Best Tapas of Sevilla: Bodeguita Casablanca

Seville us choca-bloc with places to eat: resturants, cafés, tapas bars etcetc. I love food and I’m involved with the tapas, and in the winding streets of Old Town Seville there is always a tapas bar around the corner, hiding in some dank alleyway. You know how in the UK they say you’re never more than 5m from a rat? Well, that’s probably true in Spain, both for rats and tapas bars.
You can see the point I’m making. But the thing is, there are so many places to eat that you might end up suffering from Eaters’ Anxiety (EA) which is when you become very anxious that of all the tapas bars, you’re not going to pick the best. You live in fear that wherever you end up going, you could have gone somewhere better. Even though I know can always try somewhere else tomorrow…I still end up fretting. But as we are here for nine weeks we are getting the chance to try a lot of places so I thought I’d share some wisdom.
Bodeguita Casablanca, Adolgo Rodrigues Jurado 12, Seville

Mostly when we go out to eat, my main focus is the food. In fact, its for this reason that I literally have no photos of any of the food I’ve eaten: when I see it, my fork is usually already in my hand and next thing I know I’ve eaten the whole plate and I’m asking for another look at the menu. But last night we went to Bodeguita Casablanca where what really stood out was the service. 
We were worried about finding somewhere that was good and not too touristy as we were at Puerta Jerez, near the Cathedral. But this place had good prices (most tapas 2.50 a portion), was busy, and in the end we chose it because of the range of non-meat options. We ordered a selection of mainly fish-based dishes to share (actually I panicked when the waiter was there and ordered more than we ever imagined we would need). The food was quick, nicely presented and tasty, but the waiter was an absolute babe. More than once I’ve asked for suggestions in bars and the waiter has glared at me and said “everything is good.” which is code for “I hate everything”. But he was very helpful and recommended the fried Cod gratine which was really fresh and delicious. Then he brought us an ‘aperitif’ (which was FREE omg) of this bizarre cold green potato salad, that tasted like Austrian potato salad, and was therefore fantastic. Then to top it all off, my friend really wanted chips with her burger but there were none on the menu and he said it wasn’t possible. Then, without warning, he brought out a batch of fresh chips, also on the house. It was so sweet.
What to eat: Pork cheeks, which were incredibly tender came in a rich tomato sauce and sliced potatoes.
Bull’s tail on puff pastry, which looked fantastic (though my friend did say it tasted like how she imagined dog food would…)
Not so good: we tried the “house croquettes”, because I am totally obsessed with croquettes, but without being too crude, they tasted like fishy cheesy feet.
Bodeguita Casablanca is a good choice if you’re in that area of town and want to eat like the locals. It is only the 304th best in the city, according to Trip Advisor, but I would definitely go again!

Top Ten Things to do in Wolverhampton

I’m moving away from Manchester next week, and have been making a ‘bucket list’ to do all those things I never got round to doing in the city. This led me to think about my own hometown and what at the Must DO activities there. Wolverhampton can get a really bad wrap, but I love it! Of course its close to places like Birmingham, Walsall, Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon which all have great arts and cultural hubs and things to do, but I thought I’d restrict this list to the 10 best things to do in Wolverhampton itself. Perhaps you have somebody visiting you, or maybe you’re coming to university in Wolverhampton. These are the things not to be missed….

1.Go to an event at West Park

West Park in the Winter (taken by Mummy Blollings)

West Park is massive, beautiful and central. It comes first as one of my absolute favourite places in the city. On a normal day you can go into the authentic Victorian greenhouse and look at tropical plants and fish, or take a boat onto the lake and row around for a bit. Its resplendent on a summer’s day, and full of families and groups of people playing football on its large-ish fields. Even on cold winter days, when its usually quite empty, the park has an enchanting feel to it that makes you feel you’re somewhere very different from the city. The park puts on large-scale, outdoor family events, I highly recommend Bonfire Night in November and the City Show in Summer (ALWAYS includes a car show and a horse and carriage race).

