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Spain's Best

Simple...a series of lists declaring Spain's "best" in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

The Best Three Kings Parades
Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Lights, floats, pages, sweets, and a lot of excitement are all you need to make a procession of the Magi or Three Kings into a one-of-a-kind experience. Even so, every year towns and cities go the extra mile to make these parades special: theatrical productions with top-quality settings and costumes, and fabulous fireworks. From all the processions organised in Spain every 5 January, we have chosen five which amaze children and adults alike, due to their spectacular production values, their originality, or their history.

1. Alcoy, the oldest in Spain

Any discussion of Magi processions in Spain has to begin with Alcoi, which has been holding its parade since 1885. This is not its only impressive statistic - it also has an enormous number of participants, with nearly a thousand people in the procession. One of the most exciting parts of the parade is the torch-bearers, who light the way for the floats and the royal pages. As always in the Valencia region, bands of musicians are an essential part of the procession, with Christmas carols to add to the mood. Up to three bands participate in the parade, as well as groups of drummers and dulzainas (pipers). Another feature of this parade is the work of les negres, the royal pages who bring presents to the children, using wooden ladders to climb up to the balconies of the houses. Traditionally, the event begins at 6 pm and ends after 10 pm, with the sky lit up by an impressive fireworks display.

 

2. Girona, all lit up

Processions of the Three Kings in Girona province are lit in a very special way, with the fanalets all the children carry. These are small lanterns, made of paper and brightly painted, with a lightbulb inside and carried on a stick. In recent years they have been modernised and can be bought in the shape of one of the Magi, a Christmas tree, a snowman, or even the latest popular cartoon character. The tradition is thought to have begun in mountain villages where the children would light bunches of lavender to make sure the Three Kings would see them, even though there was no procession in the village. Now there are many towns and villages where children light the parade with their little lanterns, in one of Catalonia's most endearing Christmas scenes. Although the tradition has spread throughout the region, the processions in Girona province, such as in the cities of Girona or Vic, are still among the most spectacular.

 

3. Cerler, the Magi on skis 

Few presentations are as spectacular as the arrival of the Three Kings at the Cerler ski resort, in the Huesca Pyrenees. Their Majesties sweep down the slopes, leaving the children open-mouthed in amazement, as well as their parents - it is pretty unusual to see the Three Kings riding a chairlift or performing pirouettes on skis. For the whole morning, they chat with the children and pose for photos with them, and even hand out sweets, without the need for royal pages. The celebration continues in the afternoon in Benasque, with a more traditional and restrained procession - this is a small village - but with the best possible setting. There's no need to use fake snow to decorate the parade here, as the real thing is usually in plentiful supply for Epiphany, and the scene could hardly be more picturesque.

 

4. Madrid, the most spectacular

Although there are several processions in the capital every 5 January, the most spectacular pass through the city centre. This is one of the biggest in Spain, with more than 1,500 volunteers taking part. The route traditionally begins at Nuevos Ministerios and ends at Plaza de Cibeles, like so many of the city's major celebrations. It was first held in 1928, and one of its unusual features is that since the late 1980s, the Three Kings have been played by members of the City Council. Another peculiarity is that the people in this parade don't throw sweets into the crowd along the whole route, only in the fenced-off areas. The City Council introduced this measure in 2014 for the children's safety. The parade ends with a fireworks display after a speech by the Magi in Plaza de Cibeles.

 

5. Santillana del Mar, like a fairytale 

This is one of the prettiest medieval towns in all of Spain, so here the processions of the Magi have an incomparable setting, one of the main factors which have made it an official National Tourism Festival. The setup is different from most because as well as the traditional procession, eight scenes are performed from a Mystery Play, the Auto Sacramental de Los Reyes Magos. The streets are covered in straw, torches are lit as dusk falls, and the townspeople dress up as pages, washerwomen and shepherds. The scene-setting and the participation of many of the residents completely transform Santillana, giving the sensation of having travelled back in time more than two thousand years. The numbers give an idea of the majestic scale of the event: nearly 500 extras, 100 torch-bearers, 5 floats and around twenty horses to thrilling young and old alike with the magic of Christmas.



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New Year's Resolutions in Spain
Thursday, December 29, 2022

 

 

I’ve always been a big fan of New Year's Resolutions. They give you a chance to reflect on the past year and evaluate what is working well in your life and what areas could use a slight improvement; there is definitely something about a fresh beginning that encourages us to believe we can change.

Unfortunately, the existence of Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day, demonstrates the natural state of humans to continue in their well-established behavioural patterns by which most people have dropped their resolutions.
This ‘special’ day is on January 17th. The theory is that it takes three weeks to form a habit, which probably explains why most people fail and the 'ditch-the-resolution day' falls just short of 3 weeks!

While it is probable that there are a number of general resolutions we all promise ourselves we will keep, like watching less television, doing more exercise, eating more greens, drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking, there are some that are specific to life as an expat in Spain. So I have pulled together a list of 9 resolutions that might make your life a little happier over 2023. If you have thought of doing any of these or can fill in Number 10 please leave a comment...

1. Improve my Spanish
2. Start following a ‘real’ Mediterranean diet
3. Socialise more with Spanish people
4. Learn more about Spanish culture
5. See more of mainland Spain
6. Cut back on the alcohol/stop smoking
7. Watch more Spanish television and less UK television
8. Take up a new hobby

9. Read a Spanish newspaper at least once a day

10.....?

