Though we really loved the little groups of Rollerskate Kids we saw along the way.
I'm not sure if this was some kind of special event or if this was a typical Saturday kind of thing. Regardless, it was really cute, kids on rollerskates, accompanied by adults, dressed up in costumes.
It really added color as we made our way along the Guadalquivir River. Finally crossing over on the Puente de Isabel II to the colorful neighborhood known as Triana. We stopped again at Mercado de Triana, picking up some Jamon Bellota Iberico Pata Negra. We'd be heading back to Madrid the next morning at it was kind of our tradition to always pack some bread, jamon, and good Spanish Olive Oil for a snack along the way.
For lunch, I went searching for a place I'd read about only once; I really don't recall where....but down the back streets of Triana, on Calle Victoria.....is this place.
Appropriately named Victoria 8. We walked in and were told that there were no tables available, all were reserved. But we asked to sit at the bar.......just wanting to graze on some tapas.
Which was no problem. It was fun watching folks walk in.....quite a few larger parties, all of which seemed like locals.
We placed our orders, got some wine, and something to start us off.
The wonderful slightly acidic tomatoes....the "taste of sunshine" I call it; matched with a nice peppery-grassy olive oil; the jamon ends, salty and chewy adds texture...and who doesn't like a little boiled egg on top of anything? A very nice rendition.
The Missus loves Her callos.
This was an ok version; the flavor a bit too mild for us.....except for that morcilla (blood sausage), which was really good. I ended up ordering that to end our meal.
The Croquetas de Rabo de Toro - "Bull's Tail Crouquettes" were rich and full of flavor.
Glad we only got three, this would have been too much of a good thing. Well mixed, melt in your mouth, beefy goodness. The potatoes were fairly crisp but quite routine.
We decided to try the Alcachofas (Artichokes ). It was the one dish we didn't care for at La Azotea and I wanted to try it again.
This version had Foie Gras and confit scallion and was delicious; some nice acid, but not too much, richness from the foie gras, sweet-pungency from the confit scallion.
The last item might have been the best; such a beautiful dish with a rather long name; Morcilla de Burgos y Piquillos con Manzana Confitada.
Burgos is famous for their blood sausage (morcilla) and this was lovely. Again, it was combination of the earthy flavors and in typical Burgos style had onions and rice. The piquillo sauce had a nice smokiness and light sweetness; the apple (manzana) confit was nicely spiced and added just the right amount of sweetness. This was delici-yoso.
We had a very nice meal and if I recall, with a couple of glasses of wine each was still less than 40 bucks. It was a very nice time, we were satisfied, but not stuffed, one of the things we really enjoy about tapas. We'd gladly, and probably will return if we're ever back in Seville.
Victoria 8 Calle Victoria 8 Seville, Spain
We made our way back to the apartment....it was Saturday and Seville was buzzing. I'll end the post with the requisite photo of Plaza San Salvador, which I've included in many of my Seville posts. As you can see; this is a happening place.
On our last full day in Seville we got a bit of a late start. But it was Sunday after all. As we stumbled out of our apartment over to the Plaza del Salvador we could hear the crowd before we actually saw it.
Good lord, all these young people, many having beers, at 830 in the morning! On a Sunday! I guess Saturday night just wasn't enough.
We decided on something a bit more suitable for breakfast. I mentioned my growing fondness for the simple tostada de aciete (toast with olive oil) in a previous post.
We just stopped at a corner shop and got our tostadas and espresso and were ready to go.
As we passed the very humble exterior Capilla de San José (Chapel of San José), which was open as we passed. The interior however, was a whole 'nother story. As you can see by the elaborate Baroque altarpiece.
From here we headed back in the direction of La Alameda where we had passed the night before.
This park was originally built in 1574 and was once the oldest public garden in Europe. I really like the Roman Columns. Hercules stands on the left and Julius Caesar on the right.
We saw tents set-up. Apparently there's a Sunday Market in the Plaza. So we decided to check things out.
It was a charming little "Mercadillo", full of locals.......
We even bought a very nice bottle of olive oil from one of the vendors. Then had a seat at one of the cafes to enjoy some espresso and watch the world pass for a while We even saw a character from the previous night; the "Smug Pug" making his way around; as smug and oblivious to all who gave attention as the night before. As we strutted from tree to tree, I again automatically started Overture to the Barber of Seville. I should have taken a photo, but we were just having too much fun.
Hard to believe that in the late 80's and 90's this area was a drug infested neighborhood that was once home to 35 brothels. Yes, gentrification, now it's one of the most trendy neighborhoods in Seville.
The "Weeping Virgin" has tears made of crystal, real human hair, looks down upon you with a handkerchief in her right hand and a rosary in her left. She wears five emerald brooches donated by The famous Bullfighter "El Gallo". In fact, I read that after Joselito El Gallo was gored to death, La Macarena was dressed in black for the only time in history.
And she moves many. I saw a couple of women start weeping at the sight of her. We saw women give up their babies to the staff to be brought in front of the statue.
You can actually walk in back of the statue as well. I gotta say; for some reason I really felt kind of spooked.
