• The black bulls of Spain

    The Spanish stereotype once embodied the fearsome Duke of Alva, the grotesque Franco, the horrendous Inquisition. But times change and Spain is now all about flamenco and flounces, Carmen and castanets, bravado and bulls. Both the bravado and the bulls…

  • Anna Smith was here!

    When a famous chef, a Spanish household name, stayed at Los Castaños, I was urged to have my photograph taken with him, get his autograph, publicise the event. But, unlike other hotels who make hay with their newsworthy guests, we…

  • Gaddafi, Smurfs and 16th June

    From being an undiscovered, overlooked pristine Andalucian valley, the Alto Genal is really hitting the headlines. Not for all the reasons my guests and I are here: the untrampled beauty, the tranquillity broken only by birdsong, and the traditional villagers…

  • A picnic with Jesus

    The Andalucians specialise in combining the sacred with the secular.  A quintessential example of this phenomenon is Cartajima’s annual romeria, a picnic with Jesus, which was celebrated yesterday. The original inference of romeria was a pilgrimage to Rome which was,…

  • Gachas – Famine Food

    Mari, my expert on Cartajima food traditions, mentioned gachas the other day. Never heard of it, said I. What is it? I enquired.  Salivating, she described a porridge of wheat flour and water which didn’t sound exactly appetising. But, it…

  • Sacré Bleu!

    Many cans of “pitufo* azul” paint are emptied every day as Juzcar’s old walls are prepared for the big event on an unspecified day but rumoured (Sony aren’t saying anything) to be 16th June in advance of the launching of…

  • Less risky Los Riscos

    Behind Cartajima lies a strange wonderland of extraordinary rock formations. Called Los Riscos, meaning crags, these limestone outcrops are a dangerous place to wander without a local guide. Many of my guests long to explore the area but we always…

  • Ultimate Prawn Cocktail

    In the seventies, the standard meal “out” was prawn cocktail, steak and chips, black forest gateau. The prawn cocktail was a simple affair – shredded iceberg lettuce, prawns and a yucky pink sauce. Last night I decided this humble dish…

  • Green Soup

    Somthing happened the other day that is the stuff of poems – lyrically waxed in ode and sonnet. I shall however state it simply – THE CHESTNUT TREES ARE GREEN AGAIN!! Being deciduous, the sweet chestnut trees that fill the…

  • Persephone rises again in Spain

    She’s back! The gnarled and ancient vine is sprouting – first step on the road to the Mosto Festival in November.