Archive for March, 2019

Andalusia – eating tapas in Granada

Posted in Andalusia, Granada, Granada Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , on March 31, 2019 by gannet39

Granada is famous for its tapas which traditionally come free with your drink. There are heaps of good tapas bars, too many to sample in a weekend, but here are a few famous ones that I quite liked. You’ll find them all on my map, along with many more that are untried.

Please also see my following post for Restaurants and Takeaways in Granada.

Antigua Bodega Castaneda (Intermediate A), 5 Calle Elvira and another entrance on Calle Almireceros, m.facebook.com/BodegasCastaNeda

This famous restaurant and tapas bar was my favourite dining experience in Granada. It has heaps of atmosphere, the staff are really nice and the food is great.

My friend Nicky and I sat outside in the cool alley and shared the local speciality Habas con Jamon (broad beans with some wonderful cured ham from nearby Trevelez, served with a fried egg). Unsightly but very tasty (A).

We also had the Carrillada Iberica, pork cheeks, (B) and a bottle of Habla del Silencio, a favourite red of mine from Extramadura (B+). The bill came to about €30 each. A great little spot, definitely recommended.

Taberna La Tana (Low Intermediate A), 3 Placeta del Agua, www.tabernalatana.com

I love this tiny tapas bar with its pretty rustic décor and friendly staff. Due to its size and popularity, it’s best to arrive as soon as they open if you want a table.

I didn’t eat much as this was my last stop on a lengthy tapeo but the freebies I had were very good so I presume everything else is.

The owner is a sommelier (sumiller) and he has an extensive selection of excellent wines.

I’ll come here first next time!

Chikito (High Intermediate B+), 9 Plaza del Campillo, www.restaurantechikito.com

A very famous and long-standing locale, beloved by the local great and good. An earlier incarnation was frequented by local poet, Federico García Lorca.

You can sit outside in the pretty square or…

… sit down in the restaurant, or do as I did and stand in the tapas bar.

In accordance with local tradition, free tapas came automatically with each glass of wine I had.

I wasn’t too keen on the local Muñana (C) red wine but the Morcilla (black pudding) tapa it came with was quite sweet and liquid (B).

The Pinchos Moruno (pork kebab) were a bit tough but still tasty (B). I enjoyed the Añares Rioja as well (B).

The final bill was a mere €6 but à la carte would be more expensive.

Cunini (Intermediate B+), 14 Plaza de Pescaderia, www.cunini.es

A very famous restaurant and marisqueria which is one of the best places for fish and seafood in Granada. There’s a busy terraza outside, a restaurant area which I haven’t seen, and a frenetic tapas bar, which was where I did my best to get served on a very busy Saturday lunchtime.

Attracting the attention of a bartender whilst standing behind people eating at the bar is the first challenge, the second is finding somewhere to put your plate once you’ve been served. Inevitably a fair bit of waiting is involved, especially between getting your drink and receiving your free tapa.

I had two glasses of a decent verdejo (B), a free tapa of very wet paella with tiny crabs and clams (B)…

…and a purchased plate of Necoras, velvet crab (B+).

I didn’t wait around for my second free tapa as it took too long to arrive. To be fair, the guys on the bar work their socks off and my chap was quite affable despite being driven to distraction. I’d definitely come again but would try to time it better to avoid the crowds.

Löwe Gastrobar (Intermediate B+), 6 Calle Ángel Ganivet, Calle Ganivet, www.liongranada.com

A rather soulless modern bar with no outside terrace. However, they sell excellent award-winning, if slightly pricey, tapas.

I had three tapas (salmorejo, hamurguesa, ensalada rusa) and two glasses of wine for €7.40, all of which were very good (B).

Pescaderia Puri y Sandra (Elementary B+), San Agustín Market, Plaza de San Agustín

Located in San Agustín Market, this is a fishmongers that serves its own produce.

It seems very popular with the locals (I was lucky to get a seat), perhaps because it’s better value than the posher or more touristy places above.

A prawn loving Norwegian like myself couldn’t help but be impressed by their display.

Even if some of it is a bit frightening.

I went for a plate of prawns (B+)…

… and a glass of Verdejo (B+), both of which did the business.

There are many other tapas bars in the market to try, definitely a good spot.

And that was my very brief experience of the tapas scene in Granada, although I think I’ve done a pretty good job of finding some of the best ones.

Plenty left for next time though. Restaurants next…

Granada – getting into the Alhambra

Posted in Andalusia, Granada, Granada Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on March 30, 2019 by gannet39

I came to Granada at very short notice so I didn’t have time to book a normal cheap ticket to go and see the Alhambra. They sell out weeks ahead, and although there are a few held back for purchase on the day, they are taken as soon as it opens.

An easier way to go is to take a guided tour and I was able to book one through the receptionist at my hotel as soon as I arrived. It cost €55 (in 2017, as opposed to €15 under your steam) but it saved me lots of hassle and Daniel our guide was quite knowledgeable. I went with the Granada Travel Centre granadatravel.com. There are several other outfits but GTC picked me up and dropped me back at the hotel which sold it to me.

Bear in mind that the Alhambra has on average eight thousand visitors a day so it’s virtually impossible to have the place to yourself. Mornings are the best time to go, the gates open at 08.30.

The Alhambra is actually a complex of different palaces and fortifications. The first one to visit is the Palacio del Generalife www.alhambra-patronato.es which is separated from the Alhambra by a ravine.

It was built in the late thirteenth century as a place for the Nasrid rulers to relax and there are several lovely tranquil areas. Particularly famous is Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel); a long water pool fed by fountains and framed by flowerbeds on either side.

There are also other beautiful internal gardens.

An interesting fact I learned from the guide was that Islamic fountains are always soothing and quiet whereas Christian fountains are deliberately noisy in order to attract attention!

For the North African Moors water was a symbol of power, so they built aqueducts stretching several kilometeres to bring it from the hills.

The interior of the palace contains beautifully carved Arabesques.

Click to enlarge.

Outside the palace is the the Jardím de la Sultana (Sultana’s Garden or Courtyard of the Cypress).

The garden is very beautiful but most likely not authentic as its reconstruction in 1931 was done purely by imagination.

You can get excellent views over the town from here.

On the other side of the ravine, in the Nasrid Palaces, the most stunning sight is the Hall of Abencerrajes www.alhambradegranada.org with its incredible Muqarnus ceiling.

The artistic intention was to symbolise God’s creation of the universe.

This honeycomb or stalactite effect is known as Mocárabe in Iberian architecture.

The windows in the hall are also very intricate.

As are others elsewhere in the palace.

Nearby is the Patio de Los Leones www.alhambradegranada.org, another stunningly beautiful work.

Also of interest is the Mexuar Hall www.alhambradegranada.org which has undergone many alterations over the centuries as its use has changed.

Here are some more Arabesques from the Nasrid palaces. Click to enlarge.

And some other shots from around the Nazrid Palaces.

And of course the views are wonderful from here.

It’s incredible to think that the whole complex was nearly blown up by Napoleon’s troops.

If you don’t actually make it inside the Alhambra, you can still get a good view of if from Plaza San Nicolas which has a nice vibe in the evenings. If you want a drink and a seat with your view, try this place…

El Huerto de Juan Ranas (Intermediate B+), 6 Calle Atarazana Vieja

This is bar on the at the top of the Albacin has a fantastic view of the Alhambra which is immediately opposite on the next hill. You could walk up but it’s quite hard going. Much easier to splash out on a taxi which will get you to the top for around €6.

Nicky and I got a table and had a G&T while taking in the vista. They weren’t cheap, €9.50 each, but you’re paying for the location. They do food (no reservations taken) but I haven’t tried it. A friend who came in the evening, just to see the Alhambra at dusk, said that the Rabo de Toro was pretty good.

I took heaps more photos but I think that’s enough for today, I’m getting hungry!

Andalusia – Granada – walking around

Posted in Andalusia, Granada, Granada Province, Spain with tags , , , on March 29, 2019 by gannet39

I finally got to go to Granada in July 2017 after wanting to visit for nearly twenty years. My work itinerary had me just changing trains and continuing on to Jaen but I managed to delay for a couple of nights of quality R&R.

It was a whistlestop tour and these posts are just a record of my experiences and are not intended to be a guide. Hopefully parts of them will be of use though.

The main reason anyone goes to Granada is of course to see the famed Alhambra so I’ve given it its own post (next up). Another very good reason to visit is for the city’s food culture, particularly tapas, so that also has its own post. The old Moorish neighbourhood, the Albaicín, will no doubt get its own post in the future but for now you’ll find it represented in the food section.

This post is about all the other stuff I saw when I was walking around. It’s all on my Google map here.

The next most famous construction in town is the Catedral de Granada www.catedraldegranada.com, the impressive façade of which can be viewed in Plaza de las Pasiegas, preferrably from a stool on a bar terrace.

The interior is beautiful but it was 5€ to get in and I didn’t have much time so I left it for another occasion.

The side entrance on Calle Cárcel Baja is quite ornate as well.

Flanking the cathedral on the other side on Calle Oficios is the royal chapel, the Capilla Real de Granada www.capillarealgranada.com.

From here a gate takes you to the main street Gran Vía De Colón.

There are of course heaps of other beautiful churches in Granada.

Big and small.

Not far from the cathedral is the Corral del Carbon www.alhambradegranada.org, an early 14th century Alhóndiga (farmers market) from the Nasrid era.

The entrance is particularly nice.

The rest of the building houses a free exhibition on the history of Granada.

Another piece of Moorish architecture still standing in the lower town is the Puerta de Elvira at Plaza del Triunfo.

I can’t remember exactly where sorry but there are a few nice bits of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernista architecture dotted about. You can click on this gallery to enlarge the pics if you’re on a computer.

Not too sure about this post-modern monster though.

