Montilla, Andalucía, is Sherry Wine’s Secret Cousin Reply

Montilla Spain winery

East of Andalucía’s traditional sherry vineyards around Jerez is Montilla, where the finos and amontillados are possibly better than the better-known cousins, and hardly any tourists visit

The Guardian.com–Stick a pin in the centre of a map of Andalucía and you might well hit Montilla. Geographically this is the heart of Spain’s deep south, with Seville to the west and Granada over the mountains to the east. But as I thunder up the deserted motorway towards Córdoba from Málaga airport, I nearly miss the undulating vineyards that are the source of Montilla-Moriles fortified wines. And as most of the wineries are small affairs in the folds of the sierra, they, too, remain under the radar, as discreet as their brands. Only the determined traveller finds them – but I discover the effort pays off.

Moriles, to the south, is one half of this D.O. (Denominación de Origen) classification but the town of Montilla is the boss, on the edge of a rolling sierra of white limestone, where the pedro-ximénez grape flourishes. A close cousin of sherry in strength and flavour, Montilla-Moriles wines are not easy to track down. You can order a fragrant, dry fino, a nutty amontillado (named after Montilla), a voluptuous palo cortado or a figgy oloroso in Cordoba, but they’re rare further afield. Only 10 of the 170 producers export their nectar.

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Zahara de los Atunes: Sun, Sea and Seafood in Southern Spain Reply

Zahara los Atunes

In south-west Spain, Kevin Gould celebrates laid-back beach life, plus meat and fish delicacies, in the foodie hangout of Zahara de los Atunes

The Guardian.com–She is Sahara of the Tuna, and you come for her deserted beaches and crowded fish restaurants, and for her beach shack chiringuitos in which to boogie the hot night away. Here in Cadiz province, Zahara de los Atunes lies between Cape Trafalgar and Spain’s southernmost nipple at Tarifa, 40 minutes to the south. Where Tarifa is bliss for spliffed-up surfers and world-weary dreadlocked hippies, Zahara is more innocent, a let-it-all-hang-out family destination. It is also one that has carved a part in the heart of the Spanish food lover with its devotion to the red tuna (Atlantic bluefin tuna, famed for its rosy flesh) and the red-skinned Retinto cow.

In this land that so honours the pig, Zahara’s red tuna is granted the title “the ibérico of the sea”. As ever, Spain can leave the dedicated vegetarian feeling hungry – even the plainest of mixed salads here will include fat chunks of tuna, “for flavour!” we were told. Your pomaded open-shirted playa type tends to prefer Atlanterra, a slick purpose-built beach resort two kilometres south of town, but Zahara itself is Spain’s far south at her authentic, relaxed best.

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Spain to Speed Up Visa Approvals for Chinese Tourists Reply

Chinese tourism Spain

Business Times.com–Spanish five-star hotels are serving up white rice for breakfast as Spain offers quicker visas and seeks more direct flights from China to tap into the surging wave of Chinese tourists. When Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy visited China in September, he announced that visa applications from the country’s travellers would be processed within 48 hours. The government is also in talks with Asian airlines to boost traffic through Madrid’s underused airport by offering reduced fees and promoting Spain as a hub for travel to Latin America.

So far only one airline, Air China, offers direct flights between Spain and China seven times a week. In contrast, Italy has 28 direct weekly flights to China, France has 70 and Germany 87. While Chinese travellers usually visit several countries during a trip to Europe, they are unlikely to include Spain if they land in another country because of its geographic location, said University of London lecturer Keven Lathan, author of a book on Chinese tourism in Europe. “Spain’s location is less central. You have to add two to three days to make it feasible. There is not much you can do about it,” he said at a recent tourism fair in Madrid.

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Rick Stein’s Food Paradise Spain 2/4 Reply

Rick Stein Spain

British chef, restauranteur and culinary correspondent extraordinaire, Rick Stein, is back with more research into Spanish cuisine and customs. Stein’s appeal in his Spanish work–and everywhere else he visits–is that his programs are based on what real local people eat, which is usually the best that a country has to offer. This is an hour long video, so turn off the tele, put the image on full screen and learn to travel Spain creatively and to cook salt cod the way the Spanish do it.

Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine Reopens March 2015 Reply

Abadia la Retuerta

With impressive momentum of first Michelin Star and new Spa and guest rooms coming July.

Travel Daily News.com, SARDON DE DUERO, SPAIN – Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine, the newly restored, historic hotel located in a 12th century abbey surrounded by vineyards in Spain’s Duero winegrowing region, will reopen March 2nd with impressive momentum for a successful 2015 and beyond – driven by earning its first Michelin Star, the addition of a world-class spa and eight exquisite new guest rooms slated to open in July, and crafting specialty guest experiences such as mushroom foraging on the hotel’s medieval estate.

“Our vision for LeDomaine from the beginning has been to create a hotel that stands apart for its combination of historic atmosphere and precedent-setting guest facilities and experiences, and all of the components of this extraordinary property are coming together,” said Andres Araya, Managing Director. LeDomaine has announced that when it re-opens in March, after closing for three months for the holidays and to accelerate construction of the spa and guest rooms, it will offer a starting room rate in 2015 of $415 as well as a variety of packages including spa, gourmet, romance and special guest experience programs that take advantage of the diversity of the local terrain. On the ‘Mycological Experience,’ guests hunt for wild mushrooms in local forests and dine on gourmet dishes prepared with the freshly picked fungi.

