Las Setas de Sevilla, (Mushrooms of Seville also known as Metropol Parasol)


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Las Setas de Sevilla (mushrooms) is a wooden structure located at La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville, Spain. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer and completed in April 2011. The structure is huge; 150m long x 70m wide and 26m high.

The mushrooms completely fill what could be a pleasant square – they would be more impressive in a larger open area where they be viewed from a distance.

The mushrooms didn’t look like they were made from wood – everything looked like metal or some other man-made material.

I like some modern buildings. I’m fine with the Louvre glass pyramid for example. But the mushrooms are out of place here and I’m sure the residents of the surrounding buildings don’t appreciate the view from their windows.

The cost to build was originally estimated at EUR 50 million, but is now said to have cost EUR 100 million. It seems a lot for what is a giant folly, imposing itself on the surroundings, without much architectural merit.

Nonetheless, as tourists, we felt duty bound to visit and take the elevator to the top. The price was EUR 3 per person and apparently included a free drink from the bar at the top. We reached the bar and found this sign:

So much for the ‘free’ drink – they’d be better not to offer anything because I immediately felt cheated.

The walkways around the top were impressive, although if I had to climb stairs, rather than take the elevator, I would have been disappointed. I’ve pasted pictures at the end of this article.

Sevilla Mushrooms
Plaza de la Encarnación, 14, 1ºB
41003 Sevilla – Spain

Sunday – Thursday: 10.00 – 23.00
Friday & Saturday: 10.00 – 23.30
Access to the viewpoint is in the basement next to the entrance to the Antiquarium
The ticket office closes 30 minutes before closing time

Plaza de España, Seville, Spain


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The Plaza de España was built for the Spanish-American Exhibition of 1929. It’s a huge site with a beautiful building, semi-circular boating lake and landscaped gardens. Around the building are benches that depict 49 provinces of Spain in ceramic tiles.

It’s probably the best place to visit in Seville and best of all it’s freeee!

I’ve added a series of photos taken during my visit at the end of this article.

Plaza de España
Av de Isabel la Católica, 41004 Sevilla, Spain

8:00 h-22:00 h.


La Madriguera de Mai Bar/Restaurant, Seville, Spain


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Our AirBnB host recommended this place as a place to see Flamenco in a real environment – not a tourist show. It was fantastic. You could easily pass by this place without realising how good it is.

We visited mid-week to book our table for Friday Flamenco – starts around 9pm. The waitress was really friendly and spoke English.

We went back on the Friday night and found we had a front row table.

This isn’t the type of place where I would take photos of the food – but it was good food and wine.

Wine EUR 2.50 a glass
A chicken dish EUR 8.00
A fish dish EUR 8.00
A fantastic squid dish EUR 8.00
Large bottle of water EUR 2.00
Bottle of wine EUR 12.00

A guitarist played solo and was really good. Then a singer joined him – it really was a classic Spanish atmosphere.

The Flamenco dancer appeared and was just amazing.

After the official event, the singing continued and various members of the audience took to the stage to show off their Flamenco skills.

The staff were really friendly and we didn’t feel out of place there.

If you find yourself in Seville on a Friday night, this is the place to go.

La Madriguera de Mai
Calle Arrayan 23, 41003 Sevilla, España

+34 640 34 83 42

No website

El Gallinero de Sandra Restaurant, Seville, Spain


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El Gallinero was kindly recommended to us by the staff at ConTenedor Restaurant when we found the place fully booked on a Wednesday evening. I doubt we would have ever found it otherwise as the place is hidden down a passageway off an unattractive street and only has a small sign.

It’s also difficult to see the main restaurant from the outside as they have a large covered terrace.

We sat on the terrace on our first visit. The waitress was really friendly and was happy to try and explain the menu in English.

A large bottle of water was EUR 2.80 and good wine was EUR 5.00 per glass. We both had an excellent fish dish for EUR 18.50 each.

Followed by a chocolate ganache EUR 7.00.

On our second visit we sat in the main restaurant.

The Duck and Squid combination was odd but good EUR 18.00.

The was a pudding called Cheesecake Surprise EUR 7.00 that I guessed would be a deconstructed cheesecake. But it was still a surprise to find what looked like strawberries on the plate, only to find they contained a cheesecake topping.

