Mon 31/10/16: After a few Happy birthday greetings to those Halloween birthday witches and wizards we settled down to a lovely pancetta sandwich for breakfast- the pancetta being part of our F&S leaving food parcel and I have to say very nice it was too. The sun was shining again and so we hopped on our steely trusty mules and cycled to see the nearby cave houses of Guadix. Not entirely as you might imagine them and in fact many if looking just at the front seem like normal houses and indeed these are, as there is a whole community still living in them just on the outskirts of the main town. So much so that after dismounting and walking a bit to try and take some photos we actually felt like we were being intrusive and so having seen what we wanted we left the people in peace and headed back to NiKi and to make tracks for our next port of call- Ubeda. The drive with me back in the seat was not a long one but quite a splendid scenic route with more and more olive trees in abundance with the olives now near picking and burdening the trees down in many cases. The Aire in Ubeda is new, free and just by the national training headquarters of the Guarda civil- so we certainly expected to be safe that night! After arriving we had a quick twirl around the town and it has to be said there were quite a few ‘oohs and ahs’ With the clocks now having changed like home and the sun setting earlier with the air taking on a bit of a chill as well, and as it was Halloween we decided to scare the children a bit more with a David haircut before heading home to have ‘doggy bag’ chorizo with rice- one of our fav’s. We battened down the hatches and pulled down the blinds just to make sure the local children didn’t come trick or treating on our door.
Tues 01/11/16: All Saints Day or Day of the Dead as it’s also known. Also a bank holiday in Spain as it’s still very traditional here (well Andalucía) to take flowers, huge bouquets in fact to the cemeteries and spend the day there with family and friends, alive and dead. We were heading to a concert that night and so we decided lunch would be a good option to save time later and after one attempt were we had very nice tapas but nothing that appealed as paid for food we headed for a trip advisor recommendation. It was here that we were met with such generosity and kindness by a lovely young local couple. They insisted we joined them on the end of their table rather than wait for a table to become free and then after a few quick introductory words insisted we shared some of their cheese and jamon plate. So lovely were they that they had the waiter bring us some of the very best olive oil to dip our bread in and also another local delicacy a small cracker/bread like stick flavoured with pimento and as with everything in this part of the country olive oil. By the time my actual dinner arrived I was seriously too full to do it any justice and had to face the humiliation of sending back a half-eaten meal-such is the danger of tapa world!
Wed 02/11/16: “Cerveza por favor” After 10 months here we are fairly fluent on this sentence. Not however in Casa Paco’s bar in the lovely town of Baeza where we encountered a young Spaniard on his first day behind the bar and probably we think his first customers who unfortunately for him also happened to be English. However, no amount of “Cerveza por favour” seemed to work let alone us getting to the “ copa vino blanco” stage. In frustration David grabbed him (in a friendly manner at this point) and pointed to the Cruz Campo pump to which he still looked puzzled. Eventually he seemed to realise that we wanted a drink and then presented us with a froth filled glass with about a centimetre of the amber nectar at the bottom. Frustration was really beginning to set in as it was almost becoming like Beadles About or some weird You Tube set up. The bar was lovely and very trendy in style but for us it was all turning horribly wrong and then to the huge relief of both us and the young trainee barman another young bar person appeared and took immediate control of the situation showing him how to pour the beer correctly and how to address and deal with the customers. We seized the opportunity to get my wine whilst we were then offered a tapa to choose from the tapa menu. From the list of about 20 we choose seasoned chicken wings and calmed ourselves down watching the ensuing serving disasters that followed for the young novice barman as the trained bar person came and went. Fortunately for him no more foreigners arrived but at least 2 more customers had to show him how to pour the beer. Much later that night after an evening stroll and in the local bar where as norm the barman served about 10 people in one go with drinks and tapas we did wonder whether the poor sod had made it through to the end of his session.
