Savory Spain & Portugal: 2007
When you take your tongue out sightseeing in Spain and Portugal, what are its favorite taste treats?
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Spanish Drink recipes
This article has some great drink recipes for Spanish drinks you can make at home. Brings back memories of hot spanish summers and cool Valencia evenings. Agua de Valencia, Sangria and Kalimotxo (calimocho) http://noambit.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/12/i-was-sitting-a.html
Eureka, Ca USA Fri 12/14/2007
Barcelona: Be advised the RENFE train from the airport is currently not in service. Service is being temporarily replaced by a bus service,(free) which will add some time to your commute. ATM at airport would not give me cash, but did charge me for the services. (might want to consider having some Euros in hand when arriving to allow purchase of Metro passes, etc.)Consider a concert at the Palau de la Musica, very reasonable and a beautiful setting. Lunch on the harbor is worth the wait for a table on the boardwalk.
Seville: Skip the Seville pass, unless you are planning to go to the Flamenco museum it may not be cost effective. Flamenco show at Los Gallos(recommended)was outstanding, some of the locals were telling us that they consider it the best in the city. The tours by Concepcion Delgado were outstanding.
Ronda: Good home base for hill towns, lots of restaurants and shops to enjoy, highly recommend the Hotel Alavera de los Banos, is a little tricky to get to, but the setting overlooking a horse farm is worth it, as was the dinner at the hotel.
Granada: Highly recommend including Granada into your trip for the Alhambra, if nothing else. Nice non-smoking restaurant(Nueve) across the street from recommended hotel Navas. Don't miss the chocolate and churros somewhere in town.
Toledo: Not recommended in Rick Steves book, but the Hotel Cigarral de Caravantes. Great views of town, easy to get to
(just across the river) easy walk into town and the restaurant was outstanding, don't miss the El Greco in the Santa Cruz church (our favorite)
Madrid: Great home base for a week long trip. Side trips to Segovia and Toledo etc are doable and the city has plenty to do. We were thoroughly impressed with Madrid and consider it one of our favorite European cities. The city itself was very clean and easy to get around. We would recommend staying at the Sercotel Suites Vienna, which very close to the Plaza de Espana metro stop. The hotel is very confortable and conveniently located. There is Hertz rental car location just across the street from the metro station in a parking garage. If you need a break from the Spanish food we recommend Guru Indian restaurant ~5 min from Puerta del Sol.
General Advice: When making purchases use cash, because the stores give you a bad exchange rate when using credit(they'll give you the option for cash after the transaction is oompleted). Get a GPS in your car, it will save lots of time and frustration.(Hertz never lost was reasonable and easy to use, Europe car wanted us to take it with us from the US and then keep it for more time than we needed it)
Scott and Dawn
Cornelius, NC USA Sun 12/02/2007
Impressions of Spain
Spain disappointed me. The architecture and the cleanliness were impressive but for some reason I did not feel a connection with the people--I didn't feel it's soul. The people are blank, efficiently going about their business. The spanish diet is limited. You really have to be assertive to avoid menus of ham and more ham. I followed the advice of most of the travel books to base most my week's visit in Madrid-mistake. We preferred Barcelona over Madrid. Gaudi's architecture alone provides enough to enjoy for several days although interior work in Sagrada Famila serously hampers the viewing the sanctuary. A picnic in Park Guell is memorable. There are more outdoor cafes to enjoy in Barcelona, more varieties of experiences-- the seacoast, better wine and food culture, more artisan shops.We had a fabulous dinner at Casa Calvet, a restaurant in an apartment building designed by Gaudi. Pricey but a worthwhile foodie splurge. Everywhere in Madrid places tried to pad the bill--favorite trick is to charge for the bread that they bring to your table or not showing you the menu del dia that was on the door (and the bread in Spain is not good)-they usually take it off the bill with no problem but it ruins the enjoyment. Our one pleasure in Madrid was taking the tapas tour given by Adventurous Appetites that we heard about on this blog. It's a very good value. James, a Brit, spends 4 hours showing your group the evening tapas scene, a tour of the sights,and lots of food and drink. After spending the evening with him, we felt comfortable entering the bars and acting like a local. One woman in our party had the contents of her purse taken when a group of young well dressed frat-types "bumped" into us acting like they were drunk. A Rick Steve's tip to use Vueling airlines for commuter flights within Spain worked out very well for us. Bottom line is Spain is culture that caters to groups better than couples. That's the only way to get around the indifference of the natives.
