Archive for the Jaen Province Category

Jaen – Santa Catalina – restaurants on the hill

Posted in Andalusia, Jaen, Jaen Province, Santa Catalina, Spain with tags , on April 6, 2019 by gannet39

Santa Catalina is the name of the castle and the hill upon which Jaen sits. I’ve written a separate post about walking to the top, this one is about a couple of old school places to eat when you finally get up there.

This first place is about halfway up…

Horno de Salvador (High Intermediate B+), Subida al Castillo, www.hornodesalvador.com

I decided to go a little out of town for Sunday lunch during my 2017 visit and this seemed the best option. You need a taxi to get here (€6 or so, more going back if you call it), as it’s on the steep hill road going up to the castle. The restaurant is quite posh but the waiters are friendly and the food is good.

To start I had the Pate de Perdiz, partidge pate, which is very typical of the area. It was very good (B+), but there was too much and it could have fed three or four, although I polished the lot off because I was starving. The price (€15) should have been a warning but I was just eager to try it.

As the word ‘horno’ suggests, Salavador speicalises in roast meats so I had the Cochinillo Tostón al Horno; two slabs of roast suckling pig with chips, which was just what I wanted (€20, B+).

To drink, a bottle of Marques de Campoameno, an old friend and generally regarded as the best local wine (also €20, B+).

To finish, a dessert of super sweet Tocino de Cielo (B-)…

…a glass of PX (B)…

…and a Terry Reserva brandy (B).

With bread, water and coffee the bill came to a tasty €83. It was a great food experience but a rather greedy one!

This next post is about the restaurant in the government owned hotel next to the castle at the top of the hill…

Parador de Jaén (High Intermediate B-), Castillo de Santa Catalina, www.parador.es

On my final day in 2013 I decided I just had to get to the top of Santa Catalina hill (see previous post), and if I couldn’t do it on foot, I’d do it by car, so I booked a table at the parador’s restaurant and took a taxi each way. For some reason it was a cheaper fare going there than getting back!

When you go inside, after first walking past the hotel reception and along a corridor, you get to ‘the lounge’, a huge square room with soaring vaulted ceilings, high chimneys on facing walls.

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And on another wall, a bank of windows with wooden Moorish shutters.

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The décor in here consists of long swords hanging on the walls, alongside portraits of Christian saints. One shows a knight with a halo riding a horse and smiting the heads of some turban-wearing men with his sword.

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Not very PC but this is the actual history of this place. A Moorish castle once occupied the hill but it was put under siege several times by the Christians who eventually captured it and built this newer fortification in its place.

Passing through this room you come to the restaurant which has been designed to look like a Medieval banqueting hall; very long with a low ceiling and several arches.

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It’s decorated in sturdy Medieval style with clunky wooden light fittings and a huge tapestry showing a battle scene on the end wall.

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Unfortunately the food at these paradors is often not very good so I wasn’t counting on a gourmet meal. The Gazpacho Andaluz, with two halves of quail egg and a swirl of excellent olive oil, was pretty good (B+), but that’s quite hard to get wrong if you have quality ingredients.

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However the grilled leg of goat came with the kind of mixed veg (diced carrots, beans and peas) that you get from a bag in the freezer, and the solitary potato looked processed as well. A swirl of reduced vinegar failed to make it posh (C).

The saving grace was the award-winning local red, Marques de Campomeno 2011 (B+), a Tempranillo/Cab Sauv, which is now my favourite local tipple whenever I’m in Jaen.

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To finish a local dessert, Dulce de Gachas con Matalauva y Aciete de Oliva Extra Virgen, which translates as a sweet set porridge, topped with aniseed and extra virgin olive oil. The main ingredients of most Gachas recipes seem to be milk, flour, sugar and whatever flavourings are to hand; a sweet born out of poverty if ever there was one. Despite its simplicity it was quite nice (B) and the waiter loved me for ordering it!

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Generally the front of house staff here were very pleasant but they took a long time to attend to me, although to be fair they do have a lot of ground to cover.

After eating I decamped to the lounge with a glass of the local sweet anis, appropriately named Castello de Jaen, which seemed the only fitting way to end the evening.

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So a  mediocre and slightly pricey food experience but the interior of the parador and the views of the town at night were worth it.

Please see my other posts on Jaen for other places to eat.

Jaen – delis and things to buy

Posted in Andalusia, Casco Antiguo, Jaen, Jaen Province, La Victoria, San Ildefonso, Spain with tags , on April 5, 2019 by gannet39

As Jaen has such a good rep for quality ingredients, a visit to the local deli for treats to take home is a must for me. The most famous one in town is Casa Paco.

They have two locations, both of which are top notch and very well stocked with local goodies. The first one is at 12 Paseo de la Estacion.

And the second at 7 Plaza de los Jardinillos (opposite the main post office).

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They are both on my map which is here.

I always pick up a few tins of my favourite Ortiz tuna from here.

And always a couple of local prize-winning olive oils. The Paseo de la Estacion branch has a display of the best eight local oils on a special shelf.

Must remember to get some saltcod next time. The term Bacalao Inglés refers to a good quality curing technique which gives the cod a golden colour and harder texture, rather than any appellation of origin.

I’d loved to have taken a big batch of their olives home too but one of the kind ladies said that the plastic tubs would explode in my baggage at an altitude!

Casa Paco are also known for their crisps which they bag on the premises www.patatascasapaco.com.

The toasted almonds are a good buy as well.

If you can’t face climbing the the steep slope to Casa Paco to buy your olive oil then Carniceria Almaden at 7 Calle Manuel Caballero Venzalá is just two blocks from the Hotel Infanta Cristina and also has a good selection of local produce.

