Friday, July 5, 2013

Exploring Andalucia...

I had never thought of travelling to Spain until we received a home exchange request from a Danish couple with the most beautiful home in a white-washed Moorish village called Frigiliana... We had just finished renovating our cottage and decided that we'd put it on the home exchange website and wait and see what requests we get. I was immediately enchanted by the idea of exploring southern Spain and started doing some research about the food and the area known as Andalucía. We realized that from Frigiliana, we would be surrounded by beautiful cities like Granada, Seville, Jerez and Malaga, only a few hours’ drive away.

So, six months later we landed at Malaga airport. I just knew this was going to be such a great culinary adventure and I was very excited about tasting the amazing food that Andalucía has to offer. Oranges from Seville, almonds, avocados and the freshest seafood.

On our first evening in Malaga, we got horribly lost; driving on the other side of the road didn't help and only arrived at our hotel at 10pm that evening. We were starving and so relieved to hear that the kitchen was still open (did I mention this was one of the top ten restaurants in Malaga?) and sat down at 11pm to the most incredible meal with a view of the sparkling lights of Malaga below us. First port of call was a local beer for my exhausted husband and then we had some delicious local white wine and big crispy, green olives. The manager brought us a complimentary starter of aubergine pate which was just amazing and we ordered a huge pan of paella to share. It was the most magical welcome to Spain and I still remember making a toast, “to Spain, let the adventure begin!”.

The following day was my birthday and we spent the day exploring Malaga's old city and ate the most divine deep fried seafood with fresh lemon and garlic alioli. We had crumbed anchovies (a first for me), baby squid and monkfish, with small crispy crackers and ice cold white wine while people-watching for what felt like hours.

It felt like such a cliché, but I had to try the tapas, I was so excited about this simple, fuss-free eating style and wanted to sample them wherever I went. Every little restaurant seemed to have its own specialty. The best tapas we had was in Jerez, where we found what looked like a real local hang-out. We had artichokes with marinated anchovies, cold gazpacho soup and marinated pork belly to the sound of cheering local men watching bullfighting on TV. This was authentic Spain.

The markets were just spectacular. We went to the Seville indoor market and splashed out on cherries, which we finished while shopping, beautiful bell peppers, fennel bulbs, oyster mushrooms and heirloom tomatoes. In Cadiz, we unfortunately miss the most impressive indoor market in Spain, which I was very sad about, but I guess this gives me a reason to go back. A friend of mine had written to me from Germany (she was on holiday there a few weeks before us) and told me that it’s not be be missed!

Seville indoor market

The closest seaside ‘resort village’ as they call them, from Frigiliana, was Nerja. This was a funny little town that kept us guessing for a week what the fuss was about. We couldn’t understand why the Brits seemed to flock there, until we discovered the beautiful old town square close to the Balcon de Europa (well worth a visit). It has a beautiful view and there are two stunning beaches just a quick walk from the viewing point. Here children played ice-cream in hand and the elderly sat for hours in the sun chatting.


All along the coast there are lots of rustic seaside café’s serving ‘all you can eat’ paella out of huge pans heated over coals, while the smell of smoked sardines and seafood filled the air. Spain to me was just such an unforgettable experience, one of those places you know you’ve got to come back to.
So, our two weeks came to an end too fast, but I think it will be time to start planning the next trip soon.

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