17 November 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Spanish Fisherman Mending Nets

Fisherman mending his nets in Estepona.

11 November 2014

10 Prettiest Pueblos in Andalucia

I've just read a fabulous selection of gorgeous little Andalucian towns by Spanish journalist Paco Nadal and wanted to share them with you. From the huge amount of pretty places to visit, exactly how many towns there are in Andalucia I don't know, he's come up with some great ones including some of my favourites.

Pop over to see his blog post and photos of Los Pueblos mas Bonitos de Andalucia:

Frigiliana - Malaga

Priego de Cordoba - Cordoba

Mojacar - Almeria
Spanish horse and Bull outside Ronda Bullring

Comares - Malaga

Zuheros - Cordoba

Grazalema - Cadiz

Alajar - Huelva

Ronda - Malaga

Carmona - Sevilla

Pampaneira - Granada

Monday Morning Photo - Ronda Balcony

One of the typical views of Ronda. Definitely not a spot for those with vertigo!

07 November 2014

Visit the Torre de Homenaje in Martos

Although the tower or keep has had visiting hours on the door we never found it open during those times, just like the windmills in Castilla La Mancha. But now the town hall has published new opening hours one presumes that its doors will be open as advertised.

I eventually visited it during an interesting guided tour of the town with the local historian from the library.

This was the main tower of Castillo de la Villa and is in what was the main and highest part of the town. Having been restored over the years it is now a “Centro de Interpretación Cultural e Histórico de Martos” and part of the Castles and Battles Route which provides information about Martos and its history, and was declared a Historical Monument in 1985.

Built in the XIV century by the Orden de la Calatrava the square tower has four floors, the basement being for rain water collection and storage, the others floors now house informative material and the top with views across the town is well worth the climb.

03 November 2014

Spanish Recycled Pallet Wood Pieces

Just wanted to share one or two (or five) of my eldest's creations. A key cupboard for the huge collection of keys we have, a corner display unit for two lovely old blue plates from my in-laws. A spice rack, made-to-measure for a space in my kitchen, a made-to-sell distressed blue wall cupboard and a nearly-finished custom ordered old-fashioned washstand.

Made-to-measure Corner Unit

My Made-to-Measure Spice Rack

Distressed Blue Wall Cupboard

Wooden Washstand

All items can be made, redesigned or if you have an idea of what you want he will draw a design for you to approve. Tables, chests, doors, key cupboards whatever you want in either recycled or new wood can be made in his workshop. You can also visit his Muebles Blog or his workshop by appointment which is near Fuensanta de Martos, Jaen.

30 October 2014

Salmorejo - Best Spanish Tapas

Salmorejo is my all-time favourite Spanish dish for those scorching summer days. It used to be a messy business when I made my own but since my cooking day in Malaga I've learnt how to simplify the making and the mess. Here's how I make it now.

8 Tomatoes
1 Medium Baguette
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic
Splash of Sherry Vinegar
Pinch of Salt
2 Hard Boiled Eggs
Sliced Serrano Ham
Small red or green pepper (optional)

First scald the tomatoes to make them easy to peel by cutting a cross in the bottom of each one and putting them into boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove immediately into a cold water bath and the skin will peel off easily.

Cut the cores out and blend the tomatoes and pepper if used for about 30 seconds, add the bread, but only the soft inside, the quantity can be adjusted according on how thick you like your Salmorejo. Blend well for several minutes.

Tomatoes and Bread 

Salmorejo and Gazpacho

Add a splash of vinegar, salt, and garlic and blend well then add the oil slowly, once incorporated add one hard-boiled egg, adjust seasoning.

Salmorejo ready to chill

Chill and enjoy garnished with bits of jamon and chopped hard-boiled egg. I think of it more as a dip than a soup and serve it with fresh crusty bread.

29 October 2014

Exploring Jaen & Jaen Tapas Tour

Recently renewing my acquaintance with Shawn - Sevilla's 'Queen of Tapas' in my home city of Jaen was great fun. Three years ago I met Shawn in the fabulous city of Sevilla and we had a great tapas experience, alhough mine was rather 'dry' as I had to forego alcohol due to a 3 hour drive home.


