Tina Bester Visits Spain
My friend, Gill, and I did an extraordinary road trip through Spain. We arrived in Barcelona, picked up our Fiat 500 and headed straight down the coast to Valencia, but not before stopping in Sitges for a swim in the Mediterranean and for our first introduction to glorious pintxos (tapas – see recipe). With a bar counter stacked high with all sorts of combinations, we were spoilt for choice.
We spent a few days in the beautiful city of Valencia. Friendly people at the local food market offered us all sorts of tasty morsels from baby aubergines marinated in sweet paprika (or soft paprika as the Spaniards call it), to the biggest caper berries I have ever seen. We enjoyed tasty morsels of Turrón (marzipan) and the most beautiful black figs with delicate thin skins and soft flesh. We then headed off to Cuenca, a 1000-year old hilltop town where Gill and I inadvertently ate tripe again – bound around a twig and deep-fried, it was very well disguised and actually quite palatable.
Off to the big city of Madrid, one of the highest cities in Europe at an altitude of almost 2500 feet, where we had a chance encounter with a schoolteacher who sent us on a day trip to Segovia. Segovia layer cake (see recipe) late in the afternoon, was quite sublime – soft, subtle flavours of lemon and almond with a hint of burnt sugar and creamy custard. I could go on and on about this cake, it was just so delicious. Segovia is also know for its roast suckling pig which is so soft that they cut it with a plate – juicy and succulent with crispy skin and served with boiled potatoes and generous lashings of olive oil and salt. Next on the itinerary was the land of the hedonistic monks, Monasterio de Piedra, where the trout spawn, figs grow wild and to top it off, it was the first place in Europe where chocolate was made. Set in a national park with 27 waterfalls, it really is paradise.
We then headed off to the quirky town of Lleida, with its eclectic mix of buildings, people and food – container bars, pop-up shops, street art and rebellious youth groups. Sitting on a street corner one evening sipping on a vermouth cocktail and eating olives, we listened to the DJ play Midnight Train to Georgia – not Spanish, but lovely all the same.
The holiday ended with four idyllic days in Barcelona, the city that gives you a bit of everything – culture, architecture, food and beautiful sandy beaches. We swanned around the city, eating crème Catalan Cronuts; ogled at Gaudi’s sheer brilliance and architectural genius; picked the creative brains of the chefs at Bagauda Tapas bar; admired Picasso, Dali and Miro’s work and finished the holiday off with a morning on Barcelonetta Beach.
Spain is a fabulous holiday destination for foodies, architecture fundis, those looking to soak up the sun and anyone wanting to absorb a bit of Euro culture.
Click on the images bellow to see the recipes inspired by this journey!