2. Explore vintage and retro finds at Wolverhampton Market

If you’ve never been inside Wolverhampton Market you might be surprised to discover the antiques section, round the corner from the fish stalls , where you can buy vintage clothes, toys, antique furniture and all sorts of weird and wonderful memorabilia. It’s a fun place to go for presents or unusual objects. The market is great for any international foods and much cheaper fruit and veg than the supermarkets. If you are looking for fancy dress outfits or theatre costumes try Actor’s Wardrobe, also based at the market, where I used to work. It has an amazingly extensive range of professional quality theatre costumes. For good quality, second-hand furniture I love to browse the Compton Hospice shop, round the corner from the market and opposite Beatties car park.

3. Go to an event or join a class at The Newhampton Arts Centre

The Newhampton Arts Centra puts on top quality music shows and performances for really accessible prices. Its a hidden gem in Wolverhampton and was one of the first venues to host revival ‘Northern Soul’ nights that are now spreading around the Midlands and Manchester. There are also regular band nights and burlesque events and vintage markets. It also runs weekly classes, clubs, has a café and displays local artwork.

4. Watch a blockbuster film with only five other people at The Lighthouse Cinema

Built in the old Chubbs Lock factory, the Lighthouse is famous for its tiny audiences! This is a unique experience of cinema-going. The prices are cheaper than nearby cineworld, and like many independent cinemas you can take a glass of wine into the auditorium. For something truly unique the Lighthouse also offers events such as themed days, classic black-and-white movies with a live soundtrack and they also show performances from the West End. If you’ve never seen a silent movie its such a great experience to watch one with live music, my dad’s dragged me along before and I loved it. This is a fantastic venue in Wolverhampton anda great place to try something new. They also have art exhibitions, cafés, open mic nights and all sorts. (Review of the cinema here)

5. Sneak behind the railway station for one of the best pies in the city at The Great Western Pub.

The old railway station in Wolverhampton is beautiful, and was designed by Brunel. Next door is The Great Western, a top pub in Wolverhampton with delicious food and lots of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunbeam memorabilia. Other good traditional pubs are the Newhampton in Whitmore Reans (think bowling green in the summer and open fires in the winter) and the Posada in town (a small pub with beautiful tiles and stain glass). There are loads more, just ask around! If you’ve come from anywhere in the country be prepare to be astounded at the prices: great value. And, of course, they all serve Banks’.

Other good places to eat that I’ve been to recently are The Crown on the Wergs Road (gastropub), The Hamilton Restaurant overlooking West Park (fancy restuarant) and Latuske’s in Finchfield (yummy mummys). Also you can try the perpetually empty Made in Thai which has incredible decor and really nice fish.

6. Explore Wolverhampton’s history at Bantock House and the surrounding gardens (this is good for kids)

Bantock House, Wolverhampton

I have so many happy memories of wandering around Bantock House and colouring in art sheets they provide. Its a restored museum that tells of some of the city’s heritage. Wolverhampton is a city with a wealth of history and its definitely worth finding out more. The small gardens and café at Bantock are also nice when its sunny, and they do some fun family events like 1940’s days. Bantock House is at risk at the moment from cuts and it needs local support to continue.

7. Discover one of the countries largest pop art collections at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

One of the Pop Art Rooms at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The Pop Art gallery is a great place to take people visiting Wolverhampton. Its central and its pretty impressive. They also sometimes have some great touring exhibitions, like the recent much acclaimed Ron Mueck exhibition. Perhaps more importantly, the Wolverhampton Art Gallery Café does some really exceptional cakes. Its a nice place to meet for coffee, with pretty views of St Peter’s Church. The gallery runs classes and events too.

8. Enjoy the sun and walk along the canals, the disused railway or through the bluebell wood

Bluebell wood, Wolverhampton

Another one of my absolute favourite parts of Wolverhampton is how close it is to the country side. When you get on the canal, you walk underneath the city into a world full of nature! Not everywhere has such nice canals, nor a bluebell wood. If you’re feeling adventurous you can hire a barge which is an absolute HOOT, you can also just have a chilled stroll and try to find some blackberries in the bushes. The bluebell wood is fantastic and almost always empty, head there in late spring to see a carpet of bluebells as far as the eye can see.

EDIT: we’re not sure what the real name for the bluebell wood we visit is. Its not called ‘bluebell wood’! Its by Colton Hills School and from google maps might be ‘Park Coppice‘ which is near there. The bluebells come out in spring.

