Springtime in Seville – Part 2.

Click here for part 1 which describes the history of Seville and how it became the tobacco capital of the world.

carmen_posterFor me visiting the Real Fábrica de Tabacos (Royal Tobacco Factory) was a highlight of my journey to Seville. Today a part of the renowned Seville University is located there. Unfortunately the interior has been renovated and “no smoking” signs are everywhere. But until 1959 this magnificent building was Spain’s, no, Europe’s powerhouse for the manufacturing of tobacco. It is also the inspiration and setting for Seville’s most renowned fictional heroine, the free-spirited gypsy girl who embodies the Spanish ideal of the sensual femme fatale: Carmen.

Front of the Real Fábrica de Tabacos

The Real Fábrica de Tabacos was built between 1728 and 1770 and was designed and supervised by several military engineers from the North of Spain and The Netherlands. The works were abandoned for a long period (1735 – 1750) due to financial troubles (the initial budget was clearly not enough) and because the engineers and architects in charge were not fully committed. Its huge size (rectangular area of 27,195 square meter or 292,725 square feet) is just smaller than the mighty El Escorial located near Madrid. With a mixture of architectonic styles the building is divided into 2 areas. One devoted to the tobacco process and a smaller one that included the entrance, offices, depots and apartments for the superintendent and the director.

Painted tiles on the outside wall

Painted tiles on the outside wall

The factory was officially inaugurated in 1757 even though the building was not yet completed. Unfortunately, the factory was already out of date by then. It had been designed for the making of snuff, but during those 30 years the export demand for cigars increased and demand was equally high in the domestic market. The shift away from snuff production made a bigger labour force necessary. Cigars could not be ground out by the hundredweight but had to be assembled and rolled individually.

Las cigarreras


Before 1800 all the Fábrica’s workers had been men because making snuff was heavy work. But these proved to be too clumsy and slow for cigar-making. In 1813 the Fábrica came with a solution by employing single women, whose fingers were nimbler and who would accept a lower wage than men with families to support. The Fábrica recruited its new workforce from the young women of the Triana district. Seville is a hellish furnace in summer and the Triana girls, many of whom were gypsies, were reduced by the heat to working in their underwear. Even hotter became the well-bred European men who visited the factory in search of sexual thrills: This immense harem of four thousand eight hundred women is as free in speech as in words. They showed no reserve in profiting by the tolerance which permits them undress as much as they like in the insupportable atmosphere they live in from June to September. Almost all worked stark naked to the waist with a simple linen petticoat unfastened round it and sometimes turned up as far as the middle of the thighs. And they presented an extraordinary mixture. There was everything in this naked crowd, virgins excepted, probably.

Las cigarreras


The so called “cigarreras” prepared and rolled the tobacco leaf into cigars, chopped, rolled and ground it for pipe tobacco or snuff and made cigarettes rolled in paper. Cigarettes were initially considered a humble by-product, improvised by the factory girls to enable them to smoke discarded scraps from cigar production. The leaves were dried in special ovens that demanded a constant temperature and humidity apparently was secured by a system of subterranean waterways. The workforce was organized in a sophisticated hierarchy. Ranging from apprentices who started work at the early age of 13, peeling the stalks from the leaves, until (under the watchful eye of a veteran) they perfected the art of “making the baby”, rolling a cigar with the delicacy and precision of a midwife wrapping a new-born child. The aristocrat of this noble profession was the purera or maker of puros (cigars), who received top wages. But by far the majority of the women workers were employed in the humbler, poorer-paid, tasks of making cigarettes and pipe tobacco.



The right to bring babies into the factory was one of the important early victories of the cigarreras labour struggles. These feisty women were pioneers of European trade union rights. The factory even provided high-sided, wooden cradles that the mothers could rock with their foot without having to interrupt their work. Other victories achieved were the 8-hour workday, retirement pensions, working clothes and the custom of respecting the preferences of workers nearing retirement. The only inflexible rule was the absolute prohibition on stealing tobacco. This prompted the much remarked-upon personal searches that each cigarrera had to undergo. However, some were creative and hid the tobacco in a place his Catholic Majesty would have never dreamed of.

