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!
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?
Finishing dinner at almost 11pm does take a bit out of you. The following morning we weren't that early to rise. After some much needed coffee, we headed out. This was supposed to be an "easy" day. The Missus wanted to check out the famous Moorish Quarter, the Albayzin, full of twisting lanes, history, and some of the best views of Granada to boot.
There were maps of course, but we just started heading up, up, and up. There is a bus which circles the Albayzin....but you know; this is the Missus...we walked.
We arrived at a nice little café, named Café 4 Gatos and stopped for a "un café Americano". Really nice folks and a great place to stop.
And take in some of the local flavor, in the form of our four legged furry friends.
Yes, the streets are narrow and winding and the walk rather steep....I wouldn't want to be running around here during a good rain. But reading the section about the Albayzin in Rick Steves book makes this sound much more difficult than it is.
In spite of not using the map, we ended up where everyone wants to be when they visit the Moorish Quarter; the Mirador San Nicolas with it's beautiful view. It would be quite a romantic stop if not for all the folks sharing the view. Though it wasn't as busy as other photos I've seen.
And to be honest, there is quite an interesting vibe to the place. Checking out the priceless view......
Listening to the Gypsy musicians.......
For an even better, and in this case more romantic experience, go into the Iglesia de San Nicolas.
Pay your 5 Euros a piece and head on up into the bell tower. If you're lucky, you'll be the only folks in the tiny bell tower, feeling a million miles away from the people below. And you'll be rewarded with even more wonderful views.
And Sacromonte; the "Roma" (Gypsy) Quarter.
If you want some refreshment, there are a couple of cafes. One is right on the street below the mirador, where you can grab a drink, sit, and enjoy the view. Another is right around from the church.
After spending a good amount of time enjoying the views the Missus wanted to do more exploring, so we set out heading downhill, until we came to a pretty little plaza.
The plaza was surrounded by restaurants and I broke out laughing when I saw this place; Los Caracoles. It was the place I had marked on my map for lunch!
It was still before opening time; so the Missus and I wandered around the area, stopping in some of the small shops down Cuesta del Chapiz, doing a bit of people watching.
Then heading back up and taking a break in front of Colegiata del Salvador, a huge church that stands on the site of what was the city's main mosque during the reign of the Moors.
We relaxed for a bit than headed across the street just past noon for lunch at Los Caracoles. Even if you spoke no Spanish (or even Portuguese) and didn't understand what caracoles were; you'd know what the specialty of the house was as soon as you stepped into the place.
The woman working here was so warm and friendly, always there with a smile. We were the only folks with a table for almost our entire meal.
We saw folks, mostly older, local, and rather thirsty, buzz in and out during our meal. They came for a glass of wine or beer and a tapa.....
The Missus had a very nice red....I choose a cerveza....
While we pondered over what to order......which was kind of obvious, right?
We placed our order, then the tapa arrived, free with our drinks.....holy smokes.....it was pretty large, pan fried pork on toast. with a nice garlic olive oil brushed on it. No wonder the locals come here!
The Missus decided that She wanted the Habas con Jamon....I watched the cook slice off three slices off the pata for this dish, which was quite substantial.
The Missus loves Her eggs so it was a double bonus. Nicely flavored peppery olive oil; almost a hint of citrus, the thicker slices of jamon really added all the saltiness the dish needed.
We had initially said that we didn't need any bread...but c'mon......you needed bread...even if it was in the shape of a snail.
Especially when your next dish is a very garlicky and grassy-peppery (from the olive oil) Gambas al Ajillo. I really don't think I need to write anything more about this dish.
And of course.....
Probably the most tender snails I've ever had as the texture was like perfectly prepared beef tendon, buttery and tender, with just the slight amount of toothsomeness to finish. The flavor was quite plain and the Missus had problems with the rather earthy flavors of the snails. I just dunked them in the sauce left over from the shrimp! Luckily, this was a media racione (a half portion).