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Happy shopping!

Jaen – museums and galleries

Posted in Andalusia, Casco Antiguo, Jaen, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , , , on April 4, 2019 by gannet39

These are my experiences of a couple of museums in Jaen. I would also have liked to have seen the Museo Internacional de Art Íbero www.museosdeandalucia.es but it was closed for renovations when I was last in town.

This first museum was my favourite…

Centro Cultural Palacio de Villadompardo, Plaza Santa Luisa de Marillac, www.xn--baosarabesjaen-rnb.es

This is by far the most interesting museum in Jaen because you get to see the eleventh century Arabic baths, the Baños Árabes, in the cellar which are apparently the biggest and best preserved in Europe.

Entrance to the museum is free but you’re not allowed to take pictures, except of the baths.

The museum is located in a lovely old fifteenth century palace. It was built over the Banos Arabes which were only rediscovered in 1913.

The other museum displays aren’t that exciting, unless you like looking at old workman’s tools, ceramics and children’s toys.

There was also a temporary photography exhibition when I was there. This picture showing the realities of the Almadraba, the ancient but modernised method for catching blue-fin tuna, caught my eye.

I also liked this picture showing the traditional process of making pork products.

The palace also houses the International Museum of Naïve Art. The museum (three rooms) is also named after Manuel Moral, a local artist famous for his depictions of the countryside in Jaen province.

On Wikipedia, naïve art is defined as “visual art that is created by a person who lacks the formal education and training that a professional artist undergoes (in anatomy, art history, technique, perspective, ways of seeing)”. The Wikipedia post also adds that “When this aesthetic is emulated by a trained artist, the result is sometimes called primitivism, pseudo-naïve artor faux naïve art”.

Much of what was on display was a bit too childlike for my taste but there are some really beautiful pieces, particularly those by Moral.

I was told sternly to stop taking photos after this (it was okay at the other place below) but there were many more nice paintings.

I can also recommend the view of the town and the castle from the terrace outside the museum café on the top floor of the building. Video here.

Museo de Jaen, 29 Paseo de la Estacion, www.museosdeandalucia.com

Entry is free to this combined museum and art gallery and you are allowed to take pictures without a flash.

It’s housed in another old palace towards the bottom of the hill, so quite easy to get to from the Hotel Cristina Infanta.

Here are a few quirky pieces in the archaeological sections that took my fancy.

My favourite piece was this Iron Age fibula (brooch) depicting a man on horseback hunting wild animals.

Upstairs there is an art gallery.

A line drawing by Picasso was the highlight for me.

There were a few other paintings and sculptures that caught my eye. Click to enlarge.

So not the most exciting choice of museums but okay for killing time if you need something to do. There are some interesting developments happening though. Just two blocks away from the Hotel Infanta Cristina, between the ends of Calle Miguel Castillejo and Avenida de Madrid, is an overgrown plot of land that is boarded off from the new builds around it. Archaeologists have found the remains of a settlement with some unusual circular buildings dating back to 3000BC but excavations haven’t started yet.

If I had a car I’d really like to go to the olive oil museum, Museo Terra Oleum www.terraoleum.es, which gets great reviews from people who have been. Not sure how much it would be in a taxi or if there is a bus going there.

Time for a spot of shopping now…

Jaen – wandering around the Casco Antiguo

Posted in Andalusia, Casco Antiguo, Jaen, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on April 3, 2019 by gannet39

If you have a day or two to explore Jaen you have a number of options. The more exercise minded might want to make an assault on the castle for which I’ve written a separate post. A less strenuous alternative is to wander around the old town but you’ll still have to walk up half the hill to get there. With the latter option you could take in one or two museums along the way, also in a separate post. Here’s the rest…

Jaen is very famous for its Renaissance cathedral www.catedraldejaen.org. Like most other cathedrals in the south of Spain, the Catedral de Jaén was built on the site of the ancient mosque.

Personally I find it quite ugly except for some of the frescoes on the façade on Plaza de Santa María, the cathedral square, which have some interesting details. You can click on the following images to see them in more detail.

The streets to the south of the square plunge sharply giving you fleeting views of the tree covered hills in in the distance.

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Heading north west from the square you could take in the Arco de San Lorenzo www.turjaen.org on Calle Almendros Aguilar. The arch is all that remains of the old San Lorenzo church. The Gothic-Mudejar interior can be viewed on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, at 11.00 and 13.00, as part of a free guided tour which you can book at the Tourist Office at Calle Maestra (minimum five people).

Further north is Barrio de Santa Cruz, the location of La Judería which was the medieval Jewish ghetto es.wikipedia.org. The main streets are Callejón del Gato, Calle del Rostro, Calle Santa Cruz and Calle de los Huérfanos.

There’s not a lot to see in terms of physical sights but wandering around the narrow streets quite atmospheric, especially when you imagine its time as a walled ghetto. The ghetto was a means of protecting Jewish customs and also as a defence against possible attack from enemies.

At the end of Calle de los Huérfanos is a small square called Plaza de los Huérfanos which was the location of one of the two gates into the ghetto, the Puerta Baeza. There are various plaques and installations here that commemorate the presence of the Jewish community in Jaen for over twelve centuries.

On the edge of La Judería is the Fuente De Los Caños, a public fountain dating from 1569.

From here head a little further north to Palacio de Villardompardo where you can see the Baños Arabes www.bañosarabesjaen.es in the cellar (see my separate post on museums).

In terms of more recent architecture, there are a few nice buildings around…

The first building on Calle Maestra, the main street leading off the cathedral square, is this quirky little place on the corner. It was renovated in 2015 so I’m looking forward to having a nosey inside.

