2000 The Summer in Spain and Portugal

We toured Spain and Portugal in 2000 when the exchange rate was 175 ptas for $1.
We wrote these suggestions for touring Spain when a couple we knew was going there. If you have any questions, write us at aleanddm@gmail.com and we’ll try to answer them. Also, have a look at our Spain & Portugal album on our photo website by clicking here or going to: 

Spain Suggestions

Driving is easy but you need to leave a day for each city change. We thought that the "Spain and Portugal" guidebook by Lonely Planet was good for general background. We found a great restaurant and hotel guidebook (in Spanish) once we got to Spain. It is called "Gourmetour" and it also has a website, in Spanish: 

One of the best restaurants in Spain (and the world) is north of Barcelona, near the French border. It is too far to go for lunch, in our opinion. Up in that area, in Figares, is the Dali museum and theatre (that he created). It is extraordinary and, if you have any interest in his art, a must see. If you can get a reservation at the famous restaurant, El Bulli (http://www.elbulli.com/), then stay up in that area overnight and see the Dali museum at the same time. [El Bulli (chef: Ferran Adriá), Colle Montjor, 17480 Rosas (50 km from Perpignan), tel (34-972) 15.04.57, (closed Mon. and Tues.) A hotel nearby is Almadraba in Rosas but I have no idea what it's like.]

We tried to get a reservation for lunch at El Bulli in May and were told that the first available table would be in August. Since we weren't in the east of Spain in August, we were unable to sample his food at El Bulli. However, we stayed at a hotel outside of Sevilla called Benazuza (see below) where he had just taken over the restaurant. We had a fabulous "tasting menu" dinner and the next morning we had the most unusual and delicious "tasting breakfast." We adored it really and we are still talking about it.

Barcelona Hotel:

The best place to stay is the Arts Hotel which is part of the Ritz-Carlton chain. Its location is very good, by the water. We tried to stay there but it was fully booked months in advance. Consequently we don't know how the rooms are but we think that the view would make up for any other deficiencies. Address: Carrer de la Marina, 19-21, Barcelona tel (34-93)221-1000 Reservations: 800-241-3333 Website: www.lhw.com/ritzbarcel

          In Barcelona we stayed in the Montjuic (Jewish mountain in Catalan) section, near the fountain with the dancing water. It was a big convention hotel but we liked it because it was near a good park for our jogging. Barcelona Fira Palace, Av. Rius i Taulet 1-3, 08004 Barcelona, Spain, tel. (34-93)426-22 23, fax (34-93)425-50-47, e mail: sales@fira-palace.com, Internet:http://www .fira-palace.com We got a special deal for Suite 626. And we can tell you not to stay at the Rey Juan Carlos I because it is too far away from everything.

Barcelona Places to Eat:

Our favorite in Barcelona (asterisk represents Michelin stars):
*El Raco de'm Freixa, c/Sant Elies, 22, 08006 Barcelona, tel. (34-93)209-7559, fax (34-93)209-7918 email: freixa@chi.es  (19785 ptas and excellent/$113)

Hotel Arts Carier de la Marina 19-21, 08005 Barcelona, tel (34-93)221-1000, fax

Outside Barcelona (good for lunch):
***El Raco de Can Fabes (Sarti Santamaria), St. Joan 6, 08470 Sant Celoni, Catalogne (30 min. from Barcelona on te A7 highway) tel (34-8470) 93-867-2851, fax (34-8470)93-867-3861, email racocanfabes@troc.es (price: 28141 ptas/$160)

Outside Barcelona:
More on El Bulli (Ferran Adriá), Colle Montjor, 17480 Rosas (50 km from Perpignan), tel (34-972) 15.04.57, http://www.elbulli.com/, (closed Mon. and Tues.) A hotel nearby is Almadraba in Rosas but I have no idea what it's like.

Grenada Restaurant Recommendations:

          For Lunch: La Pesqueria, c/Capuchinas 14, Plaza de la Romanilla, Granada. tel (96-958) 52-15-55 (Have mezza there, and there also may be 'pecebes' (barnacles) they are great

Outside Grenada Recommendation -- a very special place:

La Bobadilla, Finca la Bobadilla, Apartado 144, 18300 Loja (Granada) Esp. tel.(96-958) 32-18-61, fax (96-958)32-18-10. Web: www.la-bobadilla.com, e-mail:info@la-bobadilla.com. Jr.Suite #24 at 51800 ptas, incl BF (It was described as a dream in the Karen Brown Guide. We were skeptical but it delivered in every respect.)


          We took a great walking tour of the city in Cordoba. Our guide was terrific. We stayed at the Parador there but it’s wasn’t impressive. (Since we looked at practically every room in the parador, I’m pretty sure we had the best room there.) Parador de Cordoba, Avda. de la Arruzafa, s/n, 14012 Cordoba, tel (957)27-59-00, fax (957)28-04-09. Room 501, 18000 ptas, 3600 ptas BF.

