Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours

Wondering where to eat in Seville? Don't miss out on a delectable tapas tour with Devour Seville Food Tours!

I have always revered Andalusia's colorful capital as a mecca for foodies. After countless trips to Seville, its vibrant bars, bustling restaurants and mouthwatering delicacies still manage to lure me in. That said, I would rarely venture past my tried-and-true favorites. Little did I know what I had been missing out on! 

After savoring the Tastes, Tapas & Traditions tour with Devour Seville, I walked away with a full belly and a newfound appreciation for Seville's gastronomy. Thanks to the wit and wisdom of my guides Jaimie and David, I discovered a delectable selection of new favorite eateries in Seville. 

If you're eager to try authentic tapas and wondering where to eat in Seville, look no further than Devour Seville Food Tours.

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours
Tostá de pringá, perhaps the best way to start the morning 

We started our morning at an iconic breakfast locale in the center. Though I had considered myself Seville-savvy before this trip, I immediately realized that I had been in the dark for years. How had I never heard of this darling diamond in the rough? This no-frills, locals-only bar immediately won over my heart (and stomach). After fueling up with our cortados, we tasted the signature tostá de pringá, a flavorful pork stew toast that delighted my senses.

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours
Unbelievably tasty jamón ibérico

I like to think of Seville as the capital of all things quintessentially Spanish. It doesn't get much more Spanish than jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham), which is what we set out to try next. We ventured to a local market, where we learned about the intricate techniques of cutting an Iberian ham leg. My tastebuds rejoiced as soon as the buttery jamón ibérico melted in my mouth. I've tasted my fair share of this national treasure, but what I had here was undoubtedly some of the best
jamón I've ever tried.

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours
Naranjitos made by nuns

Our guides led us through colorful alleys, peppering our journey with fascinating anecdotes about Spanish and Andalusian history. Though I had studied (and subsequently forgot) quite a bit of Spanish history in college, they tied it together in a way that finally stuck with me.

I had no idea what to expect when we reached our next destination, for there wasn't a restaurant in sight. In fact, we had stumbled upon a hidden convent where the nuns are famous for making traditional sweets. Decidedly out of my element, I entered the convent with equal parts suspicion and curiosity. Our guides then ordered a tasty batch of naranjitos, an almond-based cookie with subtle hints of orange. I was immediately hooked.

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours
Chorizo and carne mechada montaditos

Our next stop lead us to a Semana Santa themed bar, which was most certainly my favorite spot on the tour. With walls adorned with photos and relics from Seville's famed Holy Week celebrations, this hole in the wall served up some mean montaditos (small sandwiches). The spicy chorizo with roquefort cheese and carne mechada sandwiches positively rocked my palate. 

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours
Although Holy Week only comes once a year, it's celebrated every day at this bar!

Next, we quenched our thirst with a particularly unique Seville specialty, orange wine. Yes, it's just as exquisite as it sounds! This aromatized orange wine is served at an iconic bar owned by a famous flamenco singer's son. Though the bar itself is tiny, the interior is sonorously brimming with charisma.

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours
Orange wine, a sweet Seville specialty

Our next stop was an iconic freiduría that specializes in fried fish. Fried fish is an especially popular snack during Seville's renowned Feria de Abril celebration. The house specialty is the cazón en adobo (vinegar and cumin marinated sand shark), but I feasted upon fresh tomatoes drizzled with Andalusian olive oil and sea salt. 

For our final serving of home-cooked tapas, we set off towards a cozy tavern in the center of town. This tapas bar was coincidentally located below the hotel I stayed in during my first trip to Seville. My mom and I complained every night about how noisy it was downstairs - and for good reason! Consistently packed during meal times, this tavern is an undoubted favorite among locals. As soon as I tasted my first bite of Iberian pork shoulder, I immediately regretted not wandering in six years ago. 

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours
You can never be too full for dessert...

To top off our feast, we ventured to an artisan ice cream shop that redefined my standards of dessert. Rumored to serve the best ice cream in Seville, this shop is notorious for its innovative flavors and Seville-inspired twists. I savored every bite of my chile chocolate and blueberry helado, though my inner-glutton was tempted to sample each flavor.

