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November trip to Extremadura and Western Andalucia

November trip to Extremadura and Western Andalucia

Jun 23rd, 2003, 01:38 PM
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November trip to Extremadura and Western Andalucia

Dear Fodorites,

We are making progress on our November trip to Extremadura and Western Andalucia and would just like to hear from those of you who can help us make the most of our travels. I have written Maribel already and am anxiously awaiting her feedback but would love to hear from other seasoned Spain travellers like Pedro, Graziella, Olga and Maira and others who are always so helpful (I hope I am not leaving anyone out!).

Tentative itinerary for a 2 week visit is as follows:

Fly into Madrid and visit friends for either a few days at the beginning or end of our travels outside of Madrid.

Depart Madrid for the Sierra de Gredos and spend 2 nights in the parador at Jarandilla de la Vera. Day trips to Yuste and in the Sierra if weather permits.

Depart Jarandilla and spend 2 nights in parador in Caceres. Daytrips to Trujillo and Gaudalupe and environs.

Depart Caceres and spend 2 nights in Zafra parador including one full day in Merida at the Roman ruins. Explore environs including Jerez de los Caballeros, and Aracena.

Depart Zafra and spend 2 nights in a location convenient to explore the Donana Park. Also stop and visit El Rocio. Would anybody recommend lodging or is the parador at Mazagon a reasonable base for this area?
Have heard that Huelva is very ugly.

Travel to the sherry triangle and spend 2 nights in either Cadiz, Sanlucar de Barrameda or Jerez de la Frontera to tour bodegas and see Costa de la Luz and environs south of Cadiz. Suggestions for lodging?

Spend 2 nights in Sevilla. My husband and I have visited Sevilla in the last few years and this will be a lovely repeat viit for us and a new experience for our travelling companions, my mom and sister.

Return to Madrid on the AVE and Barajas airport to home.

Looking forward to hearing from all you experienced Extremadura travellers for all the best in sightseeing, lodging, restaurants and anything else in this area of beautiful Spain!

Thanks in advance,


Maria is offline  
Jun 24th, 2003, 03:24 AM
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Costa de la Luz - the Hotel Gran Sol in Zahara de los Atunes & the Hurricane Hotel 2 mile North of Tarifa are good.Many great places along this coast to explore (eg Bolona) but tend to have only basic hotels.
zippo is offline  
Jun 24th, 2003, 06:21 AM
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I can't help with Extremadura but I have spent time in Huelva: The Parador at Mazagon sits on a bluff overlooking the beach. There's a wooden walkway to the beach with steps. It's kind of isolated. Yes, Huelva is kind of ugly - a Petro Chemical Port like the south end of Houston. There is a Puerto Deportivo (Marina) there. You might want to check out Matalascanas, stay in Huelva itself or drive over to Faro, Portugal. While you're in the area west of the Donana wildlife refuge be sure to visit el Santuario de la Virgen del Rocio (just south of Almonte).

In Cadiz, I usually stay in el Puerto de Santa Maria at the Hotel Santa Maria. There's a ferry over to Cadiz that leaves from right in front of the Hotel and the bodegas Osborne are a block away from the Hotel.
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jun 24th, 2003, 07:18 AM
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My husband and I recently returned from a month in Spain. We were in Granada, Ronda, Sevilla, Toledo, Madrid and Extremadura. Extremadura turned out to be our absolute favorite area during our Spain travels. Caceres is relatively untouched by tourism (never found an Internet caf&eacute and we found the people exceptionally friendly. We stayed 4 nights at the Parador there and had a fabulous 5 room suite with 2 small balconies and the biggest bed I've ever slept in (8'X8'). We were absolutely the only Americans there. We didn't hear any other language except Spanish for our entire stay in Extremadura. The town was charming and we were lucky enough to be there during their stork nesting season. Almost every roof had several huge nests with parents attending to their chicks.

The locals paseo nightly down a lovely long avenue( Avda De Espana) with a beautiful park dividing the entire length. Richard and I looked forward to our evening walk there. I enjoyed watching the children play and all the people, young and old, walking arm in arm for their nightly stroll.
We stopped by a local shop ( Gabriel Mostazo on San Anton i 6) and purchased some items for a picnic in our room one evening. After completing our purchase, the store owner generously placed a bottle of local wine in our bag. He was so sweet. We returned to his shop before our departure and purchased some of his wonderful jamon to bring back to the States. Although I was convinced we would never be allowed to bring it through customs, they didn't even blink an eye and we arrived home the proud owners of 2 pkgs of fabulous iberico jamon.
While in Extremadura, we ventured out of town for 2 memorable day trips. The first, was to Merida to visit the Roman ruins. It was very warm that day so we wore our shorts (Big no no I know) thinking we would check out the ruins and return to Caceres. What we didn't know, was that the ruins are spread ALL over the town of Merida. We ended up walking through the town and I could almost hear the "tsk tsk tsk" of the locals looking at the American woman who broke the Spanish fashion dress code. The ruins were amazing, especially the amphitheater and roman theater. We lunched at the Merida Parador and then made the short trek back to Caceres.