Altadis factory

Altadis factory

But by 1918, it was all over. The United States seized control of the world’s tobacco trade and both the economic reality and mythic reputation of Seville’s tobacco factory entered into decline. New machines improved the process and the cigarreras were replaced. In 1950 it was decided to move the tobacco operations to the Los Remedios neighbourhood and to use the historic building as the headquarters of the University of Seville. The replacement factory built in the 1950’s remained part of Spain’s national tobacco monopoly Tabacalera until that was merged into Altadis in 1999. In 2004, Altadis announced plans to shut the plant in 2007, bringing to an end Seville’s long tradition of making tobacco products. The last day of operation of the factory was 31 December 2007.

Andalucía Pipa ClubIn Spain tobacco is sold in shops called “expendeduría de tabaco y timbre” or “estanco”. You can find them anywhere, small and big, and are recognizable by a big banner with “Tabacos” on it. Compared to many European countries tobacco here is still cheap. Still, yes, because prices are rising rapidly because of the taxes. Despite that you pay for example for a tin of Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader €8, in Germany the current price is €12,85. But the assortment of pipe-tobacco differs greatly from estanco to estanco. So I decided to get some local help. After a bit of Googling I stumbled upon the Andalucía Pipa Club and mailed them about my upcoming journey to Seville and if they knew some good tobacconists in the city. I got a reply from the very friendly and helpful Alfonso who lives in Seville and immediately provided me with lots of information.

Tabacos at the Calle O'Donnell

Estanco at the Calle O’Donnell

The best places to buy pipe-tobacco in Seville are:
– The estanco at the Calle O’Donnell 30B. Google Maps is not accurate, just look for a big sun screen with “Tabacos” on it. This shop has the best assortment of pipe-tobacco in Seville. Basically everything from this list (Scroll to “picadura de pipa”). Just one thing, I had to point out the tins I wanted to the young employee to the amusement of the other customers.. Samuel Gawith? Qué?
– The estanco at the Calle Lineros 11B (Palacio del fumador). More focused at cigars but a lot of pipes and a decent assortment of pipe-tobacco.
– The estanco at Expendeduria 113. Not in the city centre, not so many brands as the first one, but more focused at specialities.
BEWARE: Spanish airport customs are very strict. My bag got searched and they counted the weight from all my tobacco tins, the ones I bought and the ones I brought with me from home. If you live within Europe you may take 1 kilo of tobacco with you and if you come from outside Europe even less.. Also be sure to keep your receipt if you buy tobacco in Spain. When you can’t show it if the customs officer asks for it all tobacco will be confiscated. Luckily all my tins could come with me.

SG_perfectionI also got some very useful tips where to eat and drink from Alfonso and asked him if there were places where I could smoke inside. He had to laugh: No problems for smoking your pipe because almost every bar/restaurant/café in Seville has a terrace. That’s the way of life in Seville: if we are living in a sunny city… Why we should stay inside a building? Good point.. We kept on mailing and he told me a story that he on a trip to Amsterdam got conned by a Dutch tobacconist. He paid €25 for 1 tin of Samuel Gawith Perfection! I mean, tobacco is expensive here but that amount was outrageous and nowhere near correct.

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition

We also decided that we had to see each other when I was in Seville. So after a couple of text messages Ellen, Alfonso and I arranged to meet at the splendid Puerta del Pérdon near where we were staying. I put a corncob pipe in my mouth so Alfonso could recognize me but that was not necessary. I saw him first, puffing away under the great gate. We met like we were lost brothers, it really felt that way for me. We opted to go to the terrace of a nearby restaurant Alfonso knew. A bit tourist but Alfonso swore to me the drinks and food were excellent. We sat down and I said I had a present for him. I pulled out an aged tin of Samuel Gawith Perfection to compensate for the Dutch con. Alfonso laughed and thanked me, but he also had a surprise for me. The Andalucía Pipa Club had a blend made by Samuel Gawith: a limited, special edition of Squadron Leader containing perique. And precisely that was what he gave me, wonderful!