Time for something far more beautiful…

Andalusia – eating and drinking in Osuna

Posted in Andalusia, Osuna, Seville Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2019 by gannet39

There’s not a huge choice of places to eat in Osuna but here are a few good ones, in order of preference. My map is here.

Doña Guadalupe (High Intermediate A), 6 Plaza Guadalupe

This is the best, and probably most expensive, place in town, located in a hidden square just a few minutes’ walk from the Hotel Palacio Marques De La Gomera. You can sit outside under the porticos in the square but I chose to sit inside as it was a bit more comfortable.

On the waiter’s suggestion I began with the Surtido Iberico (three kinds of charcuterie with cured cheese, grilled peppers and some toast with local olive oil) which was great (A) but had I known it was going to be so big, and at a cost of €20, I wouldn’t have ordered it for just one person.

It was nice to see my old friend Overo (B), a red from nearby Lebrija, which was good value for €15.

For my segundo; Perdiz de Monte en su Jugo, or mountain partridge in its own gravy (B+).

And to finish, Flan Naranja con Arroz con Leche, aka orange caramel pudding with rice pudding (A).

With this a glass of ‘Espuny’ Pedro Ximenez (A).

Dessert came with some complimentary Pastitas Caseras (homemade shortbread biscuits) and two bottles of digestifs; Pacharan (a Basque liqueur made with sloes) and Aguardiente des Hierbas (like grappa with added herbs).

Total cost was a somewhat excessive €71 although this included a beer. You don’t have to be as greedy as me of course.

My second favourite place was this modern tapas bar…

Taberna Jicales (Intermediate B+), 11 Calle Esparteros

Tapas I tried included, in order of preference, Carrilladas aka pork cheeks (A), Pulpo Gallego or Galician style octopus (B+), Piruletas also known as chorizo lollipops (B+), Miloja de Berenjena or battered and deep-fried slices of aubergine enclosing some brie-like cheese (B-), Croquetas de Cabrales y Sidra aka Asturian blue cheese and cider croquettes (B-).

I was less keen on the Solomillo al Pedro Ximenez which is pork loin in a PX wine reduction (C+) and the Mini Hamburguesa (C). All of these were very cheap at only €2 or €3 a pop.

This next place is the local institution…

Casa Curro (Intermediate B), 5 Plaza Salitre

The food here is fine but nothing amazing. On my first evening I ate in their restaurant at the back. As you’d expect from an olive oil producing town, their olives are pretty good. I had their mixed Croquetas to start and followed up with the Rabo de Toro, stewed oxtail, and had a bottle of Ramon Bilbao Rioja to drink. The Flan de Chocolate finished things off. (All B).

On another night I enjoyed their Almejas de Carril en Salsa de la Casa (Galician clams in the house sauce) and their Salmorejo (bread and tomato soup with ham, egg and olive oil), along with a bottle of Barbadillo white wine (all B again).

You can get a very cheap brandy for a night cap from their tapas bar at the front.

There is no outdoor area Casa Curro so they have opened this other smaller tapas bar over the square where you can sit at tables on the street…

Taberna Currito Chico (Elementary A), 9 Plaza Salitre

I much prefer the ambience at this little tapas bar to that of its big sister over the road. The food seems a little better too. Certainly the Carrillada con Queso al Pedro Ximenez, pork cheek with cheese and a sweet wine reduction, is a winner (A). Tables are hard to snag though so arrive early.

El Molinillo (Elementary C+), 6 Plaza Mayor

This tiny tapas bar on the main square is run by a nice old boy. You could stand inside but the terrace on the square is a good spot for sinking a cold one while you watch the town at play in the evenings. Although the Jamon is good (B+), I wasn’t that impressed by the Solomillo Ajillo aka pork loin in garlic (C-).

And a couple to avoid…

Cafeteria Arco (High Elementary C), 8 Piazza Cervantes

Came here for lunch and ordered the Butifarra hoping for a grilled version of my favourite Catalan sausage. Got some thinly sliced cold version on white bread that was more akin to garlic sausage (C-) for which they charged me €3.

Vera (High Elementary C-), Calle Alfonso XII

Although this was #6 on TripAdvisor and the fifth most reviewed in 2017, the tapa of Bacalao Frito I had here failed to impress (C-).

For hotel room picnickers…

…you could get a roast chicken to go from Pollos Asados La Fama at 25 Calle Alfonso XII.

The old bakery Panadería Moyá (since 1920) at 60 Calle Sor Angela de la Cruz has some nice bread in the window.

And for those sweet of tooth, you can get cakes and biscuits from the nuns either from Religiosas Madres Concepcionistas at 1 Calle Sevilla or from Monasterio de la Encarnación at 2 Plaza la Encarnación.

Andalusia – walking around Osuna

Posted in Andalusia, Osuna, Seville Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2019 by gannet39

Historic Osuna is built on a sandstone hill which has been a source of ashlars (stone building blocks) for the town’s buildings for millenia. Some of these come from El Coto las Canteras, a spectacular quarry known as ‘the Petra of Andalusia’ which is just on the outskirts of town. Sadly this amazing attraction is only open on special occasions but the link above will give you a good idea of what it looks like inside. It’s on my map if you want to go and have a look through the fence.

We are put up at the best hotel in town, the 18th century Palacio Marques De La Gomera www.hotelpalaciodelmarques.es, a baroque palace with a beautiful stone facade and entrance. The turret room was used in the 2001 film “Callas Forever” with Fanny Ardant and Jeremy Irons. The cast and crew of series five of Game of Thrones also stayed here.

The entrance has some nice details and inside there is a lovely internal courtyard with a fountain. You can click to expand these and other smaller pics if you’re on a computer.

According to UNESCO Calle San Pedro is the second most beautiful street in Europe, While I’m not sure I agree with that, it does have another spectacular facade a few doors up at 15 Calle San Pedro. The Cilla del Cabildo Colegial is another baroque palace built in 1773.

The doorway is decorated with symbols of Seville’s cathedral, such as lilies in vases and a representation of the cathedral’s clocktower, La Giralda.

If you walk up to the top of and turn left you’ll soon come to the Posito Municipal andaluciarustica.com, at 80 Calle Carrera. Built in 1779 it was the town’s municipal granary and later a hospital.

At the bottom of the hill you come to the neo-classical Arco de la Pastora andaluciarustica.com, the Arch of the Sheperdess, which is the town’s last remaining gate.

Nearby is the Plaza de Toros dating from 1903.

It’s largely unused nowadays although some scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed inside.

On the other side of town on Calle San Agustín is the former post office, the Palacio de Miguel Reina Jurado andaluciarustica.com.

Nearby at 10 Calle la Huerta is the Palacio de los Cepeda andaluciarustica.com.

On a parallel street at 44 Calle Sevilla is the Palacio de Puente Hermosa, also known as the Palacio de Govantes y Herdera.

The impressive Solomonic columns of its doorway are decorated with bunches of grapes and vine leaves.

A few doors away on the same street is this unmarked building.

I love the decorative faces above the door.

Up the road at 9 Calle Sevilla, is the less impressive doorway of the Antiguo Convento de Santa Catalina. The internal layout of the convent was used as a template for convents in Mexico.

You can buy cakes from the nuns next door at Religiosas Madres Concepcionistas at 1 Calle Sevilla.

At the end of Calle Sevilla you come to Plaza Major. The town hall sits over one of the streets entering the square.

The eastern side is lined with attractive buildings.

From here you can see La Colegiata de Osuna on the hill above the town.

The Rennaisance church houses the Museo de Arte Sacro de la Colegiata de Osuna www.colegiatadeosuna.es.

On the way up the hill you’ll also come across the Torre del Agua andaluciarustica.com which is also the home of the Museo Arqueológico de Osuna. Neither museum’s opening hours coincided with when I was free unfortunately so I saved them for next time.

You can get some great views over the town from the top of the hill.

Over the road at the very top of the hill is the famous Escuela Universitaria de Osuna www.euosuna.org, founded in 1548 and still a functioning university.

I sneaked inside to get a few shots of the beautiful internal courtyard.

It was strangely quiet when I was there.

The walls of the entrance hall bear some ancient decorative inscriptions.

Back down at the bottom of the hill in a small square is the Iglesia y Torre de La Merced andaluciarustica.com.

And that is probably enough baroque for one day, time for some grub now…

Almeria – eating near the hotels in Los Molinos

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Centro, Los Molinos, Spain with tags , , , , on March 24, 2019 by gannet39

This is a post primarily for my colleagues as the hotels we generally use aren’t in the Centro but a little way out in the barrio of Los Molinos.

Apologies for the lack of photos but nothing was particularly photogenic!

Hotel Tryp Indalo (Intermediate B), Avenida del Mediterráneo, www.melia.com

A fairly modern tourist hotel I stayed in in 2017 that’s about a twenty to twentyfive minute walk away from the Centro. Alternatively you can catch the #6 bus to the Catedral or the #1 to the Alcazaba from the bus stop outside the Jefatura over the road.

The name Indalo comes from a prehistoric magical symbol found in a cave near Almeria (info here).

The hotel itself is fine, nothing special, but better than the Hotel Vincci below. There’s a terrace on the roof with some broken sunbeds but little else in the way of facilities. It doesn’t have a restaurant but there’s a decent tapas bar nearby…

El Rincon de Basi (Intermediate B), 37 Travesia de San Luis

This is just two blocks up the hill from the Hotel Tryp Indalo, on the parallel street to the main road, so very handy if you can’t face going into town. It’s highly rated by the locals and was at #5 on Tripadvisor on my visit in 2017.

I had a couple of tapas but neither particularly impressed me. Service was pleasant and you can sit outside on the pavement terrace. I would go again but choose more carefully.

They have a second sister restaurant in town…

El Rincon de Basi Centro (Intermediate B), 12 Calle General Segura

This modern tapas bar is just opposite the Inlingua I was working at. I went for lunch and had a couple of decent but watery salads (B-), as is the Spanish way.