Meanwhile, a trickle of locals kept dropping in; having a drink, a tapa, then moving on....I'd like to know where they were going! Except for one really needy American couple....good lord, do you really have all those food sensitivities? Then what the heck are you doing at a snail restaurant? I really don't want to know your business nor your opinions....just chill.
I'd love to return to Los Caracoles. The folks here are warm and friendly. I'd come for a couple of drinks and some of those tapas; or maybe some callos (tripe stew) or rabo de toro (oxtail).
Bar Aliatar Los Caracoles Plaza Aliatar 4 Granada, Spain
I thought we'd be headed back to Plaza Nueva via Cuesta del Chapiz, but the Missus wanted to head back to Mirador San Nicolas, for yet another dose of the wonderful view.
And I don't blame Her. Life is short. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. We should enjoy the moment!
We'd had a pretty busy day, starting the morning with a visit to The Alhambra, then getting some train ticketing straightened out and taking a walk around the Old Town. We were bushed when we got back to the apartment and had a well deserved siesta. There's something to be said about an afternoon nap. We awoke refreshed, ready to take on.......well, dinner, of course! This being Spain, dinner really doesn't start until 9pm or thereabouts, so we decided on taking a nice little walk along Paseo de los Tristes (Walk of the Dead Ones), the street that runs parallel to the Darro River, just past Plaza Nueva.
It's a wonderful stretch of road and the views of the Alhambra form here, especially at night are wonderful.
On one side you have the Darro River and the Alhambra; on the other tiny alleyways leading up to the Albayzin, the Moorish Quarter.
The walk was short, but enough to stimulate our appetites. Thinking (wrongly), that we might tire of tapas in Granada, we booked dinner at Alacena de las Monjas, when we passed by on our first day in Granada. They didn't start dinner service until 9pm, it was 745....what to do? Well, head back to Saint Germain of course!
It was about a 15 minute walk to Saint Germain, which was just opening when we arrived.
There was something about this place that we really loved. The selection of wines suited the Missus, who found that She really enjoyed the house Blanco-Seco. I really loved Encaste, a nice very balanced Cabernet Savignon from Dona Felica Winery in Ronda.
We also wondered if we'd get a repeat of a tapa from our first visit. Well, we didn't! This time around it was a nice brie, brushed with honey and a fruit compote on bread.....love the way they toast the baguettes here.
Without a doubt, our favorite wine bar in Granada.
Saint Germain Calle Postigo Velutti 4 Granada, Spain
We then headed off to Plaza del Padre Suarez....pocket wifi is wonderful, we initially used it on our first trip to Japan and it was invaluable, especially with Japan's crazy address system. For Spain we used Wifivox which I highly recommend. It was delivered to our hotel in Madrid and we used it without incident. Nothing like being to use Google Maps and other apps while roaming around unfamiliar territory.
Alacena de las Monjas was an interesting experience to say the least. The atmosphere is somewhat romantic and the prices not cheap....for Granada standards. It's not quite fine dining; the staff is young, very nice, they work hard, but really aren't very polished. We really didn't need reservation as we were the only table for most of our meal and there were only two other tables occupied when we left. I did love our table which was located in the cellar.
The young staff really wasn't able to help us in wine selection so I chose something randomly.....
The amuse arrived.....
It was kind of funny....just sliding around the plate. For some reason, the presentation bothered the Missus. So I went ahead and plated it the way I thought it should be presented.
Much better, eh?
We started with the "Traditional" Salmorejo (9 Euros).
This classic Andalucian cold soup is a favorite of mine. While gazpacho, the more well known cold soup is seasonal, salmorejo is consumed year 'round. This version was very smooth and creamy, though according to the Missus, it needed more olive oil and "where was the hard boiled egg garnish?"
I got the Anchovies with Iberian Tomato and Beet Carpaccio (18 Euros).
