Category Archive for Spain

Seville, Spain top photography spots! Setas de Sevilla architecture, Hotel Dona Maria, 5 Senses food & flamenco.

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Here we go again, into a rough winter… I’m all-the-more thankful that I was able to experience Seville, Spain in November before things started to shut down again.

Located in Andalusia (south of Spain), Seville is a magnificent historic city that bears the Eastern imprint of the Moors. And it turned out to be one of the best places I’ve visited for photography!

In this travel diary, I’ll show you some of Sevilla’s most Instagramable photo spots — including the terrace of Hotel Doña Maria, overlooking the famous Cathedral.

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We’ll also explore the impressive architecture through the ages, including the Setas de Sevilla wooden “parasol” at golden hour.

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The ancient cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada make up Andalucia’s “Golden Triangle.” Southern Spain has a different feel from Barcelona and other regions. This is the birthplace of tapas and flamenco, and you can sense the Arabic influence in the art.

(I’ve previously visited Granada and the Alhambra; this time, I completed the triangle with Seville and Cordoba.)

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I experienced the best of the culture thanks to Sevilla City Centre, which has a “5 Senses” customizable tour package for visitors. Our concierge was wonderful at arranging experiences for us over What’s App — including tapas restaurants, a flamenco show, transfers, and more. (5 Senses also provides bookings at our hotel, Dona Maria.)

Outfit of the Day: Wearing a Strathberry East/West purse, Fantasmagoria Goth top and skirt, and hat from Tenth Street Hats.

hotel dona maria sevilla review lobby seville

I loved staying at boutique Hotel Doña Maria – as soon as you walk into the lobby, you know you’re in for an immersive and luxurious experience. The stately hotel is located in a former 19th century palace, and filled with classic Spanish art.

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And it’s impossible to beat the location of Hotel Dona Maria — right in the historic centre of Sevilla. Step out onto the fourth floor terrace, and you’ve got picture-perfect views of the Cathedral of Seville and La Giralda belltower!

hotel dona maria boutique hotels seville city center

Hotel Dona Maria’s rooms have a charming royal feel, while being updated with today’s amenities. I enjoyed the daily breakfast that included dark grain bread rolls, cheeses, eggs, lattes and fresh OJ.

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Rooftop snaps, featuring my Gothic long sleeve top and pleated skirt from Fantasmagoria, and a sunhat from Tenth Street Hats.

Quite fittingly, my Strathberry East/West bag was handcrafted in Spain, from ethically sourced Spanish full grain leather. See more of their fine handbag designs below:

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Details from the Hotel Doña María terrace, which includes an outdoor pool. Unlike cookie-cutter chain hotels, accommodations like these have unique, artistic touches, and convey the character of the city.

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Anyone can come to the hotel patio bar to take Instagram photos, and enjoy a drink while taking in the stunning cathedral. This tall tower was the minaret of the former Almohad mosque, when Seville had Muslim rulers.

(Photos by Joey Wong.)

fuente farola devil demon gargoyle fountain seville

Exit the doors of Hotel Doña Maria, and you’re right in the action. This is the Fuente Farola fountain, with devilish red gargoyles and a wrought iron lantern. Seville’s most captivating sights are within strolling distance from here.

Catedral de Sevilla mosque church landmark seville

Also steps from the hotel: the Catedral de Sevilla, which was rebuilt in a Gothic style in the 16th century. The cathedral is gigantic (it has the longest nave in Spain), and preserves some of the Islamic architectural features of its previous incarnation as a mosque.

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Wander around, and take photos in from of the many tall arched doors in the Old Quarter. Seville’s Eastern vibe reminded me of Morocco, which was one of my favorite destinations of all time.

orange trees seville history

Seville is lined with orange trees — the color and fragrance add to the “5 senses” experience of being here. The Moors planted naranja amarga trees everywhere because they were considered to bring good fortune. Just don’t try to eat one of these bitter oranges: they’re inedible, and used for perfumes and medicinal oils.

