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Murcia Food Market

13 Jul

We love Murcia and take every opportunity to go there.  Last week some friends were over from Perth (Australia, not Scotland!) and so we thought we would do a city break with them as they have visited us 3 times already in Almeria.

 

Di, my friend, booked the Rincon del Pepe in the old town, from Oz as she had a bit more time than I – it is one we have been to before (not to stay in, but for their great tapas bar), and Di said it looked the best from a central point of view.

 

Anyhow, I always like to check out the food markets in whichever Spanish city I am in (Valencia’s of course, being the most amazing).  But the one at Murcia offered some very decent looking meat, fish and the usual array of vegetables and fruit – it is one of the things I love about Spain – the availability of lovely fresh produce that has not seen polystyrene packaging or cellophane – you choose exactly what you want, the biggest freshest fish, the juiciest rib of beef (always so much cheaper bought on the bone) and the plumpest peaches and tomatoes.  As we were staying another night and day, I didn’t buy much, just some lovely “doughnut” peaches fromParaguay.

It is all so temptingly laid out in a way that just doesn’t really happen in the UK unless you take a trip to Borough Market in the city of London – but you will find the same kind of food markets in every Spanish village, town and city – they seem to take a real pride in presenting their food and also it is an opportunity to meet with neighbours and friends for coffee, drinks or tapas and make it into a social occasion too!

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Villaricos market

13 Mar

There is a market within 10 km of us every day, even Sunday.  Actually the Sunday market at Villaricos has to be my favourite.  There are hardly any shops open on Sundays, just the odd little store (although why anyone wants to go food shopping on a Sunday beats me!) and so the fruit and vegetables sold at the market are quite handy if you have forgotten something.  Anyhow, it is just a lovely thing to do on a sunny Sunday morning – the market overlooks the sparkling blue sea beyond the little marina and it is just gorgeous.

It is huge market which stretches along the narrow street and sells mainly fruit, vegetables, cheese, charcuterie, flowers, herbs and spices, lots of clothing, hardware, jewellery, pottery and lots of other knick knacks.

There is also a fantastic Chicken van – dozens of delicious grilled chicken sold hot to take home for lunch if you can’t be bothered to cook.

My friend Denise has her bookstall here, which she runs with her husband, Tony and they sell great second hand English books for a couple of euros and actually around here, English books are hard to find.  We tend to borrow them from each other, so this is a great addition for us.

Next door to Denise is the Churros van – on Sunday I had my third only taste of Churros since coming to Spain almost 8 years ago!  It is so delicious that I am frightened to have it any more often – for those of you that do not know what it is, it is like freshly made doughnuts, but cooked in long swirls and then cut into “sticks”, covered in sugar which you dip in hot chocolate – now you know why I am frightened to eat it!  It is highly addictive and just about the most delicious thing you can eat!

The market runs in and out of various restaurants and tapas bars, where we always stop for a coffee or a beer – this Sunday was scorching and so the market and the cafes were heaving with everyone enjoying being out in the sea air, and the hussle and bustle of it all.

If you are staying here, I thoroughly recommend you go down to Villaricos on a Sunday morning and soak up the atmosphere, before going off for lunch or an afternoon at the beach.  You are bound to find something you like to take home.

Murcia

6 Mar

It’s Saturday and we have decided to go a bit further afield for a change – it seems the only way to get time off properly here is to leave the house and just let all the usual weekend chores wait.

 

Murcia is only an hour and a half away and is Spain’s 10th largest city.  It is straight up the motorway so very easy to get to and so long as you leave early enough time to get an hour or two’s shopping in before the shops shut at two you don’t have to start out before 10.30 or 11 in the morning.  The other option, of course, is to get there at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, go and have loads of tapas or a proper lunch and then go shopping at 5.30 pm.  Anyhow, we like to go early, mooch around the shops, with a coffee halfway, and then go for a leisurely lunch before leaving in the late afternoon.

Shopping in Murcia

You really need four or five visits to Murcia to really acquaint yourself with the city as with any city, there is a lot to see and do and because it is quite close, rather than tire yourself out with one long exhausting day, it is better to select something in particular to see or do and then have a meal, either lunch or dinner and plan another day out to see something else.   Actually if you are used to London, then Murcia does not seem that large and therefore, is quite undaunting.  If you live where we do, then shopping is quite high on the list of priorities and so I am very happy to wander not down the main shopping street in search of Zara or Corte Ingles but rather seek out the smaller, more exclusive shops in the old town, near the cathedral.  There are a selection of gorgeous designer shops, more for girls than boys it has to be said, all hidden away in narrow little streets, punctuated with coffee shops and bars to sneak in and have drink and maybe a tapa or two knowing that lunch is a couple of hours away.

Real Casino

It is quite chilly today and so the thought of disrobing and trying stuff on is not very appealing, but I look at beautiful dresses  and imagine myself with a tan and plan to come back soon for a big trying on session.

