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Posts tagged ‘spain’

Veoapartment Goes to the Beach

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Over the last few years veoapartment has established a reputation as one of the leading holiday rental apartment providers for the major cities of Andalucia – Seville, Granada and Malaga. But now, for the first time, we are offering a superb beach front apartment for that perfect seaside holiday.

The Virgen del Mar Apartment is a fully equipped holiday home right on the beach in the resort town of Rota. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms it will accommodate four people in comfort. A large living-dining area with big picture windows that let in lots of light faces the beach, as does the L-shaped terrace, where you can enjoy a meal or a drink al fresco, or just enjoy the view across the bay to the ancient seaport of Cádiz.

0666_virgen-del-mar-sea-views-apartment-terrace-rota-cadiz-19enjoy sea views from the comfort of the spacious living room

Although Rota is primarily a seaside resort, famous for its long stretches of sandy beach, its history goes back to Phoenician times, and something of that past can still be experienced in Rota’s old town. The mediaeval Castillo de Luna (Castle of the Moon), which is now the town hall and tourist information office, is well worth a visit, as are a number of religious buildings, particularly the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Expectación, the church of San Roque and the tower of the Convent of Merced (though the convent itself no longer exists). There’s a local museum, the Fundación Alcalde Zoilo Ruiz-Matos, and a botanical garden. Spend some time at the old Pesquero Astaroth fish market, and sample some of the local delicacies, such as Urta de la Roteña or Arranque Roteña (fish dishes made with freshly caught local fish), and the local red wine La Tintilla de Rota. For something more unusual the artificial fishing ponds of Los Corrales or the Bucarito pig and goat farm.

0666_virgen-del-mar-sea-views-apartment-terrace-rota-cadiz-20fully-equipped kitchen to prepare your market purchases

Rota also makes a great base for visiting other nearby towns and attractions. The three sherry towns of Jerez, Puerta de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda are all close by, and for anyone interested in wines a visit to at least one of the bodegas is an absolute must. They are fascinating places, full of the aromas of sherry and the sherry making tradition. All three towns have picturesque old centres where you can get lost in the winding streets and little squares. It’s also possible to take a catamaran ferry to Cádiz, and spend a day in this fascinating old city. My favourite places are the market, with its spectacular display of fresh fish, the old fortifications and the botanical gardens, though there’s lots more. Be sure to grab a coffee or a drink in the Cafe Royalty in Plaza Candelaria.

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On the other side of the River Guadalquivir from Sanlucar is the famous Doñana National Park, the oldest national park in Europe, and an area of great natural beauty with its sand dunes, lagoons and woods. Also nearby is the Cadiz bay nature reserve, an area of wetlands in the inner part of the Bay of Cadiz, a fascinating though rather desolate landscape of marshes and abandoned salt pans.

All in all, our Virgen del Mar apartment is a great location in any season to enjoy this very lively part of the the Costa de la Luz (coast of light).

Recipes | Traditional Spanish Cold Soups

Summer is the time when Spanish cooking is all about food that is light and refreshing, and this is when the traditional Spanish cold soups come into their own. The best known of these is gazpacho, which is one of a family of tomato based soups that includes salmorejo and porra, as well as other local variations, but although nowadays tomatoes are often perceived as the most important ingredient, this isn’t really true. The origins of the dish go back to before the discovery of America, and consequently of tomatoes and peppers, both products of the New World. This would leave us with something closer to ajoblanco (cold garlic and almond soup), the other common Spanish cold soup, but without the almonds.

gazpachogazpacho

 We can then see that we start in early medieval times with a soup of water, dry bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar (this indicates a possible Roman origin, as vinegar was important in their cuisine, but not in the Moorish cuisine that followed it), to which were added any leftover vegetables, or less commonly, meat or fish. The basic preparation method was to soak the bread, and to mash it up with the garlic and other vegetables while adding the oil and vinegar to make a paste.