Still, this is pretty impressive. So impressive that many babies in Seville are named Macarena. Which does of course have ties to this song.
So yes, we've come from the Virgin Mary and Semana Santa to Human Hair to El Gallo the Bullfighter to Los del Río in a few sentences.
After finishing up lunch at Petite Comite, we had one more stop in mind. This is one even I got rather excited about; Seville Cathedral, the third largest church in Europe.
Getting in was rather quick as the lines weren't very long.
And the place is very impressive.
Huge pillars and high vaulted ceilings.......the sheer immense size is quite amazing. There are 80 side chapels and just too much to see.
And behind this gate lies something that is rather overwhelming.
The Retablo Mayor (Main Altar) is over 60 feet tall and made up of over 40 panels depicting the life of Mary and Christ. And yes, it is gilded with gold; a bounty brought back from the Americas.
Flemish Sculptor Pierre Dancart started working on this in 1482 (he died in 1492), after his death, several generations of craftsmen took over and the work wasn't completed until 1564. Over 80 years!
In case you need to clear out some of the sparkle from gold from your eyes, you can balance things out by checking out the Silver Altar (Alta de Plata).
Like I said; you'll soon be overwhelmed by things...... This is the Chorus.
Seville Cathedral, like many of the churches in Southern Spain is built on the site of a former Mosque. When Ferdinand III of Castile arrived in Seville to retake it from the Moors, a voice beckoned to him while praying and it is said an angel led him into the city and into the main mosque. Here he was able to see thru the layers of a wall that a mural of the Virgin had been painted on it years before. A few days later, Seville fell. And here we have the Altar of the Virgin of Antigua.
I'm sure that each altar has such a story......if you'd like to find out a bit more about all the Altars; I've translated this Wikipedia page.
Take a gander at the organ of the Cathedral to the right.
All of this was great; but there was one main reason I wanted to visit this Cathedral.
You see, even though there's still some disagreement about things, a DNA test done in 2006 agrees with the belief that Columbus; at least part of him, resides in this tomb in the Cathedral. You can't miss seeing the four figures; each representing one of the kingdoms of Spain during Columbus's life; Castile, Aragon, Leon, and Navara; holding his tomb aloft.
Regardless, this was a bucket list moment for me. One I tried to savor....the only annoyances being the loud, knucklehead tourists from you know where who kept going under the ropes for a photo-op or reaching over and grabbing the statues......
After a few minutes it was time for the last stop at the Cathedral. Time to take a walk up the Giralda (Bell Tower), which used to be a minaret. It's an easy walk and the view from 330 feet up is spectacular. That's the Plaza de Toros, the Bullring, near the middle of this photo.
Looking in the direction of where we were staying, we could see the Iglesia de San Isidoro, but man those street sure are narrow!
We headed back down and took a short walk thru Patio de Los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Orange Trees).
Before heading back for a well earned nap.....things were pretty quite midafternoon as we passed Plaza de San Francisco.
Needless to say, we were pretty hungry when we awoke. And it would be about a mile walk to our dinner destination; a very popular restaurant named Eslava in the Alameda neighborhood. Eslava, like La Azotea is always mentioned in those "best of" lists you find. We arrived just after the place opened and it was already getting busy. There's a restaurant next door; but the bar, where you get the tapas sized portions is where we wanted to be.
Wine and olives (and lupini beans) to start (of course).....
I started ordering.......
Garbanzos con Menudo, the Missus does love Her "callos".....
Pretty good, comforting, garbanzos a bit too hard, though a nice start.
Would there be any doubt that we'd be having the Foie Gras on Hazelnut Bread.
Nicely rich and creamy, if perhaps a bit too sweet. But man; garbanzos to foie gras in two bites....that's some range there.
Eslava is a regular winner on the tapas food circuit; meet one of their masterpieces; the Slow Cooked Egg on Mushroom (boletus) Soufflé, with a wine sauce.
Good lord almighty.....such a drool and food porn worthy dish. This was delici-yoso...with several exclamation points!!!! The earth flavors of mushroom, light acid and sweetness from the wine reduction, and the richness of that egg yolk.
I thought the Pork Ribs with Honey and Rosemary Sauce was too sweet and the ribs a bit too tough and chewy for our tastes.
Another prize winner, Un Cigarro para Becque - Becque's Cigar.
Served with a rich, but mild aioli, the range of flavors and textures in this was startling; from the brie pastry, crisp with some stretch, to the filling which was darkened using squid ink, and consisted of algae, langostines, and cuttlefish, I'd say this is a must try dish here. It's quite an interesting item.
The Charlota Calabacin; a Zucchini (Charlotte) Terrine was very nice as well.
Nice and comforting.
The Carrillada ibérica estofada (stewed pork cheeks) was another delicious dish.
Tender, with a wonderful flavor.......I don't know if I've ever had a version of this that I didn't like.
The Boquerón blanco frito, fried anchovies were crisp, light, and had good oil.
These are sometimes a crap-shoot, but we were told these were from Malaga and they did indeed taste fresh with no off flavors.
I was getting pretty stuffed.....I don't think I could finish the Albodingas, which the Missus loved.
