This post is part of our Inside Devour series. We work with some of the most passionate and talented guides in the country—make that the world!—and we’re thrilled to tell you their stories.
After studying in Andalusia, Irishman Jaimie Keating made sure he was on the first possible flight back to Seville—the day after his graduation!
He knew that this incredible city, with its stunning architecture, mouth-wateringly good food and delicious Cruzcampo beer was definitely the city for him. Originally from the Irish countryside, he is now enjoying our warmer climate and currently holds the title for palest person living in Seville (this title may be self-awarded.)
While his first year was spent trying to transfer his love for complex English grammar structures to the children of Spain (with little success, he informs us!) it was discovering Devour Tours that led him to his true passion: sharing the magic of Seville with visitors to the city. Currently, he is not only a guide but also the City Coordinator for Devour Seville. In his spare time he can be found on the city’s streets trying to eat his way through all 3,000 tapas bars and restaurants in the city—and he’s making alarmingly good progress!
However, despite all of this, what we love most about Jaimie is his sparkling smile and boyish Irish charm! The guests who tour with him never want the tour to end, and we understand why! We managed to nab him on his day off to catch up with him and ask him some questions that we have been dying to know his answers to!
Jaimie, thank you for taking the time from eating and drinking your way around Seville to chat with us! So let’s start from the top… what brought you to city, and when?
I spent time studying in Andalusia during my degree and knew that I wanted to come back to explore some more. I loved the atmosphere in Seville more than anywhere else and the vibrancy of the people. I guess the incredible food and wine also majorly helped! So, after my study abroad period, I went home, raced through my final year of university and was on the first possible plane back to Seville—literally the day after graduation!
Wow, the day after graduation! You obviously were love sick for Seville! So tell us this: what do you like most about living in Seville?
Like I said, the people are really what sets Seville apart. From the stall-owner at the market to the random local on the street, everyone has time to speak to you! Especially if they’re talking about Seville. There’s nothing quite like spending 15 minutes telling a local how much you love your hometown and how beautiful your home country is only for them to smile and say, ‘Sounds cute, but I guess it’s no Seville though, right?’ Passion personified! And you’re not even mad at them because you agree!
That’s hilarious! We love that passion—it definitely is contagious! So, how is Spanish life different from Irish then? Aside from the weather that is!
Is it perpetuating stereotypes if I make this about beer? But actually the main difference is we spend so much time in the streets in Spain, chilling out in squares, heading to rooftops and generally enjoying being outside and socializing in any way we can! As you hinted, Ireland doesn’t exactly have the weather for too many outdoor activities so we have to adapt! What I will say though, what I’ve always found interesting is the ways in which Irish and Spanish people are actually very similar. Especially people from Andalusia. Sevillanos are family oriented, open and friendly and love to enjoy life in the same way Irish people do. I think that’s one of the reasons I immediately felt so comfortable when I came here.
Speaking of family, do you miss your mother’s cooking, now that you’ve flown the nest?
YES! And I’m not just saying that because she may be reading this (honestly)! Everyone loves their mum’s home cooking! Thankfully Irish cooking doesn’t tend to have too many Ireland-specific ingredients so I often try to recreate dishes from home whenever I can, especially in winter. Of course my mother still does it better, though!
If she is reading this she’ll surely be very happy to know it! So we’re guessing you plan on sticking around here for more than a while! When did you first realize that you wouldn’t be returning to Ireland?
I think actually my friends realized before I did! I had visitors and I took them through the center showing them the sights and the great food and wine and some of the places we visit on tour where the waiters and everyone know me and they cheered to my new home and I guess it hit me then!
Well, we are sure glad that you’re here to stay, and all of our guests are too! So talking about all of these spots you’ve come to love, what is one can’t-miss foodie stop in city?
The great thing about Seville is the volume of places that are really wonderful, but I think heading to the places the locals go to is something extra special—especially for visitors. Abacería de San Lorenzo (Calle Teodosio, 53) is such a cozy, unique and unabashedly sevillano place with amazing, local tapas! Also, given Holy Week is such a huge celebration in Seville, visiting a Holy Week bar is something you won’t soon forget and Bar La Fresquita (Calle Mateos Gago, 29) is my favorite. Nacho and Pepe, the guys who run the bar, love welcoming people from all over the world to their bar and—don’t worry—their English may not be great but their food is amazing, so just run with it if they choose for you!
Sounds great—will you bring us with you? Then you can choose for us! Okay, quick-fire question time—sherry: dry or sweet?
Being Irish, my main experience with sherry before coming to Spain was the sickly sweet tipple my Grandmother enjoyed at Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sweet sherry, but the first time I tried manzanilla, the driest of all the sherries, was a game changer! It’s something that may take a few sips to get used to but it’s worth it! And, it’s such a huge part of all the major celebrations in Seville, especially the Feria, that it immediately makes you feel like a local—even with this Irish face!