While tapas culture in Spain can certainly feel daunting at first, this tour offers a balanced "Tapas 101" introductory course. More than just a tapas tour, this culinary walking tour introduced me to countless new tastes and traditions of Seville. As well as I thought I knew Seville before, I came away with a delightful array of new go-to spots. Ultimately, this tour is an experience that's not to be missed when visiting Andalusia's striking capital.

Tapas Crawling with Devour Seville Food Tours

The Tastes, Tapas & Traditions tour runs every Tuesday-Saturday morning at 10:30 or 11:15 am. The tour lasts about four hours and stops at seven family-run businesses. I highly recommend this experience to travelers interested in tapas culture and epicures eager to get off the beaten path!


Devour Spain graciously invited me on this tour, however, all opinions expressed are my own.

As a Celiac, I took this tour at my own risk. While Devour Seville can make substitutions to accommodate a gluten-free diet, they cannot completely guarantee avoiding cross contamination. If you avoid gluten and are interested in taking this tour, please get in touch with Devour Seville by email to discuss Celiac/gluten-free options.


Have you ever been tapas crawling in Spain?
What did you like best about the experience?


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Why the Radio Silence? An Overdue Life Update

Oh, hey there! Long time no see. I've intentionally taken a temporary hiatus from blogging, but I promise my reasons are legit.

As Hemingway ever so wisely proclaimed,

In order to write about life, first you must live it.

And that, my friends, is exactly what I've been doing.

You see, today marks one month until I leave Madrid. For good. Cue sobbing.

I'm not even trying to be dramatic, for the mere thought of leaving this place immediately brings me to tears. I'm crying right now as I write this. I'm a hot mess, and at this point it's completely unstoppable.

Adelante
How I feel about leaving Europe... on opposite day.

When I get really anxious, I do this really fun thing where I internally panic until my stress physically manifests itself in illness. In just the past week, I've battled migraines, stomach troubles, and now strep. I'm currently bedridden with a plethora of antibiotics and painkillers, hence why I finally have the time to sit down at my computer and spill my messy thoughts.

Weakened immune system aside, I've actually been having the time of my life during these two blog-free months. I promise to divulge all of the details in due time, but for now, here's a glimpse into what I've been up to since March - as well as what's to come!

I channeled my inner Indiana Jones at Petra, Jordan.

Petra, Jordan | Adelante

I fell really, really hard for Israel.

Tel Aviv, Israel | Adelante

Prepare for a post that fully discloses my intense love affair with the Holy Land!

I still think Asturias is Spain's prettiest region.

Cudillero, Asturias | Spain Photography | Adelante

The colorful fishing village of Cudillero gave me so many heart sparkles. I also ate my way through Oviedo, which consequently warranted a two week detox and about three month's worth of Tums.

I said hasta luego to Sevilla, my favorite city in Spain.

Plaza de España, Seville | Spain Photography | Adelante

I also did some serious sightseeing through my tastebuds with Devour Seville Food Tours, which I will recount in full detail when I'm not writing on an empty stomach.

I went back to Cádiz for the first time since studying abroad six years ago.

Cádiz, Spain | Adelante

The entire weekend was such a blur, and while that's partly the tequila's fault, I think it's mostly because it felt so surreal to be back after living there so many years ago. The town itself hasn't changed at all, but I feel like a completely different person. (Can you believe that back then, I actually hated living in Spain?! Blasphemy!) While revisiting old haunts felt entirely bittersweet, I had an incredible time giving the city the second chance it deserves. After this visit, I feel like things have truly come full circle.

My best friend came to visit!

Adelante

We took way too many selfies, drank way too much rosé, and laughed so hard our stomachs hurt.

Then we went to Stockholm and ate all of the gluten-free snacks.

Stockholm, Sweden | Adelante

Because Celiacs that travel together stay together. Also, why is Sweden so good at everything?!?

I finally got Snapchat.

Hi Courtney, welcome to 2016. The last to hop on the bandwagon per usual, I finally succumbed to my millennial fate. Follow along with my unfiltered misadventures at courtney.likkel

WHAT'S NEXT?