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Almost two years of lockdown has resulted in very long purple hair. It felt unexpectedly freeing to experience a different culture, surrounded by Spanish-speakers and centuries-old architecture, after all this time at home.

 Setas de Sevilla architecture Metropol Parasol wood structure

Seville isn’t only known for its ancient buildings. Behold the avantgarde Setas de Sevilla, also known as the Metropol Parasol. Designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer and unveiled in 2011, Las Setas stands 85 feet tall and is the largest wooden structure in the world.

las setas wood umbrella plaza

The lower level is an open-air public plaza. I saw groups of friends and skateboarders hanging out beneath the giant mushroom-like roof, which is inspired by the shape of ficus trees, and the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville. 

metropol parasol viewing platform golden hour 360 degree views

Ascending to the upper levels is a must. You can get timed entry tickets through the Setas de Sevilla site; I recommend going right before Golden Hour / sunset, to capture glowing portraits like these,

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A ticket gives you access to the outdoor viewing platforms, as well as the Feeling Sevilla immersive short film. The wide-screen footage captures the energy of the city with operatic singing, passionate dancing, and even the scent of orange blossom.

You can see a video clip I shot with permission here. The tall purple hooded cloaks are capirote, a conical hat costume worn by Catholic penitents.

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Metropol Parasol has a 360º viewing platform, with pathways that curve around and give you different scenes of Seville from above.

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The light changes as you meander on the footbridge walkway. Bring a camera up here, and snap away.

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Love the contrast between Setas’ contemporary organic forms, and the ancient spires of the city.

The wooden “parasols” frame the towers of Hermandad del Valle (Museum of the Annunciation Church).

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The sun sets over my Tenth Street Hat. this Strathberry East West crossbody bag, and Fantasmagoria Shop Goth clothing.

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After dark, Las Setas de Seville glistens with an Aurora light show. The colors change and dance over the architecture; see the effect in my Instagram video.

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Seville is an incredible destination for photographers thanks to the brilliant light quality, art and street life.

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No matter where you wander, you’ll come across public courtyard fountains, clusters of orange trees, colored old buildings…

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Many of Sevilla’s churches are free to enter (the larger ones have ticket fees). Pop in to see the dramatic religious altars and chiaroscuro art.

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Sevilla City Centre helped me make the most of my trip with their 5 Senses Package. The bookings are customizable to your interests, and include top accommodations, tours and activities. For instance, “Sevilla con los 5 Sentidos” provides hop-on hop-off bus tickets, and airport or train transfers in a Mercedes car. Since your concierge handles all the logistics, you can settle back and enjoy the experience.

flamenco dancers, Centro Cultural dancing music spanish Casa de la memoria

Seville 5 Senses let me get a taste of traditional flamenco, at Centro Cultural Casa de la Memoria. The lively one-hour show included dance, singing and guitar in an intimate theater. Everything is located near our hotel, Dona Maria, which is also one of their partners.

5 senses seville concierge tour patatas bravas

The sensory immersion continued with tasting menus at highly-rated tapas restaurants, such as Torres y Garcia. Seville is known for its tapas culture, or leisurely meals of small shared plates. Above: patatas bravas with mint aioli and ground chilli, paired with white Albarino Spanish wine.

seville sardines anchovies tapas restaurants

I tried the local spin on gazpacho, called salmorejo, for the first time. The cold and creamy soup is also made from tomatoes, but includes bread and has a thicker texture. Of course, I had my fill of sangria and tinto de verano, and anchovies galore.

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These are a few of my favorite things… Can’t get enough of Spanish sardines and anchovies. (I took home quite a few cans of fish!)

I also had to try Amontillado, a dark sherry wine from this region. The drink was immortalized by Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe in his 1846 story, “The Cask of Amontillado.”

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Thank you to Sevilla City Centre for the bespoke tour experiences. You can book your own 5 Senses journey through their website, or by emailing

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I hope you found my Seville photography location suggestions helpful. For the best lighting conditions, go early in the morning (so there aren’t many tourists around), or aim for golden hour before dusk.