The following day, we drove to the Parque Natural de Monfrague. The park is home to wild olive, cork and oak woods, stunning vistas of the Tagus and Tietar river valleys and a large proportion of Spain's protected bird species. We ate lunch at the park's only restaurant, a little hole in the wall cafe in the little troglodyte village (Bar-Restaurant Monfrague Casa Paqui). It turned out to be one the best meals we had in Spain. Richard had the ajo soup and a wonderful venison stew and I had a wild mushroom frittata and fabulous roasted chicken with garlic. After our excursion through the park, we drove towards the border of Portugal. The landscape changed dramatically and became quite tortured with amazing rock formations. Some looked like huge mushrooms and many were balanced point to point. The trees reminded us of huge lollipops and there were stone fences built every where, probably more than one would find in England or Ireland. We ended up in Alcantara, about 4 miles from the border of Portugal. There, we found an incredible bridge spanning the Tajo river. It is a Roman bridge, still in use, dating from about AD100. We were the only car around and as we drove across it, we couldn?t help wondering how many people over the ages had made the same crossing. It was now getting late so we opted not to venture any further and headed back to Caceres.
Favorite restaurants:
The Parador for romantic evening dining outside. The Merluza and Turbo were excellent.
El Figon
Plaza de San Juan
Very fun watching the local politicians and business people dine. Fabulous menu.
Don't miss visiting the Museo Provincial in Caceres. It is quite extensive with contemporary art to regional archaeology.
Get a copy of The Guide to Weekend Excursions (in English). It is a fabulous book covering weekend touring through Extremadura and details 15 excursions. It is produced by Junta de Extremadura.
Contact: Consejeria de Obras Publicas y Tourismo
Direccion General de Turismo
C/Santa Eulalia, 30 06800 Merida
fax: 924 38 15 24
Enjoy your trip.

kpglo is offline  
Jun 24th, 2003, 02:37 PM
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Thanks for all the advice in just one day! I am always impressed with the depth of knowledge and experience other travellers have and are willing to share.

I will definitely check out the many suggestions for accomodations and put the restaurants and other recommended stops in our file to bring along.

Kelley, I am so glad that you found so much to enjoy in Extremadura! That is our impression from reading all the travel books. I am also amazed that it is one of those almost completely unexplored areas by most tourists. We think we have planned a trip that has lots of different things including natural parks with hiking, seacoast villages, mountains, small towns and bigger cities and, of course, history, architecture and art at every stop. And I haven't even begun to think of the fabulous food and wine we will enjoy!

Thanks again and I welcome hearing from others about their adventures!

Maria is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 12:17 PM
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topping to hope Graziella responds!

Maria is offline  
Jul 14th, 2003, 11:11 AM
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Your trip is a dream. I myself have been wanting to visit Northern Extremadura. I have done the way from Madrid through Oropesa in Toledo -beautiful village and Parador in a castle, with a nice and restaurant to stop at.
Guadalupe is also gorgeous, very, very picturesque.

As for the Huelva portion, the Mazagon Parador is nice, but it will be very isolated and with that "out of season" feeling unless you get an unseasonably warm November weekend and many spaniards flock to the beaches. It won't be crowded at all, though.
As an alternative in that area, take a look at Cortijo Los Mimbrales, an enchanting andalusian hacienda near El Rocio, with comfy looking rooms and bungalows. It's been featured on lots of magazines and gets very good reviews. It's a little pricey, but so are the Paradors.They offer an amazing array of activities and excursions.
Their website is only and spanish and not too good, go to www.toprural.com and look at Huelva province, they have a very nice page there.

In Cadiz, the Parador Atlantico is supposed to be nice. You can maybe get one of those Parador 5 night cards or some other deal.

Another option in the Sherry Triangle is the beautiful and quiet Monasterio de San Miguel, in the heart of El Puerto de Santa Maria, walking distance to everything. Several Bodegas to visit, wonderful riverside dining promenade Ribera del Marisco with great people watching and don't miss the pretty San Marcos Castle.
olga is offline  
Jul 14th, 2003, 06:18 PM
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Maria, my wife & I are planning a somewhat similar trip in the near future. I notice that you are returning to Madrid from Seville by train. Are you travelling by train all the way, & if so, are you purchasing a railcard, or are you using other means of transport?
ranald is offline  
Jul 29th, 2003, 08:11 AM
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Sorry to be so late in replying to your questions!

