Tag Archives: food


This week has just zapped by, in a whirl of places and interesting things and our last few days in Spain …. and not enough blog updates. It’s now Friday evening and we fly out of Barcelona on Sunday, arriving home on Tuesday.

After our  quick visit to Toledo, we skirted around Madrid, only stopping to visit the Costco in an outer suburb to get fuel before heading further north to Segovia. We stayed at a lovely Airbnb apartment there for 2 nights. The main drawcard at Segovia is an amazing stretch of Roman Aqueduct right at the edge of the old town. And then there’s the Alcazar Fortress, which was apparently used by Walt Disney as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland in California. AND THEN there are the myths that the city was founded by Hercules or the son of Noah. Hmm .. let’s forget about the myths and talk about that Aqueduct and the Alcarzar. And lunch. Lunch was very good.

El Acueducto the Roman Aqueduct was built in the 1st century and no mortar was used in its original construction. I’ll just repeat that because it’s very impressive … no mortar was used in the 894 metre long series of 163 arches built with over 20,000 granite blocks. At its highest point at the entrance to Plaze del Azoguejo, it stands at 28 metres high. How did these ancient builders and engineers do it ??

The aqueduct was part of a complex system of underground canals and aqueducts that brought water to the city from the mountains 15+kms away. It was restored in the 1990s.

While we were reading up in our Lonely Planet Guide about the aqueduct, we learnt that Segovia is also well known for its roast lamb and roast suckling pig. We tend not to eat out much when we travel because I like to cook like the locals cook, but we do like a good roast, so we found a restaurant which specialied in horno de asar roasts and had a lovely lunch: Entree – ‘grandma’s soup’ and butter bean stew, Main – cochinillo asado roast pork with salad, Dessert – arroz con leche creamed rice for Greg and creme caramel for me.  Plus wine.

After that, we needed a big walk, so we headed to the Alcazar. Up a few hills, took a wrong turn somewhere, got back on course and eventually got to the top of the old part of town with the Alcazar on the edge. It looked … unimpressive … from the main entrance. A boxy fortress, a couple of turrets that were a bit reminiscent of Rapunzel and other fairytale princesses, but not really what we’d expected. We didn’t go inside because it all burnt down in the mid-19th century and what is now there seems to be an over-the-top reconstruction. We did find that Sleeping Beauty-like castle we were expecting when we drove to a viewpoint on the outskirts of town. Our Airbnb host has a lovely photo of it in snow, plus a few more on the Airbnb listing for his place – here.

We left Segovia on Wednesday morning and put in a long day’s drive towards Barcelona. We stayed at Lleida at an Ibis Budget hotel and then headed to BCN on Thursday. It was Spain’s National Day, October 12th and everything was closed, but we found bread at a servo on the motorway and went straight to the Avis counter at BCN to extend our rental car hire for a couple of days. We’re staying at a very good campground about 30kms north of the city.

the Aqueduct in Segovia
Alcazar Fortress, the best view
Segovia main street
Suckling Pig
Suckling Pig
Pork crackling
creme caramel
Arroz con Leche
the wood oven where all the lamb and pig is cooked


Tangier, Morocco

We spent 2 nights at a Casa Rural just out of Tarifa.  The literal transalation for Casa Rural is Country House but it means a hotel or accommodation. We’ve stayed at a few and have always enjoyed them. Sometimes it’s up-market accommodation in a restored old building or farmhouse, this one was self-contained cabins at the back of the main farmhouse, with great views over the nearby mountains, the sea and our host’s amazing home orchard.

Tarifa is at exactly 36 degrees north, it’s the southernmost point of Spain and Continental Europe and it’s where the Mediterranean and Atlantic Seas meet. It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations for wind sports including windsurfing and kite surfing, also whale watching and just ‘going to the beach’, which goes for several miles around the bay. We did go to the town beach and it looked good with nice sand. Tarifa has the ferry terminal for ferries going to Tangier in Morocco, which was our main reason for staying there.

We did a day trip to Tangier yesterday. The novelty of visiting another country and being back home in time for dinner just never gets old for us, and this time we actually visited another continent! Caught the 9am ferry from Tarifa and arrived in Tangier at about 9am because even though the 2 places are just about on the same longitude, Spain keeps to the Western European timezone which is just geographically wrong. Current sunrise in Spain is close to 8:30am! Daylight saving finishes here at the end of this month.

