Tag Archives: Tapas

Zaragoza

18 Apr

It’s perhaps unfortunate that we visited Zaragoza so soon after spending time in Seville. It seriously doesn’t compare. But perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh, particularly if, like us, you want to break up the long drive from the Mediterranean coast to the the ferries in the north.

There are two cathedrals for a start, not to mention the fortified palace of the Aragon Court. We visited the latter on our first evening after failing to be able to walk to it along the riverbank. It’s pleasant enough although so restored it resembles a stereotypical toy castle. It must have been splendid in its day but little of that splendour remains and we left after half an hour feeling we hadn’t been allowed to access most of the building.

Then there’s the food. The tapas bars get rave reviews but I feel like the boy who said the Emperor was “in the altogether”. I’d have been grateful for a Macdonald’s, to be honest. And everybody is so incredibly unfriendly to the point of rudeness. Yes, they’re busy and they are serving idiots who are stupid enough to eat in a place where the waiter insists you don’t ask him for a particular item on the menu, just tell him the number. I sympathise but it doesn’t help. Oh, and you’ll pay far more than anywhere else in Spain that we have visited.

Ok, maybe my judgement has been clouded by accidentally stepping with both feet into a water feature shortly followed by walking into a glass door that turned out not to be a door – the only time I saw a local laugh. I decided that the dire food was the third of the “these things come in threes” event. Nevertheless, I’ve been very careful to hold handrails while going up and down stairs!

Our second day restored my faith in Zaragoza. For a start we found somewhere serving fresh bread at reasonable prices for breakfast and the busy waitress managed to both smile and be friendly. It’s amazing how something like that can change your day. After losing it slightly when I was served warm white wine (they quickly realised it was a good idea to get me a fresh one!) we decided to change our eating intentions completely and hunted out a lunchtime Menu del Dia in the shopping district, completely abandoning the idea of tapas. Thankfully that worked, too.

We managed to visit both cathedrals, some Roman ruins and a quirky exhibition of huge illuminated lanterns at the Museum of the Crystal Rosary (Museo de los Faroles y Rosario de Cristal). Apparently these huge illuminated lanterns are carried around Zaragoza in October which one review we read described as a sort of collision between Blackpool Illuminations and Semana Santa. Now that would definitely be something to see.

So would we return? As an overnight stopover – probably.

Alicante Aggravation

14 Mar

Friday

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As extending the hire of the car without returning to the airport was beyond the capabilities of Budget we thought we’d make the most of an inconvenience and have an overnight stopover in Alicante. The weather forecast that had promised a warm and sunny day when we booked the hotel changing its mind on the day to 100% probability of rain wasn’t going to put us off. When the previously rather temperamental sat nav chose this day to have a complete hissy fit and refuse to load the destination, still we were undeterred. 

It has to be said, though, that the queue for Goldcar and their hard sell of insurance along with a demand for 800 euros pre-payment on the credit card when we finally reached the desk was rather more aggravating. And we really could have done with the sat nav when it came to finding the hotel which despite its name was not on the Esplanade but in an awkward back street with no parking and round the corner from the sex shop. 

Our stay was always going to be about the food, though. The anticipated wandering of the old town as we perused the menus of the various tapas bars and restaurants was rather marred, however, by the promised precipitation and the over-attention of the staff. This pouncing, rather than luring us in, only served to drive us away. At some points the pestering was so ridiculous it became almost impossible to stay polite. 

Fortunately, Neil had done some research and we came across one of the tapas bars on his list. There was no menu outside Sento Barra and the waiter made no attempt to grab us. We simply walked in, surveyed the dishes displayed in the chilled bar cabinet and went with his recommendation. Perfectly cooked skewers of chicken marinaded in in garlic and lemon and served with shavings of Manchengo cheese, drizzled with a balsamic reduction were followed by small crispy rolls with melt-in-the-mouth beef, rocket and a mustard dressing, all washed down with a local beer. And the sun came out. 

The lure of the marina proved too much, though, and we headed for the seafront in search of further tapas. With a view of the boats and castle, a restaurant advertising chiperones fritos (fried baby squid) at 6 euros a portion got our custom despite not being on Neil’s list. When the wine proved to be a favourite Rueda we were also tempted to order the garlic potatoes and some alioli to go with the warm bread rolls. Not wanting to spoil the experience, we took the decision to ignore the blatant over-charging when the bill came and just deducted it from the tip. Well, the Spanish don’t tip and we won’t be going back in the near future. 

The road noise proved to be the least of it when we returned for a siesta to our hotel room. The restoration work on the building opposite our window now involved continuous drilling, much reversing of vehicles that needed warning alarms and instructions that had to be shouted over the cacophony. All this was drowned out by the mini-bar fridge that was only silenced by unplugging.Image

 We can but hope it will all quieten down overnight. A few bevvies should help. 

Almond Blossom and Tortilla

23 Feb

It’s good to be back. When we left Spain three weeks ago it seemed unlikely we would be returning again this year. The apartment had been stripped of our possessions, goodbyes had been said and, psychologically, we’d taken our leave. But the apartment is ours until the end of March. We may not be able to stay here until then but there seemed little point in spending the time in the horrendous UK weather when a cheap flight to Alicante could bring us back to the Spanish sun.

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A hire car was also required but that, too, is reasonably priced at this time of year. So we’re driving something that looks like a chewed jelly bean but it’s brand new and Neil is pleased with the way it handles. The grand total of our possessions had to come in at under 20kg each which means we’re not exactly as well stocked as before but it still felt like coming home.

Our first trip out was to the Jalón Valley in search of almond blossom. It had been slightly too early when we left but the intervening weeks have meant that only a few traces still lingered. What we did find, however, was the renowned market (Rastro) setting up alongside the dry riverbed. It’s difficult to describe. Think of a combination of craft stalls, reclamation yard finds, house clearance stands and locals selling a few oranges alongside Moroccan leather counterfeit handbags and the usual clothes venders and tourist tat of most markets. Neil got a hat.

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The best part, however, was discovering a tapas bar with a little courtyard out the back set up with tables in the sun. A couple of drinks, a huge slice of tortilla and toast topped with tomato and olive oil each set us back a whole 8 euros. Including tip. 

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We missed the almond blossom (again) but from this photograph you can see why it is such an attraction.