 This proto-soup becomes ajoblanco with the addition of peeled, blanched and crushed almonds, which results in a thick, creamy white soup that makes a refreshing change from the tomato varieties. Almonds came to Spain with the Moors, and ajoblanco is generally held to have originated in Malaga and Granada, their last strongholds.

ajoblancoajoblanco

 The arrival of tomatoes from the Americas in the early 16th century gave impetus to the evolution of the cold tomato soups that we are familiar with today. Since Sevilla was the port of entry, and the valley of the River Guadalquivir proved perfect for their cultivation (the tomatoes of Los Palacios are renowned for their size and taste, and figure prominently in the displays of the local markets), it’s not surprising that these soups are closely connected with this region of Andalucia, and were, in fact, little known outside this region until the 19th century.

salmorejosalmorejo

The differences between the varieties are mostly about the thickness of the soup, and its additional ingredients, and the localities they are associated with. Gazpacho, traditionally associated with Seville ,uses less bread and olive oil, resulting in a thinner mix, and adds more vegetable ingredients, particularly cucumber, but also peppers and onions. Croutons and chopped cucumber and pepper are often added as a garnish.

Salmorejo is thicker and creamier than gazpacho, and is often used as a sauce (one of my favourite tapas is a carpaccio of salt cod topped with salmorejo). A wide range of extra ingredients, such as beetroot, melon and avocados, may be added, and bars specialising in varieties of salmorejo, such as Umami in Cordoba (the official hometown of salmorejo), have started to appear. In Úbeda I even came across a variety for the gluten intolerant that replaced bread with green apples – and very tasty it was too. Usually comes with a garnish of quartered hard-boiled eggs and chopped ham.

porraporra

Porra (the word literally means a club, and may refer to the mortar and pestle used to grind up the ingredients) is the thickest of all, with extra breadcrumbs and red or green peppers. Tuna is a popular garnish.

Below are some sample recipes from About.com.
Read more

Antequera | Day Trip

Most of you will be familiar with the names of the major cities and tourist destinations of Andalucia, even if you have never been to them yourself – Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Malaga, and probably Cadiz, Ronda and Marbella. But this region of Spain is full of less well-known towns and cities with their own charm, place in history, culture and things to see and do. So hands up if you’ve heard of Antequera, and a gold star if you can point to it on the map.

centre of andaluciaplaque in Plaza San Sebastian

For the rest of you, Antequera is the small city that is officially the centre of Andalucia (there’s a plaque in the Plaza San Sebastian), owing much of its importance to being at the crossroads (and crossrailways) of Seville, Malaga, Granada and Cordoba. This means that it’s easy to get to from any of these places, either by car or by train, compact enough to see on a day trip, and interesting enough to be worthwhile making the effort.

Antequera’s most important monument and tourist attraction is undoubtedly the Alcazaba, the Moorish fortress built on a steep hill on the southern edge of the town in the 13th century to protect the city from the Christians. After the city was conquered by the Christians in 1410 it served a similar purpose, only in reverse. Take the audio guided tour to learn about the history of the site (which goes back to Roman times), which although a bit hokey, featuring the voice of the prince who led the Christian forces, is still a mine of interesting history and anecdote. One of my favourite things, though, was watching the city being gradually revealed below me as I climbed the winding streets that lead up to the fortress. The strangely shaped mountain that you can see from up here just outside the town is the Peña de Los Enamorados (Lovers’ Rock), where two young lovers from rival Moorish clans are supposed to have thrown themselves to their deaths while being pursued by the girl’s father.

antequera from castleview of Antequera from the Alcazaba

The other thing you’ll notice is the profusion of churches and other large religious and civil buildings (look especially for the Golden Angel on top of the tower of San Sebastian, which is more or less invisible from ground level) for which the city is rightly noted. Most of them date from the period of prosperity that followed the fall of Granada and the discovery of America by Columbus (both in 1492). We discovered that opening times for these seem to be rather limited and random, but on any walk through the town centre you’ll discover at least a couple that you can go into, enough to give you a taster.

You should also make a point of visiting the Antequera Museum, one of the largest in Andalucia, which covers every aspect of the history and culture of the town. Find it in the Palacio Najera in the Coso Viejo Square.