The flavor of the anchovy was too strong for the Missus. Meanwhile, I loved the savory-brininess. Lovely peppery-grassy flavors from the olive oil, the tomatoes added a mild acid component, though I could have used more acid and perhaps some additional pungency. The flavor of the beets were very mild, I expected a bit more sweetness.
The Missus got the "Charcoal Smoked Octopus" (18 Euros). Isn't that simply called "grilled"?
While the "smoked" flavor was almost non-existent, I think the octopus had been sous-vide first, then grilled. The texture was outstanding, crisp exterior, almost melt in your mouth. I'd have appreciated a bit more seasoning as I felt more salt was needed.
I got the "Suckling Lamb Shoulder Cooked at Low Temperature" (24 Euros). Man, this was a huge portion, we ended up taking most of this back to the apartment.
Again, this dish could have used more seasoning and perhaps some time in a pan to crisp up the skin which was gummy. Still, this was obviously sous-vide and the wonderful gamey flavor made up for any shortcomings. The lamb melted in your mouth...the potatoes were basic, but quite tasty as well.
As a whole, I don't think I'd return here if/when we're back in Granada. The service was very nice, though rough around the edges, and I expected better execution at this price point. Not a terrible meal, but not memorable.
Alacena de las Monjas Plaza del Padre Suarez 5 Granada, Spain
After having some nice Bocadillos at Cafe Opera 5, we made our way back to the train station. You see, I went to check our tickets for the rest of our trip and noticed that one set was missing! Luckily, I had my receipt. Along the way we finally found a supermarket and stopped to get a few items.
Along the way we pass the Monastery of San Jeronimo.
We walked parallel to Gran Via, then LAC, actually walking through the University. Making it to the train station and the Renfe Desk, I was told that since I'd purchased our tickets at El Cortes Ingles, I'd have to go to their travel office. He was nice enough to point out; grabbing a map, the closest office of their travel agency, even drawing out the path we should take! All of this with his minimal English and my inability to speak much Spanish! We managed to find the nearby office and the woman who worked their was amazingly nice....even though it took about an hour, she straightened everything out for us and we left tickets in hand.
The office was right next to Plaza del Triunfo, so we took a nice little stroll through the plaza.
That's the Triumph of the Virgin Column above. Though there's not much out there on this plaza that's not in Spanish; I've read some interesting stories about this location. There originally was a Basilica at this location, but it was destroyed and replaced by a Muslim Cemetery. When the Christians took Granada, a hospital was built here. When the forces of Napoleon took Granada, this was the site of public executions. Mariana Pineda heroine of the famous play (with the set and costumes by Dali) and an opera was executed here in 1831.
Across the street is a rather colorful alleyway; the Alcaceria. This was once the location of the silk market. The street between these two locations used to be a river and a bridge connected the Corral del Carbon and the Alcaiceria. Now it's a long alleyway full of tourist shops.
We headed down the lanes and ended up in a plaza we'd walked through the night before....Granada was already starting to get smaller; full of cafes and shops named Plaza de Bib Rambla and the fountain with Neptune on top called "Fuente de los Gigantones" (Fountain of the Giants).
Right around the corner is the Cathedral, which looks quite impressive.
I think being tucked in between other buildings just makes it look that much more impressive. As with other churches and cathedrals we saw during this trip, this is built on the former site of a mosque.
I really enjoyed the view of the rest of the square, Plaza de las Pasiegas, from the Cathedral steps.
We went around the side street of the Cathedral past a building that for some reason was one of my favorites in Granada.
And back out to Gran Via. By now, the Missus was getting a bit hungry. We decided to head back toward Mercado Agustin. We'd seen a Café/Bar/Restaurant when leaving Café Opera, with signs posted with a really nicely priced menu del dia - basically daily lunch specials.