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Another nice house I’ve seen backs onto Plaza del Pósito and has its front door on Calle Bernabé Soriano.

This nice building is at 18 Calle Bernabé Soriano.

This post is a work in progress so I’ll be adding to it on my next trip. Museums next!

Jaen – places to eat in La Victoria

Posted in Andalusia, Jaen, Jaen Province, La Victoria, Spain with tags , , , , , on April 2, 2019 by gannet39

La Victoria is the neighbourhood that takes in Paseo de la Estacion and Avenida de Madrid, the bottom half of the hill. Our work accommodation, the Hotel Infanta Cristina (see separate post) is located here. All these bars and restaurants below are easily walkable from the hotel. My map is here.

From 2017, in order of preference…

Restaurante Tamesis (High Intermediate B+), 9 Maestro Sapena

Named after London’s famous river, this is a new place that has opened since my last visit in Jaen in 2015. It has received accolades from many quarters and was at top spot on Tripadvisor in June 2017 when I visited. The menu is very innovative and all the food I’ve eaten has been great (A/B+/B).

My favourite place in town, Casa Antonio (see separate post), is more of a refined restaurant whereas Tamesis has more of a tapas bar feel, but I’d put them in the same league. For me it’s the second best place in town for food.

I went twice, once for tapas and another time for a main meal. Both times I ate and drank very well for around €40 although you could spend much less given that I’m quite greedy! The menu is highly innovative and there is a Japanese influenced section as well as one for sharing plates.

I didn’t grade the tapas on my first visit but they must have been really good or else I wouldn’t have gone back!

Hojaldre Avainillado de Puerros Confitados y Jamon, described as their classic tapa, is a Vanilla puff pastry with a confit of leeks and shredded ham.

Alchachofa, Viera Asada, Crema de Sopa de Ajo, Tocino de Lardo Collonata aka artichokes, seared scallop, cream of garlic soup and fat of Tuscan ham.

Ravioli de Confit de Pato, Foie y Crema de Boletus is a ravioli of confit duck, foie gras and a cream of boletus mushrooms.

Pan Bao Relleno de Salteado de Col y Tocino de Iberico, Requeson, Huevo Frito de Cordoniz y Trufa or, Taiwanese bun filled with sauteed cabbage, Iberian ham, curd and fried quail’s egg with truffle.

I tried a glass of Marcelino Serrano, a Cabernet/Merlot/Tempranillo blend from the Sierra Sur de Jaen DO but moved on to Abadia San Quirce from Ribera del Duero. A balloon of Grand Duque de Alba finished things off.

The second time I had another tapa to start, the Milhojas Calabacin, Boletus, Foie, Cebolla Caramelizada y un Toque de Aove Variedad Picual a slice of a layered pie containing courgettes, mushrooms, foie and caramelised onions with a touch of extra virgin picual olive oil, which had fantastic flavours (B+).

Then a main of Paletilla de Cordero Lechal al Tomillo, Asada de Forma Tradicional, or a shoulder of sucking lamb roasted in a traditional style, with delicious potatoes and a tasty thyme gravy (B+).

The house Rioja Izadi is okay (B).

The end game involved their Esfera Chocolate, a tennis ball sized chocolate sphere filled with vanilla ice cream standing on a chocolate infused powder and drizzled with a red berry sauce (A), alongside a glass of PX.

A complementary shot or two of Orujo finished off the evening.

This is a great place. Just wish I’d had time to work through the whole menu!

Cafeteria Restaurante Estacion (Intermediate B+), Plaza Jaen por la Paz, in the station building

Who says that the food in station cafes has to be rubbish? Not me on this showing. I remembered the restaurant terrace being packed with non-travellers when I walked past on a previous visit and when a taxi driver mentioned it in the same sentence as Casa Antonio and Tamesis, I decided to give it a try for my final meal in Spain before catching the train to the airport.

The service isn’t great, the inattentive gruff waiters, although numerous, seemed very stressed when I was there, probably because the private function room was fully booked out, but fortunately the food made up for it. I had the Menu Especial (ten choices for each of the three courses) for €17 and felt it was good value.

I had the Menu Especial (ten choices for each of the three courses) which for €17 is good value (B+/B). The starter of some great Jamon Iberico, two slices of different Queso Anejo and a scoop of the ubiquitous Pate de Perdiz (partridge pate), was all top notch (A/B+).

…I enjoyed the Esparragos a la Plancha con Cremoso de Queso, aka grilled asparagus with a swirl of cheese and potato mash (B+)…

… and the Carrillada Estofado al Pedro Ximenez, , or stewed beef cheeks with sliced boiled potatoes and a raisin wine reduction (B+).

To drink I had of an unknown but pretty decent Rioja (B+), one of which came as part of the menu. The final cheese cake with cream finished things off nicely (A). Final cost €20.

A great place to spend time if you’re waiting for a train, but also worth the short walk just to eat.

Kasler (Intermediate B), 2 Miguel Castillejo

Much as I love Spanish food, it’s nice to have a change every now and this popular and longstanding Germano-Hispanic restaurant, is good for that. The dining room is a bit small but there is a tapas bar and a terrace on the pavement out front if you want more space.

To start I had a tuna salad and a Croqueta de Codillo (pork knuckle croquette). For the main, a half portion of their Surtido de Salsichas Kesler (B+); three different sausages with chips and dips (the sweet mustard is the best). To finish, a slice of Apfelstrudel and ice cream and a complementary shot of Orujo des Hierbas, all of which was fine as I recall (B).

A great place for a sausage fest!

Café Bar Tito Candi (Elementary C), 43 Avenida de Madrid

This is the cheap and cheerful option near the Hotel Infanta Cristina, suggested to me by a school owner that I was working with.