Philadelphia, PA USA Tue 10/23/2007
Tapas Bars are bars, they are for enjoying refreshment in a public place and possibly meeting new people.
Of course you can buy good food in a market (it is one of the benefits of staying in self-catering accommodation, for example).
But the two do not substitiute for each other - the higher prices at a bar are to pay for the atmosphere, location, and the time you spend occupying the table while you chat and watch what is going on.
To "Skip the tapas bars" to save money, is to save money by avoiding one of the very Spanish pleasures you presumably went to Spain to look for.
Sheffield, Yorks UK Wed 10/17/2007
Popular tourist places, especially food places, almost inevitably become bland. Most tourists like what they know, and will complain if the food is "too spicy" or if the hotel "wasn't what we are used to" or if the steps up to a 15th century castle "didn't look too safe and needed a fence". So places learn that if they want the custom of most tourists, they have to be like everywhere else: safe. But I must say that people overuse the word "Bland". I can't always make out what they mean. Does it just mean "we didn't like it" or does it mean something specific (perhaps "not spicy enough").
If it means the latter, then the word is used so much that you get the impression that some people don't care WHAT food tastes like, so long as it has lots of chillies in it. In that case, take a bottle of your favourite sauce with you and plaster it over everything.
Spanish food covers such a huge variety, that it is difficult to believe that even a fussy eater would not find something they liked.
Try wood-roasted suckling lamb or piglet from Castille, a massive grill from Asturias, wonderful seafood from the Mediterranean, gorgeous dried hams from the Pyrenees .....
Sheffield, Yorks UK Wed 10/17/2007
Wedding food in Spain
We were fortunate to have a unique visit to Spain, by being included in a traditional Spanish wedding. What an experience!!! Besides the beautiful traditions including going to each family house for tapas before wedding, very loud fireworks, procession down the streets to the church and so much more---the food was amazing!! We had a five course meal w/amazing seafood, beef, tapas, dessert and a yummy kind of frozen lemon cello drink. The best!! We were a bit disappointed w/the food in restaurants due to tasting a bit plain and somewhat rude servers. But overall, w/the wine, beaches, relaxation and the experience of the wedding--we had an great experience in Alganet and Valencia.
Long Beach, CA USA Fri 09/07/2007
La Oliva, regional cuisine in Granada
Our best experience in Granada, Spain was eating in La Oliva, Calle Rosario 9 in downtown Granada near the old City Hall (ayuntamiento). La Oliva is a shop that specializes in gourmet, regional food including wines, cheese, ham, olive oil, sauces, almonds, chocolate, etc. At the back of the shop is a large table where up to 10 people can experience an unforgettable sampling of regional food. Francisco, owner, fluent in English will share cultural and historical tidbids with a delightful sense of humor while serving up some of the best food you'll ever try. If you simply want to buy food gifts, you can sample quite a bit. For the off the beaten track traveler, this is definitely the place to go!
Sebastopol, CA USA Sat 08/11/2007
My husband and I booked a tapas tour in Madrid with Adventurous Appetites and it was fabulous. Besides learning about the local food and drink, we also found out a lot about the city itself (culture, history, etc.). It was one of our best experiences in Spain and we highly recommend it to everyone else.
Raleigh, NC USA Wed 07/18/2007
I would endore Geoff's comments, SUR SANGAM, Rua dos Correeiros, downtown Lisbon serves the best curry outside of the 'Balti Triangle' in Birmingham UK. Great food, great happy service, you really feel that you are welcome there and the prices are so reasonable. You can also get very good Italian food there - My wife recommends the Vegetable Spaghetti Bolognaise. Thank you Shakil and team
Birmingham, W Mids UK Mon 07/16/2007
La Barca, Madrid
In Madrid we ate paella at La Barca, near the gay district. We were fortunate that they could squeeze us in without a reservation (we got there early at 9). My husband still talks about the wonderful Paella and can't wait to return.