The place was very comfortable, a section with little tables below and a larger bar area up above. They did offer a rather inexpensive menu del dia; like 8 Euros and also full and half servings (media raciones) of dishes. The missus took the menu del dia; Sopa de Calabaza, Pumpkin Soup to start, Calamares de Granada, and a glass of wine.
I went with a Cerveza......
And a media racione of the Morcilla con Pinones; blood sausage with pine nuts.
Good thing I got a half order. This was quite good; blood sausage, more like a nice earthy, slightly sweet, blood pudding, studded with pine nuts which provided a nice contrast in flavor and texture. The Missus really enjoyed this as well...it went so well with bread.
The Missus enjoyed the pumpkin soup.
The "Granada style calamari" turned out to be basically fried squid rings......
The flavor was quite nice, but the squid was on the tough side.
The Missus got an Americano for dessert and our Server was nice enough to bring me one as well. This was a nice relaxed lunch. The service was very friendly and the prices were more than reasonable.
Cafe Bar Mercado Calle Alvaro de Bazan Granada, Spain
Funny thing, we left the restaurant by the back door and walked into a courtyard. There were tables filled with folks having wine and tapas. The Missus said, "hey, this looks good!" I had to laugh, it was the outdoor tables of Saint Germain! We'd come full circle it seems. It was time to head on back for a nice afternoon siesta.......
The main reason for visiting Granada was The Alhambra of course. This grand Moorish Palace resides on top of a hill overlooking Granada. I had bought tickets well in advance and printed them out in the bookstore the night before. This enabled us to take the "short cut", up Cuesta de Gomerez, which was basically right outside our apartment door.
Right up the street was Puerta de las Granadas and it was a nice short walk to the "Justice Gate", the original entrance to the Alhambra. Because we'd printed out our tickets beforehand, we could use this gate to access the palace. Our designated time for Palacios Nazares was 9am, so we had some time to check out the Alcazaba, a large looming fortress and tower, the oldest part of the Alhambra.
In Arabic, Qa'lat al-Hamra' ("Alhambra") means "red castle" and in the morning light, this structure, which dates back to the 13th century did indeed look like a "red castle". If you wind your way though the passages and walkways, then climb up to the tower, you'll be rewarded with a stunning view, which also highlights the strategic location of the Alcazaba. The view is wonderful and is well worth the climb up the tower........hopefully, it will be a rather clear day and the view will be like this.
You need to get in line for the Palacios Nazaries, the Moorish Royal Palace complex. There are so many features of the palace; like the Courtyard of the Myrtles; basically the central courtyard.
The Mocárabe (Stalactite Work) is amazing as is the symmetry. This is the ceiling of the Grand Hall of the Ambassadors, the wooden ceiling is made up of 8,017 wood inlays and is room itself is a perfect cube.
You could spend hours here just admiring the tile work and visiting places like the Courtyard of the Lions.
And while a sort of fatigue set in; I started looking for random and whimsical features to balance out the perfection of the place, I never got tired of the view. Near the middle top of the photo is the Church of San Nicolás, at the bottom is the Paseo de los Tristes (Walk of the Dead Ones), once the funeral procession route in the city.
We exited the palace and passed through some quaint gardens and then a series of towers. This is the "Torre de los Picos" (Tower of the Points).
After exiting, we headed down Bib Ramblas and ended up where we started.
We then headed to Mercado Agustin, but other than buying some really olive oil were quite underwhelmed....I mean, the jamon here was cut by machine! By this time, we needed a bit of a break. Down the small street next to the market we found this place.
We had intended on just getting some espresso here, but were feeling a bit puckish as well. So the Missus decided we should go ahead and have a Bocadillo as well, which sounded just fine to me. So She had me order a jamon and an anchovy (!) bocadillo. One of the things we really enjoyed about this little shop were the bottles of roasted garlic infused olive oil.....which folks just poured like crazy on their bread.
That Jamon Bocadillo must have been pretty good....because I never even had a shot at it!
The Anchovy version was too fishy-oily-salty for the Missus, but I kinda liked it with the garlic olive oil.
