No matter how many times you see the Mezquita in Córdoba it will always – ALWAYS – take your breath away. Obviously this little square pic doesn’t do it justice, but really no photo will ever do so. It’s been a few years since I’ve been inside (last time I think was with Craig & Susan?) and I loved it all over again.
A new experience for me was a morning visit to the Mahidat al-Zahra, which has only been open to the public since 2009. It is the site of a city built outside Córdoba around 950 BC for the Moorish king (Caliph), which only lasted about 80 years. The only down side to the visit was that we weren’t told until we arrived at the site by bus that the Salón of Abd-ar-Rahman III (ie The Main Attraction) was closed for repairs. Still, it was a nice walk around on a beautiful blue morning.
It was a fabulous birthday getaway and felt so much longer than just an overnight trip. We arrived in Ronda around 11.30 on Wednesday and took a scenic route to our hotel.
La Colegiata de Ronda (actually holiday apartments) was recommended by Mannie from Toma & Coe and it was perfect. The only “problem” was that we were barely there other than to sleep, so we didn’t get to take advantage of the rooftop terrace or the kitchen. But it was very spacious and comfortable and the owner, Gracia, was super helpful and friendly.
Of course there were tapas! We managed to fit in three delicious meals while we were there (plus one breakfast) but, according to my Fitbit, the amount we walked (much of it uphill) helped cancel out the extra calories. We enjoyed the trendy tapas at Tragatá, but traditional food won out. La Niña de Adela was as fabulous as I remembered it, though it has changed a bit since my previous visit in 2014. Our final lunch was next door at Mesón El Sacristán (run by Gracia’s brother Antonio) and it was wonderful.
Aside from visiting museums and walking up and down the gorge, our most unusual experience came about just by chance. Since I signed up for the Fitur Tourism Fair a couple of weeks ago I’ve been receiving emails from different tour operators, inviting me to visit them at their booth. So when another Fitur email popped up on my phone while we were on the bus I was about to ignore it … but the word Ronda caught my eye. It was from a place called Reserva Tauro just outside Ronda and, like the other emails, it suggested meeting up at Fitur. So I wrote back right away, saying I was actually on the bus to Ronda and plans were made for us to visit on Thursday morning.
Reserva Tauro is a breeding farm for fighting bulls and purebred Andalusian and Arabian horses located in the Sierra de las Nieves (a UNESCO site). It is run by Rafael Tejada, who is a bullfighter as well as a breeder. The visit was wonderful, quite exceeding my expectations. We were taken around the farm, sometimes on foot, sometimes on a little “tourist train”, and our guide kept us both entertained and informed. We got to see the young foals (so cute, all legs!), the mother cows and their young, and the bravo bulls. I even got to see Ibérico pigs close up. Later we were treated to a short riding performance, and Rafael showed us how to use the different fighting capes (which are much heavier than they look). Afterwards we were brought back to the testing ring and sat outside on the adjacent terrace, where we were given wine and snacks before being taken back to town. Honestly, if you are planning a trip to Ronda you MUST do this.
We also went to the bullring in town (Spain’s oldest), the Baños Árabes and the curious Museo Lara, which is about a dozen museums in one. And of course we made sure we were on the terrace of the Parador Hotel overlooking the gorge at sunset to enjoy a drink and the changing light. It was a perfect getaway. Next up… Córdoba!
I’m here! Arrived in Málaga at midday, caught a taxi to Thane’s place and, after dropping off my bags, headed over to the central market for a light seafood lunch (by this time it was 3 pm!). Then I did a bit of supermarket shopping (water, coffee, juice, paper products, stuff like that) and went back to the apartment to properly unpack and set up the laptop.
This trip I brought Sterling instead of Anchoa because I have a lot of work to do this week and all my photos, files, etc are on the bigger laptop. One of the perks of travelling by train is not having to worry about baggage weight, because my suitcase weighed a TON.
After that I just did a bit of wandering before heading back home for an early night. Today was all about just settling in. Tomorrow I’ll start with the usual Málaga friend frenzy…
Santiago de Compostela is very photogenic, as you can see. You can either click on the collage above to see a bigger version of it, or see the single images below. So many nice memories…
Lugo was our destination on my final full day in Galicia, a day trip suggested by Anna and Jorge @thekilomeaters after vetoing my request to go down to Rías Baixas country (home of albariño wines). I was told that this was the worst time of year to visit that area as it is virtually swamped with tourists and I would not get a genuine experience of the place. And well, when given expert advice it is always wise to take it, so off we went to Lugo.