If you have a bit more time you might want to visit the dolmens (burial mounds) of Viera and Menga, which are around 4,000 years old, and the most ancient evidence for the presence of people in this part of Spain, and the nature reserve of El Torcal, famous for its unique limestone rock formations.

porrathree versions of porra at Arte de Cozina

Antequera is also the home of the mollete (a soft flat bread roll), and porra (a local variant of the more famous salmorejo). For a great breakfast of toasted molletes or churros try Cafe La Fuerza near the bullring. You can find good traditional tapas at Rincón de Lola near Plaza Coso Viejo, and 5sentidos (recently opened by former Lola chef) offers trendy tapas, including a spicy Bloody Mary with cockles. At Arte de Tapas and Arte de Cocina (tapas bar and restaurant respectively), the menus feature revivals of old recipes, some dating back to medieval times, and chef Charo Carmona will also give you the recipes for you to try them at home. The tasting menu at Arte de Cozina is spectacular but be sure to book ahead.

The Bonfires of Saint John

Next week, on the night of Monday 23rd June, the shortest night of the year, towns along the coast of Spain will be celebrating La Noche de San Juan, Saint John’s Night, the eve of Saint John’s Day. Despite the name, it is, of course, an essentially pagan festival marking the passing of the summer solstice, and is a time for rituals of purification, renewal, and the assurance of good fortune for the coming year.

bonfires la corunaLa Coruña – photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Preparations for the festivities may go on for several days beforehand, particularly the building of the bonfires that give them their popular name, Las Hogueras, or the bonfires of Saint John. These are traditionally made on the beach, mostly of driftwood, but including old furniture, or indeed, anything else that you want to ritually dispose of. They are lit at dusk and often kept burning until dawn, and from a distance the sight can be both impressive and a little eerie. It’s also common to burn an effigy of Judas Iscariot, a Christian touch added to the original, and in Alicante satirical models of local figures that are specially made for the occasion and paraded around the streets before being added to the pyres (although influenced by it, this is not to be confused with the Valencian fallas festival in March). As with all such celebrations (especially in Spain), this is the time for families and groups of friends to gather round the flames, sharing food, drink and the communal spirit.

When the fires have burned down sufficiently, you are supposed to jump over them three times. This is said to purify and cleanse you, and to burn away all your problems, but if bonfire-jumping seems too risky, don’t worry, there are other ways to achieve the same effect. Women can prepare perfumed water, made with the scents of seven plants, including roses, rosemary and laurel, for washing or bathing. Most common is to take a dip in the sea at midnight, washing away your cares and making a new start for the new year. In many places it’s considered to be bad luck to bathe in the sea before Saint John’s Eve, and in a climate like Spain’s this may be why people are so enthusiastic about this particular ritual!

San-Juan-festival-in-MalagaMalaga – photo courtesy of The Guardian

One of the biggest Saint John’s Night parties is in Malaga, and thousands of people will spend the day preparing the bonfires, and everything else you need for an all-night beach party. If you’re in town it’s an unmissable experience, especially after midnight when the serious revellers get going in earnest, singing and dancing in the dying light of the fires. You may even end up sleeping out under the stars, but if not, you have a comfortable apartment to go back to.

In some parts of Spain it is customary for to go to sleep on St. John’s Eve with three potatoes under your pillow – one peeled, one half-peeled and the other unpeeled. When you wake up take one of them out without looking. If it’s peeled, you’ll have money problems, half-peeled signifies a year of ups and downs, and unpeeled means a year of prosperity and good health. No cheating now.

Seville | Feria Market


A visit to the Feria Market in Seville!

Calle Feria is one of the best known streets in Seville. It runs from north to south and is the official boundary between the neighbourhoods of Macarena and San Vicente. It’s named for the market/fair (El Jueves) that was instituted here way back in the 13th century, and which is still held every Thursday, making it the longest continuously functioning market in Europe. About halfway along – and not far from Veoapartment HQ – you can also find the Feria provisions market, the oldest and smallest in the city, with the Omnium Sanctorum church on one side, and the Algaba Palace (now the home of the Mudejar centre) behind. Like the neighbourhoods around it, it’s a bustling, friendly, down-to-earth sort of place, frequented by real, local people.

In our short video we visit the market with Toñi, who lives nearby, and listen in as she talks to the owners of some of the stalls, buys some provisions and has a bite to eat at the market bar, La Cocinera Feliz. If you look closely you’ll also see some of the Veo team!