It was nice and briny, man that infused olive oil was good. We quickly learned that it was okay to pour like a gallon of that stuff on your bread. There were some interesting photos in this shop; when I exited the restroom, the older woman sitting at one of the tables pointed to the photo of what looked like the Emperor of Japan on the wall and said something to me in Spanish. Sorry to say I didn't understand.
We really enjoyed this little shop and would return on our way to the train station as we left Granada. Folks here seemed more friendly (and folks in Spain were pretty friendly as a whole) than anywhere else in Spain.
After a much needed nap, we decided to take a walk around Granada before heading to our dinner location. We took off in a random direction to the end of Calle Animas finding that it was a shortcut to Calle Cuchilleros and Catolicos.
And ended up in this pretty little square; named Plaza del Padre Suarez.
Right across the street from the square is the Casa de los Tiros, which is now a museum. I loved the coat of arms above the door. A sword stands poised over a heart with the inscription "El corazón manda" (the heart is in command).
There's a restaurant at the end of the plaza, we impulsively made reservations for dinner the next night.....I thought we might want something other than tapas by then.
The Missus saw some stairs leading in the direction of the Alhambra....of course we had to head up those stairs.
We loved the arteries that lead down along the way and the views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the background.
I thought we had seen enough, but the Missus was determined to make it to the top.
At the end of the trail was what looked like a fortress....this is the Hotel Alhambra.
Heading back down we meandered through the streets of the Realejo neighborhood, taking time to stop and admire the Iglesia de Santo Domingo.
We ended up on Carrera de la Virgen and really enjoyed walking around. At the end of the street is Plaza de Humilladera and nice green space. For some reason, I really love this photo.
And the Fuente de las Granadas.
Notice the pomegranates? You'll see them everywhere in Granada, as it is the official symbol of the city. In fact, the pomegranate is called "granada" is Spanish....makes sense, huh?
There seems to be so many fountains in Granada. This one, on Plaza del Campilo is named Fuente de las Batallas - the Fountain of the Battles.
According to this post, this is where folks in Granada celebrate their soccer victories.
There was a reason why we were down in this area and killing time. We had reservations for dinner at a shop named La Oliva. The owner holds special dinners a few times a week. Multi-course dinners that feature the local olive oil and wine, with typical local dishes. I'd made arrangements a few months ahead of time for one of these dinners. Unfortunately the owner had taken ill so dinner was cancelled.
So it was time for plan B. We took our time making our way back up Calle Catolicos, a major shopping street....then cutting through Bib Rambla and the back of the Cathedral, then back up Gran Via until we turned down a side street to a wine bar named Saint Germain.
The place had a rather extensive listing of over 30 wines by the glass.....all from Spain in addition to Cava and beer.
We loved the atmosphere....we both ended up with our favorite wine...
The Missus ended up enjoying the house Blanco Seco, while I really liked the Encaste, a nice red, I believe a Cabernet from Ronda.
And of course, there was a free tapa with every glass. We really enjoyed what this place put out. First off, a wonderful olive oil-cheese-onion tostada, with nice oregano flavor, the bread so crisp.
Then a remarkable arroz-verde, rice with cheese and mushroom that was a pure joy to eat. Everything in balance, savory-salty-earthy, the rice cooked perfectly. This was perhaps the Missus's favorite single dish in Granada.
By this time, the Missus had discovered the joy of wondering what tapa would come out with Her next glass of wine. We were disappointed when it was a rather simple salad.
And rather surprised when something that looked just like a Mexican Flauta arrived. This was delicious by the way; the creamy, savory cheese-béchamel filling was very good.
I loved the fried fava beans too. I asked and was told this is a "canelone", a Spanish version of cannelloni and a specialty of Catalan, which was thought to be brought to Spain in the 19th century. You learn something new everyday.
By this time the place was filling up.
