Spanish Food Road Trip – The Good The Bad The Ugly
Day 1-2 – Driving through Spain, not Portugal yet, so not the fastest way to get there, but still rushing, go figure…So the whole idea about the first part of the trip is to get to the south of Portugal as fast as possible. Then go up slowly and then get to France via Bilbao or so, then rush back. Therefore (and this is funny, you’ll see), I’m going to go north of Madrid via Contreras, which is a very very very small and lost village close by Barbadillo del Mercado, already far away from it all… You see, it’s to go to a fake cemetery. You don’t see? Alright, first things first, a recollection on how we got there, where we slept and, of course, what we ate.
The first day started at my parents’, in Fitou, France and it was a mad dash towards Soria, passing through Catalonia (but avoiding carefully Barcelona, been there, done that…) and then the Aragon autonomous community (something like the aggregation of three provinces, with some sort of capital in Zaragosa). We did not care much for food or drinks in that part of the trip, to the point of taking a lunch and picnicking somewhere unmemorable. The point was to find a hotel as close to Contreras (with still good aperitif, yes, and dinner, yes) to go to the cemetery in the morning. There is nothing much to say for the landscape except that we saw an incredible amount of pigsties. I never saw so many pigsties in my entire life. Granted there were decent amount of cows and oxen and sheep around, grazing and all… But pigsties, large ones, were everywhere.
One thing leading to another I found myself in a small bar for una cerveza de barril while the Moms is “descansando” in the room of a nice hotel, small to the point of tininess. However they did have a restaurant and we were given the choice for three primeros and three segundos, not to mention at least four or five dulces. I’m fairly certain we were the only people in the place. The menu was as follows:
- Menestra de verduras (The Moms, some sort of vegetable stew with lard in it, delicious I was led to believe it was…)
- Esparragos a la plancha con jamon (Yours truly, asparagus on that typical grill they have which is basically a flattop grill… with some local ham thrown in for good measure, nice)
- Carrillera iberica a la plancha con pimientos de Piquillo (both, some pork bits, also on the flattop grill with fries and a grilled red bell pepper that even I, who really hate bell pepper with all my heart, ate. Go figure)
- Flan de huevo con nata (The Moms, egg flan, typical, delicious…)
- Espuma de chocolate (Yours truly, chocolate mousse, perfect.)
- All that with a tinto de la casa, a Rioja. Needless to say I did not finish the bottle… I am not a big fan of Rioja wine usually but this one was obviously a local favourite as the waiter almost drooled when describing it. It was very potent but not too much. It went well with the little bits of jamon with a drop of very very strong olive oil on top that appeared out of nowhere when we were waiting for the primeros.
I wanted to go out after and get a beer, as I did before dinner but I was not in any shape to do anything. Shame though, as the town square sported no less than seven (7!) bars, for such a small town, my Frenchnessness was pleased. Yes, that is a thing.I will dream of colts and cowboy hats, cigars and nooses, horses and graves... Click To Tweet
The next day I almost cried because the weather was so grey and foggy I couldn’t see the houses on the other side of the street, and I do not think that two cars could cross. My dream of Sad Hill Cementario was going down the drain…
My mood was a bit lifted by the brief encounter with some ciconias (white storks), a personal favourite, possibly from the good old La Fontaine’s tales… One of these birds flew over the car for a while, I was a bit scared for my hood’s paint but it was overall a nice experience. And to be honest I do not really care about my hood. We took off, following the maps blindly, even when it seemed to lead us to literally nowhere. Contreras, as previously mentioned, is a hole. And when you get there there is still some 5km of dirt road to drive on until you reach the sign: “Sad Hill Cementario”. I think I was in a trance the whole half-hour we spent there: me shooting some insane amount of pictures with at least five (5!) different cameras and the Moms trying not to freeze. For those of you lacking the proper culture (shame on you little grasshopper) and who did not do the standard googling, this place is the set for the amazing Sergio Leone film, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, 1966), particularly the über-famous final scene when there is a three-way duel (triel?) in this very Sad Hill Cementario. I had to go there on a pilgrimage. Period. It was worth it. I think a large print of a picture I shot that day will adorn my living room, when I have a living room.
The rest of the day I couldn’t care less. We drove. A lot.
We had Tortillas Francesas, (meaning plain for some reason) and con jamon in a cafeteria in a gas station.
We drove, a lot more.
We left the autovia (free highway) around Zafra (some hundreds km north of Sevilla) to go once again in the countryside and ended in Fregenal de la Sierra. We found a cheapo hotel, as usual. We went around town for a cervecita and dug a small place for tapas and, for a wee bunch of euros (A few dollars more?), we had two kinds of seafood (sardines and the ever lovely cuttlefish, man do I love that thing) and three kinds of meat (mostly pork though, probably in relation to the insane amount of pigsties we kept on seeing on the road), and some local wine… I was content anyhow. I will dream of colts and cowboy hats, cigars and nooses, horses and graves…
And tomorrow we cross the border and get to Portugal, where the real trip begins.