Me and Alfonso

Me and Alfonso

Time flies by when you are having fun, we chatted away and were even joined by Alfonso’s charming wife Macarena. They let us try local drinks and foods like shrimps in garlic, Jamón ibérico and deliciously sweet desserts. At the end of the magical evening I wanted to call the funny waiter (he had to serve the terrace alone and was so busy he forgot us several times which resulted in apologies in rapid Spanish and some free drinks) to get the bill but discovered Alfonso and Macarena already paid it. They gently refused my money and just said with big smiles: Welcome to Seville! Once again I thank them both for this unforgettable experience! Gracias!

To round off this blogpost, here are some tips from my own (short) experience about Seville:

View from our terrace

View from our terrace

– Hotels can be pretty expensive, especially near the old city centre. But thanks to AirBnB I found a small but delightful penthouse apartment, literally a stone-throw away from the cathedral, with an excellent price-quality ratio.

View from the Giralda

View from the Giralda

– Visit the large Seville Cathedral where the remains of Christopher Columbus are buried and climb the ancient Giralda tower for a stunning view of the city.

Part of the Alcázar garden

Part of the Alcázar garden

– Visit the Royal Alcázar of Seville which is one of most beautiful palaces in Spain and the oldest one still in use in Europe. A part of season 5 of Game of Thrones was shot there. Also marvel at the heavenly, lush gardens which are a blend of Moorish, Renaissance, and English traditions.

– Visit the Real Fábrica de Tabacos. Duh!!!

– Visit the famous Plaza de España, where movies like Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia were shot.


Torre del Oro

– Stroll along the Guadalquivir River and pay a visit to the old Torre del Oro.

– Visit the neighbourhood of Triana. It played an important role in the history of the city and is a folk, monumental and cultural center. If you want to see flamenco, go here.

– Wander through and get lost in the small streets of Santa Cruz where around every corner is a new wonder.



– Make a day-trip with the AVE high-speed train to Córdoba and visit one of the most awesome sights Spain has to offer: The Mezquita, the more than a millennium old mosque-cathedral, crowning glory of Muslim architecture in the West. In its heyday, a pilgrimage to the great Mezquita by a Muslim was said to have equalled a journey to Mecca. When you are done drooling in the mosque-cathedral you can re-fill your body-fluids at the enchanting Salón de Té.


La Hostería del Laurel

– Eat tapas! These little wonders of gastronomy are cheap and oh so yummie! Just order them randomly and find out what you like. Good places (but there are many, many more) are La Hostería del Laurel, one of the locations in Don Juan and Bodega Santa Cruz, better known as Las Columnas. I especially grew very fond of the latter, cheap and basic tapas but very delicious. Especially in combination with a tinto de verano or a local Cruzcampo beer. And a tip from Alfonso: If you find a bar/restaurant with too much tourism and no locals, or they are offering “real Paella”… It’s a trap!

After a long journey home (no thanks to the Dutch railways) Ellen and I came to the conclusion that Seville certainly had not forsaken us. Olé!!!

A part of the 2003 movie Carmen, filmed at the actual Real Fábrica de Tabacos!

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I quit smoking…

Stop-Smoking…cigarettes years ago. To be precise I stopped in January 2006. In my “Humble Beginnings part 2” post I told how I started the addiction. Yes, I really believe smoking cigarettes is an addiction. I tried for years not to give in, told myself that I could quit at any time. But when I almost panicked one evening, when I realised I had very little shag (rolling tobacco) left and the stores were already closed for that day and the next, I knew lady nicotine had me fully in her grasp..

nicotSo what is nicotine exactly? Nicotine is the natural protection of the tobacco plant from being eaten by insects. Yes, insecticides were made from it. It is a very, very strong toxin. It is more lethal than strychnine or rattlesnake venom and three times deadlier than arsenic! Yet amazingly, pure by chance, this natural insecticide’s chemical signature is very similar to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylwhat?? Please look it up on wikipedia as my chemical knowledge is almost non-existent.. But once nicotine is inside the brain it fits a host of chemical “locks”. Thus permitting it direct and indirect control over the flow of more than 200 neuro-chemicals, most importantly dopamine.

dopamine-300x311Ok… And what the hell is dopamine? It is the brain’s primary motivation neurotransmitter (a chemical substance that transmits nerve impulses across a synapse). The dopamine pathways of the brain serve as a built-in teacher. It uses a desire, yearning or wanting sensation to get our attention when it wants to pound home a survival lesson necessary to keep us humans alive and thriving. Ever wondered why it is so hard to go without eating? To actually starve yourself to death or to die of thirst? Why do we seek acceptance from other people, want companionship and desire a mate or sexual relations? Why do we feel anxiety when bored and an “aaahh” sense of relief when we complete a task? Remember that “aaahh” sensation? That was dopamine, the satisfaction of your wanting, craving to succeed. The deep inner primitive brain is hard-wired via dopamine pathways, to keep us drinking liquids, fed, together (there’s safety in numbers), while achieving and reproducing.

