Stylishly Solo – Seville Travel Guide

I am going to be completely honest with you – before I planned my trip to Seville I knew very little about this famous Spanish city.  I chose to stop in Seville because I had heard that it was popular and I figured that it would be fun to check out.  The more that I planned my trip though, I began to get really excited because Seville sounded like a really cool city.  Widely known as the birthplace of flamenco, Seville has a lot to offer.  Like other Spanish cities that I have visited, the food is delicious, the people are kind, the buildings are charming and there are a lot of things to see.  So if you are only planning a quick stop in this beautiful city, try to plan ahead so that you can make the most of your time there.

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Seville is the capital of the Andalusian region of Spain, and while it is well known as the birthplace of flamenco, it is also home to an incredible gothic cathedral and for Game of Thrones fans the Royal Alcazar palace.  Unfortunately while I was there all of the flamenco shows that I wanted to watch were fully booked so I had to settle for watching the flamenco street performers (in all honesty, they are really talented so it is worth stopping and watching while you are out and about).  Seville is also a great base to plan a few day trips from.  I took a day trip to Cordoba while in Seville as La Mezquita is something that I have been wanting to see in person for many years (but I will save that travel guide for another day).

How to Get There

I love to travel by train when in Europe, and this trip to Spain was no exception.  I pre-booked all of my train tickets online before I leave for my trip (although you always have the option to purchase once you are there).   The rail system in Spain is really efficient and while Spain is the fourth largest country in Europe you are able to get from city to city in a matter of hours.  It’s an affordable option, and if you are fortunate enough to book first class (if it’s available), the food and drinks that are served are fabulous!

Stay

I knew that I would be spending a very busy couple of days in Seville so my criteria for a hotel was somewhere reasonably priced, safe, clean and comfortable.  I managed to find just the right hotel and happily it also had a rooftop pool.  I was able to find a good deal at Hotel Becquer and it was the perfect hotel to stay during my visit.  It is well located in the old town of Seville and it is only a five minute walk to the cathedral and the Royal Alcazar palace.  The staff is friendly and helpful and make the effort to ensure that you have a comfortable stay.  While I normally prefer staying at more modern hotels when travelling, Hotel Becquer is charming, clean and safe and if I were to go back to Seville I would happily stay there again.  My favourite part was definitely the pool.  After a long day sightseeing in the sun, going back to the hotel to relax on the rooftop with a cool drink and a quick dip in the pool was heavenly.  The views from the rooftop are also breathtaking making it easy to see why Hotel Becquer is such a popular choice.

Visit

As I only had a day and a half to see everything that I wanted to see in Seville, I did a lot of research and planning.  My top three things to see in Seville are Plaza de Espana, Royal Alcazar Palace and the cathedral.

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Plaza de Espana – This was the first place that I wanted to see in Seville.  This historical city square is a popular attraction for people visiting Seville.  Naturally I got lost on my way there and ended up taking an hour detour.  Thankfully the residents of Seville are really nice and kindly pointed me in the right direction multiple times until  I finally reached this site.  Plaza de Espana is a photographer’s dream as this landmark is filled with gorgeous architecture, bridges, fountains and canals where you can even rent a row boat.  The gardens surrounding the square are beautiful which is why it’s understandable that the walking tours here are so highly recommended.  Plaza de Espana is a great place to spend an afternoon enjoying the beautiful location, the stunning architecture and maybe even boat ride if you are up for it.

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All of the cathedrals that I have visited in Europe so far have been breathtaking so I was looking forward to seeing Saville’s famous cathedral.  Prior to my trip, I was scrolling on Pinterest and found a blog post about the cathedral.  They blogger recommend the cathedral roof tour.  Needless to say, my interest was peaked.  A quick Google search enabled me to pre-book the tour online before I left for my trip.  This tour was great as it enabled me to see the cathedral from a new perspective.  The architecture is breathtaking, the tour guide was very well informed and I spent a wonderful morning learning more about architecture and Seville’s history.  I would recommend this tour to everyone but it’s important to note that you must be able to climb many flights of stairs and you definitely can’t have a fear of heights (unless you are trying to conquer it) if you plan to take this tour.