Near Cordoba and Sevilla is Ronda:

          A very picturesque place with a great restaurant: Rest. Tragabuches, c/.Jose Aparicio  no. 1, Ronda (Malaga), tel (95219) 0291, 11556  ptas and excellent. We stayed at the Parador and were happy there. If you stay in Ronda, take a drive to Zahara de la Siena--it's exquisite

Outside of Sevilla is a gem:

Sevilla Sanlucar la Mayor: Hacienda Benazuza, 41800 Sanlucar la Mayor, Sevilla, tel (955)703-344, fax (955)703-410, E-mail: hbenazuza@arrakis.es Room 205: 39000 ptas, It was 5600 ptas. for the tasting breakfast—and worth every penny. (Ferran Adria***from El Bulli and Rafa Morales—his right hand man).

In 2011 the hotel is now called Hacienda Benazuza El Bulli and the website is: http://www.benazuzahotel.com/index.html

We actually split our time in Sevilla between outside of town and in town. Sevilla is such a great place we wanted to be right there for several days. In town, we stayed at Hotel Alfonso XIII, San Fernando 2, 41004 Sevilla, Espana, tel (954)222-850, fax (954)216-033, web: www.luxurycollection.com/alfonsoxiii-com Room 345, 30000 ptas,  incl BF, 2250 ptas parking. It’s part of the Starwood chain.

San Sebastian:

           Since you are foodies, we will share our favorite San Sebastian eateries. We loved the city of San Sebastian and its food. Not to belabor the point, it really is a world class city for eating. It is also beautiful, with it's bays and hills. We were there in Oct. and the weather was mild. If you want to do some walking, it's a great city for walking along the seafront.

          Our favorite restaurant (* indicates the number of Michelin stars) was out of town and a bit difficult to find. Worth the effort, however:

 **Mugaritz, Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura aldea 20. zk, Orereta 20100 Gipuzkoa, tel  (34-943) 522-455, fax  (34-943)518-216. e-mail: mugaritz@euskalnet.net  24209 ptas and excellent Outside of Granada is a very special place:

Second favourite:
**Martin Berasategui, Loidi Kalea 4, 20160 Lasarte. Gipuzkoa. tel  (34-943) 366 471.e-mail: berasategui@relaischateaux.com  30126 ptas and really good 
The second most famous restaurant in Spain and certainly worth the money:

***Arzak, Alto de Miracruz 21, 20015 San Sebastian, tel  (34-943)272-753, fax  (34-943)272-753. e-mail: arzak@jet.es  29885 ptas and very creative

          In San Sebastian, we stayed at the Maria Cristina (a Westin) in suite 503 for 60000 ptas (special price) and loved it.

In San Sebastian I think we found barnacles/percebes at a meza restaurant for lunch called: Meson Las Migas, Ujue tel (34-948) 759-044. 3856 ptas excellent or Alberto, 31 de Agosto 19 b, 20003 Donostia, tel  (34-943)428-884 (call first).

Another North Coast Suggestion:

          Between Bilboa (65 km) and Santandar (35km) we stayed at a Relais & Châteaux hotel and thought it was great, one of the best values we found: *San Roman de Escalante, Carretera de Escalante a Castillo, km 2, 39795 Escalante (Cantabria), tel 942-67-77-45 fax 942-67 76 43. e-mail sanromanescalante@mundivia.es, www.relaischateaux.fr./escalante. Loved Jr. Suite 11 at 25000 ptas, incl BF (Chef Joseba Araba + Victor Fernandez -- very good)

Madrid Suggestions:

           We liked our hotel in Madrid very much. It is not as central as the Ritz or some of the more famous ones but it is small and personalized. Hotel Orfila, Orfila 6, 28010 Madrid, tel (34-91)702-77-70, fax (34-91)702-77-72. e-mail: hotelorfila@sei.es. Web: www.hotelorfila.com. Room 40: 53000 pts incl BF + pking.  (Room 40 is worth asking for because most of their rooms are small and 40 is big.)  Many Americans stay at the Hotel Villa Real. We looked at it and thought it was too expensive for what was offered and the rooms are too small.

          In Madrid, we recommend this restaurant unreservedly, if you feel like dressing up: Rest. La Terraza, El Casino de Madrid, c/Alcala 15, 28014 Madrid, Chef Sancho, a colleague of Xanier Sancho. tel (34-91)521-8700 with Tom and Nancy Dungan 46500 ptas for 4 people ($280) --it's in an area of Madrid that you should see at night in any case. Also, .(one Michelin star) La Broche (Sergi Arola), Miguel Angel 29, 28010 Madrid Tel (34-91)399-3437. 24289 ptas

           When we were in Spain in 2000, we stopped in Patones de Arriba (Madrid), before Madrid. We stayed at  El Tiempo Perdido (Travesia del Ayuntamiento 7, 28189 Patones de Arriba (Madrid), tel. (34-91)843-21-52, fax (34-91) 843-21-48. Room # 4: 25000 ptas. + 2000 ptas BF, Then Room #6 (bigger) 30000 ptas. + 2000 ptas BF) and had our fabulous bike ride along the Canal de Isabel II. The town was being spiffed up and there were already noteworthy restaurants there. There was such a marked make-over taking place that we'd love to go back to see what it looks like now.