Man, this was some meal....but here's the kicker. Three glasses of wine each; we finished with Vermut, which the Missus has kind of gotten a taste for, 48 Euros! That's like $54 at that time.
We sat next to a very nice couple from the UK....the husband was "stationed" here in Seville. It was a nice discussion of Seville from a different point of view. The woman was very friendly and quite surprised that we managed to hit three of the top places in Seville in the short time we'd been here.
Eslava Eslava 3 Seville, Spain
While folks don't eat quite as late here as in Madrid, it was pretty well packed as we left.
We took a meandering and circuitous route back to our flat. It was a cool, but not too cold night, and folks were out and about.
We walked through this nice wide open square with two Roman columns on it. This is La Alameda and has a history going back to 1547.
And while picking up a few items from the neighborhood grocery, ran into this little fellow.
He was, in his own way, quite adorable.....but only had eyes for his "master"....and he was also quite proud. In that sort of; "ok, I'll let you pet me kind of way". I named him the "Smug Pug". We even saw him the next day......making his way through the crowds....not having time for anyone.... As we watched him, I started humming, of all things, the Overture to the Barber of Seville....which, for some reason made me think of this. Funny how the mind works.....
We wandered along and ended up at this spaceship looking monstrosity....
This is called the Metropol Parasol, also known as Plaza de la Encarnacion (Incarnación's mushrooms). Which looked quite out of place among the historic structures in Seville.
Yes, Seville was full of surprises. You'd be walking down a relatively sedate street, the bell tower of a church standing quietly in the night.
You'd turn the corner....and oh my goodness, there would be a crowd of folks; young and old, socializing and enjoying the evening.
Perhaps that's the joy of Seville. There's a surprise around every corner.
A bit further down; where Paseo de Cristobal Colon becomes Paseo de las Delicias is the Torre del Oro (the Gold Tower).
Built in 1220, the tower was once part of the city walls and also used to guard the river. According to accounts, a large chain connected the Torre del Oro to a tower on the other side of the river in Triana. It was also used as a prison for a period after the Reconquista.
It has a long and rather interesting history. It was originally built as a Navigator's College and then sold to the Duke of Montpensier who made it his palace. In 1893 it was donated to the city and is currently the residence of the President of the Regional Government of Andalusia.
That fountain and monument above is the Glorieta de los Marineros, dedicated to Juan Sebastián Elcano, who after Magellan's death, completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth.
Plaza de Espana is located in Maria Luisa Park, a very nice green area, full of fountains and gardens. Of course the main attraction for most; the Missus and I included is the Plaza de Espana, built for the 1929 World's Fair. Walking down the short tree lined street to the grand curved building makes quite an impression.
It is quite a bit to take in......
The curved façade makes it look quite grand and very harmonic to the eye.
The two towers at the end are connected by a gallery and the center structure provides a nice view as well.
And the acoustics near the main stairs are pretty good.
Our favorite part of the plaza was the former Spanish Pavilion where the façade of the main structure is lined with 58 benches. Each bench features wonderful tile work. Each one depicts a historic scene from the history of each province of Spain.
It was fun walking past the benches; the provinces are ordered alphabetically, and see all of the places we'd visited during our trips to Spain - Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla, Vizcaya.... And take in some of the interesting details that'd we'd recognize; like the coat of arms for Madrid; the Bear and The Madrono Tree.
Soon it was time to leave and head off to lunch. We headed north a short ways and down a rather small street to Petit Comite, a place that I'd read quite a bit about.
The folks here are very friendly, the atmosphere somewhat cozy, the menu full of interesting, sometimes "fusion" raciones and tapas. Of all the places we ate at in Seville, this one felt the most like a true restaurant.
The Missus started with a glass of wine; I had a beer. And with the help of our friendly Server, put together what he considered a "nice" meal....'not too much, not too little" with a few signature dishes. Oh, did I mention his English was impeccable......which made me somewhat worried, but heck, we found that just about every place we visited in Seville, there was someone, at least one person who spoke English.......and it seemed most of the young folks did speak some English. It kind of made me embarrassed that I really don't know another language.
First up; the Duck Risotto with Pumpkin and Foie Gras (8,2€ - $9).
I've mention my leeriness of typical restaurant par cooked risotto before, but this was mentioned as a house specialty. It came out in minutes and the texture was rather uneven, sometimes too hard and chewy, though the pumpkin did help to add additional creaminess to the dish. We also thought the kitchen was a bit heavy-handed in the sodium department which really affected the flavors.
The Broken Egg with Foie Gras (6,9€ - $7.75) was better.
At first I thought the egg was over-cooked, but it was decently runny. Again, the flavors seemed a bit uneven to us...the egg had too much salt and the foie gras mousse was really sweet.
Thinking that we had ordered too much food, we almost didn't order the Octopus with Truffle Parmentier, but our Server told us it was one of the restaurant's signature dishes, so we got a media racione (5,5€ - $6.25)
I'm glad we got this as this was by far our favorite dish of the meal. Nice combination of flavors and textures; the truffled potatoes were delicious, the octopus flavorful and just slightly toothsome. The egg added an even richer texture to the dish, almost, but not sending it over-the-top.