Next weekend I'm wrapping up my European farewell tour with one last visit to my favorite city in the world... Paris!

As soon as school finishes, I'll bid my darling, germ mongering preschoolers adieu and jet off to Croatia for eleven days with my momma. I couldn't be more excited to traipse through the Adriatic with my original partner in crime and all-time favorite travel buddy.

On July 5th, I'll reluctantly drag myself to Madrid-Barajas airport with an obscene amount of baggage, both tangible and emotional. From there I'll cry all the way to Iceland, where I'll spend a few days pretending to be outdoorsy before flying home to Seattle on July 8th. (That is, assuming airport security doesn't escort me off the plane. Whoever is seated next to me is in for a real treat.)

As soon as I get in my fix of Chipotle and snuggles from Kitty Purry, it's time to start adulting. That entails buying a car, applying for jobs, and saving money to move into a place of my own. (Much like my fellow Spaniards that live with their parents for a shockingly long time, I'll be crashing with my pops until I can get my feet on the ground. Which is actually great, because my dad is my best bud, the ultimate grill master, and the cleanest person I know. The only catch is that he lives in a retirement community, so... yeah. Better save that cash quickly.)

Skydive Interlaken | Adelante
My entire life will be turned upside down (though maybe not this literally)

In between all of this "adulting", I'm going to need a mental escape from the drudgeries of suburbia, responsibility and reverse culture shock. This is when I plan to tackle my massive back log of travel posts, because at this point I'll be desperately needing to relive my adventures.

I know I haven't been the most consistent these past few months, but I hope you can forgive me and stick around as this tumultuous journey continues!


Have you got any advice for this soon to be ex-expat?

Please share your wisdom! (Or just send wine.)



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Detained in the Underbelly of Madrid-Barajas Airport

What's it really like to be detained? Here's the uncensored story of my interrogation, strip-search and confiscations while flying from Madrid to Israel.

There are certain things that you sign up for when traveling outside the comfort zone of the European Union. When venturing to a politically complex country, misadventures are to be expected, though the exact predicaments can never be foreseen. Upon embarking on my recent trip to Israel, my most dramatic misfortunes occurred prior to even leaving Spanish soil.

Ominous beginnings

After being aggressively questioned by El Al officials before checking into my flight, I was told that my carry on luggage had to be searched prior to boarding the plane. After fueling up with a snack and a green smoothie, I ambled up to the gate for my second security check. After some chaos and confusion about a gate change, I watched other passengers be sent off, seeing as they were in the clear. When I was finally attended, I was singularly escorted to a basement below the terminal.

I was lead into a rather large bunker that connected to a garage of sorts. The cellar contained a makeshift waiting room with twelve or so chairs, a body scanner and an additional scanner for luggage, watched over by a few Spanish baggage handlers idly chatting about sports. Aside from the El Al security officials, a bored looking Civil Guard officer watched over the room.

First, the security officials wiped down my shoes for any suspicious substances. This didn't seem strange to me, considering security in the USA does something similar with TSA pre-check. The din of animated Hebrew filled the air as the minutes passed languidly. As my bags were being searched, I was told to wait for a female police officer to do a full pat-down. An attractive and friendly looking Israeli security official approached me, but what I thought was a casual conversation turned into another intense interrogation about the purpose of my trip.

What was supposed to be a "routine, 10 minute inspection" was turning into a lengthy ordeal. "But it's Spain", I casually thought to myself. "Everything takes forever here."

You want me to take off my what?

After about 20 minutes, the female Civil Guard officer finally arrived. She glanced at her colleague with a baffled expression and blurted, "Her? Really?" The policeman shrugged apathetically, and they both turned to me, quickly realizing that I speak Spanish. Once they confirmed that I could understand them (and obviously wasn't a threat), the Spanish policewoman took pity on me. After the Israeli officials came back to ask me questions about the contents of my bags, she whispered to me with disdain, "These guys think that everybody wants to blow up their plane."

"I'm sorry, but do you have a different pair of shoes that you could wear on the plane? I'm afraid we can't let you fly in these", the security official announced. "Why can't she wear those? That doesn't make any sense", touted the policewoman. "I'm afraid they've set off an alarm", she responded.

