I surprised even myself. As much as I loved leaving the cloying, claustrophobic heat of this desert country, it was delicious to sleep in my own bed after three weeks away! I left Doha tired, a bit jaded, resenting the time I had to spend in the kitchen. Cooking is a juxtaposition of necessity and luxury with blurry, ever-shifting dividing lines. I like to cook, but not necessarily if I simply must cook. My joy had evaporated along with continual kitchen disasters like collapsing meringue layers and burnt toast. I couldn’t even be bothered to toast another slice. It was grim.
Spain restored me. Perhaps it was the way summer stretched daylight hours, or how the mid day heat forced me to slow down and chill, literally, that put the brakes on my maudlin mentality. Summer is an evocative season. The colours are brighter, the smells stronger; it’s the feel of good times coming. And that’s just what happened. It is also arguably, the best eating season. Food is abundant, fresh, sun kissed and bright. The heat meant eating slowly, little and often and it comes as no surprise that tapas is fit for purpose. A little wander, a little drink, a little nibble. Sorted.
Spain is also the part time home of my in-laws, who live in a residential area between two types of towns. Moraira is tastefully, but obviously geared for tourism. Javea, at the opposite end is a working town with an old walled quarter surrounding the church and the central market. Both offer their own charms and The Scotsman and I had a good time at both towns thanks to the babysitting my in-laws kindly insisted on doing. My FIL, George, is an excellent photographer, it’s his life’s study. He bravely let my clumsy hands play with his beloved lenses. Steep learning curve but great fun!
One thing I hadn’t counted on, was the sheer volume of photos I couldn’t bear to toss aside, even after rigourous culling. Spain was made for the camera lens! The produce, the people, the landscape. Due to a higher number of photographs than normal, I will be breaking up the trip into several posts. I personally, don’t like scrolling indefinitely through a person’s photography catalogue and assume it will the same for others. For now, this is an introduction to the area round about our accommodation.
The village of Benitachell, a small town that has etched its way around a hill, was in full fiesta mode. Paper bunting, banners, coloured lights draped the walls and zigzagged across the street. Every town/village has a patron saint and celebrations in the saint’s honour are held during an entire week. The Benitachell patron saint was Mary Magdalena and the locals were all out in colourful costumes, funny hats, drinking cold beers and enjoying the sun, while the marching band played their tunes up and down the narrow, angled streets. Spanish folk, I’ve noticed, are not camera shy, and the three gentlemen you see below, just jumped in front of the lens! Say cheeeeeese!
The land away from the hill, is filled with grape vines, barely holding tumbling bunches of green and purple grapes. Lemon, orange and apple trees are common as are cactii of every description. It is the most peaceful thing, to walk around in the warm morning sunshine and seeing such abundance around me, jarring against the man-made, sun-filled landscape I had just left behind.
Now we come to the food! The pictures here were taken at a tapas place at the Moraira Marina area. It was quiet this year, but that was rather relaxing. And along with some cold Rioja Rosado, came these delicious bites. Morcilla or black pudding sausages, filled with rice, raisins and spices, Gambas al ajillo (prawns cooked in garlic and this was also dusted generously with paprika) and the freshest, ocean-tasting Almejas (clams) cooked simply in wine with garlic and parsley. Those were definitely my favourite. Spanish food, at it’s heart, is rooted in a simple principle. Good produce, cooked simply and cooked well. Little Lassie got into the food too, putting away massive amounts of thin silvers of iberico ham and manchego cheese. Her favourite snack was a tostado – a simple breakfast or mid morning snack of a lightly toasted baguette, topped with crushed tomatoes, dressed in oil, and in her case, with thin triangles of manchego cheese. The Scotsman and his father hung over her plateful like vultures, wishing, this one time, that she wouldn’t eat the lot. They were, to my glee, totally disappointed!
So that’s the wordy run-down for this post… I’ll let the photos do the talking. Hope you enjoy them. There’s more to come. Next, is the Moraira market!