It was absolutely delicious.

I’d recommend a visit when you’re in Seville.

El Gallinero de Sandra Restaurant
Pasaje Esperanza Elena Caro, nº 2. 41002, Sevilla.

954 90 99 31

ConTenedor Restaurant, Seville, Spain


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We found the ConTenedor Restaurant completely by accident – just walking past on a Monday evening and saw the ‘slow food’ subtitle that we recognised from many quality, locally-sourced food, restaurants in Bologna, Italy.

The place was busy for a Monday and the only seats available were side-by-side at a counter area – these turned out to be great seats and we booked those for our subsequent visits.

The counter (behind the seated diner) has four seats.

Our waitress was really helpful, friendly and spoke perfect English. We talked about the wines we liked and she let us try a couple before we chose a favourite. The white Castro Valdes wine was 3.50 EUR a glass or 17 EUR a bottle. The red was a similar price. A bottle of filtered water was 1 EUR – sometimes we had free refills, sometimes were charged, last visit no charge at all.

Drinks, olives and bread arrived. Our waitress returned with a chalkboard listing that day’s menu in Spanish. She described every menu item with passion and made everything sound delicious. We opted for a wild boar dish (Tataki) 17 EUR and the ConTenedor signature dish which I think was 15 EUR. Everything was excellent.

Our next visit was very similar, although there was a live guitar player. This time we had a waiter who also carefully explained the menu. We shared one main and had room for pudding.

Our last visit, we had a different waitress, who was slightly less keen to explain the entire menu, but still friendly. This time we had a cured fish plate and some duck.

I was the only person who had the oysters and although they tasted fine, my stomach didn’t like them later. But don’t let that put you off as I was either unlucky or over-sensitive.

ConTenedor is more expensive than many other places in Seville, but definitely worth a visit. You’ll need to book as it’s almost always full.

Calle San Luis, 50, 41003 Sevilla, Spain

Phone 954 916 333

Caminito del Rey, Malaga Province, Spain


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El Caminito del Rey (The King’s Little Pathway) is a walkway, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Ardales in the province of Málaga, Spain. Construction began in 1901 and was finished in 1905.

The original path, constructed of concrete supported by steel rails, deteriorated over the years – the concrete collapsed and left large gaps bridged only by narrow steel beams. Few of the original handrails existed, although a safety wire ran the length of the path. Several people lost their lives on the walkway and, after two fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000, the local government closed both entrances. Thrill-seekers continued to visit and four people died before a new safer path was completed in 2015.

The Caminito del Rey official website offers advance tickets for general (self-guided) admission and also guided tours. Unless you’re someone who loves walking slowly in a large group, such as Italians seem to prefer, then avoid the guided tour. We had to wait ages for the website to update and include June dates – so you need to check regularly and book as soon as tickets become available.

Entrada general + Autobús is 11,55€ – always include the bus as the walk is one direction and the bus will take you back to your car. You can easily park at the end or at the visitor centre. Parking at the start is more difficult. We opted to park at the end and take the bus to the start and I’d recommend that option. If you park at the visitor centre, you’d need to wait for two buses; one to take you to the start and one back from the end.

We drove from Seville (about 2.5 hours) in a rental car – the sat nav took us to an in-paved road and a blocked-by-barrier entrance. There isn’t any signposting to help you find where to go. I entered the following co-ordinates for the Visitor Centre from the website: 36.914411,-4.806910 – that took us to the visitor centre where we then turned left (signpost said El Chorro) and followed a winding road until we reached a parking area. After that we had to walk up a hill to the train station and bus pick up point.

The bus ride to the start took about 15 minutes. We were dropped at the entrance to a tunnel that lead to a 3km picturesque path through the woods and alongside a lake.

Even though we parked at 3pm, we were still ten minutes late for our 4pm ticket slot – they didn’t seem to mind, but it’s worth planning ahead. If you arrive late, your best plan is to park at the entrance and take the bus back at the end of the walk.

A group was ahead of us and they had already been issued their green safety helmets and guide radios with earpieces.

As self-guided walkers, we were issued white helmets, which we wore proudly as we passed the slow-moving greens through the entrance.

The path is spectacular and wasn’t busy until we caught up with another group of green hats.