Anaheim, CA USA Fri 07/13/2007
Correction, Not La Barca - Its La Barraca
La Barraca: You would never know how beautiful La Barraca is from the street. It's just charming, and is said to serve some of the best paella in Madrid. Saffron gives paella its beautiful color (interestingly, saffron is more expensive than silver per ounce). Paella takes about 30 minutes to cook, so be prepared for a long, leisurely lunch. The best thing to do is order some starters, a full bottle of wine, and say to yourself, "Welcome to Spain!" Where: Reina 29-31 Metro: Gran Vía or Sevilla
USA Fri 07/13/2007
Our most outstanding meals in Spain
In Granada, in the Albayzin,the Carmen Mirador de Morayma, in Rick's book, was a fantastic experience, for the entire memorable experience, with the great food and superb view of the Alhambra, exquisite at night!
In Madrid, the most perfect paella we found was at La Paella Real Restaurante. Actually, I don't think a better one could be found.
Also in Madrid, roast lamb at the Posada de la Villa was our main dish at another outstanding meal. This was preceded by tapas and wine at Plaza Major, at the Torre del Oro Bar Andalu.
Los Angeles, CA USA Wed 07/11/2007
Madrid - Change in Airport/Metro cost
I just got back from a business trip to Madrid, Spain. Since I was there this past February (2007), they have instituted a surcharge for the #8 Metro line that runs out to the Airport.
In addition to the subway ticket cost, there is now a 1 Euro fee each way.
When you're buying a ticket (including a 10-pack) at the machine in the airport, it will force you to buy at least one (1) of these Airport Surcharge fees (total ticket price goes from 6,40 to 7,40)...the problem is that this new screen on the machine doesn't yet have any language other than Spanish, so it can be a bit confusing!
If you fail to have the proper fare, you'll be able to get on the subway and all the way out to the airport - - you'll simply not be able to exit the metro system. You can buy the airport surcharge ticket at most customer service counters, plus there's machines inside of the metro here at the airport that could be used, but be aware that these get backed up by all of the travellers that got caught unprepared.
Personally, my first choice would be to simply add "2" airport surcharges to my 10pack ticket when I'm leaving the airport, which would take the price from 6,40 to 8,40.
Denville, NJ USA Mon 07/09/2007
Spain tips - Granada and Madrid
Just returned from a week in Spain. In Granada: DO NOT MISS having drinks at Juan Ranas Bar at sunset(9-10PM) with amazing view of the Alhambra - unforgettable! In Madrid: Hotel Europa was awesome - quiet and squeaky clean and the most awesome people watching in town at outdoor terrace cafe.
Washington, DC USA Sat 07/07/2007
Lunch Time Tapas
Two Words, Iberian Ham. If in Barcelona skip the tapas places. Go to La Boqueria Market and make your own tapas. They an assortment of great fruit (nice portions) for 1 euro, some jamon iberico (the BEST cured ham) MUCH cheaper than restaurants and just about any other type of food you could think of. Everything is fresh and very reasonable. Buy everything up and find a spot in a shady plaza or down by the water and enjoy a hearty meal.
Santa Clara, CA USA Tue 07/03/2007
What to eat in Spain
. Spinach with pine nuts
. Galician style seafood
. Basque style fish
Where to eat:
. La Dolores Tapas (Madrid)
. Los Gabrieles (Madrid)
. Bar del Pi (Barcelona)
. Garduña (Barcelona)
. Ceveceria Giralda (Seville)
. El Rinconcillo (Seville)
. Mesón Blas Casa (Granada)
. Terraza Las Tomasas (Granada)
Also check out the Spanish Cooking section on www.Mediterranean-Lifestyles.com
Falls Church, VA USA Mon 07/02/2007
travel in spain
I'm now in Italy after spending 2 weeks in Spain. I will definetly go back to Spain because of the incredible architecture and other sights. I will say that I feel many of the Spanish are not particulary helpful or accommidating. In other words, all the things I've heard about the French over the years would be more aptly applied to the Spanish. Not the French. Other travelers I met in Spain shared similar experiences with me. Examples include not being served in restaurants, having individuals refuse any attempt to communicate to english speakers and being outright ostracised in certain social settings. It's my understanding that museums and other public facilities used to have english explanations but that it's all been removed. Also, I experienced severe food poisening in Madrid and my nephew experienced same in Barcelona. I found most food to be bad including the paella.Terrible paella. Greasy and not fresh. I tried the roast suckling pig in Toleda at Los quatro tiempos, reccomemended in Rick's Spain book. It was strange, greasy and tasted like foul chicken. The staff at the restaurant was not particularly friendly and I feel they overcharged me for some drinks. I would most definetly stay away from that place.