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Back to my home base, Hotel Doña Maria Sevilla — can’t get enough of this view from their terrace. Very glad I stayed with them in this central location.

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This is only the first dispatch from Seville… Much more to come, as well as a day trip to Cordoba. (You can see my previous Granada travels here.)

hotel dona maria terrace patio view of cathedral sevilla

Wishing you the best for Festivus, Sol Invictus or whatever you celebrate — Do what thou wilt!

(More Spanish Strathberry bags like mine below):


Goth Madrid, Spain! Pavilions Hotel review, Lucifer Fallen Angel fountain: Retiro Park Satanic sculpture, Robot Museum.

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It wasn’t until my third trip to Spain that I discovered… I’m mad about Madrid!

Many travellers overlook the Spanish capital in favor of cities like Barcelona and Granada (which is what I did, on my previous two trips). This time, I spent a few days in Madrid — and realized it’s a wicked destination for those who love dark art, parks, culture and architecture (like this Goth girl).

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Read on for my stylish stay at The Pavilions Madrid hotel (wearing a Gothic one-shoulder dress by Fantasmagoria)…

satanic sculpture madrid spain retiro park, Fountain of the Fallen Angel lucifer

… and a visit to a 19th century monument to Satan! (This is the Fallen Angel Fountain at Madrid’s Retiro Park. Inspired by John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” the dramatic sculpture represents the angel Lucifer falling from Heaven, with gargoyles and demons below.)

Robot Museum Jugetronica madrid spain robots collection

I’ll also walk you though my stress-free PCR testing experience at MedMeSafe, and give you a tour of the funky Robot Museum Jugetronica. (Already, I think you can see why I loved Madrid…)

The Pavilions Madrid stylish designer boutique hotel decor

Let’s check in to my chic boutique hotel, The Pavilions Madrid, which has enticing avantgarde interiors. The luxurious hotel has a small number of rooms and friendly staff members, making my stay feel like a private getaway. Pavilions is located in a quiet and stately neighborhood of Madrid (Chamberi / Salamanca), yet it’s within walking distance to fashion boutiques, wine shops and cultural attractions.

The Pavilions Madrid spain hotel room terrace attic bed

The hotel treated me to a top floor Deluxe Attic room, which is filled with Spanish contemporary art and includes a cozy bed, sofa, and modern bathroom.

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The best part… my room had a spacious terrace, with this view of the neighborhood and its classic architecture!

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My “curated journey” at The Pavilions Madrid included lounging in the interior garden. Guests can enjoy cocktails and daily breakfast in this gorgeous green space.

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Can’t get enough of the breakfast nook, which has trailing plants hanging from the ceilings and walls. Every morning, I enjoyed fresh cafe au laits and eggs made to order, along with a selection of local cheeses, fruits, grain breads and more. (Be sure to try the quince paste, and tomato jam.)

pavilions hotel madrid cocktail bar

In the afternoon, I kicked back with colorful drinks by bartender Gemma. Her creations include a salt-rim margarita, gin fizz, and rainbow citrus cocktail. (Keep reading for more of my stay at The Pavilions Madrid at the end of this story…)

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I’m sure you are curious — what was it like to do a PCR test in Spain?

Many foreign visitors — including all Canadians — must now take a PCR or NAAT test in order to travel home (72 hours before you fly, and with a negative result of course).

Booking a PCR test can be complicated in Spain, as many clinics don’t speak English or offer an easy online system. I was relieved to discover MedMeSafe, an English-language platform with dozens of lab locations throughout Spain!

If you need an RT-PCR test in Spain, all you have to do is create a profile at, enter your info, and select a time slot at a clinic near you (mine was centrally located in Madrid). The website is available in English, Spanish and French. You’ll get a voucher by email, which you show when you arrive. A professional performs a quick and non-invasive nasal swab, and it’s over in minutes. I received my results within 24 hours, which included a PDF letter, and I was good to go.

