Anyone for a Ruby
Wed 24/2/16: ‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to’ you’d cry to if it happens to you and today it’s my 55th birthday. So camper van 55 really now has come home as we are both that magical age from whence the plan was born. I would, being a sun bunny love to say the sun was shining but it wasn’t. In fact it was actually very niebla and as we set out for a morning coffee we could hardly see one hand in front of the other, but the day as ever did clear to a degree and as a 55th birthday treat for both of us- David’s actually being on our departure date we had got a really good deal last minute and had opted to see Cordoba from a hotel. Plus there was the luxury of a bath in this hotel and as I have been saving my water ration in Spain I did not feel guilty about having a lovely bath in our super-duper modern hotel. Cordoba is stunning and the Mesquita is for us the top historic building thus far, your jaw really does drop when you walk in and you see all the arches of the mosque part, even if you have seen pictures of it- seeing really is believing. I had started my day, as we weren’t driving and we needed to lighten the van weight load with a bottle of champagne and some bucks fizz along with something for me a favourite, but not had that often and that was a banana buttie – or rather banana in a fresh Spanish stick and lovely it was, real high living to start the day. At least 2 of our 5 a day!! For the evening in Cordoba we headed off to a bar recommended in both our tour book and also by our host at camp. It was a true piece of history-lots of little rooms and bits and bobs in true Spanish style, but when do the non-tourist places as now recommended in every guide book and also by hosts/hotels etc then become the actual tourist places. As we were told by the hotel, don’t eat in the old town ‘it’s for the tourists’ fine, good advice but then if everyone is being told the same when do the tourist places become where the locals eat and the local places become the tourist trail??. Anyway for this restaurant it was currently a happy mix of tourists and locals and we enjoyed a lovely mix of tapas of hake, anchovies and meat.
Thurs 25/2/16: After a day of the delights of Cordoba and in fact the Mesquita we had already decided where dinner was going to be and for both of us the evening nearly couldn’t come too quickly. The night before heading back to the hotel in the pouring rain we happened upon, which I will call a food hall which was very close to our hotel. Prices in the hotel bar being a bit over our budget we dived in here quickly just for a coffee and something sweet after our tapas. These food halls are really good and are unlike the ‘food halls’ in the UK in shopping centres/airports etc but in reality are the same thing. Here lots of small individual food stalls selling their various specialities and it was in this one in Cordoba we had spied an Indian food stall- hooray. We hurried there that night and were welcomed by the vendors having recognised us from the night before and our interrogations as to the authenticity. Our ‘ruby Murray’ chicken and beef were had by us and hot was requested and never disappointed. The chicken was lovely, beautiful white pieces in a lovely hot and spicy sauce. The rice was fluffy and separate, not a huge choice on the menu but then we were pleased with that fact as it was from a small stall. Heaven was had for us and did we feel guilty for not eating local food- No, we have been here 2 months and have eaten as local as we can on most occasions and enjoyed it all, so one meal ‘off piste’ really is fine
Fri 26/2/16: Absolutely no excuses from me here, our last day in Cordoba and weather still not brilliant and for our late lunch before heading back on the bus to NiKi and our home in the olive groves we had…………………. A Ruby Murray. Well you have to don’t you, I don’t know where my next curry is to come from and my spice levels are low.
Sat 27/2/16: Cook in evening for us. What I hear you say, but Yes even with the curry spice influx I had it in my head to cook a chilli and so when we were in Cordoba we headed to a big supermarket and got the ingredients to cook this must have comfort food. To be honest, I have always found most other people’s chilli’s better than mine ( most food in fact!!!) but when at home it is on my regular list. We could find no red kidney beans but for men reasons I was quite glad about that and had a small can of other beans which I thought I would throw in so as to get rid of to them and fill the bean gap, bit I forgot and they remain in store. The chilli was lovely and filled a hole for sure, but again slightly too tomatoey for me, I can never seem to get the right texture in my mine.
Sun 28/2/16: Not an overwhelming food day. We went back to the nearby village and to the bar in the village square. We had seen a poster for flamenco and so assumed this being the centre it might happen in the square, and given that the girl had kindly cooked some croquettes for us on a non-food day, other than the free tapas we thought we should give them our custom again as food is served at weekends. Unfortunately not our best choice, the tapas again with the drinks were lovely, ham on bread, black pudding etc but David choose chicken breast and it was slightly under cooked in the middle and it came with chips. He had also opted for the regular favourite of patatas bravas as well. I had chorizo, patatas and egg which were lovely, but we had definitely over ordered on the patatas front and so a lot went back. The flamenco wasn’t in the square but there were and awful lot of people milling around and so after lunch we followed the direction of where some were now leaving and in what might be like the village hall we happened upon crowds of locals eating and drinking from a made up bar. Obviously we had missed the flamenco sadly, and so we having walked in and been through the head turning moment we had a quick drink. As we were leaving and heading home for the excitement of a bit of clothes washing we heard some singing starting and people moving into another hall and so we hot footed it after them and there for the end of the afternoons bill was indeed a flamenco guitarist and singer. We sat and listened and were completely enthralled. Were they good, who knows but the locals seemed to love them and for us they sounded excellent, but it was also a treat to get that small local non tourist moment of real Spain and flamenco that really isn’t dead.