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The Royal Alcazar is a royal palace that was built for the Christian king Peter of Castile.  It was built on the site of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress that was destroyed after the conquest of Seville by the Christians.  The Real Alcazar is one of the oldest palaces in the world that is still in use.  It’s intricate history is evident throughout the palace thru its design.  The palace is absolutely breathtaking, with a predominately Moorish design, intricate details including stunning tile work and ornate features throughout.  I also took the room tour while visiting the Real Alcazar – it provided really great insight to the history of the palace and the people that have lived there.  The only thing is that you are not allowed to take any pictures (you have to lock your camera and phone in a locker before the start of the tour).  So if you want to see what the rooms look like you will have to take the tour yourself.

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It’s easy to get lost in the Royal Alcazar for hours, there is so much to see!  The gardens are vast and magical, the fountains are breathtaking and the tile work is absolutely gorgeous.  It’s easy to see why this palace has been used as the backdrop for such popular films and shows such as Lawrence of Arabia and more recently Game of Thrones.  This is definitely a great spot to spend a few hours (if not more).  I would suggest purchasing your tickets online as the lines are really long.  I purchased my tickets for the room tour online – this includes access to the rest of the palace so you are free to wander around once the tour is done (and it allows you to skip the line!).  A trip to the Royal Alcazar is a must when visiting Seville.

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Dining

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Dining solo was the one part about my trip to Seville that I found really challenging.  When I first arrived I stopped by a restaurant nearby my hotel for lunch and it was delicious so I made a reservation for that night as well.  I had a great evening with good food and really good service.  Unfortunately things went downhill from there.  Every meal after that evening was a challenge (with the exception of breakfast that I would have at a nearby cafe).  I even returned to the first restaurant that I tried, only to be forgotten about and ignored.  People at tables all around me arrived after me, ate between two to three leisurely courses and left while I was still waiting for my appetizer – so not a great experience.  Therefore I am not comfortable providing any restaurant recommendations for Seville but I truly hope that my solo dining experiences don’t deter you from visiting this amazing city. The food itself is quite good, I enjoyed a lot of tapas – anchovies, patatas bravas, olives, etc and I was not disappointed. As I have mentioned before, solo dining can be challenging at times but it is still worth the effort.

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I hope that you enjoyed my travel guide to Seville!  Have you ever been?  What was your favourite part?  Let me know in the comments.

I hope that you have a beautiful day!  XX

Five Faves

It’s hard to believe that we are half way thru 2019, but I am so happy to finally enjoy my favourite season of the year.  I absolutely LOVE the summer season, and while lately I feel like time is just moving too quickly, my goal for this summer is to take some time to slow down, just breathe and enjoy the things that make me happy as often as possible.  Here are five things that are currently making me very happy:

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This watermelon and halloumi salad is a summer staple in my diet during the warmer months.  While watermelon and feta seems so be a little more common, I love the salty bite that halloumi adds to the mix.

E70A11C1-F74D-4781-833B-36C7B9D5B46FI love to enjoy a chilled drink on the balcony when the weather is warm and sunny.  My two favourites being an april spritz or a glass of rose.  Le Pive was recommended to me a few years ago when I was on the hunt for a good but not too expensive rose and it has been one of my favourites ever since.  This year, I am loving it even more as it is now certified organic.  Clean, fresh and not overly sweet, Le Pive is the perfect wine to sit back and relax with during the warmer months.

A15506F9-3DF5-41B0-A4A0-631CB82FE79CI have not yet read the book but I got hooked on Big Little Lies last year.  Despite the fact that it was produced as a limited series, it is back for a second season and it is sooooo good!  Just when I thought that the cast couldn’t get any better, they add Meryl Streep to the mix and as always she is fabulous!  If you have yet to watch Big Little Lies, there is no time like the present.  It is the perfect excuse to head indoors and enjoy a bit of air conditioning while you get lost in the lives of the Monterey Five.B5DEF063-20CF-4BB4-BB62-EEB6757C1A20If you have not yet watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special A Call to Courage you are missing out.  Motivating and insightful, it is a must watch.  I am currently reading her latest book Dare to Lead which carries on the message that we need to learn how (and when) to be vulnerable and how to successfully work with and lead others.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in self improvement, impactful leadership and collaboration.