 

Advice on achieving your goal!

Keep it real.
It’s one thing to be excited about a goal, it’s another to achieve it. Make sure you set reasonable goals and have a plan to make it work through the year.

Don’t overload yourself.
Pick one or two goals and stick with them. Resolving to change 20 different aspects of your life in one year is only going to give you more things to worry about and fix at the end of the next year.

Be specific
Details matter; make a plan. Also, break down larger goals into smaller ones so they’re easier to achieve. This will help you set clearer and more achievable targets.

Reward yourself
Every time you reach a goal or a mini-goal, treat yourself. You’ve done a good job, you need to enjoy it so you can keep at it and hit the next milestone.


Good luck with your New Year's resolutions



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The Top Restaurants in Spain
Friday, November 18, 2022

Spain has many of the best restaurants in the world leading the way in avant-garde cuisine. Now some may consider this a waste of time but these restaurants should not be considered normal restaurants, places you go to enjoy a bit of food and fill your stomach. These venues are events, like going to the opera or seeing a ballet or a musical. Most menus last around three hours so we are talking about almost three hours of culinary entertainment. A gastronomical experience that few have the pleasure of experiencing. Not so much because of the price but more because of the waiting lists. Can Roca has a 10-month waiting list at present. They are places where these "artists" show off there flavourful masterpieces. Each dish is an experience of flavour, art and creativity and many menus carry up to 20 dishes. If you enjoy food and wish to be startled and entertained there is no better option than arranging to visit to one of these culinary temples. For most people it is a one-off experience but certainly an experience that should be enjoyed at least once in a life time. 


1. EL CELLAR DE CAN ROCA - Gerona (Can Sunyer, 48)
3 MICHELIN STARS


The logo that represents El Celler de Can Roca is an ‘R’ with a difference. The quirk is that the letter that evokes the family name has three ‘legs’ – each representing one of the three Roca brothers, who have combined their diverse skills to such extraordinary effect. This is a Catalan family restaurant through and through, and yet it is also now the best restaurant in the world.

The Spanish favourite entered the World’s 50 Best list eight years ago and has somewhat stealthily climbed the rankings since. Its relatively low-key rise is reflective of the Rocas’ evolutionary approach and modest outlook. The Rocas grew up steeped in their mother’s restaurant in Girona’s working-class suburb of Taiala. In 1986, elder brothers Joan and Josep opened El Celler de Can Roca alongside the original. In 2007 – with younger sibling Jordi on board – they moved just up the road to the striking purpose-built space that remains their home.

Head chef Joan is alone a cook of the very highest order: he helped pioneer the widespread use of sous-vide cooking in the ’90s via his Roner machine and is a technical maestro. Josep is the head sommelier who runs the supremely smooth front-of-house operation: understated but passionate. Jordi is the rule-breaking pastry chef whose creations blow the imagination.

This family triumvirate and their teams create magic without undue theatrics. Eating at El Celler is truly uplifting, with the warmth of the family dynamic all-pervasive. 


2. ARZAK - San Sebastián (Alcalde Elosua, 273) 
3 MICHELIN STARS

This family-run San Sebastián restaurant has living legend of Basque cuisine Juan Mari Arzak at the helm, alongside daughter Elena Arzak Espina, the World’s Best Female Chef in 2012. The pair tease out the best from local ingredients and food culture by reworking ideas using modern techniques. While rooted in its location and loyal to local bounty, team Arzak isn’t afraid to look further afield for flavours, as its spectacular herb, spice and ingredients room attests..

 

3. MARTIN BERASATEGUI - Lasarte-Guipuzcua (Loidi Kalea 4)
3 MICHELIN STARS


This restaurant is Martín Berasategu's flagship venue. Its menu relies heavily on local produce, to which innovative techniques are applied. The dining room has lovely views of the meadows that surround the restaurant. A place of gastronomic pilgrimage for all who wish to discover the Basque culinary revolution.


4. QUIQUE DACOSTA RESTAURANTE - Denia-Alicante (Ctra. Las Marinas, Km. 3 - Urb. el Poblet)
3 MICHELIN STARS 

Part avant-garde chef, part ecological researcher, Quique Dacosta occupies the same culinary perch as fellow countrymen Ferran Adrià and the brothers Roca. His eponymous restaurant in Dénia is a hub for food research and unashamedly top-end dining. Typical plates are minimalist and high impact, featuring two or three ingredients, making for great clarity of flavour, demonstrated by the chef’s famous dish of gelatin of Jabugo ham with liquefied peas.

 

5. SANT PAU - San Pol de Mar-Barcelona (Nou, 10)
3 MICHELIN STARS


The restaurant has gracefully maintained two spaces in the old seafront townhouse, an interior dining room and a gallery, both of which look out onto the private garden with the Mediterranean sea as a backdrop. Originally the menu at the Sant Pau restaurant was much simpler than the one we find today, especially in terms of technique and complexity. Nevertheless, an equal amount of care and attention was put into selecting the ingredients used always working with the best produce on the market, sourced locally in the Maresme region.

6. AKELARRE - San Sebastian (Paseo Padre Orcoloaga, 56)
3 MICHELIN STARS

 

Restaurante Akelaŕe is brought to you by Pedro Subijana and his highly efficient team of professionals. All dedicate their deep-felt passion to ensuring that you take away the best possible memories of your visit from start to finish thanks to a perfect gastronomic experience and the exquisite ritual of the service that goes with it.

