Jerez de la Frontera | Nuevo Hotel

nuevo hotel  (1)
I had been invited to Vinoble in Jerez de la Frontera, which meant having to stay over at least one night. I had told a friend that I was looking for somewhere “cheap & cheerful” where I could lay my head for a few hours – I knew I wouldn’t be spending much time wherever I stayed. And The Nuevo Hotel turned out to be perfect. At 25€ for an individual room with a single bed you obviously wouldn’t be expecting the Ritz, but I was very pleasantly surprised at my cheerful clean room and comfy bed, with a balcony that opened onto a small side street. My room was on the first floor of the two-storey hotel, and I was happy there was a lift as I was still on crutches due to a recent accident. The bathroom was small but serviceable, with a small bathtub and shower.

nuevo hotel  (2)

Nuevo Hotel is centrally located just off the Plaza de Arenal, near the Alcázar, and is about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station. There are plenty of good tapas bars nearby and it felt like a nice cosy neighbourhood. Breakfast at the hotel is 5€, served in a big bright dining area on the main floor, but I’m always happier going out to find a small bar. There are a couple of charming common areas and excellent WiFi connection throughout the hotel. The hotel staff were welcoming, friendly and helpful. I would definitely stay again.

Nuevo Hotel
Calle Caballeros, 23
Jerez de la Frontera
Tel 956 33 16 00

Porsche Gourmet 2014

cartel-porsche-gourmet
Following the success of the First Porsche Gourmet Culinary Competition held last year in Sevilla (in conjunction with Porsche’s 50th anniversary), this second edition has been extended to include western Andalucía. The competition begins in Córdoba city (3-16 February), then moves on to Cádiz province (10-23 February), followed by Huelva province (3-16 March) and finishing up in Sevilla city (10-23 March). A select panel of judges from each city or province will choose the winners of the Porsche Gourmet Award for “best dish” and the Porsche Gourmet Culinary Covap Award for “best dessert”. The closing ceremony will be held in Sevilla late March (date to be announced).

I’ll update the info here when the competitors in each city and province are announced and will also keep you posted on Sevilla Tapas FB and @SevillaTapas. The Twitter hashtag for the event is #PorscheGourmet14.

Promo video from last year’s Porsche Gourmet Competition

Casa de Huéspedes Santa María

casa huespedes bed
This quirky and charming family-run guest house was recommended to me by a friend who lives in El Puerto de Santa María and I have to say it was perfect for my overnight stay there mid-November. My room was on the ground floor at the back of the house, so not much light from the row of small windows just under the ceiling (presumably opening onto a patio), but it was brightly decorated in primary colours against white walls and bedding, which made it quite cheerful. The bed was super comfortable and everything was clean-clean-clean. I had an ensuite bathroom (some of the rooms share) which was small but serviceable. In fact, my only two complaints about the place had to do with the bathroom: no hand-held showerhead option, and the opaque window in the bathroom that opened onto the hallway (which wasn’t actually opaque enough and – bizarrely – had a curtain covering it on the hallway side of the window). I don’t know, just made me feel a bit “exposed” late at night.

casa huespedes room

[my room]

Owners Carlos and Myriam were very welcoming and helpful. I arrived with about fifteen minutes to spare to make my appointment for a sherry tour at Bodegas Gutierrez-Colosía, which happily was not far away, and Carlos not only gave me easy directions but also a couple of recommendations for places to have tapas afterwards. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t have time to take a peek at some of the other rooms and by the time I got back after lunch they were all occupied.

casa huespedes common spaces

[common areas of the hotel – click to enlarge]

Nice touches included a small kitchen where you could make tea or coffee and snacks. The fridge was stocked with bottled water that you could take and leave payment (1€) in a tin on the countertop. There were two complimentary coffee capsules with cups in my room and additional ones were also 1€ each, which seemed reasonable to me. The common rooms on the ground floor were also charming. A TV/reading room with a stack of books and comfy retro chairs, and a typical patio Andaluz, not-so-typically decorated. There was free WiFi in the common areas. All in all a pleasant stay and, at 40€, also a very good price.

It’s also an excellent location. It was about a 15 minute walk from the train station and just a 5 minute walk to the catamaran, which I took to Cádiz city the next morning.

Casa de Huéspedes Santa María
Calle Pedro Muñoz Seca 38
El Puerto de Santa María
Tel 956 85 36 31

Hotel Argantonio | Cádiz

 

argantonio beds

The Argantonio is a small 2 star hotel in a traditional style building, not luxurious, but with considerable charm. I stayed there with a friend mid-November and our room on the third floor was simply decorated, clean and comfortable with a good sized bathroom that had a walk-in shower. Tip: ask for a room with a balcony on the (very quiet) street as these get better light than the interior rooms. Also, the rooms with two beds are considerably larger than those with a double bed. There was also a pleasant little terrace on the roof with a couple of comfy chairs for relaxing with a drink and a book, though the day I was there it was a bit too cold to take advantage of it.