About half way through, the path was interrupted by a regular path along the cliffs and through some woodland.

The second half was even more spectacular.

There were quite a few stairs to climb in the second half. The path ends with another rotary barrier, but there was still a bit of a walk from there to where we parked our car. I checked the Health app on my iPhone when we reached the car.

It was easily a two-hour walk and I can imagine it would be a struggle if the temperature was over 28 degrees. There are benches where you can sit and have a rest. Bring water and visit the bathroom at the entrance as there are no facilities on the walk.

I absolutely recommend that you visit the Caminito del Rey – it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I’ve pasted more photos at the end of this article.

Pestana Columbos Hotel, Porto Santo Island


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The Pestana Colombos is located on the Island of Porto Santo, on the archipelago of Madeira. The hotel is effectively on a sandy beach which stretches for 9km. The hotel is named after Christopher Columbus who lived on Porto Santo for a short time.

We spent a week at the excellent Vidamar Hotel in Madeira and decided to extend our holiday with four days at the Columbos – Friday to Tuesday in May. The Columbos is an all-inclusive hotel – four nights booked direct on the Pestana website cost 885.40 EUR.

There are two routes from Funchal, Madeira to Porto Santo; an almost daily Porto Santo Line ferry which leaves at either 08:00 or 19:00, takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and costs 58 EUR return or a 10 minute flight with SevenAir Aero VIP for which we paid 83 EUR return. The ferry appears  to be ridiculously overpriced.

It was just 10 minutes by taxi to the hotel, which has automated high gates, not just a barrier, that allow access before you reach the entrance. We arrived about 13.15.

The reception was empty – not surprising as no other flights had landed.

Check in was quick and we were allocated a standard room (the class we’d booked) despite the hotel being at low occupancy. The title ‘standard’ doesn’t do the room justice as it was exceedingly well appointed; heavy wood, card-operated, entrance door, marble floors, large designer bath, bathrobes, slippers, Bang & Olufsen TV, good free Wi-Fi, mini bar pre-stocked with complimentary drinks and a large terrace.

Only thing missing were tea/coffee making facilities – we found the same missing in the Pestana Casino Park in Madeira.

We quickly left to walk around to the Sister Hotel – Pestana Porto Santo – for lunch. There is only a snack bar open in the Columbos at lunchtime. That may change when occupancy is high.

We were disappointed to find a queue for the restaurant.

We later discovered that the hotel shuttle bus to the main town, returns passengers at around 13.40 and that causes a last minute rush for the restaurant.

The restaurant was a bit of a zoo, crowded, not enough space between tables, not enough space around the buffet, noisy, plenty of children – we found that tables outside on the terrace were much better. The food was okay, but nothing amazing. Bottled water and wine were served at our table. The wine was good quality. All the staff were really friendly, although rushed off their feet.

It is also possible to skip the restaurant lunch and just pick up hot and cold snacks from around the bar areas of each hotel.

After lunch, we had some time to look at the Porto Santo Hotel.

The pools were too cold to swim in. We had a look at the adults-only spa, which looked beautiful.

The water was a little cold, but the weather outside wasn’t that warm and I believe they rely on the Sun to heat rooftop radiators.

On our walk back to the Columbos, we stopped by guest services, where they can book dinner at one of three table service restaurants; Mediterranean, Madeirian and Japanese. Imagine our disappointment when we were told that as guests for four nights, we could only choose to eat one night in the table service restaurants. TUI package guests staying seven nights can choose three. Our disappointment was further compounded when we discovered that only one restaurant per night was open, none on Mondays and all were booked. Our preference was for Koi, the Japanese Restaurant on Sunday night, but the guest services lady offered to also try and get us a table in the Maderian on Saturday.

On Saturday we received a reservation for 21.30 which was too late for us. We re-visited guest services and explained that time was unsuitable and we’d like to try for Koi on Sunday – sadly we were never offered a reservation there. I visited the front desk to complain and after explaining the issue to a number of different employees, I finally met the Hotel Manager, Angela Quintal, who apologised and we agreed a small reduction to our final bill.

We checked out the Columbos indoor swimming pool. Sadly it was nowhere near as opulent as the Porto Santo version – but was much warmer. This also meant that it was full of families and excited children.

The beach is accessed via a number of attractive bridges.