We finished with the Angus Pastry with foie gras (6,5€ - $7.25)
Yes, it's a burger....sort of...the puff pastry is a whimsical play on the bun...there's a fairly decent sized piece of foie gras under that puff pastry. Loved the texture of the bun....and of course the foie. Found the burger to be pretty good, but underseasoned as were the vegetables.
We really loved the service here, but found the food to be a bit uneven and though Petit Comite was far from mediocre, it paled in comparison to all our other meals in Seville. Perhaps it was just an off day?
Petit Comite Dos de Mayo #30 Seville, Spain
All of that rather rich food for lunch left me ready for "siesta time". But the Missus wanted to visit one last place before heading off to slumber land. So we headed under that arch and off to our next stop which was surprisingly close.
From our arrival to exploring the maze of alleyways of Barrio Santa Cruz, ending with a nice dinner at La Azotea, we'd really enjoyed our time in Seville so far. Still, the streets had us pretty confused. So the next morning, we'd start finding our way around further afield. Our little flat was located in a"casa de palacio", a palace house, down the small street of Calle San Isidoro. You really get the feeling you're immersed in the history of Seville as just a few meters away, you run into the Iglesia de San Isidoro. There are over 115 neighborhood churches in Seville.
At this time of the day; Plaza del Salvador was quiet and sedate, a far cry from the loads of young folks packing the square the previous evening.
Then on over to Plaza Nueva. The statue in the middle of the square is of King Ferdinand III who defeated and drove the Moors from Seville.
From here it was a walk down the side streets, then across the Canal de Alfonso XIII also known as the Guadalquivir River on the Puente de Isabel II......I know, so many names.
The place I wanted to visit was Mercado de Triana. The Triana District, though it is part of Seville has its own distinct vibe and personality and the Mercado is a nice place to get acquainted.
Built on the ruins of St. George´s Castle this market was a fun stop for us. Triana is historically famous for its "azulejos", tile work, which reminded us of places we visited in Portugal. You see them used as signage for each booth.
There's definite semi-touristy vibe to part of the place as there's a lot of restaurants, even a sushi place. But still, it seems that locals come here for the wonderful looking produce.....
And other stuffs......
We actually returned to this stand and got the Jamon Bellota Summum - "summum" is a designation from the province of Huelva of the highest quality Jamon.
Not cheap at 31,5Euroes for 100 grams, but it was cut perfectly.
There's a lot to see in Mercado de Triana and the museum next door....there's even a craft beer bar; which was sadly closed on both our visits. Well, I guess that just gives me reason to return, right?
We left the market and walked around the area a bit. The Missus and I really needed A caffeine boost....most of the little shop were quite full, so we just stopped into a little chain restaurant.
The Missus got some espresso and I got an Americano....we needed something small to tide us over....all the tourists were getting really bad looking tapas....the locals were getting simple slices of bread.....which is how we ended up ordering tostadas de tomate. Toast with tomato and olive oil.
Being that we love the grassy-peppery Spanish olive oil, this was such a nice fit! As in "why didn't we get this before".....who cares about the tomato.....tostada de aciete....that was the way to go. Toast with good olive oil.....breakfast of champions.
When I started to do some research on Seville, I came to the conclusion that we'd eat really well here. And we weren't let down. God bless Basque Country, but man, Seville held it's own in the food department.
After a fairly hectic day, we relaxed until the sun was on it's way down and headed back out to Barrio Santa Cruz, the city's former Jewish Quarter. We decided to pick up on where we left off earlier in the day. Of course we got lost within the winding, meandering streets and alleyways. Many buildings in this neighborhood have been built closely together, creating narrow alleyways called "Kissing Lanes". In some of these, two people can barely pass each other!
We came out upon a pretty little square named Plaza de Dona Elvira.
The lighting on the square was so bright and clean that it seemed like daylight! Orange trees added a nice touch to the pretty tile benches.
Down a twisting street we ended up at a large plaza and eventually at the largest Gothic Cathedral in the World, Seville Cathedral which looked stunning at night.
From the cathedral, we somehow made it to Plaza Nueva and then Calle Zaragoza. There we found one of the three locations of La Azotea. They weren't open yet (it was "only" 815) and the Missus felt strange waiting outside so we explored a bit. When we returned there were already two parties waiting in front of the place! Luckily, these folks wanted tables. After reading about La Azotea on wonderful food blogs like Seville Tapas and Spanish Sabores, I figured out that if you want tapas here, you need to sit at the bar. Otherwise it's raciones.
You get a nice menu, there's seafood listed by the end of the bar; wines, vermouth, cavas, and "Jerez" (Spanish sherry). The bartender was a very nice, efficient, quiet young man named Pablo. He was awesome.
I saw Navajas on the seafood menu and I just had to order it; a media racione (half portion - 8€). Good lord, this was so delici-yoso!!!
This was the most tender, sweetest, clean tasting razor clams I've ever had. The Missus loves Her beans baby beans even more. Loved the olive oil, which, typical of Spanish olive oil was wonderfully peppery and grassy.
Foie Gras? Of course. This is the Foie Gras Casero (5,75€).
