Thursday, June 14, 2018

MENU's Iberian Exploit 11. Granada

More Castles in Spain this week as our journey continued from Cordoba to Granada through beautiful countryside. We needed to stop for lunch and it was this castle that drew us to the small town of Alcaudete in the province of Jaen. We stopped in this flower meadow high above the town for the best view
 This flower often appears in medieval tapestries
We parked next to the local park
We were invited to see these kittens by a householder across the road from the park. The mum, a stray who delivered them on her balcony, may well have had two or more suitors. We refused the offer of adoption
What looked like a restaurant
turned out to be a pub with no food

So we had a beer and their only tapas of some jamon and then went back to the park where we had a picnic lunch. We always travel with cheese, bread, meat and other quick lunch ingredients in a cold bag the car
Yellow daisies in an olive grove. En route from Córdoba to Granada
The mountains are covered in olive groves
Lynne exploring the local botany
OLD olive trees
We arrived at our AirBnB in Granada to find that it is next to a park, recreation centre and the river

We had the top floor

Not as Spartan as it looks; very comfortable
A large lounge with the verandah in front
and a large well appointed kitchen with the bathroom beyond
Everything one would need, IF we were cooking
Clouds rolling in
Safe parking for the car next to the recycling bins
and on the hill opposite, above the city, is the Alhambra
The mountains 20 minutes away are the Sierra Nevada and they had a very good covering of snow. The river was in spate from the snow melt
We walked down the river looking for somewhere to have dinner and found this very historic restaurant Las Titas
It was warm enough to sit outside on the terrace
and the sun was shining
The menu in Spanish. Out came the phones to translate the dishes

First a free tapas of potato salad with tiny toasts
It rather reminds one of Art Nouveau places in Paris from the Fin de Siècle era at the beginning of the 20th Century
Spring irises
We ordered this plate as our starter, but completely underestimated how much food would be on it and we were able to cancel the other dish we had ordered
Five cheeses: a manchego, a smoked Nestlé/Melrose type processed cheese and another with pepper, cream cheese with nuts and raspberries, feta-like block, two very indifferent patés, five different kinds of sausage or ham, smoked salmon, membrillo, olives nuts and lots of bread. While waiting for our food, we had a local white wine, possibly a Rueda Verdejo, grapey, refreshing, no faults but no awards; unremarkable. The red wine with the food was Pago de Elena, a red Ribera del Duero (the Spanish side of the Douro). It’s their house wine; blackberries and cranberries on the nose, savage fresh acids stripping the palate, then lots of berry fruit and dark wood with some bitterness on the end and chalky tannins that they love. OK with the platter
and suddenly it was evening
At the bar
Our bill
 The ring around the moon warned us that tomorrow would be cold
As we walked the mile or two along the river back to our AirBnB
Those are not clouds above the mountain, but the snow. It was chilly but bright
All sorts of logs were being washed down the river
A tree full of oanges
And a very ancient tree with blossom
It was the weekend and we were in the main tapas area in Granada. We were so lucky to get a table so quickly, most places had long queues
Two beers and an orange John had retrieved. We were given two free small bowls of vegetable cous cous while we waited
The dungarees are the staff uniforms
Tuna chunks from a tin in a peppery and green olive oil, with flavourful red pimento, tiny mini sweet and hot teardrop peppers, tomato and a very good dressing, wonderful flavours
A plate of Salmorejo dressed with boiled egg, cress and croutons, very thick and very creamy. It’s a fresh tomato soup, made with bread, garlic and lots of olive oil, which Lynne makes in the summer. No cooking required. And before we left they gave us a complimentary glass each of orange wine, rather like a Van der Hum, but drier and warm with alcohol. We had a very special waiter too, who made time to chat to us about wine and food
Our bill
Off to explore the cobbled streets
Lunchtime in Granada at the weekend is very popular
We had tried fruitlessly since January to buy tickets on line for the Alhambra with absolutely no luck. None of our three days in Granada had ever been available. We tried for cancellations at midnight, religiously, without any luck. We took the bus up to the castle but they were not available there either. Only 7000 are sold every day and we suspect that most of them go to the tour guide companies who add their fees. So €15 if you go on your own or from €43 up to €86 with a tour guide; that is per person and it doesn't guarantee that you will see the entire palace, as friends of ours found before us. Far too rich for our blood, but they were all full anyway. And we were not even in season. Very commercial, and very, very disappointing. When John went there in 1971, Spain was obviously a much less popular destination and there was no entry fee and also no restriction on the number of visitors. One pays a separate fee now for each of the different areas of the Alhambra; on the earlier visit, everything was open
So we walked down the hill path which runs round the boundary of the Alhambra
Part of the outer walls of the Alhambra. It is very beautiful, but tantalising as you can see bits of what you are missing from the path
Below some of the towers
Water pouring out of the Alhambra into the stream alongside the path
You have views of the city as you walk down
and then you reach the houses
from which you see the Alhambra above you
The ancient ramparts overgrown with trees and flocks of doves flying across
So near and yet so far
The city walls
At the bottom of the hill this sight. The Spaniards take marriage very seriously. This is a bridegroom to be with his retinue
A famous Spanish dancer immortalised in bronze (with a fan)
We visited a perfumier. This is what they call The Organ. All the bottles contain the essences that the perfumier uses to blend his next perfume with 
You can make your own blend too, but not with such a large selection
Tea time! So we stopped for some rather good Churros for Lynne and a beer for John. The new waiter was a disaster, reminded us of Manuel. We don't think he was invited back for his second day on the job. We waited nearly an hour for this and John was parched
Weekend traffic in the central plaza
We took the bus home and enjoyed another view of the snow on the Sierra Nevada
On the way home, we passed this sign. If you are going to Granada, this is a really good rate. Monastery like rooms, but clean and it looks comfortable and is in a very good part of town
Next morning, we decided to take the Hop on Hop Off bus so that we could see much more of Granada. But we got a bit lost and had a very long walk to the first bus stop. Great murals on this house
A horse fountain, probably fed by a spring
More wacky graffiti
The bus is actually a sort of trailer train. We froze to death and, sadly, it was too bumpy to take many photographs from it. We waited at this stop for a very long time and were not able to board two buses, half an hour apart. So in the end we walked down to the centre of town again to get one with vacant seats; it was a very long walk. Not a good start to the day
And we only made it onto the third one that came along, so we and the other passengers were reluctant to get off it and missed out on several good places we wanted to see, fearing we would be stranded somewhere far from town. It does a very good long route, but think twice if you are in Granada
You are crammed in, four to a row, and there were no windows on most of the bus. It was Icy cold. Luckily, at the back, we had some protection from glass. The headphones, apparently, didn’t work but we were not given any. So we were a bit clueless as to many of the sights we saw and looked them up on the map when we got home
The tantalising entrance to the Palace - if you have tickets
Finally, coming back into town, frozen solid; most people had got off. The trip took about an hour and a half. It was interesting
We needed warmth, something to drink and lunch and it was rather late. We chose this restaurant, Las Copas, because it says Taberna Gastronimica and that always attracts us; it was one of our best gastronomic experiences on the trip
Signs
Promises
and recommendations
Innovative beer taps!
It was crowded and busy, but we waited until we were shown to a table and it was so worth it
Suddenly there was space and those of us who were standing found seats
Yes, they are going! This is a wonderfully successful business which has been going since 1987. It’s a lively gastro pub with lots of faithful regulars. Do find it if you go to Granada; it is in the centre near Calle Navas
The visual menu