Hotel Vincci Mediterraneo (Intermediate C), 281 Avenida del Mediterraneo, www.vinccihoteles.com

This is where I stayed in 2014. Nice enough staff, except for one miserable guy in the breakfast room. It has spacious, basic rooms and is probably quite cheap, but it’s not very central and they fleece you for the internet. Maybe that’s changed since though.

Cadenas (Elementary B), 98 Haza de Acosta, closed Sunday.

Turn right out of the Hotel Vincci, turn second right down unsigned Calle Muro, turn right at the end and you’ll see this bar on the right in a block of small bars.

The easy option near the Hotel Vincci, this is a local tapas bar selling decent food. Get there soon after 8pm to guarantee a place on the terrace as it’s very popular. At lunchtime they only serve raciones.

I had the Patatas Bravas (pictured), Ensaladilla Rusa (boiled potato. tuna, mayo ), Carne con Salsa de Tomate (all B).

Bravas

So these were the options I tried when I was too tired to walk into town. You’ll be rewarded with much better food and atmosphere though if you can make it into the Centro.

A key to other posts on Almeria:

Traditional Tapas Bars in Town
Modern Tapas Bars in Town
Chilling at Zapillo Beach
Walking Around

My map is here.

A few days in historical Osuna next.

Almeria – chilling at Playa Zapillo

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Neuva Almeria, Spain with tags , on March 23, 2019 by gannet39

There are a couple of very large beaches near the centre of town which is why Almeria is a major holiday destination, particularly for Spanish tourists. I’m told the best beaches, and nature, are up the coast at Caba de Gato, but I have never had the time nor the car to go. One day though.

Here are a couple of chiringuitos (beach bars specialising in seafood) at Playa del Zapillo that I’ve been to…

El Tio Pepe (Elementary B), Avanida Cabo de Gata

This was the hotel recommended beach shack down in Neuva Almeria, a good place to go on a Sunday when everywhere else will most likely be closed. The food is fine but nothing out of this world.

I just had a plate of Migas (B) with some perfectly grilled Sardinias (A) alongside a few cervecas.

It takes ten minutes and €6 in a cab to get there from the Hotel Tryp Indalo (see next post), or you could take much longer on the bus. A sun lounger cost me €3.50 for the day.

In 2017 I arrived at El Tio Pepe a bit late at about 2pm (which is when most Spanish people eat lunch) and there was a queue of about twenty people ahead of me so I went to the next chiringuito down the beach where there were plenty of free tables…

Terraza del Mar (Intermediate C), 14 Calle Lopez Delgado

I think this place fancies itself as a bit posher than El Tio Pepe but I don’t rate it particularly highly.

I began with the Caballa; a loin of mackerel with local tomatoes (B).

The Lenguado however wasn’t great as a lot of the flesh was stuck to the backbone, perhaps a symptom of having been frozen until very recently (C).

And I do like my fried potatoes (no pic), the Patatas Alioli, to have a bit of colour (C).

The bottle of Castelo de Medina was very good though (B+) which cheered me up.

The Tarta de Queso was okay but nothing special (C+).

With an Orujo de Hierbas the final bill was €56.

After all this a snooze in the sun was in order. A ‘hamaca’ (hammock) here costs €5.

So treat yourself to a lazy day at the beach!

A key to other posts on Almeria:

Traditional Tapas Bars in Town
Modern Tapas Bars in Town
Eating near the Hotels
Walking Around

My map is here.

A post for my colleagues next…

Almeria – modern tapas bars in the Centro

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Centro, Spain with tags , , on March 22, 2019 by gannet39

There are heaps of tapas bars in Almeria so I’ve had to break my posts down to make them more accessible. My last post about the tapas in the Centro was about the trad places, this one is about the more modern bars. As ever, it’s just my brief impression, not a guide.

Here are my other posts on Almeria:

Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro
Modern Tapas Bars in the Centro
Chilling at Zapillo Beach
Eating near the Hotels
Walking Around

My map is here.

My, and everyone’s, favourite tapas bar is Casa Puga but this next place comes in a solid second…

La Mala (Intermediate A), 69 Calle Real

This hipster bar in Quatro Calles in the Centro is about thirty minutes’ walk from the Hotel Tryp Indalo where I was staying. It was my favourite place in town for food on my trip in June 2017 and at the time it was deservedly (for a change) the Tripadvisor #1 for its Cocina Creativa.

I went twice, once by myself and again with my colleague Sean and two of his local friends.

On both occasions I ordered the Tortilla con Trufa which was always knock out (A).

Don’t recall the name of the dish but it was great; thinly sliced, coiled courgettes tubes with parmesan cheese (B+).

The Entrana steak was a bit of an extra chewy cut (B+) but the Tuna Roja Tartar was really good (A).

We had a great bottle of Verdejo as well but foolishly I neglected to get the name. This Bai Gorri is a great Rioja though.

This is a great spot, definitely a top tip for food.

Continuing in order of preference…

Nuestra Tierra (Intermediate B+), 16 Calle Jovellanos, corner with Calle Marin, www.tabernanuestratierra.com

This bright, modern place has won a few Ruta de Tapas awards for the tapas below. You get one free when you buy a drink and pay a bit more, €1.60 when I was there, if you get extra ones. This is why drinks seem a bit expensive (€3.20 for a beer or €3.60 for a glass of wine).

The Bacalao Frito con Mahonesa Pil-Pil (A); chunks of battered, deep fried saltcod with mayo made with the oil from frying the cod and a sprinkle of chilli flakes, won second prize in the 2014 Ruta.

Also the Pasamar en Acietede Oliva; squid in a jar with olive oil and a black alioli made from squid ink was very good (B+). The year before I was there this tapa had won the won first prize in the 2016 Ruta.

The Crujiente de Morcilla; black pudding fritter with tomato jam, was just okay (B) although it won second prize in 2013.

Sadly though the Boladillos Jamon were not for me. A mash of potatoes with chunks of ham and garlic was strangely inedible (D).

I had a bit of a run in with the mardy waiter about this. I think uneaten unpleasant food shouldn’t be charged for and he did take it off the bill but without any grace. Also his tiny pouring of wine was considerably smaller than that of the person on the next table (a regular no doubt) which I made him remedy.

I’d go back for the Bacalao Frito and the Pasamar though. Total cost €11.50 which is very good for what I had.

El Vino en un Barco (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Arco

This is a cool little bar on a side street off the Calle Real strip. I came for drinks I’d like to come back for tapas. They’re also known for their cocktails.

The waiter was really nice and friendly but I didn’t like the El Terrao red wine he recommended to me as being the best local wine. National classics like Rioja and Ribera might be a safer bet.

I stayed because they had my favourite rum; Diplomatico from Venezuela, which is sublime mixed with a bit of fresh lime juice.

A place I’d go back to for sure.

De Tal Palo (Intermediate B), 15 Calle Real, detalpaloalmeria.es

This big, modern, popular tapas bar used to be the (failed?) Museo de Aciete. I’m guessing that the large pieces of antique olive oil processing machinery they have on display were once some of the exhibits.

As elsewhere, you get a free tapa with every drink. I had another go at the local classic Patatas Pobre, ‘poverty potatoes’, aka greasy fried potatoes with a fried egg, but I’m still not a fan (C).

The Solomillo al Foie con Reduccion de PX sobre Camas de Patatas Paja, didn’t impress as much as I hoped either (B-).

I also had another glass of El Terrao , the same wine I’d had over the road at El Vino en un Barco which had been described as the best but again it really didn’t do anything for me (C).

Total bill for three tapas and two glasses of wine was €8.80. It wasn’t that bad, but I probably won’t be returning when there are so many other places to try.

To the beach next!

Almeria – traditional tapas bars in the Centro

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Centro, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2019 by gannet39

Over two trips I’ve spent a couple of weeks in Almeria so I’ve managed to get a bit of a handle on the dining scene. Almeria is a big tapas town so most of the places below are tapas bars but a few double as restaurants. As there are so many I’ve had to break them down into separate posts to make them more accessible. This one is on Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro but there are others on…

Modern Tapas Bars in Town

Chilling at the Zapillo Beach

Eating near the Hotel

Walking Around

My map is here and a map of the barrios is here.

Out of all of the great tapas bars in town, I think this one is unmissable…

Casa Puga (Intermediate A+), 7 Calle Jovelllanos, www.barcasapuga.es GEM ALERT!

The most famous tapas bar in town, so of course it’s in all the guides, but for good reason…

It’s been around since 1870 and the atmospheric interior is covered with beautiful old ceramic tiles and pictures of days gone by.

Comedor

Three huge earthenware wine jars fill one end of the restaurant area while the old wooden bar is where most people choose to stand and talk.

Wine jars

Everything I ate here was superb. My first visit was with a friend on a Saturday night when we did well to get a seat as it was heaving inside and out. We had three plates of sliced Chorizo, Salchicha (A)…

Chorizo

…and Manchego Curado with toasted almonds (A)…

Old cheese

…along with a decent 2002 Rioja Crianza (A).

Ondarre 2002 Rerserva

We were the last ones in the place but our excellent waiter still came to fill our shot glasses with a second complimentary Pacharan, this one tasting more like cough medicine than usual (B).

I was working nearby the next day so came back for lunch where, after another complimentary slice of ‘queso viejo’ (matured Manchego) with toasted almonds, I got stuck into the fishy side of things. I had a plate of sublime creamy Pulpo a la Gallega, still warm octopus sprinkled with paprika and olive oil (A+). (Pic was blurry sorry).

Also a plate of Salmonetes (Red Mullet)…

Salmonetas

…and a mixed salad with Ventresca (belly tuna) (both A).

House salad

This went well with a glass of dry white Verdejo ‘Monasterio de Palazuelos’ from Rueda (B).

Palazuelos

To finish, the Tartita al Whisky looked worryingly different from other times I’d had it. Unlike previous occasions though this one was partly made with ice cream which was a winner (A).