Mon 29/2/16: Left our home in the olive groves and as the weather hasn’t been consistently good we have re-planned and decided to head down to the coast and over to the right a bit as we also have to head to Murcia to collect some goodies from Auntie Fran and Uncle Stan. We decided to do a bit of the local areas wine route on the way, and also after reading the Aires book we also decided on a feature in Cabra, as it said about a lovely cycle path at the back of the Aire which was in a car park just on the edge of town- very close to a Lidl (conveniently!!!). We stopped first of all at a small town called Montilla and parked right outside a bodega as again for some reason we couldn’t find the actual park for night place. We were correctly parked on a side street and not blocking any residential zones etc so decided to stay put for the night and headed off to lunch at a place I had read about as being established in 1962 and was a pillar of the community. One of the feature dishes was Pez in a Pedro Ximenez sauce which quite appealed to me. They did have it on the menu but it was one of the 2 sided restaurants – formal and ‘a la carte’ one side and more tapa style the other. We didn’t really want to formal style and plus the dining room even though for us a sunny day was very very warm. Unfortunately our side didn’t serve the swordfish but it did do rabo de torres- oxtail and so David opted for that and again as ever if didn’t disappoint – a lovely slow cooked meat that fell apart and come with dauphinoise potatoes and some lovely vegetables – although oxtail isn’t my favourite thing the bit I tried really was stunning.
Tues 1/3/16: Who can believe it March already and we are still only in the right hand corner of Spain. Headed off from our spot outside the bodega and did go and buy 2 bottles of red from there to pay for our parking! Off we went to Cabra and when we got there what a lovely village it was, again still in olive country and the usual mass of churches and old buildings. The site only had 2 spots but we managed to get onto one next to another English couple in a Bailey. We did our usual orienteering and found a lovely small square that still have some late afternoon sun and sat and had a small refreshment. This still is the world of ‘free’ tapa and the one we had here was just a picture and amazingly tasty, artichoke with a light mayonnaise on bread topped with jamon. You really could eat very well here but just buying a few drinks. Our evening meal was much later and for me too late. I know I must try and get into the Spanish late eating habit but for me at the moment it’s too much. Perhaps when the real heat of summer happens it will be different but even then I think my preference is for lunch time food and something light later.
Wed 2/3/16: And so we took to the cycle path at the back of where we were parked. It was the old railway for transporting the olives and the track actually cover miles and miles through beautiful scenery and so many olive trees. It was a lovely cycle and after we made it to a small hilltop village called Zuheros we stopped for a quick bite, which was going to be tapas. However, given the time of year and the size of the village there was only one restaurant that was open and that was right by the mirador looking over the vast landscape and they didn’t do the normal tapa or bocadillo options but they did have goat, which David has been looking out for. It was quite expensive and was this the location to have it, should we have been in a more rustic shack somewhere. We had just passed a load of goats (not sure of the collective term for goats) and plus we could see them roaming over the hillside as well and really was the restaurant going to get Iceland deliveries of goat. Was it the waiter’s fault his restaurant happened to be right at the best look out point in a beautiful little village now on the tourist and cyclist trail, and so Yes David opted for it and I think the pictures tell the story themselves. Plus for those in delighted by the rice and thrush option from the other day this restaurant had two thrush options on it’s menu as well.
Thurs 3/3/16: A cloudy start to the town so we had some churros to sustain us before we made the decision of whether to do a very long cycle ride to a lagoon known for its nesting birds or not. As we ate and dithered doing motor home stuff the sun came out and so after getting some food from a local deli style shop we packed our picnic bag and headed off. Again a beautiful ride and the railways stations on route, now not operational are actually restaurants/cafes and info centres so it makes the ride all the more interesting. We made it to the lagoon, but due to the drought here at the end of last year there was hardly any water and therefore we couldn’t see much at all, but it was pretty just the same and our first picnic, although simple- bread, jamon, chorizo and cheese washed down with a light red was lovely. The picnic rucksack did exactly the job for 2 people. The ride back didn’t seem as long but as the sun was setting behind the hills in places we were getting a bit cold and still full from the late picnic we just had a short walk when we got back.
Fri 4/3/16: After another walk through the lovely town of Cabra and a visit to the local olive museum, which was an old mill as well and a stunning building we headed off again. Not a long drive but coastal bound and a one night stop at Antequera, another pueblo town of note. We were actually both quite hungry and decided to have a menu del dia, and not far up the road we found our option- in a small square on the edge of the old town. The choice of starters and main courses came in a rapid Spanish, the mains we could understand it was the first course that we struggled on. David jumped at the Russian salad but not wishing to have the same and with the waiter now staring at me intently I opted for what sounded like pollo. Strange I thought as there was chicken for 2nd course as well, but reasoned that obviously one was smaller than the other and as I was going to have calamari’s for main chicken was fine. Needless to say chicken never arrived for my first course but a cold soup like gazpacho but much thicker. To be honest I struggle with this a bit as it’s more like a dip to be had with bread sticks or crisps but this was slightly different. Thick and cold for sure, but flavoured with a lot of garlic and with small pieces of jamon in it and topped with tuna and egg. It was very very nice but like most menus of the day quite a lot for a starter. It is in fact called porra, so you can understand the pollo/porra mix up and is a thick puree of tomato and bread topped with various things. A lovely lunch that set us in good stead for our old town exploring.
Follow us as we head for the coast again…………………..