7. MUGARITZ - Rentería (Aldura Aldea, 20)
2 MICHELIN STARS

 

At Mugaritz diners are treated to a multiple-course tasting menu of intricate yet small dishes developed through a creative process and attention to detail that borders on the obsessive. Chef-patron Andoni Luis Aduriz aims to play with guests and reflect on the different ways a restaurant can have an impact, rather than just filling people up and sending them on their way. From that point of view, there is no other place like Mugaritz in the world.

 

8. AZURMENDI - Larrabetzu (Corredor del txorierri salida nº 25)
3 MICHELIN STARS


Gastronomical Azurmendi is a new space created and designed according to Eneko Atxa’s philosophy and desires. It’s a space that seeks identity and diversity; a space that’s alive, vulnerable, and interdependent. It’s an ecosystem in which space, humans, animals, and vegetables complement each other according to Eneko’s objective: “to delight all who go into it, an accommodating, relatable identity of pleasure that seeks to make something universal from what’s local.”

 

9.ATRIO - Cáceres (Avenida de España, 30)
2 MICHELIN STARS

 

Atrio is the Spanish word for atrium, a central element of traditional Mediterranean architectural design that dates back to antiquity and is the metaphorical heart of the family home in the Iberian world. Juan Antonio Pérez and José Polo, the team behind the Atrio experience, have created a new international culinary landmark in the historic city of Cáceres, a singular place situated at the crossroads of Iberian culture and history.Atrio is a legendary destination for the most discriminating gourmet traveller.


10. CALIMA - Marbella (C/ José Meliá, s/n)
2 MICHELIN STARS

What Ferran Adrià is to Catalonia or Martin Berasategi to the Basque Country, the young chef Dani García is to Andalusia. García has won the adulation of food critics and cooks by whipping up startling combinations in his wise, fresh and innovative kitchen. The mouth-watering aroma coming from his food, takes us to the Calima Restaurant, in the Gran Meliá Don Pepe Hotel in Marbella. Chef García offers a mixture of natural ingredients, traditional flavours, familiar Andalusian notes, inventiveness and such gastronomic innovations as liquid nitrogen to prepare his meals. 

 

 



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Ornithology in Spain - Special spots
Wednesday, November 2, 2022

If you are one of those people who always travel glued to your binoculars, silently looking at the sky with your camera's telephoto lens always ready to go, then you are probably one of the thousands of fans in Spain of ornithological tourism — also known as birding, or birdwatching. If that’s the case, your most frequent travel destinations probably include places like Monfragüe, Doñana, Cabañeros, etc. But there is life beyond the large National Parks. Here are five lesser-known but equally interesting destinations for birding. Get your eagle eye ready!


1. Llobregat Delta, Barcelona

It’s astonishing that, just over six miles (ten kilometers) outside of a major city like Barcelona, you can find an amazing natural area like this one. The Llobregat Delta has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds because of its excellent location on a strategic point along the migratory route between Africa and northern Europe. The area includes marked routes that you can explore as you please, following leaflets and information panels, or with one of the guided tours organized by the park itself. In fact, there is a special guide service for birdwatching. The visit is guided by an expert ornithologist, who will take you to the spots where the most interesting species can be seen. Storks, Kentish plovers, Little ringed plovers, grebes, avocets, pratincoles, little terns, and even endangered species, like ospreys and Balearic shearwaters, await you here.

 

2. Los Barruecos, Cáceres

Did you know that, Spain has one of the largest urban colonies of white storks in Europe? In the small Extremaduran village of Malpartida de Cáceres, you have to walk around as if you were in New York city, with your head turned up to the sky—not to see skyscrapers, but instead to admire the hundreds of storks that have made their nests on its buildings. Among the village’s hundreds of specimens, one of the most beloved is Antonia the stork, whose migratory journeys stretch as far as Mali. And outside the village, at the Los Barruecos Natural Monument, you'll be treated to an exceptional landscape, one of the very few colonies of this species of stork in the wild. The birds live on the massive granite boulders — especially on the rock formation called Peñas del Tesoro — in front of the ponds where the storks quench their thirst.


3. Río Lobos Canyon, Soria

The walls and hollows of the canyon that rises up on both sides of the Lobos River in Soria are the perfect refuge for the many birds that inhabit the Natural Park. Strolling along the river or venturing into its forested areas, you can find species like the golden eagle, the peregrine falcon, the eagle-owl, the goshawk, and river-dwelling species like the kingfisher and the mallard. A unique experience in this area is to get up early and arrive at the Galiana lookout point before any of the tourists. Here, in silence, with the breathtaking canyon in front of us, spectacular specimens of griffon vultures, one of the area's most abundant species, will fly over you at an altitude of only five meters. They take flight from among the rocks beneath the lookout point and emerge, majestic, in front of your eyes, so close that you can even admire the way their feathers move in the wind.

 

4. Gallocanta Lake Nature Reserve, Zaragoza

It’s not a National Park, but it’s undoubtedly one of the favorite destinations for genuine birdwatching enthusiasts. The Gallocanta Lake, halfway between Zaragoza and Teruel is a salt water lake despite being located at an altitude of almost 3,300 feet (1,000) meters. It is a spectacular setting that has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds. Among the species that are most frequently found in this area are the common pochard, the red-crested pochard, the mallard, the northern shoveler, and even the aquatic warbler, the most threatened small bird species in Europe. The one that stands out the most, however, is the crane — both for its beauty and for the large number of specimens who find shelter in this lake, with about 40,000 cranes stopping every year.