Whisky tart

With this two glasses of sweet dessert wine, called simply Vino Dulce, made on the premises (A+).

Vino Dulce

I had the same old boy looking after me as the night before, which he did very well (thanks Juan). I was literally purring with contentment when I left.

Not far from Puga is the Alcazaba, the ancient fortress on the hill. There was no way I was going to make it up any kind of incline in the heat after that little lot, so it might be an idea to do the sightseeing before you eat.

Cow cart outside Puga

Casa Sevilla (Advanced B+), 14 Rueda Lopez, Galería Comercial Almericentro, www.casa-sevilla.com

This restaurant and tapas bar is the most famous high end place in town, perhaps because it’s one of the oldest (since 1958). In summer it’s best to sit outside in the terrace. I say ‘in’ because it’s in a tunnel but that’s okay because you catch a bit of a breeze. The waiters weren’t particularly friendly but they warmed up a bit with time.

I had the Berenjenas Fritas con Miel de Cana which has been on the menu since they opened. They were very nice (B+) if rather calorific. The aubergines are sliced thinly, battered and deep-fried. You get a bottle of cane sugar to pour over them. Must have a go at making this when I get home.

I was in the mood for meat so I had the Gallego Entrecote de Buey which I asked for ‘pocho hecho’. I should have said ‘jugoso’ as it wasn’t bloody at all but I still enjoyed it (B+) along with the skinny chips (B+). The salt looks like Maldon but it’s a local copy.

To go with it the Rincon Postrero Crianza, a Syrah Merlot blend which was okay (B).

A beer, a Torres 10 year old brandy (B) and the bread took the bill to just under €60. Expensive for Almeria but it was all good tackle.

Bodega Las Botas (Intermediate B+), 3 Calle Fructuoso Perez

This is another atmospheric old joint in the historic centre, tucked down a back street. It’s hard to find but worth it for the beautiful interior, packed with bullfighting memorabilia, including a couple of huge horned heads peering down at you from the wall.
Bull

You can also sit outside in the alleyway on some beautifully painted but very uncomfortable traditional chairs and tiny tables (hence the A minus).

As with all other places in Almeria, you immediately get a complimentary tapa on the house, in our case a plate of unshelled almonds and some fantastic ham on tomato bread (A).

Jamon

My choice of crinkly under-ripe Raf tomatoes (a local speciality) with raw garlic wasn’t the best (B-) as the huge plateful really needed something else to go with it.

Raf tomatoes

The house salad has lots of ingredients but was just ok (B).

There were some beautiful looking canapés on other tables as well. Service was just ok. One negative for me was that this is accordion player territory, but you may like music with your food.

Marisqueria Baviera (Intermediate B), 10 Calle Tenor Iribarne

This seafood specialist is the sister restaurant of Las Botas just around the corner. I had a hankering for some grilled prawns so I had a half dozen Gamba Blanca for €6 which, although very heavy on the salt, pressed the right buttons once I’d brushed it off (B). Not sure I’d come here for any other reason though.

Kiosco Amalia (Elementary B+), 10 Plaza Manuel Pérez García, www.facebook.com/KioskoAmalia

This street kiosk is a quite a famous spot in Almeria, popular with daytime customers and late night clubbers alike. They sell a local coffee drink called Café Americano which is made of milk, cinnamon, lemon rind and a dash of a cola cream liquer called Kola Cortails.

Sadly I didn’t find the right time to try one but instead I had another well known local drink, a Jabega de Menta, basically a slush puppy with a shot of Crème de Menthe, which is very thirst quenching on a hot day (A).

As you can see in the photo, Jerry Garcia is a regular here.

Bar Bahía de Palma (Intermediate B), 17 Calle Mariana

An old school bull fighting bar, plain and simple but with plenty of character. I found it a good place to meet locals and had a couple of good conversations with an old teacher and a young gypsy guy.

And a couple of places to avoid…

Parrilla Pasaje (Elementary C), 1 Calle Rueda López

This bar is famous for the Chérigan, a popular tapa served in many bars around the city. I was slightly disappointed to discover that it’s basically just a piece of toasted bread spread with aioli (or sometimes tomato) and a topping, such as tuna, cheese, tortilla, serrano ham, mackerel, quail egg, or in my case Jamon de York.

However, it did prompt me to find out why ham from my county in England is so popular in Spain. It turns out that in 1860, the cured hams produced by butcher Robert Burrow Atkinson, whose premises were on Blossom Street in York, became so popular that visiting customers exported the name and, in other British locations, they requested York-style cured ham. It is even mentioned by Auguste Escoffier in Le Guide Culinaire and in fact I have eaten it in Lyon (post here) with a Madeira wine sauce.

It seems the name Chérigan may be a corruption of “Sheriff”, perhaps from the Westerns that they film at the nearby Tabernas desert or possibly from the nickname of a bossy waiter (or chef, explanations vary) who once worked in the bar.

Bar Casa Joaquín (Intermediate C), 111 Calle Real

This historical tapas bar just down the road from La Mala (see next post) gets recommendations from both the Frommers and Michelin guides, perhaps because it has been around such a long time, although probably too long in my opinion. The first time I tried to go the waiter told me they opened at 21.00 which was too late for me. The second time I went for lunch at 13.15 which again was too early really but they were open and serving drinks and tapas so I went in.

My ‘Hola, buenas’ wasn’t even acknowledged which wasn’t a good start. I had two beers and two compliementary tapas; a Pisto which was good (B) and some boiled Squid which tasted okay at the time but which I think upset my plumbing later. I think it had been standing unrefridgerated for a bit too long. I wanted some of their excellent looking seafood out of the glass fridge but it wasn’t 2pm yet so I wasn’t allowed. Don’t think I’ll be going back. Miserable waiters and suspect food.

La Encina (Intermediate C), 16 Calle Marin

This place comes recommended by Michelin, Frommers and Repsol, perhaps because it’s in an old (not especially) atmospheric building containing a Moorish well. I might have chosen badly but I wasn’t impressed by the tapas I had in the front area. The restaurant at the back might be better.

This was my first try of Patatas Pobre, a classic local dish which I think just isn’t for me. The pale potatoes were edible (C), but only just. Don’t be put off though, you can get better elsewhere.

The Arroz Negro was a bit too oily for my taste (C) and the Croquetas failed to impress (C).

I asked for a local wine and was given a bottle called Carum which was undrinkable (D). They were nice enough to replace it with a glass of Ribera though (B).

Don’t think I’ll go again though as there are plenty of other places around.

Modern tapas bars next!

Almeria – walking around the Centro

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Spain on March 20, 2019 by gannet39

I’ve been to Almería twice, in 2012 and 2017, and it’s grown on me more and more each time. While not exactly a stunner, the city does have a lot of historical buildings, and there’s a huge beach which is never a bad thing.

I’ve broken my posts down to make them more accessible. This one is about Walking Around, ie architecture, street art etc but here are some others:

Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro
Modern Tapas Bars in the Centro
Chilling at Zapillo Beach
Eating near the Hotels

My Google map of the city is here and a map of the barrios is here.

Almería was founded by the Moors in 955AD. The Alacazaba on the hill is the second largest Arabic fortress in Andalusia.

It has been used as a set for Conan the Barbarian, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Never Say Never Again, and Wonder Woman.

I’ve never actually made it inside. On my first attempt I’d just eaten a huge lunch and couldn’t contemplate walking up a steep hill in the sun, and on my second try it was too early in the morning and they wouldn’t let me in. To be honest, friends tell me I’m not missing that much but I’d like to get inside one day just for the views.

Le Catedral in Plaza Vieja is much more accessible after a big lunch at nearby Casa Puga (see my post on Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro).

In terms of architecture, there are a few Modernista buildings around. My favourite is the Edificio De Las Mariposas at 6 Puerta de Purchena. Video here.

The butterflies around the top are a lovely feature.

There are a couple more Modernista buildings over the road at 4 and 5 Puerta de Purchena.

They were designed in an Electic style that includes a variety of influences; Moorish as well as neoclassical European.

There’s another in Plaza Flores.

A statue of John Lennon is also in the same square.

The old train station is another example of Moderisme.

It was being renovated when I was there so I need to go back for a proper look at the details.

I adore this house at 31 Calle Juan del Olmo. Wish I knew more about it.

I stumbled across a couple more modern buildings that I liked.

Can’t remember where they are, sorry.

I tried looking for this one on Google street view but still can’t recall where it was, apologies again.

I’m also a fan of the Fuente de los Peces in Parque Nicolás Salmerón.

I’m sure I’ve seen a cartoon character that has similar features to this fish but I can’t think where.

They love a bit of topiary in Almeria. Many of the main streets are shaded by beautifully sculpted trees.

These trees are in Plaza Campoamor in the Centro Histórico just south of the Alcazar.

I was lucky to catch the beautiful climbing flowers in bloom.

The barrio is a nice area to walk around.

In terms of street art, I didn’t see much about, but I quite like these squiggly images.

Both are by the same artist I presume.

Here are a few other bits and pieces that caught my eye.

Time for some tapas…

Calabria – Lamezia Terme – a great meal in Nicastro

Posted in Calabria, Catanzaro Province, Italy, Lamezia Terme, Nicastro with tags , , on March 19, 2019 by gannet39

Lamezia Terme is home to the second main airport in Calabria. The municipality is in fact an amalgamation of a few small towns and villages including the former municipalities of Nicastro, Sambiase and Sant’Eufemia Lamezia. My map is here.

I was working in Nicastro where I stayed at the Hotel Savant for two nights. The hotel is a bit old and faded but the breakfast is okay, and the staff, like everyone else I met in Nicastro, were very warm and friendly.

I didn’t see anything of note (although there is a Norman castle which I didn’t get round to visiting) and I didn’t have any expectations but I was really bowled over by the lovely people of the town who made me very welcome.

