Archive for the Villa Vieja Category

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – around Plaza Puerto

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Puerto, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags on March 24, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Puerto is actually just a roundabout in a bleak industrial part of town, rather than a pedestrian square. One of the old dock cranes is on display in the middle of the rotunda with Gibraltar, as ever, dominating the horizon in the background.

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The area used to be a beautiful beach called El Chorruelo back in Victorian times until Franco later had it developed into the port in order to compete with Gibraltar. El Chorruelo was immortalised in music by Paco de Lucia the famous Flamenco guitarist whose brother was a bell boy at the hotel below.

The Autoridad Portuaria Bahía de Algeciras, the port authority for the bay, have their rather ominous looking building here which monitors naval traffic in the Straits of Gibraltar.

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In a town virtually bereft of anything old, I was quite interested to visit this historical building…

Hotel Reina Cristina (Advanced A), Calle Paseo de la Conferencia, www.hotelesglobales.com

The construction of the original Victorian hotel was financed in the 1890s by Alexander Henderson who also built the famous railway between Ronda and Algeciras.

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People of means would arrive on the steamer from Gibraltar to relax on the beautiful beach in front of the hotel, or rest up before taking the train onwards to Ronda for a spot of sightseeing. At the time it was the most expensive hotel in Spain.

The original colonial building burned down in a fire and the current eclectic Andalusian-style construction replaced it in 1930.

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I love these mosaics behind the outdoor bar near the Salon Principe which must date from that period.

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During WW2 the terrace was used by spies to watch the ships passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. It has hosted important conferences and such notables as Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill and Orson Welles have all stayed here.

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In the landscaped grounds there are the remains of an 8th century mosque and an old Arab well that still functions.

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I came to have a G&T on the terrace (there are at least a dozen international gins on the menu) and imagine what it was like staying here during the Belle Époque.

The salon still seems to be a Saturday night meeting place for the older Spanish generation who have a bit of money. Not exactly my kind of people but it was interesting to experience a side of local society that I didn’t know existed.

The restaurant is supposed to be quite good and the buffet did look quite impressive when I went in for a nosey. I might come back for a meal some evening…

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.

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 Algeciras. 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 biscuit in the middle. It was a first for me, but I have learned since that this is a thing in Spain. 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.

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