 

5. Villafáfila Lakes Nature Reserve, Zamora

Only 40 minutes away from the city of Zamora, you can find one of the best birding spots in Castile and León: the Villafáfila Lakes. These important wetlands emerge almost as an oasis amid the farms, where grains are the main crop. The area includes three large lakes — Salina Grande, Barillos, and Salinas — and other small marshes. It is an exceptional place for all types of birds. The most characteristic species here is the great bustard. In fact, it is one of the world’s largest communities of the species, with more than 2,000 specimens. This species looks like it was born to be in front of the camera, and here you’ll be able to shoot incredible photos, especially when they are in large groups. The observatory in front of the main lake is the perfect place to see species like the Montagu's harrier, the little bustard, the little grebe, the white stork, the northern shoveler, the mallard, and the crane.



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10 Stunning Forests to visit before the year is out
Friday, October 14, 2022

Here are 10 stunning forests to visit this season or this coming Spring. Although winter is around the corner there are still some beautiful colours to discover...

 

1.  Forests of Ordesa (Huesca) 


The charm of the Pyrenees’ most spectacular valley lies in this explosion of colour that skirts these mountains covered in oak, ash, maple, hazel and rowan trees straddling the River Arazas.

 

2.  Fuentes de Narces (Asturias) 


The slopes that lead down to the River Narcea are home to one of the biggest and healthiest deciduous forests in Spain, providing rich, nutritious food for the brown bears that live in the vicinity.

 

3.  Fraga del Eume (A Coruña) 


This Atlantic forest, situated further west than any other in Europe, is hanging on by a thread as cement and tarmac encroach on its territory. It’s still a beautiful spot though, and the location for the famed novel 'The Enchanted Forest' by Wenceslao Fernandez Flórez.

 

4.  Montes de Redes (Asturias) 


The upper basin of the Nálon River, in the Asturian municipality of Caso, is covered with the wild forests of Redes, where brown bear and wolves roam amid the beech, oak and chestnut trees that are also home to chamois and grouse.

 

5. Dehesa del Moncayo (Zaragoza) 


Moncayo Mountain rises like an Atlantic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, offering shade and a splash of rich colour. Thick with beech trees and surrounded by holm oaks, olive trees and vineyards, this is a mystical corner of the peninsula where many seek spiritual solace amid the foliage.

 

6.  The Saja Forest (Cantabria) 


The Palombera pass is the crowning glory of the forests of the Saja River in the fall. The ancient woodlands hide a maze of paths traditionally used by mountain dwellers, who left their valleys to occupy the lands of Castile, retaken in the year 1,000 AD. The photo shows the waterfalls at the Pozo de la Arbencia inside Saja-Besaya Natural Park.


7 Tejera Negra (Guadalajara) 


Fall paints the landscape of the Ayllón massif between Segovia and Guadalajara, where beech trees mingle with yew trees. Against the odds, this forest has survived the hot dry Guadalajara climate as though a woodland spell is at work.


8.  Selva de Oza (Huesca) 


The high valley of Hecho in Aragón is crowned with an old untouched forest of beech and firs and black pines marching along the ridges. Below is the mountain gorge at the Boca del Infierno that twists upwards to the source of the River Aragón Subordán – the point where the mountains enclose this Pyrenean treasure whose very remoteness has saved it from the axe.


9.  Valle de Iregua (La Rioja) 


The Cameros hills conceal within their folds a beautiful beech wood, close to the source of the River Iregua. Surrounded by a semi-alpine pasture that has served nomadic cattle farmers for centuries, these beech trees account for the last native deciduous forest in the region.


10.  Monte de Santiago (Burgos) 


The source of the Nervión River is tucked away among the leafy beech forests of Santiago that begin at the cliffs of the Salvado mountains and advance down towards the meadows of the Arrastaria valley in Alava. The forests are constantly doused in moisture by the dense mists that also feed the river and ensure that the Salto de Nervión waterfall – considered the highest in Spain – remains a spectacular sight.

 


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Historical Restaurants in Spain
Friday, September 16, 2022

In Spain, there are as many as 120 hundred-year-old restaurants. The term is used to define what used to be called "casas de comidas" (meal houses), although the name was created in France in the second half of the 18th century. "Restaurants" constituted another sort of eating establishment, a new one if we define them as places where one can order a meal from a range of choices at a range of times and eat it on the premises.