We are flying into Madrid, renting a car at the airport and driving all the way until we get to Sevilla and then dropping the car outside of town (at the RR station, propbably). Do not even consider taking a car into Sevilla and the juderia area! We will stay a couple days in Sevilla and then catch the AVE (bullet train) back to Madrid and then fly home.

If you have any other questions, just let me know.

Maria is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2003, 02:00 PM
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I am responding to my own thread to update the itinerary and hope to get additional responses if anybody else has information they want to add. Maribel I got your e-mail from the end of June while you were still travelling. If you have anymore to add, just let me know. I can send you what you already wrote to jog your memory and save you time repeating things if that is helpful.

Final itinerary is:

Madrid for 2 nights with friends.

Parador at Jarandilla de la Vera for 2 nights and explore Yuste and environs.

Parador at Caceres for 2 nights where we will day trip to Trujillo and Guadalupe.

Parador at Zafra for 2 nights with a full day stop at Merida enroute.

Parador at Mazagon with at least one trip to the Coto Donana.

Parador in Cadiz with daytrips to Jerez and Sanlucar and Puerto de Santa Maria and Bonanza. We are not into the horse thing, so in spite of other people's rave reviews we will probably skip the Royal Horse show in Jerez. But we will definitely take a tour of a sherry place.

Then 2 nights in Sevilla at the Casas de la Juderia.

AVE train back to Madrid to see our other friends before departing Spain.

Any special restaurants and sights that have not been mentioned would be very appreciated! We depart October 30th.


Maria is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2003, 05:16 PM
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Hi Maria,
We're planning to follow in your footsteps in March, returning for a visit to Extremadura, staying in the Paradors (we've become Amigos de los Paradores so want those frequent guest points!), but time doesn't allow us to venture as far as the sherry triangle which we did last spring.

This is what we have so far on our "to do/see/eat" list:
We'll be going down to Extremadura on the N 110 through the cherry Valley of Jerte, past the dramatic pass of Tornavacas, when, we hope, the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom, and will make a lunch stop at the panoramic Restaurante Puerto de Tornavacas.

In Jarandilla, we have to have a lunch of picadillo at the Mesón "La Puta Parió" just to find out how it got its name!
From the Jaranilla Parador, we too will go to Yuste and Cuacos de Yuste and Garganta la Olla where we hope to make a lunch stop at La Peña to try their caldereta extremeña. We'll make a foray down into the Parque Nacional de Monfragüe from the entrance at Torrejón el Rubio, for a bit of bird watching and hiking and will drive on the EX 203 up into the lush Vera valley to the pretty white villages with timbered houses of Valverde de la Vera and Villanuvea de la Vera and maybe on to Candeleda at the edge of Gredos. Don't know whether we'll have time to fit in a visit to the ancient Jewish quarter of Hervás that prospered under the protection of the Knights of Templar, but it's also on our list on the Ruta de la Plata, as a stop between the Gredos Parador and Jarandilla.
I've read so much about it and the Sierra de Béjar is really scenic. From the Spanish Tourist Office we picked up a brochure, Jewish Spain, which we'll take with us, which also includes Cáceres.. The description of Hervás sounds delightful, and they say you must try the "nuegados", a nougat made from walnuts, honey and wafers.

In Cáceres for a celebratory meal we have Atrio on the very top of our list, one of the top restaurants in the country (Gourmetour rating of 9,5/10!). It will be our splurge for the trip (but it's closed Sun nights). Already dreaming about their carre de cordero and torta del Casar cheesecake. Or if you'd rather have more typical extremeño tavern fare, I'd suggest the Figón de Eustaquio on the Plaza de San Juan. Also the Torre de Sande on Calle de los Condes. And for tapas bar, I'd head straight to Dehesa Santa María on the Plaza Mayor. The local young and effervescent wine here is called pitarra.

We'll have plenty to keep up happy in monument-filled Unesco World Heritage Cáceres, but for 1 day we'll return to Trujillo and Guadupe too. The Gothic church of Santa María in Trujillo is a must as well as the palace and mansion filled Plaza Mayor and exploring the battlements and ramparts of the castle, plus Guadalupe's Monasterio and collection of works by Zurbarán in the sacristy. And I want to revisit the Hospedería with its collection of El Grecos and Goyas and one of the finest embroidery collections in the world. Lunch at the Asador Corral del Rey or Pizarro on the square in Trujillo. Guadalupe was one of 2 Extremadura villages that is featured in the new Most Beautiful Villages of Spain book.

The Spain Gourmetour did an article on the fabulous National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, the work of Navarran architect Rafael Moneo, so that will be our first stop in town. The writer praised the dining at the Parador there, which as all Paradors do, highlights regional specialties. I've already been to dusty, forlorn Medellín, the birthplace of Hernán Cortés, so I'm not compelled to return. It's skipable, I think.

