All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

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...

I Spy With My Little Eye....
Friday, November 25, 2022

In Cádiz there is a Moorish palace which was built in the 11th century - Casa Palacio de los Marqueses de Recaño. This building responds to the characteristic typology of civil gaditana Baroque architecture complete with a vaulted mosque, a system of wells, elaborate gardens filled with fragrant trees and even a multi-room hamam.

Being in one of the highest areas of the city, it is the highest of all the watchtowers in Cádiz, located 45 meters above sea level and in the centre of the historic town. Because of its height and privileged location, it was the official watchtower of the port of Cadiz in 1778, receiving its current name - Tavira Tower - which was its first watchman, D. Antonio de Tavira. 

Apart from the architecture, it provides a unique tourist attraction: the "Camera Oscura". It projects a vivid and moving picture of what is happening outside in real-time. It is a relatively simple optical principle, already known in times of Leonardo da Vinci. The system comprised of two lenses and a large periscope mirror was installed on the very top of the tower. This optical contraption is controlled from below by a pair of long wooden-handled levers, to cast live images of the surrounding town onto a large parabolic table around which people can gather. In a modern age where the resolution of the images we see on our screens are constantly questioned and improved, the lenses’ projected picture on the table before the viewer is surprisingly sharp and focused. The mirror swivels around and zooms in on incredibly small details around the city and the fields beyond.



In the tower, there are also two exhibition halls. In addition to the exhibition halls and the Camera Obscura, the monument also has an amazing viewpoint to enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the entire city.

The guide who is also the lens-operator speaks English and uses the Camera Obscura not only to show the incredible architecture but also to discuss the history of the development of Jerez.  The tour costs an extra two euros on top of the normal price of admission to the palace grounds and is worth every penny. If you manage to go, make sure it is on a bright and sunny day to enjoy the best results.


Like 2        Published at 6:29 PM   Comments (1)

Discover La Palma - La Isla Bonita
Thursday, November 17, 2022

The volcanic island of La Palma seems to be painted green due to a deep shroud of a prehistoric forest. Connect with nature under some of the world's clearest skies, relax on its welcoming beaches or hike through deep gorges and past volcanoes. 

La Palma is the Canary island that was a finalist in the EDEN programme (European Destinations of Excellence) of the European Commission, in recognition of its sustainable tourism offer. This destination has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO for its numerous protected natural spaces considered ecological treasures. These are places that you cannot miss if you decide to visit the area.


Also known as the “Isla Bonita’’, La Palma is the greenest spot in the whole of the Canary archipelago. If you are a nature lover and you have a bit of an adventurous spirit, you will really feel at home here. You will be able to enjoy a genuine natural museum, whether you are with your partner, family or friends. 

La Palma's trails take you past waterfalls and up to the island's peaks. Once you reach the top, look up. The night sky is unforgettable. Clear skies and strict light pollution laws mean that La Palma is such a fantastic place for star gazing and astronomy that is has earned a Starlight award.


The advantage of visiting this little piece of the Atlantic is that it offers an attractive balance, both on the coast and in the mountains. Here you will be able to lose yourself in the lush forests and appreciate the steep surfaces, which will take you to beaches of gleaming, black sand where you can walk and relax.

A good way to start is to enter into the heart of La Palma where you will find the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, an underwater crater created by eruptions and erosion, a real visual spectacle that is well worth your attention.


       [Photographs by Saul Santos @]


If what you want is to reach the clouds you can travel along high mountain ranges, including Roque de los Muchachos, which boasts one of the most modern astrophysical observatories in the world. A great idea for looking at the stars from a height.

When you have finished exploring inside, you can go to the coast to enjoy the shoreline, whose entire shape has been moulded at the whim of the volcanic lava coming from the great volcanic chain of Cumbre Vieja. Once there you only need to worry about inhaling the sea breeze and admiring the precipitous landscape dotted with small coves and cliffs.




The art of this island not only resides in nature, but you can also find it in the numerous places of archaeological interest, hermitages, churches and museums. In particular, you must not to miss the historical site of Santa Cruz de La Palma.

Once you have arrived, you can learn about its island culture and the traditions such as “The Indianos in Carnival’’ and the Fiestas Lustrales festival, also known as the Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves, which is celebrated every five years.

If you plan your visit during the first fortnight in July, you will be able to live the Semana Grande (Big Week) and the Semana Chica (Small Week), full of events and festivities. Worth a special mention is the Danza de Los Enanos (The Dance of the Dwarves), a deeply rooted tradition which will be repeated with a new edition in 2015.

You must not forget about the textile crafts, the cigar-making and the island's cuisine. The homemade desserts and cheeses play a special role in the island's extensive offer. In this way, you will be able to experience the richness of the island’s traditions for yourself.

All this with an average yearly temperature of between 16 and 21 degrees centigrade, which enables you to make the trip and enjoy the activities at any time of the year.


Like 0        Published at 11:51 PM   Comments (0)

Spend a night in a Ducal Palace
Friday, November 11, 2022

The 17th Century "Palacio de Lerma" was the home of the Duke of Lerma, an influential favourite of King Phillip III of Spain. He was an important diplomat who negotiated numerous treaties and his magnificent and imposing palace was a symbol of his power. He could be described as a religious and racial bigot and was the person who, along with the Archbishop of Valencia, Juan de Ribera, initiated the expulsion of many thousands of Moriscos, the remnants of the earlier Moorish occupation of Spain, who had (officially at least) converted to Christianity. These two zealots had also encouraged the king to enslave the Moriscos for work in mines etc, as he could do so “without any scruples of conscience,”. Thankfully this proposal was rejected.