Now what kind of alarm these shoes set off, I'll never know for certain. From late nights at the club to reggae concerts, these shoes have seen it all. Whatever it was, I'm sure the mystery substance couldn't have been any worse than what's perfectly legal in the great state of Washington.

I handed my shoes over and was escorted into a small locker room, where my full pat-down was to begin. "By the way, you're probably going to have to take off your sujetador", warned the policewoman. "¿Sujetador? ¿Qué significa?" I asked, not recognizing the word in Spanish. She swiftly motioned to her bra. Noted.

My strip-search took a turn for the worst when the metal detector kept beeping on my legs, where there was obviously no metal. The policewoman told the female El Al official that the detector was probably faulty. Unconvinced, the official apprehensively let me put all of my clothes back on and leave the locker room.

IMG_8722-1

Saved by the Civil Guard

As I continued waiting, I snuck a glimpse of the back room, where the contents of my bags were strewn across the counters. I could hear the police arguing with the security officials, and finally they entered the stark waiting room together. "We need to scan you again", the official said with muted urgency.

The policewoman rolled her eyes and gave me a sympathetic glance. "The detector's faulty, she's fine", she reiterated as she scanned me again. No beeps, no static. I glanced down quickly enough to see her turn on her scanner, right before she scanned her own pistol and said, "But see! It still works!" Unsure of what I had just witnessed, I shot her a glance and we briefly locked eyes. She smiled and said, "I think we're done here", as she motioned for her colleague to leave with her.

The security officials still weren't convinced. They brought my iPhone to me, asking me to unlock it. They asked me to take a picture with and without the flash, so they'd know that the camera hadn't been tampered with. They then ordered me to play music or something with sound.

Serenity now!

Shortly thereafter, they broke the worst news of all. Motioning me into the back room, I saw that they had disassembled my camera and extra lens, indelicately examining them without even using the lens caps. "Unfortunately we can't let you fly with these either", the official said in a grim tone.

Panic paralyzed me. Not only is my camera gear the most expensive thing I own, but that camera is my life. "We need to put these in your checked luggage, but there's no room." Of course there's no room, I thought. I tried to pack eight days worth of clothes into one small carry on, and then I had to squeeze in the pair of boots that I wasn't allowed to wear on the plane.

They reassured me that they'd wrap it in bubble wrap, and I begged them to let me pack it myself. Seeing that I was visibly shaken, they let me wrap and pack it accordingly. And that's precisely when the tears came.

Desperately trying to keep it together, I collected myself and asked to be escorted to the restroom. I felt like a criminal.

"We're sorry you have to do this", the officials assured me as they let me repack and reassemble my bags after an hour and a half in the cellar. "You don't do this to everyone, do you?" I wondered aloud. "No, but when an alarm is set off, we have to follow certain procedures." And I obviously look like a pretty shady character, so apparently they couldn't take any chances...

I was escorted by the two officials up to the gate, where they ensured that I was the first person to board the plane without buying anything, using the restroom or talking to anyone. Considering they had also confiscated my iPod and headphones (but then let me repack them in my checked bag), I was left to my own devices on the 5 hour flight. My only entertainment was my book, 1984, which in hindsight may have also set them off due to its relatively subversive content.

IMG_1711-1
Do I look like a criminal?

I am not a terrorist.

When an entire region of the world basically wants to wipe your country off the map, I can fully understand why security has to be rigid. If anything, it made me feel safer to fly El Al to Israel. That said, I was shocked to be searched, interrogated and detained with such intensity.

My friends in Tel Aviv were convinced that it wasn't my shoes that set off the alarm, but rather the stamps in my passport from Morocco and Turkey. Which I suppose is valid, but then again, as a smiling, blue-eyed preschool teacher/former sorority girl, I don't exactly fit the bill for "suspected terrorist".

Thankfully, the rest of my time in Israel wasn't nearly as dramatic. Despite the rocky start, I ended up falling in love with the country's culture, cuisine and history. I can't wait to gush more about my love affair with Israel, but for now, this story will go down as one of my most rattling travel experiences.

IMG_1889-2
I still made it to Israel!


What's your worst airport horror story?
Have you ever been detained?