 

Many of the interesting bits of Murcia are set quite close to the river and therefore, with a map, once you park, it is a fairly easy city to navigate.  We really only did the shopping bit, the Cathedral Square, and then headed off for a fantastic lunch of tapas in what I believe is one of the best restaurant squares in Murcia.  But we are already planning our next day out to visit the fabulous concert hall and congress centre amongst other things, situated a bit further up the river, and the botantical gardens to the west, and obviously to search out more fantastic places to eat!

 

 

Nijar

11 Feb

On Saturday, we took a drive to the Cabo de Gata to have lunch at our favouite beach, Agua Amarga.  It is under an hour’s drive and a little further afield than one would normally go perhaps, but we love it here so much it is always worth it.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem very Spanish at all – it is a small curved bay, rather than the usual beaches in Spain that stretch for miles and miles – it is a little jewel in this region and one of  Spain’s blue flag beaches.   It was once a tiny fishing village, but it seems now that people from all over europe have holiday homes here to get away from it all.  Remote and sleepy it is and the only month when it is packed is August, but then it is full of life and all the beach restaurants are busy with people in the holiday mood. The film Sexy Beast was filmed here – you can spot the villa on the left hand side as you drive into the village.  I am always tempted to knock on the door and ask if I can have a look around!

If you do plan a day out at Agua Amarga, it is a good idea to get up and go early, as on the way is the beautiful pottery town of Nijar and so it makes sense to do the two trips in one.  Go shopping for fabulous (and cheap) pots, cups, bowls, jugs galore.  Wander the length of  the main street for an hour or so and shop, have a coffee and then pile back into the car for the short drive from there to Agua Amarga.  Head up the motorway on the way there, but make sure you come back via the scenic route for some spectacular scenery.

Garrucha market

12 Nov

It’s Friday morning and it is the most beautiful day.  I need to get a few things, including a new harness for Digby, our jack russell cross, who has decided to eat his present one.  As it is so glorious I decide to go down to Garrucha as it is market day and there is a pet shop on the way.  The market at Garrucha is probably my favourite because it is right on the street behind the seafront and I love mooching about, buying my fruit and vegetables and flowers, and then meandering down to one of the cafe’s overlooking the sea.

Spices at Garrucha market

The market here is fantastic, and has all kinds of things in the food line – dried cod (bacalao) and smoked mackerel, stalls with dozens of spices, nuts, dried fruit, pulses, gigantic sacks of snacks which you purchase by the kilo and then wonderful fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables.  I always just buy what looks good and then look up a recipe when I get home.  I bought a whole bag of red and yellow peppers today for a euro which usually means they need to be eaten within a couple of days.  No problem as I will make stuffed peppers with the red ones, and then use the yellow to put in some carrot and coriander soup.  I also bought some beautiful little vine tomatoes which I will roast tonight to go with a lovely rib eye steak and some paprika roasted potatoes.

Fish stall at Garrucha market

Everyone looks like they are enjoying themselves in the warm autumn sunshine, although actually it is more like a perfect English summer’s day to tell the truth.  Those of us who live here have our jeans on though-you can spot visitors a mile off as they are amazed that they can wear shorts and T-shirts in the middle of November – and why shouldn’t they?  We are acclimatized and with the sweltering summer gone, 23 degrees feels cool enough for trousers and long sleeved T-shirts!  Shopping done, off I go down towards the port for a well earned break and a cup of coffee!

 

 

 

Vera market, Vera

13 Oct

Saturday morning and we are off to Vera to wander around the market – normally I have done most of my supermarket shopping on Friday, so this is purely for pleasure and to buy lovely fresh fruit and vegetables and to treat myself to some flowers.  Although there are markets in every town on every day of the week, Vera is my favourite.

Fresh produce at Vera market

It sprawls out from the Plaza Major (town square) in every direction, down all the main streets and the little alleys off them.  It is colourful and noisy and full of crazy Spanish people selling everything from jelly beans to whole legs of jamon, underwear to sunglasses and everything in between.  You have to watch it though, they have one price for locals and another for tourists (a difference of about 30%) which obviously really annoys us and if they try it on me, I chuck it back at them shouting “no estoy una turista, vivo aqui!” and stomp off!  We mooch about looking for the best seasonal fruit or vegetables and any bargains which catch our eye.  Then we always have a coffee in our favourite cafe, outside and right in the hubbub of everything. It is never raining at the market as if it is the stall holders simply don’t come and neither do we!

Mmmmm...chicken and chips

Then sometimes we go and have a glass of something in Carmona Terraza, a fantastic bar and restaurant in the town’s hotel – it is actually really famous in the whole region and serves the best acorn fed jamon (known as Pata Negra or Jabugo).  The market generally finishes at lunchtime but we like to go earlyish so we have the rest of our Saturday.  Everyone who comes to the Cortijo goes to Vera market and usually come back with lots of good little purchases to take home with them.  There really is something about a local market when you are on holiday – it is something that just has to be done!

