Following a New Year break in Spain’s gastronomic Aracena Sierra, they were inspired to send us this ‘foodie’ account of their trip.
Friday 28th December
The drive from Faro airport to Alájar was a doddle, and we arrived in plenty of time for dinner at Casa El Padrino, a local restaurant very near to our hotel. Be warned – the portion sizes are generous. For starters we shared a platter of assorted hams and cheeses, and could not finish it. This was followed by rabbit for Felicity and a fillet of pork for John – uncomplicated rustic cuisine but quite delicious. Sheer curiosity (certainly not hunger) then compelled us to share a walnut tart for dessert, and we were glad we did.
Saturday 29th December
Breakfast at the hotel, with Ángel’s selection of olive oils, and Lucy’s pâtés, was every bit as good as Inntravel’s notes suggested. We then made our way to Corteconcepción for a tour of Jamones Eíriz Jabugo, a 19th-century jamón-producing establishment run by the fifth generation of the Eíriz family. It was an excellent tour, and the quality of the very best ham is exceptional. We managed to fit in a quick tapas stop at Restaurante Montecruz in Aracena, before finishing the day with a home-cooked dinner at the hotel.
Sunday 30th December
Today, we tried Inntravel’s circular walk via the cliff-top shrine of La Peña. There is quite a serious amount of uphill during the first part of the walk, but it is stunningly beautiful. We were back in Alájar for about 2.30pm, and walking through the village in bright sunshine, with the streets full of Sunday crowds, brought home to us what a very attractive place it is. We secured a table for lunch at Casa Cruz, and ordered mixed salad and jamón to start with, followed by scrambled eggs with Boletus mushrooms – delicious.
Monday 31st December
This morning we drove over to Almonaster la Real, another little gem of a town. The Moorish mezquita on the hill is beautiful – a model of proportion. In the evening, we gathered together with the other hotel guests for Ángel’s talk on jamón and sherry, which was very pleasant and convivial. The communal New Year’s Eve dinner was similarly enjoyable, and finished with us attempting the local practice of eating 12 grapes, one to each chime of the New Year; it might have been possible if they had been seedless!
Tuesday 1st January
To give Lucy and Ángel time to recover, we had a late start today before walking to Linares de la Sierra via another spectacular route. We tried a few restaurants in Linares, but all were fully booked. We continued up the road to El Rincón de Lorenzo, increasingly worried that we might be facing an involuntary fasting day. Although also very busy, the charming waitress here found one table she could let us have. I finally got the salmorejo (cold, creamy tomato soup) starter I had been craving, amid a great local atmosphere.
Wednesday 2nd January
After a spot of chorizo shopping, we began our journey back to Faro airport. Ángel had suggested we make a stop at Ayamonte, the last coastal town on the Spanish side of the border, and he particularly enthused about the Gambas Blancas de Huelva (white prawns). Once here, I used my nose to lead us to Mesón El Choco, an excellent seafood restaurant. The gambas were expensive but the most delicious I have ever tasted. And the restaurant was as genuine as they come; nobody spoke a syllable of English.
A final thought
To summarise, this holiday could not have been more delightful. The countryside is really beautiful and unspoiled, as are the villages. We were very lucky with the weather, and had some heavenly walking. Ángel and Lucy were charming hosts, and the Posada was very comfortable. And everywhere we ate delicious Spanish regional cooking at a much lower price than we would have paid to eat out in England.