For instance, when I was doing a bit of fruit and veg shopping for stuff to take home (check out these lovely ‘datterini’ tomatoes, so called because they are the size and shape of dates)…

…I asked the old guy (not sure if he was the farmer or the grocer) if I could take a pic of his lovely apricots which had just arrived and ended up having a couple pressed into my hand for free. Such is Southern Italian hospitality and I love them for it.

The shop (at 16 Piazza Felice Sacchi) was also taking delivery of several crates of local cherries which were being stacked up high anywhere there was space, the fruits covered by fern fronds to protect them from the sun.

After finishing my last day of work I felt in the need to celebrate with a couple of beers. There are several bars in the main square but I noticed that in the kitchen of one ( Bar Bottega 89 at 87 Corso Numistrano) they were frying homemade Arancini so I hung around waiting for them to be done.

My patience was rewarded with a still warm, ragu-filled Arancino with the mozzarella just having melted. So, so good, especially with a cold beer.

On the last night of my trip I decided to eat at this little restaurant as it was the Tripadvisor #1 at the time of writing in early June 2017, for good reason as I discovered…

Alla Pentolaccia (High Elementary A+), 17 Salita Fratelli Maruca, www.allapentolaccia.it

This is a pretty little place tucked away on a back street. A Pentolaccia is similar to a Mexican piñata; a game where you break a container with lots of treats inside. It’s definitely a very apt name for this establishment.

I was given a very warm welcome by the friendly owner Franco who was assisted front of house by his son while his wife is the creative talent in the kitchen.

They specialise in ‘cucina territoriale’ and all the ingredients are locally sourced.

All the food on the menu is excellent (I should know, I ate most of it), as is their house red wine which Franco insisted I have rather than purchase a more expensive bottle as I had originally requested.

We kicked off with the antipasti; first an earthenware dish with a stuffed zucchini flower, a red onion frittata and a meatball, all deep fried deliciousness.

Next small dishes of green beans, a stuffed aubergine and a small mozzarella with tomato sauce served with rocket. Also a cheese board with two kinds of pecorino; fresh and aged, the latter, from Crotone, being one of the most powerful I’ve ever tasted as it had been matured for two years.

Can’t remember what this was but I could eat it right now.

This I think is Friarelli, a bitter cruciferous green.

I’d skipped lunch so I could have a proper feast and I followed up with one of the specialities of the house; Morzello made with tripe, heart, lungs, tomatoes, tomato puree, pepperoncino and oregano, which was wonderful. It’s served with a special bread called Pitta (it’s the big round loaf with a hole in the middle that you see in local bakeries, here sliced into short curves) which is especially good for sopping up the sugo.

I was in full beast mode so I had another main dish of Salsiccia con Porcini, sausage with boletus mushrooms (ceps) which even though it wasn’t in season and the mushrooms were a little hard from being soaked from dry, was still delicious (blurred photo, sorry).

After 3.5 hours of eating I crawled over the finish line with a slice of cherry pie and a glass of sweet wine.

So what do you think I paid for all ten dishes, a litre of wine and three homemade shots of Amaro? A mere €30, which is absolutely stunning value. I should know a bargain when I see it as I calculate that I’ve eaten in over 400 restaurants in Italy in the last seventeen years and this is definitely one of my favourites, both for the food and the hospitality.

Franco and I had become good friends during the time I was there and he sent me off with a kiss on each cheek and a warm glow inside. Many thanks to you Franco and to your lovely family, it was a real pleasure from beginning to finish. I must return one day!

I also went to another restaurant during my stay, but it wasn’t a patch on Franco’s place…

Novecento (Advanced B), 5 Largo San Antonio

This is the only Michelin recommended (not starred) place in the area. It’s okay but a bit posh and pricey for my tastes. The service was good, especially from the older chap, but I wasn’t overly impressed by the food.

I’d come hoping for local delicacies done well but I think it caters more for locals who want a change from the norm. Local ingredients are used but they are relatively far and few between. They do a good bread basket though.

To begin I was given this complementary creation, not sure what it was, but it didn’t impress. It’s the kind of fussy preparation that I detest (C).

I followed on with the Stroncatura Calabrese al Baccala e Peperoni Arrostiti (B). Stroncatura is a type of local pasta made with the flour and bran residues from milling grain. The whole wheat and rye gives it a coarse appearance. The pasta is generally seasoned with typical peasant ingredients such as olive oil, olives, garlic, Calabrian chili peppers, anchovies, and toasted breadcrumbs but here with saltcod and roasted peppers.

Then the Tonno in Crosta di Pistacchio, Sedano Rapa e Radicchio alla Soia, tuna steaks grilled and coated with crumbled pistaccios (B).

The Fiego Bianco white wine failed to make much of a mark on me (B) even though it was recommended by the head waiter, but I am a fussy bugger.

I enjoyed the dessert more; Cannoli alla Moda Nostro, or their house deconstructed cannolis (B+).

With these I had with a glass of 2011 Passito sweet wine called Bristace (B+), from the famous Tenuta Iuzzolini once again.

Finally I tried a trio of Calabrian amari. First a new kid on the block called Jefferson which I really liked (B+) and the more venerable Manfredi which was just okay (B). I contrasted these to all-time favourite Amaro di Capo (A). Capo is a bit sweeter than the others which might explain its commercial success (you’ll see it in most Italian airports). These were all complimentary as is often the case in Calabria.

With water and cover, the bill should have come to 60€ but they gave me a 5€ discount for some reason and I noticed while I was writing this that the dessert doesn’t seem to have been charged for, so I can’t really complain too much about paying 50€.

An okay place, perhaps good for a date, but I won’t be rushing back.

So a great time was had in Nicastro! I really look forward to going back one day. Off to Spain again next…

Calabria – a short stay in Cosenza

Posted in Calabria, Cosenza, Cosenza Province, Italy on March 18, 2019 by gannet39

Cosenza doesn’t have the greatest rep amongst my colleagues as there’s not much to see except seemingly endless blocks of modern flats.

There is a rather scrubby looking old town, on the slopes below the unimpressive looking castle on the hill (top left in the pic), but I didn’t have time to walk up to it so I can’t really say what it’s like.

I stayed at the Hotel Italiana Cosenza www.hicosenza.it (the former Holiday Inn) which met all my requirements; a good breakfast with handmade coffee, strong Wi-Fi, spacious modern rooms and pleasant staff. They also have a gym which I didn’t have time to use but I imagine it must be pretty decent as it’s open to the public.

The only downside is the hotel is at the other end of town from all the restaurants and Cosenza is very linear so you’re looking at a 45 minute walk to get to the good places. However I don’t really mind that as I’m sitting down all day and it’s good to stretch the old pins and walk up an appetite.

My map is here.

There’s not a lot to see that I’m aware of. If you fancy a wander anyway, Piazza Carlo F. Bilotti seems like an interesting modern take on what a square should be. The main shopping street Corso Mazzini runs off the square and gets quite busy in the evenings.

For more serious holidaymakers than me, Cosenza is the main jump off point for Sila National Park. The symbol of the park is the wolf so you might see it around, especially as it’s the nickname of the local football time is also the Lupini.

As far as restaurants go, here are my favourite places in order of preference…

Cantina Cosentina (Elementary A), 12 Corso Plebiscito

It says they are closed on Monday on their business card but it was open when I went. They were #1 on Tripadvisor when I went in June 2017, probably because it sells good but simple local fare at a very reasonable price. I went twice and really enjoyed it both times.

The ebullient owner will most likely greet you and ask whether you’d like to sit inside or out. As the June evenings were quite warm I always chose one of the tables on the pavement.

Not a lot of English is spoken and the menu is delivered verbally in strong dialect so it would make things easier to brush up on your Italian food vocab.

As soon as you arrive some Peperoncino Nduja mixed with olive oil hits the table.

I’ve lost my notes but from the looks of things went for their Antipasta di Terra which involved some cheeses, salami, grilled aubergines and courgettes, a tomato and red onion salad and some kidney beans mixed with tuna and onions.

You can also have meatballs without sauce as a starter.

The paccheri with tomatoes, nduja and grated ricotta is pretty decent.

I think this is stewed veal. It was fine, if not very photogenic.

I remember the house red was okay, and it could stand up to heat of chillies. Much preferred their Ciro though as I recall. It’s generally considered to be Calabria’s best DOC.

Liquorice is another famous ingredient from Calabria so I was intrigued to try it in this dessert. It was fine as I recall but not mind blowing.

And for the road, a shot of Amaro Silano boscoliquori.it which is made in Figline Vegliaturo, a village on the edge of town (note the wolf symbol). It was okay but nothing amazing (B).

So no grades sorry but I remember it being a really enjoyable experience with good, rustic food and a pleasant ambience. My top pick in Cosenza.

Antica Locanda dal Povero Enzo (High Intermediate B), 42 Via Monte Santo, www.anticalocandadalpoveroenzo.com

A local gourmet recommended this higher end place to me and as it had already come up in my own research I decided to give it a whirl. It’s about forty minutes’ walk from the town. You have to press the buzzer to be let in by the snooty MD.

I can’t say I was particularly impressed by the service or the food but the latter was partly my fault due to my poor choices. I went for the dishes on the menu that had local ingredients but, as the restaurant is primarily aimed at giving locals Italian cuisine made with international ingredients (eg Scottish and Australian beef), I didn’t do very well.

To start, some antipasti including Cubi di Mortadella di Cinta Senese Tartufata, or cubes of grilled mortadella which were lovely (A-). Also, Crostino Caldo all Nduja di Spilinga; hot toast with best quality pepperoncino spread, Pecorini Calabro Toscani al Miele di Catagno del Cosentino; two kinds of pecorino cheese from Tuscany and Calabria and some Soppressata Calabrese Gentile and Coppa di Cinta Senese charcuterie (all B).

Next the Guancia; beef cheeks stewed in a liquorice sauce. Not actually as bad as it sounds as the liquorice was quite subtle. Give me the Spanish version over this any day though (B-). The baked potatoes they were served with didn’t do much for me either (C).