Breakfast was included in the price (79 euros, double occupancy), with fresh hot coffee made to order from the bar, juice and toast, charcuterie, pastries and some hot dishes of eggs and sausages. Another plus was that the staff were friendly and helpful. We came back around midnight from our evening tapeo and a couple was being served a nightcap at the bar in front of the reception area, which I thought was a nice touch. And very important: there’s free WiFi with good reception throughout the hotel.

argantonio hotel

[click on image to enlarge]

 The location was excellent, on the edge of the old town and not far from the train station, giving easy access to both. Overall I thought it was good value for money. My only tiny “complaints”: the lack of a detachable shower head, and that the safe in the closet wasn’t bolted down, rendering it pretty much useless. But I would definitely stay here again.

Hotel Argantonio
Calle Argantonio, 3
Cádiz
Tel 956 21 16 40
Hotel Argantonio Website

Horse Racing in Sanlúcar de Barrameda

I have ALWAYS wanted to do this. And now I have. For years I’ve heard about the wonderful sounding horse races on the beach in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and every August I have somehow never managed to make it. In part I blame the very shoddy public transport between Sevilla and Sanlúcar… nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is going to get me to sit on a bus for over two hours for a journey that normally takes just over an hour by car. But I digress. Because yesterday I did have the chance to go by car with my friends Markus, who runs Veoapartment, and Peter Seville Concierge.

We set off in time to catch the first race (the times announced were vague, we got there for the 6.30 pm race to discover that it didn’t start until 7.00, más o menos.). Eventually we managed to find a spot in the front row and waited for things to get going. I had my camera ready to take some photos but other than a few pics of the horses making their way to the starting gate I got nothing because they ended up whizzing by again in about three seconds flat. So I decided to try Vine for the next one. Six seconds.

beer on the beach sanlucarIn between races we went over to one of the beach restaurants in Bajo de Guia to enjoy a cold beer and the sea breeze. But after the second race we decided that was enough and headed back into town for a bite to eat before heading back home. The obvious choice was Casa Balbino, home of The Very Best tortillitas de camarones, well, anywhere. As usual it was jam-packed but we found a little corner spot in front of the bar and started off with – what else? – a chilled glass of made-in-Sanlúcar manzanilla and some plump and juicy locally caught langoustines. Then the super-crispy tortillitas, some seafood croquetas and gambas pil-pil.

On the large flatscreen above our heads we watched recaps of the races which were quite a bit different from our blink-and-miss-it experiences, as cameramen in cars and at various strategic points along the beach caught the entire races. But I was still glad I went and experienced it for myself, and a day trip to Sanlúcar is always enjoyable. All in all, it was a lovely Sunday.

sanlucar

There will be one more weekend of races 16, 17 and 18 of August.

Feria de la Manzanilla (in Sevilla)

feria de la manzanilla
The plan for yesterday was to take the bus to Sanlúcar de Barrameda to visit their Feria de la Manzanilla for the first time. Unfortunately the bus service to Sanlúcar was less than feriante friendly with one bus at 10 am and the next not until 2 pm and when I mentioned this on Twitter my friend and sherry expert Annie Manson said that, knowing me, I’d end up creating my own Feria de la Manzanilla here. So that’s what I did.  🙂

Sanlúcar de Barrameda is located at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Altantic and, along with Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María, forms the famous Sherry Triangle in the Cádiz province. It is also home to the oldest horse races in Spain, which take place just before sunset along the beach during the month of August. Another Sanlúcar event I have yet to witness. But I digress…

My companion yesterday was Peter Tatford Seville Concierge and at one stop Eduardo Blanco Different Spain also briefly joined us. Since my idea was to recreate being in Sanlúcar the obvious place to start was Restaurante Barbiana which not only features wines and seafood from there but also makes the best tortillitas de camarones I’ve ever had outside Sanlúcar. We started with a nice plate of jamón Ibérico de Bellota paired with a manzanilla fina from Bodegas Barbiana, served at a perfectly chilled 1ºC. For our tortillita I chose an amontillado to go with it which worked very nicely.

Then we went on to La Moneda, which was where we ment up with Eduardo. There we tried two different manzanillas (Solear and La Gitana) with fried salmonetes (which I was told came from Sanlúcar) and a very nice soupy rice with gambas, clams and monkfish.

For our third stop we taxied over to Taberna Chani in Nervión to try their manzanilla en rama from Bodegas Baron, which we paired with fabulous fried boquerones (also from Sanlúcar) and some grilled Almadraba tuna cheeks.

And then we were done. I have to say that although the food and wine were all very pleasant the whole Feria de la Manzanilla in Sevilla thing didn’t feel as successful as my recent impromptu World Sherry Day event because I didn’t feel like I’d actually learned anything new. Although I asked lots of questions about the different wines, and about which foods they would go best with, the response at these bars wasn’t as friendly or enthusiastic as I found last week. I mean, I know you can get palo cortado from Sanlúcar, and also some good dessert wines, but these weren’t suggested to me even though I’d told everyone I was trying to learn more about Sanlúcar wines. Bit of a shame, but ah well…