Go Local in Barbados is the latest blog by Avid Traveller, Calum Glenny. Calum has recently produced numerous travel guides for Europe, North America, Oceania and now revisits Barbados in the Caribbean while escaping the Scottish winter weather.
Calum’s travel review highlights local people, mainly vendors who despite the pause to business created by Covid have burst back onto the scene. The highly successful vaccination programme delivered to the Barbados population by Major David Clarke is also acknowledged.
Miami Beach & Janelle Natural Fruit Drinks
Calum first visitsJanelle at her pop up stand near Miami/Enterprise Beach. Sampling her chilled homemade natural juices on the beach sent the taste buds tingling. Calum highlights the intriguing combinations of local flavours available and links the theory behind making the natural juice drinks to a London family who have taken the idea from Barbados to London and set up their own business, OTC Beverages making Caribbean natural fruit juice drinks in the UK.
Calum then moves onto the lady Alisonwho makes the most delicious fish cakes from the back of her old white car adjacent to the Enterprise Beach Facility. Alison is a delight to speak to and often has several people waiting on her mouth watering produce and hot sauce.
Next is an early morning visit to Brighton Farmers Market for the best breakfast sausage and egg cutter from Liam’s Cottage Meats stand. Calum’s favourite take away breakfast on the island.
While at the market Calum also samples Neil’s superb fish pate and to go with his sausage breakfast, a lovely coffee from Pilebucks.
After breakfast Calum checks out and makes a purchase at the hand crafted jewellery stand of Kimberley White at Summergems. Kimberley is a talented young local jeweller.
On a sightseeing drive North, Calum bumps into the gregarious Andrew Kellman. Andrew’s local knowledge very quickly becomes apparent, and all of a sudden, the chance encounter leads to an unofficial tour of the stunning sights at Cove Bay and Little Bay. A very worthwhile and educating 45-minute, unplanned tour, including links to Tenerife and Billy Ocean!
Calum then moves to Oistins where on a Friday night, the Fish Fry sends the town into party mode! Oistins is a historic town of Barbados as it was the scene of the planned Barbados Civil War; a war that ended without a shot as the leader retired to the tavern to write what became the charter of Barbados. Way ahead of its time, it laid out rights and a form of self goverment unheard of in the region.
Calum highlights his favourite restaurant, ‘Chillin & Grillin’ in Oistins Bay Gardens. Food, service and location for people watching is second to none thanks to Lana who is assisted by Shonte, Phillip, and Allan, among others
In a previous trip Calum met local author Ian R. Clayton who gave him an advance copy of his unpublished bookRogues in Paradise.
He says Ian’s Book is fascinating. It is funny and solemn and guaranteed to amuse and enrich the reader’s knowledge of Barbados. Calum notes that with every visit, he recognises similar characters (rogues) when wandering the island. Calum’s theory that ‘The people make Barbados and Barbados is its people!’ is confirmed in Rogues in Paradise.
Concluding, Calum mentions the respect shown on the island to all people, whether locals or visitors. One incident In Barbados stands out as a prime example and shows Bajan people at their very best!
Twenty five minute taxi journey from Gourock to Glasgow Airport. An hour flight from Glasgow to London, eleven hours flight London to San Francisco, eight hours flight from San Francisco to Tahiti and finally a 50 minute island hop flight from Tahiti to our Bora Bora island paradise!
Oh and a 20 minute boat trip from the airport island to Vaitape Quay on the main island, then a 10 minute coastal drive to our destination. Nearly 10,000 miles from Gourock!
What a journey, ten hours behind the UK but thankfully it was broken up by celebrating my Mother’s special birthday in California and a short stay in Tahiti. On the Tahiti to Bora Bora flight I picked up a tip to sit on the left of the aircraft as this provides some incredible views of the islands and the approach to Bora Bora Airport.
On arrival by boat our host at Hititini Bungalow had arranged for her father Maurice and mother Emilie to collect us. Both were very welcoming and kind, allowing us a visit to a nearby supermarket for supplies prior to the short drive to our beach front accommodation. The short journey was an education with commentary in a mix of French, English and Tahitian by Maurice. More on that later!
History states that in 1769, Captain James Cook was the first visitor to Bora Bora. The British explorer was on a South Pacific mission when he stumbled upon this island paradise but records state that the islands were first sighted by Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen in 1722. These islands were later claimed as dependencies of Tahiti within the protectorate by France in 1847 and became part of the French colony in 1880. French is freely spoken throughout the islands as well as Tahitian. Some useful words and phrases are provided further on in this blog.
What’s in a name
Locals pronounce the island’s name differently from most tourists. In Tahitian dialect, they pronounce the letter ‘B’ as ‘P’, so perhaps it should be Pora Pora. You will see both being used on signs across the island.
Bora Bora Island Overview
Virtually half way between the United States and Australia, Bora Bora sits 727 metres above sea level and is a small piece of paradise in the South Pacific. Once a US military supply base and now known amongst many other things for its precious black pearls. The island comprises of 3 villages, Anau, Faanui and Vaitape. With Vaitape being the main village situated on the western part of the island.
There are about 8,800 residents on the island and it has essential businesses like banks, a post office, restaurants, cafés, a hospital, and an impressive new school/university. Most Sundays in Vaitape, there is a market selling goods such as clothes, jewellery and other local delicacies and trinkets.
This ‘caldera’ is essentially a large depression formed some 7 million years ago, when a volcano erupted and collapsed into the Pacific Ocean. It now forms part of the Leeward Islands in French Polynesia. Thanks to its secluded beauty, chilled vibe, and sumptuous spa culture it has fast become a romantic or honeymoon destination. At the centre of the island are the green rainforest peaks of Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu.
Many people hike the extinct volcanoes, although for me it was a stunning backdrop to lazy days in the sun and in the deep-blue lagoon which surrounds the main island. White sand ringed islands (motus) surround the main island. From the air they look simply magical.
