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Trip Report Ira Visits Spain and the Basque Country - Hotels and Restos

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Hi all,

Unfortunately, whatever I caught coming back from Spain is still with me, although I am improving.

Here is a shortened version of my trip report.

Marina View B&B
( ): Highly recommended. The location is convenient. The facilites are very nice. Breakfast is more than good. Most of all, Paddy McAree is a consummate host, a reliable guide and a most accommodating and helpful concierge.

Gelonch ( ) is done in a minimalist style (all white with bits of color here and there), which we later found to be not unusual, but was relaxing and pleasant. Service was amiable, without being over friendly, and professional. (I give extra points when the wine is poured with one hand behind the back.)

Menus are available at the website. A few items that we particularly enjoyed:

Shitake broth with spider crab ravioli and iberian ham D.O. Extremadura
Black turnip with veal marrow, egg yolk and black truffle
Beetroot gnocchi, veal sweetbreads, codfish tripe, padrón pepper cream and carrot - passion fruit drops

All three were very imaginative combinations of flavors and textures that we both felt we would be happy to have more of.

The wine chosen for us was a Jean Leon Penedes – Good body, full flavor with nice minerals.
With coffee and tip – and some little goodies - 200E.

Gilda ( ) is a pleasant, local restaurant with an interesting menu, a friendly staff, very nice service and good food. The grilled salmon with a “contorno” of horseradish ice cream was enticing. The hake was also quite tasty. We had a bottle of Clos Montblanc Xipella White which was dry, with good minerals, and lent a sensation of being at the seaside. 85E with tip.

However, what makes “Gilda by Belgious” outstanding is that they make the best Perfect Manhattan in Barcelona. (I taught them.)

For Tapas

O'Pescador, C/ de la Mercè 7. A clean, well-lighted place with blues and R&B on the pa. Cuttle fish (VVG) and prawns (VG), with wine for 2 - 29E

La Plata, C/ de la Mercè, 28. A small, popular place, but not very crowded that night. You can have sardines with white wine or with red wine, or you can have either red or white wine with your sardines.
I think that if you are a regular, you can get a "racione" of sausage and a "bota" of wine.

A 2/0z glass of house wine was 1E. The sardines are VVG, the wine is not unpleasant, the atmosphere is "acogedor". (My machine translator says that is Spanish for "gemutlich".) - 10E

Tasca El Corral, C/ de la Mercè, 17. Old style place, 50's Spanish music, 8 gentlemen of a certain age sitting at 2 tables, smoking, drinking and playing cards. The owner speaks no English, his son translates.

Hand carved Iberico ham, several types of Chorizo sausage, about 6 cheeses, tomato with olive oil, olives, bread - good beer. A shot of "pink panther milk" before we left. Very pleasant. 35E.

Xampanyet: Crowded and lively. Pintxos of white anchovy (this became my favorite), ham, breadsticks with lardo, 3 Estrella beers (very good) – 15E.

Roda de Isábena is a teensy hill town on the road to Santiago de Campostela. Its Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Roda d'Isàvena was consecrated in 1067, but dates to before 984. Roda msy be the smallest town in the world with a Cathedral.

I can highly recommend La Hospedería de Roda de Isábena ( ), which is a very nice, well-kept, comfortable lodging, sharing the plaza with the Cathedral. Our good-sized, comfortable room on the first floor (US second), with French doors onto a little balcony overlooked the valley and the Isavena river. (The bare stone wall behind the twin beds was a nice touch.)

The hotel’s restaurant is in the old refectory. The 16E menu provided an appetizer of duck liver pate, “fish brochette” – 3 charcoal-grilled skewers of fish, shrimp and scallops with roe over rice – and flan for one of us. Roberta had the spinach salad with pine nuts and raisins, grilled breast of chicken and ice cream.

The food was good, the portions were generous, the service was pleasant and competent, the ambience was enjoyable. 7E for a bottle of Vinas del Vero Rosada. 3E for a liter of water. 2E for a bottle of beer.

After a breakfast fit for a bishop the following morning, we packed up and checked out of the hotel – 127 E for all that I have described.

Pau (Pronounced “Po” as in po boy sandwich)
At the very highly recommended Hotel Bristol ( ) we were met by M. Charles who took charge of our luggage and car, checked us in, deposited us in the room and made sure we were completely comfortable – all in a very pleasant, charming, manner.

We stayed in Rm 403, which has a small balcony equipped with table and chairs, a very nice view toward the mountains from both t he bedroom and the bath room, and was pleasantly furnished in “traditional” style, ie, it was not too modern for us. The bed was comfortable. The shutters kept out the morning sun. Wine with bread, cheese and fruit on the balcony was enjoyable.

Breakfast, downstairs, was the usual selection of meats cheese, breads, croissants, cereals, fruits, juices, yogurts, coffee and tea, all of which were fresh and tasty. There were trays available for bringing a breakfast up to the room if one wished to do so.

Items to note: The room was “cozy”, but the bathroom was large. One needs to speak some French or have a phrase book handy as M. Charles and Mme. Michelle’s English was only a bit better than my French.

A very, very nice stay.

Le Ferme aux Grives ( )
Is situated in the spa town of Eugenie les Bains, about 1 hr north of Pau. where, Michel Guerard, author of “Cuisine Minceur” and one of the founders of “Nouvelle Cuisine” has built a hotel/spa complex.

More casual than it’s big sister, the Les Prés d'Eugénie, The Farm is highly recommended as a destination for an outstanding lunch.

After an aperitif in the garden, accompanied by several amuse-bouche, we were escorted into the farmhouse. The décor is rustic, in the way that the Rockefeller home on Jekyll Island, GA is a cottage. The cooking is not inferior to that of the main restaurant.

Tomato soup with basil and a quenelle of mustard ice cream, roast suckling pig.
Lunch for two with aperitifs, wine, water, coffee, tip – 150E

Le Majestic
(See reviews at )
Highly recommended.
A very pleasant room giving the feel of being in a garden. Professional and discreet service. Creative presentation of very well-prepared, traditional menu.

Highlights of our dinner were:
Tartlet of fois gras for an amuse-bouche, fruit soup, filet of rabbit stuffed with fois gras and apricots in a strudel dough. Menus at 29 and 39E

At Le Berry, a popular brasserie a few blocks from the hotel, Roberta had onion soup and escargots, both of which she declared to be very good, while I had herring (very very good) followed by “ris de veau”, which was the best I have had in a very long time.

Wine was a dry white from the Jurançon AOC – soft and fruity on the front of the palate with a salt, sharp finish – very good with both the seafood and the meat. With coffee, 57E.

L’amateur de Thés ( )
A serendipitous conversation with another guest at the hotel led us to this tiny Japanese-style restaurant. In addition to the main dining room, there is a tiny tea house available for private parties. Choice of two set menus, assorted teas and wines. Very, very good. Moderate price.

San Sebastian (Donostia)
We stayed at the Zaragoza Plaza ( ), a 1* hotel facing a pleasant park about a 3 min walk from the beach. As far as we could tell, the hotel has all of the amenities of a 3*. The concierge couldn’t tell us why it wasn’t at least a 2*. We found it to be very pleasant, clean and well-run. The only caveats are: a) the rooms are a bit small and b) there is a disco around the corner, which could be a problem on weekends.

More to come.


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