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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...

The Rock Pools of Ontinyent
28 August 2019

 

Summer is coming to an end, but there is still time to enjoy this wonderful natural enclave if you happen to be in the area...

The Pou Clar, is the most important river section Ontinyent has, and is of great value, as much for the landscape, as for the wildlife it supports. The river Clariano has its source here and the first section of its course is marked by a series of pools and waterfalls, which have all been sculpted by the water and go to make up an attractive area, much used by the local people. Over the generations, each pool has acquired a name; The Pool of Slaves, The Clear Pool, The Frozen Pool, The Side Pool, The Dark Pool and finally The Pool of Horses. There is easy access to the Pozo Claro and the visitor can walk along the whole section, as they enjoy the contrasts of colour in the rock formations and water and maybe take a refreshing summer swim in the pools.

 

 

How to get there from Ontinyent:

• On foot or by bike. Take the Camino del Llombo which comes out onto the Western bypass and continue until you come to the old Alba factory. Turn right here and pick up the Alba track which takes you past the house of the same name. Follow the track amongst the trees and through the ravine until you come out at the Pou Clar. The route is not marked.

• By car. Take the CV-81 Ontinyent-Bocairent road and at the crossroads for Fontanars, turn right and park. Access to the Pou Clar is in front of the car park.

The area is very near (about 500 meters) to the beginning of a footpath PR V-121 which eventually leads to Bocairent (about an hour). This footpath also takes us to Vullgam surrounded by mills, trees and the distant murmur of water in the Barranco de Los Naranjos.

In the opposite direction and starting from the last pool, walk down a stairway and you come to a picnic area under pine trees. Well worth a visit.

 

 



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What makes this Prawn so special?
21 August 2019

 
 
 
Not all prawns were born equal and the most prized of them all is found in Dénia. This beautiful coastal town of the Valencian Community is located in a bay at the foot of the mountain range Montgó. In the very centre of the bay, there is, surrounded by palms, the harbour of Dénia. Despite its importance, it has conserved the ambience of a typical Mediterranean fishing port. From here you can take ferries to the Balearic Islands of Majorca and Menorca, which can be reached in about three and a half hours. Near the port, there is an area called "Baix la Mar" with traditional fishermen houses and picturesque squares and alleys. Here you can enjoy Dénia’s excellent seafood and amongst all that is on offer is the most famous prawn in Spain, the ‘Striped Red Prawn of Dénia (Gamba Roja/Rayada de Dénia). A unique crustacean found off the coast of this traditional fishing town and considered an international delicacy. 
 
The Red Prawn from Dénia has an intense flavour due to its unusually high concentration of iodine and salt mixed with its lean meat and has become a staple ingredient for chefs in the region and is now gaining international recognition. Unfortunately, this shrimp is not easy to catch so it’s not cheap as numbers caught on a daily basis are very low making it one of the most exclusive foods in the Valencian Community but on a special occasion, it is a real treat. This spectacular shrimp is also easily identifiable from an anatomical point of view, it has a strong red pigmentation different to the common white prawn with red stripes along its tail, while at the same time it has a much larger head which hides an exquisite explosion of flavours. The characteristics of the Red Prawn from Dénia have made it the signature dish of many famous restaurants both within Dénia and the rest of the Community.
 
One of the restaurants, which prides itself on dishes made with the Dénia Red Prawn, is the Quique Dacosta Restaurant, which has led to this seafood acquiring an international reputation. In the menu "Local Universe", Dacosta has created three different dishes with the Dénia Red Prawn: a plate of crispy crust Dénia Red Prawn served as a snack, a bowl of Dénia Red Prawn slightly cooked in seawater and finally a dish made with the juice from the head of the prawn inside a floating sphere. However, this is very fancy cooking and the majority of chefs in the region say that the best way to cook the Dénia Red Prawn is simply boiling it in seawater rather than cooking it on the hot plate as you would with most other crustaceans. Apparently, the seawater prevents their juices from being released and all the flavour is kept inside. For a large prawn, it should be in boiling water for approximately three minutes then taken out immediately and with a lot of care so it doesn’t break, placed immediately in ice-cold seawater to reduce its temperature. The ideal serving temperature is 15ºC. Whichever way you prepare it they all agree it should be served without any dressing, sauces or garnishes as these would only mask the natural flavour of this very special prawn.
 
 
The areas where you can fish Dénia Red Prawns are very limited and are found in the Mediterranean Sea between the Cape of San Antonio and Ibiza. There is actually a rather unique marine trench in the seabed where the highest concentration of Dénia Red Prawns can be found. However, this shady habitat is over 600m deep so virtually no sunlight ever reaches it and as a result of the shrimp's main food source is algae that grow at this depth and as the algae can’t photosynthesise they are a much finer food source than those found at shallower depths. Additionally, the sea current follows the trench bringing fresh water through it permanently and as there are practically no predators in the trench, it allows the shrimps to grow to a large size and obtain a good weight.
 
Without doubt, the best place to buy Dénia Red Prawns is the Lonja at Dénia port. Every day there is a traditional auction where local restauranteurs and the general public bid on lots of seafood and fish arriving in on the fishing boats. However, if you are not up for an auction, the temple of the red prawn in the city is definitely the restaurant El Faralló found in the area of Dénia known as Las Rotas. Originally the restaurant was just a bar that drew customers from a nearby campground. Nowadays The Faralló has managed to become one of the gastronomic temples of Dénia and one of the most highly recommended restaurants to taste the Dénia Red prawn, a fantastic place to celebrate a special occasion.
 