The deep blue waters and coral reefs are teaming with tropical fish and sting rays, spotted daily from our beach bungalow and nearby is the spectacular Matira beach, claimed to be the most beautiful in the world. If you’re a snorkeller, scuba diver, paraglider or into any other active sports this place is the destination for you!
The entire island extends to 18 miles making it too small for decent public transport. However, there are rental cars, bikes, two-seater buggies for hire or you can walk. Or be even more adventurous and rent a motorboat to explore the lagoon. The island has only one main road that runs along the shoreline so getting lost is not an option.
Much research discovered the fantastic Hititini Bungalow situated on Matira Point. It is small, spotlessly clean and has absolutely everything you need on your travels. The private beach was simply amazing with stunning views and a white sandbank that leads down to the crystal clear water.
Owners Moeata and Christophe are very kind and pleasant hosts, they are great to tap into for local knowledge and advice. They spend a lot of time with you on arrival explaining what is available in the bungalow. Moeata surprised us on our arrival with bowls of papaya and coconut and a coconut to drink. A quick lesson on how to open it and we were sitting on the terrace with our fresh fruit and drinking from a coconut staring at the stunning view across the lagoon. Just sublime! Moeata and Christophe make you feel special and very welcome in Bora Bora. No wonder they consistently score 5/5 on traveller reviews!
If I was to pick a very slight issue it would be the lack of storage in the bungalow for luggage. We had travelled via San Francisco so had large cases with clothes for cold and warm weather. We managed but the bungalow is definitely set up for the lighter traveller and let’s be honest, you don’t need a lot of clothes in Bora Bora but you do in a cold San Francisco, so we were caught between a rock and a hard place!
There is a convenience store just across the road from the bungalow selling essentials, fresh bread and delicious pastries every day. The Lucky House restaurant and take away is next door and offers excellent local food and great pizza cooked to perfection in their pizza oven. More on the Lucky House later!
Just a short road walk or slightly longer beach walk is the Bora Bora Beach Club, again more on that later!
There is very limited and unreliable public transport and it is a 10/15 minute drive to the shops on Viatape from the bungalow. Hititini is all about peace, quiet and ultimately location – which is absolutely perfect.
Situated 5 mins walk by road or 10 minutes via the white sand beach this bar/restaurant sits right on Matira beach which is a stunning location. Sitting sipping a cold Hinano beer and watching the sunset simply must be done. This is where we sampled the Vin de Tahiti – Rosé Nacarat which is a Tahitian produced dry rose wine. With such a French influence in the region no wonder they are producing good wines.
The Beach Club serves great food for lunch and dinner with ever changing views across the beach. Tapas and a happy hour are available between 4 and 6pm. On several visits our server Kailo was very pleasant and extremely attentive. As well as serving dining customers, Kailo found time to mix some great Mojito and Pina Colada cocktails which we sipped while watching sting rays and reef sharks gently glide by in the shallow waters in front.
A highly recommended stop off point after walking round the crescent shaped Matira Beach. Or book your table via the restaurant Facebook site with live entertainment playing on a Friday evening.
We booked to see Boussai, a French reggae band on the final night of their Pacific tour. It was a really good night with the venue full to capacity and locals enjoying the opportunity to party. Life must be hard for the band touring the South Pacific Islands!
Lucky House – Fare Manuia Restaurant
Locally known as ‘Lucky’s’ and situated steps from Bungalow Hititini. We visited for lunch and despite only six tables being occupied some of the waiting staff seemed a bit overwhelmed. However, I will say the food was really good. We shared a caesar salad and a pizza which I must say were very tasty!
There is a small pool in the venue which was used by kids while we were there. Great way to keep the kids occupied! Despite the haphazard service I do recommend a visit!
Povai Bay, Bora Bora
+689 40 67 69 10
From Bungalow Hititini take a quick 25 minute walk towards Viatape past the Tsnuami Refuge Zone and Bloody Mary’s is situated opposite a small pontoon and beach. Bloody Mary’s opened in 1979 and has developed a bit of a reputation as an institution on the island, all tourists and to be fair locals regularly flock there. It brands itself a restaurant, yacht club and bar. It’s styled as a large Tiki hut bar & grill with a sand floor, a souvenir shop and a celebrity wall of fame from past visitors.
We visited for lunch on a tropical rainy day. There is a huge selection of cocktails and drinks available, following the venue’s name we ordered the Absolute Bloody Mary.
It was good and I did enjoy it but found it too heavy to drink with my meal so ordered a Hinano beer and rose wine to go with our fish tacos and grilled chicken wraps. Portion sizes were enormous and to be honest one of the meals could easily have
been shared. Next time we will do it Spanish style and share a dish. The kitchen like many other on the island closes at 2pm and reopens at 6pm so keep that in mind if visiting.
It’s a very open venue with outside toilets which are quite quirky as are the half dozen chickens that frequently walk through clucking away. If only they knew what was on the menu!
Definitely worth a visit if you’re nearby or mooring your yacht off the Yacht Club.
Restaurant Les Délices De Bora Bora
Centre Ville, Viatape, 98730
This restaurant was discovered during our research, while a local resident confirmed our thoughts on their reputation for very well prepared and presented fresh local fish and attentive and hospitable staff.
When we booked by email we requested their pick up service for what was a 15 minute drive and far better than a 90 minute walk on the dark roads without pavements. A lot of places on the island offer a pick up service as taxis are expensive.
Right on time Jean picked us up and transported us to the restaurant.
We chose our mains from a very interesting menu with a fair selection of fish and meat options. Ahead of ordering we were presented with a dish of what I thought was a strange combination – fresh coconut and black olives soaked in olive oil. Initially, I was very hesitant but the fresh coconut in olive oil was outstanding.