Nice, almost buttery in texture, but the marmalade was a bit too sweet for my taste.
The huevo a baja temperature (6,5€) was also a symphony of textures.
Lovely oozy egg, nice flavors and textures from the bread crumb base with earthy flavors from mushrooms. I guess 60 degree egg is a standard thing these days; something we first had as a tapa in San Sebastian.
The Foie Gras ala Plancha (5,75€) was outstanding.
Seared perfectly, still molten and quivering inside.....my goodness, there are few things I love more. This makes me want to get back on a plane! The baked apples added a nice, slightly tart sweetness that just balanced things out perfectly.
The Carrillada Iberica (Braised Pork Cheek - 5€) was fork tender, the red wine sauce was by the book.
Rich, but not over the top, this was a perfect portion size. The goat cheese gratin added a nice acid-milkiness to the dish. Porky goodness.
The only dish we didn't enjoy was the Alcachofas - Artichokes (3,5€).
The confit artichokes were really bland and I didn't care for the texture. The iberico cream sauce seemed a bit disjointed clashing with the sweet caramelized onions.
I guess She was expecting a fortified sherry and wasn't ready for the super dry taste. I didn't mind this at all, but I don't think the Missus will be ordering this again.
Three glasses of wine each, plus the Tio Pepe and all the tapas. The damage? Less than 60 Euros! To us, a bargain. In fact, the Missus loved La Azotea so much, we returned during our last evening in Seville. I'd get another shot at that Foie Gras and Pablo greeted us with a smile. By far our favorite place to grab a bite in Seville.
La Azotea - Zaragoza Calle Zaragoza 5c Sevilla, Spain Open Daily: 130pm - 430pm, 830pm - Midnight
It had been a fantastic meal, and we savored our walk back to our accommodations.
You can't really see it, but the Plaza del Salvador was packed with what looked like hundreds of college students having drinks...on a week night! It looked like things were just starting up. We, on the other hand were bushed and quickly headed back.
I took a quick look out the window of the stairway up to our apartment.
And even here there was something dramatic to be seen!
*** Not much food in this one. I wouldn't be the least bit offended if you just came back tomorrow.....
We didn't have to check out of the apartment until noon and our train didn't leave until 1300, so we decided to make the most of the rest of our time in Ronda. To be perfectly honest, we were a bit sad to leave as the charm of this amazing locale really made an impression on us.
As soon as the morning rains had passed, we decided to take a walk around and possibly grab a cup of coffee. It was hard getting the past the views.....
It seems that no matter how many times you stared off into the beautiful valley below; you'd notice something new, something you hadn't seen before.
We headed into the Mercadillo Quarter and found a location of the chain Granier on the main pedestrian shopping street of Carretera Espinal.
While having our morning coffee, the Missus and I discussed what we should do before check out time. I suggested finding the trail on the other side of Puente Nueva that led down to the area where all those classic photos of Puente Nueva and El Tajo are taken. Bolstered by our morning caffeine we headed off.
It really wasn't hard to find. We just basically took a right, where we took a left the day before and headed down the street. From Plaza de Maria Auxiliadora, to the right of the statue of San Juan Bosco, there's a set of steps that leads to the trail down into the valley.
The views from Plaza de Maria Auxiliadora ain't shabby either, very dramatic in its own way. Check the out view of the cliffs or Alameda del Tajo where we'd taken most of our photos of the valley the previous day!
The stairs give way to a cobblestone path.....it was just a tad slippery on this morning, which gave way to a dirt path.
And you get a photo, you'll never forget. We headed back up after taking a few more photos and took a round about way back to the apartment. Passing through the square with the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, which we had walked through the night before.
We took our time getting back to the apartment, where we freshened up, sadly packed, and checked out. Picking up some jamon and bread for our travel days had become sort of a tradition in Spain, so we found a shop right across the street from the Apartmentos Rondacentro and got some Jamon Belotta.
Our train left on time and we had to change trains......
There wasn't much going on here........
Which made it a perfect time for a jamon bocadillo break.....
Even though we'd spent only a night in Ronda, we must have really taken to the place. Arriving in Seville was a jolt to us. The crowds, the narrow streets....the metropolitan area of Seville has a population of 1.5 million people. Making it the fourth largest city in Spain. Our AirBnB apartment was located down a tiny street in Barrio Santa Cruz, a maze of streets and alleyways. We got joyfully lost several times during our first day in the city.
The first thing we needed was a map so we headed down the street and found ourselves at the Giralda (the Bell Tower) and Plaza del Triunfo and the TI was right there.
The Cathedral is quite impressive; the third largest church in Europe.
We took our time and wandered around Barrio Santa Cruz ad ended up at this pleasant square; appropriately named Plaza de Santa Cruz.
As I mentioned earlier, Santa Cruz was once the Jewish Quarter, and a Synagogue once stood at this spot. A distinctive cross rests in the center of the plaza, known as "Cruz Cerrajería" (the Locksmith’s Cross) which dates back to the 17th Century.
Close is another square; Plaza de Refinadores, with one of Seville's most famous, though fictional, personas, Don Juan. So ladies....meet the original Don Juan!
