The Flamenco Dress: The Most Characteristic Feature of La Feria de Abril

When you think of Spain, you think of flamenco. And bullfighting. And sangria. Depends on your frame of reference. One of the first things I would think about when thinking about Spain would be the unbearable heat in summer. And the women in flamenco dresses. In contrary to popular belief, not only flamenco dancers wear them. In Seville, almost every ‘Sevillana’ (a.k.a. female Sevillian inhabitant) owns at least one flamenco dress. These flamenco dresses are actually one of the only pieces of traditional clothing that are still fashionable and fashion-sensitive. They do not wear them to formal occasions, they do not wear them to informal occasions, they don’t even wear them to go grocery shopping. When DO they wear them, you might ask. Well, the only week when it’s socially acceptable to wear the flamenco dress out in public, is during the Feria de Abril, the annual April Fair in Seville.

Now you may wonder what the story behind these dresses is. How does one obtain such a traditional piece? What do they cost? I have experienced the Feria de Abril two times now, and I even bought one of these dresses myself so I can tell you all about it.

The history of these dresses is quite interesting. There are many different stories about the origin of flamenco, but the origin of the flamenco dress is quite clear. It is said that flamenco is a gypsy genre. While we can’t verify the actual origin of the flamenco genre, we do know that gypsy women started the flamenco dress trend. In the 1800’s, Romani women would wear self-made dresses. These dresses were made out of old fabric, but to make them look more appealing they were sewn into nice ruffles at the bottom. The women would wear them to the local fairs and get-togethers in the towns surrounding Seville. They also wore them to the city when the Ibero-American Expo was in town in 1929. This is where high-society women noticed the dresses and had more high-end versions made for themselves, which they wore to events during this exposition. This was when the dress gained its traditional status and when it became the official outfit for the Feria de Abril.

Today, the dress is popular in all of Andalusia. It’s one of the most distinctive features of every feria. The average Sevillana has 3-4 dresses and every few years they will add a new one to their collection. There are different colors that work at different times of the day. For example, you don’t really wear a black dress during the day, and a bright yellow dress during the evening. The really fashion-forward women change their dress every day of the feria, sometimes even twice a day. They usually won’t wear the same dress two days in a row.

The dresses are not cheap either. Prices range from € 300 to over € 2.000, the price of the average wedding dress! Can you imagine, having to buy a wedding dress every year? The price depends on the type of fabric, style, and adjustments needed for the perfect fit. As I said, these dresses are fashion sensitive, so if you want a fashionable style, you’ll have to spend a bit more. The cheapest dresses are often from earlier seasons, or not of very good quality. When buying a cheap one, there is the risk that you’ll see at least 5 other people walking around in exactly the same dress. This is something you want to avoid.

There is a difference between the traditional flamenco dresses, and the dresses flamenco dancers wear. The traditional style is quite hard to walk in because they are tightly fitted until the knees, where they flare out. The flamenco artists wear their dresses in a different style that allows more movement. Still, women at the Feria dance in their traditional getup as well. Not as elaborately as flamenco dancers, but their style of dancing is somewhat similar to the flamenco. It is called the ‘sevillanas’, a simplified version of the flamenco that almost every Sevillian knows.

Feria de Abril 2017 Robin Custers
Feria de Abril 2017

The Feria of 2017 was my first-ever Feria. My mother-in-law lent me one of her dresses and even adjusted it for me so it would fit me perfectly. At first, it felt a little weird and uncomfortable, simply because I had never worn a dress like that in my life. Later I got used to it and I felt like a true Sevillana.

I loved it so much that in 2018, I decided I wanted to buy my own flamenco dress. Curious about how that went? You can read about my experience here.

Love,

Robin