I stayed at Hotel San Francisco in Sevilla. At night, the front desk clerk would install a coat hanger between the inside handles of the entry doors. He said this was for security reasons. The only problem was when I Came back in the evening he was sometimes asleep or on the phone. Once when he was on the phone and I wanted to come in, he held his hand out to me in a gesture to wait until he was finished instead of telling the person on the phone to hold. Getting into France from Spain was a pleasant relief. I have always been treated well by the French.
Pleasant Hill, Ca USA Sat 06/16/2007
Where not to eat in Barcelona
Stay away from Los Coracoles in Barcelona. Terrible, Terrible food and the service is even worse. This place deserves to crash and burn.
Pleasant Hill, ca USA Sat 06/16/2007
Indian Restaurant Recommendation in Lisbon
For anyone visiting Lisbon: do yourself a favor and visit Sur Sangam, an Indian restaurant in the Baixa.
After a relatively long trip through Spain and Portugal, I have to admit that we were looking for something a little different. I've eaten at some of the best Indian places imaginable (London, Singapore) and this is among one of the best. Inexpensive, great service and (at the time) relatively uncrowded.
On the Rua dos Correeiros.
Ladera Ranch, CA USA Wed 06/13/2007
For Kim in Brooklyn:
Hi, I think you are referring to paella which is served in a large shallow dish and consists of - among other things - rice and assorted seafood (including varieties of shellfish.
Denver, CO USA Sun 05/20/2007
A Tarifa MUST
In the Old walled portion of Tarifa is the worlds best kept secret. take a left onto San Fransisco, then a left into the first alleyway (no name posted) you will come across 3 or 4 little eateries. There is a BBQ place on the right that serves all types of meat with the worlds best French fries and a salad. (again no visible name shown) the food was amazing!!!! it is a little pricey but my husband and i shared one and we were both stuffed!!!!
portsmouth, uk Fri 05/18/2007
Tea in Andalucia
One taste I don't read many posts on is the tea in Spain, especially in Andalucia with its Moorish history. In Sevilla and Grenada there are some great "Teterias" (tea shops). You'll have to ask at your hotel for local favorites. They are such a cultural experience, and have dozens (if not hundreds) of different and unusual teas. Be aware that some of the teterias may double as hookah bars!
Chicago, IL USA Wed 05/09/2007
We just got back from a 2 week stay in Barcelona and Girona. If you are going to Spain I would recommend going with exceptionally low food expectations. The entire time we were there the best food we found was by accident. The best part of the trip was getting a rental car and driving out of any tourist towns on the map and exploring the little areas like Sa Tuna. Seriously we spent almost 2000 Dollars American in the two weeks we were there on just food and wine and beer. I must say the wine was good the 'Estella Dam' beer was exceptional and in order to make any of the Spanish food tolerable much drink is necessary.
NYC, NY USA Sun 05/06/2007
Vila Velha Restaurante - Sagres, Portugal
Chef Lia and waitperson Ana Teresa present a consistently excellent meal. We have visited this restaurant eight times since 2003 and never failed to receive first class treatment and wonderful seafood as well as classy desserts!
Gretchen & Peter Byfield
Madison, WI USA Fri 03/30/2007
ALHAMBRA: COURTYARD LIONS BEING RESTORED
I have just returned from a trip to the alhambra today, March 26th, 2007.
Be aware however, that the famous courtyard fountain lions are being RESTORED from 2006 through 2008!!!
We were disappointed, also be aware that the www.alhambratickets.com website is very buggy!!!!
I would still recommend seeing the Alhambra with its intricate islamic art and carvings....beware of the lions though.
Rick Steves as usual was spot on with his recommendations to take the minibuses from Plaza Nueva!!!!
