Snapshots from Spain - La Azotea + Plaza de España
Here in snowy, windy, Bloomington I've lately found my thoughts wandering to the sunny days I spent in Sevilla. During my late October trip I enjoyed mid-seventies temperatures and plenty of blue skies. Perfect conditions for exploring a new city. My second day in Spain, a Sunday, I ate a fantastic al fresco lunch at a little place called La Azotea then spent a few lovely hours at the Plaza de España.
I didn't have a bad meal in Sevilla, but I did have a best meal. My lunch at La Azotea was good enough to bring me back two nights later for a repeat performance. The restaurant has multiple locations. Lucky me, one of those spots was just a few minutes from my guesthouse. It's recommended all over the internet (and by my food tour guide Shawn Hennessey) so you may have to wait a bit if you dine during the prime hours. But I had no trouble at all scoring a street side table around one in the afternoon.
I kicked off the meal with my new favorite beverage, Tinto al Limon. A ruby colored mixture of lemon-lime soda and red wine, a tinto is oh so refreshing after a late night. Along with my drink arrived an irresistible bowl of bright green olives. If you're not an olive fan just leave the bowl alone, you won't be charged. But if you love olives as much as I do then these are a no brainer. Slightly crushed with a little red pepper the juicy olives are a perfect amuse bouche.
To eat I ordered a plate of coquinas, or clams, cooked with wine, garlic, and mini artichokes. These were the tiniest, prettiest clams I have ever encountered. The pearlescent purple shells like jewelry for the sweet and tender clam meat. The clams shined on their own but the best bites combined slices of garlic and crispy artichoke. And thank goodness for the bread basket, it would be a crime to leave the peppery garlic infused olive oil behind.
My second tapa was a plate of octopus over a thick potato puree. The octopus was super tender, seasoned with smoky pimentón, and doused in tons of Spanish olive oil. It was very good, but could have used a touch of acid to cut through the rich potatoes and oil.
I ended my meal in the Spanish way, with a coffee. Un cortado. Just the thing to perk me up before my next adventure, exploring the beautiful Plaza de España. It's an easy, and scenic, walk from Barrio Santa Cruz. I made my way slowly around the massive gothic Cathedral, past the old tobacco factory that now houses the Universidad de Sevilla, and on to Maria Luisa Park. I was map less until the final day of my stay in Sevilla, but led myself to the park with no trouble at all. There are city maps on the corners of most main boulevards and if you've done much research (I'm best friends with Google Maps) you'll quickly get a feel for the city.
Plaza de España may have been my favorite place in Sevilla. Sure it's full of tourists. But that just means it's a prime spot for people watching. Also, it's free and gorgeous, especially on a sunny day. Built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929, the semi-circle complex of buildings is a unique combination of Renaissance, Art Deco, and neo-Moorish styles. Blue and white mosaic tile accents the red brick facade, pulling together the whimsical yet elegant architecture. It's no wonder that George Lucas chose the plaza as a filming location for scenes in Star Wars Episodes I & II. The centerpiece of the pavilion is a canal where tourists can rent boats and row their way around the complex. Not into boats? Grab a pedal powered cart for the whole family or hire a horse drawn carriage for a tour around historic Sevilla, Plaza de España is the final stop.