About 1765, people rounding the corner of the Rue Bailleul and the Rue des Poulies, just a few blocks east of the Café de la Régence, passed by the innovator’s sign: “Boulanger débite des restaurants divins” (Boulanger sells divine restaurants). Boulanger was originally a soup vendor and certain soups were known as restaurants—literally, “restoratives.” The Encyclopédie defined restaurant as “a medical term; it is a remedy whose purpose is to give strength and vigour.” Thanks to Boulanger and his imitators, these soups moved from the category of remedy into the category of health food and ultimately into the category of ordinary food...Almost forgotten in the spread of restaurants was the fact that their existence was predicated on health, not gustatory, requirements. None the less I can assure you these restaurants found around Spain were certainly founded on gustatory requirements and still do to this very day serve some of the finest food in the country. Here are 10 of the oldest and best restaurants in Spain in no particular order:

 


1. Botín (C/ Cuchilleros, 17. Madrid) - 1725

In 1989 the Guinness Book of Records classified it as the oldest restaurant in the world. This establishment in Madrid is the genuine birthplace of suckling pig and lamb, which they continue to roast with holm oak wood in the oven that was used on the date the premises were founded, in 1725. The restaurant was founded by the Frenchman, Jean Botín, and then handed down to his nephews. Since 1930, it has been run by the González Martín family. It achieved the world record as it has been the only restaurant so far that can certify how long it has been a "restaurant" - as we understand it today. Others may have started out as taverns or shops that sold food and later transformed into restaurants.


2. Lhardy (Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8. Madrid) - 1839

Thanks to Lhardy, founded in 1839 by Emilio Lhardy, gastronomic modernity arrived in Madrid. In a building near the Puerta del Sol, the restaurant is divided into three floors and 6 dining rooms. It is said that Isabel II used to meet her lovers in one of them, the Japanese room. Eating in Lhardy is like travelling back in time, everything is just the same as it was when the establishment first opened.


3. Casa Gerardo (Carretera AS-19, km 8.5. Prendes) - 1882

It opened its doors in 1882 and today it is managed by the fourth and fifth generations of chefs. Pedro and Marcós Morán, father and son, are specialists for including Asturias in their dishes. Their most well-known creations are the fabada desgrasada (fat-free bean stew with Spanish sausage) and merluza a la sidra (hake with cider). Their menu also includes room for innovation, and this is reflected in the traditional and new dishes.


4. Casa Duque (Calle Cervantes, 12. Segovia) - 1895

The first meal house in Segovia belongs today to Marisa Duque, the fourth generation of restaurateurs. Keeping to the traditional essence, the typical Segovian menu always features large French beans, Castilian soup and suckling pig. For starters, there is nothing better than some juicy slices of bacon


5. Hotel Santa Catalina (C/ León y Castillo, 227. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) - 1890

The restaurant that is now managed by José Rojano belongs to the hotel that was initially planned for the English who, looking to make their fortune, used to stopover in the Canary Islands on their way to America. Now the menu has been renewed and, as a consequence of the chef's birthplace, includes creations from the Islands as well as the Basque Country.


6.  7 Portes (Passeig Isabel II, 14. Barcelona) - 1836

Josep Xifré i Cases was a powerful Catalan businessman in the first half of the XIX century; the richest Catalan at the time. He built the so-called Xifre houses in the Isabel II Promenade in Barcelona and took a hand in the design himself, as he wanted to create buildings with porches similar to those in the Rue Rivoli and the central squares of Paris.

He made his home and office in the new building and decided to place a luxurious café on the site as well. The café had seven doors through which the public could enter, and an eighth entrance for staff and goods.

Nowadays the restaurant is famous for its rice dishes. Politicians and intellectuals have sat at its tables since 1836, but when the restaurant was taken over by the Parellada family, who continue to run it today, it became a meeting point for expert gourmets. 


7. Arzak (Avenida del Alcalde José Elosegi, 273. Donostia) - 1897

Not everyone knows that Arzak is a hundred years old. It was Juan Mari's grandparents who decided to open a business in Alza (today part of Donostia) which the locals used to call the “highest of vinegars”, because of the quality of the wines served in the restaurant. His mother took a step forward with her baby cuttlefish in their ink or hake in parsley and wine sauce, her son followed in her wake, representing a benchmark in New Basque Cuisine, and now her granddaughter, Elena. 


8. Echaurren (C/ del Padre José García, 19. Ezcaray) - 1698

In 1898, Pedro Garcia and Andrea Echaurren decided to remodel their old coach house that served as a refuelling stop for carriages. The imminent arrival of the railroad forced to anticipate the future, to refocus its business and where previously housed the stables and carriages, they decide to install a dining hall taking advantage of the culinary virtues of his wife, Aunt Andrea. It started with them, this proud culinary tradition and hospitality that has endured for five generations. 

 

9. Antigua Taberna Las Escobas de Sevilla - 1386

Opposite the Cathedral of Seville, in the heart of the Andalusian capital, as Escobas is a living testimony of the history of Seville. There are writings that rate it as the oldest tavern in Spain, founded in 1386, when it was also grocery shop, where wine was sold and brooms were made and hung from the ceiling.


10. Cal Xarina (Collsuspina - Barcelona) 1550

The restaurant Can Xarina of Collsuspina (Barcelona) is a handsome Gothic-Renaissance mansion where you can taste the best flavours of the traditional Catalan cuisine. The restaurant Can Xarina prioritizes local and seasonal produce, so the ingredients are always fresh and high quality (mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, peas, artichokes, etc.). Some of his most characteristic dishes are baked shoulder of lamb, oxtail stew in the pot or preparations with hake and monkfish.