CE3FDA9C-45BE-477F-8C67-27235E02FBA4I hate wearing socks and closed toe shoes, so as soon as the weather starts to warm up I happily pull out all of my sandals.  While normally I alternate between high heels and leather flats, lately all I seem to want to wear are my Brikenstocks.  They are comfy, cute and they go with many outfits (or so that’s what I have been telling myself).  It may even be time to invest in a new pair!  While the new Birkenstock Valentino version is not in my budget, I plan to admire them from afar as I add a new pair to my shoe collection.

Thank you for stopping by Stylishly Zen today!  I would love to hear what you are currently loving this month – let me know in the comments section!

I hope that you have a beautiful day!  XXS

Big Little Lies photo credit http://www.hbo.com, Birkenstock photo credit http://www.birkenstock.com

Inspiring Interior

Hi Everyone!

I don’t know what has been going on, but these past few months have just flown right by!  A part of me still thinks that it is March, but the fact that I am currently writing this blog post while sitting on my balcony, enjoying the warm weather and sipping on an Aperol Spritz implies that we are much further into 2019 then I care to admit to myself.  This means that I have now been living in my new place for over six months and I have barely scratched the decorating surface!  It is about time that I kick things into gear and give myself a deadline.

The biggest challenge that I am currently facing in terms of decorating, is that I can’t seem to decide what I like, and when I do decide I can’t seem to find it OR it is completely out of my budget!  What is a girl to do???

Having said all of this, I think that I have narrowed it down and in my head things are finally starting to come together (or so I hope).  I finally painted my living room – I went for a pure white colour which I absolutely love, and now time for the fun part…decorating!  To find inspiration I have been doing A LOT of research and today I am sharing with you a project that I recently stumbled across from a studio who’s work I have admired for a few years now.

Bao Proyectos is a Madrid based firm who’s work is clean, fresh and absolutely gorgeous!  Their projects include the One Shot Hotel in Saville along with countless private residences and restaurants.  Today’s Inspiring Interior is a private residence in Madrid that really captured the mood that I would love to achieve within my own home.

This light filled residence has a clean aesthetic thanks to countless windows, bright white walls and minimal furnishings.  Despite the minimal aesthetic, the home still looks lived in and welcoming – this is often challenging to achieve, yet the team at Bao Proyectos has achieved it beautifully.  Built in book cases and storage along with intelligent furniture choices helps to achieve a clean, sleek yet inviting look that I absolutely love.  Playful accents such as the yellow couch against a mint green wall and the geometric designed storage in the bedroom and rugs throughout the home, help to infuse some fun into the overall clean aesthetic.  The icing on the proverbial cake of this stunning apartment is the gorgeous bathroom with marble and matte black hardware – heaven!  Bao Proyectos did a wonderful job on this project and I can’t wait to see what they achieve in the future!  Take a look:

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All images from http://www.baoproyectos.com

I hope that you have a beautiful day! XXS

Stylishly Solo – A Guide to Dining Solo

One of my favourite parts about travelling is the opportunity to try new foods and to learn about new cultures through food.  One glance at my Instagram and you know that I love to eat, so it should come as no surprise that dining is an integral part of my travel adventure.  While planning my first solo trip, I really didn’t give much thought to how dining solo would be.  I just assumed that it would be similar to every other dining out experience that I had previously had.  Clearly I was naive.  But because I never thought to just stay in and order room service, I strongly believe that my naivety helped me figure out how to happily dine solo. It takes practice and I don’t think that I will always get it right, especially as dining experiences vary from city to city and country to country.  But, there are a few things that I have learned that help to make the experience more pleasant.  Here are my top five tips for having a great solo dining experience:

