BARCELONA to ANDALUSIA
HOLA TURISTA (1)
No regrets having tacked on a trip to Spain on to my job in Milan. Thought I would give a quick run down on recommendations on places where we stayed and ate! (Donâ€™t worry I was travelling with non-vegetarian Thais who are fanatic about food, so itâ€™s pretty across the board!). Remember, the sun rises late in Spain â€“ lunch tends to be around 1-2, and dinner doesnâ€™t really get into full swing til around 10:00 pm.
Barcelona: Stayed at the hotel Banys Oriental, right smack in the middle of the old town on Argenteria street. Fun little hotel, around 100 euros depending on the season. The rooms are cute but a little cramped, WIFI everywhere. What is cool is walking out the door and being in the middle of El Born minutes walking to the Barri Gotic area etc: Pl St Jaume, the Cathedral, Ramblas avenue, and all. Wouldnâ€™t recommend the food though â€“ despite the restaurant dÃ©cor being very cool, the eating was poor.
But plenty of great cafes and tapas restos nearby. Particularly recommend Cheese Me on Argenteria for a meal. If you want to have the ultimate hot chocolate experience, dark, thick, just under bitter and a bit sweet, head up past the Pl St Jaume on Calle Ferran, and try to find Calle Banys-Nous (not so easy, tiny street). Number four (no sign other than â€œGranja:â€) unpredictable opening hours, very funky but you will never forget this hot chocolate. And for something quite different for lunch, head down Las Ramblas to the Boqueria market. Plunge in (you can buy anything here), veer right and find this mad little eatery smack in the middle of the market. Most likely standing room only.
All fresh produce,
naturally. And hustle bustle fun.
Sevilla: stayed in a modern â€œHi Tech Hotelesâ€ place, stylish in a modern way but kinda forgettable (most forgettable was a bathroom in room enclosed only with green translucent glass and a swing door). But had some great meals in this town: Belmonte near the cathedral, fast and furious great food (lots of smiles from my Thai companions), and almost next door Tomate was great as well. Also Modesto was good too.
Ronda: Fantastic little hotel called San Gabriel in a white washed lane called Marques de Moctezuma. There are signed portraits of all kinds of stars (lots of black whites like the one of Orson Welles) on the walls, seems everyone had a great time. They even have a little screening room complete with red movie theatre chairs and a red curtain over the screen. Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and others look at you from the walls. This really is a very personal hotel, being the home of Jose M.A. Martin – a very charming gentleman who I had a very genteel conversation with one morning in the library.
We had a couple of good meals in Ronda, most memorable was a hopping little place called Venentia near the bullring. A brash, speedy waiter who was not only fun but got all the orders right at a hundred miles an hour and the food was great. The Thai contingent, Parisa and Monica, finally got the Paella of Paellas they were looking for here, so big they couldnâ€™t finish it. The waiter even shouted us an after-dinner liqueur – donâ€™t ask me what it was but you could have fueled a space shuttle with the stuff.
Granada: Casa Morisca is where we are staying, very cool little semi Moorish style place under the Alhambra. Had a great dinner last night at La Fuente, the Tapas place to go to on Paseo de los Tristos below the Alhambra â€“ stuffed olives. Marinated artichokes and on and on. Owner Tony is a character, loads of signed images of him with Spanish luminaries (yes including Nadal) on the wall.
Tonight we wandered up to the Plaza St Nicolas to get a view of the Alhambra with the snow capped Sierra Nevada in the background. As cold front came rolling in, dramatic black clouds covered part of the sky. Sure enough it soon started to drizzle so we quick-stepped down Camino Nuevo S. Nicolas and stumbled on a real find: a tiny unassuming facade with the name Manchachica Restaurante concealed a fantastic little family restaurant with genuine home cooked Moroccan food and a wonderful trilingual owner. between French, his broken English, my fake Spanish, and the remnants of whatever Arabic I ever learnt we had a great old time. The Harira soup was rich, the humous perfect, the aubergine and tomato salad delicious, and the paprika salad was the best I ever tasted. While I washed it down with piping hot sweet peppermint tea, Monica got stuck into a what she described as a very tender chicken kebab. Owner Najib Louragli is still very Moroccan (his wife, cooking away in the kitchen, didn’t want to be photographed – he said) after more than 26 years in Spain and get’s special supplies brought up by family and friends from Morocco. Take note: they close early for Spain: 10pm – so its almost normal (non-spanish) times. Open from noon.
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