Archive for the Campo de Gibraltar Category

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – the market and around

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Nostra Senora de la Palma, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 23, 2017 by gannet39

The Mercado de Abastos de Algeciras in Plaza Nostra Senora de la Palma in the centre of town is worth checking out. Built in 1935, the domed roof was once the largest in the world until the Houston Astro Dome stole the title in 1965.

Google map here.

There’s a stall on the inner circle where I go to get paprika, cured meats and dried beans to take home.

Chorizos

A couple of the stalls specialise in bull meat, and probably other parts of El Toro as well. They have large photographic displays showing the provenance of their wares.

Bull meat merchant

You can get tapas and drinks from a couple of places inside but I prefer to go to La Casita below.

Around the permanent market in the market square there are lots of fruit & veg stalls. Other than the huge white salad onions and beef tomatoes, most of it was unremarkable but there are a couple of snail vendors.

Bags o Snails

Snails

Calle Tarifa leads out of the west side of the market square. There’s a great little tapas bar along here that I recommend for lunch…

La Casita (Elementary A+), 16 Calle Tarifa

It’s not often I agree with Trip Advisor but in my, and many other people’s view, ‘The Little House’ is the best eating out experience in Alcegiras. Not because of the food, the tapas are just okay (all B/C), but it’s the frenetic atmosphere and the hilarious bartenders that make this a great experience.

The place is always packed but the stocky tattooed chaps on the bar get your order as soon as you come through the door and bellow it in the direction of the kitchen serving hatch with a Gregorian chant-like inflection at the end of the sentence.

They do this while pouring drinks at top speed interspersed with cracking uproarious jokes with the clientele. If you’re female, you’ll be called ‘guapito’ or if you’re English you become ‘my friend’.

God knows how but your food is in front of you within seconds. And how they keep tabs on who has what I have no idea. But it all works, and I love it.
The tapas, or more correctly tapitas, are all around €1.30 each and they have a deal where you get two tapitas and a cerveza for €3.20. I had…

Paella de Pollo.

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Tapas de Plancha (Rosada, Lomo Fresco).

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Tapas de Frita (Calamares, Pollo).

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And the unexciting Salchicha Rojo.

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And their homemade Pacharán, a Basque liqueur made from soaking sloes (endrinas) in anisette.

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In total I had five tapitas, a pot of allioli, four cervezas and two doubles of Pacharán for just over €10. You can’t argue with that.

This next place is located in the run down area south of the market which I call ‘Little Morocco’. I was warned not to walk around here at night (although I did) but it’s fine in the day time.

Alkazar (Elementary B), 2 Calle Juan de la Cierva, next to the Tourist Information office

My friend Nicky loves North African food so I came here on her recommendation. It’s handy for the port if you’re waiting for a ferry and has veggie options if you fancy a change. The train and bus stations are nearby too.

There are several places around that serve similar food, including Casablanca next door but this one has lots of tables out on the street.

Their marinated olives are excellent (A).

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And their veggie tajine is fine (B).

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I upgraded with their Parrilada which involved five spits of meat; two of marinated lamb which were lovely (B+), two of chicken which were meh (C) and one of beef koftas which I left (C-).

With a couple of beers the bill came to a miserly €23.

See my ‘Villa Vieja – things to see’ post for some pics of the architecture around here.

From 2012:

Montes (Intermediate B), 27 Juan Morrison, Tel. 956 654 207

One of only two recommendations I considered from Trip Advisor at the time, and also the only restaurant to feature in the Rough Guide. I came for lunch and had the €9 menu-del-dia.

To start, El Cocido del Dia, or the ‘stew of the day’ (B), a typical lentil soup with the usual chunks of chorizo and morcilla. Saffron gave the murkiness a yellowish tinge.

Lentil soup

The next dish, two kinds of fried fish, was a mis-order on my part. Unboned and tasteless I could only give them a C.

For dessert Natillas (custard) which inexplicably came with a soggy digestive in the middle. It was a first for me, but is a thing in Spain it would seem. It tasted amazing; especially with the liberal sprinkling of cinnamon it had received (B+).

