Ask anyone in Granada where the best place to buy ceramics is, and they’ll invariably say Fajalauza, a large factory high up on the main road behind the Albaycin. This is the source of those ubiquitous green and blue bowls, plates and platters that you’ll find all round the region, including dozens of designs featuring that bulbous granada, aka pomegranate, symbol of the city.
It has been a while since I wrote a blog post but there’s always an excuse, this time researching and writing a new food and travel book. It will be at least another year before it hits the shelves, so meanwhile here’s a taste of the first chapter: Almeria
I knew this corner of Spain decades ago, but there has been a hiatus. When I returned this November I found a buoyant city, fast-moving on the gastro front, within easy reach of the stunning natural park of Cabo de Gata, visible on the horizon below. The previously run-down city is blooming, and barely touched by tourism – for the moment.
Everyone knows about San Sebastian, its gourmet pintxos and its galaxy of Michelin starred restaurants. It’s been written about umpteen times, including on this blog here and here. Between gastro-indulgences, visitors might also spot the Kursaal (1999) – below, a masterpiece designed by Rafael Moneo, and the stylistic opposite to its famed contemporary, Bilbao’s fabulous Guggenheim, an hour or so away.
Equally, any foodie worth his or her salt knows all about the crustacean and mollusc temptations of Galicia and, not least, Santiago de Compostela‘s spectacular Romanesque cathedral, the target of the so-called Way of St James.
May is the big kick-off month in Cordoba when the city comes alive between its post-Easter slumber and the furnace-like temperatures of the summer. So, once again, I steered a car towards this beguiling urban labyrinth from my rustic hideaway in the Subbética. Patios were on the agenda, but what I didn’t expect was to stumble across the famous Rocio.
I love Cordoba, never tire of its sublime 8th-10th century Mezquita (mosque), its Roman walls (above), nooks and crannies, palm-studded squares, silent churches and noisy tapas bars. Luckily the latter constantly reinvent themselves; even changing the ingredients and/or presentation of homegrown salmorejo…Here’s one of the best versions, at Garum 2.1, with a glass of chilled, local Montilla. Read my post about the city’s tapas bars here – all tips are still valid.
Having just emerged from a mega gastro-binge courtesy of Madrid Fusion, Spain’s annual convention of all things foodie and drinkie, I decided a few thoughts about chefs and their chosen paths were called for. The get-together is a rare opportunity to see multiple Michelin stars all a-glitter in one place, packed into a three day program, talking about discoveries, passions, science – plus a bit about cooking. The majority of them took the convention theme “post avant-garde” and ran with it – in all directions. And that is what made me question the role of super-chefs today.
As usual the new year has brought a slew of opinions across the travel press about where to head in 2016. In extreme-remote terms the Financial Times suggests Greenland and Kyrgyzstan (implying that its supremely well-heeled readers are hell bent on wilderness and cool temps) here while the New York Times seems only just to have discovered Morocco’s Atlantic Coast, albeit NOT Agadir.
Ahem, a confession – I first explored this coast soon after Jimi Hendrix’ sojourn in Essaouira (above) back in the 1970s— but I’ll give the feature its due, it does cover lesser known seaside towns like El Jadida and Oualidia (surfing and oysters) – both up and coming.
Despite being flung out in the plains of Extremadura in far western Spain, Caceres is clearly on the up, boosted this year by its status as Spain’s gastronomic capital. On various stays over the last 15 years I always found the old quarter a bit of a museum, completely dead at night and full of tourists by day. Yet times have changed and this stay, holed up in a palatial hotel on the lovely Plaza San Juan, I was sucked into a buzzing nightlife – spearheaded by the city’s burgeoning taperias (the local word for tapas bars).
Decidedly Spanish jamon is on a roll, putting the nose of Italy’s Parma ham seriously out of joint. Only a few years ago, most foreigners’ idea of Spain’s ham was tough and ropey, derived from the product churned out by huge ham factories on the east of the peninsula. These specialise in industrially produced ham from the white pig, an iniquitous import.
It’s not always bad, in fact some jamon serrano can be delicious, notably those from Teruel and Trévelez, but it doesn’t quite manage that sweet, velvety, melt-in-the-mouth factor.
It’s a pretty surreal sight: a ‘knitted’ town square smack in the middle of a traditional Andalucian pueblo blanco: Iznajar. Even more so as the village dates back to the 8th century, making it one of the earliest Arab settlements of the region, originally named Hins Ashar. Today life proceeds gently in a sea of dense olive groves. Better still, from its strategic hilltop site the restored Moorish castle now surveys a vast, rather dreamy lake or rather embalse (reservoir), created in the 1960s – but you wouldn’t guess. It even boasts an artificial beach and a rather smart hotel (below).
Every few years Malaga manages to make a big media splash. Suddenly it’s hit the headlines again – this time with the pop-up Centre Pompidou Malaga, the first time this dynamic Parisian art centre has branched out beyond its native border. So it’s a real coup for the Andalucian city and, en plus, slots in perfectly with the recently upgraded port area (see my post here); at least the designer shops and cafés eyeing gullible cruise-ship passengers are now backed by serious cultural input.