Next up was a complimentary appetiser of light fish pate on crisp toast bread – really tasty.
For our mains we sampled parrot fish wrapped in banana leaf with green beans & steamed rice and mussels in garlic cream with frites. Portion sizes were perfect and both dishes were delicious and highly recommended.
A shared sweet of banana flambé, roasted nuts and local vanilla ice cream followed. It was incredible and so moorish, I didn’t want it to end or to share!
After coffee we settled up and Jean immediately appeared back to drive us home.
During the drive he mentioned that Les Delice was a family business and that they also own Arc En Ciel which sells black pearls. We arranged with Jean to pick us up the following morning for transportation to the shop where we were assured the best deals are available. You can read more about the black pearls later. Les Delice is undoubtedly one of the best places we’ve been to in Bora Bora. It’s not only tourists that the restaurant attracts but mostly locals which is a very good sign. I suggest it’s definitely a place to try during a stay.
Helen’s Bay Centre
10 min slow walk from Vaitape +689 40 67 64 62
Considered by many (locals included) as the best restaurant on Bora Bora’s main island, St. James is hidden in the back of a Vaitape shopping centre right on the water. Consisting of a sand bar, sundeck and restaurant it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also houses Mahana Store which sells clothing and accessories from local artists and brands. Something to keep the ladies browsing while the boys drink a Hinano beer.
We visited for lunch and chose from the tapas menu thinking they would be smaller portions! The small charcuterie board was delicious, consisting of a healthy portion of Serrano ham, Pave Lyonnais (salami type) & gherkins. Jumbo shrimp tempura with sweet chilli sauce & guacamole followed plus spicy falafel. Food was delicious and sitting on the edge of the water looking out across the bay to where the cruise ships drop anchor is delightful. It was very warm but thankfully with a cooling breeze.
Unapologetically French, really good food, exceptional choice of wine and a wide range of cigars. Great sand bar with huge choice of cocktails. An attraction for both tourists and locals which speaks volumes. We will be back!
Tama’a Maitai – linked to Maitai Polynesia Hotel.
We visited three times between lunch and dinner as the location is simply stunning and about a 3 minute walk from Bungalow Hititini. It’s also very quiet and after a busy day in the sun provides tranquillity with fabulous food.
It’s essentially the beach restaurant of the Maitai Polynesia hotel but anybody can walk-in to the restaurant.
There is an open kitchen, so diners can watch their dinner being cooked or you can simply sip your cocktail and gaze past the hotel water bungalows out to the lagoon. The cocktail selection is excellent (Pineapple daiquiri is recommended) and food to match. Try the chicken curry with coconut milk, the spicy beef stir fry (very salty) or the fish kebab. The light salads are great at lunch with the locally caught prawn salad the star.
On the occasions we visited there was a strong wind (warm) so we ate under the huge straw roof and were protected from the breeze by a canopy, there are plenty of tables outside if the wind is lighter. If it’s peace and quiet, good food and a relaxing drink you’re looking for then look no further, this ticks all the boxes.
One of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Like a never-ending swimming pool. Great for paddle boarding or watching the sting rays and fish swimming by!
Maitai Beach is the largest public access beach in Bora Bora making it extremely popular with visitors. The water is crystal-clear and the sand is soft although watch out for the patches of coral. The beach is adjacent to some hotels, shops, bars/restaurants and road side stalls so it’s a convenient place to spend a day. Tourists and locals speak very highly of the beach and area. They highlight the incredibly blue water and how the shoreline is rarely ever crowded making it the perfect place for some rest and relaxation. If you don’t have time to spend a whole day at the beach, many say the sunsets are certainly worth a visit.
You’ll find the beach about 5 miles south of Vaitape or a two minute walk from Bungalow Hititini. Bicycle travel to the beach is best (unless it rains). If you have a hire car, parking is available adjacent to Snack Matira cafe.
Speaking of transport, limited taxis are available on the island but recommended drivers are:
Taxi Loma +689 87 27 49 36
Taxi Alex +689 89 22 79 17 or +689 89 50 98 41
or book on email: email@example.com
I’d thoroughly recommend circumnavigating the island. Avis Car Hire provide a map buts there’s only one circular coastal road so you definitely won’t get lost.
To drive it takes 45 minutes with no stops. To cycle, the road around the main island is 18 miles and mostly flat. It takes about 2 hours to bike but take time to include a stop for lunch, a visit to Matira Beach, hiking to see WWII cannons, and snorkelling. I’d guess that a walk around the island would take about 3-4 hours depending on pace and weather.
I also guarantee that there is no way you won’t stop to take in the views or have a quick dip or snorkel. We stopped a couple of times and snorkelled with shoals of blue, yellow and black fish just before the village of Faanui on the North West coast looking out towards the airport on Moto Mute.
It’s worthy noting that the unlit roads on Bora Bora can be dark at night and there are no pavements. Make sure your phone is charged and use your torch where appropriate.
Avis Car hire is two minutes walk from Hititini bungalow or you can book directly online. Staff are very accommodating and one staff member even stopped to offer us a lift when we were sheltering from a tropical downpour. Well done sir (bravo monsieur) for such a simple polite gesture.
When we rented our vehicle we dealt with Willsea who was great. We walked in but you can pre-book your hire on: https://apps.apple.com/fr/app/Bora-explorer/id146828304
Pirogue tour by Bora Lagoonarium
Bora Lagoonarium offers a Pirogue tour. A Pirogue is a a long, narrow canoe made from a single tree trunk, pretty standard water transport on the islands.
Pick up is at 0830 and the day starts with a visit to Coral Gardens where you will see stingrays, grey/black tip sharks and if you’re lucky leopard rays and mantra rays. Next on the aqua agenda is the Lagoonarium where if you’re bold enough you can swim with reef sharks and watch turtles, rays and a huge amount and variation of fish.