Shawn was now on an exploration of Jaen province's best - the twinned UNESCO towns of Ubeda and Baeza and Jaen city. I love both those former towns but at 1.5 hours away I don't know them as well as Jaen.

Jaen Cathedral

Jaen is a short drive away and a worthwhile one, especially to show others its highlights and back streets. Or see as much as possible while trying to take it easy and sampling the tapas bars, which I'm sure everyone knows still offer free tapas with your drinks. These range from crisps, olives, which goes without saying in Spain's olive oil capital, to very tasty home-made offering or seafood are served with each drink.

Rosada Tapa, Pato Rojo Jaen

The main and most prominent tourist highlight visible from miles or kilometres around is Santa Catalina hill with its castle and parador of the same name. The Parador de Santa Catalina has won awards for the best castle/hotel. It should, I think, also get some recognition for the best and most far reaching city view.

View from Santa Catalina, Jaen

White Monumental Cross, Jaen

After walking along the hill top and popping into the castle a drink in the Parador de Santa Catalina is so in order. Champagne was the order, while I, the chaffeur, had a beer on one of the tiny, 3 or 4 tabled, flower filled, railing surrounded patios.

Jaen Parador

Visiting the white cross at twilight is magical as the lights of the city turn on almost one by one and day fades gently into a warm sultry night. And then back down into the narrow city streets to try several bars and more tapas. A perfect ending.

Jaen at night, me under arch, Cathedral behind

Read other posts about Pato Rojo, our favourite bar in Jaen, What To Do On a Weekend in Jaen or see some more photos of Jaen Parador.

09 October 2014

Spain Tops Best Restaurants in Europe List

The newly released Best Restaurants in Europe list by TripAdvisor sees Spain joint first with France. Both countries have six restaurants in this Top 25 list.

The countries in the list and number of restaurants are:

Cyprus - 1

Czech Republic - 1

Denmark - 2
TripAdvisor @image El Celler de Can Roca. Girona

France - 6

Greece - 1

Hungary - 1

Italy - 1

Moncaco - 1

Portugal - 1

Spain - 6

The UK - 4

Of course you also want to know which those great Spanish restaurants are and what position they are in the list so here goes:

No. 1 - El Celler de Can Roca in Girona
TripAdvisor @image
Martin Berasategui  'Petit Fours'

No. 4 - El Club Allard in Madrid

No. 8 - Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian

No. 10 - Diverxo in Madrid

No. 16 - ABaC Restaurant in Barcelona

No. 19 - Arzak in San Sebastian

30 September 2014

Monday Morning Photo - The Road to Prigo de Cordoba

A photo opportunity on the road to Priego de Cordoba on the edge of Subbetica de Cordoba. Great winding roads and stunning scenery from Alcaudete to Priego.

28 September 2014

Hotel Malaga Palacio by Marriott Review

Standing 15 floors up looking down onto other roof terraces with a fabulous 360° view of city and port was the highlight of the hotel. A pool to dodge around, and a too small bar with at times not enough staff, a long wait for the lift and a lot of noise from a Saturday night wedding made for a not-so-relaxing stay at the AC Hotel Malaga Palacio by Marriott.

Rooftop pool and harbour view

Having a great but busy location opposite the port, in front of the cathedral and on a busy road the hotel had it's ups and downs.

The first being no ramp up the steps to the lobby and granted the doorman was there in time to help me into the hotel with my case, but not so when I left, or half-so. The doorman carried my bag down the lobby steps and out through the door and left me to lift it down further outside steps to the pavement. Not very impressed.

Malaga Cathedral from Hotel Palacio

Granted both weekend nights of my three night stay there was an event on the terrace and access was limited or extremely busy, this meant we only had drinks and and ate breakfast in the hotel. This wasn't a problem as our aim was to explore as much of the old town and as many bars as possible. We did very well on those points, getting in a couple of beach bars as well as the new shopping area of Muelle Uno alongside the port.

Rooftop View over Port & Muello Uno

As a four-star hotel it didn't live up to my expectations. Scruffy in places, not so clean behind the doors, a terrace with sea views yet nothing to sit and on and unbelievably wifi you have to pay for. Ok there was free wifi in the lobby, that by the way anyone could walk in and use, but when paying those prices for rooms that are a bit past their best and the wifi charged for daily. I refused to pay and opted for the free public option.