The Duke eventually fell from grace (but not before becoming a cardinal) and his palace fell into disrepair but it has now been sympathetically restored to become a “Parador”, a state-run, high end, tourist hotel, one of many historic buildings used in this Spanish effort to support tourism.



As one approaches Lerma on the nearby A1 autovia (either from Madrid or Burgos) one can see from a great distance the four imposing black spires (clearly recently renovated) at the corners of the building, looking like a giant, perhaps menacing, ecclesiastical edifice. From a distance, the building looks like one might imagine the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition  (in keeping with the ideas that originated there) but when viewed up close from the town square it looks imposing and palatial. The palace had magnificent gardens and was reputed to have had 7 chapels (only one survives).

Next to the palace is an impressive church which, like the palace, bears the Duke’s coat of arms. Also check out the other historic buildings in the town including the tourist office, in a building where Rubens is said to have stayed.

If you fancy visiting the Palace and staying the night there  take a look here


Like 3        Published at 7:00 PM   Comments (0)

Azafrán, The Saffron Harvest
Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Saffron is a tradition that is re-emerging. One of the most expensive products in the world, it is making a comeback in modern cuisine. Pepper, cloves, cayenne... names that invoke flavours and smells that stimulate the senses, that form a part of Spain’s most traditional cuisine and play an essential role in the healthy Mediterranean diet. 

Towards the end of October, at dawn in the fields of La Mancha in Spain, one can start to see a surprising carpet of violet-blue. It is the first sign of the ephemeral saffron harvest, the plant Crocus Sativus, that for a period of fifteen days will yield a crop appreciated as much as gold. The flowers are picked manually between dawn and midday around this time of year - beginning of November - with fast twists of the thumb and index finger. Later, specialist workers remove the three fine red filaments at breathtaking speed. Each worker can manipulate between 10,000 and 12,000 flowers per day.

The saffron filaments, or stigmas, are subsequently "toasted" and dried over fire thus accentuating the aroma. They are now ready to be used. The figures concerning the saffron harvest are astonishing: five pounds (2.3 kg) of flowers are needed to obtain five ounces (143 gr) of finished product. In other words, 37 kg of flowers (approximately 70,000 flowers) yield half a kilo of this first class spice. It is not surprising that the farmers can charge €1800 a kilogram for their saffron and this can rise to €3000 on the open market. Without doubt one of the most expensive food products in the world - purple gold.


In their search for spices, men such as Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus set forth in the discovery of new worlds, and in the Middle Ages the so called "Spice Road" was of major economic importance to Old Europe.

Spices are a universe in themselves, and like all universes there is a King, Saffron. Saffron is a product that requires careful elaboration and intensive manual labour, extracting from the heart of the saffron flower (Crocus Sativus Linnaeus) this filament that later, when dried, gives such a delicate flavour.

Saffron is one of the most traditional and natural spices that one can find in Spanish cuisine, and to substitute it for chemical colourings that may be harmful to one's health is a crime, especially as they do not have the flavour and quality of authentic saffron. Amongst the immense variety of spices, saffron is the finest and most delicate. Its singular magic, sensual and inciting, gives unequalled aroma and colour to all gastronomic dishes where it is used. Revered since time immemorial, today saffron is the symbol of the best quality. To bring out the best of the saffron in stews, it should first and foremost be perfectly dry. Then the filaments should be ground in a mortar releasing the full aroma and giving a light red powder

Once ground, add a little stock or liquid from the stew to the mortar and stir. Once well diluted add the saffron to the stew for the latter stages of its preparation. Saffron enriches a wide variety of dishes, adding an appetizing colour and a sumptuous aroma and thus guarantees excellent results. 

Saffron in its filament form is the best guarantee of purity. A small quantity of strong clean filaments subsequently ground, add a delicious taste and colour to the widest range of dishes: paellas, stews, soups, pastas, baked fish, potato stews, pasta paellas, oxtail stews, rice dishes, yellow bean stews, prawns, sauces, fish soups - the list is endless.

Saffron is known to both give a healthy appetite and also help with digestion. It has also been attributed with helping to strengthen the heart, the liver and the respiratory tracts. In some parts of Spain saffron is still taken in small doses as an infusion or tea for its medicinal values. It is also used to rub the gums of teething babies to help calm the pains.

The famous Spanish doctor, Andrés Laguna, who worked considerably with saffron filaments, was convinced that taking regular small quantities of the spice lightened the heart. The frequent use of saffron filaments in cooking is due, in part, to the aroma but more importantly the colour it gives to dishes. In so many recipes of the Spanish cuisine it is essential to add a few saffron filaments ground in a mortar.

It is also frequently used in French and Italian dishes and extensively in oriental food. Saffron works so well with fish, meat, pasta and rice, and is used to colour cheeses. As a spice it is found on the market in filament form or ground as a powder. In the form of Filaments ensures that the saffron has not been tampered with. Grind with a little salt in a mortar to release a maximum aroma and colour in the food preparation.

Historically saffron has been considered as a luxury product. For this reason it has been the spice that has incited adventure, journeys by sea and by land to the Orient. Many ancient civilizations made perfumes from saffron that were used in religious ceremonies and other occasions. The Romans perfumed their baths with saffron. Its presence signified opulence and refinement and when Nero made his triumphal entrance in Rome as Prince of the Empire, the streets of the city were carpeted with saffron. It was the highest homage that could be paid.

When the Arabs settled in the Spanish Peninsular they introduced the cultivation of saffron, which rapidly became the most abundant spice in Europe.




Saffron harvesting in Castilla, Spain from Mary Adeline Royal

Like 1        Published at 10:39 PM   Comments (0)

Spam post or Abuse? Please let us know

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x