Natillas

This is a bit gloomy place favoured by an older clientele but you could probably eat well here if you make the right choices.

It was once one of the best places in town but I have read a few comments that say it has changed hands and isn’t as good as it was.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – things to see

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 22, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Alta is the central square in the old town of Algeciras. It’s the town’s central hub for social activity in the evenings.

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In the centre of the square is a monumental fountain dating from 1930. It’s decorated with Seville ceramics, including ornamental frogs around the perimeter.

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A balustrade runs around the square which is also decorated with ceramic tiles.

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As are the benches, although they aren’t quite as old as the fountain.

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The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Palma stands on the west side of the square.

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In the southeast corner is a small chapel, the Capilla de Europa.

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At the end of Calle Alfonos XI, on Avenida Blas Infante, you’ll find the highly uninimpressive Parque Arqueológico de las Murallas Meriníes de Algeciras, the only uncovered archaeological remains in Algeciras.

Remnants of the old city wall, and a surrounding moat (ditch?) can be seen which caused the intended extension of Avenida Blas Infante to the waterfront to be diverted around it.

The walls were built by the Marinids in the 14th century when Algeciras was a Moorish town. They were destroyed during the Castillian reconquest of 1344.

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Personally I’d have just bulldozed through it (and that’s coming from the son of an archaeologist) after fully excavating and recording it first of course. Still I guess the local folks feel they need at least some connection with the past as there is precious little else.

I had to search hard for some modern architecture that I liked and eventually found Edificio Kursaal on Avenida Villanueva behind Restaurante El Alkazar which I will review in a coming post.

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It’s a Modernist conference centre built quite recently in 2007 I believe and designed by the artist Guillermo Pérez Villalta who is from nearby Tarifa. I understand preparations are under way to use the building to display his work.

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The most decorative aspects of the exterior are the wrought iron window grilles.

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There are more features inside I’d love to see. The slideshow here shows some of them.

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I quite like the Deco style building next to it as well although I don’t know anything about it.

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Over the road from El Alkazar is this old veteran which doesn’t seem to be getting much use.

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And that’s about it in terms of interesting architecture, although the market building is quite famous as well (see the next post on ‘Villa Vieja – the market and around’).

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – tapas around Plaza Alta

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Alta, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 21, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Alta and the streets off it, particularly Calle Alfonso XI, constitute the main area for tapas bars in Algeciras. Please also see my next post on things to see in the Villa Vieja, which includes photos of Plaza Alta. My Google map is here.

La Querido (Low Intermediate B+), 2B Calle Alfonso XI, the street leading north out of Plaza Alta

I really like this little place and so do a lot of other people as it was always crowded on both my visits; once for lunch and another time for dinner.

The guys who run it are friendly and very hardworking; constantly running up and down a ladder into the store room in the loft space.

The simple and very short menu has lots of international influences and there seems to be an emphasis on organic products. There’s a good choice of veggie options as well.

For lunch I had a cheese Empanada (B) followed by the Entrana which was sliced rare sirloin served with Foccacia (B) and Chimichurri (A), an Argentinian salsa the name of which has an interesting history (click on the link).

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The Banoffee pudding is a decadent delight (A).

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A glass of Gloria Sanatorio, a sweet wine from Cadiz, went really well with this (B+).Their other dessert wine is a cream sherry called Canasta which I’m not too bothered about (B-). With a couple of beers the bill came to €21.40.

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The next day I came for dinner and had the Hummus with Pita to start which was okay but rather unexciting (C+).

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I followed up their very filling Parmagiana (B+), the Sicilian ‘aubergine lasagna’ served here with a dollop of pesto.

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I finished with some excellent artisanal cheese. I think all three slices were Payoyo (a favourite cheese of mine from Cadiz) in various stages of ageing; fresh, semi-curado and curado (all A).

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I had a couple of glasses of their best wine, a Rioja Crianza called Pinturas which was great (B+) and a Rioja Roble called Lagrimas de Maria which wasn’t all that (C).

