…the now insignificant village of Palos de la Frontera. It was form this port that Columbus sailed on Aug. 3rd, 1492, on his voyage of discovery with this three small vessels, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Niña. - Baedecker;s Spain and Portugal, 1901Read More
It was a hot, cloudy sky that covered the world south of Badajoz as we peeled southwards. These were roads less travelled, far flung dusty stretches of tarmac than ran parallel to Portugal. Simple countryside that recalled the Serengeti and which produced manifold conquistadores. Did they simply want to get out?Read More
There were always corners of Spain, far-flung places with historical and political significance, that you never seemed to quite get to. Badajoz was one of those places. A provincial capital of 150,000 people, a legendary border town near Portugal where battles and skirmishes raged between French, Spaniards, Portuguese and the British, and a city that I was always told wasn’t worth visiting. So more my desire to go then. With me it was never a direct route. In this country gems were always scattered along any route.Read More
Mallorca recalled to me a paradise island perhaps ruined by tourism. My thoughts turned to places like Magaluf; a Benidorm-like hive of young Brits obliterated on cheap alcohol, scabby beaches with crystal clear waters and high rise apartments and hotels. An island then where the national drink was surely cold jugs of fake sangria and where everybody ate defrosted paella and had churros for dessert. The capital, Palma, came as quite a surprise.Read More
La Rioja is almost more of a viticultural concept, an alcoholic sliver of history, than simply a mere region; the smallest of Spain’s 17. Much like Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Chianti, the word Rioja precedes the place itself and instead implants in the mind an idea of wine, a clear image of bottles of red, usually Tempranillo. But then the images fades and we are once again just left with the words La and Rioja.Read More
The Yesa Lake shines shines a bright unworldly cyan under a cerulean sky. The waters flirt with turquoise and the banks are dry and bone-chalk. Fields of furry yellow reeds peel back from the shore to rolling green hills. This was a place of dead towns and broken walls sitting juxtaposed with intense, pastoral beauty.Read More
73km from San Sebastián - 52km from Vitoria - 64km from Bilbao.
Oñati, a Basque Toledo, or so it was described, is the monumental ancient heart that beats at the centre of the País Vasco. A diminutive town of little over 11,000 inhabitants, the ‘place of many hills’ is clothed in honey-stone and ecclesiastical heritage. You can cross the town in only 15mins but it feels like a slice of grandiose Salamanca has been stolen from Castile and deposited, hidden and secret, in a cleft of nature surrounded on all sides by green peaks.Read More
On the 21st January a Times Travel section journalist called Christ Haslam wrote a piece called ‘How to be Spanish’ for a Spain Special segment in the newspaper. I think I understand what he thought he was getting at. I (hope) it was supposed to be an overly exaggerated piece playing on stereotypes and dripping with supercilious irony.
Unfortunately it was not written well enough, or obvious enough, for this to come across. Other elements were simply wrong or lazy and the whole piece lacked a nuance of either knowledge or endearment that would have helped the article come across as tongue in cheek as opposed to a little mean and haughty.Read More
The word ‘sherry’ conjures up in the mind a menagerie of wrongs. It is usually thought of as a sickly sweet dessert wine that grandma drinks at Christmas; pouring a little dram out of the bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream that has been sitting there for years, the alcohol all evaporated off and with sugar crystals sticking the cap on. This is not the sherry that confronts the visitor in Spain.Read More
On a sunny morning, warmer than it should be in a place so green and wet, Bilbao is magnificent. Curling out around the prim and taught little cathedral, no higher than the three-story apartment buildings, the old town bustles with weekenders. Unlike the homogenous white-washed villages of the southern end of the country, the northern regions adopt individuality. Each building, stuck to the one before it and clinging to the one after it, has its own design and colour scheme. Covered balconies called galerias stick out in reds, blacks, maroons, sapphire blues, counter-coloured against pastel walls; peaches, pinks, vermillion, burnt honey.Read More
Soria was a sunny and contented little place. A regional capital that didn’t act like one. It has the population of a small town and the countenance to go with it. As was so often the case in Spain, as soon as you left the big few cities - Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, Bilbao, Sevilla - everything sort of fell away and collapsed gracefully into a world of provinciality.Read More