FL USA Mon 03/26/2007
Murcia & Cartagena, with Roman settlements
I wanted to comment on the rather unchartered wealth of the south-east of Spain, in Murcia and Cartagena. The latter was the Roman outpost and the capital for Roman control over its "bread basket" Spain. Murcia is a small city with a quaint cathedral and a lively disco-bar life, small enough to avoid lots of tourists, but big enough to find charm and lots of plazas. It also boasts a rich Arab history in addition to Roman and Cartagenian. Rick does not mention either cities in the Spain guidebook, but both are delightful. I spent 4 months studying in Murcia, and appreciated the openness, unique food, and sauntering pace of the southern culture. As for "taste treats," Murcia boasts its own type of foods, with a more health-centered Mediterranean diet. I particularly enjoyed the fresh pepper, tomato salads, chorizo meat samplings, Sangria, and Rinon chocolates, which originate in Murcia.
Seattle, WA USA Fri 03/16/2007
Pastéis de Nata (Belém)
After not having visited Portugal since the early 1970s as a child, I had arrived in Lisbon airport on 21st February 2007. After leaving the baggage claim, and before heading to the Oriente train station, the first thing I bought was a Pastel de Nata, otherwise known as a Pastel de Belém. It is like creme brulée with a croissant crust (cupcake shaped). My first one at the airport cost EUR 1.25 (can go up to EUR 1.30), but in the "Pingo Doce" supermarket, they can be as little as EUR 0.40. On average they are EUR 0.80. They are very good with a "galao" (portuguese version of the latte), although I had a ginjinha with them. Those pastéis are very addictive. Please eat them sparingly.
Frisco, TX USA Sat 03/03/2007
3 Restaurants not to miss in Portugal
Evora- It's been said here before, and I'm so pleased we followed the advice posted by others: Do NOT miss the fantastic lunch at Taberna Tipica de Quatra Feira. We ate so well, had no idea what was coming next, but everything was delicious, especially the warmed cheese appetizer and the sort of creamed spinach. We were the only tourists in there, too. 20 euros/person as of Feb 13, 2007. Amazing. Really we had ham, cheese, olives, bread, pork, potatoes, rice, spinach, wine, coffee, pine nuts, dried fruit, pastry and a digestif liquer all for 20euros!
Porto- Abadia. Authentic, great value, nice atmosphere. Great Bachalau. Hard to find becasue Rick's directions aren't great and there's construction on the street, but totally worth the effort.
Sintra- Binhoteca and Alex the knowledable wine bartender. He's awesome. Again, I'm so glad we followed the adimant advice of other posters and went to see him. He knew so much. We didn't eat there, though, just tried a few glasses of wine. Lovely, lovely experience. He's patient, generous and so knowledgeable. Not a scary wine snob at all!!!
Boston, MA USA Wed 02/28/2007
Went to Portugal for my honeymoon because of Ricks video on Purtugal. We stayed on Madeira island (province of Portugal)We went surfing and the food was unbelievable and so were the people. This is a place most americans do not go. The green wine is good and cheap and can be bought in the USA. The local seafood is a fish that is only available there. Spend some time on Madeira is an experience of a life time
Atlantic City, NJ USA Mon 02/26/2007
We´ve just come back from a week in Barcelona and also stumbled across Taller de Tapas and were intrigued by the crowds. We loved the atmosphere and found the food to be very good quality and simply cooked. We went back several times because we thought it very well priced, 15-30€ depending on hunger at the time! On other days we tried Origens but found it much more expensive and less fun.Cal Pep was good for a blow out and really nice but we couldn´t justify paying twice as much for the same quality as Taller de Tapas.
USA Sun 02/11/2007
Tapas in Barcelona
We were in Barcelona in October 2006 visiting our daughter who was there doing her "semester abroad", and happened upon an incredible restaurant for Tapas. Taller de Tapas! We walked by the restaurant one night and noticed a huge line of people waiting outside so thought we'd try it. Fabulous & Delicious, and they have 2 locations. One at 9 Plaza Sant Josep Oriol and another in the El Born at 51, Argenteria. We ate at both locations about 4 times while we were there it was so good!
Menlo Park, CA USA Fri 01/26/2007