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One of my favourite places in Algeciras with good food and a good attitude.

Recoveco (High Intermediate B+), 16 Avenida Blas Infante

I quite liked the atmosphere in this modern Guia Repsol recommended place so I hung out for the evening using their free Wi-Fi. There’s a nice courtyard terrace out back but no one seemed to be using it when I went in April so I stayed inside.

The food is very tasty and reasonably priced but I wish they didn’t chill their red wines as I like to be able to smell what I’m drinking. The staff aren’t particularly friendly but they’re okay.

The Carrillera tapa, beef cheeks with mashed potato, is excellent (A).

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The Mini Burger de Trufa y Parmesan is also good (B+) but I wasn’t particularly blown away (B-) by their gimmicky Yakitori; a skewer of pork marinated in a sweet sauce and served on a tiny grill.

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With a tapa of Manchego cheese, four glasses of red and a Cardenal Mendoza brandy the bill came to a very reasonable €25.

From 2012:

La Carboneria (Intermediate C), Edificio Europa, on the corner of Calle Muro and Calle Murillo

This is an asador (grill house) so good for meat. They also have a lively tapas bar at the front a with waiter who is a bit of a character.

I disturbed the kitchen staff from having their pre-service meal at 9.15, so you may want to come a little later. I wasn’t too impressed by the complimentary starter of what seemed to be Kraft cheese between to crackers on a bed off browning sliced red cabbage. Also, I already knew that the bread in Spain generally leaves a lot to be desired, but the anaemic roll on my side plate took things to another sub level.

Things got better with the Ensalada de la Casa (A), a huge bowl of mixed salad, some deep fried balls of cheese and great belly tuna, all nicely dressed. I’d suggest coming here just for this.

The Solomillo Iberico was ok (B) as was the Ribera (Marques de Caceras) I had with it (B). To finish the Tarta Fina de Mazana (B). Total spend €47. Might come back for tapas.

This next place is closed now, a victim of the economic crisis no doubt. I’ve not deleted it though as some of the things I had here were quite nice and I’d like to remember them.

Marea Baja (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Trafalgar, NOW CLOSED

A teacher-recommended fish specialist that looks traditional which, along with the price of their brandy, put me off on my initial recce. In fact though, they are quite experimental, for example, they use soya sauce and wasabi in some dishes. I was pretty happy with the attentive owner’s recommendations.

He has a good range of wines too and I enjoyed a nice 2011 Verdejo (B+) from Palacio de Bornos in Rueda which was put in an ice bucket without me having to ask.

The complimentary apertivo was a couple of whitebait dressed in a soya sauce with a chive and olive oil dressing which was great (A). I wasn’t so sure about the green olives with cumin that came with it though (D). The following Boquerones Rellenos (stuffed anchovies) and mashed potato croquettes were sadly tasteless, even with energetic salting (C).

Boquerones Rellenos

After this, Guiso Marinero, a fish stew with potatoes featuring heavily (B).

Guiso Marinero

Then a main of Corvina in a sauce with a small portion of nicely cooked veg on the side (A). The name Corvina is used for different fish around the world, but here it was most likely a large sea bass.

Corvina

Finally, on the portly waiter’s say so, an almond-flavoured panna cotta (A).

Pannacotta

And a chupito of Coriander liqueur (‘Cilantro’ from Galician distiller Valdomino Manor) (A).

Cilantro liquer

Both were totally new, but delicious concepts to me.
What completely won me over was the free (usually €10) brandy balloon of Cardinal Mendoza (A) that I received with the bill (€55.50).

I like this place. The owner is passionate, his staff less so but they were still friendly and attentive. Satisfaction and value-for-money criteria were all met.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Staying in barrio El Mirador

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, El Mirador, Spain with tags , , , on March 20, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve been to Algeciras twice for work, in May 2012 and April 2016, staying for a total of about two weeks. I’d never heard of it before, which is strange as it’s Spain’s largest port (and one of the largest in the world for cargo), built by Franco to compete with Gibraltar over the water.