The Menu del Dia costs €8.50. The food is all completely edible (C) and portions are generous but you can get much better if you’re prepared to walk to one of the other places above.

Turn right out of the side door ofthe Hotel Infanta Cristina, then left at the junction and it’s immediately on your right.

From 2013…

Casa Vincent (Intermediate B), 3 Calle del Cristo Rey, Tel. 953 232 222, Closed Sunday eve and Monday

A Frommers one star suggestion, this is reputed to be one of the best places in town. It’s very old school and slightly formal with a dark wood interior and bulls heads on the walls.

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If you are interested in the Moorish influence on local cuisine, this would be a good place to come, although the ‘typical local dishes’ I requested were just interesting and not particularly amazing. I’m sure if you stick to more standard orders you’d score it higher than I did.

As well as the usual olives, some excellent toasted almonds were put in front of me as soon as I sat down.

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For the first tapa I had cardoons with egg, a dish of Moorish origin, which came sizzling on a plate in a beautifully carved wooden tray. It looked better than it tasted (C).

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I also had artichocke hearts with ham (B) and some pork with chips and gravy which I wasn’t particularly keen on (C+).

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This was washed down with another decent (B) local red called ‘Glosa’ from the Sierra de Sur Jaen IGP.

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Finally a shot of Crema de Café (B) made by the same Castillo de Jaen brand who also made the Anis I had at the parador.

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Service was friendly from the younger English-speaking guy but the older chap (the owner?) didn’t want to try to understand my Spanish. I would come back but again give me Tamesis or Casa Antonio over this traditional place any time.

La Verja (Low Intermediate B+), 56 Paseo de la Estacion, at the bottom of the hill

A good place for simple home-cooked local dishes near the Inlingua school I was working at. There’s nothing fancy about the food or the surroundings.

I had a menu-del-dia type lunch here twice and enjoyed it both times. The lentil soup, mixed salad and rabbit with garlic all stick in my mind as being good (B+). Can’t remember how much the bills came to but it was definitely very cheap.

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Jaen Province – Andújar – Places to Eat and Swim

Posted in Andalusia, Andújar, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , , , , on December 4, 2015 by gannet39

I found it pretty hard to eat well here unfortunately. There are plenty of tapas bars selling good honest fare in the centre but all the (supposedly) better quality places seemed to be closed or out of town, either in the countryside around or off the motorway, so you’d really need a car to get to them.

I did find a couple of places that were okay though. You can find them on this Google map, along with several places I didn’t get to.

Cayetano (Intermediate B+), 10 Calle Corredera San Bartolomé

A bit of a trek from the hotel (about thirty minutes’ walk) but worth it for the huge salads they serve (B+). The one in the picture was a half portion believe it or not and it only cost €4.50.

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The region is famous for its game dishes so I decided to try Carne de Monte which is deer meat slow cooked with oregano I think. I’m not usually a fan of venison but this was pretty tasty (B+).

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I came back one evening and had their intriguing Berenjenas con Salmorejo, deep fried slices of aubergine with the thick bread soup and diced ham on top, but sadly I wasn’t impressed (C). Perhaps the day time chef is better.

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Los Naranjos (Intermediate B), 4 Calle Guadalupe (an alley off the west side of Plaza de la Constitucion)

‘The Orange Trees’ was recommended by one of the local teachers. It’s a plain and simple place that basically one large room with some tables outside in the alley. The waiters are super-efficient and the food is decent. I had Gambas al Ajillo (B) and a huge plate of codfish croquetas (B).

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El Mercao (Intermediate B), Plaza de la Constitucion

A popular bar off the main square. I had a decent menu del dia here which included the famous Flamequin, involving deep fried ham and cheese (B).

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I also went to La Columna, a cafe bar at 15 Calle Emperador Trajano, www.copaytapa.com. It was very busy with lots of locals but I don’t remember being impressed by the food (C) even if I don’t remember what I had. It was very cheap though.

There are of course lots of other tapas bars around town. Bar Rincon Andaluz at 4 Calle Hoyo seems very popular although their specialty is snails which I don’t get on with anymore.

I think it must have been snail season as just about every bar was selling them and literally everyone seemed to be eating them.

The municipal sports centre, the Polideportivo Municipal de Andújar at Calle Egido del Puente, has a large outdoor pool which would be very welcome in the summer heat if you have a day off. It was closed when I was there in April, despite the weather being quite warm, because it wasn’t officially summer as yet. Red tape, don’t you just love it.

Jaen Province – Andújar – Stuff to See

Posted in Andalusia, Andújar, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , on December 3, 2015 by gannet39

Andújar is a historical town of about 40,000 in the province of Jaen, about forty minutes on the train from the regional capital.

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First impressions were not good as work put me up at the unremarkable Hotel del Val on a retail park about twenty minutes’ walk from the old centre, but I don’t mind a bit of a walk so that was ok.

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Most of the town is new build although it has retained the original Medieval street plan in the centre. The maze of streets take a bit of getting used to.

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Here’s my Google map to help you.

There are some old buildings still standing though. Some of the walls of the original Almohad (Moorish) citadel and the odd watchtower still remain. This one was refaced in the fifteenth century to include the city’s coat of arms.

The heart of the town is Plaza de Espania, and its extension Plaza Constitucion, which are separated by this arch.

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Here you’ll find the Ayuntemiento (town hall) and the Iglesia de San Miguel with its sturdy tower.

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The worn stone carvings on the ancient doorway of the church depict some interesting figures.

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Next to the church is a memorial to a local priest martyred in the sixteenth century and the Fuente Barroca, a baroque fountain (built in 1739) that’s seen better days.