 

Other Centenary Restaurants in Spain:

Hotel Lleida, Graus, Huesca (1867)
Miramar, Alcúdia, Mallorca (1871)
Mesón de Borleña, Borleña de Toranzo, Cantabria (1834)
Las Cabañas, Peñaranda de Bracamonete, Salamanca (1885)
Venta de Aires, Toledo (1891)
Fonda Europa, Granollers, Barcelona (1771)
Gaig, Barcelona (1869)
Hostal Jaumet, Torà, Lleida (1890)
Hotel Durán, Figueres, Girona (1855)
Hostal Coca, Torredembarra, Tarragona (1820)
Paz Nogueira, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña (1838)
Café Gijón, Madrid (1888)
El Vinagrero, La Unión, Murcia (1910)
Café Roch, Pamplona, Navarra (1898)
Casa Montaña, Valencia (1836)



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Spain's Biggest Swimming Pool?
Thursday, August 25, 2022

 

“From space, you can see the Great Wall of China, the Himalayas and also the Orcera pool”, says the lyrics of the song that the singer Zahara dedicated to the great Amurjo pool, in Orcera (Jaén), a huge backwater in which they fit four million litres of water, surrounded by pine trees and embedded in an idyllic natural setting. 

Zahara Gordillo composed the song with the complicity of humorist David Broncano. The two met as children at the Orcera school —both their mothers were teachers there— and, years later, their paths crossed again to shout from the rooftops the benefits of what is already the most famous swimming pool in Spain and, in the absence of scientific verification, it may also be the largest. In addition, it is a pioneer in having a summer cinema where viewers enjoy the film lying on boats on this immense inland sea.

"I challenge everyone to come and take a long swim, it's amazing," says José Luis Endrino proudly, a young man from Orcero who goes almost daily to bathe in this large pond whose official measurements are 85 meters long by 30 wide. The operators take almost three days to fill it. Its capacity is for 1,200 people (just under the 1,700 inhabitants of this small municipality in the Sierra de Segura in Jaén), a figure that has meant that restrictions did not even have to be applied in the first two summers of the pandemic.

But this magical place has not always been like this. Until 1987 it was an area where the water from the Amurjo River was dammed. Subsequently, an agreement was signed with the Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICONA) to divert the course of the river and turn this continental bathing area into a "blessed swimming pool", as is sung in the song by Zahara.


In some way, this inland ocean that represents the Amurjo pool serves as a metaphor for the greatness that this area once had, converted into a large reserve of the Spanish Navy. In Orcera, the Segura Common Ordinances were signed in 1580, a legal reference framework for almost 200 years until, in 1748, Fernando VI declared the so-called Segura Maritime Province (which included territories of Jaén, Albacete, Murcia and Ciudad Real). for the management of forest resources that were mainly used for shipbuilding. “Amurjo is something very special due to the connection with this space every summer. We speak of Amurjo with pride as one of the elements that identify us”, says Sergio Rodríguez, historian and official chronicler of Orcera.

 


"A pool like this, in the middle of such a beautiful natural setting, is a real luxury," remarks Clara Herreros, who goes daily with her two children to this "privileged place." This user highlights the accessibility and adaptability of Amurjo and the wide leisure-cultural offering that is generated around it. From the Summer School to the Multisport Campus, passing through the lifeguard courses, everything has its epicentre in this natural area, which since this summer is also the starting point for a tourist train. "It is clear that it is the flagship of tourism in the entire region, but at the same time it becomes an important source of local employment," says Sonia Romero, the councillor responsible for managing Amurjo. In addition to the dozen direct jobs created, the City Council has opened a job bank for young people looking for their first job, where they offer 15-day contracts for the maintenance tasks of this large pool that, as Zahara sings, seems to be “the bathtub of the gods”.

 

  

 

Finally one of the main attractions of this great aquatic complex is its peculiar summer cinema. The stage is set up in the water and viewers can watch the movies from the pool steps or by renting a boat to watch from the water. The films are usually related to the aquatic world and during the projection the lighting of the pool is played with, which changes colour offering spectacular effects.

 

 



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12 Stunning Landscapes in Spain
Saturday, July 23, 2022

From mountian lakes to deserts and beaches, natural scenery which is certain to captivate any visitor can be found all over the country, Spain has it all. Few countries offer such a variety of breathtaking landscapes.

Discover my top 12…..(I couldn’t cut it down to 10!)

 

1.Garajonay National Park (La Gomera, Canary Islands) 

Thanks to its geographic location and subtropical climate, the center of La Gomera island preserves an extraordinary jungle site, featuring an abundance of protected species. The forest at Garajonay National Park presents visitors with an image of the earth as it was 60 million years ago.

 

2. Sakoneta Beach (Basque Country) 

An hour's drive from San Sebastián, land and sea intertwine on the lovely Sakoneta beach, which shines with its greatest splendor at low tide. Erosion has carved continuous, vertical patterns into the cliff walls, known to geologists as flysch, and it makes the rocks especially scenic.

 

3. Ordesa Valley (Aragon) 

At the heart of Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, through the wide array of climates brought by the deep valleys and the high mountains, a large inventory of species abound. The result is a site with an incredible diversity of living organisms. Eagles thrive, as do marmots, and pine trees grow beside oaks in the forests.

 

4. Bardenas Reales (Navarre) 

These miniature, desert-like badlands in northern Spain are unique due to their location in a region that is much better known for its wet and green landscapes. Erosion from wind and rainfall have carved out surfaces that are commonly referred to as “elephant hides.”

 

5. Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park (Catalonia) 

Located in the central Pyrenees, the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park stands out for its huge mountains towering more than 3,000 meters above sea level. The eastern part of the park is especially stunning, as the reflection of the mountains can be seen on the water. The installation of ramps in certain areas also means that people with limited mobility can also enjoy the beauty.