So, the ferry ride was all good, not too rough, took about 35 minutes because we left a bit late because ….. Spain. Somehow Spanish time seems a lot more elastic than time everywhere else in the world. After some online research, we knew that we had to get our passports stamped by Moroccan immigration on the ferry. If it’s a full ferry, this can be a lengthy procedure and MUST be done prior to disembarking. So we made sure we were among the first to board and followed those in the know straight to the immigration desk on board. Got our passports stamped again – we’re running out of room in them! – and settled in for the ride. Got off in Tangier and set about finding our way out of the terminal. Greg had read online about how awful the taxi drivers and touts  can be at the Tangier ferry terminal, but compared with some of their Southern African counterparts, these guys weren’t even trying! We’re well practised in the art of saying ‘no’.

Tangier is a large city, with a large bustling new (ie, less than 100 years old) area and the old historic Medina (old walled city in Arabic). It’s the second-most important Moroccan city after Casablanca. Most people we interacted with spoke Berber, French and some English. We started off in the modern part with a visit to the supermarket for water, flatbreads and a few other things, then a walk along one of the main streets and then coffee, juice and a pastry at McDonalds, mainly because … clean toilets. Then we walked to the Medina which was absolutely alive with activity and people and stalls and traffic. I was interested to see greengrocers unpacking boxes of cherimoya custard apples which had come from Almuñécar, where we’d camped a few days ago, just after we left Granada. I now realise that a lot of the orchards we could see from our campsite were growing custard apples.

We wandered down streets and lanes which got progressively narrower, until we got to the market, where there were rows of stalls all selling similar items – a row of dried fruits and nuts; a row of olives and the most beautiful preserved lemons (note to self: learn how the Moroccans do it!); a row of bags of herbs and piles of colourful spices and then to the butchers and fishmongers. We found an old man selling pieces of hot potato omelete from a huge flat pan in a lane and he was doing a very brisk trade at about 10c/piece. A local shopkeeper was very keen to buy a piece for us, and we were even more keen for him not do to that and to just buy our own, knowing there would be an expectation that we visit his shop … and you can guess the rest of that scenario. So we bought our own pieces which were served on pieces of butcher’s paper. That didn’t stop the shopkeeper from trying very hard to get us into his shop but like I said, we’re good at saying ‘no’. We kept on walking higher to the Kazbah (citadel), then back down through lanes selling haberdashery, clothing and I’ve forgotten what else.

Lunch was at a restaurant back in the new part of town. Chicken pastilla and a milkshake for Greg, chicken tagine with mint tea for me, and we shared a chocolate & banana crepe for dessert. That chicken pastilla has set a new high in chicken pies for Greg and now he wants all future pies to be decoratively dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon! The food was delicious and all up it cost around AUD 22. We walked a bit more and found some shade under some eucalyptus trees in a park, then went to the beach, walked some more and got back to terminal to catch the almost-empty 6pm ferry.

It was a good day, we’re glad we did it and as Greg pointed out when we watched a car being driven onto the ferry ….  we have this crazy long-term plan of shipping the Landcruiser ute (which is currently sitting in our back yard) to Southern Africa and driving it to Northen Africa …. one day it might be us driving our car onto that ferry!

Leaving Tarifa on the Ferry
The pilot leaving the Ferry. The pilot was on board for a tricky maneuver that was only about 100m long
All safe with Australian life rafts on the ferry. The Tarifa Jet is a fast catamaran built by Incat in Tasmania
Arriving at Tangiers port – the Medina is to the right, the new part of town is to the left
Herb sellers in the Medina
in the narrow alleys in the Medina
So many olives in the Medina, and those lemons were all preserved!
Medina with meat sellers
Sharpening a knife with a pedal powered grinding wheel near the butchers in the Medina
narrow alley high in the Medina
working our way down the Medina
all sorts of shops in the Medina
Mint tea
Chicken pastilla with icing sugar!
Tangine with preserved lemons and olives hiding somewhere under all those chippies!
Resting in a park full of Eucalyptus trees
The beach at Tangiers
on the beach at Tangiers


After our epic morning at Alhambra, we headed back to the apartment, walked up to one of the nearby supermarkets to get some stuff & noticed a little stall selling churros & coffee just around the corner from us. It wasn’t open until later, so we went back intending to ‘eat dessert first’, but the serve of churros & chocolate was so huge that it ended up being dinner. These churros were cooked differently from others we’ve had, in that a continuous spiral of batter was poured into the deep fryer until the entire surface was full, then when it was cooked it was chopped into lengths of about 15cm. Every other churro we’ve had has been piped, usually through a star-shaped nozzle, and cooked individually. However they are cooked, though, they are all delicious!