My View. Room 413

One pleasant surprise was €3 for a glass of wine (not a small one) on the roof terrace, I was definitely expecting to pay more for that.

Would I go again? For the location and the roof terrace quite possibly but I'd certainly choose mid-week.

24 September 2014

Bar Pato Rojo - Great Seafood Tapas

Ten steps from the cathedral the tiny, time-warped everything-chrome Pato Rojo with its fast and furious service with a smile and fabulous varied seafood has been around for a very long time. Looking through the door when closed and seeing the time-warp decor may make you feel like walking on by - don't.

Try hustling through the tiny narrow bar when busy to smiling cheery bar tenders and an incredible choice of both free tapas and menu and it's heaven. Everyone's friendly even with elbows clashing and the bar tender stretching plates overhead to reach the far wall, it really is that tiny. With around 5 tables on the street and the same in the back room, the bar is often the only choice or ask for a table and wait. It's busy for a good reason.

Free Tapas - Prawns

Having a girly tapas crawl around the provincial capital this was definitely our favourite and hubby admitted next day (first time I'd heard it) that he'd been there in 1995 on a boys reccy trip and it was excellent then! He's never taken me there.

Free Tapas - Fried

Free Tapas - Cuttlefish

The great thing (sometimes) about being female and foreign is some special attention. We certainly had special or extra tapas and couldn't have possibly ordered anything from the menu if we wanted, we'd struggled (in vain) to finish that which we'd been served.

Free Tapas - Rosada (King Clip)

Free Tapas - Battered Prawns

We had seven or eight tapas, I lost count and forgot to photograph them as they seemed to be coming so fast. Our bill was 12.90€ for 3 white wines and 3 beers (two non alcoholic) I was driving.

Fiesta de Queso - Cheese Fair in Zuheros

It's end of summer once again and time for the Cheese Fair in the fairy-tale white mountain village of Zuheros in the Subbetica mountain range to the south of Cordoba province almost touching Jaen province. On 26,27 & 28th September a whole range of traditionally handmade goat cheese, both local and national, will be made on site, on display and for tasting.

This is one of the prettiest and craggiest small town in Cordoba right alongside one of the Via Verde walking and cycling routes, with fabulous huge bat caves, cuevas de los murcielagos, and the poster no way does the town, its tradition or culture justice.

Forgetting the awful poster the event is a cheese lovers must visit and a nature lovers paradise.

22 September 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Malaga at Night, Port & Palms

Malaga at night from the rooftop of Hotel Palacio de Malaga. El Palmeral, the port and Muelle Uno shopping centre in the background. A fabulous roof terrace with great 360° vistas day or night.

Malaga at Night, El Palmeral, port & Muelle Uno
Malaga at Night, El Palmeral, port & Muelle Uno

03 September 2014

Toolani - Cheaper Foreign Phone Calls From Spain

When approached and asked if I wanted to try out Toolani, an app for making cheaper calls to foreign numbers while in Spain with 10 euro credit to try it I said yes. Why not? When visitors come to our holiday home or family come they all have their mobiles with them and bills run up or credit runs out pretty quickly.

Not really being into apps, more from lack of time to play than not wanting to, I was a little apprehensive but it was easy. I downloaded the Toolani app fom Google Play, registered and there was my 10 euro credit ready to go. So now as soon as I go to phone a number outside Spain I get a pop up asking if I want to use Toolani, click on yes and my phone call is dialled. I pay 0,229 € to English mobiles and 0,029 € to English fixed phones per minute, each country has a different fee.

Toolani Logo

Not that I have used all the cridit I was given but I've also topped it up quickly and easily with a 50% offer, pay 5€ and get 10€ of calls. An easy way to make and save on phone calls, I will continue using Toolani when the occasions arise.

What I like about Toolani is that you buy credit so I can see how much credit I have and no nasty surprise bills at the end of the month. The downside is that an SMS can only be sent using IOS via their website and they cost 10 centimos, not a problem with my Android phone. Not everybody has WhatsApp yet and I find a lot of my older visitors don't, which means when they get lost or need help my phone bill used to shoot up.

Why not take a look and see if Toolani is for you.