Spanish Trilogy: Charming Andalusia
As you’ve probably noticed from my previous blog post, I am a huge fan of Spanish, Spain and everything else related to this country. In the second part of my Spanish Trilogy, I’m going to write about the Southern coast of la Gran Iberia, also known as Costa del Sol, where my family and I spent our summer vacation of 2007.
Our first destination was Marbella, a little town on the Mediterranean coast that used to be just a fishermen’s village and later turned into a luxurious resort often called the Spanish Riviera. We stayed at the Gran Hotel Guadalpin, which was located just in a perfect distance from Puerto Banús—close enough to all the entertainment the town could offer but also a little isolated from the crowd and noise. The hotel was gorgeous; its external architecture reminded of the Moorish Era and the Reconquista periods, while the internal design was implemented with a modern note. We started our breakfasts with exotic fruits, homemade yogurts and freshly baked deliciousness, and for lunch, we normally went to multiple seaside restaurants that offered a variety of authentic Spanish dishes, including the famous paella, deep fried sardines, fresh seafood, and my favorite crispy, refreshing gazpacho.
The dinners deserve a separate paragraph. Marbella is famous for its fine steak restaurants, featuring a unique way of preparing meat, which is delicious and entertaining at the same time. Basically, the first thing you do is order the type of steak you want (rib eye, sirloin, fillet etc.), but then, what you get is a 10-inch hot stone where you’re supposed to grill the meat yourself. I have to tell you, it’s quite an adventure, especially when there are 10 people at the table, and each has a burning hot stone, and three bottles of full-body red wine are already finished. The stones come with granules of salt and pepper, and a fresh rosemary twig. The procedure of grilling the meat is very simple: you have to pour some olive oil, spread it out with a rosemary twig, which results in incredible aroma, and then place your steak and cook it until the desired roast. The meat is also served with spicy chimichurri and garden vegetables to grill. Fortunately, to experience this fun adventure you don’t have to go to Costa del Sol, but can rather explore your local Spanish restaurants; however, I don’t promise you the authenticity and the atmosphere of the Spanish starry night.
Puerto Banús is a beautiful marina situated to the west of Marbella. It features a nice long promenade where exhausted by the day heat tourists can enjoy the pleasant coolness coming from the sea. Puerto Banús is also known as a Spanish Monte Carlo, as many wealthy European yacht owners like to show off their snow white princesses for the tourists’ enjoyment. It has a lot of entertainment to offer, including several good night clubs and multiple bars and hookah rooms.
Our next destination was a little town called Ronda, situated inside the mountains. It took us about an hour to drive there, and we didn’t really see anything until we finally rounded a big mountain and were exposed to a breathtaking view of a medieval fortress on top of it. This charming little town is famous worldwide for its delicious authentic dish called rabo de toro (Spanish oxtail stew), which in plain English sounds like bull’s tail. At first, I was taken aback as probably most of you right now. But as soon as I smell that amazing aroma coming out of the kitchen, I couldn’t resist anymore. We finalized our rich dinner with a very unique dessert—homemade olive oil ice cream.
After wandering around the extremely narrow streets of Ronda and absorbing its romantic atmosphere, we headed toward Seville, the homeland of Spanish corrida and flamenco, and a cultural and artistic center of ancient Andalusia. But on our way there, we stopped at the little sleepy fishing village Zahara de los Atunes, located on Costa de la Luz of the Atlantic Ocean. As you’ve probably figured out, this place is famous for its seafood restaurants offering freshest tuna prepared for your taste—tuna ceviche, tuna tartar, tuna carpaccio, tuna belly steak, tuna albóndigas (meatballs), among other delicious dishes. Some fish weighed more than 60 pounds, and it was really hard to believe it was still fish rather than beef. We also made a quick stop not far from Gibraltar, where we enjoyed a picturesque view over the African coast.
Seville is a beautiful city where the Arabic influence is felt the most, especially in its architecture. It features beautiful cathedrals, one of which is home to the official tomb of Christopher Columbus (the real one is supposedly located in Dominican Republic). A ride in a real Spanish horse carriage gave us a tour of the city and its amazing botanical garden, overviewing the calm waters of wide Guadalquivir. In my memory, Seville will always remain a purple city, because of the hundreds of blooming bougainvilleas renowned for their distinct bright purple color and heady aroma spreading out to the entire town. If you want to immerse yourself in the authentic culture of Andalusia, I strongly recommend you start exploring it from the ancient cathedrals of Seville.
I will soon be posting about the final destination of my Spanish trilogy, along with some delicious recipes from three separate regions in Spain. Don’t miss it!