A couple of streets away is Iglesia Santa Maria la Major which houses an original El Greco, although it was never open when I walked by.

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Next to it is the Torre de Reloj, a clock tower which is a symbol of the city.

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On one side of the tower is an impressive imperial shield, which incorporates the coats of arms of the Trastámara and the Habsburgs on the right, and the Avis, the lineages of Emperor Charles V and his wife Isabel of Portugal, on the left. A stone sundial sits next to the shield.

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Currently, the tower houses the Tourist Information Office of Andujar. The tower houses the tourist information on the ground floor (open 9.00 to 14.00 Tuesday to Saturday, and also 16.30 to 19.00 Tuesday to Friday).

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On the other side of Iglesia Santa Maria is this Neogothic chapel, built in 1925.

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Also of interest is the Palacio de los Ninos with its unusual statues of two South American Indians on its front aspect.

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The Archaeology museum is located in the cellar which is supposed to be very impressive (open 9.00 to 14.00 Tuesday to Friday, and also 12.30 to 19.00 Saturday to Sunday), although again I wasn’t free at the right time to go.

Various other old town houses are dotted around with their impressive thick wooden doors.

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On the front wall of Palacio de los Perez de Vargas y Gormaz (aka La Casa de las Argollas) you can see four iron rings with little heads wearing hats. The tourist blurb said that these were put up after the Esqilache Uprising when Spaniards rose up against one of the king’s ministers who had decreed that long capes and broad brimmed hats were to be forbidden as they were associated with criminality, a bit like our modern day hoodies.

The town was celebrating the Pilgrimage of the Virgen de la Cabeza, which is held on the last Sunday of the month of April. Horses are decorated and displayed in the town centre.

The image of the Virgin is displayed everywhere.

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Please see the next post for places to eat.

Jaen – staying in La Victoria

Posted in Andalusia, Jaen, Jaen Province, La Victoria, Spain with tags , on December 2, 2015 by gannet39

My employer puts us up at the Hotel Infanta Cristina www.hotelinfantacristina.com on Carretera de Madrid, in La Victoria, one of the newer parts of town.

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It’s handy for the train station (max ten minute’s walk) but the neighbourhood it’s in is pretty sterile and there are no good bars or restaurants nearby that I know of.

Personally I like a bit of exercise before I eat so I always walk up the long hill most of the city is located on to one of the tapas areas I mention in my other posts.

The hotel itself is supposed to be the best in town, but that’s not saying much as there is a dearth of good hotels according to Lonely Planet. It’s tolerable but the rooms are quite dingy and the walls are a bit thin.

On the other hand, the breakfast is usually quite comprehensive and the hotel tapas bar seems to be relatively popular should you not want to go out. Avoid getting boccadillos from the tapas bar though, a ham, cheese and tomato one cost me €9.60!

There’s a sun deck with a swimming pool on the first floor. The entrance is next to Room 109. A G&T served poolside costs €6.50.

Outside the front door of the hotel on Carretera de Madrid is the ghostly spectacle of the brand new tram tracks, although you won’t see any trams on them. A teacher later told me that the city had run out of money after the 2008 financial crash and had never got round to buying them. A shame as it would be a good way to get up the hill!

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In recent years Jaen has become a destination for food tourism, especially oleotourists as this is the ‘world capital of olive oil’. This is the city’s gastronomic website which has news of special events and a list of places to eat.

It’s only when you leave Jaen by car or train that you got a true understanding of why the area is so well-known for olives. All you will see out of the window is olive trees for hour after hour (video here), a slightly unsettling monoculture with no other kind of vegetable life in sight. According to the Olive Oil Times Jaen province produces 45% of the Spanish total and 20% of the world total, an incredible statistic!

You can find everywhere I write about and more on my Google map.

Please see the following posts on food and things to do in Jaen:

‘Places to eat in La Victoria’ is a post about bars and restaurants near the Hotel Infanta Cristina.

‘Tapas in the Casco Antiguo 1’; a post about tapas bars off Calle Maestre, near the cathedral (halfway up the hill):

‘Tapas in the Casco Antiguo 2’; a post about tapas bars around Plaza Posito (slightly down the hill from the above).

‘Eating at Casa Antonio’ is a post about the best restaurant in town, slightly up the hill.

A post about another area to eat near the top of the hill and to the left.

For info on how to get to the top of the hill to visit the castle read this post.

This post is about places to eat at the top of the Santa Catalina hill, restaurants that require some effort to get to!

For food shopping and stuff to take home read this.

I hope this information will help you enjoy your time in Jaen. Please let me know 🙂

Jaen – Casco Antiguo – tapas bars off Calle Maestra

Posted in Andalusia, Casco Antiguo, Jaen, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2015 by gannet39

When it comes to tapas, many of the Jiennenses seem to favour the bars in the old town, especially those on the streets just below and along from the cathedral square Plaza Santa Maria. Many of them are hidden in small alleys that are hard to find but I’ll do my best to describe where they are. My Google map might help you too.

A good place to begin your tapeo is along Calle Maestra, the old merchant’s street that starts in the north west corner of Plaza Santa Maria, the cathedral plaza.

La Pena Flamenca (Intermediate B), 11 Calle Maestra

A pretty tiled bar that’s nice for a drink although I haven’t tried the food.

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There is a large back room where flamenco shows are held.

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Casa Gorron (Elementary A), 7 Calle del Consuelo (second alley on the right off Calle Maestra), www.tabernagorrion.es

This is an old school taperia, the second oldest in town (1888) beloved by two of my culinary heroes; Sam & Sam Clarke from Moro.