Lunch is next on a private motu (island). The spread includes rice salad, raw fish in coconut milk, grilled chicken or fish, po’e (Polynesian pudding), taro (a tuber but not a potato), ipo uto (bread made with coconut milk), banana fritters, local seasonal fruit and plenty of mineral water. After lunch there is a quick tour of some of the nearby islands, transport back to the mainland about 3pm and a return to your accommodation.
Self Drive Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour
Recommended by a neighbour, but unfortunately we could not participate, was the speedy jet ski experience on the famous Bora Bora lagoon. According to our neighbour the ‘adrenaline and culture filling’ jet ski tour is just exhilarating; the impressive turquoise waters and island views were stunning, while snorkelling to explore the coral reef opened up the busy under water seascape. They were chaperoned by a licensed jet ski instructor, who regularly stopped during the tour to allow photo opportunities and point out sights of interest. Comes as a highly recommended experience and well worth the money.
Local Area Produce
Vaitape Shoping- Bora Home Galeria
Within the main road area in Vaitape and near the harbour there are several shops and supermarkets. The shops tend to sell T-shirts, dresses and tourist gifts. One shop that caught our attention was Bora Home Galeria. It was impressive and sold locally produced items, unique ornaments, jewellery and modern paintings. This was totally different from the other shops in the local area. The hand printed Polynesian dresses were very impressive, slightly on the expensive side but you’ repaying for exclusive items. Worth a visit even just to window shop! Lots of German tourists from a visiting cruise ship did just that while we were making a purchase. The owner was delighted we spoke English as he was struggling with his German.
Bora Bora Black Pearls
The Bora Bora black pearl is a symbol of exotic luxury and decadence, renowned the world over. Known as poerava (black pearl) in French Polynesia, these prized jewels are a favourite keepsake of visitors to Bora Bora. They are produced by black-lipped oysters, which thrive in waters surrounding Bora Bora and the other French Polynesian islands.
In the past Bora Bora pearls were considered to be the rarest and most valuable cultured pearls in the world. Still the pearls with the most intrigue and value, but the pearl farming market has brought their world ranking down in terms of rarity and unfortunately value.
I suggest you do some research before buying and always ask for a discount and a certificate of authentication. It’s also useful to obtain some prior knowledge about grades of pearls. Find out important facts about differences in colour, shape, weight and size. Variations in pricing exist between places that sell pearls so shop around first and make it fun, remember you are making a purchase that should be enjoyed for many years.
Various local outlets in Bora Bora sell black pearls, below are a few:
The Farm – Advertises top quality Tahiti pearls. Some of the jewelry is made in- house. It’s located just north of the Hotel Bora Bora (tel. 700 675).
Matira Pearls – Sells black pearls and local fashions. Located between the Intercontinental Le Moana Resort and Hotel Le Maitai Polynesia (tel.677 914).
Tahia Pearl Boutiques – You can choose from two Tahia Pearl Boutiques on Bora Bora. The first is at the Four Seasons hotel, the other is on the Circle Island Road at the centre of Vaitape.
Arc En Ciel – in my limited comprehension of French translation I thought I heard that this place was called Red Bull but it translates to Rainbow! The store is next to Les Delice restaurant and displays a wide variety of black pearls in a private showroom with the owner, Wendy being a Pearl Expert Graduate from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). When we visited we spoke with Melanie and her trainee Taina. We were provided with an interesting briefing on how the precious black pearls are produced. Story board below:
We then checked out a good selection of pearls in a range of prices. We set two items aside, went for lunch at Saint James restaurant just along the coast, then visited three other black pearl shops to compare prices.
We realised that our initial offer from Melanie was in fact a very good deal and went ahead with our purchase. Melanie also explained the tax refund process at Bora Bora Airport and provided us with our certificate of authentication. A good afternoon out in Vaitape. Remember if you call or email there is a free shuttle pick up and drop off for the shop.
Tahiti is one of the world’s least-known wine regions. As unlikely as it might seem, wine is produced on this tropical island, albeit in small amounts.
Tahiti’s only winemaker is Dominique Auroy, who highlights the similarity between the soils there and in Burgundy, France. However, the climate is exceptionally different from anywhere in mainland France.
Tahiti wine is certainly worth a try, there are four varieties — three whites and a rosé: Blanc de Corail, Blanc Moelleux, Clos du Recif (white white made from red grapes), and Rosé Nacarat (blend of white and red grapes).
These wines are available at most restaurants or supermarkets and cost on average the equivalent of £8 a glass or £40 a bottle in a decent restaurant, much less at a supermarket.
In addition to wine, Tahiti also produces good quality beer, from malt imported from New Zealand and France. It is brewed in Papeete, the Tahitian capital, and is sold under the Hinano label.
French and Tahitian are the main languages spoken on the island, though most locals have an excellent basic command of English. The majority of visitors to Bora Bora are American, Japanese or European.
The following are some essential Tahitian words and phrases. If it helps, sing the words like the locals!
Hello – Ia Orana (yo-rah-nah)
Welcome – Maeva (mah-yeh-vah)
Thank you – Maururu (mah-roo-roo)
Man – Tane (tah-nay)
Woman – Vahine (vah-he-nay)
Child – T amarii (tah-ma-ree-ee)
Bye/See you later – Nana (nah-nah)
Cheers / To your health – Manuia (mah-nwee-ah)
Good – Maitai (my-tie)
No – Aita (eye-tah)
Morning – Poipoi (poy-poy)
Evening – Ahiahi (ah-hee-ah-hee)
Island – Motu (moh-too)
Look – A hi’o (ah-hee-oh)
Ocean – Moana (mo-ah-nah)
How are you? – Maita’i oe? (may-tay oh-ay)
I am fine – Maita’i roa (may-tay ro-ah)
What? – Eaha? (ey-ah-hah)
Why? – No te aha? (noh-tay ah-hah)
No problem – Aita pe’a pe’a (eye-tah pay-ah pay-ah)
Bread – Faraoa (fah-rah-o-ah)
Water – Pape (pa-pay)
Pearl – Poe (po-ay)
Black pearl – Poerava (po-ay ra-vah)
Flower – Tiare (tee-ah-ray)
Beer – Pia (pee-ah)
Let’s go – Haere tatou (ha-ay-ray tah-taw)
It’s worth learning some basic phrases, the locals will really appreciate your efforts. Everyone on the island acknowledges you in some way on a daily basis, even the young kids, and always with huge smiles.