 

Valencia

21 Sep

The wonderful thing about living in mainland Spain (as opposed to Mallorca, which I love, for example), is the ability to drive to other cities (or even other countries come to that!) – no panicking about getting to the airport on time, or wondering whether your bathroom scales are correct and actually you are half a kilo over weight in your luggage.  You can just get ready in your own time, pack up the car with whatever and however much you like, lock the front door and get on the road.  One place which is easy to get to and one of our favourite cities is Valencia.  Ok, it is a four hour drive, but definitely weekendable from here and straight up the E15.  There are loads of good places to stay and I would always recommend staying in the old town, near the cathedral.  It is perfect for young and old alike – if the walking gets too much you just plonk yourself down in an outside cafe and have another drink!

Valencia has much to offer, great architecture old and new, shopping, fantastic world class restaurants, music, arts, and the dry river bed going through the centre is now an enormous and beautiful park – quite an unusual sight as you criss cross the bridges when driving around the city.

Valencian architecture

The last time we went to Valencia was last November.  We took our parents, all in their mid seventies.  The weather was incredible and the city was not crowded as it was not half term or any major holiday.  I like to do my research when I travel and so spent hours on the internet looking for restaurants in particular (hotels I find are much easier as you decide on your budget and pick the one which looks the nicest); restaurants are much trickier but I figured I would pick an uber expensive one (as it was my mother’s birthday) and one more casual, fun one.  It worked a treat as the first one, Chust Godoy; (strange name) was fab.  It was rather formal but at the upper end of Spanish cuisine (and price!) and everyone enjoyed it.

When we awoke the next morning, it was the most beautiful day so after breakfast we headed off to the central market.  Even if you are not a foodie, it is the most amazing. It is a kind of old Covent Garden and Harrods food hall rolled into one.  We spent a good couple of hours there mooching about – I spent 57 euros on cheese!  I won’t go on about it but suffice it to say that you cannot go to Valencia and not go to the market.  We will be going next week as Mick is meeting a client there so we will stay overnight and cram in the market in the morning.

The Central Market

Then we hopped on an open top bus – the most perfect thing to do in a group of mixed ages as everyone will enjoy it and gives everyone a chance to relax and enjoy the city and the weather.  The destination of these buses is usually Valencia beach – the home of paella. So we got off the bus and we did a bit of a recce for lunch.  All the beach restaurants looked pleasant and busy so we just took pot luck with one.  It was brilliant, great food, fresh fish and a bottle of rosado wine.  We had to leg it a bit in order not to miss the 4 o’clock bus, otherwise we would have had to wait for another hour (no real hardship!).

Then it was back on board to the city and the main square for yet another drink – well we were on holiday.  After a small late siesta, it was up and off again for dinner.  This time a short cab ride away to Conde Altea an area Mick and I had visited before.  It is similar to Soho in London (without the sleaze!)  in that there are streets lined with restaurant upon restaurant most of which look good judging by the volume of people in them.  We chose a huge pizza place (Don Salvatore Italiano) which I had researched, frequently apparently by the football crowd (players, not fans I hasten to add!).  They boasted 100 different pizzas and was quite simply brilliant.  My father went a bit crazy and ordered a bottle of champagne, a bottle of red wine and one of white so by the time we were full of pizza we were also smashed.  Anyhow, we had another great night and wandered around after dinner for a coffee and a brandy before heading back to bed.

We were only there for two nights on this occasion which is fine but if you want to do more of the cultural things than we did on this particular trip (the museum of modern art, the aquarium and opera house which architecturally are quite incredible, the cathedral and maybe some serious shopping) then I would say you need at least another day and night in order not to be shattered.

The dolphins at Valencia aquarium

What I would say, however, is that however long you decide to go for, do go – it is well worth the visit and a complete contrast to where we live.

Mojacar Pueblo

13 Aug

Today I am going to write a little bit about the beautiful old town in Mojacar (or Mojacar Pueblo as everyone knows it) – the Pueblo is situated just up from Mojacar beach, high on a hill.  It is rich in history and has been occupied by both Moors and Christians over the centuries.

A great video here which shows Mojacar pueblo and beach.

You can certainly see the influence of the Moors in the architecture of some of the old buildings.  There is, I think, nothing nicer than wandering around the tiny, steep streets in the cool of the morning and stopping for a coffee in one of the many cafes or restaurants that the pueblo offers.

Mojacar Pueblo street

There are also some great souvenir shops, a cut above the normal gift shops (or toot shops as I like to call them) that one finds in coastal towns, selling some great pottery, clothing, jewellery as well as all the other stuff. On Saturday mornings, there is a flea market selling all kinds of bric a brac but good for a mooch if you are up early enough!

Mojacar Pueblo flea market

At night time during the summer months the Pueblo takes on a completely different atmosphere, with lots of things happening on any given day – there is a huge terrace as you enter the square which gives a panoramic view of the surrounding areas, right down to the coast, during the day, but serves as a stage at night for various performers and entertainers for all the holidaymakers.

Both in and out of season, it has something to offer – in summer it is lively, hot, busy and full of visitors from all over Europe enjoying themselves.   Out of season it is peaceful, beautiful and a very romantic place for dinner, though you can’t quite believe it is the same place that you partied at in August!  One thing is for sure, if you are visiting us or Almeria, Mojacar village is a must during your stay.