9. Enjoy top-name comedians and musicians at the Civic Hall or up-and-coming artists at other venues around the city.

The Civic Hall always gets good names and big music acts. If that’s beyond your budget try the Slade Rooms for smaller, more intimate events. The Civic Hall is big and connected to the Wulfrun Hall by some confusing passages. They get a good variety of shows that attract audiences from across the black country. Also look at the Grand Theatre which puts often has big musicals (Joseph, Blood Brothers, Sister Act, Fame etc and even some RSC productions).

10. Get involved in local spirit and watch a football match at the Molineux.

This is one thing on my bucket list I’ve never done but I want to. Wolves have a strong fan base and the stadium is massive, you should probs go there.

BONUS I know I’ve already done 10 things, but the god honest truth is when somebody asks me “What is the best thing about Wolverhampton?” my answer is always immedately ‘PORK JOINT!!!’. The best Pork Baps I’ve ever tasted – gravy, apple stuffing, salt and pepper and tender pork. The best £2.50 you’ll ever spend.

All of these places only survive by the support of the locals, and many of them are at dire risk of being lost because the council is cutting funding dramatically. I love Wolverhampton but it’ll be a bit shit if everything gets shut down to make sure to support your local venues and events! If you value the arts in Wolverhampton you can contact your MPs and councillors to let them know they need to really protect funding for these great places – but perhaps the best way to protect the future of Wolverhampton’s assets is to go to them, attend the events and be a part of its cultural scene.

There are loads of things I missed off the list because I wanted to keep it to ten! What are you top tips for Wolverhampton?

Travelling Alone in Mexico as a Woman

If you have the chance to go to Mexico, go! If you have nobody to go with you, GO ALONE! Before I went to Mexico I talked about it to my friends, who supportively told me more horror stories than you could shake a badger at, and also some advice that ranged from “you do realise Mexico is THE most dangerous country in the WORLD?” to simply “DON’T GO!” Being a deductive kind of gal, I soon realised everyone who was telling me not to go, had never actually been themselves. I did an on-line search and these articles by Vagenda and Sarah Hepola convinced me that not only was travelling alone an option, but in the struggle for female emancipation, I basically had a duty towards womankind to get myself out there and see some Mayan ruins!

Chilling with feminist golden gal Frida at the Frida Kahlo museum

It’s not silly to be nervous, and a lot of people might wonder if it is safe for a woman to travel through Mexico alone. But there are so many advantages. Travelling alone is like living the single girl’s dream: you can do what you want, where you want and when you want. You can tailor everything to your tastes and budgets. Sometimes this is actually quite a challenge, at first I found it stressful making decisions and getting the impetus to keep packing up and moving. But in Mexico there was always something new to see, and once I got into the swing of things, wild horses couldn’t keep me in my hostel room!

Without friends to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, you have to do it for yourself. When I was in Valladolid, I went to a cenote, and I decided I didn’t feel like swimming in the water. I told myself it was because I don’t like swimming. BUT after a moment of deep self-reflection, gazing wistfully at a couple floating in the middle of the pool, I realised I was actually just too nervous to go in on my own. I knew if my friends were with me, I would go in. Which was ridiculous. So I forced myself to change into my bikini and get in the water to splash around a bit. As I was swimming (well, hanging onto the rope. I can’t swim), it began to rain, water filtering through the rocks and vines above onto my head. I had overcome my nerves!!!!! Suck on that!

I was travelling alone for the first time, which can be a bit intimidating, especially as the other people in the hostels might have fancy backpacks and money belts and earthy jewellery. I naturally assumed that all backpackers were probably dickheads (which admittedly makes no sense because I was backpacking too…). This is a Negative Attitude and I warn against it! After talking to like three people I realised that perhaps I was being a bit judgemental, and I began forcing myself to approach people. If you don’t, you might get lonely. I found people were so friendly, and the Mexicans were friendliest of all. 

If you want to go to Mexico alone, and are nervous, before I went I made a clear plan of where I was going to go and when, what hostels I could stay at and what I could do. I followed a popular route and stayed in busy hostels (that were full of other travellers, like me). I tried to follow all the safety advice you can find about travelling alone, but sometimes you have to relax a bit and enjoy yourself, and I think as long as you’re using common sense then you have to be unlucky to get into trouble. I met a lot of people who I never would have spoken to if I hadn’t been alone, my Spanish improved more in that month that it did in five months in Cuba, and I’m really proud of myself for doing something even though I was scared, and doing it all on my own.