I was very lucky to be invited on an all expenses paid for Press Trip care of Hatch, for Puerto De Indias, based just in Carmona on the outskirts of Seville. As press trips often are, the 48 hours were jam packed with exciting events and activities that immersed us in Spanish culture and everything that made Puerto De Indias what it was. It is a lovely gin made by lovely people.
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My original plan was to write one article. But, I soon realised that wouldn’t work. There was too much to say and I didn’t want the important message of the distillery to be watered down by the wonderful experiences in Seville. So, I’ve written two, one with a distillery focus that you can read here, and one with a travel focus that would allow more detail on the wonderful places that hosted us. This is the travel one. And, I do recommend you read both.
Plot spoiler: Seville is stunning.
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by Hatch and offered the trip. It was to visit the original distillery of Puerto De Indias. It’s a gin I had already heard of and tried a few years ago at the Taste of London Festival, and I actually collaborated with them to give away some free tickets, because they’re nice like that. Puerto De Indias proudly sell themselves as the original strawberry flavoured gin. Now now juniper freaks, don’t wrinkle your nose, there is a place for good flavoured gins and I’ll profess that Puerto De Indias is one of those. For a start they macerate and distil real strawberries, then blend that distillate into their gin. You can taste that difference. Again, more of that in the gin article so make sure you read that next if you haven’t already.
I’ve never been on a press trip before, so of course I snapped up the opportunity. My first experience of a press trip and my, do I want a little more of this! Meeting four strangers at an airport and jetting off for two days jampacked with distillery tour, wining and dining and local culture, all with the end game of writing something to help them with recognition in the UK market. Sign me up.
We met at the airport. It was an interesting mix of people, all friendly and excitable at the possibilities of the next 48 hours. With recent turbulence at UK airports, cancellations and delays due to lack of staff, I thought it was a pretty bold move for Hatch to organise the trip at all. It could have so easily been delayed and the itinerary ruined, or cancelled all together. Credit to them for taking the punt and it working so well.
We weren’t cancelled, or even delayed. We flew out on time with Easyjet, and I settled into my seat, contemplating what my first trip to Spain would hold. My San Francisco trips for the ADI have inspired a blossoming love for Mexican culture, so I’ve already been learning a little Spanish on Duo Lingo since March. I was very excited to see what influences I could find and what dots I could connect.
One thing I was excited about was the heat. I love the heat. I’m a bit of a lizard and love basking in warm temperatures, though I’m often too busy to sit still. Stepping off that plane into the wall of warmth was my first experience of 40C temperatures and I loved it! From the airport we were collected by a lovely chap called Jose who drove us to the distillery.
I am going to lay a little teaser to the gin article here. You can skip the next two paragraphs if you’ve read the other article, or don’t, it’s up to you.
The distillery tour is an interesting one as main production has now been shifted to more modern premises due to demand, though some operations remain on site. The old site though, dating back to 1880 has so much to offer to a visiting. The building is stunning, and positioned on a rocky outcrop with traces of human settlement dating back some 5000 years. The outcrop overlooks a pass through the mountain that has been used by people since people were travelling through the area. The view sprawls out for miles and is a somewhat dusty one, broken up by patches of green olive groves and yellow sunflowers. The area around the distillery though is an oasis of lush green and the sound of running water.
The reason for this is that it’s built on the site of a roman aqueduct, one of many in the area, that feed into a pool of water. The pool was once utilised to turn a wheel which milled flour and crushed olives for oil, thought now it is used for something different. Pipes run though, cooling the vapor from the still and condensing it into gin. There is a wealth of history here and the wonderful staff there cannot do enough, providing food and drinks a tour of the ancient building, a video of the underground aqueducts, showing marks on the walls from the romans that built them. We make gin, we dip out fingers into the cool flowing water of the cooling pool and marvel at the beautifully flowering cactuses and succulents and lush grass, all surviving on the water form the aqueduct that flows through the waterfall, through the pool and through various channels around the site, eventually flowing out the other side to continue it’s journey. The experience is finished with a flamenco performance, which plucked at my heart strings as my Grandad used to play Spanish guitar, so I’m familiar with the melodies, but hearing it accompanied by the soulful howl of the and both men absorbed with the woman’s feet who kept the rhythm of the performance. It was amazing.
We finished up at the distillery and time was tight, so we made a dash back to the hotel with a 20 minute window to freshen up, hit the rooftop terrace for a cocktail and then go to dinner. Coming into the city, the weather had clouded over but I was still enamoured with its beauty, with the rows of lit buildings glittering on the surface of the wide and dark río Guadalquivir.
Hotel Kivir is located in a beautiful spot, the four start hotel is clean, white and classical in style, the rooms have tall ceilings, solid floors and boast soundproofing. Full height windows looking out onto the beautiful river just outside with built up banks of red, orange and white buildings, their clean edges softened with the green bushels of plants and bright whites, reds and purples of flowers. Opposite the full height windows are full height sliding mirrored doors with an enormous bed inbetween. The bathroom is clean and modern, with a massive shower head and toiletries with all the trimmings, shower puff, robe and slippers. I immediately wished I was there for more than one night and I have pledged to return one day soon.