It was starting to get dark and we needed a break, so we headed back to our apartment....
Which meant winding our way thru a maze of streets.....since wifi reception in the alleyways were sometimes problematic, even pocket wifi didn't help. We did eventually find our way back; the apartment was located in an 18th century "casa de palacio", a palace house, it was quite an interesting place to stay. Dinner was coming up. We would soon find the best food of this trip to Spain in Seville.
We were really enjoying our time in Ronda. From the beautiful scenery, to the friendly people, to the, well, I'm not sure I can put it any other way, atmosphere, we were loving it.
At night, with all the day trippers gone and in low season, there just seems to be a rather romantic mystery to the place. Quiet takes over and you almost feel like your an extra in some exotic romantic thriller from another time.
It was sad that we had only one night to spend in Ronda, with one dinner.
The walk to our dinner destination took us down through the Old Town. Past the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor. Like many churches built during the Reconquista, this was constructed on the remains of a mosque. A quick look at the bell tower belies the Moorish roots of the structure.
Across the way, the light on top of Santuario Maria Auxilium shone brightly in the night.
Our destination was a little shop just inside the Almocabar Gate, once the main entrance to this side of the city. The name of the place? De Locos Tapas.
This place gets a ton of love, so I went ahead and made reservations a month before our trip. It's a good thing too; the place has but 5 tables. When I mentioned we'd be having dinner here to the lovely lady at Apartmentos Rondacentro, Hilde, she went, "aaaah, you've made a good choice, it is my favorite place in the city."
The place is run by a Husband and Wife team. It is Guillermo who is the front man, originally from Basque Country, he is very friendly, quite chatty, warm, with a great sense of humor. He speaks perfect English and is one heck of a storyteller. We were the first customers to arrive, so he took his time with us, telling us about working in a Japanese restaurant. When he found out we live in San Diego, he mentioned he lived in San Gabriel for a time. When I mentioned being from Hawaii, he regaled us with a story about his cousin (if I recall) who came back from Maui with some board shorts for Guillermo. The main pattern on those shorts was, ahem; the "cash crop", if you know what I mean. His dad pointed to the pattern on the shorts and inquired what it was. So quick thinking Guillermo, who remembered the "local" name for said herb said "pakalolo". His dad, thinking it was some kind of exotic tropical plant was satisfied. And so Guillermo got to keep his "special" board shorts.
The menu at De Locos is a combination of various traditional and some very non-traditional tapas. Many with an Asian twist from the time Guillermo worked in the Japanese restaurant. There was also a menu written in Korean. According to Guillermo, there are many Korean visitors during January and February. The Korean menu is an abbreviated version of the hand written menu, consisting of items that their Korean clientele often order.
We had a blast figuring out what to order and decided (quite rightfully so) to stray from the norm except for a few dishes.
We started with the "Quail's Nest". Quail eggs lying in a "nest" made of "Kataifi", shredded filo dough. As you can tell from this dish, the presentation of some of the dishes are composed in a lovely, flashy-whimsical way. The quail eggs were nice but nothing special, the filo a bit too dry and crumbly. Not bad.
The Artichokes and Jamon, a more mainstream dish was downright delish.
The artichokes were nicely seasoned, the texture excellent, a bit of crunch, but not tough. The jamon added that nice savory touch that paired nicely with everything. The mustard based sauce was a nice slightly pungent touch. The Missus (of course) loved the fried egg.
The Truffle Egg presentation was very nice.
Lovely flavors, just enough truffle oil, the jamon again adding a nice touch of savory. The only complaint was that the egg was overcooked for my taste.
My favorite dish, hands down was the Pork Tataki....yes, basically seared, ultra rare pork.
Man, the textures and the flavors, touches of ginger....good lord, this was so good. I've learned that sometimes I just need to go with my instincts....and while the Missus still sometimes has doubts (see torisashi), she's learned that there are times when you need to throw caution to the wind. Many times, the payoff is a memorable dish like this one. I've heard that Japanese is the "in" cuisine in places like Barcelona now.....so I'm looking forward to returning and getting some "Tataki de presa ibérica".
Meanwhile, Guillermo is from Basque Country, so I had to order the Txangurro (Spider Crab), a Basque regional specialty.
For some reason, this didn't do it for us......not enough crab flavor, a bit too mushy, and in need of some additional seasoning.
And while the Octopus was decent, perhaps a bit too chewy, but nicely flavored....those potatoes, the truffle oil.....was delish.
The Sea Bass Ceviche was nicely seasoned, refreshing, though I prefer mine with a bit more citrus.
Since there was Foie Gras on the menu, you know we had to order it, right? This came with a very nice tangy, passion fruit sorbet which acted like a nice intermezzo. The foie was decently seared, the texture wonderful. I did find it a bit too much on the sweet side. Of course, perhaps I've become a bit jaded having had so much foie gras over the last couple of years.
The Ox Cheeks were nicely done, I've yet to meet a version of carrillada that I didn't enjoy in Spain.
We also ordered the Deer Tenderloin which we affectionately called "Bambi".
Tasting like a more gamey version of the Ox Cheeks this was very tender and quite tasty.