Thurs 03/11/16: Olives, mountains and hunting are all renowned for our next town of Cazorla again not more than perhaps an hour’s drive from Ubeda. We headed off after a very lovely 2nd breakfast of chocolate and churros-putting dunking doughnuts firmly on the back foot. The town of Cazorla nestles at the foot of the Sierra Cazorla National park well known for its mountains paths and walks. We were to be parked on the outskirts of the town but after some exploration probably the only flat part of the town. Heavens knows how these locals deal with the 1 in more than 10 hills in winter when ice and snow are on the ground. For us it was a bit of much needed exercise after a fairly leisurely time recently but it didn’t stop us from finding a Michelin starred restaurant at the foot of the castle that also did a menu del dia. One of the local specialities here is a dish called rin ran, which is made from potatoes, salted cod and red peppers and it was the fact that this was on the MDD as a starter that lead us in. An interested dish with some of the cod mashed through and others in chucks and served cold. Enjoyable and I would have it again but would also have liked to have tried it somewhere else to get another ‘taste’ view of it. The rest of the menu was delightful with David having a leg of lamb that was wonderful and pudding of a light layered pastry mixed with cream and covered in a raspberry/chocolate sauce
Fri 04/11/16: Sobrasada, a Spanish delight – cheap, nourishing and not very pleasant in my world but for David despite looking like heart and or lungs very tasty as a breakfast option. It is fact cured sausage flavoured by paprika and spreads delightfully over toastado, but not for me. After Davids delightful breakfast we headed for a walk up and into the mountains but despite the weather channel saying it wasn’t going to rain not long after we stared it did.
Not wishing to get to high and then have to slide down in the wet we abandoned after about 2 ks, but the 2 ks were real thigh pushers so we didn’t feel too bad about giving in. We slid downhill into a local bar and were having some drinks and tapas when a couple whom we had seen from the restaurant of the previous day came in as well. We all recognised each other, we can’t really be missed as we’re still in shorts and t-shirts and the lovely man came over to speak to us and to see what our story was After finding out they had in fact lived in Chiswick years ago and again loved London drinks and tapas were offered and given, so for us another delightful acquaintance and reassurance of just how friendly the locals are and how they want us to share and enjoy their community and country. It really was delightful and set us off in good spirits as we made our way further into the park and forest
Sat 05/11/16: “If you go down to the woods today you’ll be in for a big surprise” Yes, there is a very big Elddis Encore motorhome parked there and has been overnight. Our quietest spot for sure, not even an animal to join us overnight. We were hoping for a deer or wild boar but no, although we had seen them on the drive in. Saturday, we were hoping to spend overnight in Jaen but the park for night spot was too tight for us to get into let alone park and so after a couple of rounds of the town again we could find nowhere to park let alone stay, so at about 4.30ish we gave Jaen up and headed more country file to a place called Frailes, again olive country and very rural. The drive in with google maps was not to be desired but made it we did to the towns Aire where we made our home for the night. After a lovely dinner of vegetable curry we headed into the commerce to see what was happening and just to make a change from the inside of the van. The local bar was very spit and saw dust and filled as you would imagine with locals who as ever all took their turn in staring at us harmlessly.
The usual beer and wine brought a substantial tapa of lomo and peppers served with bread and some local olives. D being a quicker drinker than me plus the fact my red wine tasted like Vimto ordered another cana and with came the most wonderful pork either of us had tasted. It was pork belly for sure but not with crackling, but the fat and skin was so soft and tasty that even after a huge dinner of curry we just kept on eating it- it was really was up there as the best pork we have had thus far and a free tapa.
Back at the van the rain set in for the evening and so bad was it that we opted to drive under shelter in the local barn area next door to save us and NiKi from the pounding.
Sun 06/11/16: We were awoken by cars and voices quite early and after poking our heads out of the duvet into the darkness were quickly brought to life by the sight of men with shotguns all dressed in green or variations. As we stared and worried would we get out alive we realised that they were the local hunters all gathering to make their way off into the countryside and mountains to shoot and kill. Despite wanting a photo we opted on low profile just in case we became the hunted and ate our soft-boiled eggs and cornflakes amongst the shotguns, knives and snarling hunting dogs very quietly. We fled the scene before they back with their spoils but again headed to the local bar for churros and chocolate. Second time in one week for these calorie explosions but these were again the best we have had thus far in Spain, the food in this spit and sawdust bar is up there as the best.
And so onto Seville for a second visit and to meet up with more ‘besties’ arriving for the weekend