We had intended on ordering some food, but ended up stuffed on tapas. Our bill? 20 euros....which put us at less than forty bucks for lunch and dinner, crazy. By this time the place was full....on this evening full of locals and college students. We'd end up coming here on every evening while in town.....there would be a combination of locals and folks from the hotel up the street. We never had the same tapa twice......it became sort of a game for the Missus.....the let's see what we get kind of thing. I can't say I didn't enjoy playing along.
Saint Germain Calle Postigo Velutti 4 Granada, Spain
Our train was scheduled to leave Atocha Station at 0745......we're not quite used to things being pitch black dark at 7am in the morning so that was somewhat disorienting to us. And yet, it was neat watching the sun rise over the horizon on the train...at 0845 no less....
We were of course, well prepared for any pangs of hunger. Armed with the Jamon Bellota from Ferpal. Part of the "fun" when travelling are the interesting characters you see. In this case, the middle aged, somewhat eccentric Japanese gentleman who brought a huge suitcase with him, in addition he wore two watches to go with the two cameras around his neck. He stuffed the suitcase on the seat next to him....only to find out that someone had that seat reserved. He quickly moved the gigantic suitcase to the storage area......then, in a strange twist of fate, the guy who sat next to him suddenly realized he was on the wrong car! Bummer...... And yet, not all was lost as he bought a bocadillo and assumed what I consider to be the classic "bocadillo pose".
After his sandwich; I watched him bring out a huge folder with tabs and review notes....about what, I'm not sure. Then I saw him bring out a smartphone....which led me to wonder why he needed two watches?
Since the tracks to Granada are being repaired we had to change from the train to a bus at Antequera-Santa Ana Station. Our good man ended up sitting right across from another eccentric looking middle aged Japanese gentleman who had a huge file folder of notes carrying a huge camera tri-pod. Aaaah, when soulmates meet! They had such an animated conversation during the bus ride to Granada Train Station which was going thru some major road work.
We were told to catch the bus on "LAC" - Avenida de la Constitucion, then transfer to the bus on Gran Via....of course we decided to walk.
The location of the AirBnB apartment was great, right off Plaza Nueva on Calle Animas...though we did find that so much was tourist based here. Finding a simple market or decent bakery was a bit difficult. Yet, it was so close to the Judicial Gate of the Alhambra (right up the street) and many of the popular places it was a great location.
A big plus was the location of the Alhambra Bookstore where we could print our prepaid tickets for our visit, thus being able to take the nearby Judicial Gate the next day.
Granada takes pride in still offering what we were told is "traditional tapas"......free tapas with every drink. Two of the most highly recommended places were within a short walk of our apartment; Los Diamantes and Bodegas Casteneda. Los Diamantes seemed very touristy, right on the main drag....though we did see the original location a bit later on which seemed less so. Bodegas Casteneda an alleyway off the main drag seemed to have a more local clientele.......based on the older local folks who seemed to be making the rounds after (before?) church on this Sunday.
A lot of older couples would just drop by; have a drink, then move on......perhaps to the next place.
Our free tapa...with the glass of tinto for the Missus and my beer was a rather generous portion of bacalao (preserved cod) with a very nice tomato sauce.
It was a bit early for more drinks for us so I ordered "tapa" size portions of Fabes con Jamon (fava beans with jamon) which the Missus absolutely loves and berenjenas relleno (stuffed eggplant) which was very cold in terms of temperature and in spite of looks was on the greasy side and lacked flavor.
Not quite the most auspicious first meal in Granada....yet quite worth the 12 Euro price in our mind. So while we'd probably not return it was quite reasonable for us.
It's quite amazing that the servers are able to keep track of things, but they do. Bodegas Casteneda also has a full service restaurant next door; don't confuse this place with Antigua Bodega Casteneda right around the corner....there's some familiar connection, but to my understanding, has no true link to this location.
Bodegas Castañeda Calle de Almireceros 1-3 Granada, Spain