visiting local markets one of my favorite things to do when traveling is to get a bird's eye view of a new city. In Barcelona there's the Columbus Monument or the hillside fort of Montjuïc, in Venice you can ride up to the top of the Campanile at San Giorgio Maggiore, and in London you can splurge on The Eye or hike up Primrose Hill. In Sevilla you've got two great options. One, if you'd like to take the historical route, is to climb up to the top of La Giralda, the tower at Sevilla Cathedral. Or you can visit the Metropol Parasol!
Popularly known as Las Setas de la Encarnación, or Las Setas (The Mushrooms) for short, the Metropol Parasol is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. Construction of Las Setas was fairly divisive amongst Sevillanos. Many consider the modern architecture an eyesore, not to mention a waste of millions of euros in construction costs. But as an outsider, I enjoyed the interplay of the waffle-y structure with the surrounding multi-storied traditional Spanish Buildings. During the day, the six "mushrooms" provide shade from the scorching Andalusian sun, then, when the sun sets, the structure adds texture and light to the night sky.
At street level you'll find a cafe, with plenty of outdoor seating, and a market. Inside the market there are dozens of stalls selling of fresh produce, meat, seafood, and of course, all of the Spanish necessities, olives, wine, and jamón. It's a great place to pick up the makings of a picnic. At the top of the wide set of stairs there's a flat courtyard space perfect for skateboarding and soccer. Plus a small playground, all designed for kids and families to spend time. You can eat your picnic spread here if you don't mind sitting on the concrete, or take it with you up to the top.
To get to the viewpoint, or Mirador, you must first locate the elevator. It's a bit of a trial if you don't know where you're going (at least it was for me.) Facing the wide, street level steps, head left until you see the stairs leading down to the basement. Take the stairs down to the basement level find the ticket counter. Also on the lower level is the Antiquarium, where you can view Ancient Roman and Moorish artifacts excavated during construction. There's also a gift shop, of course. But you want to visit the Mirador, so pay your 3€ and take the elevator on up.
As the sun goes down, the mushrooms light up. The juxtaposition of the orange spotlights against the dark blue night sky is really something special. Serpentine walkways line the top of the structure, offering epict 360° views of Sevilla. If you want to take a seat and relax for a while, there's a cafe where light snacks and beverages of all sorts are served.
When all of the sunlight had disappeared I headed back into the Santa Cruz neighborhood for dinner. As usual I was dining unfashionably early by Sevilla's standards. But that made it easy to secure a street side table at my destination. After a fantastic lunch at La Azotea earlier in the week, I went back for more.
More of those delightful chartreuse olives, the perfect salty complement to more bubbly Tinto al limón. While I was tempted to repeat with another order of tiny clams and artichokes, I decided to branch out, selecting what turned out to be two excellent, and filling, plates of food. First an amazing dish of olive oil poached cod atop a puree of asparagus. The silky fish was paired with a poached egg, the molten yolk spilling out to enrich the creamy asparagus below. A touch of earthy truffle salt finished off the dish.
Next, an updated take on carrillada, aka, pork cheek. Unlike the simple, classic version I sampled at La Bodeguita Romero on my tapas tour, La Azotea's carillada gets a layer of brûléed goat cheese and wine enriched gravy. The cheese adds complexity and a sharp tang when eaten with the incredibly tender ibérico pork. On the bottom, a layer of perfectly cooked, slightly waxy, potatoes. Just the thing to soak up all of that dreamy sauce.
But the best part of the meal was a happy coincidence. Earlier in the day, while lunching at Casa Roman (delicious, details coming soon,) I met a friendly American couple. We chatted a little bit at lunch, then lo and behold, they appeared at a neighboring table at La Azotea right as my first tapa was delivered. They shared some of their Sevilla highlights and, because they were leaving the city in the morning, generously gifted me with their map of the city. There's really something about the shared experience of traveling in a foreign country that brings people together.