Tarifa sits at the very southern tip of Spain, and of continental Europe. Kitesurfers from around the world come here to ride the warm, strong Levante winds, which are accelerated by the Straits of Gibraltar. Africa, seen in the background, is only 14 kilometers away. (Click on image for larger view.) Photo ©Mike Randolph
Tarifa, at the southern tip of Spain, was named after Tarif ibn Malik, a Berber warrior who in 710 sailed from Africa, seen in the background, to reconnoiter military defenses in preparation for Continue Reading →
At low tide on a foggy afternoon in Cadiz, a fisherman walks past stranded boats on the beach of La Caleta. Cadiz, the oldest city in Europe, was founded in 1104 B.C. by Phoenician sailors. It sits on the end of a bulbous peninsula of land that juts out into the Atlantic to form one of the best Continue Reading →
Seville’s Plaza de España was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair, and is regarded as a shining example of Neo-Mudéjar architecture. While not strictly Islamic, it was good enough for legendary film director David Lean to use as a stand-in for the officer’s club in Cairo in his epic motion picture Continue Reading →
Seville’s Alcázar is Europe’s oldest royal palace still in use. Originally built by Almohad Berber-Muslims, the fortress was expanded by later Christian kings and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hidden underneath the palace are the Baths of Lady María de Padilla, above, which were used to collect rainwater. Photo ©Mike Randolph
The narrow, serpentine streets of Seville were not designed that way by accident. Building houses close together on winding streets has an advantage that anyone who has been to Seville in the summer will be able to appreciate–avoiding the ferocious Andalusian sun. Direct sunlight never penetrates the alleys for long, if at all, and that helps keep the houses as cool as possible.
A 14th Century Moorish gate serves as the main entrance into Malaga’s Atarazanas market. I remember when the market used to be a lot different–rundown, a little dirty, and decidedly nose-unfriendly in places. In 2008, the market underwent a renovation that would take two years. Some Malagueños were a little nervous about how it would turn out. There was a trend around that time to change mercados from a place to buy food to a place to go for tapas. Malagueños wanted a real market, not a Disney version built for tourists.
Happily, the Mercado de Atarazanas was saved from that fate. It’s now clean, with modern stalls, a lot brighter (thanks to a transparent roof) and most important, it’s still a real market, the heartbeat of downtown Malaga.
Click on an image to expand it. Photos ©Mike Randolph
In the Mercado de Bailén, in Malaga, a fishmonger gave me the lowdown. If I wanted to see the boats unloading fish, I had to go to Caleta de Velez. In Malaga, only a few boats come in every day. The port of Malaga is too expensive, he told me, so the fishermen go to Caleta, only a short drive up the coast.
By the time I got there, many of the boats were already tied up to the dock and more were coming in; big boats, motors chugging in a throaty diesel rumble as they shifted into reverse, gunned it for a second or two, and glided gently up to the dock with unerring precision. Continue Reading →
Completed in the 16th Century, the Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic building in the world, and the third largest church of any kind. Among the many New World treasures within the cathedral also lies the man who made it all possible, Christopher Columbus. Photo ©Mike Randolph
It’s Sardine Week here at Spain By Mike Randolph! Discovery Channel has Shark Week, I have Sardine Week. I don’t have any video of sardines jumping out of the water to chomp down on, well, whatever it is that they eat, but how can you not get excited by the prospect of an espeto de sardinas? Okay, maybe I won’t write every single day about sardines, though I could and I really don’t think it would be too much. Let’s settle then on Chiringuito Week. It’s holiday time, summer is in full swing, and in Spain, summer is not summer without a trip to the beach, and having lunch at a chiringuito–the beachside huts that serve cold drinks and seafood–is a fundamental part of the package.
Espetos de sardinas are a specialty of Málaga. The city even has a statue to honor the espetero, the man who spears the fish onto a spit of cane, tends the fire, and brings joy to many. The smaller the sardine, the better. They’re grilled whole, and you eat them with your hands. Salty, crispy skin and rich, oily flesh. They’re not only delicious, they’re also good for you. Order the house salad, a pitcher of tinto de verano, and hunker in to enjoy.
A tortillita de camarón is one of my favorite things to eat in Andalusia, but deciding whether or not to order one is a decision that I tend to weigh carefully. To the dismay of my eating companions, this process can take some time. It’s not whether or not I want one, because invariably I do, and usually more than one. But I’d rather not have a bad tortillita, and sadly, they’re more common than good ones.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t eat a so-called bad one, because I have done so and I think it’s safe to say that I have not had my last. Bad ones, by my criteria, are Continue Reading →
Some 14,000 orange trees decorate the streets of Seville. The bitter oranges aren’t very good for eating, but because of their high content of pectin, they do make great orange marmalade. More important, orange trees provide shade from the fierce Andalusian sun, and in the springtime, when they bloom, the heady perfume of orange blossoms fills the air. Photo ©Mike Randolph.