Sevilla & Jabugo - The Quest for 5J

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  1. nime01
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    Sevilla & Jabugo - The Quest for 5J

    It all started back in January, when Hilton announced their Any Weekend Anywhere sale. We browsed the participating hotels list, and found out that the Hacienda la Boticaria in Sevilla would join Hilton as a Waldorf=Astoria property during 2011. We quickly decided that we wanted to try this hotel, and booked a stay there in August. We opted for a King Deluxe room with a private terrace, at €169.50 per night for 3 including breakfast. €56.50 per night per person is not a bad deal!

    As soon as the stay was booked, we went shopping for flights - as it turned out, Brussels Airlines had a promotion at the time, and we got our flights for €120 return, connecting through Brussels. A week after booking the flight, we got a call informing us that the flight had been rescheduled for a 6:40AM departure instead of the original time which was around 11AM or so. Nothing we could do about that, so we accepted the change of time - it would give us a short stop in Brussels.

    Since we booked in January, we had plenty of time to plan what to do during our short break in Andalucia - and one thing was clear from the very beginning: We HAD to go to Jabugo. Some of you might know why... more about that later!

    On the day of departure, we got up real early and drove the 50 miles to OSL, parked our car and entered the terminal building. We had already checked in online, and we just had to go to the bag drop counter before passing trough security and then straight to our gate. For the very first time at OSL we went to the dedicated bus gate, as Brussels Airlines' Avro RJ-100 (OO-DWD) was parked on a remote stand.

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    The flight was not fully booked so boarding was quick and efficient. With the four powerful engines on the RJ-100 we experienced a very short takeoff only a few minutes after boarding. It was our first flight on a RJ-100, and we were impressed by the spacious and comfortable economy seats. The 1hr 50min flight to BRU was comfortable but otherwise uneventful.

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    Our connecting flight to Sevilla (SVQ) was scheduled for takeoff at 11:30AM. An Airbus A319 (OO-SSK) was lined up at gate 40, and the flight was almost fully booked except for some seats in premium economy and business. Seat pitch was decent enough for the short flight to SVQ, and the slimline Recaro seats were not bad.

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    A view of the BRU terminal building from the tarmac.

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    About an hour in flight, we passed over Biarritz in France. The Aéroport de Biarritz Anglet Bayonne (BIQ) is clearly visible from above.

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    After 2hrs 30 mins in the air, we touched down at Aeropuerto de Sevilla San Pablo (SVQ). The temperature was about 39 degrees celsius, quite a difference from the 15 degrees at home.

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    A Vueling (Spanish LCC) aircraft on tarmac in SVQ.

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    Since we're inside the Schengen area, there was no immigration to clear. However, our luggage was placed on a different conveyor belt than all the other luggage, a special originating-outside-of-EU-conveyor-belt... which we only discovered after all the other passengers had picked up their luggage. We actually had to go backwards in through the empty customs area to pick up our bags - and there was not an officer in sight so we just walked straight out with our bags to pick up our rental car.
     
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  2. nime01
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    A brand new Citroën C4 HDI was waiting for us, and soon we were on our way to the Hacienda la Boticaria, located in the Alcala de Guadaira area some 15km from downtown Sevilla.

    The big drawback about this hotel is the distance from downtown Sevilla, and you really have to have a rental car unless you want to be a captive guest and spending a lot on taxis getting around. There's free parking at the hotel, which also has a free shuttle service to downtown Sevilla, but you have to plan ahead and book early to get a seat. We chose to have a rental car, as it is easier to do other things as well, such as driving to Sierra de Aracena and beyond... However, if you are looking for total relaxation, a visit to Hacienda la Boticaria is highly recommended.

    It took about 20-25 minutes to drive the 28km from the airport to the hotel, which is fairly easy to find, and you'll also find a sign for the hotel along SE-3204.

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    After the 1km drive off SE-3204, this is what meets you...

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    The central courtyard with the main entrance.

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    We were helped by Paco at the front desk, who also explained that this was the low season at this 128-room hotel. Based on how many were seated for breakfast etc, we estimated the occupancy to a maximum of 30-35 people. Since this hotel is pretty huge, we almost felt alone at times. We stayed away from room 237 though... :)

    We had booked a King Deluxe room with private terrace, which in retrospect, we shouldn't have. While the spacious private terrace means you can relax in the sunshine in absolute peace, there's no view at all, as the terrace is enclosed by high concrete walls on all sides. We would rather have a room facing one of the four interior courtyards, or with an outside view. Other than that, the air-conditioned room was large enough to comfortably accommodate an extra bed. The bed was absolutely wonderful, with crisp white linen. There was also a 40" TV, and a Nespresso coffee machine along with a fully stocked minibar.

