I think it’s pretty obvious from my last post that with its beautiful cities and magnificent sites, southern Spain has been one giant visual feast. But it hasn’t just been a treat for the eyes; all my senses have been stimulated on this trip.
Let’s start with taste. I love the gastronomic adventure of eating the local cuisine in a country for the first time. I’ve eaten such great food this last week that it’s impossible to pick just one highlight. Everywhere we went there was amazing food. I ate the most amazing paella at Las Lapas in Seville, followed up with a fresh pear for dessert which was quite simply the crispest, most delicious pear I’ve ever eaten. At Bandolero, a tapas bar/restaurant in Cordoba we tried the salmorejo, a traditional cold soup made of tomato, bread, garlic and olive oil and served garnished with small pieces of ham and boiled egg. Loved it. They also served us the most amazing oxtail in broth with roast potatoes; the meat falling off the bone, the potatoes cooked perfectly, the broth so addictive that I couldn’t stop mopping it up with my bread.
The other tapas we had was at Los Manueles in Granada. Their spicy beef strips and potatoes were melt in the mouth divine, while the thin slices of fried eggplant served with a sweet sauce that was halfway between honey and a thick maple syrup was a taste combination that sounded strange but worked perfectly.
Right to the end of my trip there were little surprises that made my tastebuds sing with joy. The buffet breakfast at the NH Porta Barcelona, the hotel at which I stayed on my last night in Spain, included pears poached in red wine and cinammon that had a subtle spicy sweetness; in short, to die for.
My ears were treated to a feast of sounds in Spain, from the flamenco guitar and accordion played by buskers on the streets to the loud roar of the Mediterranean at the beach in Marbella to the sounds of people speaking Spanish all around us. A treat for me was in the cab ride I took from the airport in Barcelona on my first day. The Girl from Ipanema was playing in the cab when I got in. This was followed by Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine, and that was followed by a traditional gypsy flamenco piece with a strong female voice plaintively singing the Spanish blues. It was such an eclectic mix that I knew even when I asked the driver if it was his iPod and not the radio that the answer would be yes. I told him it reminded me of my own wide and varied musical taste and it was a special little moment of connection.
For the sense of touch my highlights ranged from the simple pleasure of feeling the warm sun on our faces as we ate lunch outdoors in Seville and Marbella to the luxury of being treated to a pedicure and a massage at the resort spa before we left. I also managed to get a 45 minute swim in at the resort’s indoor pool and it felt fabulous to be in the water again. I used to swim every week once upon a time but realised as I did my laps in the small pool that I hadn’t swum like that for 15 years. There’s something about being in water that makes me feel very, very relaxed and happy. Maybe I was a fish in a previous life.
And lastly to the sense of smell. Everywhere we went there were orange trees full of fruit. In every town the main square was called Plaza des Naranjos and there’d be dozens of trees, but they also lined the main streets, and appeared in courtyards big and small. Not only were they extremely pretty to look at but the scent they gave out was just lovely. When we came out of La Mezquita Cathedral in Cordoba, there was a small team of people collecting the oranges in huge plastic bags. The scent in the air was so strong. We were told that the sour oranges are not edible fresh but were given the impression that they’re used to make marmalade for the English. I like to think that’s true.