Linda and George’s lovely house – in the style of a Spanish finca – is tucked into a gorgeous valley in the mountainous north-eastern part of the Costa Blanca in southern Spain, with glorious views.
It’s only about a 15-minute drive, though, to the coast and the town of Moraira or inland, there’s the town of Benissa with a regular Saturday market.
Unlike many of the coastal towns in this part of Spain, Moraira doesn’t have huge towering buildings. While many Brits have chosen to live there, it’s also a popular holiday or weekend destination for people from Madrid and Valencia. There are some great shops, cafes and restaurants and there’s a marina and lovely sandy beach. It’s always good to go there for a morning coffee, as I did with Linda on my first morning (click here), an early evening drink by the sea and – my very favourite thing: a Sunday lunch of paella at El Racó de l’Arròs.
The Spanish prefer to eat rice at lunchtime, not the evening, and it’s become a tradition for us to go this brilliant paella restaurant on my last Sunday – this time my last day. It’s a wonderful way to end my holiday, sitting in the traditional Spanish surroundings and enjoying fantastic food. The walls are decorated with beautiful Spanish tiles depicting people making paella out in the fields.
A traditional dish from Valencia, paella was originally made in the fields by farmers with rice and whatever vegetable or meat, like rabbit, was to hand. Seafood paella is popular now, but originally snails were used, not seafood. Valencia is the most significant rice-growing area in Spain. The Arabs brought rice there – the Spanish word for rice, arroz, comes from Arabic. The paella is made in a large, shallow pan with a flat bottom and for a large group, some pans are huge in diameter.
We ordered cava to drink first (wine later with the paella) and a mixed salad. The salad was much more splendid than we’d imagined when ordering it and very large, even though we’d ordered just one. It was also clearly freshly made to order. The three of us tucked into it, with some tostadas and tomato, while we waited for the paella to be cooked.
There’s a certain excitement in a large pan of freshly made paella being put in front of you. A wow moment. We’d ordered a seafood version.
There were large prawns, langoustines, mussels and pieces of white fish in the rice. It was a wonderful dish. Gloriously tasty. Paella can be quite dry but this was still deliciously moist and we all enjoyed it a lot.
Another lunchtime, we just stopped at a cafe on the road into Moraira.
New Bakery didn’t actually serve bread but it did serve excellent salads and sandwiches.
I had a smoked salmon & avocado sandwich on delicious bread. Inside there were a few gift-type things to buy as well.
I’ve been to the Benissa weekly market a few times during past visits to my friends. There’s something special about a Mediterranean market with its displays of bright, fresh produce. And it’s always nice to walk amongst the locals and get a sense of a place.
First though – coffee! We went to Linda’s favourite cafe, where I’d been before, and enjoyed coffee and pastry before heading to the market.
While there, I picked up a card about Tonbo Ceramica and we decided to check it out. Linda thought it had closed down, but it turned out – as it was open and we talked to the owner – that it’s only open a couple of days a week. Otherwise they can’t work making the pots! We walked down pretty, narrow streets to get there, slightly away from the town centre.
Generally, it’s only open by appointment, but there was no one else there so the owner was happy to let us in to look round. They said it had once been a restaurant when they were a chef – but now they made pots! The beautiful plates on the table were used in a nearby posh restaurant.
I love looking round potteries and, of course, couldn’t resist buying a small pot.
What a beautiful area my friends live in and I feel very fortunate to be welcomed there to stay with them and enjoy not just their company, but all this area has to offer. And, of course, the day trip into fabulous Valencia! (click here)