For dessert the Missus chose the Gin and Tonic Sorbet which has a wonderful combination of tart, sweet, citrus tones, and black pepper (!). It was the perfect end to this meal.
While not every dish was a hit....and with this many, it's hard to do...remember, this isn't Azurmendi or even Disfrutar, the meal topped out at 60 Euros! That's right, with a couple of glasses of wine...all of this, a shade over sixty bucks! Plus, we had a blast chatting with Guillermo. And while, perhaps, this wasn't the best meal of our recent trip, it was by far, the most fun we'd had during a meal in a while! And that really does matter.
If you're planning to visit De Locos Tapas; make reservations, have an open mind....and relax....you'll have a good time!
De Locos Tapas Arquitecto Pons Sorolla 7 Ronda, Spain
We took our time walking back to our apartment. The Missus climbed up one of the stairways on the city wall and took the photo of the Old Town above. We stopped at the same spot where we took a photo of Puente Nuevo earlier in the day. It's just as beautiful, if not more so, at night.
As we got back to the apartment......
We decided to take a detour and walk around the building overlooking the valleys, where we came across this......
Whenever we travel, time permitting, I try to schedule something a bit different. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Ronda before this trip. While doing a bit of research I saw a photo, then read that Ronda is easily accessible by train. So I decided that we'd stay for a night on our way to Seville from Granada. We're so glad we stayed here. And to be perfectly honest, wished that we had more time.
Everything just seemed so perfect; the hotel, the Apartmentos Rondacentro was our favorite on this trip. About a 20 minutes walk from the train station, we had Unit A1, which had a fantastic view from the balcony.
Though I don't think there's a bad view anywhere around here.
But first we had to get there. We left Granada fairly early, walking from Plaza Nueva to Granada's Train Station, stopping for a "café solo" from Cafe Opera 5. Construction of the rail line to Granada and renovations around the station were going on during our stay. So we were bussed from Granada Train Station to Antequera-Santa Ana Station.
And while I sorely wished for some Ekiben Stands, we'd come prepared. We call it the "Madrid plan" where we purchase bread, jamon, and olive oil in advance and have that on the train, in the airport, or in this case in the train station. The nice olive oil we bought in Mercado Augustin and we'd found some decent Jamon Bellota Iberico Pata Negra at one of the shops on the way back to the apartment the night before.
Which kept us satisfied and made our train trip a lot more pleasant.
It was drizzly when we arrived in the White Hill town of Ronda. The walk to the apartment was easy....as I mentioned before, the location is spectacular with a view of the valley below. The place was also quite new and the woman who runs the front desk named Hilde was a joy.
There was a mini-kitchen and the all important washing machine/dryer. After freshening up a bit we headed out.
Plaza de Toros was a mere few steps away. Ronda is the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Francisco Romero is said to have invented the cape (Muleta) and sword system in Ronda. Before this, knights on horses fought the bulls. His grandson, Pedro Romero is said to have been perhaps the greatest ever.
The Bullring is a much visited site, but we'd arrived rather late and decided that we'd use our time to visit other places. Like the Alameda del Tajo, a park which wraps around the Bullring and has a beautiful balcony from which you can view the valley and the mountains.
The clouds and approaching rain added an even more dramatic touch to things.
As you can tell, Ronda is located above the valley and gorge. This served a purpose providing protection for first the Romans, then the Moors until the city fell in 1485.
The scenic bridge in the first photo is called "Puente Nuevo" and crossed the ravine named El Tajo. It connects the "Old Town", with the whitewashed Moorish buildings to the El Mercadillo; the new town.
The Missus decided that She wanted to the bottom of the gorge through the Old Town, but first we decided to finish checking out the park.
This memorial caught my eye, because it looked distinctly Japanese.
It had the name Miki Haruta inscribed. I was intrigued. Turns out that Miki Haruta was an artist, who came to Ronda, fell in love with the village, and didn't leave until his death in 1995.
We then headed up Calle Jerez until we came upon this shop.
Looking into the shop, I was met with this sight, which I described to my friends as, "I think this is what heaven looks like"!
Of course we got "cien grams" Jamon Bellota Pata Negra and a bottle of some local wine for the Missus.
Boy, the smells were intoxicating. Though I'm not sure what's up with the framed slice of jamon? Is it like the "framing the first dollar earned" thing? I do know the guy in Chef's Whites, it's Dani Garcia who got a Michelin Star for the now closed Tragabuches restaurant while at the helm.
It was a nice interesting stop.
La Casa del Jamón Calle Jerez 28 Ronda, Spain
We headed on back to the apartment, got a load of laundry going, then crossed the Puente Nuevo into the Old Town.
There's a nice viewpoint from across the bridge.
From here we headed on down....taking a break at the Palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra.
It's quite a distinct structure with an even more interesting feature. Take a look at the four pre-Columbian figures framing the windows and above the balcony. These are Inca Indians! Symbolic of the far reach of Spanish Colonialism.
Right below the palace you can get a nice view of the "Puente Viejo", the Old Bridge which was constructed in 1616 upon the ruins of another bridge.
And the Arab Baths.