Yesterday morning we packed up to leave Granada, met our Airbnb host at the apartment, then drove into the city centre to have a bit more of a look. Greg picked out a parking station not far from the cathedral and the food market but we ended up on one of those city streets that are only accessible to buses, taxis and cars with special permission between 0730 – 2230 … aargghh! So we did a few quick right turns to get away from there and found another parking station which was a bit further away, but we got to walk along more of the streets in town. We found the cathedral but didn’t go inside, then the food market which was … erm … unimpressive after Valencia’s gorgeous Central Market. At least half the stalls were closed, and most of the ones that were open were selling seafood which looked great but not what we wanted to buy. I did have a nice glass of wine which included some tapas – prawns and some kind of squid thing on bread. Cost about $2. Bargain.

Then we headed to the streets below the Alhambra, to see what it looked like perched up there on its hill. We found a tapas bar that seemed to be aimed at locals rather than tourists, wandered in and had lunch … tortilla espanol, patatas a lo pobre (poor man’s potatoes), croquettes, artichokes with anchovies. And then, just in case we hadn’t had enough potatoes, the waiter brought us a plate of chips, on the house. Plus orange juice for Greg and a fino jerez sherry for me. I’ve gotta say, that sherry didn’t taste anything like the cream sherry my nanna used to consume by the flagon. I might need to do some more ‘research’ into Spanish sherry.

Campgrounds are not all that common on the Costa del Sol, but there seems to be an over-abundance of apartments and resorts. It’s a bit early, ie hot, in the season for the major influx of tourists, most of whom come during the Northern Hemisphere winter to get away from whichever cold country they live in, for weeks or months. Greg did a Google search and found Camping Tropical at Almuñécar, on the coast about 80kms south of Granada, so we just had a short drive to get to it. Run by a German guy, it is one of the best campgrounds we’ve stayed at. As Greg pointed out – the 2 places we’ve liked the best have both been run by non-Spanish people. Anyway, this one had some extra little bonuses like a really good washing up area with scourers and dishwashing liquid, and nicely decorated bathrooms with toilet seats, toilet paper and hand towels. Most of the trees in the grounds were fruit and nut trees; I picked a pomegranate and a couple of avocadoes this morning.

And now we’re in La Linea de la Conception, which is the town on the Spanish border with Gibraltar. We can see The Rock from the front of the building. We’re spending a couple of nights in this Airbnb and will walk across to Gibraltar tomorrow. Wow, that’s another of those mythical places I never imagined I’d ever see in my lifetime.


Parking in Granada, first you drive into the car lift and take the car down 1 level
A mechanics opposite our apartment. You took a ramp up to the 3rd floor where the mechanics workshop was located
Tapas and wine at the Central Market in Granada
Tapas and fino jerez
a selection of Tapas
Fruit trees outside the Cathedral in Granada
Capella Real, the royal chapel in Granada
The road that runs downhill from La Alhambra
Camped at Camping Tropical at Almuñécar
2,000 year old roman aqueduct
The less than desirable stoney beach at Almuñécar
The view of the rock from outside the apartment in La Línea de la Concepción




Valencia is an absolute treat to visit – gorgeous architecture, unlimited free parking in many of the city’s streets, delicious food, interesting Arts & Science hub on a reclaimed river bed  – but the endless huge roundabouts with multiple sets of traffic lights around them are bewildering and nerve-wracking. I guess the locals just get used to them.

We stayed at the Malcom & Barret Hotel, a couple of kms from the city centre and excellent value at 39 euros. If we wanted to camp, we would have had to be right on the outskirts of town or even further away, so the hotel was a great option. And we were lucky enough to get a free, unlimited park almost outside the hotel entrance.

We drove to the City of Arts and Science at around 6pm and got another miracle park right across the road from the Arts Centre. Apparently this precinct has been full of controversy and complaints about the expense and various design flaws requiring costly repairs, but (in the words of our Lonely Planet Guide) as it wasn’t our taxes paying for it, we thought it was all pretty good. There was a free concert of music by Brahms, Ravel and a couple of others, but we didn’t even bother to ask about tickets – from the large crowd, I’m sure all the seats were sold out months ago. We were just happy to wander around the precinct, which included an Imax theatre, an aquarium and several large pools of water. It was possible to hire rowboats, pedal boats and clear inflatable balls that one got into and self-propelled in one of the pools. Another looked like a huge wading pool, but there were only a couple of adults having a paddle. We agreed that if it was anywhere in Australia, it would be full of kids! I couldn’t work out why the local kids weren’t in there getting wet.