Next the Maccheroncini Saltati al Juice di Salsiccia Calabra, Pepi Cruschi dell’ Esaro e Polvere di Pane Croccante; aka small macaroni tubes sautéed with the juices from Calabrian sausage, crushed peppers and crunchy breadcrumbs. It was an interesting example of cocina povera but I wouldn’t reorder it (C+).

The Cariglio wine started as a B+ but declined to a B. The stong berry nose and the very dry finish means it’s not for everyone.

By this time I’d made friends with the Swiss and Japanese couple on the next table so I had a couple of grappas as we all reminisced about Tokyo. The white Sicilian grappa wasn’t up to much (C+)…

…but the aged grappa from Trento in the north was better (B).

I also enjoyed their soundtrack of old soul music. With water the bill came to 56€ which seemed fair.

Galliano Industrial Bistro (Intermediate B+), Via Galliano (no number)

A slightly forbidding name but it’s actually quite a decent place for food and at the weekend, cocktails and music, or so I was told. I was pulled in by the fact they were playing an Erykah Badu album on loop which is not a problem as far as I’m concerned.

I began with the a Sicilian classic Pasta alla Norma made here with Cortecce pasta (B+).

Then Tagliatas di Picanha; rare rump steak (at my request) with diced roast potatoes and rosemary (B+).

The young guy serving was very nice and I had a good chat with him at the end, even though he was quite hard to understand; a combination of his fast delivery and local dialect.

He recommended a hearty Calabrian red from Cantine Odoardi called Savuto which went well with the meat (B+). It’s a blend of 45% of the Gaglioppo grape (called Arvino locally) and 25% Aglianico to give it structure, along with some other local grapes.

And for dessert, some nice cheeses.

And finally, a shot of Nero, a Calabrian liquorice liqueur, which wasn’t really my thing (C).

A good place which might be fun at the weekend. I’d happily go again.

If you’re on a budget and looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful cantine style place, try Pizzami at 19/20 Piazza Europa.

I also did a spot of shopping…

As I was nearing the end of the trip I went to Dok on Via Marconi, the nearest decent supermarket to the Hotel Italiana Cosenza, and got a few goodies to take home.

They had oregano still on the branch. It’s one of my favourite things to take back because it weighs virtually nothing. La Cosentina is a local business with an online shop.

Some other things that I couldn’t resist taking home were; some Nduja from Spilinga (the best stuff), a kilo of top quality dried spaghetti by Mezzani di Martino from Gragnano in Campania (again, the best) and also some of the famous liquorice from Amarelli in Rossano (do I need to repeat myself?) for friends who like that kind of thing. When added to my stash of choclates and brandy from Lyon, it was quite a haul.

Thanks Cosenza, you were very hospitable. I would like to go back, just to get to know you a bit better.

Just one more stop in Calabria before heading home…

Calabria – peaceful Parghelia

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Parghelia, Vibo Valentia Province with tags , , , on March 17, 2019 by gannet39

Rather than pay over the odds by staying in pricey Tropea, I got a place in Parghelia, the next station down the line. From here it’s about thirty minutes on foot if you’re going to the main beach, or fifty if you’re walking up to the old town in Tropea.

I stayed for two nights in May in a flat I rented from a friendly family via AirBnB. It was about £35 a night, which is very reasonable.

You could of course pay an extra tenner for an AirBnB in the old town and save yourself some walking. Hotels are £100 plus a night in Tropea, although I did find somewhere a bit out of town for £50. No idea what it’s like though.

What sealed it for me though is that Parghelia has two stunning little beaches right next to each other, just a few metres from where I was staying.

Not sure what the southernmost one is called but the slightly larger of the two is Spiaggia Michelino. Video here.

The water here is super clear so you can see shoals of small fish really well.

There were only about ten people on the beach when I went, a far cry from the much larger beaches which get busier and busier as you get nearer to Tropea.

Every morning I walked the short distance to the main street in Parghelia…

Bar Pepe (Intermediate B+), 51 Corso Vittorio Emanuele

This was my spot for my breakfast cappuchino and cornetto. The coffee is decent (B) and there’s lots of space with two seating areas outside, front and back. A friendly lady who speaks good English works here too.

I ate out a couple of times as well…

Pizzeria da Antonio (Intermediate B+), 10 Via Principe di Piemonte

Had a perfectly decent Pizza Margarita here. Enjoyed the atmosphere as well because you could sit outside and the young servers were friendly and helpful.

It was with heavy heart I had to move on to Cosenza on Sunday but I had a fair bit of time to kill after check out but before my train, so I went to this place on the main street in Parghelia and coincidentally ended up having one of the best meals of the entire trip.

Il Portale (Intermediate A), Piazza Ruffa but effectively on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, www.ristorantepescefresco.parghelia.vv.it

The Antipasto di Mare is really good here (A/B+) and beautifully presented.

The pacchieri with langoustine was also very good (A).

I was less impressed by the bottle of Madre Goccia But it was okay (B).

Friendly service was provided by a nice girl from Transylvania who had lived in London for seven years, so her English was very good.

With a draught beer and a limoncello the bill was around 50€, a bit pricey but good value given the quality.

Weekend over! Back to work in gritty Cosenza next!

Calabria – places to eat and drink in Tropea

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Tropea, Vibo Valentia Province with tags , , , on March 16, 2019 by gannet39

After breakfast in Parghelia (see next post) I’d walk about twenty minutes to the main beach which is about two thirds of the way to Tropea. Map here.

You can hire sun loungers and other kit here, and also eat at a beach restaurant, which you can’t do at the secluded beaches in Parghelia.

The best food I ate in Tropea was at this place on the beach…

Lido la Grazie (Intermediate B+), Contrada Marina La Grazia

I ate lunch here twice and was very well taken care of by the mother and son team on the bar who run the place and their friendly waiters.

I also rented the lido’s sun loungers (a lattina with an ombrello) which cost 5€ for half a day or 9€ for a full day.

On one occasion I had the Spaghetti alla Vongole con Zenzero, Buccia di Lime, Aglio e Clorofilla di Prezzemolo, or spaghetti and clams with ginger, lime zest, garlic and a ‘chlorophyll’ paste of parsley, which was really good (B+).

I couldn’t argue with the Grigliata Mista di Pesce either (B+).

For dessert I continued to make the most of Calabria’s cherry season (A).

On the second visit I had the Antipasto della Casa; from top left going clockwise; Cipolla in Agrodolce (sweet and sour onion), Polpette di Melanzane (aubergine balls), Zucchina Gratinata (courgette au gratin), Frittelle di Fiori di Zucca e Acchiughe (pumpkin flower and sardine fritter), Peperoni Grigliati (grilled peppers), Sformatino di Parmagiana (parmagiana flan), all of which were fine (B).

I followed up with a primo of Fettucine allo Scoglio e Pesto alle Alghe; pasta ribbons with mussels and two kinds of clams (vongole and fasolari) in a seaweed pesto (A).

With this, the best bottle of white I’d had in Calabria on this trip, a Chardonnay from Tenuta Iuzzilini (B+).

The bill for this came to 42€ which was very fair I felt. So, no hesitations in recommending this place. Great food and lovely service from waiters who were my friends by the end of the two visits.

Speaking of friends, my mate Nicole, who is Calabrese and comes to Tropea nearly every year, recommends Lido de Nonno next door to Lido la Grazie for its good, cheap seafood. However it hadn’t opened yet when I was there as it was only May which isn’t officially summer as far as the Italians are concerned, although the temperatures were in the high twenties which is quite hot enough for me! She loves good grub so it must be a good place to try as well.

On my first day in the old town I did a walk round of all the restaurants I had on my hit list (map here). There were a lot that supposedly had good food so I tried to be quite strict with my choices.

More recent 2019 research indicates that Osteria Del Pescatore at 7 Via del Monte may well have the best food in town.

Not knowing that in 2017, I chose this next romantic restaurant purely because their best table was up for grabs…

Pimm’s (High Intermediate A), 2 Largo Migliarese, www.facebook.com/RistorantePimms

Not sure why this lovely restaurant has the same name as an awful English amaro (perhaps comparable to Campari but not nearly as nice) but once you forget about that it’s lovely.

Earlier in the day I had snagged the table with the best view.

Although I do like a vista, I suffer slightly from acrophobia so when gazing out through the open window I had to avoid looking straight down the sheer cliff face and peer instead at the sun going down behind Santuaria Santa Maria dell’Isola.

I didn’t grade this meal as I was too busy chatting with the friendly young waiter (probably lost my notes) but I remember that seafood is the thing here. I kicked off with the Crudo de Pesce, raw fish, tuna I think, which I thought was more of a Puglian thing but maybe they like it here too.

Spigola (sea bass) were the catch of the day and they were brought to my table so I could choose.

The Spaghetti alla Spigola looks wonderful and I’m sure it was very good.

I remember being happy with the Contessa Emburgo white wine from Lento, a Malvasia Chardonnay combo from Lamezia Terme.

I did have a second fish course but the photo is to blurry to show, a bit like me at this point!

Cocktail Bar Tropea (Intermediate B), 1 Largo Migliarese

After eating I wanted to watch the Champion’s League final which fortunately was being shown here on a big screen in the square right next to Pimm’s.

They had a new amaro that I hadn’t tried before, Petrus Boonekamp. A great name, but it didn’t impress me that much (B).

I saw Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 in the company of a friendly Swedish couple. Madrid deserved to win but I did feel for the Italians, some of whom were over optimistically expecting a win. Still, they went home with flags flying high.

Not all my evenings out were good though…

Pinturicchio (Intermediate C) 2 Via Dardano

Pinturicchio is a modern restaurant located in a bright white cellar but they also have candlelit tables on the street which is where I sat. There’s no view to be had as it’s down an alley but it’s still a very atmospheric spot.

