Sunday, 3 January 2010

Tapas Tour in Andalucia

As northern Europe freezes in the coldest winter in decades, we are down in southern Spain enjoying the sunshine, sights and extraordinary cuisine of Andalucia. It's our first trip here and I am struck by the amazing mountains we passed as we drove down through the Basque region and Spain. Enormous mountain ranges divide up Spain all the way down to Malaga and there was me thinking central Spain was all flat!

We stayed in a delightful medieval village 40 Km south of Burgos called Covarrubias. This was the castle fortress home of the first Duke of Castile. The town has an amazing history going way back to neolithic times and including Celts and Romans as well as a rich medieval heritage. Even back in 1262 the town welcomed Princess Cristina of Norway and a statute of the royal visitor remains there to this day in her memory.

We arrived after 1000 km of driving from Brittany in midwinter when most hotels and restaurants are closed but were lucky to find the very agreeable Hotel Dona Sancha just outside the city walls! Log fires roared in the reception area and the rooms were enormous and comfortable. (

Even more lucky we were to find one of the best ever tapas bars yet in Northern Spain which served that famous delicious Iberian black pig cured ham (Jamon Iberico). They also served enormous prawns (Gambas) simply grilled with lemon juice which were really tasty - we will certainly incorporate these into next year's cooking school. No tapas bar would be without tortilla and this was also exquisite with just the right amount of potato and onion and texture to delight the palate. A lovely bottle of the local Rioja wine was so good that we plan to check out the vinyards on the return trip.

We met a very friendly and culinary oriented lawyer from Madrid in the bar who was also on holiday. It seems the best restaurants and the cuisine to explore is to be found in Northern Spain and especially around St Sebastian. Basque cuisine is as old and as famous as Basque culture itself but we are heading south in the wrong direction! The Basque trip will wait another day but first a good night's sleep for tomorrow another 700 km of road awaits us!!

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