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Marbella Gets an Art Fair, But Are Collectors Game? Reply

Puerto Banus Marbella

Lorena Muñoz Alonso writes for Artnet.com–Next summer, the Spanish city of Marbella will offer more than its usual sunny beaches, yacht parties, and luxury shopping opportunities. An art fair is about to hit town. The inaugural edition of Art Marbella will kick-off on July 30—and it’s already calling itself “the most important event of contemporary art in South Europe.”

The venture, set to gather 50 international galleries, is the brainchild of Alejandro Zaia, the Argentinian co-founder of the Latin American modern and contemporary art fairs PINTA New York (which relocated to Miami in its last edition), and PINTA London. Despite tapping the booming Latin American art market, PINTA London has tended to underperform, and there are rumors that it might be discontinued.

But Zaia has already found sunnier pastures, and has enlisted a curatorial committee—including Omar López-Chahoud, founder and director of the Miami art fair UNTITLED, and María Chiara Valacchi, director of Milan’s non-profit Spazio Cabinet—to help him with the fair’s first edition.

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The Top 10 Cultural Holidays in Spain Reply

Cantabrian caves Spain

Telegraph.co.uk–Our experts’ pick of the top 10 cultural holidays in Spain for 2015, including the Dalí Triangle, the Chopin music festival and the best cultural activities for families, in destinations such as Madrid, Costa Brava, Majorca and Malaga

1. Cantabria’s prehistoric caves

It’s been a huge year for Cantabria’s prehistoric, World Heritage-listed Altamira Cave. For the first time since 2002, the original cavern (rather than the replica) has been opened up to five randomly selected ticket holders each week, making it an exceptionally exciting time to visit. But it pays to dig deeper into Cantabria’s lesser-known caves, which is easily done with the independent Caminos by Casas Cantabricas “Short Break Cantabria” itinerary. Its cave-focused option also covers El Castillo (for the world’s oldest cave art) and the eerie Eastern Caves in Ramales. From £240pp for four nights’ b & b, including car hire, Altamira tickets and app guides to the area. Flights not included (01223 328721; caminos.co.uk). Isabella Noble

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A Snapshot of Seville, Spain Reply

River Guadalquivir Seville

David Cogswell writes for Travel Pulse.com–The first time I heard about Seville, Spain was in my high school Spanish class. We were discussing La Feria de Abril, a week-long celebration full of parades, dancing and traditional Spanish costumes. I was instantly hooked. So when it came time for me to choose a location for my study abroad semester, there was no doubt about it: I was headed to Seville, the vibrant capital of Andalusia.

Luckily my impulsive decision was not one I regretted, as I instantly fell in love with the southern Spanish city. And you know what? Everyone else I know who has traveled to Seville has loved it just as much as I did. Ready to learn more? Immerse yourself in this brief snapshot of Seville, Spain. Just get ready to book a plane ticket when you’re done!

Explore the Maria Luisa Park

Maria Luisa Park is Seville’s largest park. Its beautiful green lawns stretch parallel to the Guadalquivir River, and it’s common to see tourists taking in the lush views and aromatic orange trees of the park via romantic horse and carriage.

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Homeless Tours Reveal a Hidden Side of Barcelona Reply

homeless tours Barcelona

Ann Sewell writes for All Voices.com–Barcelona in Spain is an emblematic and popular city for tourists, but it also has a hidden side – homeless people living on its streets. Ramón Holgado, 64, was homeless. He used to sleep on the streets. But this Christmas he decided to improve his plight, and now takes visitors to Barcelona on homeless-themed tours of the streets in which he used to merely exist. He tells tourists the history of the city and shows them some of the popular spots, but Holgado also gives visitors an insight into what the economic crisis has done to this emblematic city. He shows them examples of the poverty residents are suffering through and introduces them to the homeless of Barcelona.

Holgado has an interesting history, as he was previously a chef in a posh New York City restaurant. He decided to return home to Spain but after losing his father and brother and suffering a breakdown, ended up on the streets. He explains how one is constantly exposed to thieves, addicts and other homeless people on the streets and can so easily sink into a rut that’s difficult to climb out of. But he managed to scrape together enough money to share a small rented apartment and hopes to live a better life.

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Casa Pagès: Off to Grandma’s House Reply

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Paula Mourenza, for Culinary Backstreets.com–Not far from the Gràcia neighborhood’s glittering Paseo de Gràcia can be found a completely different world of narrow, unassuming side streets. Once populated by Catalan Gypsies, the area is fondly remembered as one of the cradles of rumba catalana, a popular fusion of flamenco, mambo and rock and roll, and as the birthplace of Antonio “El Pescaílla” González, a legendary flamenco guitarist who was one of the genre’s founding fathers. The house where “El Pescaílla” (“The Little Fish”) was born in 1926 remains unmarked, but a memorial plaque is proudly displayed from one of the walls of the venue next door – Casa Pagès, an old-school bar and restaurant that has been in business since 1982 and now serves as a culinary anchor for the neighborhood.

Owner Pedro Barros is an immigrant from Galicia, on Spain’s Atlantic coast, who – like millions of other immigrants from the poorest regions of Spain – came to Catalonia during the last century, while the country was still under Franco’s dictatorship.

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