El Pimpi

During a recent visit to the city of Málaga on the Costa del Sol, I discovered this unusual and very popular bodega …

El Pimpi is a bar situated in the heart of the old town in close proximity to the Roman Amphitheatre. Literally translated as ‘the pimp’, the bodega was established in 1971 but is housed in buildings dating back to the 18th century. The ‘Pimpi’ was a local Málaga character who used to help the crews and passengers from ships that docked in the city’s port. Collectively, the “Pimpi’ soon became the first Málaga tour guides, becoming known for their service and good humour. The bar has one of the longest pedigrees of any wine bar in Málaga and became best known for its range of tapas due to regular poetry recitals by Gloria Fuerte.

The bar occupies several small rooms, each with its own theme. Décor is inspired by images of flamenco dancing and bullfighting, two symbols of Spain. The Barrel Hall is one of the most notable rooms in which famous names from flamenco, film, music, politics and other backgrounds have signed their names on wine barrels. Apparently, the actor and director, Antonio Banderas, whose home is in Málaga, filmed part of Summer Rain in the El Pimpi bar, and Juan Antonio Bardem used the bar as the setting for The Young Picasso. The bar continues to be a popular rendezvous for famous faces, locals and visitors alike where they can enjoy food, local wines, the traditions and culture of southern Spain, all set in a friendly, authentic atmosphere.

The evening I was in Málaga was Noche en Blanco (white night) or Nuit Blanche in French. It is an annual all-night or night time arts festival which will usually have museums, art galleries, monuments and other cultural institutions open free of charge. In addition, there will be open air performances of music, dance and art to captivate the attention of the public. The concept originated in St Petersburg with Paris following soon after, and since then the idea has spread globally across several continents. As one can imagine, the city was crowded with people and in order to get both food and drink in El Pimpi, one had to join a very lengthy queue! Sadly, owing to time constraints, the visit to the bar could only comprise a view of the rooms and soaking up the atmosphere before reluctantly moving to another, much quieter, drinking establishment.

This post celebrates eight years of my WordPress blog!

 

 

Advertisements

Journeys Into The Unknown

Although it’s hard to realise, it’s twenty months since I relocated to Spain …

For many British people who retire to Spain, life basically consists of lying in the sun around the pool, consuming copious amounts of relatively cheap booze, and venturing out to local shops and bars owned by fellow Brits. Many appear to live in a comfort bubble within a 20 km radius of their homes and I have lost count of the number of times I’ve mentioned places that I’ve visited, only to be greeted with the ‘where’s that?’ comment. It has become very apparent that people simply don’t look at maps or, indeed, are incapable of doing so, but for those struggling to read maps, there are easier ways of finding places, notably the Internet, as well as enquiring at local information centres. For those who do make the effort, there is a wealth of history, culture and scenery to be discovered almost on the doorstep.

I appreciate that Spain is a large country and that many places cannot be visited in a day. I am fortunate in living in the north east of Almería province which affords easy access to Granada and Jaën provinces as well as the autonomous region of Murcia. To put things into perspective, Almería province covers 8774 sq kms, which is the approximate size of Cornwall and Somerset combined but somewhat smaller than the total area of Dorset and Devon. As well as coastal towns and villages, there is an abundance of secluded coves, and moving inland, one will find mountains, valleys, hidden villages, lakes, forests and ancient monuments. When navigating mountain roads, many of which are maintained to a good standard, one can expect ever-changing vistas with a surprise around virtually every corner. Admittedly, some roads are very narrow and twisty, even degenerating into dirt tracks, but persevering with these will reward the traveller with uninterrupted views and frequent hidden gems.

As a general rule, I do try and explore new places at least twice a month. Of course, this is weather-dependent but for the most part, the sun shines! Having said that, some of the mountainous areas can look stunning with cloud formations looming overhead, and their overall appearance changes to reflect the seasons. Quaint villages with their narrow streets, plazas and churches are a joy to wander around, and maybe partake of a drink in the local bar whilst soaking up the views! Obviously, to experience these hitherto unknown places, a car is essential, but seeing as public transport in this part of Spain is fairly minimal, almost everyone has access to private transport.

