Tapas bar in Andalucia. Locals loiter in the street outside waiting for it to open (12-4 and 8-12 every day except Sunday), with good reason. It's an old bar, dating from 1870, in a narrow street in the old part of town. Marble bar, big jars, range of bottles, obligatory dripping hams, azulejos tiles, some comic, one proclaiming(in Spanish) "Neither the best French pate, nor the Belugar caviar from Iran, can be compared to the unrivalled tapas offered in Casa Puga.". Slight exaggeration, but the huge variety of good quality, generous tapas makes a great effort. With your glass of Rioja or Ribera or cold beer comes a free tapas which only tempts you to try something else - perhaps fried fresh fish, kidneys, mushrooms, tuna, prawns, squid, beans or ham, or visit the adjoining dining room. Attentive friendly service.
Casa Puga, calle Jovellanos 7, Almeria. In the centre of the historic quarter, near the cathedral.
Tapas bar in Andalucia. It's not much to look at from the outside and you always have to fight to get to and from the bar inside or to find a seat outside on the pleasant terrace in the square and many people are put off. Don't be, because the huge range of high quality, affordable tapas, listed on blackboards inside and in menus outside, are the reason for the crowds. Tortillas de camarones, berenjenas rellenas, salmorejo are the pick, taken with, naturally, a glass of cold manzanilla, but there is something wonderful for everyone. Amidst the mayhem the bar staff and the waiters are attentive, friendly and eager to please.
Casa Balbino, Plaza de Cabildo, in the very centre of Sanlucar de Barrameda, Andalucia, away from the port and the river/beach
Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla? Of course. But try Almeria, a city with friendly people, wide avenues, an impressive alcazaba, a fortified cathedral and a long beach.
And, if you don't know where to stay or eat, look no further than the Plaza de las Flores, a Torreluz hegemony. In this tiny square (no flowers I'm afraid) Torreluz gives its name to a four-star hotel, a two-star hotel (which we thought very good value for money, but try and get a room overlooking the square), a separate block of apartments, an upmarket restaurant, a very acceptable modern cafeteria where guests of the two-star hotel take their breakfasts (which were very good) and, best of all, a traditional bodega full of atmosphere and people, who spilled out onto the square, serving good value and good quality dishes. All you want in one square right in the centre of town.
Plaza de las Torres, near Puerta de Purchena, the main square, Almeria. Torreluz enterprises etc
Cádiz is famous for its historical watchtowers, the tallest of which, at 45 metres above sea level, is the Torre Tavira, right in the centre of town near the market. Today it houses an attraction unique in Spain, a Camera Obscura. This projects a brilliant 360 degrees moving picture of the town and port onto a large circular table-screen around which visitors sit whilst a guide points out all the main buildings, squares, streets, beaches and docks. Moe fascinating, and fun, is to see the ordinary life of the town in extraordinary detail - people shopping, washing hanging out in gardens, bathers in the sea, even seagulls perched on chimneys. The 15 minute show is really quite remarkable.
Torre Tavira, calle Marques de Real Tesoro 10, Cadiz.
tel. 956 21 29 10
A 40 minute boat trip across the bay from Cadiz is the pretty town of El Puerto de Santa Maria. Tucked away in a side street amongst imposing old mansions and sherry bodegas is the typical Andalucian town house where Rafael Alberti was born. It is now a bright, modern museum dedicated to the life and works of this poet, playwright, painter and statesman.
In the light, attractive galleries you can see much of his colourful work, including his vividly illustrated poetry, look at interesting old newspaper cuttings and photos and read much of his correspondence, a great deal of which concerns his long exile from Sapin under Franco, his triumphant return in 1977 and the many prizes and honours he gained thereafter. This permanent exposition is a fabulous record of the life of one of the most important and fascinating figures in modern Spanish history.
Fundacion Rafael Alberti, calle Santa Domingo 25, El Puerto de Santa María
tel. 956 85 07 11
10,000 troglodytes live in Guadix in white-washed, water-proof, cave dwellings with all mod cons, including electricity, television and running water! They are perfectly normal people and, when we went there, a family man invited us in to his cave to meet his wife, doing the ironing and his children and friends doing their homework - something to be treasured. But, beware, some demand large sums to let you out. On the other hand maybe it's worth it. It is after all unique.
Guadix, on the road from Granada to Almeria
Mérida in Extremadura is the site of the finest collection of Roman remains in Spain, perhaps anywhere outside Italy. A stunningly beautiful theatre seating 6,000 is still in use today, and an amphitheatre accommodating 15,000, thankfully not in use, are the centrepieces.
A number of villas with mosaics, paintings and frescos, a Temple of Diana, a Trajan Arch, an 800 metre long Puente Romano with 64 arches over the river and the vast three tier Acueducto de los Milagros help complete the picture.
But you must still visit Rafael Moneo's imaginative, modern museum, full of artefacts, and a truly wonderful evocation of Roman life and culture.
A number of good hotels exist for those who are attracted to stay for a while.
Mérida in Badajoz province in Extremadura, near the Portuguese border.
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