Time Flies By in Bora Bora
Unfortunately, it’s over in a flash!
Travel 10,000 miles and I believe you have the right to expect a really good experience. I can assure you despite jet lag, monsoon rain and some language challenges (as I struggle with French) Bora Bora is a truly tropical paradise with stunning scenery and beaches. The main island sits within white sandy motus (small islands) and a stunning turquoise lagoon protected by an outer coral reef. It is a popular luxury resort destination but with the advent of sites like Airbnb it opens up to a wider market and those who want privacy as well as flexible budget options. Bungalow Hititini and our hosts Moeata and Christophe certainly exceeded all expectations and come very highly recommended!
The memory of my visit will last forever, and I have promised a return, hopefully sometime soon. One factor that jumps out at me is how accommodating and friendly the locals are. Ironically they think we are lucky having the means to visit the island but thinking about it, they are most certainly the lucky ones with their wealth derived from climate, culture and lifestyle.
To the next lucky local who says hello or welcome I say:
Mauruuru Bora Bora
E hoi mai iau faahou i u nei
Mauruuru – (Thank you Bora Bora, I really hope to come back soon!)
Seville Andalusia Spain – A Stunning Spanish City with Sensational Sights This personal guide by Calum Glenny provides a treasure trove of insight you don’t find in travel guides. It is a deeply personal experience of places and people. Join Calum as he chats with the local proprietors, sharing what he loves about the food, wine, and ambiance of the unique hotels, restaurants, and bars in historic settings.
Arriving From Malaga
Arriving by train at Seville’s impressive Santa Justa station from Malagathe first thing we noticed was the sharp increase in temperature.
A short taxi trip to our accommodation in Santa Paula Pool & Luxury apartments. Sounds very grand, and to be honest, for an Airbnb, it wasn’t far off it, first-class accommodation with a decent-sized bedroom, shaded patio, and pool area plus a large roof terrace with every requirement covered.
The apartment was in a very quiet area of the city near several impressive churches and monasteries.
It’s also steps from Plaza San Marcos, which is like a little village in the heart of Seville. Everything you might need can be found at the square. Leon de San Marcos (Tapas Bar), El Nomada (Pizza etc), and Lo Que Diga La Sol (Tapas Bar) are complemented by a chemist, convenience store, outstanding bakers, and El Rincon Sagrado, an up-market deli. It also must be said that the prices charged in the square are very much less than that in the tourist spots within the city.
The main monuments and attractions are a good 15/20 minutes walk from the apartment but with some interesting areas and sights to be found as you meander through the exceptionally narrow streets.
The square at the head of Calle Sol and Calle Bustos Taveras again houses some great restaurants and bars where you can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. La Huerta 9, Los Caveles, and Taberna Manzanilla are all recommended. Taberna Manazilla was a great spot for a nightcap on the way home. Staff were incredibly friendly, under the watchful eye of the old lady owner from her seat at the door of the bar.
Just around the corner is the world-renowned El Rinconcillo.
This 17th-century restaurant and tapas bar is always very busy, and people often queue to get in on a one in one out basis. We had a local fino sherry with Iberico ham and local cheese! As Rick Stein said, ‘ the sharp dry Jerez (sherry) just cuts through the ham!’ Some reviews suggest the waiters and bar staff are a bit offhand, but our impression was they were under pressure, always busy, but did their job efficiently. The experience was worth it, and to have the cost of your order chalked on the bar in front of you just added to the buzzing atmosphere. If you’re booking the restaurant, do so well in advance.
Mushroom of Seville
Walking along Calle Imagentowards the Plaza de Incarnation, you will be taken aback by the Setas of Sevilla, more commonly known as the Mushroom of Seville. It’s an amazing wooden structure covering all of the Plaza and includes a rooftop walkway where at night, there is a light show with music. The structure is a very cool architectural landmark in Seville and one which we used regularly to find our bearings and location.
Cathedral of Seville
Keep walking through the narrow streets, and you will eventually burst out into the sunlight and the striking Cathedral of Seville, which is an impressive gothic cathedral containing the tomb of Christopher Columbus. You could spend hours, if not days exploring the cathedral and surrounding area.
Although Italian by birth, Columbus has been adopted by the Sevilanos as Seville was where he studied navigation and was from where he started his expeditions, sponsored by Spanish monarchs. These expeditions resulted in the first known European contact with the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
Walking further through courtyards and exceptionally narrow streets, we came across Rosina’s Balcony, which is legendary as being the inspiration behind the iconic opera ‘The Barber of Seville’.
Next is the beautiful gardens and the Royal Alcazar of Sevilla.
Another landmark, this time a Moorish royal palace with fountain-filled gardens, ornate arches, and 16th-century tiles.
Let’s head for a drink and some food while resting these weary legs!
Just outside the gardens is Vineria San Telmo serving some fantastic food and drinks in a great setting with wonderful service by our South American waiter. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. My recommendations are the hummus to start and the Argentinian steak. Just outstanding and a house specialty!
A slow wander back through the narrow streets sheltering in the shade of the high buildings from the intense October heat to Plaza San Marcos, ensured the necessity for a cool beer at Leon de San Marcos.
On checking my steps, it becomes apparent that exceeding 20,000 steps in this stunning city is going to be a daily reality rather than a stretch target!
