Stylist’s entertainment director Helen Bownass discovers that siestas, sunshine and a slower pace of life are always within reach in southern Spain.
I have three places saved on my BBC Weather app: Hackney (where I live), Los Angeles (for work trips) and Seville, to remind myself that there are sunnier climes only two hours away. Seville is a city where it’s 20-something degrees at Easter – as I write this, in January, it has highs of 18 degrees.
The southern Spanish city is the ideal place for a long weekend break, and not just for the guaranteed hefty dose of vitamin D. It’s a spirited haven of gorgeous tiles and delicious food where you can wallow in a unique blend of Gothic and Moorish architecture.
I’m staying at the gorgeous Corral Del Rey in the cathedral area, down a quiet, cobbled street so narrow only an experienced taxi driver would dare tackle it. It’s a restored 17th-century palace and the result is luxurious and laidback, with cool marble sitting alongside Moroccan soft furnishings. All 17 rooms are chic and cosy, and my tiled bathroom has the largest bathtub I’ve ever been in.
Breakfast is equally languid, with homegrown olive oil to drizzle over your toast and orange juice just squeezed from local trees that are bursting with citrus fruits. Be sure, too, to climb up the stairs to the roof, where you’ll find an honesty bar, a small plunge pool and a shady cabana for gazing out across the city.
A few minutes walk away from Corral Del Rey is the truly beautiful Royal Alcázar palace, dating back to the 10th century. It will appeal to Game Of Thrones devotees (it provided the setting for Dorne) and fans of epic tiled floors and sweeping gardens alike – but book in advance to save yourself from the queues. More modern is Las Setas (which translates as ‘the mushrooms’), a giant fungi-esque structure 10 minutes away that you can walk across.
Wander the streets towards the Feria Market to eat your way round the tapas stands or fill your tote with fresh fruit. I stopped at Casa Vizcaíno just because everyone there was having such a good time and had a caña (a small beer) for €1. I was equally thrilled to discover Salsamento, a contemporary bar and shop with delicious montaditos: bread topped with cured meats and local cheeses.
One of the greatest meals of my trip was at La Azotea on Calle Zaragoza, where I ate baked rice with seafood and pan de cristal: some sort of magical toasted bread with fresh tomato. I rounded off the night with a Sangre de Cristo (grenadine, pink champagne and whisky) at El Garlochi, where the air is thick with incense and the walls crammed with religious iconography.
And though everyone stays out late, getting up to make the most of this sunny, vibrant city the next morning is a lot sweeter when you remember you’re in the country of afternoon siestas.
Double rooms at Corral Del Rey from £190 per night.
Images: Corral Del Ray, writers own