  1. Get uncomfortable.  Normally while travelling, I like to stick to the a dining format that works for me – a light breakfast normally at a cafe where I can people watch.  Lunch is not normally a huge meal – just some place that looks decent and not too touristy, a place to rest and refresh during my sight seeing adventures.  I like to make dinner an event – I look for fun restaurants to try, I like to get a little dressed up and I take my time and enjoy my evening.  Whenever I speak with people about my solo travels, dining solo especially going out for a nice meal is what tends to surprise people the most.  The most common response that I get is “I could never do that!  I would be so uncomfortable!”  Dining solo especially at a proper restaurant requires a bit of gumption (so to speak) and it is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. The first thing to do is to really think about why it is that you don’t feel that dining solo is for you. Yes, some people might stare at you, you may get a not so great table as the better ones are left for groups larger then one person and the waiter or waitress may not give you as much attention (or forget about you altogether) as they tend to the other diners in their area. All of these things (and so much more) have occurred to me while dining solo.  I survived and I learned – like anything in life, you have to be your own advocate.  This doesn’t mean causing a scene or berating the staff.  It just means that you need to figure out how to clearly communicate when you need to and to not take the other stuff so personally (which is much harder said then done at times).  Even if your first (or second or third) solo dining experience is not the greatest, take some time to figure out what it was that you didn’t enjoy.  Was it the food?  Try another restaurant.  Was it the service?  If so, what was it about the service that you didn’t enjoy?  Did they ignore you or treat you badly?  Did they rush you or was service incredibly slow?  When I was in Madrid last year, I was really excited to try a particular restaurant where I had heard that the risotto was spectacular.  I arrived practically jumping with excitement only to be rushed thru my meal (two courses was over and done with in under 40 minutes).  While the risotto was spectacular I was a little sad that the experience was over so quickly (just to be clear – this was not a fast food place and my fellow diners were enjoying leisurely meals).  Rather then get upset and vow to never go back despite the fact that the risotto was some of the best that I had ever had, I decided to try a different approach.  I made another reservation for the next day and when I arrived I was greeted by the same server as the day before.  I explained to him that I loved the risotto and that I wanted to enjoy my meal at a leisurely pace.  He happily agreed and I had an incredible meal that I really enjoyed.  I even ended up going back again when I returned to Madrid to catch my flight home a few weeks later (yes the risotto was THAT good).  What I learned was this – since solo dining is still quite rare in many parts of the world it can sometimes be seen as something to be embarrassed about.  Hence why they thought that I wanted to rush thru my meal and get out.  The restaurant had good intentions but initially we just were not on the same page – speaking up got us on the same page and enabled me to enjoy the type of meal that I had been looking for, in a gorgeous setting with incredible food.  That is what I call a win! IMG_3730
  2. Do your research.  The majority of us have the internet at our finger tips and are frequently on social media, so there is no excuse not to do a bit of research beforehand.  Research the type of food that the region that you visiting specializes in, suggestions where you can have an authentic local dining experience, is they take reservations and the location as you want to make sure that you can get to and from the restaurant safely.  Doing a bit of research will help you to get more comfortable with the solo dining experience.  It will also get you excited about the food that you are about to eat and the environment that you will be experiencing.  This helps to make solo dining an adventure rather then just any boring forgettable meal, and it will also help you to avoid the tourist traps for a more authentic dining experience.
  3. Enlist help.  Just because you are travelling solo, it doesn’t meant that you have to figure out and do everything yourself.  Asking your hotel for help and suggestions can save you a lot of stress in the long run.  Some restaurants are inclined to give you better service if your hotel makes the reservation for you as they don’t want you go back to your hotel and complain – word of mouth counts for a lot.  Hotels are less likely to recommend a restaurant where their clients are not being treated well.  There is no harm in using this to your advantage to help to ensure that you enjoy a pleasant meal with good service.  It is also a great way to discover new restaurants that you may not have found otherwise.  While in Naples, Italy a few years ago I asked the woman at the front desk for a restaurant recommendation for dinner.  Luckily she was very honest and told me that most people enjoy a popular restaurant nearby the hotel but her favourite was another one a little further away. I decided to take her recommendation and I ended up at a little eight table restaurant where I had one of the best meals of my life!  While the hotel recommendations are not always the greatest, more often then not in my experience they have been really good.  For this reason, I am always willing to ask my hotel for help – they may just steer you to one of the best meals you will ever have!
  4. Eat at the bar.  If you feel that other diners will stare at you with pity while sitting at a table dining solo, ask to sit at the bar.  I always try to make a reservation for dinner but, when I arrive at the restaurant I don’t feel like being isolated at a table alone I ask if it would be ok to just sit at the bar.  More often then not the restaurant has no issue with this especially as it frees up a table for walk ins.  Eating at the bar can feel more social as bartenders tend to make conversation and there are always a ton of people around who you can converse with.IMG_2932
  5. Look up.  It’s really easy to just bring a book or a magazine with you or to play on your phone the entire evening but you will be missing out!  I have had some great conversations with people while solo dining.  If your nose is buried in a book or your phone you are instantly less approachable.  Look up and look around.  I love to people watch and dining solo is a great opportunity to do so.  I love looking at what people are wearing (once a fashion girl, always a fashion girl), how they interact and I especially like to see what others are eating.  Overall, solo dining is a great way to experience the local culture and to get a better understanding of the people and country that you are visiting.