Plaza de Espana
After a lovely breakfast at La Huerta 9 we wandered through the streets to the very impressive University of Seville and thereafter to the quite incredible and stunning Plaza de Espana.
If you’re in Seville, this is a place you’ve got to visit. The majestic semi-circle curved building is very impressive and well-maintained, no wonder it’s been used in so many movies. Spend some time exploring the huge site; the buildings are accessible by four bridges over the moat, which represent the ancient kingdoms of Spain. In the centre is the Vicente Traver fountain. Many tiled alcoves feature around the plaza, each depicting the 48 different provinces of Spain. Quite simply stunning and a photographer’s dream location.
Parque Maria Luisa
After the Plaza, we moved on to the welcome shade of the Parque Maria Luisa. Strolling through the large park, which features scenic plazas, landscaped gardens, fountains, and numerous monuments. It’s simply a perfect place to relax away from the bustling tourist areas and a breathtaking contrast. Again a perfect location for filming with a movie being filmed as we walked by.
Torre del Oro
A slow walk back towards the Guadalquivir River finds us at the Torre del Oro, the 13th century military watchtower. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the small but great museum inside, which offers a lot of information about the history of the city and the navy.
Sevirama Bus Tour
Trying to get a better idea of the city layout and a good view of the sights, we took the open-top Sevirama Bus Tour (Green Bus). Tickets were valid for 48 hour and included options to hop on and off wherever you want, a ‘romantic’ bus tour at night and a guided walk across the river.
The advert offered 15 sights with headphones providing commentary. To be perfectly honest most of the attractions were viewed from afar but the option was there to get off and walk to the sight if you wished. On some occasions the commentary was out of sync with whatever sight the bus was passing at the time! However, it gave us a good insight into the layout of the city and more confidence in working out our location as we explored. Near the end of the tour, the bus visits the 1992 Expo site which was a waste of time and really not necessary.
The Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla is the very impressive grand royal bullring dating to 1761, still used for bullfights today, plus it hosts the museum of bullfighting art.
A very well-preserved bullring and apparently the biggest bullfighting arena in Spain still in use. The season lasts from April until October. Tickets range from 30 to 130 euros, depending on the seat and the toreador (more famous means higher price). Tours outside of the ‘show’ times are guided and informative. Essentially another historical and classy sight but not one for everyone.
We walked across the Puente de Triana, which is a historic metal arch bridge connecting the Triana neighborhood with the centre of Seville. It crosses the Canal de Alfonso XIII, one of the arms of the River Guadalquivir that isolates Triana as nearly an island.
Residents of Triana have been called trainers and identify strongly with the neighbourhood, they consider it different in character from the rest of Seville. Triana has a traditional pottery and tile industry, a vibrant flamenco culture, and its own festivals. Cafe culture is king here.
Mercado de Triana
First stop was the Mercado de Triana. Since 1823 there has been a market here, but the current facility dates from 2001. This fantastic indoor market had absolutely everything you could want food-wise. Fresh produce, fresh meats, desserts, etc, and small restaurants scattered around the market serving great food. Really interesting and colourful, too. I would recommend a visit!
Not the most aesthetically pleasing bar from the outside but the food and service was outstanding! Busy with locals, which really says it all. The staff were friendly, and the food was cooked to perfection. We had the Tomato & Caballa (mackerel) salad and the croquetas. We also tried the Sangria, which was lifted to new levels with the addition of some cinnamon. Highly recommended for lunch or evening meal.
Prior to our Seville visit my ‘assistant’ compiled some excellent research on the sights, restaurants and tapas bars we wanted to visit. This proved of utmost use although our problem was finding some of them, having to navigate around the very narrow streets of the historic areas. You will not feel alone wandering with your phone in your hand, seeking directions!
As a result of this research, below is an honest compilation of the restaurants we visited on our travels.
SedeMexici La Cantina
We didn’t expect to find such a great taste of Mexico in Seville, but somehow we did. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Google maps and some patience, we would have struggled to find this great restaurant tucked away in a corner of the beautiful Plaza de la Alianza.
Some cool drinks on arrival and a table visit and a quick chat with the restaurant owner, who welcomed us and genuinely made us feel valued on our first visit.
A browse through the menu while sipping a very good mango margarita allowed us time to choose starters of pork and octopus tacos plus roasted onions which were incredibly simple but very tasty. We shared a main of chicken and verde sauce with rice which was also good but certainly didn’t beat the taste of the starters. An unexpected and unusual selection of Mexican wines and beers are also on offer.
A nice restaurant in a lovely setting with attentive staff. Worth a visit, even to simply have a night off from Spanish tapas dishes.
We had the best breakfast here and really liked the food and service. Essentially you choose your bread and toppings from a massive selection to make your own breakfast dish. They also have some good ‘combos’ as specials which combine the breakfast sandwiches with coffee, juice and smoothies, all fairly priced.
Overall lovely food, not too expensive, courteous and helpful staff, busy with locals and in a good location near the ‘Mushroom’. We would highly recommend for breakfast.
On our visit, we only stopped for a pre-meal drink, it was busy with locals and the food looked so good so we changed our minds and ordered a meal. We ate outside in what was a perfect evening temperature. Over our two visits, we were served by the same staff, who were pleasant, helpful and obliging.
We agreed that when we return to Seville, we would definitely go back to Casa Paco. It’s casual, relaxed with good food and great service.
Based at Plaza de Hercules, this is perfect for people-watching and a chilled location.
Again on Plaza de Hércules, but more upmarket and undoubtedly the best meal we had in Seville. Very attentive and professional staff, the restaurant is a step above all others we visited.
My vermut as an aperitif was just sublime, and the use of a retro soda syphon typified the lengths the staff go to, to make the step up to perfection.
