Stand on the small town beach in L’Escala on the Costa Brava at dawn, close your eyes and try to visualise the scene a century ago. A procession of white-painted, wooden-hulled anchovy boats makes its way round the point, their triangular lateen sails gracefully inclined as they tack towards the beach. A team of strong young men stands ready to hoist the ropes over their shoulders and heave the boats up the sand – to this day the inhabitants of L’Escala are jokingly referred to as esquenapelats, their backs (esquenas) raw (pelats) from the rubbing of the ropes. Continue reading
Mention Mallorca today and most people run shrieking for the nearest exit, haunted by visions of Sixties-built high-rise hotels, hen/stag parties, pubs and discos, Bratwurst, Full English Breakfasts and beaches packed with hordes of glistening northern Europeans flushed pink in the Mediterranean sun.
In truth there are two Mallorcas. One of them – the packaged version – seldom strays far from the coast. The other, more loosely wrapped, is to be found inland. And the twain, mostly, don’t meet (hooray). Continue reading
The elder tree has no pretensions to grandeur. It grows wild in hedges and ditches, along the banks of streams, on the edge of motorways, in forgotten corners of farmyards and abandoned gardens, even in graveyards.
Right now, in early summer, it’s having its moment. All of a sudden, in a brief blaze of glory, this rather scruffy little tree bursts into a shower of beautiful, white, lace-like flowers, which fairly knock you back with their delicate scent. In our neighbourhood over the next few weeks, countless chefs, housewives and hobby cooks will be spotted hunting in the hedgerows, picking the blossoms (fleurs de sureau in French, Holunderblüten in German) and placing them carefully in large baskets. It’s a brief and glorious moment in the life of any dedicated forager – two or three weeks at most – and if you don’t pick the flowers by about the middle of June (around here, at any rate), they’ll be well on their way to becoming elderberries. Continue reading
I love the French expression “une valeur sûre”, meaning “a sure thing”, “a safe bet”, or even “a slam dunk”. It’s how folks around here describe the Auberge Paysanne in Lutter, buried in the bucolic southernmost corner of Alsace known as the Sundgau. This classic hotel-restaurant, dripping with geraniums from May to October (the window boxes have just been planted up), is owned and run by Christiane Litzler and her daughter Carmen. I’ve long since lost count of how many times we’ve eaten there (it’s one of our locals) and it never fails. Continue reading
Of all the workshops I do, the fishy ones are probably my faves. We kick off with a visit to the fish counter of a nearby supermarket to check out what’s on offer and get familiar with the names – in English (for most of us the working language), French (France has the freshest and best fish offer in our three-country corner) and German (for those shopping in Switzerland or Germany). Next day we cook up our fishy feast. Continue reading
On our travels around Argentina last month, we carried out an intensive benchmarking exercise on empanadas, those cheeky little pastry turnovers with artfullly pinched and pleated edges that you find pretty much all over South America. They probably found their way to the continent via Spain, though they’re quite different from the large tray-baked empanadas found in Galicia, which are usually filled with tuna and sold by the slice. Continue reading
By Monty Style
Day 15 – From Salta City to Los Molinos
We drive south to Los Cerillos, then west into some of the most beautiful mountain scenery imaginable from Los Cerillos to Cachi and Molinos.
We scale the Cuesta del Obispo (Pass of the Bishop), a dramatic feat of engineering but not a worrying, vertigo-inducing road. It climbs gradually up through green farmland somewhat reminiscent of Perthshire until near the peak your mind shifts to the red and gray of the Torridon Hills in Wester Ross. Except of course for the height and overall scale. Highest point on road 3380 m. Continue reading
By Monty Style
Day 11 – Lares de Chacras to Salta City
Scrabble by the pool, simple, good lunch in the garden of Bodega Pulmary a few blocks from the lovely Lares de Chacras, then off to the airport heading for Salta City.
Landed in light rain surrounded by green hills and fields. An exemplary car rental chap called Daniel handed over our Renault Duster which is spacious and serves us well.
By Monty Style
Day 6 – Martindale to the Uco Valley, Mendoza
Flew 90 minutes from BA’s Jorge Newbery airport to Mendoza in a comfortable Embraer of Aerolineas Argentinas, the state-owned carrier. Their route map shows “Las Malvinas (Arg.)”. On arrival we took possession of a brand new rented Ford Eco Sport. Obliged to sign a statement that we would make a special contribution to repair costs “if we rolled it over”. Supposedly happens quite often.
Drove south on route 40 past Luján de Cuyo and Chacras de Coria through scrubland, then turned west to Tupungato, climbing gently up to 1200m., 90 minutes from Mendoza. We are staying 2 nights at Posada Salentein [guesthouse of eponymous winery], which sits on a wooded crest amid their vineyards looking east down the Uco Valley. A good dinner accompanied of course by Salentein wines: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec 2013 and a sparkling wine of late harvested grapes. Continue reading
ARGENTINA DIARY, 7th-26th March 2015, by Monty Style
Day 1 – Buenos Aires arrival
Endless flat grasslands below the 777 which floats motionless down to Ezeiza airport. After 13-and-a-bit hours’ flight we’re perfectly on time. Punctual and comfortable seats, but service- and meal-wise British Airways is not competitive at all. Dishwater coffee reminiscent of the UK 20 years ago.
Elegant all glass airport buildings. Simple immigration then formal-looking scanners gobble up and spew out all items of luggage. Nobody collects the customs declaration I carefully filled in.
Buenos Aires is at first sight an ecologist’s dream: fresh green plane trees line the streets, cedars adorn the many parks which, viewed from our taxi, are clean, cars are compact and traffic is unhectic, the sky is blue and unpolluted. Continue reading