Probably the most distinctive thing about this provincial capital is that the old centre is surrounded by over two kilometres of Roman wall. You can also walk along the top of this wall (which we did) getting some excellent views of the city. Later we walked to the Plaza Mayor and visited the Cathedral. Then it was suddenly Beer O’clock and off we went to quench our thirst and try some complimentary tapas.
complimentary tapas in Lugo
We started off at a very traditional bar Las Cinco Vigas where not only could we choose a complimentary tapa, they also kept passing around a tray of pinchos… you could effectively fill up on these but we had to move on. Next stop was Mesón de Antonio, a classic restaurant. I’m not sure what is normally given out here with your drinks as, thanks to being with Anna & Jorge, we were given the VIP treatment and an array of tasty dishes arrived at our table for us to sample, along with a complimentary bottle of godello wine.
Mesón de Alberto
We made a couple more tapa stops after this, and along the way met local resident León the cat, who was out for a walk with his flatmate. She had the huge beast out on a harness and leash, which had got tangled up in his front legs, so we stopped to help her de-tangle the gentle giant.
León and flatmate
It was a lovely day out, soaking up sun and culture and sampling some delicious food and wine. And plans were made for a return Galicia Getaway next May, optimum time for a visit to Rías Baixas. Can’t wait!
I fell in love – nay, became slightly obsessed – with the Galician “galerías”, beautiful window-encased balconies at the front of houses, meant to trap the sun (and heat) during winter months. And as luck would have it, I ended up having my very own galería for my last two nights in Santiago.
I had booked an AirBnB apartment for my stay back in June, which I knew was small, but as I wasn’t planning to actually be in the apartment a lot, I thought it would be fine as long as it had good WIFI. Which it did. But after moving in I discovered there were a few problems with the place, the worst of which were that it was not very clean (ick) and that the cheap single bed frame SQUEAKED with every movement, all night long. But hey, it was high season, and there was no way I’d find a last minute option that wouldn’t be double the price, so I decided to stay put and make the best of it.
Then one night I discovered a pool of water around the base of the toilet… wtf? It was leaking every time I flushed it (ewww). A message to the owner had her and the plumber around the next afternoon while I was out… after which they insisted there was nothing wrong, that I must have left the shower door open. WTF?? A second message to the owner had the plumber come back in the evening – and for some reason I was told I had to be there to let him in (really? I was a paying guest on holiday) but I did so and ended up having to deal with a crazy idiot who clearly knew nothing about plumbing and seemed to think it was okay to yell at me. I shall spare you the ugly details about this encounter, but suffice it to say shortly after he left the apartment owner got in touch saying she wanted to cancel out contract. Which meant I would either be out in the street the next day, or else paying through the nose for a hotel for the rest of my stay.
So I went out for a walk. Happily I was in good spirits from having enjoyed one of the best meals of my entire Galician Getaway that afternoon (more on that later) and while I was in one of the bars I’d gone to with Anna and Jorge on our Complimentary Tapas Tour I started seriously looking at my options. Eventually I found a small family run hotel that seemed to have a room free. First I checked with A & J who recommended it for what it was – hey, with a one-star hotel I wasn’t expecting the Ritz, just wanted to know if I should book. But instead of booking online I gave them a call and talked to a lovely woman who sounded like somebody’s grandmother. She informed me that there was a single room available and when I asked her if I could please have a double bed there was a pause, and then she said they could give me a nice double room for one person on the second floor, with windows overlooking the street. Well, I was in! Especially as it was 10.30 pm and I had to be out of my dread AirBnB by 11 am the following morning. So I booked the room, informed Anna & Jorge of my plans, and went home to pack.
