Buscando La Rioja

Traducido por Santiago Díaz Bravo

(Read original version in English here)

Prácticamente en todo momento me apetece un buen vaso de vino de La Rioja; en ocasiones, incluso, una botella. Por ello, la visita a dicha región española se mantuvo durante mucho tiempo entre mis principales apetencias viajeras, y el pasado mes de abril por fin pude organizar un “viaje de degustación” como un añadido a mi visita a San Sebastián, en el País Vasco (norte de España).

La Rioja, Longroño, Laguardia

No existe ningún lugar denominado “La Rioja” que se pueda visitar

A pesar de que había mantenido innumerables conversaciones con mis amigos acerca de visitar La Rioja –siempre en torno a no sé cuántos vasos de “caldo rojo”–, en realidad jamás se me había pasado por la cabeza a qué ciudades y pueblos en concreto podría dirigirme. Adoro el vino y siento un profundo interés en descubrir las diferencias entre regiones a la hora de elaborarlo, además de las peculiaridades desde el punto de vista cultural, por lo que para mí, dicho viaje, tenía todo el interés. Pero una vez que me puse a organizarlo reparé en mi vago conocimiento acerca de lo que es La Rioja. Para empezar, no existe ni un solo lugar denominado La Rioja. La consulta del mapa de la región aumentó mi confusión, porque ninguno de los nombres que aparecían me decía nada. A pesar de que me he bebido botellas y más botellas de vino local, y de que conozco el nombre de unos cuantos productores por los que siento predilección, la realidad es que no sabía de qué parte de la región eran. Read more

Mexican Food Heaven in Oaxaca: The Best Tacos Ever

Mexican Food Heaven in Oaxaca: The Best Tacos Ever

There are tacos, and then there are tacos, the way you eat in the market of 20 de Noviembre in Oaxaca, home to some of the best Mexican food. This is a guide to the Best Tacos experience.

In one corner of this market, appearing from beneath all the smoke and the unmistakable smell of charcoal, is a row of red, on both sides of the aisle. The red, are large thin slices of meat, stacked in a display like piles of paper alongside some chorizo. Above it, hangs a curtain of tripa (tripe).

Step 1 : Choose your meat

Mexican Food: the best tacos

Of the many stalls, I chose the one that appeared to be the most popular. Effectively, they all have exactly the same products on offer: beef, “enchilado” beef and chorizo. You can buy 1kg, 1/2 kg of 1/4kg of any or a mix of these. A 1/4kg “Mixto” was MXN75.

Step 2: Grilling!

grilling meat for the best tacos

They will grill your meat for you. The smell gets irresistible and you start feeling even more hungry. You’re handed a laminated card with the stall ID and your order ID to take to your chosen table (they are communal tables and a lot of fun).

Step 3: Choose your condiments

Pretty much as soon as you take your seat, you’ll be approached by vendors carrying small plastic containers of avocados, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, chillies and a lot more. They’re MXN 15 each, and you choose what you want. There’ll also be someone bringing over tortillas. I admit I quite like the occasional gringo burrito from Chipotle in London every so often, but my Oaxacan Taco experience is like no other Mexican Food you will find in London (or anywhere else outside of Mexico, I imagine).

Mexican Food condiments for the best tacos

Step 4: Assemble your Tacos

Finally, the meat arrives and the fun part begins! At this point you just have to forget the concept of “cutlery”. Mexicans just tear up the meat using their hands, because…well, this is the only way. Here’s a tip: don’t use a whole tortilla to make up your taco – the pros use half a tortilla at a time. This will save you from having to hold on to a rolled up taco with bits and pieces falling and dripping all over the place. It’s impossible to do this elegantly though, so don’t worry too much about making a right mess.

Mexican Food: Best Tacos ready to be assembled

Step 5: Mexican Food Heaven…Eat!