Much of the interior of Almería province consists of a parched, lunar landscape with low mountain ranges and dried-up river beds. However, two areas of the desert boast exceptional geological features, namely the Karst in the Yesos de Sorbas Natural Park which is the most outstanding gypsum landscape in Spain, and the eroded mountains of the Tabernas Desert Natural Park. Nestling in the shadows of the Sierra Alhamilla Natural Park is the town of Níjar, famous for its primitive earthenware ceramics, and further into the mountains at 550m above sea level is the village of Lucainena de Las Torres. This quaint Andalucian village boasts narrow streets with whitewashed houses, and the 18th century church faces a ‘mirador’ or viewing area giving panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape. Of particular interest are the remains of large kilns used for iron extraction from the rocks. Mining began in 1895 and due to its secluded location, a special 35 km railway line was constructed to transport extractions to the Mediterranean coast. The industry functioned until its closure in 1942 and the recently renovated kilns are now a site of special historical interest. The eight round kilns, which were constructed in 1900, were used to transform the rock into a much richer material. The kilns were filled from the top with alternate layers of rock and charcoal, and after cooking, the nuggets of ore were removed from the mouth of the ovens and loaded into wagons for their onward journey by train. Each oven was capable of producing 50 tonnes of ore per day.

To the south east, and close to Almería city, is the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park. This is the largest coastal protected area in Andalucía comprising a wild and isolated landscape of specific geological interest. Offshore are numerous tiny rocky islands and underwater extensive coral reefs teeming with marine life. In the northern corner of the province lies the Sierra de María-Los Vélez wooded park, bordered by the towns of Vélez Rubio and Vélez Blanco, the latter boasting an interesting castle. For those wishing to stay closer to home, local fiestas are a great way to experience regional culture. As the Spanish are very family-orientated, with several generations often living in the same house, they are proud to share their country and heritage. And that is just part of what my home province of Almería has to offer …

So, to those who simply want to soak up the sun, I say good luck and beware the health risks. However, they are missing out on an enrichment of life, education, enjoyment, and fun! Travelling in this part of Spain is a pleasant experience with generally little traffic and discovering some of these hidden places is, indeed, a journey into the unknown!

¡Feliz viaje!

A Spanish Gem

One of the joys of being in a different country is the ongoing voyage of discovery …

It goes without saying that travel will fill a great deal of time in discovering new places and historical sites, but two things that can be discovered on your doorstep are food and drink. Some people rave about Spanish cuisine, especially the cheap tapas often enjoyed at lunchtimes, but experience has found that one needs to select these dishes rather carefully. Generally speaking, cheap is the all-important word, so quality ingredients usually will be in short supply. Personally, I prefer more traditional dishes utilising fresh ingredients especially as there is an abundance of fruit and vegetables available when in season!

However, drink is another matter entirely. Obviously, there are copious amounts of wine available depending upon where you shop, with many Spanish stores only stocking wine from Spain. The wine is marketed by the region from which it originates rather than the more usual way of identifying it by grape. As is the case with all wines, there are good and bad ones, although price is not necessarily an indication of quality. To ensure an acceptable beverage, it is best to select wines that are identified by Denominaciōn de Origen which fairly equates to Appellation d’origine Contrôllée in France and Qualitātswein in Germany. A natural progression from wine is the liqueur, often regarded as a luxury, and one liqueur in Spain is no exception.

43
Cuarenta y Tres

Nestled within the historic city of Cartagena is a family-owned distillery making the liqueur known as 43 or Cuarenta y Tres! It is so-named as it is made from forty-three separate ingredients combining citrus fruits, herbs and spices all found in the Mediterranean. The exact recipe is a mystery and only three members of the Zamora family know the secret behind the liqueur. The special infusion process yields a rich golden liquid with tastes of honey, vanilla and caramel, although there are many varying descriptions of the actual taste. It is believed that the recipe was discovered by the Romans over 2000 years ago and it is verified that all the ingredients were commonplace in Spain at the time of the Roman Empire.

As with any liqueur, how one drinks it is an individual choice. Personally, I enjoy it served with ice but it needs to be consumed quite quickly before the ice dilutes it! Some enjoy Cuarenta y Tres as a traditional after-dinner drink with coffee whilst it is popular as a longer cocktail drink with the younger generation. One thing is certain though … this drink is a real gem, and with Cartagena being within easy reach, a tour of the distillery with free tasting is on the agenda! As for price, it isn’t exactly cheap and costs more than the likes of Cointreau, which. of course, is imported. The drink undoubtedly plays a very important part in the history and heritage of Spain.