FoodBrainHungerSatisfactionBut there our brain does not stop. It makes sure that we don’t forget those activities so that in the future we pay close attention to them. The brain records how “wanting” was satisfied in the most durable, high-definition memory the mind may be capable of generating. It does so by hard-wiring dopamine pathway neuro-transmissions into our brains conscious memory banks.

400415-5227-10This is what nicotine does: Once introduced into the bloodstream, it is small enough to pass through the protective blood/brain barrier. And then once inside the brain it is somehow able to activate and turn on our mind’s dopamine pathway circuitry. Thus hijacking the mind’s priorities teacher. So with continuing chemical use (read: smoking) this results in the person becoming totally yet falsely convinced, that using more nicotine is as important as eating food. Very simplified it comes to this: Hunger for food, hunger for nicotine. Food craves, nicotine craves. “Aaahh” wanting satisfaction while taking bites, “aaahh” wanting satisfaction while re-filling nicotine reserves. Welcome to the addicts world of nicotine..

willpowerheaderAll does not explain why users initially continue using nicotine, prior to a growing pile of dopamine pathway high-definition use memories begging them to use more. Nor does it explain why most regular nicotine users get hooked but not all. Every person is different, it is a question of genetics and of willpower. Because how strong our brains tells us to do something, we can still choose to ignore it. How difficult that may be..

iStock_000015887056XSmall[1]And difficult it was in my case.. Like I said in my “Humble Beginnings part 2” post I grew tired long ago of the nicotine addiction. When I went away from house I checked my pockets for my wallet, shag and lighter. If one of those elements were missing I head back, no matter where I was. If I knew I was going somewhere where smoking was not allowed I tried to smoke as much as possible in advance. If I thought there was even a slight possibility of running out of shag I brought a spare pouch along.  When I had a cold I did not smoke through the worst part but as soon as I got even a tiny bit better I lit up a cigarette. In that time I still lived with my parents who “luckily” allowed indoor smoking despite my father being a hart-patient! I smoked in the living-room, in my hobby-room and sometimes even in my bedroom. Ab-so-lu-tely nuts when I think of it now..

1993-509|1993-509/1|10411689I also did not like the damage I was doing to my body. I practised fitness quite a lot in those days so my physical condition was pretty good. Despite that I gradually developed an annoying smokers-cough. I also sang a lot and when each year of smoking passed by I noticed that my vocal range got worse and my voice got tired sooner. One time when my mother wanted to air my pillow she saw a big brown stain on it. Apparently I was drooling in my sleep and my saliva was polluted with tar..

Lately I watched a video from the History Channel about tobacco. I saw how cigarettes were made, please watch the fragment below:

I was flabbergasted when I saw what exactly was inside a cigarette.. So much junk! And then to think you inhale that smoke deep into your lungs.. I am not saying that smoking pipe is good, smoking is bad, but it is a lot better than smoking cigarettes! Actually I already knew there was garbage in a cigarette. Last year when I visited the DTM factory in Lauenburg, Germany I talked with masterblender Andreas Mund. He smoked rolling tobacco he made himself, he actually gave me a big bag (which I gave away to friends who still smoked cigarettes). “Here”, he said, “much better than cigarettes made elsewhere. There’s real crap in those, this rolling tobacco just exists of pure Virginias, nothing else!” I was curious so I rolled a cigarette and lit it, of course I did not inhale. Yuk, gross!! I only tasted the rolling tobacco paper and barely anything else. I could not imagine I smoked that for years and years. From those still smoking friends I heard the DTM rolling tobacco was a bit harsh but very smokeable.