 

6. Lakes of Covadonga (Asturias) 

The Lakes of Covadonga are situated 1,000 meters up in the Picos de Europa mountains. Around them, herds of horses, cows and goats graze at their leisure in a calm and tranquil environment. Visitors are also encouraged to take advantage of the surrounding hiking trails – no hiking or climbing experience is required to embark on them.

 

7. Cabo de Gata (Andalusia) 

Cabo de Gata Natural Park is a volcanic complex that also features traces of human activity in the area ranging castles to 19th century mining villages and 20th century flour mills. As beautiful as the land is the sea that lines its coast, perfect for swimming and sailing.

 

8. Las Médulas (Castilla y León) 

The Romans scavenged these hills of León for gold and ended up creating the largest open pit mine in the history of their empire. What remains is a striking contrast or red sand against the green forest. Visitors can walk inside the holes bored by the Romans or view them in their entirety from the Orellán observation deck. It’s been a World Heritage Site since 1977.

 

9. Garrotxa volcanoes (Catalonia) 

The La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park features almost 40 different volcanoes. Despite the landscape being formed by volcanic activity, the area’s rainy climate has resulted in the long dormant volcanoes being covered in vegetation.

 

10. Naranjo de Bulnes (Asturias) 

The peak of the mountain Urrielu, or Naranjo de Bulnes, is more than 2,500 meters above sea level. Although it’s not the tallest mountain in the Picos de Europa range to which it belongs, its vertical walls make it perfect for climbers.

 

11. Teide (Tenerife, Canary Islands) 

175,000 years ago, lava emerged from the Earth, giving shape to the Teide volcano, which is also Spain’s tallest mountain. Still active, it’s the third tallest volcanic formation in the world, rising 7,500 meters from the ocean floor. Because of its height above sea level (3,718 metres), it regularly snows at the peak, providing, in a single image, a beautiful contrast between winter wonderland at its summit and arid desert at its base.

 

12. Playa de Catedrales (Galicia) 

On the coast of northern Spain near the Galician town of Ribadeo, waves crash against a series of arches that resemble a great cathedral. In fact, the proper name of this beach is Praia de Augas Santas (“Holy Waters” in Galician). It’s advisable to visit during low tide to admire the sand from the caves and the arches.



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The Best Campsites in Spain
Friday, July 8, 2022

With the return to nature that tourism is experiencing, the campsites have experienced a small rebirth. Now they are as cool as ever. There are also those that offer innovative tree houses, waterfront cabins and even luxury safari tents.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to choose, but the Best Campsite in Spain awards make it a little easier. These awards given by the Spanish Campsite Federation (FEEC) are granted to certain establishments taking into account both their characteristics and the evaluation of the campers themselves.

The winners reveal spectacular landscapes and luxurious facilities, both aimed at the whole family and focused on enjoying peace and silence. Here they are the main prize winners:

 

1. BEST MOUNTAIN CAMPSITE: PINETA (BIELSA, HUESCA)

https://campingpineta.com/

The location of this campsite is truly spectacular. It sits at the entrance to the extraordinary Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, in the Pineta Valley.

It is surrounded by majestic mountains, pine, beech and fir forests and next to the source of the River Cinca and is located in the spot where the majority of walking routes in the area begin. It has bungalows, double rooms and plots for rent.

 

2. BEST BEACH CAMPSITE: PINAR SAN JOSÉ (ZAHORA, CÁDIZ)

https://www.campingpinarsanjose.com/

In the beautiful Natural Park of La Breña y Marismas de Barbate, a large dune populated by pines, wild olive trees and mastic trees and located next to magnificent cliffs, is the Pinar San José. There, time is spent surfing or hiking, riding bicycles, spotting dolphins or strolling under the sun on mythical beaches like those of Bolonia.

Nearby are some popular towns like Vejer and Conil. The facilities also cater for sports, a children's club, swimming pools and a dog area.

 

3. BEST FAMILY CAMPSITE: RIBADESELLA (RIBADESELLA, ASTURIAS)

https://camping-ribadesella.es/

Spa, gym, playgrounds, entertainment activities for children, miniature golf, sports courts, outdoor and heated swimming pools ... The Ribadesella campsite is certainly an Eden for the whole family, located just one kilometre from the beach.

In fact, the little ones will dream of sleeping in their safari tent in the glamping area, although the enclosure also has bungalows and a camping area. It is, of course, a destination to remember only when the sun rises, since it only opens from the end of April to the end of September.


4. BEST CAMPSITE OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND: MOLINO DE CABUÉRNIGA (CABUÉRNIGA, CANTABRIA)

https://www.campingcabuerniga.com/

This family business, which pampers every aspect of its accommodation, prides itself on the beauty of its protected natural environment, the Cabuérniga Valley. Its greatest asset is its tranquillity.

Open since 1991 and named Best European campsite open all year round in 2017, Cabuérniga offers pitches, as well as cabins and apartments with a rural air, lined with stone from the area.


5. MOST ORIGINAL ACCOMMODATION CAMPSITE:  SON BOU (ALAIOR, MENORCA)

https://www.campingsonbou.com/es/inicio

70,000 square meters of pine forests and large green areas and the most charming architecture based on wooden chalets make up this beautiful Mallorcan campsite with a swimming pool, restaurant, sports courts, mini-club and children's playground.