Yes, the hotel was double what I was paying for the AirBnB, and the room was a bit “cosy”, but it had great WiFi, a nice firm comfy double bed and … MY OWN GALERÍA!!! Also, some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet running the place. From the receptionists to the cleaning woman, I felt so welcome and cannot say there were any complaints at all. I also have to say that AirBnB also came through and offered me compensation for my hellish experience, which pretty much covered the extra cost of the hotel, so I was happy. All’s well that ends well. Especially because I got to spend my final two nights in Santiago de Compostela in one of the best areas of town (in my opinion) AND WITH MY OWN GALERÍA. Happy.
Hotel Fonte de San Roque
Santiago de Compostela
My first day trip with Anna and Jorge The KilomEATers was to A Coruña, a lovely coastal town about 45 minutes (by car) north of Santiago de Compostela. We started off by visiting the central market, which is renowned for its fish and seafood. After that we drove over to the second “old centre” by the port, and thus began an amazing culinary adventure.
Our first stop was Taberna Arallo, very recently opened in the Plaza Mayor, and run by the same group in charge of Michelin starred Alborada. To me the décor and general ambiance felt a bit “prefab cool”, complete with the now de rigueur long communal table and open kitchen, and smooth jazz Spotify on the sound system. Luckily we were there at opening time (no reservations taken) and got a spot at the end of the table that felt a bit more “private”.
Here we sampled just three dishes (we were saving ourselves as we knew we had at least two other places to go). The volandeiras in hot & sour sauce were spectacular, and the “nigiri” croquetas topped with salted hake were also very good. But the “flamenking” filled with zorza and potato, while tasty, came with a rather pointless sweet chilli sauce. In general it was a pleasant, if pricey, experience.
Next up was Pulpeira de Melide for their renowned pulpo a feira with potatoes boiled in the same water as the octopus. I thought it was delicious, though Anna and Jorge both insisted they’d had better pulpo there on previous occasions.
Last but not least was a visit to Boca Negra. I’d heard good things about this place and, upon arrival, we were greeted by chef and owner Pablo Pizarro who arranged a special tasting menu for us. The food and service here were excellent – definitely a “must” when you are in Coruña.
- Saam: pancetta with mussel, sriracha, shiitake, tartare sauce
- Cauliflower foam with green curry and mussels
- Dumpling of zambariñas a la Gallega
- Jurel (horse mackerel) in palo cortado
- Bonito tartare with spicy ají sauce
- Secreto Ibérico empanada with curry, spicy housemade ketchup on the side
- Marinated and grilled chicken thighs with peanuts, cilantro, chilli, pineapple
- Dessert: Gin & tonic strawberry ice cream with pink peppercorn
A Coruña struck me as a city of contrasts. Great natural beauty and wonderful turn of the (20th) century architecture at times clashing with patches of modernist wasteland. Though overall it’s an attractive place and well worth visiting. I was grateful to have my two very knowledgeable friends as guides, which definitely helped me get the most of my few hours in town.
I’ve been planning this since June and now it’s just one more sleep until #GaliciaGetaway! It will be my first visit to Santiago de Compostela and I’m really looking forward to it, as well as seeing Anna & Jorge again (on their home turf!). I’ll be arriving in Santiago at midday mañana… looks like it will be quite a bit cooler (and that Thursday might be a good day to stay in). But it will be very different from my recent getaways to London and Madrid. Stay tuned…
My last day in London and I’d made plans with Fiona Becket @food_writer to meet her for a last lunch in town at a restaurant she was reviewing. That was before I realised that my flight was at 5.30 (not 6.30 – Spanish time!) which wouldn’t leave enough time. Then I was chatting with Sam at @FoodieHub who said that Vicky @amsterdamfoodie was also in town and we could squeeze in a “quick bite” at Box Park, just around the corner from Liverpool Street Station, where I had to get the train to the airport. Done.
As you can see, it was more than your usual quick bite (though to be honest, they took more than half of it back to the office). But it was quick. In less than an hour I was back at Liverpool Street Station with ten minutes to spare before my train.
Stansted check-in and security was a hot and tiresome hour and a half, so I was in need of a Cold Beer after that, while I waited to board my plane home.
And before I knew it I was flying over Sevilla, almost home. It was an amazing, if exhausting, 10 days. I’m so thankful for all the friends who came together to meet up with me, and also grateful to Jo & Mark who let me stay at their apartment (otherwise 10 days in London would never have been possible). I’ve got so many nice memories, and even more photos. Next stop… Madrid!