This morning we headed into the Central Market to find breakfast and buy food. The one and only coffee stall in the market was full, so we wandered outside and found a busy, popular cafe hidden by more market stalls. We ordered el especial de la casa the house special of bocadillos con lomo al horno, patatas y all i oli sandwiches with roast pork, potatos and mayonaisse.  Delicious! So then we went for a long walk around the city, looking at some of Valencia’s gorgeous Modernista buildings, including the incredible leadlight glass dome of the main post office. Our final stop was at a stall just outside the market which sold orxata horchata and xurros con xocolate churros with chocolate. Horchata is a cold, sweet non-dairy milky drink made from tiger nuts, a small tuber,  and served with fartons, finger buns.

It seems like the countryside around Valencia is Spain’s fruit bowl – endless kilometres of orchards, olive groves and citrus trees. Tonight we’re camping just north of Murcia,  in a village which has thermal banyos baths. According to the English guy who runs this campground, Las Palmeras, the busy time is during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, with … er … older people visiting from Northern Europe to ‘take the waters’. And to get away from sub-zero temperatures. Today it was 33C here, a bit warmer than usual for this time of the year.

Hemisphere (the Imax theatre)
The Opera house
The science musuem
A suspension bridge next to the science museum

Science museum
opera house
bocadillos con lomo al horno, patatas y all i oli sandwich
lead-light stained glass dome in the roof at the post office
another market
Dragons outside the dragon house
Walking back to the Central market
Central Market
buying fresh orange juice
Chocolate Churros for morning tea
getting dinner
our cheapest white wine yet, 1 litre for 68 euro cents about $1AU at Aldi Valencia


Greve in Chianti

We drove the 150-ish kms from Marina di Massa to Greve in Chianti yesterday and reached our Airbnb on the outskirts of Greve just before 2pm. We stopped in at a couple of supermarkets in Massa and got fuel for the second time since leaving Barcelona.

We’ve driven 1300 kms so far and I think we’ve spent more on road tolls than fuel! For the first part of yesterday’s drive, we thought we’d avoid the toll roads, just to see what it was like … we quickly realised that it was very slow going, through towns and villages with lots of traffic and low speed limits. Our GPS estimated it would take us at least an extra hour, so we headed back to the autostrada.

Our Airbnb place is lovely. It’s a self-contained apartment on the ground floor of a 16th century stone farm building on a vineyard. Our host lives in a separate house on the property and his parents live above where we’re staying. Some of the walls are at least 60cm thick! There’s a very old wood oven in a corner of the living room, and enormous timber beams supporting the ceiling. The apartment is very modern, with a good kitchen and bathroom and a comfortable bed!There’s even a friendly little kitten, Pepe, who sneaks in to visit us whenever he can. He likes to sleep on the bed and lie on the huge serving platter which sits on the coffee table. I’ll make sure I give it a good wash before we leave. You can see photos of our accommodation here

We’re only about 500m as the crow flies from where our ADL friends are staying at Fattoria Viticcio, a farmhouse which has been converted into upmarket accommodation. However our host’s mother told me that we couldn’t walk there, we have to drive. There used to be a track through, but it’s now overgrown and not safe to walk on. So after we unloaded the car, we went to visit Liz, Sean and the crew. Got lost and ended up way too far up the hill, but eventually found the right place and it’s lovely too. Probably a similar age to the place we’re staying at, but a much more substantial organisation with many rooms on several levels, and it’s still a working winery as well.

Last night was the Birthday Dinner, which was held at Enoteca Fuoripiazza Ristorante in Greve. 20 of us sat at a long table outside and ate our way through many plates of delicious antipasti, then mains, then dessert. The restaurant’s specialty is bisecca alla fiorentina t-bone steak which is sold by the kilogram. 41 euros/kg. About half the guests chose that – Sean’s 2 brothers shared around 1.5kg and ate it all, Liz and 4 friends shared 1kg and several of the young male guests at the other end of the table may well have consumed 1kg each! It was served very rare. Greg and I had wild boar stew with spinach and it was delicious. It was a lovely evening, Sean made a beautiful speech and I felt honoured to be able to help Liz celebrate her special birthday in such a special way.

Today we’re doing absolutely nothing. It’s the first day in a week that we haven’t been on the road, taking down and setting up camp, and apart from joining our friends for dinner tonight, we have nothing planned. Liz’s sister Triscia is in her element, cooking delicious meals for lots of people. Like me, Triscia enjoys feeding people. She is planning to cook pasta with truffles tonight.

the outside of the Airbnb apartment in Greve
At the birthday dinner
Wild Boar and spinach
Some very big and very raw pieces of steak