Travelblather

The cake and the cockroach

Cockroaches and cakeshop recommendations just don't go together.

I'm in the stunning city of Seville updating my Frommer’s Day by Day guide to the city. As you know, this is the first time I’ve updated a guidebook, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. But something happened yesterday I hadn’t expected.

On one of my Seville walking tours I've included a traditional coffee shop called La Campana. All my walking tours need to include at least one spot to take the weight off your feet and have a drink and a bite. This place is Seville’s oldest coffee and cake shop, full of ornate chiller cabinets filled with beautifully arranged rows of colourful cakes and sugary sweets. It trades on its reputation a bit and is pricey compared to several other places, but the location is picture perfect – on a bustling street corner in the shade. You can sit at your table on the pavement and watch the world go by as waistcoated waiters pour you a coffee or a fresh juice and bring you your yummy cake.

And it’s exactly halfway round my walking tour too. So... a bit touristy, but actually pretty perfect for what I need.

Except, I and my wife (who has been here with me for a couple of days) bought some cakes there yesterday. We brought them back to my apartment. And Karen found a COCKROACH! in her cake. (‘Look on the bright side’ I told her – ‘at least it wasn’t half a cockroach!’)

Picture 015 But joking aside it presents me with serious issues. What should I do?

1) Drop the place completely?
As a rule with a guidebook where space is at an absolute premium, you don’t give a place a bad review. If it’s not good, you just don’t include it – there’s simply not room to write about the bad places.

2) Mention it, but give it a bad review
Despite this, it is Seville’s most famous coffee shop – it will be in every other guidebook to the city. Leaving it out could look like a glaring omission. I absolutely can’t keep it in my walking tour as a recommended refreshment stop if I am not 100% sure it’s good. These stops are supposed to be places I have carefully selected as special. An added problem is that, due to the way the format of the guidebook works, the only place I can easily include a coffee shop in the book is as a walking tour refreshment stop. There are listings chapters for Bars, Restaurants, Shops and Hotels, but this place doesn’t really fit into any of these sections very easily. (Perhaps I could put it in 'Shops'? That might work.)

3) Mention it without discussing the cockroach
Maybe this was just a one-off? After all, they have been making and serving cakes here for literally centuries. Plenty of other satisfied customers - many of them regular locals. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt? Keep it in the walking tour.

4) Mention it but say something opaque
So, they were having an off day maybe – perhaps I mention La Campana but make it clear I’m not mad keen on the place. Say something about ‘lovely location, but the cakes are a bit sweet and overpriced in my opinion’ or similar. But can I keep it in the walking tour if I do this? I’m not at all sure.

5) Give them a chance to resolve the problem
You might well be saying I should tell the manager of the place about the problem and give him an opportunity to resolve it. I probably would do in the UK – but my Spanish is awful and (more important) there is no proof the cockroach came from their cake. I could just be saying this to make life difficult for them. (It’s a big shame we didn’t eat the cake at the shop!) I have plenty of friends here who are Spanish, so I could get them to help me explain the problem. And I might.

So – what would you do? How do you strike a balance between a one-off unfortunate experience and needing a certain type of place to fit a particular kind of guidebook format?

Scroll down to comment #21 to see my update on what happened when I went to confront the manager - cockroach in hand (well in a bag actually)

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