cutting1A big reason beside the other ones for me to stop smoking cigarettes was my first girlfriend. I always have been a late-bloomer. And she was absolutely disgusted with my habit. “Yuk, it’s just like licking out an ashtray!” she used to shout at me when we kissed. I can’t say I blame her, she was right of course. Just after New Year 2006 I decided to get rid of the addiction. But I felt I needed something more, something that could serve as a threat. As it happened to be my ex also had a nasty habit which I hated, she used to cut herself. So we made a deal, I said to her “If you stop cutting yourself I stop smoking. When one of us has a relapse the other must smoke or cut in front of the other..” A kind of sinister pact but we both agreed. Needless to say I smoked my last cigarette in the car on my way to the office the next morning and never relapsed. I had stopped cold turkey.

smokingThis is not going to help someone who wants to quit smoking, but my first week of stopping was pure hell.. At work I made an announced to my colleagues that I no longer smoked and brought lots of candies with me to “survive” the days. You see, quitting does not make you fat, it is all the stuff you eat afterwards! Also your taste buds are becoming better again so food just tastes better and you eat more of it. Anyway, those first days my mind and body just were on survival mode. Do not smoke.. Do not smoke.. I’ll have a candy.. Aahhh…. Do not smoke.. Do not smoke.. I never had so much trouble to not do something. At the end of the first week I almost relapsed when I cycled past the shop where I always bought shag. Only the thought of my ex cutting herself in front of me held me back. After the first week the worst was over. The nicotine was out of my body and the cravings coming out of my mind were getting lesser. I won the fight…

536275_3503874926667_1448439497_n…Until I lit up my first pipe years later. What a dumb-ass a lot of people will think, he quits and starts again! Yes, but not with cigarettes, with pipe-smoking. With cigarettes you inhale the smoke, so the intake of nicotine is much higher than with pipe-smoking where you let the smoke come in your mouth and no further. Well ok, nicotine is still being absorbed by the oral membranes but its effect is less, it is more controllable. So the big difference is that now I choose when I like to smoke. The cravings are gone. No time? Don’t smoke. In a place where you are not allowed to smoke? Don’t smoke. Just not really feel like smoking? Don’t smoke. As simple as that. When I now smoke I get real pleasure out of it most times. Of course the tobacco can not be so good, I can be (without knowing) at the beginning of a cold etc. etc. Point is, I now smoke because I like to, not because I have to.

cold-turkeyI don’t want to say that you cigarette smokers must stop smoking. Your life, your body, your choice. I only want to say that for me smoking pipe works and that I am glad to be rid of cigarettes. If you decide to stop, stop cold turkey. All those stop-smoking-aids one can get are just an extension of your “suffering”, of your craving for nicotine. You only put money in the pocket of the companies who make those “aids”. And they prefer you not to stop smoking because then they can make money out of you again with your next attempt. Think about it and good luck!

♪ Got a pipe smoking woman ♪

Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) with a pipe

Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) with a pipe

When thinking about what to write I was listening to the well known Santana hit. But in my mind it soon became the title of this post. Actually, I don’t have a pipe smoking woman. My girlfriend Ellen tolerates me puffing away indoors but that’s it. However, I do like women who smoke the noble briar (or meerschaum, or clay, or morta etc. You know what I mean).

So yes, there are women pipe smokers, but they are rare. Hell, people look strange when I walk the streets puffing away. Imagine how they would look when a woman walked in my place. For me it demonstrates an independent mind, thoughtfulness and an excellent “I do what I want and I don’t care” attitude when a woman smokes a pipe. Lots of respect for them. Nowadays we men are sometimes having a difficult time but a pipe smoking woman really has to swim against the tide. But that was not always the case..

Marquise de Pompadour, the favourite mistress of Louis XV, was a passionate smoker and owned more than 300 pipes!!!

Marquise de Pompadour, the favourite mistress of Louis XV, was a passionate smoker and owned more than 300 pipes!!!

Female smoking was very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Respectable, upper class women were commonly seen smoking pipes in public. Many famous paintings exist of noble women in that period puffing away from a clay pipe. The middle classes were also eager to enjoy this new pastime as well.