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Their local olives are great, as you’d expect. As is Andalusian tradition, you get them, and other little tidbits, free every time you order a drink. The house tipple is a thirty year old wine that is unique to the bar.

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I wasn’t able to try the Ajilimole the Sams rave about in this Guardian article but I did enjoy the Judias con Perdiz, aka white beans with partridge (B+).

As you can see in the photo your bill is chalked up on the wooden bar.

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Tasca de los Amigos (Elementary A), 10 Calle Bernardo López (third alley on the right off Calle Maestra)

Rough and ready with no charm in terms of décor but very popular with the locals, probably because it’s very good value. Their free tapas are a bit better and more varied than elsewhere too in my opinion.

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La Manchega (Intermediate A), 8 Calle Bernardo López (third alley on the right off Calle Maestra, back entrance on both Calle Arco del Consuelo)

This is the oldest taperia in Jaen, since 1886, so two years older than its neighbour Casa Gorron. Good, simple tapas and atmosphere in spades.

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When I was there in 2013 I noticed the waiters were letting people come behind the bar and go down some stairs. It turned out there’s a restaurant in the cellar so I came back to try it in 2017.

As you’d expect there’s a bit of a musty old smell but it’s an interesting environment. I had a miscommuniction with the waiter and got a Revuelto de Jamon y Habas without any ham, so it was just scrambled eggs with broad beans. It was still okay but not much to look at (B).

A good place for groups but the tapas bar upstairs is better for the lone diner.

Bar La Barra (Intermediate B+), 7 Calle Cerón (at the end of the alleys, parallel street to Calle Maestra)

This is a favourite bar of mine as I really like the vibe and people who work there. It’s not as old as the others but their collection of quirky antique paraphernalia makes the bar quite atmospheric.

The free tapas I got here were some excellent pork scratchings (A) and some moist black pudding in a butty (B+).

I was introduced to the Rossini cocktail here. An alternative to a Bellini, it’s a mix of sparkling wine and strawberry puree. Very nice, must make it for a garden party (B+). Recipe here. The bar also sells its own homemade vermouth.

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Calle Maestra and the alleys off it are my favourite area for a tapeo (tapas crawl) in Jaen. Not to be missed.

Jaen – Casco Viejo – places to eat and drink around Plaza del Pósito

Posted in Andalusia, Jaen, Jaen Province, Spain with tags , , on November 30, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza del Pósito is a pleasant little square in the newer part of the Casco Viejo, just before you get up to the cathedral area. Map here.

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There are several bars and taperias around the plaza and in the nearby streets. My favourite is…

El Pato Rojo (Elementary A) 12 Calle Bernabé Soriano

‘The Red Duck’ is a boisterous marisqueria that’s buzzing at the weekends (you ‘ll be lucky to get a seat).

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I come here in the week when I want to eat seafood.

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The quality is pretty good.

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Dean Bar (Intermediate B), 2 Plaza Dean Mazas (next square down the hill)

I like the music here (soul, funk) so I sometimes drop in for a night cap. You can sit out on their terrace in the square too.

They have a selection of about thirty rums and twenty gins but only two Spanish brandies, which is a good indication of current drinking trends in Spain.

Jaen – a place to eat in San Ildefonso

Posted in Andalusia, Jaen, Jaen Province, San Ildefonso, Spain with tags , on November 29, 2015 by gannet39

San Ildefonso is the parish over to the left when you get to the top of Paseo de la Estacion and Avenida de Madrid, and their offshoots. There are a few tapas bars in the square next to San Ildefonso church if you’re looking for a change.

Here’s my Google map of Jaen that shows all the places mentioned in all these posts, and a few more besides.

This is a good value for money restaurant on a side alley between Paseo de la Estacion and Avenida de Madrid…

Meson Rio Chico (Intermediate B), 12 Calle Nueva

A small friendly place recommended by Frommers, although without a star rating.

I came here on my very first night in Jaen and had my first experience of the famous local olives. These tasty specimens were fairly typical of what every restaurant provided. They’re definitely the longest olives I’ve ever seen!

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The tasting menu looked like a good deal so I gave it a whirl. It consisted of…

Hojaldre Relleno de Guacamole, Salmon y Delicia de Pina (puff pastry stuffed with guacamole and salmon with a pineapple sauce).

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Tosta de Cremoso de Patata con Crujiente de Lomo de Orza y Reduccion P.X. (creamy potato with a crispy fillet of orza and a reduction of Pedro Ximenez sherry).

Timbal de Veruditas de Temporada y Queso de Cabra Caramelizado, Tomate y Albahaca (a timbale of seasonal veg and caramelized goat cheese, tomato and basil).

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Lomito de Atun en Cama de Ajos Tiernos, Pasas y Crema de Citrico (loin of tuna with tender garlic, raisins and citrus flavoured cream). I remember I wasn’t too keen on this combination.

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Carrillada Iberica en Salsa de Esparragos Trigueros (beef cheeks in wild asparagus sauce) was tasty but didn’t look like much.

To drink I had a bottle of Campo Ameno, Syrah Barrica from the local Tierra de la Sierra Sur de Jaen IGP. Judging from the pattern on the bottle, this was made by the same people as the excellent Marques de Campomena I had at the parador.

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Finally, Tarta ‘Puro Chocolate’ con Dulce de Natillas y Frutos Rojos (‘pure chocolate’ tart with sweet custard and red fruits) which I had with a glass of PX.

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An okay place, but there are plenty of other good competitors. See my other Jaen posts for more info.