Our food was just as impressive, a starter of foie gras, which was rich and creamy, two mains of sea bass and lamb with hummus, washed down with a bottle of Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2017. Only one word can describe our meal – delicious!
It was slightly more expensive than the other nearby restaurants but won’t break the bank, a brilliant and memorable experience which can only be highly recommended.
It also has a stunning roof terrace where you can enjoy a drink in the roof before or after dining.
No wonder it has a Michelin star!
Pelayo Bar de Tapas
We stumbled across this bar and only stopped for a drink as there was a free table for two at the window. Quick service, great atmosphere, and the food looked fantastic; unfortunately, we had a booking elsewhere. From a look at the menu, the prices were very reasonable for a really nice tapas bar metres from the Cathedral, and as you exit a brilliant view of the Giralda – the stunning bell tower of the Cathedral.
The couple next to us had the works! Paella, prawns, cuttlefish, octopus, Iberico ham, croquettes, and baked cheese with jam. It was all well presented, and surprisingly with the amount they ordered, all plates were finished!
Next time we visit, we will certainly try the food.
Our 6-night visit to Seville was certainly an eye opener, from the very comfortable train journey to excellent accommodation, lots of walking (which allowed some extra tapas!), to the stunning sights within the historic city certainly appealed to us. The city was especially busy at the historic areas, but not once did we feel at risk. The local people were extremely friendly and helpful, our taxi driver from the station even asked for the accommodation phone number, as it was difficult to find and he wanted to make sure he dropped us off at the front door.
My only negative observation is common to a lot of larger cities, where graffiti can be a problem. Some local shops and bars have countered this problem by contracting local artists to use their shutters or shop fronts as a canvas, this has ensured that graffiti is targeted elsewhere.
Seville – a stunning city with sensational historic sights and sumptuous tapas bars and restaurants. Highly recommended – but make sure you avoid the extreme heat in the months of July and August.
A Spanish treat Malaga Andalusia. In this travelogue, Avid traveler Calum Glenny takes us through the site, sounds, and tastes of Malaga. You may also enjoy his previous story of Frigillana.
Having spent several holidays (including hosting his daughter’s wedding in September 2022) in Frigiliana, Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’ revisited the Malaga area and ventured into the Andalusian capital Seville, seeking the warmth of late summer sunshine and an escape from the damp and cold Scottish autumn. Looking to escape the Scottish autumn with its wind, rain and dark nights, a trip to Malaga promised sunshine and warmth.
Flight to Malaga Old Town
With most people flying into Malaga and then travelling on to other parts of the coast, the beauty of the ‘Old Town’ is a surprise to most who step out of the norm and visit Spain’s 6th largest city by population.
Our latest visit found Malaga to be a clean, friendly, and very impressive place. It has everything you’d expect of a city, plus fabulous beaches, a stunning cathedral, and a bullring. Also, sitting above the city adjacent to the cathedral is the Alcazaba which is described as a palatial fortification built during the period of Muslim rule in the 11th century. It was rebuilt numerous times up to the 14th century and is one of the best preserved and partly reconstructed Alcazabas in the world. This area also houses remnants of a Roman Theatre dating back to the 1st century AD.
I guarantee you will enjoy a walk around the ‘Old Town’. Below are some other highlights of our recent visit.
We have been visiting this city for many years, there is no doubt the regeneration of the port area has added a lot to it.
The port often hosts several cruise ships at once, which is impressive to see but can create the downside of large groups of tourists being marched about the city on walking tours. The port has a whole host of new restaurants, most of these are modern chain types and can be very expensive simply given the location. These restaurants are very popular but give me a tapas bar in the city centre anytime.
There are beautiful walks and parks around the harbour which hosts mini markets with numerous stalls, walk along this area as it is well worth coming out of the city to visit at least once.
Various harbour and bay cruises are also available here and are a pleasant way to see the coastline from a different perspective. Recommended, but enjoyment can depend on the swell outside the harbour!
This goes on for miles and merges into other beaches along the coast, it starts very close to the city (other side of the Port and the historic centre). A popular choice to visit if you have a limited time to spend in Malaga and comprises a fantastic beach promenade to walk, run, cycle or even segway while taking in the views.
These are public beaches and you can easily rent sun beds etc. The beaches all have toilet facilities and several have children’s playgrounds.
The chiringuitos along the length of the beach provide very good food and drinks, sometimes slightly more expensive than in the city but recommended even just for the view and cool breeze. We visited during October when the beaches were almost completely empty and very clean.
Spectacular Rooftop Pool and Bar
If it’s great views, sunbathing, food, and drink along with a dip in a pool you’re after, then head to the rooftop bar at hotel Roommate Valeria, it’s amazing at all times of the day and a lot quieter (sshh) than others such as the adjacent AC Hotel Marriot. The 5th-floor facility is very comfortable, with several large double sunbeds and a mini pool to cool off. The views are spectacular across the port and towards the Alcazaba. A venue perfect for meeting friends.
That’s the ‘Old Town’ attractions, beach, and sunbathing sorted, now let’s look at some recommended bars and restaurants.
Restaurant – La Barra de Zapata.
Somehow this restaurant is somewhat of a secret in Malaga, but probably not for long. We twice visited Rafael (owner), Evelin, Rafael (chef) and Jonathon at La Barra de Zapata. They are an excellent team who work in harmony and nothing is a problem.
The menu is in Spanish and is compact. Still, Rafael takes the time to explain the various options to each table, seek out any allergies or specific ingredients that should be avoided, while providing his expertise on what dishes complement each other and, on occasion, how best to eat the dishes to get the utmost experience.
Over our two visits, we tried 8 different dishes, each one being a true gastronomic experience. The bao buns, beef carpaccio, and key lime pie were standouts for us. As was our introduction to Ronda wine. Even after our meal, Rafael managed to make my rum & coke taste extra special, although I won’t disclose his secret!