Halfway across the bridge, I could see hotel sun loungers. Although these don’t have a view to the Sea, they are free and also sheltered from the wind.

The beach is beautiful.

Sadly the Sea was very cold and the beach very windy. The sunbeds are chargeable, which I thought was pretty cheeky.

There is a free shuttle to the town of Porto Santo. This turned out to be a coach. The driver took us to a parking lot, where we swapped the coach for an open-deck version. He then went back to the Porto Santo Hotel and picked up passengers from there. The town was quaint, but there wasn’t really much to see. We took the coach back to arrive at 13.40 and so faced queues again at the lunch buffet.

The Columbos opened its buffet restaurant for the evening. This was so much nicer than the Porto Santo, with plenty of space and better quality food. All the staff were really friendly.

The downsides were:

  • Restaurant opens at 18.30 and closes the doors to new diners at 19.30. It then re-opens at 20.30. I can almost understand this two-sittings rule when the hotel is full, but the dining room was always half empty when we were there.
  • Tables are very close together and we were heavily dissuaded from sitting at tables laid for four.

Bottled water and wine were served at our table. The wine was good quality.The staff were really friendly.

Following dinner, we headed to the Columbos Bar. The staff were friendly and service was quick. The spirits/liquor were unknown brands, not top-shelf and while these are fine for making cocktails, you would be disappointed with a straight whiskey. There was a great singer.

Breakfast in the Coumbos restaurant was pretty good, with an egg/omelette station. The downside was that tea and coffee weren’t served at the table and guests had to queue for an automatic Nescafe machine. Good Barista-style coffee was available from the Columbos day and evening bars – not sure about the Porto Santo bars.

The Columbos rooms are arranged in a quadrangle. The central atrium is a comfortable sun trap, chairs with plenty of cushions and not windy.

We asked to view the superior rooms. The Sea view rooms were the same as ours, faced the pool area and the Sea in the distance. This was the view.

So I wouldn’t bother paying extra for a Sea-view room.

The suites occupy the four corners of the hotel quadrangle. They have two bedrooms and a separate lounge. They would be ideal for families.

Again, not really worth the extra expense for a couple, but of course accept a free upgrade!

We visited the Porto Santo entertainment area. The animation staff were all very keen and the children loved all the dancing that was encouraged. But the whole place felt a bit more like a British holiday camp – the Columbos Bar was much better, but I guess it depends what you are looking for.

During my conversation with Angela, the Hotel Manager, I raised the following:

  • I couldn’t see how the hotel could make money, only open half the year, with so much spent on room furnishings. Angela explained that the original builders had gone bankrupt and Pestana were renting the property from the bank, who had foreclosed.
  • That the Columbos should be an adults-only hotel. Angela advised that a third hotel was under construction and that when complete, the Columbos could be made adults only.
  • That the two hotel spas were the wrong way around – although there isn’t much that can be done about that.

Bug Report May 2018: Just like Madeira, I wasn’t bothered by any insects at all. No wasps, flies, cockroaches, mosquitoes – nothing 🙂

Would we return? We mostly enjoyed our stay, but probably not. There are plenty of high-end, all inclusive resorts that offer better value, more dine-around choices, top-shelf spirits and also a warm, calm Sea. For example, you would be better paying a little more for a week at the Barceló Dominican Republic.

Pestana Columbos Hotel
Estrada Regional 171,
Sitio do Campo de Baixo , 9400-242 ,
Porto Santo


SevenAir Aero VIP, Flight between Funchal, Madeira and Porto Santo


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The Island of Porto Santo is 71.4 km from Funchal, Madeira. We spent a week at the excellent Vidamar Hotel in Madeira and decided to extend our holiday with four days at the Pestana Columbos on Porto Santo.

There are two routes from Funchal, Madeira to Porto Santo; an almost daily Porto Santo Line ferry which leaves at either 08:00 or 19:00, takes 2 hours 15 minutes and costs 58 EUR return or a 10 minute flight, with convenient departure times for which we paid 83 EUR return. The ferry appears to be ridiculously overpriced.

We took the 13.00 flight out and 08.00 back – only early as we had to catch another flight from Funchal to London. The small Dornier twin-turboprop aircraft has only 19 passenger seats – our outbound flight had just five passengers.