So Dutch, French and English women all enjoyed the so called “Indian Weed”. Of course in the then fashionable clay pipes which for centuries were the favourite way of enjoying tobacco. Such pipes were usually white, with small bowls and long stems. An elegant pipe for elegant women. Sadly around the 1850’s (when pipe smoking in general became associated with the working class) female smoking began to decline, at least in public. The acceptance of female smokers seemed to vary between regions at this time. Especially in Victorian England with its puritan views female pipe smoking was not done. But it is believed that many women kept their old habits. It is more than likely it was done in secret while they outwardly treated the act as a disgrace..

Woman working and smoking

Woman working and smoking

However, in rural areas such as the Highlands of Scotland and in Ireland women smoked without shame. Women in the Hebrides smoked well into the 1930’s due to the cultural isolation just as Appalachian women in the USA did. They did not know better because they lived in societies without contact with urban centres.

A Butz Choquin Lady Pipe

A Butz Choquin Lady Pipe

In the 1960’s and 1970’s women pipe smoking was promoted as can be seen in this short film. Also pipes were made especially for women, see the picture on the left. But it never took off. Cigarettes and an occasional small cigar became the choice for smoking women. This while I believe the pipe to be a feminine object. The smoothness, the fine curves.. It is probably more feminine and civilized than the mini penis represented by cigarettes or the phallic cigar.

There are (of course) also women pipe makers. From which Anne Julie and Manduela are the most well known. And recently I received some information that German tobacco manufacturer Planta has a female master blender! Talking about tobacco, Samuel Gawith made a flake especially for women: Firedance Flake.

For all the people who would like to see pictures of pipe smoking women I have 2 links to websites:
Pipe Lovin’ Ladies
Pipe Babes

Monique (nickname MilleLuci)

Monique (forum nickname MilleLuci)

On the Dutch pipe smokers forum we have one active pipe smoking woman: Monique. She is a strong, independent and creative woman (a gold and silver-smith). Despite setbacks in her life she keeps on going with a fierce determination. I asked her some questions:

How long do you smoke pipe?
Almost a year and before that I smoked little cigars for years.

How did you began smoking the pipe and did you have pipe smoking examples/inspirations?
I began because of my son Floris (forum nickname Godewinus). He showed me the videoclips (fellow forum-member) Janneman made. I was instantly fascinated, I tried it immediately and got touched by the beautiful briar pieces of art and wonderful tobaccos! Besides that it was delicious and it gave me some kind of peace. Making time to enjoy a nice tobacco. Also because for centuries tobacco is consumed this way. Since then a beautiful world opened up for me. I can even combine it with my passion as a gold and silver-smith.

What are your favourite pipe shapes?
That is a very broad interest. I am being touched by “out of the box” designs. Like those of Roger Wallenstein and Elie. For me it is a feeling of holding the pipe, touching it and seeing it. Of course it also appeals to me if a pipe has nice silver-work. I guess some kind of a ladies blingbling thing hehehe. Because of that I also like Italian pipes like Ser Jacopo. They have the great Leonardo pipe with a double-walled bowl and the Picta series containing wonderful silver-work. The same goes for L’ Anatra.
I also went on my own to the Inter-Tabac fair in Dortmund, Germany, to look at all the pipes, tobaccos and silver-work. Very inspiring! I talked to Poul Winslow and got a tin Winslow 2 from him. I had a great day over there!

What are your favourite tobaccos?
DTM Memories of Tuscany
Peterson Holiday Season 2011 and 2012
Winslow 1 and 2
Winslow Harlekin
W.O. Larsen Classic
W.O. Larsen Golden Dream
W.O. Larsen Indigo

Do you get a lot of comments when smoking in your direct environment or on the streets?
Oh yes! A lot and with lots of disbelief! Many people do not understand that you smoke pipe being a woman. But after a while it gets normal. And besides, I really don’t care. Strange looks, important? Not!
I don’t really smoke on the streets. I smoke in company, at home or on meetings. But still at meetings people look strange to me. The “out of the box” thinkers understand it.

Also I am not a girly-girl. I used to climb in trees and did not play with dolls. I have got more male friends then female friends and I prefer working with men. Women often have a terrible tendency to nag and whine.. So I think that the more “though” woman dares to smoke pipe. The Dutch forum is absolutely really nice and gives me beautiful friendships and lots of inspiration.

So to all the women out there I would like to use the words of Monique: Think out of the box.