Jaen – La Victoria – Casa Antonio

Posted in Andalusia, Jaen, Jaen Province, La Victoria, Spain with tags on November 28, 2015 by gannet39

La Victoria is the neighbourhood on the bottom half of the hill. It takes in most of Paseo de la Estación and Avenida de Madrid. This restaurant is on a side street running parallel between the two.

I like this place so much that it gets a post to itself. It is simply the best place in town…

Casa Antonio (Advanced A), 3 Calle Fermin Palma, Tel. 953 270 262, www.casantonio.es, closed Sunday evening and Monday

I’ve been three times and have posted in chronological order, so most recent visit in 2017 is at the bottom of this post.

This is my review from 2013…

The tasting menu was only €47 for about 12 different plates, not including a couple of little extras not pictured. These were:

Pan, Aciete y Chocolate (bread, oil and chocolate); an unusual combination that works.

Trufas de Perdiz Escabechada, Foie Tartufo (truffles of pickled partridge and foie) and Croqueta de Trufa y Parmesano (truffle and Parmesan croquette), served with root vegetable crisps.

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Ajo Blanco de Coco, Pina, Albahaca (a local cold almond soup, not garlic as you might think, with coconut milk, pineapple and basil).

Yema, Trufa, Patata (a whole poached egg rather than just a yolk and grated white truffle, I think on a bed of potato puree). So delicious.

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Ensalada de Perdiz de Campo y su Escabeche Emulsionado (country partridge salad with a marinade emulsion). In Spain escabeche is a vinegar marinade which I’m not particularly fond of but I didn’t notice it here.

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Morrococo, Cocido Mareao. I know the former is a local chickpea mash sometimes referred to as Jaen hummus! Cocido is a stew but I’m not sure what ‘mareao’ refers to. Either it’s leftover stew that in this case has been mashed into the chickpeas, or it’s the stock from boiling the stew ingredients which is sometimes eaten as a separate soup, as is probably what they’ve done here.

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Papada, Anguila, Mango-Pasion (possible pork jowl with Anguilla eel and mango something).

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El Pez (Segun Lonja) or fish of the day depending on market availability. Not sure what fish it was but it looks like bream or bass.

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Cordero Segureño, Naranja, Cardamomo (local Segureña lamb with orange and cardamom).

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This might be Melon, Ginebra, Manzanilla al Limon (melon, ginger and apple with lemon) as per menu but the photo doesn’t really match the description.

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There was definitely apple in this dessert though.

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Last of all I was given some complimentary chocs at the end and this strange milky digestif which was nice but again I don’t recall what it was exactly.

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All the wines I had here were excellent. I sampled two Ribera del Duero reds (the Matarromera crizanza and a young wine by AC), a Rioja (Bai Gorri 2007) and a local red Marcelino Serrano from the Sierra de la Sur de Jaen IGP.

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With a dessert I also had a glass of Moscatel de Alejandria, an ancient grape.

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An excellent meal at a very reasonable price.

And a couple of other reviews of my first meals at Casa Antonio:

One of the highlights for me is trying their local olive oils. The flavours are unlike any oils I’d tasted before and a couple are luminous green in colour!

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On my first ever visit I started with a small bowl of salmorejo, my favourite cold soup.

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After this I had Espaldilla de Cordero Segureno con Pure de Patata y Ajo Morado (Shoulder of Segureño Lamb with Potato Puree and Purple Garlic).

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And to finish some aged Manchego cheese. It could have done with some membrillo but it was still good.

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On the next occasion, Arroz Negro de Calamares su Alioli (rice made with squid and its ink with an accompanying sauce of emulsified garlic and oil).

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Can’t remember all the wines I tried, but they were very good.

Followed by Cochinillo Lechal en Dos Tiempos, Cebolleta a la Naranja y Cardamomo (twice-cooked (?) suckling piglet with chives, orange and cardamom).

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Not quite sure what this apple and cream creation was called but it was very nice.

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Suffice to say my stomach is always singing when I leave this place!

Chef Pedro Sánchez uses high quality local and international ingredients for innovative presentations. I like to treat myself to the Menú Degustación which includes two appetizers, five entrees, a fish and a meat course and two desserts. The current price is €52, less than €5 a dish, which is great value given what you get.

In 2015 I started with a chilled glass of Oloroso and some fantastic olives (A).

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And I tried a couple of their wonderful local olive oils (A) with the bread.

I followed this with Pan, Aciete y Chocolate (bread, oil and chocolate), a mainstay of the menu (B+).

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I told the owner I wanted to try local wines and he suggested a bottle of Eclo which was very good (B+).

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This was followed by a couple of dishes utilizing I think the famous prawns from nearby Huelva. First prawns with yellow chilli (A).

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And then a red prawn in a broth (B).

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Then Ajo Blanco de Coco, Pina, Albahaca (coconut, pineapple, basil); an innovative take on a classic local soup, another mainstay (A).

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The asparagus in a mayonnaise based sauce with trout roe was very subtle (C).

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The Presa Iberica, smoked pork with a caper sauce, had heaps of flavor (A).

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Then I think some roast suckling pig.

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Then a tasty segment of Butifarra de Pichón (pigeon?) sausage. I love this Catalan sausage, just wish there’d been more of it (B+).

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Melon with sorbet and crystalised basil was a good cleanser but didn’t have much flavor (C).

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On the other hand the delicate bread-pudding like dessert was fantastic (A).

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It went very well with a glass of excellent Malaga Muscat (A).

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Also a complementary flask of very lemony homemade limocello, which was nice but not as strong as the Italian version (B).

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They have quite a collection of Spanish brandies here, about thirty in all, about ten of which I hadn’t tried. I took pot luck and went for the 1885 Gran Reserva Malaga which was fine but not amazing (B).

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As always, I left a very happy bunny.