The reason for this is probably that there’s very little of anything cultural to experience and it’s not a holiday destination by any stretch of the imagination. Even local people I have worked with describe it as ‘not beautiful’ and ‘ugly but comfortable’ as part of their warm but slightly apologetic welcome. It has grown on me with time though, and I’ve discovered a few gems hidden away in the corners.

One good thing about the city is all the other places you can get to from it, such as Gibraltar, which is just a bus ride away on the other side of the Bahia de Algeciras (or Bay of Gibraltar depending on your loyalties). You could visit the beautiful beaches of neighbouring Tarifa, or travel the famous train line inland to lovely Ronda, or perhaps even take a short ride on a fast ferry to Tangiers in Morocco. I’ve written posts for all these places except Tarifa.

Here’s a map of the barrios, and my Google map.

On both my visits I’ve stayed at the Hotel AC Algeciras www.marriott.com. It’s located near the waterfront in a barrio called El Mirador, which is walkable from the centre.

It’s worth requesting a room on floor seven as they have private balconies and the reception seem happy to upgrade you if they are available.

I’ve stayed in 601 which is a suite with an extra bathroom and a sitting room that I never used. I preferred 604 which is one large room and has better views, although the downside is it’s opposite the lift. It might be better to ask for the higher numbers on each floor.

The AC is a modern hotel (around two years old in 2012) with (usually) friendly and helpful staff, a good breakfast spread (it’s part of the Marriot group who always put on a good brekky) and a small gym. It’s quite stylish with lots of stained dark wood, bathrooms with glass sinks and plenty of chrome.

I’ve eaten in the hotel once (something I never usually do) when it was raining stair rods outside. There are only about four options for each course on the menu, none of which particularly inspired me. I had the Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Jerez Vinaigrette, which arrived without the vinaigrette (C). We were overseen by the waitress from hell; sullen, rude and intentionally accident prone. I was gobsmacked to find her still working there in 2016 but she was much better behaved. Still my advice would be to walk into town, or to one of the places below if you’re feeling lazy.

Jaipur (Elementary B+), 82 Avenida Virgen del Carmen

In need of a change from weeks of eating only Spanish food, I came to this ‘Indian’ (actually Pakistani) restaurant for a light evening meal. I wanted to order more from their extensive menu of Indian standards but having had a large lunch I had to rein it in.

A spicy Aloo Gobi will always be a winner with me and this hit the spot despite the potato being ever so slightly undercooked (B+). The Raita and Pilau Rice were both perfect (A) and the Chipati was okay (B). The friendly owner gave me a complementary Gulab Jamun (B), a Delhi speciality, when he heard I’d lived there for a while.

The total bill was only €24 with a tip. There is zero ambience as it doubles as a pizza and burger takeaway, but they’ll deliver to the hotel should you be feeling lazy. You’ll find their menu here.

Meson La Posada de Millan (Intermediate C), 47 Maestro Millan Picazo, mesonlaposadademillan.com

This was a recommendation from the hotel receptionist. It’s nearby, fairly cheap and you can get some okay food if you choose the right things. It looks like it should be part of a chain with paper menus for place mats and decor on the faux Posada theme (like thousands of other similar places around Spain) with fake wooden beams on the ceiling, modern ‘old world’ ceramic tiles and cast-iron electric chandeliers.

To begin I had the Gazpacho Andaluz, which was fine (B) but nothing special. To follow I had Carrillades en Salsa. The beef cheeks were beautifully fibrous as you would expect and the gravy sauce was full and rich (B+), while the skinny chips were just ok (B-). This was only a half portion but would have been a full meal in itself.

I went with the Protos Roble (C+) for €14.75 but wished I’d gone for the crianza (two year old) version which is much better. I‘d been spoilt by a Protos 2006 a few weeks earlier, a reserva I think, which was stunning (A).

The very gruff waitress tried to whisk my plate away when I was only halfway through my cheeks and replace it with one of those crappy ice cream menus you get when restaurants outsource the dessert course. I wasn’t too happy and let her know it. Not sure if she hates all her customers or just the English ones (Gibraltar might be an issue here with some people).

