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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Discover Spain's best Paprika
27 February 2019

Paprika is a fundamental ingredient in traditional Spanish cooking, with a flavour that brings to mind comfort food at its finest.

The aroma, flavour and colour of paprika leaves its unmistakeable signature on each dish as well as some of the most typical charcuterie products in Spanish culture.

Chillies were brought over from the west and with them the varieties associated with paprika. Once harvested, they are fire or sun dried. They are then ground until the final texture is reached and then sold.
The paprika that is protected under the Designation of Origin comes from La Vera or Murcia.

The paprika from La Vera (my favourite) is made from Capsicum annuum chillies of the Capsicum cerasiforme and Capsicum longum varieties, which are used to make three different types of paprika: sweet, sweet and sour, and spicy; a wood-burning fire with oak or holm oak provide all the heat necessary to perfectly dehydrate paprika and give it its characteristic “smokiness” both in aroma and flavour.

 

Paprika from Murcia, on the other hand comes from grinding red Capsicum Annuum longum chillies of the bola variety that have been dried in the sun or with hot air.

 


The best tip for buying this spice is to opt for the products with a Designation of Origin (DO) “Pimentón de la Vera” (La Vera Paprika) or “Pimentón de Murcia” (Murica Paprika) seal. This spice is widely available, but the ones that are not protected under the DOs do not offer the same quality or flavour. These are the logos you should look our for:

 

                 

 

 

Paprika has only 3 kcal per gram. It is rich in Beta-Carotene, which acts as a very effective antibiotic, and it also contains riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3) in smaller quantities. Of its minerals, it is richest in iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. It also contains lycopene, a very effective antioxidant that slows down the ageing process, and capsaicin, which promotes good circulation, stimulating the appetite and aiding in digestion.

 



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Madrid's Botanical Garden
20 February 2019

 

Founded by King Ferdinand IV's royal decree, the Real Jardín Botánico is a two-and-a-half centuries-old wonder, occupying 20-acres of lush terrain in the heart of Spain's capital city.

Housed in its current location since 1781 in a building designed by the same architectural team responsible for the Museo del Prado, the botanical garden was initially populated with over 2,000 specimens retrieved from all over the Iberian peninsula by botanist and surgeon José Quer. After implausibly surviving centuries worth of civil and international wars, the collection has expanded to over 90,000 flowers and plants (not counting its herbarium with a literal million specimens on its own) plus an estimated 1,500 trees.

Originally arranged according to the Linneaus method favored during the period, in which the specimens are categorized in terraces of import, today its expansive grounds have been rearranged in a fashion that makes more sense.

Visitors will find the Real Jardín Botanico has been divided into seven outdoor gardens and five indoor greenhouses. Each of these sections are arranged logically by theme, content, and nature of origin. Highlights include the "Terraza de Cuadros" – featuring a Japanese garden and a series of box-edged plots filled with medicinal, aromatic, and orchard-like plants arranged around a fountain – and a romantic, period-accurate garden arranged to echo an English garden bursting with trees and shrubs. 

 

Perhaps most fascinatingly of all, one of Real Jardín Botánico's greenhouses has the ability to recreate the desert climate, making it one of the very few places where visitors can experience an accurate desert experience without leaving continental Europe.



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The Beautiful Beaches of Plentzia & Gorliz
12 February 2019

 

At the mouth of the estuary is a stunning natural bay, in which the beaches of Gorliz and Plentzia are to be found. The large sandy beach and safe bathing make Gorliz beach extremely popular with families. 842 metres long, the beach is right by the town centre of Gorliz. Nearby are recreational areas, a large car park beside the beach and green areas with tables, benches, barbecues and a children's play area. Really a fantastic destination.

The beach at Plentzia, slightly further along the bay, has a promenade running beside its fine, golden sand. Its calm waters makes it ideal for families with children and anybody looking for water sports like windsurfing, surfing or kayaking. Its waters offer one of the best alternatives in adverse conditions or when the sea further out is rough, as one can continue up the estuary to calmer waters.

 

Gorliz is located on the coast of the historical territory of Bizkaia, in the Uribe-Costa region. This municipality has a great touristic tradition and its beaches attracts many people int he summer.

Gorliz offers different cultural treasures. The Elexalde neighbourhood is in the town centre, where the Iturritxu and Axeo palaces, dating back to the 19th century, are situated. Likewise, the magnificent church of the Inmaculada Concepción de Santa María and the Town Hall itself, next to the church, are outstanding constructions which are well worth visiting.

One of the most emblematic and characteristic buildings is located on the promenade: The Gorliz hospital, quite impressive with unbeatable views. Another great example of heritage and coastal character is the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves or Andra Mari. Located in a privileged area in the Andramari neighbourhood, this temple from the 11th century offers the opportunity to visit the bay of Gorliz and the estuary of the ria Butrón. 

 

 

Nature lovers can make ecological trips through the different routes prepared in the surroundings of the village. Once you have discovered the nicest places, the still waters of the bay of Gorliz allow the practice of several nautical sports such as canoeing, bodyboarding and the ever growing sport of SUP (Stand up paddling)

A number of festivities and traditional events take place throughout the year in Gorliz. The festivities of Santiago, in July, flood the streets of Gorliz with music and joy. The Andra Mari neighbourhood holds its celebrations at the beginning of August too.

This is truly a breathtaking place to visit so if you fany exploring the Vasque country this destination is simply a must.



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The Tower of Joy
07 February 2019

Like something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien fever dream, Spain's Castillo de Zafra sits atop a regal promontory in a setting that may as well be populated with roaming dragons. It is in fact the stand-in for the "Tower of Joy" in season six of Game of Thrones.

Built back around the 12th and 13th centuries, the stunning castle has been passed around amongst the Spanish nobility for hundreds of years. The tall towers of the castle sit atop a massive rock located on what was once the border between Christian and Muslim territories. The flat surface atop the rock is crowned with a high defensive wall that makes accessing the castle inconvenient even for those who live lived there.

By the 15th century, the castle had come under siege by a Castillian king who was fighting with the then owner of the castle. But unsurprisingly the imposing defence held.

The castle has been owned by a long list of noblemen, some of whom repaired or expanded the grounds. There are even rumours of secret rooms that were carved into the rock beneath the structures. While these have never been found, Castillo de Zafra absolutely looks like the type of castle that would have them.

By the modern day, the towers and buildings had been badly damaged and many were crumbling. But thanks to restoration efforts by the castle's 20th-century owner, Don Antonio Sanz Polo, it once again looks like something out of fantasy. Today the Castillo de Zafra is privately owned and anyone wishing to tour the castle grounds must get permission to enter the premises, and it is said that the only way in is by climbing a ladder. Up the rock. Incredible.


 



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