When I do my research, I do look at every resource available, so I know Lonely Planet, Conde Naste and CNT all like Pinturicchio. When using Tripadvisor, I’m more interested in the number of reviews a place gets rather than its ranking. So as Pinturicchio was the most reviewed place in May 2017, and had a #7 ranking (#28 now in 2019), I thought I had the odds on my side when I rolled the dice on this one, but sadly I lost badly.

There were two problems, the food and the service. The usual array of Antipasti was fine (B), but I had to send back the Fileja alla Tropeana con Cipolla Rossa, the town’s signature dish (more of which in the next post). The combination of insipid pasta and thick slimy slices of onion was actually inedible for me (D) which in Italy is highly unusual. I’d lost my appetite and couldn’t manage anything else except a semi-freddo and a limoncello for dessert (both B) which went a little way to cheering me up.

The second problem was the waiting staff who were very young and completely untrained. I got brusque service from the start from one young woman and finally exploded and asked her what her problem was when she literally threw a knife onto my table as she was rushing past. To her credit she came back to apologise and shake my hand but then I got very similar treatment from a different young guy and so my angry mood just continued and I left feeling very discontented. The contrast with the older professionals down at the beach was striking! I suppose approaching peak season there must be a local waiter shortage and all the best ones choose the nicer places to work.

Anyway, enough moaning, despite the odd restaurant blip, I love Tropea! I suppose any touristy place is going to have some restaurants that are all hype and no substance.

To avoid paying over the odds in slightly pricey Tropea I stayed in the next town instead…

Calabria – a golden weekend in Tropea

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Tropea, Vibo Valentia Province on March 15, 2019 by gannet39

Tropea is a gem. My favourite town in Calabria and one of my most favourite places in the whole of Italy. My map is here.

Of course, it’s not just me that thinks that, so in the summer it becomes one of Calabria’s most important resort towns as thousands of holidaymakers, many from the north of Italy, flock to its long expanses of golden sand. Thankfully I was there in May before the main season had started. I’ll write more about the beach and also restaurants in the following posts.

The old town sits on high cliffs overlooking the sea so the views are stunning.

Especially around sunset. Videos here and here.

At this time of the evening you can just make out the volcanic island of Stromboli on the horizon.

The town’s most famous landmark is the Santuaria Santa Maria dell’Isola Church which is perched on its own separate rock.

It makes for a good walk as you can get even better views of the old town. Video here.

The old town itself is very pleasant to stroll around.

There are many cosy restaurants tucked down side streets, of which more in the next post.

And a few more snaps from walking around. Click on them to make them bigger if you’re on a computer.

As well as its locations, Tropea is famous for a special ingredient, a red onion called la Cipolla Rossa di Tropea that I mentioned above. It was first introduced by the Phoenicians over two thousand years ago. You’ll see it in all the veg shops.

The onion is renowned amongst Italian chefs for two reasons, firstly because it doesn’t make them cry when they cut it and secondly because of its sweet flavour. The particular taste of the onions is attributed to the silty soils, the influence of the sea and an unusual microclimate of nearly constant temperatures all year round. The official website has some recipes here.

Now I think it’s time to eat…

Calabria – searching in Cittanova

Posted in Calabria, Cittanova, Italy, Reggio di Calabria Province with tags , , on March 14, 2019 by gannet39

I can’t say I’m much of a fan of Cittanova unfortunately (map here). It’s a bit of a grim place due mainly to the fact that it has been levelled a few times by earthquakes, hence the name.

The last one was in 1783 and I’d guess that that’s when many of the buildings date from. Many of them are derelict which gives the place quite an eerie feel at night.

However, all was not lost as I discovered that Cittanova was famous for Stoccofisso (stockfish), Norwegian air dried cod which, as a demi Noggy myself, I find quite gobsmacking. I even met locals in Lamezia who said they would happily travel long distances just to eat ‘stocco’ in Cittanova.

Both the following restaurants would be good places to try it…

La Mamma (Intermediate B+/C-), 33 Via San Giuseppe

I came here twice and loved it the first time but hated it the second time, hence the B+/C- grade. The atmosphere is very rustic and traditional and the lady proprietor (la mamma?) was very friendly and welcoming both times.

The first time I had the Fantasia Mediterranea, a fairly typical selection of antipasti including Caponata, Parmagiana, Crochette, Fritelline di Fiore di Zucca and some fresh Ricotta d’Aspromonte (B\B+).

This came with some yellow coloured bruschetta which I’d never encountered before. It seems to be a thing as they sell it in their bar. When I researched it, the closest thing I found was Pane Giallo from Lazio which is made with polenta (semolina).

After this I had the Tris de Stocco, or stockfish prepared in three different ways; fried (A), roasted (B) and stewed (B). I really liked the black olives it came with (B+).

I got a decent bottle of Calabrian white called I Gelsi by Statti for 9€ (B). Not sure why but they don’t seem to put the names of the grapes on bottles of local wine.

I finished with two Cannolini scattered with flakes of chocolate which was great (A).

The final bill with a strange tasting Bergamotto Amaro (B-) and cover was a reasonable 37€.

On my second visit I started with the Stocco Antipasti but unfortunately found the stockfish virtually inedible (C/C-).

And I wasn’t keen on the Greco Bianco/Malvasia white wine blend called Dragone from Lento (C).

But the Tagliatelle Fresche con Fungi Porcini, fresh tagliatelle with ceps saved things a little (B+).

However the final Lemon Cake wasn’t very good (C) and I was given the worst, funky tasting Limoncello I’ve ever had (C-).

Not a great ending then. Unfortunately I drew the conclusion that you can only scrape together one good meal out of what’s available on the menu here. Go with whatever mamma suggests because it’s most likely the best stuff.

This is another ‘good’ restaurant but it’s not really my cup of tea…

Baconchi (High Intermediate B), 1 Via Piave, www.baconchi.com

This is the place where Cittanovans come to celebrate special occasions. The décor is brilliant white with chairs covered in material that’s tied in a ribbon at the back, so you feel like you’re at a wedding reception.

There are several pages of Stockfish dishes but as I’d had it the night before I was in the mood for something different. I began with the Mozzarella di Bufala which was okay (B).

After this I enjoyed some Zeppoline, deep-fried dough balls (B+).

I asked about what meat was good locally and was directed to the Braciola di Maiale con il Manico, a hefty pork chop, which the waitress described as ‘colosso’, and she wasn’t kidding (B+).

I had it with chips and a bottle of their own label red wine (both B).

With water the bill came to 30€ which is very reasonable for what I had.

Although this place isn’t really my style it is good value and the food is okay so I’d probably go again if I was staying longer.

Il Vecchio Molino (Intermediate B+), 44-46 Via Circonvallazione Est

The Tripadvisor #1 at the time of writing in May 2017 and also recommended as the best pizzeria in town by the local school owner. Of all the restaurants, it’s the furthest away from the Hotel Casalnuovo, about twenty five minutes’ walk.

I only went once and had a Piazza Diavolo (with nduja the spreadable spicy Calabrian sausage, and salami picante) which was quite hot but enjoyable (B) if a bit thirst inducing. Their draught beer was a bit flat but still just about drinkable (C).

I meant to go back to try the restaurant menu but the extra distance and bland interior wasn’t enticing enough.

There’s a Guinness pub called the Garden Irish Pub just around the corner at 5 Via Ugo Arcuri , but I didn’t get time to try it out. It seems popular with the locals though.

One day after work the teachers took me for an ice cream to a bar over the road from the park entrance. I can’t find the name but it’s on the corner of Via Regina Margherita and Largo Calvio, opposite Gelateria l’Oasi which it shouldn’t be mistaken for.

I had my first experience of the Ice Cream Brioche here. It’s a Sicilian thing apparently so you can’t argue with it as they basically invented modern gelato. It got a bit messy with three balls of strawberry, pistachio and stracciatella but it was very enjoyable (B+).

I stayed at the Hotel Casalnuovo which unfortunately is the only hotel in town. I say unfortunately because it’s a bit of a dump. Brown rusty water came out of the bathroom taps, the Wi-Fi wasn’t great and the breakfast choices are cardboard cornflakes or cakes in plastic packets. If you ask him the grumpy old male owner will begrudgingly make you a substandard Cappuchino.

The worst thing for me was the cockerels who lived next door who started crowing at 4am with their mates the geese joining in a couple of hours later! I’m really not sure how this place awarded itself four stars! I was ecstatic when I managed to leave one night earlier than I was supposed to, by escaping to Tropea for the weekend (see next post).

It’s a tough call for my employer. The only other place, the Uliveto Principessa Park Hotel (no website, but it has a pool in the summer) is right out in the sticks but then again there’s not much to see in Cittanova anyway. The food is the decider for me though (it’s apparently not very good in the Uliveto Principessa) so if I had to come back I’d stay at the Hotel Casalnuovo again just so I can walk to get some decent food. The Agriturismo Da Peppone might be another option though.

There’s not a lot to see and do here although I did stumble upon a free concert in front of the main church, Chiesa Madre, in Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi.

They are quite proud of their park as well, the Villa Comunale on Via Carlo Ruggiero, as it has some unusual plants including a Californian Redwood tree.

On the plus side, I happily coincided with the local cherry season. I’d get a bag from a roadside stall to snack on when I was walking back to the hotel after work. Such a simple pleasure but one of my favourite ones.

Off to Tropea next which is much nicer!

Calabria – A short break in Scilla

Posted in Calabria, Italy, Reggio di Calabria Province, Scilla with tags , , , on March 13, 2019 by gannet39

Scilla was my first stop on this trip to Calabria. It is considered one of the prettiest towns along the southwest coast although for me Tropea wears the crown (more of which later). I just stopped by because it was on the way to the town I was working in, so I arrived in the country a day earlier than I was supposed to and stayed for 36 hours of R&R.

My map is here.

It’s divided into two parts; first there is the beach area…

… which has a wide lungomare.