Nearby, the Son Bou beach, the Cavalleria lighthouse and the Sanitja port are wonderful excursions for the whole family.


6. SPECIAL MENTION: CAMPSITE BAYONA PLAYA (BAIONA, PONTEVEDRA)

https://www.campingbayona.com/

The wonderful renovation carried out at this campsite, which now has a series of modern glazed bungalows with a terrace practically on the seashore, has earned it a special mention from the FEEC. They also have a glamping area made up of two-level raised wooden tents with a dining room, storage area and bedroom, as well as traditional pitches.

The accommodation offer is complemented with all kinds of attractions for children -animation, trampolines, zip line, water slides ... as well as a privileged environment, formed by wide beaches and very close to the interesting old town of Baiona.



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Discover Madrid's Artistic Treasures on Foot
Friday, July 1, 2022

Many people visit Madrid and are unaware of how rich in culture one particular area of the city is. This area, known in English as the 'Art Walk' or ‘Paseo del Arte’ in Spanish, boasts art and beauty as you’ll see nowhere else in the world. Along a stretch of just over one kilometre, you’ll find the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum, as well as a number of other institutions and buildings which are well worth visiting. Few places on the planet offer such as variety of art and culture in such a small place. Here are the top 10 places to visit on Madrid's Art Walk

 

1. Prado Museum

Paseo del Prado, s/n

The Prado Museum is the crown jewel of one of the capital’s most visited tourist itineraries: the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). Its walls are lined with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools, including Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808. Its collection comprises 8,600 paintings and over 700 sculptures, so we recommend you decide what you want to see before stepping into the museum.

 


2.Thyssen-Bornemisza Museu
Paseo del Prado, 8

Located on the Art Walk, this museum’s collection traces the history of European painting from the Middle Ages through to the late 20th century.
Given the wealth and variety of its treasures, comprising more than a thousand works of art, you should start your visit in the section that most interests you. Italian primitives, the German Renaissance, 19th century American art, Impressionism, German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism are the most widely represented schools and movements in the museum.  

 

 

3.Reina Sofia Museum
Calle Santa Isabel, 52

Located on the Art Walk, the Reina Sofía houses works by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris as well as Picasso’s masterpiece: Guernica.
This passionate journey along the history of Spanish contemporary art is divided into three collections: ‘The Irruption of the 20th Century. Utopia and Conflict (1900-1945)’; ‘Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968)’ and ‘From Revolt to Postmodernity (1962-1982)’. The star piece of the museum is Guernica, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings. Exhibited by the Republican Government at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, this mural depicts the pain suffered by the victims of the bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica on 27 April, 1937.

 


4.National Archaeological Museum
Calle Serrano, 13

The National Archaeological Museum (MAN), which houses one of the world's most important antique collections, has just reopened after a comprehensive remodelling process that lasted for six years. Comprising implements and works of art from Mediterranean cultures, its exhibits span from prehistory to the 19th century.

 

 

5.Casa de América
Plaza de la Cibeles, 2

Casa de América is one of the most active cultural institutions of our city. With a view to fostering contact between the Latin-American peoples and Spain, it organises all kinds of cultural activities (exhibitions, lectures, film and literary cycles, etc.).
Its premises, the Palacio de Linares in the Art Walk, are a real jewel which must be visited. The limestone building, with its clean lines, the work of Carlos Colubí, Adolf Ombrecht and Manuel Aníbal Álvarez, houses an interior rich in furniture, lamps and bronzes from Paris, crystal from Antwerp, carpets from the Royal Tapestry Factory and a choice collection of paintings by artists of the stature of Francisco Pradilla, Manuel Domínguez and Alejandro Ferrant.

 


 

6.Naval Museum
Paseo Prado, 5

The origin of the Naval Museum goes back to September 28th 1792, thanks to an initiative of Antonio de Valdés y Fernández Bazán, Navy Secretary of King Carlos IV. After multiple vicissitudes, the current Museum reopened in October 1932 in the current location of the old Navy Ministry, currently the Spanish Army Headquarters, located in the Art Walk.

 

7.National Museum of Decorative Arts
Calle Montalbán, 12

Located between the Art Walk and Retiro,  this museum – created in 1912 - was intended to be a place for the education of artisans, craftsmen, artists and connoisseurs of the industrial arts, following the inspiration of other museums of the same type, such as the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

 

8.Royal Botanic Gardens
Plaza Murillo, 2

Declared an Artistic Garden in 1942, its collections include an outstanding herbarium with more than a million entries, the library and the archive - with nearly 10,000 drawings - as well as the exhibition of 5,000 species of live plants.

 

9.Royal Observatory of Madrid
Calle Alfonso XII, 3

The Royal Observatory of Madrid was commissioned by Charles III at the suggestion of Jorge Juan. The construction of the main building, designed by Juan de Villanueva, began in 1790 on a small hill situated beside the present day Retiro Park. At the same time the astronomer W. Herschel was commissioned to build a 60 cm diameter reflecting telescope. 

10.Biblioteca Nacional
Paseo Recoletos, 20 - 22

This museum, whose aim is to promote the importance of books throughout history, comprises eight rooms. As well as conserving original manuscripts, the library allows visitors to learn about the work of librarians and reveals the secrets of Miguel de Cervantes. The National Library aims to contribute to the city’s culture by offering public educational activities which are difficult to find in standard museum programmes.



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