Madrid Restaurant Recommendations:

From Exotic Foods by Andrew Zimmern. He was talking about seafood in Madrid. Here's an excerpt:

"The Barnacle Bill 

Today it was off to the swank side of Madrid, in the posh Serrano shopping district. We shot all morning in the trendy food stalls of the Mercado de la Paz, a 200-stall market with butchers, seafood stalls, fromagerias and so on. We ate criadillas (bull's balls) and tripe stew with the truckers and stevedores in the small cafeacute inside the market where the bar was four deep at 10 in the morning. The salt cod; cured, pressed and dried tuna roe; and the incredible array of fish and shellfish in the stalls was staggering. We saw plenty of percebes, the small gooseneck barnacles that everyone loves, and hundreds of species of langosto, crab and small rockfish. For a landlocked burg, Madrid has an insatiable appetite for seafood, one that harkens back to the days of the first two Philips, who were both fish fanatics. Madrilenos still tell stories about the royal coaches perambulating from the palace to the seashores and back, their carts overflowing with fresh catch for the royal kitchens. And this was hundreds of years ago!

"Today, the chic ladies who lunch, wealthy businessmen, the rich and famous, celebrities of all types or just curious gastronomes fall into lunch at La Trainera, the 40-year-old grandmama of Madrid's great seafood restaurants, and the one that Francis Bacon so famously touted back in the day. We had the opportunity to roll in there about three hours before the lunch crowds packed the place, and shoot in the kitchens of this remarkable eatery that is right around the corner from the Mercado (La Trainera is on Lagasca 60).

"The small, humble, blue and white storefront with the cute shutters is a pretty impressive statement about the restaurant all on its own. No bells, no whistles, just great food and a reputation for perfection ... but the stream of famous faces and the jacketed doorman out front let you know you are in for a special experience. All the fish and shellfish is gathered from small fishing co-ops sprinkled all over Spain, many from Galicia, the famous coastal city in the northwest corner of the country. When you walk in to the restaurant, you see the awesome iced seafood display, and many customers find that without a reservation you are only able to avail yourself of a meal at the bar. But that's not a bad thing since you can just keep pointing at what looks good in the case. Be careful: Almost all the goodies, from the oysters to the red prawns to the cigalas (langostos), buey crab, lobsters, percebes and the like, are sold by the gram, and an overeager diner can quickly pile up quite a bill. I had the opportunity to sit in the kitchen with the chef, where he keeps many pots of court bouillons simmering for his percebes, lobsters and crabs, and a few massive griddles for the giant prawns seared "a la plancha" served pil-pil style, drizzled with the herb-oil-chile-garlic sauce that the Basques are renowned for. Be sure to try the rodaballo, a Spanish turbot that is griddled and served with a sherry vinegar pan sauce - it's the house specialty. The percebes (gooseneck barnacles), also known locally as "dragons' feet" because of their odd lizard-skin look, are sold in 200-gram increments and can wholesale for over $50 a pound, so I tried my best to be respectful. However, standing in the kitchen with the chef and the restaurant's septuagenarian owner (who kept hitting on our 20-something Spanish production fixer), I joyfully tucked into a mammoth platter of the little buggers, which taste like a lobster-kissed, butter-tender clam. You split the skin at the base of the barnacle where it attaches to the rocks, then using the foot like a handle you slide the edible cylinder of flesh out from the sheathing and suck it down. Then you can split apart the feathery foot and eat the small kernel of meat inside the top of the percebe ... heaven. We went upstairs and ate Mediterranean clams on the half shell, langostos, three types of lobster, cigalas, giant red prawns, rodaballo, buey crab and a flurry of desserts and cheeses. Put La Trainera on your list of places not to miss next time you are in Madrid. But bring a large wallet ... Had we been paying the full freight, my little snack there, albeit enough for two to three persons, would have cost almost 500 Euros.

"We raced into our van after shooting the lunch, still reeking of shellfish, and sped to Madrid's Barajas Airport (the new Terminal 4 is an AMAZING piece of architecture). We checked in as quickly as we could with our piles of bags and video equipment and took off for Barcelona, one of the most exciting cities in the world. More on that city and my visit to El Bulli later in the week.”

January 9, 2011 addition:
There is an article in the Sunday Travel section of the New York Times on Jan. 9, 2011 on the new “must go to” restaurants in 2011. There are two in Spain. Here’s a link to the article:

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