We checked in a bag but also had carry on luggage. We had to leave this at the aircraft steps and it was put into the on-board hold.

The Captain came out to visit us from the cockpit and asked that we watch the safety video.

The flight to Porto Santo took about 10 minutes. Our carry on bags were returned to us. Ours was the only aircraft on the runway.

And our checked luggage was the only bag on the conveyor.

The bag arrived within five minutes, which isn’t surprising as the aircraft was only a short walk from the empty terminal – we could have taken it ourselves.

Outside, there weren’t any taxis, just a number to call – a taxi arrived within five minutes of the call and took us to the Pestana Porto Santo Columbos (12 EUR) for our four-night stay.

The return flight was busier and this time our seats were just behind the pilot. I took a video of him during take-off.

It took some time before bags arrived at Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, Funchal. While waiting I took these pictures that advertised the duty free shops – questionably one of the top three things in Madeira!

I’d highly recommend the flight if you intend to visit Porto Santo.

Levada dos Tornos, Camacha, Madeira


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There are a number of levada walks that you can take from Camacha. The Levada dos Tornos is interesting as there is a 100m tunnel halfway through – you can also complete the walk with a visit to the Jasmine Tea House. The distance from Camacha to the Tea House is exactly 7km.

There is a semi-regular bus service 129 from Funchal to Camacha – buses can run as frequently as every half an hour, but are mostly once an hour. You get off the bus at the Camacha shopping centre – the drivers are usually helpful enough to let you know if you ask them.

You then walk back along a road, down some steps and you are on the lavada. It’s actually pretty difficult to find without a map – we used this map, purchased from Amazon UK:

The lavada path runs alongside houses and farms.

The path is easily negotiable, although you’ll need a torch and ideally waterproof boots, to make it through the tunnel. The waterproof boots are handy as the tunnel path has large puddles – I had to balance on the edge, with water running through the lavada behind me, to avoid filling my trainers with water. The tunnel ceiling is also quite low in places, so you’ll need to stoop as you walk through.

7km later and you arrive at a sign for the Tea House.

There are a series of step steps down the Tea House where you are welcomed by the owner’s friendly dog. The Tea House has hot snacks, wine, beer, tea and scones. The owner has a touch of Basil Fawlty about him, but it’s a friendly place.

You can take a bus back to Funchal from nearby the Tea House – the owner has a timetable to hand. However, don’t believe the him when he tells you the stop is only five minutes away. Plan for at least 15 minutes to walk out of the Tea House drive, turn left all the way down a steep hill, then right to the bus stop. We easily missed the bus and flagged down a passing taxi (16 EUR back to Funchal).

Some more pictures of the lavada:

Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Madeira


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The Monte Palace Tropical Garden occupies an area of 70.000 square meters and houses an huge exotic plant’s collection, coming from all over the world. It’s an amazing garden that strangely isn’t promoted by the cable car that rises from Funchal to Monte – instead they promote the far inferior Botanical Garden, which is reached by changing gondolas at Monte for a further cable car ride. When you purchase a ticket (16 EUR Return or 11 EUR one way) for the cable car in Funchal, don’t bother to add the optional Botanical Garden.

It’s a short walk from the Monte cable car station to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. The first entrance doesn’t take credit cards, the second (by the café) does accept cards. Entrance is 12.50 EUR.

The garden is laid out over a series of descending plateaux, each beautifully landscaped and a botanical wonder.

The garden isn’t easily accessible for those with mobility issues, although there is a small electric trolley that can take you down to the lake area and back again.

Climbing back from the lake area is pretty strenuous and it’s well worth taking a numbered wait ticket for the trolley back to the top (2.50 EUR).

The café (top entrance) is quant and serves tasty snacks, hot beverages and alcohol for reasonable prices.

If you haven’t experienced the Monte toboggan ride, it’s worth walking round and riding one down – although they don’t go all the way to Funchal and you’ll need to take a bus or taxi the rest of the way.

Opening Hours
Everyday except the 25th of December.
Garden Visiting Hours : 09.30 – 18.00
Museum Visiting Hours : 10.00 – 16.30

Adults 12,50 Euros
Children younger than 15 years old: Free Entrance as long as they are accompanied by adults.

More pictures below: