Thursday, February 9, 2012

The White Villages of Andalucia

From Sevilla we drove just an hour or so south into the mountains to a string of white painted villages nestled up against mountainsides.  The first we came to was Arcos de la Frontera where we simply took a little tourist bus loop tour around the village.  The best thing about that town was a local gentleman, Antonio who took us under his wing and made sure we found the proper bus, in fact he waited until it arrived and explained to the driver how to 'handle' us.  Very sweet.

Next we drove onto another, Zahara de la Sierra, up a mountain side with an ancient brick tower built by the Moors crowning the mountain.  We stayed in the most primitive place yet, the only guests at the Hostal Marques de la Zahara.  The room was freezing (colder inside than outside).  When we asked about that and the lack of hot water in the bathroom we were told in Spanish that we could use the room next door for hot water and he brought in a little electric space heater which warmed up our room by about 3 in the morning.  The next morning it was down right blustery outside.  The cold weather is still gripping Europe. 

The night before we had a great meal after hiking up to the tower at sunset for fantastic photo ops.  The dinner was the best Venison stew ever with potatoes and veggies.  Then a nice light pineapple cream (ricotta?) dessert....always with the wine of the area. 

Zahara below and another village across the lake.
Although it's blustery, it's still sunny and we drove up the mountain, into a National Park, Sierra de Grazalema.. The road kept climbing and winding up up up until I , now driving for the first time on this trip, couldn't look down anymore it was so high.  We also drove through the White Village of Grazalema ending in the eastern white village of Ronda, one of the largest.  Ronda is famous for the oldest bullring in Spain and for a bridge that spans a gorge in the old village between the Moorish Village and the Christian.  A spectacular bridge, short but very tall.  In Ronda we met our first American traveling friends on this trip, Frank and Rosemary from Georgia.  It felt great to share stories and experiences as they have the traveling bug too.  Surprising how many of their recent experiences mirrored ours, especially regarding driving and finding your way in the cities.  We had dinner with them at a local Bodega, Sorcorro, last night.  The fried eggplant, thinly cut and coated was then drizzled with Miel de Cane, Cane Syrup.  Very unique.  Nearly all the soups or gazpacho in Spain are served cold, probably because it's normally a very warm place, but we were craving warm soup with the cold weather.  Yata had a great gazpacho that was essentially squash soup topped with Iberian ham pieces.  Great!  Then some fried shrimp and for dessert I tried the Chestnut cream.  Rosemary and I think is was spiced with Cloves, Cinnamon and possibly Cardomon.  Way too sweet though, all by itself.  It'd be nice on top of a warm slice of shortbread with a little whip cream.

Ronda's bridge.
We drove down to the coast but didn't stop since it was just built up development.  We thought we'd go to Picasso's Museum in Malaga but went a bit unprepared and had no idea how to find it, so we just kept on going to Cordoba. In Cordoba we  toured the Mezquita, another historic temple with Visigoth/MoorishChristian history. Such opulence is mind bogling. Also toured another ancient palace with fabulous Roman mosaics and a large knot garden with many topiary and fountains. Got lost coming back through the old city streets. Tonight, we just went to the grocery store again and bought lots of salad fixins' after all the meat we've had.  We got a jar of pickled beets, some of the best local cheese, spring greens and nuts and fresh baguette, satisfied! Now we're comfy in our hotel. We're staying in LaBoutique Hotel tonight, very chic!  Rico pero no caro! (Rich but not expensive)

Did I mention that the Spanish are not big on English, compared to all the other European countries we've traveled in?  The good thing about that though, is it's forcing us to learn Spanish, fun!


Favorite meal so far?  Yata would say the paella dinner at L'Ampola, just south of Barcelona on the coast.  I like the wine there but my favorite meals was the paella on a plaza in Valencia, althought the grilled artichoke in Barcelona was the best individual item so far. 

Best art piece so far:  Yata: Sorolla's, Lunch on the Boat,

but he also loved the Joan Miro museum

and aquired an appreciation for modern art like never before. 

Jean's: Eugenio Gomez Mir's oil paintings (post impressionist),
sculpture on Familia Sagrada's Passion Facade by Josep Maria Subirachs

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