When we return to Malaga, we will most definitely pay another visit to Rafael and his wonderful team at La Barra de Zapata. I’m already looking forward to checking out his next menu of delights!
Bar La Tranca – a True Spanish Treat Malaga Andalusia
Listening to a local for recommendations on a great Spanish tapas bar experience, we visited La Tranca on Calle Carretería.
It is, without doubt, one of the best Vermut bars we have been to on any of our Malaga trips, and we will return. This fun-filled bar has a fascinating interior with really interesting fixtures and features. Typical Spanish decor is complemented by various record covers and other wall decorations, which all customers will find of interest.
This brilliant tapas bar was extremely busy when we visited, and you could immediately sense the amazing atmosphere, the loud Spanish chatter and traditional music. Thankfully the very observant bar staff guided us through the crowd, and we were served virtually straight away! Our tapas and drinks were superb and really well-priced. This was the best tapas bar in Malaga we visited and the most traditional, it’s a truly unique experience and well worth a visit if you’re in Malaga, it is fairly simple to find, just look for the crowd outside and listen for the conversation buzz and singing from inside.
Excellent Small Malaga Restaurant and Bar
Just diagonally opposite La Tranca is a small but great restaurant and bar called Gloria Hoyos, again on Calle Carreteria. Being new to us it was an excellent experience offering a superb range of food and is located in a locally popular area of Malaga just in the outskirts of the main tourist drag. We visited in the evening and the food was excellent. We hadn’t reserved a table but this should be considered if visiting in the busier summer season. I’d recommend the mushroom croquettes and slow cooked rib of beef, both delicious.
This is a very small bar with great tapas downstairs and a more formal restaurant upstairs. Situated in Calle Santa Maria just off the Plaza de La Constitution.
An ideal location to shelter from the elements whether it be sun or rain! We sat here a few times and the bar was very friendly with good beer and wine. Tapas options are numerous with some typical Spanish dishes such as caracoles (snails) which certainly makes the uninitiated think twice! People from all walks of life and from all over the world just seem to pop in for a drink and a tapas at all times of the day!
Mia Coffee Shop, Plaza Martires.
For a quick take away or to drink while you take in the lovely Church opposite visit Mia Coffee Shop. Basically a tiny shop front where you will be served at the window with great coffee and a sublime offering of homemade cakes. The fact a bride was entering the Church on her wedding day while we were there enhanced the experience for us and all the people who were drinking their coffee next to the cafe. The place is not far from the Plaza de La Constitution and a little out of the main thoroughfare but it is certainly worth the detour, very popular and a highly recommended way to start your day in sunny Malaga.
Fed and watered so now let’s look at our hotel accommodation.
Hotel – Vincci Seleccion Posada del Patio
Despite having previously stayed in various Malaga hotels we chose Posada del Patio as we had had a fabulous experience at its sister hotel in Madrid.
We booked a room with a balcony expecting to be able to sit in the sun. However, this was simply a Juliet balcony looking onto a block of apartments. Very quickly we realised that the hotel does not have the best views!
The plus points far outweigh this as the hotel is very well positioned at the beginning of the pedestrianised historic area and minutes from Mercado de Atarazanas- a huge fresh produce covered market, which also contains numerous bars and tapas restaurants.
The newer part of town is easily accessed via a walkway across the dried river bed, with a large El Corte Ingles and nearby a pristine new shopping centre the main attractions. There is a taxi rank outside the front door of the hotel, so catching a taxi is no problem.
The interior of the hotel is delightful and quiet. There is a public lounge, a glass enclosed outdoor area with tables for smokers. On entry the hotel foundations are visible through a glass floor and display beautifully preserved original Roman city walls.
The roof top pool decking area is fairly small with limited numbers of sun beds and deck chairs, however the pool is large relative to other similar facilities in Malaga. We used it every day as our weather was fantastic and it offered excellent bar service just a phone call away or from a passing waiter.
Our experience was that all staff were extremely well turned out, ready to help and provide advice while very courteous.
The hotel offers a free late check out until 1300 hours where possible and we took advantage of this as it was perfect for our flight time of 1550. I would recommend this lovely hotel and make clear that what it loses in terms of views, it gains in internal appearance and the extremely pleasant staff! Well done to the staff as you certainly do make the hotel a 5 Star!
Overview -Hope you enjoyed our highlights of Malaga a Spanish Treat in Andalusia. I hope it interests you to pay a visit to what is a beautiful and fun filled historic city. I’m now off on the train to Sevilla in what is a two hour journey.
In Calum Glenny’s latest travel blog he visits the beautiful village of Frigiliana in Andalusia, Spain and explores the Main Street in the Old Town, Calle Real. He visits fabulous local bars, restaurants and shops in his walk through the stunning pueblo blanco. Calum discovers local food and delicacies such as the village honey and berejena’s.
Calum touches on the local transport available and for such a small village the great sports facilities within and on its doorstep in Nerja.
He names some of the local people who work tirelessly in the village shops, restaurants, and bars to ensure the village provides a superb service to both tourists and locals alike.
From both a short-term or longer stay perspective he covers all accommodation budgets and standards of flats, apartments, and villas, also including boutique hotels.
Calum also takes us to some of the popular tourist attractions and activities as well as some of the lesser-known. One unusual venue highlighted in the blog is used in the film ‘Death of Antonio Sanchez Lomas’. Filmed in Frigiliana, it demonstrates the effects of the violence stemming from Franco’s dictatorship and how the tragedies of that period are still reverberating through the village inhabitants today.
As fiestas are plentiful, especially in smaller villages in Spain, Calum speaks of the last weekend in August when the village hosts the Three Cultures Festival. The event highlights how and why Jews, Muslims, and Christians should live in peace and harmony. Despite a turbulent history, this celebration gives Frigiliana the opportunity to show off to the rest of the world.