I came back for my third visit in July 2017…

Senor Antonio introduced me to his new head chef Pedro. I was slightly concerned about the change in personnel but I needn’t have been.

I’d asked for all the trimmings and wines to be as local (Andalucian) as possible, so proceedings began with a degustation of local olive oils (all A).

Particularly unusual was this oil made with Royal, a rare indigenous varietal.

The Menu Degustacion had gone down to €50, which is an absolute steal, and I added on a Maridaje de Vinos for €40. The first drink was a fine Oloroso from Boedegas Juan Pinero (A).

Which went well with Pan, Aciete y Chocolate (bread, oil and chocolate), an old friend from previous visits (A). Not sure about the crisps though.

Then a fino called Inocente from Macharnudo (B).

With a bit of charcuterie from Cazorla, a small town in Jaen province (B+).

Another sherry in an unmarked bottle (B+) was ‘en rama’, that is, not excessively filtered and as close to its raw state in the barrel as possible.

After this a Melon Gazpacho (B).

Then another en rama sherry bearing the famous Tio Pepe name from Gonzalez Byass. Also loved the glass it came in.

I loved the Tartar de Quisquilla de Motril en Erizo del Mar or shrimp (from Motril in Granada province) in a sea urchin broth (A). It was decorated with some samphire by the looks of it.

Then Cigala Perdiz, a crayfish and partridge combo that worked well (A).

After this, an unusual Amontillado from Gonzalez Byass again who can do no wrong it seems (A).

The Almendras con Agua de Tomate, or almonds with ‘tomato water’, acted as a palate cleanser (B).

Following on, an Oloroso (A) called Marques de Poley and unusually made from Pedro Ximenez grapes in the Montilla Moriles DO. All the previous sherries were from Jerez and probably used Palomino grapes.

Then a tiny but very delicious pork concoction arrived…

…on a huge board! (A).

Another PX fino called Electrico came in a great bottle (B).

The Ajo Blanco de Coco y Granizado de Pina y Albahaca, a white almond soup with coconut and a granite of pineapple and basil, is another menu stalwart which I love (A++).

This is spooky number is Chipirones al Fondo aka baby squid in a broth (B+).

The next drink was a Manzanilla called Callejuela (B).

Callos de Bacalao y Chorizo, cod tripe and spicy sausage with new potatoes (B).

Then a fino called Huerta del Carmen (B).

Merluza Volanta de Costa y Espuma de Patata en Salsa Verde, or coastal hake with potato foam and a green salsa, was good after a bit of salting (B).

The Vina Zorzal’ Garnacha Rose had a great nose (B+) and tasted pretty good too (B).

Butifarra de Pichon de Sangre Elaborada en Casa, or homemade Catalan pigeon blood sausage, made a reappearance. It’s unsightly but very tasty (A).

Then another very nice Amontillado called El Tresillo (B+).

After this a big frozen slab of marble with Sorbets de Hierbabuena y Limon, a peppermint and lemon sorbet for further palate cleansing (A).

Then a wonderful Riesling called Kerpen (A).

Then Sandia, Yogurt y Limon, watermelon topped with very light and fluffy beaten yogurt and lemon which I really must learn to make at home (B+).

Finally, a new brandy (for me) called El Tresoro (B), from their extensive collection.

And a couple of chocs.

Although I found the presentation a little strange at times, the flavours were still great. I’m just glad to see they are still on form!

Jaen – Santa Catalina – getting high in Jaen

Posted in Andalusia, Jaen, Jaen Province, Santa Catalina, Spain with tags on November 27, 2015 by gannet39

One day when I had the morning off I decided to have another crack at climbing up Santa Catalina hill to the castle of the same name. Knowing it would be an hour’s hard climb I packed a bottle of water and set off at 8am before the sun got too hot. My last attempt back in 2013 had failed because I didn’t know how to find the final path up the last part of the steep slope to the castle gate. This time I’d done my research and knew where to go.

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From the cathedral square walk along Calle Maestra to Plaza Audencia and turn left up Calle Aldana and it’s continuation Calle  Parilla.

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This takes you to the aptly named Calle Buenavista which ends at Calle Circunvalación (the road that curls round the back of the castle hill which you would take if you were driving).

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Turn right onto Circunvalación and after a few yards you’ll see a gravel road going up the hill to your left. Follow it until it bends round to the right and either take the faint path that cuts through the woods on the left or stay on the road until you get to the remains of the castle curtain wall and take the footpath that goes up along the inside of the wall.

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After a steep climb you’ll come out on Circunvalación again but now you’ll be within sight of the castle gate.

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Follow the road up through the gate and the first building you’ll come to is the Parador, a government owned hotel and restaurant. Spain has a policy of opening parador’s either in or in association with many of its ancient monuments. I think it’s a good idea as it generates funds for their preservation and helps make them living buildings. There’s more about this parador below and in a later food post.

Continue past the parador and you’ll come to the Santa Catalina castle itself. It’s now a museum and is well worth a visit. Entrance cost €3.50 in 2015.

You can get a good sense of castle‘s long and varied history from the displays but the real reward is the stunning view from the top of the towers.

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Here’s the video I took, please ignore the panting!

When you come out of the castle you can continue along to the end of the ridge to the large cross that overlooks the town.

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It was first erected by King Ferdinand when the Christians retook the town from the Moors and so intentionally it has a great view of the cathedral which was itself built over the mosque. If you’re unlucky it can be a bit busy up here with school and tour groups.

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As I mentioned earlier, next to the castle is the parador, a government-owned hotel built in 1965 on top of some of the castle ruins. It blends quite well with the castle, especially inside. Please see my later post about eating in the parador restaurant.

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