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    The private terrace.

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    Nice bathroom equipped with a jacuzzi & bidet.

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    Nice Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries, some old Evelyn & Crabtree items the first day.

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    The hotel is lit up at night, creating a wonderful ambiance. From the main courtyard.

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    Courtyard with stables to the left, where they actually had Andalusian horses.

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  3. nime01
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    Main interior courtyard

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    The smallest interior courtyard.

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    One of the two larger interior courtyards.

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    The driving range.

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    It looked equally nice during the daytime. View from the Molino Blanco restaurant, where all meals are served.

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    From the other corner of the courtyard

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    The Molino Blanco restaurant outdoor area, it was also a large room inside, but no-one ever sat there.

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    View towards the hotel’s equestrian area which includes a show arena and an incredible carriage museum.

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    And a couple of the 18 Andalusian stallions they keep.

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  4. nime01
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    We decided to book the hotel shuttle one day, to go to downtown Sevilla. It's quite tricky to drive downtown, there are many narrow roads going everywhere, and parking is next to impossible to find. Sevilla was host to the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition, and along Paseo de la Palmera you can still see many of the constructed pavillions.

    Of course, our main goal was to see Sevilla's magnificent Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, the largest gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the world, only behind St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The tomb of Christopher Columbus can also be found inside the cathedral, where the remains are guarded by kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre.

    It is almost impossible to take a picture of the whole building, so most of the pictures are from the inside. I'll let them speak for themselves, as there is no way to descibe this magnificent building with words.

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    The tomb of Christopher Columbus.

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    The main altarpiece, the largest and richest in the world. It is the lifetime masterpiece of Flemish craftsman Pierre Dancart, who spent 42 years carving it...

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    One of the numerous intricate carvings found throughout the cathedral.

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  5. nime01
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    You can't visit the cathedral without going to the top of the 104.5m high Giralda. There are no stairs to climb - instead you'll find 35 inclining ramps, said to be wide enough to allow the passage of two mounted guards. Still, you have to go 70m up to get to the top observation deck.

    View of the top of the cathedral.

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    View to the east.

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    View to the north

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    View to the west, with the Patio de los Naranjos visible below.

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    We actually forgot to take a picture of the view to the south - but managed one of the many bells having above.

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    After visiting the Giralda, we went down to see some more of the cathedral. The details are just mind-blowing.

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    A huge silver piece, part of the cathedral's treasure

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    A typical narrow street in Sevilla - not easy to find street parking here :)

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  6. nime01
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    As mentioned in the first post, just after we had booked this trip, it soon became very clear that we had to go to Jabugo. For those in the know, Jabugo is the capital of jamón ibérico. And home to 5J Sanchez Romero Carvajal that produces what is regarded as the very best jamón ibérico money can buy: Jamón Ibérico Puro de Bellota 5J (Cinco Jotas).

    The Cinco Jotas bellota hams are of course produced to conform to the very strict guidelines for bellota hams, but unlike the other producers, Sanchez Romero Carvajal uses only 100% pure ibérico pigs for their hams. With this in mind, we started the 140km drive from the hotel to the small town of Jabugo, located in the Sierra de Aracena...

    The roads in Spain are generally in a very good condition, and about one hour and forty-five minutes later, we passed through the town of Aracena, only a few miles from Jabugo. The Andalusian country scenery is very beautiful.

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    It was also very hot, but actually not that bothersome because it was very dry. The car thermometer showed 45 degrees celsius, but it was actually 49 degrees.

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    The sign for Jabugo is so small you can easily pass it without noticing, so we actually had to turn back and enter Jabugo from the old road. And finally, we were in Jabugo.

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    We quickly found a place to park the car, and me feeling slightly nervous for some reason, we made our way to what we came for...

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    The entrance to the Shangri-La of jamón ibérico.

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    Just inside the door, you are presented with the prices. The price difference between a bellota and a paleta is quite apparent, even though it goes through the exact same process.

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    The sanctum sanctorum...

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    Only bellotas are marked with the 5J leather patch.

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    Our bellota on the weight :)

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    ..and one happy camper a few minutes later!!

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    We actually also got a case of Rioja wine along with the ham. We also asked to get a tour of the production/curing areas, but they told us we would have to book ahead for that. Too bad we didn't know that, but we're coming back...

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  7. nime01
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    Cinco Jotas is not the only jamón in town, there are plenty of them :)

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    We will bring larger suitcases the next time we visit :D

    We spent some more time walking around Jabugo before heading back towards Aracena.

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  8. nime01
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    In Aracena, we drove up to the Castillo de Aracena overlooking the town.

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    The view of Aracena was spectacular!

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    We enjoyed a late lunch in Aracena just before everything closed for siesta.