Haha Jaimie, that was not a quick-fire answer! And we love your Irish face! Okay, aside from being an amazing tour guide, how else do you spend your time?
Apart from doing very difficult food and wine research in the bars in the center, I am planning on (finally) doing my first triathlon this year. Training by the river is a good counterbalance to all the tapas and wine!
Wow—very impressive! That is one way to shift the extra Christmas pounds. We will be cheering you on, well done you! Okay, next up, tell us all the city’s best-kept secret.
Those hidden squares in the city. We have incredible, expansive monuments like Plaza de España to enjoy, but there’s nothing like wandering through the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, for example, and stumbling upon a tiny square of blossoming orange trees in spring, or taking a turn off the beaten track and finding an impromptu flamenco performance in a beautiful patio.
You really painted a great picture with that description! It’s easy to understand why you love it here. What is your favorite memory in Seville?
There are thousands, but the ones that stand out are always associated with the Feria de Abril. I’ve always been lucky to have invitations to private casetas and the first time seeing everybody in the whole extended family gathered together in their flamenco dresses and suits, from toddlers to las abuelas, all enjoying each other’s company, dancing, eating, sipping sherry is just a crazy experience. From the colors to the movements to the smells of fried fish—it’s a full sensory experience not easily forgotten! Also, the lighting up of Christmas lights each year—I’m a sucker for Christmas lights!
Okay, we want an invitation this year, deal? Talking about memories, what’s your best one from a tour?
I’ve been working with Devour for over two years now and have done many a tour! But one of my favorite things that ever happened was when a family came along with their young daughter. At the last stop she started to cry and I thought she was just really tired and needed a nap (it was hot, I was kind of feeling the same myself!), but it turns out she was upset because I mentioned that it was the final stop of the day and she didn’t want the tour to end! She wouldn’t stop crying until we took a selfie together and I promised to hold her hand while she chose her ice cream!
Aw that is adorable! We are guessing she wasn’t the first guest you’ve had that didn’t want the tour to end, Jaimie! What about the most embarrassing thing to ever happen on tour?
I spent the entirety of a tour with my shirt on inside out once and it wasn’t until the last stop that one of the guests, who was a bit merry, finally said something. I tried to play it cool and joked that in Ireland it’s bad luck to turn it the right way around and finished off the tour, but the red face let them know I was pretty embarrassed! However, I never forget my Irish charm and awful puns before a tour!
Oh poor Jaimie! Well the Irish charm is a definite winner in our book! If you could give your future guests one piece of advice about the city before they visit, what would it be?
The best experiences you can hope for in Seville will happen if you step out of your comfort zone! Risk getting a bit lost and explore windy streets because there may be an incredible plaza awaiting you. Step into local bars and give it a go because it’s where the best food is. There’s so much more to see beyond the major monuments and the streets around them!
Also, don’t mess with sevillano summers—they are no joke!
Agreed! That’s a good tip—they are quite intense. And what about one thing they can’t leave the city without doing?
Seeing flamenco! It’s kind of a common/easy answer but it honestly is so breathtaking when you see it done right! The authentic shows at places like Casa del Flamenco are amazing, and you can get a super unique experience if you head to a peña flamenca or a flamenco bar like Casa Anselma in Triana (Calle Pagés del Corro, 49). No matter where you see it, just make sure and see it because you will not easily forget it! Even better, come see it on tour with me and you’ll appreciate it even more!
Okay almost done, although we could chat with you all day! What’s left on your bucket list of things you have yet to do in Seville?
Cut a not-horrible slice of ham! I’ve had a few tries at slicing ham but all the pieces I slice have ended up too thick so you’re just chewing for days! I WILL get there though!
That is so funny… a ‘not horrible’ slice! Well Jaimie, it has been an absolute pleasure to speak with you. Thank you for all of these amazing tips and for sharing your funny stories. You are definitely our favorite Irish person in Seville! And on that note, we have come to our final question! What is your top tip for travelers visiting Spain or Seville? One sentence!
NEVER sit down to eat at a spot with pictures on the menu, menus available in numerous languages or someone at the door inviting you in—tourist trap!
We could not agree with him more! If you love Jaime as much as we do then we are sure you will love our other Devour Seville guides just as much! We’ve got historians, sommeliers and art experts on the team, and each guide is a gifted storyteller. Join a food tour and meet them yourselves!
Whether you love local neighborhoods or bustling tapas bars, we have tours for every taste! We hope to see you soon. Make sure to check back in again with us next month for the next in our series of Get To Know Your Guides! In the meantime, check out some of Jaimie’s top tips for tapas bars in Seville!
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Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.