The MedMeSafe site has useful info, such as requirements to travel from Spain to Canada. In addition, the staff speaks English and is wonderful at responding quickly (by email and What’s App). Thank you to the team for the efficient and seamless PCR test experience. (You can find out more and book a test at a Spain lab here.)

satan statue fountain fallen angel madrid Fuente del Ángel Caído

I spent my time in Madrid walking around different neighborhoods. (And walk I did… my iPhone tells me I averaged 20 – 24k steps per day!)

Of course, I made a pilgrimage to the devilish Fuente del Ángel Caído (Fountain of the Fallen Angel), located in Buen Retiro Park. It’s one of only monuments in the world dedicated to the overlord of Hell — hail Satan. The 1877 bronze sculpture shows the beautiful winged Lucifer falling from grace; it’s a masterpiece by Spanish sculptor Ricardo Bellver.

demon fountain satanic monument madrid spain retiro park

The Satanic fountain has an octagonal pedestal, which is decorated with dark demonic figures, lizards and snakes. I think these hell-beings look rather adorable, with water spurting from their fanged mouths.

Monument of the Fallen Angel lucifer devil sculpture madrid

Located by the south central entrance of Madrid’s Retiro Park, the Fountain of the Fallen Angel stands 666 meters above sea level (a tribute to the number of the beast). What a wonderful artistic interpretation of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

 Little Fisherman House retiro park madrid spain pond

I couldn’t get enough of Retiro Park, and spent hours here. Founded in 1505, this garden of Eden belonged to the Spanish monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public space.

Look for the pink Little Fisherman House (Casita del Pescador), built by a pond by King Ferdinand VII. I said hello to the ducks basking in the sun, and resident prowling cats. (The birds paid them no notice; it turns out that the animals are friends).

Parque del Buen Retiro Alfonso XII monument

The former royal retreat spans 350 acres, and includes rose gardens and sculptures throughout. This is the King Alfonso XII monument…

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… which is protected by proud lion statues that overlook the water.

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I watched couples rowing boats on Parque del Buen Retiro’s artificial lake. In the 17th century, the Spanish royals held water shows and mock battles here.

retiro park fountain monument to Santiago Ramón y Cajal

I loved strolling around and admiring the elegant fountains. This “Monument to Santiago Ramón y Cajal” was another favorite. The Art Deco reliefs show the goddess Minerva, and reference both human life and death.

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The brilliant light and water reflections made me feel like I was in a lucid dream. So glad I got to experience Madrid’s Retiro Park in November, for a last taste of fall.

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It’s no secret that I am a fan of offbeat and bizarre museums / attractions — as well as robots. Put the two together, and you’ve got the funky Robot Museum Jugetronica!

Located inside Madrid’s Centro Comercial ABC Serrano shopping complex, the Robot Museum has an enormous collection of automatons from throughout the years. The resident “robotos” include Softbank’s Pepper (a humanoid and programmable bot), and Honda’s Asimo (which can perform the difficult task of climbing stairs).

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I was fascinated by the wide variety of robots from different countries, including advanced automatons by Spain’s Juguetrónica. Of course, Japan is responsible for some of the cutest ones, like Sony’s Aibo the robot dog.

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Aibo was big in Japan in the 2000s, and spawned many canine “breeds” and a fan magazine. The Robot Museum lets you play with a number of models, which is something I’d never had the chance to do before. I had fun petting an Aibo (who responded by wagging his tail), and having him chase a ball.

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The museum gives a run-down of robots in pop culture that have captured our imaginations. These include Lost in Space, C3P0 of Star Wars, Terminator, and Japanese gundam (I saw a giant one in Tokyo).

paro cute japanese seal therapy robot

I was particularly amused by the kawaii robots, which look like penguins, dinosaurs and other cute animals. Here’s Paro the therapeutic white seal, who comforted the elderly in Japanese care homes. (I want one!)

the robot museum play with robots pepper

The robots can dance to the beat of music, respond to your commands, walk towards their master… I wonder, do these androids dream of electric sheep?

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From the earliest incarnations (Medieval mechanical automatons) to today’s AI, robots have long fascinated and frightened humanity. Here are some retro bot toys from the 1970s.