Solo dining is nothing to be afraid of.  It just takes a little bit of planning and a little bit of gumption, soon you will be on your way to enjoying an incredible culinary experience regardless of where in the world you may be.

I hope that you have a beautiful day and happy dining!  XXS

Dream Design – Dexamenes, Kourouta Greece

I have always been a believer in love at first sight, and while I have yet to experience the type of happily ever after that we often see in the movies, the design projects that have stolen my  heart in an instant remain there for many many years.  Today’s Dream Design is one such design project.  The first picture that I saw of it grabbed my attention and my love continued to grow with every further picture of it that I saw, and every story that I read about it – needless to say, it is a architectural love story for the modern age.

K-studio_Dexamenes-0851Dexamenes is located on Kourouta Beach which is a beautiful stretch of coastline in the western Peloponnese.  Its history dates back to the “Era of Currents”, although it was left relatively untouched since the 1920’s.  Athen’s based K-Studio created a design that successfully respected its strong history and beauty of the site while breathing new life into the space.  The result is a modern, elegant and minimalist hotel with a raw, brutal and industrial aesthetic.  Respecting the existing buildings by leaving them relatively untouched, K-Studio updated the site using concrete, steel, timber and glass.

K-studio_Dexamenes-0529K-studio_Dexamenes-0461K-studio_Dexamenes-showerThe hotel rooms were built within two concrete blocks that are divided length wise into two rows of ten storage tanks.  The rooms are identical with the openings facing towards the beach.  Everything is connected by a raised promenade walkway that leads towards the water.  Each room has a double bed, an open wardrobe and a large double shower which adds to the sense of luxury within the minimal aesthetic.  The bathroom is separated by the rest of the room by a wall of textured glass which allows the light from the large sliding windows at the front to reach the back of the tank.

K-studio_Dexamenes-0491K-studio_Dexamenes-0145K-studio_Dexamenes-0754The entry to the hotel is from behind the tanks.  Concrete, glass partitions and a louvered plywood canopy provide a warm welcome along with the guests first view of the sea.

Phase two which will see further extensions and a garden are planned along with the addition of extra amenities such as a taverna, boutique selling local wares and a history room are planned for 2019.

K-studio_Dexamenes-0295-1The design of Dexamenes is both thoughtful and intelligent.  With a strong minimalistic design aesthetic, this hotel is a study in respecting history, restraint and brutal beauty that is often difficult to achieve.

All images via http://www.k-studi.gr

I hope that you have a beautiful day!  XXS