I was an amateur with my first Taco and used a whole tortilla…

Mexican Food: best tacos in oaxaca

The atmosphere is buzzing and it’s such good fun. At any moment during your Taco-assembly, you might be asked to get up from your bench and let other people in/out of your communal table. Loads of vendors will approach you as you bite into your Taco, trying to sell you a wooden comb, a book mark or a spoon. To be honest, I don’t think they even expect you to buy anything while you eat….it’s just something they do. It’s all part of the experience, and the chaos of the market adds an extra flavour to the chargrilled meat. A Taco fan or not, this is definitely something you should try if you’re in Oaxaca. Mexican food isn’t all about tacos, but they do seem to eat a lot of it here!

Porto in a Weekend

Porto in a Weekend

Why Porto?

It could have been anywhere. Well, anywhere within a couple of hours from London, with convenient flight times that didn’t interfere with school drop-off.  With good dining options. Not to mention a bit of culture. Oh, and somewhere warm would be nice (in November).  This, was the brief I got from from my best friend – some explicit, some less so, but I know her well. I chose Porto for our weekend destination, mainly based on photos of pretty blue tiles (azulejos) that kept coming up on Pinterest. Read more

How to spend a day in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Day trip from Jerez)

How to spend a day in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Day trip from Jerez)

Where is Sanlúcar de Barrameda? To be honest, it wasn’t a name I’d heard of before, let alone be part of my itinerary. Until, that is, I got bored of Jerez just a few hours after my arrival (although later that night I ended up being invited to a local Flamenco Scene which was far from boring). Feeling a desperate need to escape Jerez, with only a few sentences’ worth of description in the Lonely Planet guide, I decided to make a trip to what turned out to be an adorable fishing town with beautifully preserved buildings. Read more

Jerez: How I ended up in the middle of a Peña Flamenco scene

Jerez: How I ended up in the middle of a Peña Flamenco scene

To be honest, I’d given up on Jerez, having only arrived that afternoon. Perhaps it was a mid-trip slump, or perhaps it was the heat, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I was underwhelmed by it, and was missing the sea breeze and the buzz of Cádiz, a place that had made me smile all day long. So how did I end up in a small Peña, surrounded by raw, vibrant, drunken, real-people flamenco (Don’t miss videos below) in Jerez?

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Fidel and the Tortoise ~ Camagüey, Cuba

Fidel and the Tortoise ~ Camagüey, Cuba

Casa stays are a must in my opinion, if you want to have a slightly more real – or even surreal – Cuban experience.

This was my third trip to Cuba, but the first time on my own. No boyfriend, no groups, just me. I’d never stayed in a Casa (Cuban version of B&B / guesthouse) before, and being the sort that likes to research everything to death, it took me hours if not days to select what I thought were the The Ones. Was it worth all the research, and was it worth venturing out of my comfort zone of the 4 and 5 star hotels that are desperately trying to cling on to Old World glamour (and missing something) of half a century ago?

In the most unexpected way, it was.

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Cuba: 5 Tips for Women going Solo

Cuba: 5 Tips for Women going Solo

When I told my friends and family that I was travelling to Cuba, alone, they all gave me the same concerned look. Nowhere is 100% safe, including my home turf in London, but as far as travelling goes, I’ve felt safer in Cuba than anywhere else in Latin America. I did, however, encounter a few situations in which I didn’t feel entirely comfortable, so here are my Top 5 Tips for women going to Cuba. Read more

Chased by Mad Dogs, Sand Flies and Taxis ~ Roatan Island (Honduras)

Chased by Mad Dogs, Sand Flies and Taxis ~ Roatan Island (Honduras)

island living, Caribbean getaway Roatan, Roatan island, Honduras, Caribbean, beach, Caribbean island

After the most interesting, enlightening but challenging few weeks in Guatemala, this was going to be my idyllic Caribbean getaway – waking up to the sound of the waves, birds singing, scuba diving, sailing, siesta in a hammock, Piña Coladas, BBQ’d fish on the beach, lobsters, romantic strolls on the beach. OK, the last bit was never going to be that romantic, as I was going solo, but I didn’t think the rest of my wish list was unreasonable.

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