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The 1980s robots were my favorites. They’re clunky with buttons, and programmed through cassettes!

1980 robot cassette weird robots

When it was released in the mid-80s, Tomy’s Omnibot 2000 was ahead of its time (on the left). Today, companies like Juguetrónica keep on blazing forward with artificial intelligence designs. Domo arigato, Mr Roboto, for the tour of the Robot Museum.

Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum Madrid visit tickets review

Madrid is one of Europe’s centers of art and culture. I ducked in to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which is part of the city’s “Golden Triangle of Art” (along with the Prado and the Reina Sofia national galleries).

magritte exhibit art Thyssen-Bornemisza museum madrid

The Thyssen has an outstanding collection of European art throughout the ages. When I visited, they had a special Rene Magritte surrealist retrospective. (I dig his strange visions, and have also been to the Magritte Museum in Brussels, Belgium.)

rene magritte coffins paintings Perspective II, Manet's Balcony

Magritte’s works are head-scratchers. I’m drawn to his more morbid paintings, such as this “family” of wooden coffins. (It’s called “Perspective II, Manet’s Balcony.”)

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Magritte’s surrealism is masterful. These spooky shrouds look like portals into other universes.

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Being able to travel abroad and wander around a new city felt like a dream to me, in these complicated and ever-changing times.

Temple of Debod egyptian ancient temple madrid spain

Madrid has many free outdoor attractions, such as the Temple of Debod. This ancient Egyptian ruins came from Aswan, and were preserved here in 1968. (I have fond memories of visiting Abu Simbel in Aswan, Egypt…)

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No matter where you wander in Madrid, you’ll see beautiful sculptures and architecture — like this Sphinx on top of a gate.

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I couldn’t get enough of the ornate, carved facades. Imagine living in one of these apartments…

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Along the wide shopping boulevard of Gran Via (known as “Spanish Broadway”), I spotted a double-fish fountain. I also encountered many “Maid of Honor” statues throughout Madrid, each uniquely and colorfully decorated. They’re a modern tribute to the ladies of Diego Velázquez’s famous “Las Meninas” painting. 

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Classic art is everywhere in the capital of Spain. I encourage you to walk around, and see what you discover.

caixa forum modern art museum madrid living wall

For avantgarde architecture, check out the CaixaForum Madrid museum and cultural center. The exterior features a stunning Vertical Garden living wall.

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Madrid has a weird side as well. Meet “Julia” by Jaume Plensa, a giant sculpture of a woman’s head by the Fernán Gómez cultural center.

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Back to my designer suite at The Pavilions Madrid (wearing a bat wing one-shoulder Goth dress by Fantasmagoria). This luxurious hotel turned out to be the perfect home base for my long walks around Madrid.

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After two years in North America, being in Europe felt like a breath of fresh air. Gracias to everyone in Spain who welcomed me and made these experiences possible — including MedMeSafe Madrid for the rapid PCR test.

I’ll soon be sharing much more from Seville, Cordoba and Valencia, including Michelin-starred dining. Please check out my @lacarmina Instagram for updates. You can also review my previous blog posts about Barcelona and Granada, Spain here. 

neil edwards director the process church final judgment documentary sympathy devil satanic

And drumroll please… Our latest episode for The Satanic Temple TV is out!

In Ep 3, Dr. John Skutlin and I interview Neil Edwards, filmmaker of the ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ documentary about The Process, Church of the Final Judgment. Neil also filmed and directed the “Liturgy” music video for Satanic Planet (band with Lucien Greaves, Dave Lombardo, Luke Henshaw, Justin Pearson).

We interview Neil about his work, and he presents his devilish collections — including The Process magazines featuring Marianne Faithfull, a 1960s vinyl, a serial killer photo, and more. Enjoy the new Satanic Show + Tell on TSTTV.

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And finally, I was interviewed by Conde Nast Traveler about women and travel spending habits. I talk about how I want to return to Japan and Hong Kong, as soon as it’s possible… See my interview in CN Traveller Magazine.