Taking a quick turn you come to a gate. This is the Arch of Philip V which was built in 1742 on the site of another gate that was located there.
We headed on down the stairs right before the Old Bridge, then swung around when we arrived at the cute, tiny, little church.
And arrived at the oldest bridge in Ronda....yes, older than the Old Bridge; called either the Arab Bridge, The Moorish Bridge, the San Miguel Bridge, or the Roman Bridge, depending who to talk to.
For many centuries, this was the entrance to Ronda. Nice view of the Old Bridge as well.
Heading back to the Old Bridge; you could really get an impression on how imposing a task it would be to take this fortified village.
We made our way back to the New Town by crossing the Old Bridge and walking up via the terraces.
At the highest most terrace, I saw a guy standing outside the gate to the street. I got kind of worried as he just seemed to be loitering around. Turns out, he had the keys to the entrances to the terraces and since it had started to rain pretty hard it was time to close the gates. He was waiting for us to finish taking our photos........what a nice guy. I felt so bad for making him wait. It took another 15 minutes to get back to the apartment, where it was time for a shower and a nap.
But first things first.
We needed some sustenance.....something to keep us going....something like; well the jamon we bought earlier. Great thing about jamon, it doesn't need refrigeration. I just like to leave it out and watch it sweat....I hope to see some sweat. That tells me there's a good fat content. As things stood, this was cut well, but it lacked that jamon sweetness and deep flavor and was too salty.
And while She really enjoyed the Blanco Seco here, I think She was wondering if we'd get a repeat of any of the tapas we'd had on previous nights. Answer was no.....
Things started with a quite hefty Tortilla Española, an omelet that was topped with a nice garlic aioli. Love the way they toast the bread here; it's light and crunchy.
For our second glass, we thought this was a repeat.....but it wasn't. On our first visit, we'd had a wonderful garlic-onion toast which looked much like this.
Except this had chicken in it; making it quite filling as well. The Missus really enjoyed the suspense of wondering what the upcoming mystery tapas was going to be. And there's no place we enjoyed more than Saint Germain.
Saint Germain Calle Postigo Velutti 4 Granada, Spain
When we left Saint Germain, it was but 0845...much too early to turn in, especially in Spain. So we decided to make yet another stop.....walking past the Ayuntamiento - the Town Hall topped with the stunning bronze equestrian statue by Ramiro Megías.
Straight down Calle Navas which then turned to Calle del Rosario was another wine bar. This one was recommended by a fan of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown.....he mentioned a place named La Tana, which we had passed two nights previous. Even though I didn't have the chance to watch that episode of Bourdain's show, we decided that we should check them out before we left Granada, so here we were.
Man, this place was packed.......
With one amazing woman running the entire bar! Herself! She never missed a beat. The place was crazy packed and when I got my beer and the Missus Her cava we were pretty sure that our tapa would take a while. So we were amazed when we saw folks passing a plate across the room! Our tapa!
Lovely, flavorful tomatoes, simply seasoned with salt and black pepper...I really took to the olives in Andalucia as well.
The same thing happened when we got a second glass.....this time anchovy with a nice salmorejo.
I was just amazed at how this woman worked everything so efficiently. She never missed an order, never missed getting anyone their tapa.
After having our two glasses we decided to head out and on our way. The woman knew exactly what we had.....the Missus was so taken with how efficient this woman was She typed out a little message and translated it to Spanish. The woman asked one of the other customers to translate, but the Missus had already translated it - "eres un tesoro". "You are a treasure". The customer smiled and told us, "yes, this is true!" The woman was tickled and borrowed the Missus's phone so she could show the other customers....that yes, indeed, she is a treasure! Love the friendliness and warmth of the folks in Granada.
Taberna La Tana Calle Rosario 11 Granada, Spain
Granada had indeed gotten to us. We headed back via Calle Navas. Near Plaza del Carmen we noticed this rather distinctive bar.
Peeking in the window we saw....Jesus everywhere!
How could we not have a drink here! So we had a seat under.....Jesus and other stuffs.....
Just one older gentleman manning the bar and small kitchen.
Good lord, he gave us a rather large plate of sausage and potatoes as our tapa!
Nothing fancy, but very hearty....and free with our glasses of wine....like 3 Euros as piece!
Quite a unique place with very friendly service.
El Tabernaculo Calle Navas 27 Granada, Spain
On a side note. When we returned home I watched the Granada episode of Parts Unknown, to see the La Tana scene. And then on came El Tabernaculo! Jesus! Bourdain went to the Jesus bar!
By this time, the Missus had decided that I'd had a bit too much tapas, so she marched me right back up the Albayzin to the Mirador San Nicolas. I must admit, the view at night is quite stunning as well.
After taking a few photos, we headed back down Cuesta del Chapiz and walked back to Plaza Nueva via Paseo de los Tristes (Walk of the Dead Ones).
While packing for an early getaway in the morning, I sipped a beer and munched on some Jamon and Queso chips. While we'd seen everything we wanted to and like most places we've visited, the city seemed to be shrinking everyday, we really enjoyed Granada. I'm not sure if we'll ever be back....but then again, Saint Germain and La Tana beckons, so who knows?