A famous toro
Selim, our waiter, spoke good English and we asked him for some wine recommendations. This was superb, wooded with American oak, fruity red berries, vanilla and black pepper on the nose. Raspberries, ripe mulberries, very friendly with long flavours of ripe, slightly sweet fruit and soft chalky tannins, delicious. And just what the doctor ordered for hypothermia
Even information in English on the back label
The menu has pictures!
Two other wines he recommended, we will try to find them another time
Happy, smiling and helpful. Selim is from Morocco which may be why he speaks such good English. He has always been in the tourist industry. His father-in-law owns the restaurant
A free dish of Paella started the meal and we have to confess that it was the only Paella we had on the whole trip. It was good, with lots of saffron and vegetables. However, Paella has become the go to tourist dish. If you want really good Paella, you need to go somewhere special and you will pay for it - it will not be cheap
We ordered the tapas plate, as that was what most people were eating. Huge gambas (prawns), deep fried calamari, small sardines in batter (very fishy tasting with bones, you either love these or hate them), picante deep fried green peppers, Hot spinach croquettes, huge green olives, Salmorejo topped with jamon, pork in a Pedro Ximenez sauce with tomato and garlic, pimento red peppers with onions - absolutely divine, and a Russian salad with lots of mayonnaise. We had hoped to order more food after this but it defeated us. A lovely meal; so different from other less exciting tapas on the journey
Our bill
A beautiful fountain at the riverside
Designed by 
The riverside park 
Granada is a most beautiful city, with a long, complex history and excellent food
More oranges
Siesta. Sunday afternoon in Granada. We had a good lunch; so, perhaps, did he
Getting close to home after a very long and energetic day
The riverside walk is very popular
A new riverside development
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