Then you come to the pretty Castillo Ruffo sitting high on a rocky headland. Legend has it the rock was the home of the Syclla sea monster in Homer’s Odyssey.

Passing under the castle you arrive first at the small harbour…

…before you come to Chianalea, the lovely old fisherman’s district.

There is only one very narrow street leading through Chianalea.

It seems like every nook and cranny is in use here.

On my first evening I had a magical experience eating at this restaurant…

Glauco (Intermediate A+), 95 Via Annunziata, www.glaucoscilla.com

This excellent restaurant was the Trip Advisor #1 at the time of writing.

I arrived as soon as they opened at 8pm to snag a good table and as it was a midweek night in May (this place will be heaving in July/August) I got a table looking out over the sea where I could watch the sunset over the castle.

The cruise ships coming from Reggio had a similar idea but once they had sailed past the castle they turned in front of my view and headed out to sea, probably towards the Aeolian Islands of Lipari and Stromoboli, which were just about visible on the horizon.

My happiness was made even more complete by the arrival of some excellent seafood alongside a chilled bottle of white in an ice bucket.

I really enjoyed the Chardonnay/Greco blend called Costa Viola by Crisera (B+).

I started with the Antipasto Misto di Mare; marinated octopus, tuna and swordfish, all delicious (A).

Alongside this, some stuffed squid, a fish ball and some mashed fish and potato creation which looked lovely but in terms of flavour were just okay (B).

And continued with the Trofie con Frutti di Mare, which turned out to be just pasta with some mussels and tomato, but it was superb (A+).

With a Limoncello, the total came to 55€, worth every penny for a perfect moment in terms of food and location.

Il Casito (Intermediate B), 25 Via Annunziata, www.ilcasatoscilla.it

This was the Tripadvisor #2 in 2017.

It’s okay food wise (B) but I would have had a better experience if I’d reserved a table on their outdoor terrace which is built over the sea.

Unfortunately it was Sunday and the whole place had been booked out for lunch by the locals. Get in quick is the lesson.

I had the Compose di Mare, which is a posh way of describing an Antipasto di Misto similar to what I had above. It was all fine (B).

I wasn’t that keen on the ‘5 Generazioni’ Greco Bianco white wine from Tramontana (C) but at least it was cheap.

Fileja con Vongole, Zucchine e Pesto al Pistacchio, an unusual local pasta with clams, courgettes and a pistachio pesto, was interesting but sadly had little flavour (C).

To finish the Semi-Freddo alla Zabaglione con Amaretti e Cioccolato went down very well (B+).

A good place but I think Glauco is better.

Casa Vela (Elementary B+), Via Annunziata, www.casavelascilla.it

I only came to this place for a drink while I was waiting for Glauco to open and ended up really liking it. The location seems very popular as all the tables on the street had been reserved.

The friendly owner serving gave me a glass of an excellent white called Critone by Librandi, which was made of a blend of non-indigenous grapes (B+).

His olives were fantastic too (B+).

Casa Vela was one of the B&Bs I considered staying in (many didn’t reply as it was the off season) but eventually I chose a room at the Hotel U’Bais www.ubais.it near the beach. It was fine for 50€ a night but nothing special (C+).

Final tip: don’t trust the changing rooms at the beach bars.

And that was my brief break in Scilla. It’s a very pleasant spot but a couple of days were enough for me. It was certainly much cheaper than Lyon where I’d just come from so a good place for a few days cheap holiday. Off to work in Cittanova next…

Bourgogne – a rewarding trip to Bibracte

Posted in Bibracte, Bourgogne, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France, Mont Beuvray with tags , , on March 12, 2019 by gannet39

The reason I was in France with all the family was that my father, John Collis, was being honoured by the French Government with a medal and the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in recognition of his work in archaeology in the Auvergne for over twenty five years.

My father is an Iron Age specialist and his doctoral thesis examined oppida, fortified hill forts, especially those mentioned in Julius Caesar’s ‘Conquest of Gaul’.

My brother Dan and my Dad’s sister, Auntie Joan, were feeling the moment as well.

It was fitting then that the presentation ceremony was to be held at Mont Beuvray (formerly ancient Bibracte); one of the most important hillforts in ancient Gaul and a crucial archaeological site.

My Google map is here.

Vercingetorix, was a warrior chief who managed to unite the Gallic tribes to fight against Caesar and scored a famous victory at Gergovia, another nearby oppidum. This is seen by many historians as the first stirrings of the French nation and so this story is very important for the country’s national mythology.

Indeed, some French politicians have launched their political campaigns from the podium on the Panorama de la Terrasse at Bibracte, using the evocative Burgundian countryside as their backdrop.

Thankfully my dad was slightly more self-effacing. Video of the presentation here.

Of course, this being France, large quantities of delicious food and fizzy wine were involved as a picnic for 100 people was put on for the occasion.

Video here.

The hillfort is now wooded over which makes it a lovely place for a walk on a sunny summer’s day.

Other than some remains of the ramparts there’s not a lot to see, as is usually the case with Iron Age archaeology.

The walls of some buildings dating to the Roman era have been excavated near the entrance to the hillfort.

At the base of the hill though is the Musée de Bibracte.

Many artefacts from local Iron Age civilisations are on display here.

In particular when we were there, there was a featured exhibition of torques; neck ornaments consisting of a band of twisted metal, worn especially by the ancient Gauls and Britons. Please click on the photos to enlarge them.

My favourite piece amongst the exhibits was the bronze helmet in the shape of a swan found in Tintignac in Corrèze.

Unfortunately my photos of the whole helmet didn’t come out very well, but here’s a better image.

So, a very special day for our family. Well done Dad! xx

Bourgogne – sightseeing in Autun

Posted in Autun, Bourgogne, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France with tags , , on March 11, 2019 by gannet39

I came to the small Burgundian town with the family on a day out in June 2017.

The word quaint was especially invented just to describe small towns like Autun . It is very lovely…

If you’re looking at this on a PC you can click on the pics above to enlarge them.

The source of the town’s fame is its cathedral, Saint Lazare d’Autun, which is a French national monument.

Particularly renowned are the church’s realistic sculptures by Gislebertus which are considered to be a highlight of Romanesque art.

The tympanum of the Last Judgment above the front door of the church is a particularly detailed and exquisite work.

Gislebertus is also responsible for at least sixty of the capitals within the church. The originals are now kept in the Salle Capitualire in the bell tower.

Again, you should click on these to fully apprciate the details.

Amazing to think that these carvings are well over 800 years old!

History of an even older kind next…

Lyon – Gourmet Thrills in the 3rd Arrondissement

Posted in 3rd Arrondissement, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France, Lyon, Rhône with tags , , on March 10, 2019 by gannet39

For my last night in Lyon I stayed in a hotel near the main train station, the Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu. This was handy for a couple of places nearby. My Google map is here.

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse (Intermediate A), 102 Cours Lafayette, thisislyon.fr

This famous indoor food market is one of the reasons Lyon has such a great gastronomic reputation. The celebrity chef Paul Bocuse added his name to the title to add even more weight.

Around fifty vendors ply their wares here, including excellent fishmongers, butchers, cheesemongers, confectioners and bakers. Click on the pics for a better view, if you’re on a PC.

Something you’ll see often is the Praline Brioche for which Lyon is famous. The story goes that in the 18th century, a Lyonnais pastry chef was inspired by local rose gardens to add a bit of colour to the dough.

There’s an incredible range of top quality ingredients available. Here’s a few that caught my eye.

OF course, there are many places where you can eat as well…

Chez Georges (Intermediate B+), inside Les Halles de Lyon, 102 Cours Lafayette

I treated myself to a seafood blowout here.

I had the Assiete de Fruits de Mer; fourteen oysters (six Huitres Fines de Claires no.3, four Huitres Isigny no.2 and four Huitres Gillardeau no.4) and two kinds of prawns (50g Crevettes Grises and three Crevettes Roses) and 100g of whelks (Bulots).

And because I love them, I added another half dozen Crevettes Roses.

The Assiete cost €46.50, the Vin du Mois 28€ and the extra prawns were €9.50.

With a glass of Poire William, the final bill was €91, which is about right really.

Everybody needs to do this on a regular basis!

And a short walk away is…

Daniel et Denise Crequi (Intermediate A), 156 Rue de Créqui, www.daniel-et-denise.fr

Daniel et Denise is another bouchon with a good reputation. This branch is I think the original location out of the three restaurants in the chain.

I came twice, and ate very well both times. The first time I came in the evening and sat inside.

To start I had the ubiquitous La Cervelle de Canut au vinaigre de vin vieux, or the local fresh cheese served with aged vinegar, parsley, chives, shallot and garlic.

For the main, Le Contre Filet de Boeuf Angus Poêle, or pan-fried Angus sirloin steak, with black pepper, flambéd in Cognac.

And to drink a bottle of La Rosine 2014 Syrah.

Also some more cheese, I forget which.

Before finishing with a vanilla flavoured Crème Brûlée.

And a glass of Poire William by Morand.

On the next occasion I came for lunch and sat outside on the pavement terrace.

This time I had the Menu de Saison for €33 which kicked off with Le Pâté en Croute au Foie Gras de Canard et Ris de Veau or foie gras and sweetbread pâté in a pastry case. This dish won a World Champion award in 2009.

For the main, Le Jambon Blanc a l’os Rôti, Sauce Madère, or whole roasted ham on the bone in a Madeira sauce.

With all the trimmings of course.

I splashed out on a bottle of Crozes Hermitage Nouvelere.

And to round it off, my first experience of the famous dessert; L’Îes Flottante aux Pralines de Saint Genix, aka Floating Island, a meringue floating on a vanilla custard with pralines from the village of Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers which is famous for them.

And a glass of Sempe Armagnac to finish.

Although I didn’t grade this food, I remember it was all good hearty fare that warmed the cockles, not haute cuisine by any means, just sturdy classical cooking. Definitely recommended.

Off to the countryside next!