    On our way back towards Sevilla, this big El Toro was standing beside the road..

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    Great patina on some of the road signs!

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  9. nime01
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    Back to the hotel again..

    The Hacienda la Boticaria boasts a 5,000 sq m spa, including the outdoor pool - mostly deserted as well, so perfect if you want to relax. Even if there had been a lot of people there, it would be hard to actually bump into anyone, the area is large!

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    No-one tried the indoor pool except us.

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    View from the indoor pool.

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    View towards the outdoor pool.

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    We didn't try the spa (separate €40 entrance fee), as we didn't feel like going through the thermal circuit. However, we did dine at the hotel restaurant Molino Blanco, which had these relatively decent priced items on the menu.

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    The tuna fillet with grilled foie gras, young vegetables wok and ginger & sesame sauce.

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    We also had the lamb leg and beef steak - also beautifully presented, but forgot the pictures! Needless to say, it all tasted very nice :)

    There are a few things that stand out as slightly annoying about the hotel... though it could be because of the low season.

    1. No towels available at pools, had to ask the pool attendant every day for a towel. Shouldn't be too hard to have clean towels available at all times at the pool? Instead, we had to wait for towels..

    2. Too few available seats on the hotel shuttle.

    3. Breakfast not quite Hilton standard, but the readily available jamón ibérico easily outweighed that... :) Should be noted that we didn't miss anything.

    4. No wine, champagne or longdrink glasses in the room. Quickly rectified by a call to room service, who promptly turned up with what we requested. Our Bollinger Special Cuvée cooled down fast :)

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  10. nime01
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    After a few more days of total relaxation, it was time to go back home. Check-out was as painless as check-in, quick and easy, and we were soon on our way to the airport. However, we had a couple of hours to kill before departure, and we decided to stop by Carrefour. They sell jamón too, although the more ordinary hams - not the pricier bellota. The selection is still impressive for an ordinary grocery store :)

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    In the terminal building at SVQ

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    Brussels Airlines A319 (OO-SSD) waiting to fly us to Brussels.

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    Soon after takeoff from SVQ

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    The flight to Brussels was smooth and comfortable, and we touched down in Brussels on time. We had an hour wait before departure of our connecting flight to OSL, so we went through the tax free shopping hunting for some good deals :) We ended up buying a 1L bottle of Ron Zacapa Centenario Rum Sistema Solera 23 for €25.50 - which is a bargain, plus a new bottle of Bollinger, before boarding Brussels Airlines' Avro RJ-100 (OO-DWD) bound for OSL.

    Just before touchdown at OSL

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    Remote bus gate.

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  11. nime01
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    And with that, I conclude this trip report :)

    I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and maybe inspired you to take a trip to Sevilla. There's a whole lot more to see, and we are certainly going back to Andalusia. Though the hotel was great, we are not sure we will stay at the Hacienda la Boticaria again - mainly due to the location. We'll most likely just rent a car after spending some time exploring downtown Sevilla (didn't have enough time there!), drive around, stay in small hotels as we go, as there are plenty of choices all over.

    If you are going to the countryside, be prepared that not many people speak or understand English, so it probably pays to know at least some Spanish. I don't know much myself, but with some hand gestures and a smile, you'll get along quite nicely with the friendly people of Andalusia :)
     
  12. nime01
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    Did I post too many pictures in this report?

    Anyway, I forgot to mention that the MilePoint tags of course were used :)

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  13. calvinoeh
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    Thanks for sharing! Love the pics!
     
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  14. JayBrian
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    Beautiful, thank you for sharing.

    :)
     
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  15. Pat89339
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    Beautiful photographs! Not too many photos in my opinion and your photography is excellent. I've added this to my list of places I want to see because of your trip report! Thank you for sharing it with us.
     
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  16. milchap
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    I am heading to Sevilla next year. Thanks for the preview.
     
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  17. edog22
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    Great report, my mouth is watering thinking of all that lovely jamon... btw, how much did it cost to visit the cathedral in Seville?
     
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  18. nime01
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    I can confirm that the 5J bellota is out of this world.
    It cost €8 per person to visit the cathedral, but you can spend all day there if you like.
     
  19. nime01
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    Thanks :D
    I'm glad you liked my tripreport so much that you want to go there.
     
  20. kiwi
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    Great trip - brought back wonderful memories of Sevilla. Thank you.
     
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  21. JDiver
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    ¡Mil gracias! for sharing. Jamón Ibérico (patanegra) de bellota - world's best ham, without a doubt.
     
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  22. Quasiconvexity
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    Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.
     
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  23. ssedha

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    Excellent trip report and great pictures... Thanks a bunch for sharing this report :)
    Cheers
     
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