 
Dénia was recently recognised by UNESCO (the United Nation cultural organisation) as the town of origin for this special prawn launching it to international fame. So if you have never tried them and happen to be passing through Dénia, they are an absolute "must" to have on the agenda for any food lover.
 
 
 


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The only waterfall in Europe to fall directly into the sea...but don't be late!
15 August 2019

In the municipality of Dumbría, near Cape Finisterre, one can find the river Xallas and the Santa Uxía reservoir, a hydroelectric plant which unfortunately intervened with nature. Its gates are opened every Saturday and Sunday during the summer, creating once again the spectacular waterfall that can be seen in the photo – locally it is called “Cadoiro” - and the waterfalls from a height of 100m into a pit which is approximately 20 feet deep, forming an inlet that empties onto Ézaro beach, one of the most beautiful along the coast. However this is not because of the dam, the waterfall has always existed, the dam just regulates the opening hours, excuse the pun.

Before the dam was built, which by the way has ruined a little the landscape, this waterfall ran free and you might be asking what is so different about this one? Well, it is in fact the only waterfall in Europe that flows directly into the sea, however now it only falls during working hours and in peak season! The waterfall is open and running from 12:00 to 14:00 every Saturday and Sunday from 21 June to 21 September, and sometimes on bank holidays! One has to serve the tourists.

About a mile away is a viewpoint from which you can see the whole estuary of Corcubión. Ézaro, which is the only access to the sea within Dumbria, has three beaches: A Pedra Maior; Forcado, where the locals go and Area Pequeña, which as its name suggests is the smallest of the three.

Nearby there is the mountain O Pindo, which is an archaeological site where you can go trekking and discover the ruins and areas where ancient Druids carried out their rituals. From its summit -A MOA at a height of 641 meters, you can enjoy a great view and see stones with ancient inscriptions. Another place nearby is Carnota, which is famous for being home to the longest Hórreo (granary on stilts) in Galicia, supported by 11 pairs of columns and has been declared a national monument.

Following the route, one reaches Corcubión, a historic and artistic enclave. This region is full of legends and magical areas, noting especially, Cape Finisterre, which is almost mandatory to visit and contemplate its beautiful sunsets. In the same spot that people centuries ago considered the end of the earth, where the land ended and the sea began. The Phoenicians built an altar at which the Sun was worshipped. Many who came to Santiago on pilgrimage then continued to the lighthouse of Finisterre to burn the shoes that they had used on their long journey, a tradition that still stands today and is carried out beside the monument next to the lighthouse. 

 


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Anaga Natural Park
09 August 2019

A stones' throw away from the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, lies Anaga Natural Park, which has been declared a Biosphere Reserve and has surprisingly succeeded in preserving its natural beauty.

If you have the opportunity to visit you are likely to be overwhelmed by its beautiful precipitous mountain range full of sharp jagged peaks. The deep valleys and ravines that cut across it eventually reach out to sea, forming a series of beaches where you can wet your toes or have a dip in the ocean. Naturally, the park is home to a wealth of fauna and flora and abundant with autochthonous species.

Anaga Natural Park covers much of the mountain range located on the north-east of the Island. With an expanse of almost 14,500 hectares (35,800 acres), it crosses quite a significant stretch of Tenerife, spanning the municipalities of La Laguna, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Tegueste. It represents one of the region's major leisure areas and is a wonderful tourist attraction.

 

The impressive sight of its sturdy mountains rising high above the nearby sea is as attractive as it is unique. But if you really want to make the most of your visit, the best idea is to follow one of the many trails that will lead you to its charming little beaches of fine, shiny black sand (such as Benijo) dotted along the coast. 

 

 

The area's landscapes are also adorned with geological formations such as "roques" (old volcanic chimneys), dikes (fractures filled with solidified magma forming sheets of rock that look like walls), cliff faces and deep ravines. Another of the area's unforgettable sights is, without doubt, the blanket of clouds.

 

High up on the peaks you will find Tenerife's most wonderful areas of laurel forests. This vegetation could quite simply be classed as a living fossil, having survived more than 40 million years. The Mediterranean basin used to be covered in this greenery until the glaciers swept it away. A walk amongst this forest's twisted tree trunks lined with moss is like a journey back in time. Listen to the forest, feel it and breathe in its prehistoric air. As if all of this weren't enough, the Anaga mountain range is geologically one of Tenerife's oldest areas, which along with the varying altitudes, weather conditions and soils provide it with a huge biological diversity for such a relatively small space. Almost every kind of ecosystem on the Island can be found here, except high mountain flora and fauna. It contains coastal vegetation, populations of Canary Island spurges and euphorbia, dragon trees and Canarian palms.

 

And where the flora is rich and diverse, so too is the fauna. The undisputed kings are invertebrates. You will find almost a hundred species here that are unique in the world. If you are a keen birdwatcher, you might recognise such emblematic species as Scopoli's shearwaters, kestrels, owls, Bolle's pigeons and laurel pigeons (both of which are considered living relics and are native to the Canaries). In fact, the abundance of birdlife has led Anaga to become a Special Bird Protection Area. No less magnificent is the array of sea life, making quite a treat for divers, with such wonderful species as the Chucho (a type of ray), the Canarian cod, the Vieja and the endangered local eel.

The park also houses small villages and hamlets. You will find up to 26 inhabited by a total of 2000 people. Their residents live mostly off small-scale farming, tending traditional local crops such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, vines and other fruit trees and plants.

 

 

 



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