The following Chuletas de Cerdo do Cabezal were the cheapest meat item on the menu but were too heavily salted (C), and the accompanying sautéed carrots, peppers and courgette were overcooked (C-) as were the square chips (C). The Tocino de Cielo (a kind of very sweet flan) tried to look attractive but was doused in too much honey (B-).

I came here on another day out of sheer laziness to sample the €12 menu-del-dia, for which I got the house mixed salad with lettuce, onion, sweet corn, beetroot, black olives and a chunk of great tuna (B+), followed by Secreto Iberico which involved some tiny tasty boneless chops (B) and the same poorly cooked veg (C-) I’d had the previous time. The flan (caramel pudding) to finish was just like anywhere else (B). You get what you pay for here.

When it comes to food I’ve heard Algeciras described as ‘gastronomically conservative’. I gave it my best shot, and after a poor start, I think I have eaten pretty well here overall. Please see the coming posts for some better tips.

For a room picnic, or more serious gourmet food shopping I recommend the Hipercor supermarket in El Corte Ingles at Calle Juan Pérez Arriete (see my Google map). This particular branch is a wonderland of top quality Spanish foods and wines. I picked up four 250g tins of Ortiz Bonito (best quality A+ line caught tuna) which were on sale at only €3.10 each. I also got a bottle of Cardenal Mendoza ‘Angelus’ brandy liqueur which I’d never seen before for only €17.30. All great bargains.

A brief sojourn in Gibraltar

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Spain with tags , , on November 24, 2015 by gannet39

I came to Gibraltar straight from carnival in Cadiz, having only had an hour of shut eye on the coach and still feeling worse for wear. I was much too early for my flight (coaches were infrequent on carnival Sunday) and I had several hours to kill.

From the coach station you have to walk across the border and then the airport runway which is a spooky experience.

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I checked my suitcase into the airport’s left luggage room and went for a look around. It was quite weird being somewhere that looked like England but with blue skies and palm trees everywhere.

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First stop was for a life-saving full English breakfast at The Lord Nelson in Casemates Square. It wasn’t great (C+) but it was just what I needed after a night of partying.

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I’d been told that the taxi drivers will act as tour guides and show you around the rock but it was a Sunday and I wasn’t really in the mood for, or capable of, human interaction so I decided to go for a walk by myself instead.

I walked through what is known as ‘The Town’ which was all very little England. I quite liked the Art Deco fire station but that was about it in terms of architecture for me.

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Along Reclamation Road there were a series of fortified bastions which are now unused, although some of the old guns have been left for the tourists to see.

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Lord Nelson features heavily as you’d imagine. Cape Trafalgar, scene of his most famous victory, is halfway between Cadiz and Gibraltar, near Barbate.

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Across the bay is Algeciras, a port city built by Franco to compete with Gibraltar. I’d been a couple of years before but wasn’t too impressed (post here). The bay was full of cargo ships so business must be good for both ports.

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The rock towered above me during the whole walk. I imagined it to be hollowed out and full of tunnels that had been built for defensive purposes. It even had a waterfall coming out of it although where the water came from I have no idea.

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Eventually I got to Punta de Europa, the southern tip of the rock. It was a hazy day but you could just make out the coast of Africa across the straits.

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Obviously this is a good place to put a big gun if you want to control access to the Mediterranean.

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The name Gibraltar is dervied from the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning “Mountain of Tariq”. This is the spot where the Moors first landed to begin their invasion of the Iberian peninsula. The Mosque of the Two Holy Custodians marks this significant place.

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My original plan was to try to circle the rock on foot but it soon became apparent that this was not possible as the roads were narrow, twisting and without pavements. I did persevere but eventually the road disappeared into a tunnel and I had no choice but to retrace my steps.

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And that was my brief experience of Gibraltar, a very historic but very strange place. I left plenty to see and do next time I visit, hopefully I’ll be in better condition to appreciate it!

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