Nonetheless I had to get out of the quickly, so I dashed to the rooftop to make one cocktail before dinner. The view was gorgeous. We headed out at 10pm for our dinner reservation at MariaTrifulca, just over the Triana Bridge. Now, 10pm may sound late to dinner, but this is very typical of Seville. People start late, they dine at 10, restaurants close after midnight. Bars stay open until 2-3am. At 3am clubs open. This is the culture, and most locals are out enjoying this most nights! The vibe is wonderful, the warm Mediterranean air laden with the hubbub of happy conversation, the streets littered with souls.
MariaTrifulca first opened it’s doors back in 1922 and there is certainly a prestige to the building that juts out of the end of the bridge, right on the water. Heading through the front doors, we are led up a winding set of stairs which leads to a side terrace, then another which leads to a rooftop terrace. It is absolutely gorgeous, dining in the slither of space between the streetlights and the stars, all reflected in the river.
Entrees are brought out, tomatoes, anchovies, bread, the most incredible croquettes I’ve ever experienced, with a light, crunchy coating caving in to an almost liquid centre of mushroom and truffle. I carried on the indulgent theme and savoured a mushroom and truffle fettuccini, finished in a parmesan wheel. All accompanied by Puerto De Indias G&Ts and a fantastic white wine (I wish I’d asked the name). I even made room for some desert, a wonderful French style brioche with cinnamon, ice cream and caramel sauce and the cheesiest cheesecake I’ve ever tried.
After dinner I snuck off to meet an old friend who was in town and we took a stroll, taking in the nightlife and assessing the incredible Corpus Christi alters that were dotted around the streets, a hint of what was in store the following day. The streets are busy but the vibe is a gentle one. After a good catch up over a Spanish pour of rum (half a glass anyone), I hit the hay at around 3am. That’s what happens when you start late.
Breakfast at Hotel Kivir was sublime. I didn’t leave much time for it, as it was another action packed day and I wanted to flounce around the room enjoying the facilities and playing holiday, but eventually I made it to the terrace for breakfast. There was the usual toast and pastries, then I was brought out yogurt with fruit and seeds, meat and cheese, salmon and salad and there is even a separate egg menu that shamefully I missed. Overall, it was a very indulgent breakfast.
We checked out and left our bags at the hotel, and mounted the carts for a horse drawn tour of Seville. Luckily it wasn’t as hot as the day before, but the team were careful to stop intermittently for us to ramble around with a tour guide and the horses to get a little shade and water. Trotting through the cobbled streets was a beautiful experience, quiet and quaint, and then we hit the Corpus Christi crowds.
Seville has a deeply rooted Christian history. The festival is a precious time of year, and the streets are packed. We took to foot to weave through the masses, taking time to stop and take in the procession as it enters the largest Cathedral in Europe. Our guide talks us through the history of the building, which was adapted by each set of rulers of the area. Across the square we can see the fortress like palace of Alcazar. We then move on to see the amazing Plaza de España, built over 19 years for the 1929 Exhibition, it’s arms outstretched to the Americas as an apology for the past. Fun fact, it has been used as a set for Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones. The building sits in the extraordinary grounds of Parque de María Luisa, a public park which serves as Seville’s main green area. From here we pass the Maestranza, an arena which is home to a large annual bullfighting festival.
We pottered through Puenta de Triana, the town on the other side of the river. Interestingly the Triana Bridge that connected the two sides was only built in 1852, and before this the only connection was a pontoon bridge comprised of boats, that was built by the Moors in the 12th century. Due to this there is a different vibe to this part of town, that was apparently originally founded as a Roman colony and has much Moorish influence from previous rule. There are nods to the Spanish inquisition. It’s a very interesting place to explore. Our tour stops at Mercado Triana, where a boat waits to take us on a journey up the river.
Floating up the río Guadalquivir is a must for any visitor. This river was the aorta of the city for many years (even having a beach at one time), and as such the city has been built around it, and the views are just amazing. With it being such an important part of the town and the history, it’s very immerse to experience it like so many in the past. Plus it’s beautiful! The shift from walls to colourful foliage, the wild terrapins and plentiful fish, the swimmers jumping in to escape the heat of the afternoon. It’s a wonderful river.
It’s time for a spot of lunch before we head back, so we head to our final Spanish experience, lunch at Casa Anibal, or Hannibal House. The building was designed by the Spanish architect Aníbal González Álvarez-Ossorio, who designed many buildings in Madrid and Seville, including the Plaza de España. It is an exquisite building of deep orange brick on the outside, whilst inside is a sea of blue, white and green, with exquisite tiling and pink feathered floor lamps. Again the food here was sublime. After plenty of nibbles, I went for the hake and monkfish meatballs, which came served on potatoes with a rich tomato sauce.
Suddenly that was it, the trip was at an end. We headed to the aeropuerto and despite a three hour delay, we made it back that evening. I have been stewing on these couple of days ever since, and I want to go back. Seville is a beautiful place, a treasure trove of fantastic architecture steeped in history. The late night vibe is warm and pleasant with delicious food and the generous Spanish pour. I could easily spend a week here, taking time to explore the streets and the river, soaking up all the Spanish spirit I can. And I will. I just have to.