From Zafra's Parador, I'd make a detour west to the lovely town of Jerez de los Caballeros, home of Hernando de Soto and Núnez de Balboa. The town has been declared a Conjunto Histórico-Artístico and has ruins of a Templar castle. I'd peek in at the 13-14th century churches and for tapas go to La Ermita on Doctor Benítez.
If you have time and want to dip your toes into Portugal's Alentejo, I'd do it here, continuing west to the dramatically perched and blindingly white fortress town of Monsaraz. We loved this place!
And on my way down south from Zafra, I'd stop at Fregenal de la Sierra and later at Aracena. In Aracena, there's a neat place to try the famous and delicious pata negra ham, El Manzano Campito on the Plaza Marqúes de Aracena. By the way, the very heart of "pig country" is tiny Montsánchez, a "porcine paradise" and detour off the E 803 from Cáceres to Mérida.

From Mazagón, to visit the Coto Doñana, the brand new Rough Guide Andalucía says that you need to book your guided tour in all terrain 24 seater bus at the Centro de Recepción de Acebuche, 4 km north of Matalascañas towards El Rocío and Almonte. Oct-March tours are given at 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and cost 18,70. Phone ahead to book: 959 44 87 11, from 9-8 p.m. in Spain or email [email protected], or try www.mma.es/parques The Centro has some binoculares for rent for 2,50 euros, but you'll probably want to bring your own. They say that in low season you can just book a day or two ahead, or maybe the Parador desk staff can book this for you. Tours last 4 hrs.

Hope this helps, and if I think of anything else, I'll just email you directly.

Maribel is online now  
Oct 4th, 2003, 08:15 AM
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As usual, muchisimas gracias!!! We so appreciate all of your wonderful suggestions and have never regretted one of your restaurant recommendations. I will keep detailed info on our trip and hope to have some things to pass on to you for your similar trip in the Spring.

Final question, we do not want to put our friends in Madrid out picking us up when we return to Madrid at the end of the trip. We will be coming into Atocha on the AVE and heading to Majadahonda (NW suburb of Madrid) for our overnight. Any ideas on a relatively reasonable (time and money) way to get there or is a taxi just the way to go?

Maria is offline  
Oct 4th, 2003, 08:29 AM
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Hi Maria,
I have cousins who live in the northwestern 'burbs, in Aravaca. WhenI don't want to ask them to come get me, I just take the Cercanías train. From Atocha to Majadahonda, you can take the C7 or C10. Print out the schedule at www.renfe.es, click on the red inverted C for cercanías, then click on Madrid, then select Atocha-Majadahonda.

Yes, I was hopping you'd take notes for us for our March trip! I'm sure you'll have some delightful discoveries to share. If I think of any more "hidden gems", I'll pass them your way before you leave.
Maribel is online now  
Oct 4th, 2003, 09:36 AM
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I've been reading more about Hervás in my El País-Aguilar "Arquitecturas Tradicionales" book, and the more I read, the more interesting it sounds. It's only a 36 km. detour from Plasencia, so we're going to try to fit it in for sure. In my "Parajes con Encanto" book (also El País-Aguilar), the chestnut forest outside of the town is recommended for a lovely walk. The village elders tell the tale that there was once a chestnut tree there so large that its trunk was where the bull was kep that was to be fought later on in the village's annual "corrida". The best time to visit the forest is of course in autumn. For dining in Hervás we have the "Mesón Nardi" on our list. Supposed to serve nice roast lamb and homemade sorbete de mandarina-closed Tues. If you go on a Tues, there's also "La Vaca Brava" , a simple tavern-mesón that serves chorizos a la brasa and is supposed to have really nice owners.

I've also read good things about Coria, a 37 km. detour off the Plasencia-Cáceres highway, with its perfectly preserved Roman walls, Roman bridge, 13th c cathedral and 15th c. castle. It's the gateway into the once poverty striken and depopulated Las Hurdes region, of the Buñuel movie fame.

About dining,
Our new Basque friend, owner-chef of the wonderful Casa Nicolasa in Donostia's Old Quarter, gave us a new gastronomic guide, the Guía Jaguar '03, which we've been using with great success. The guide's Cáceres province recommendations, besides the Cáceres, Trujillo and Guadalupe Paradors, include Atrio and Torre de Sande (game dishes in Nov.) in Cáceres plus Pizarro in Trujillo and the Mesón del Labrador in Jarandilla which features pimientos del piquillo rellenos de setas y mariscos, pochas con almejas, arroz con bogavante, carnes de Avila and mousse de avellana. Sounds delicious. And it's open daily.

In case you haven't seen it already, the Turismoextremadura site has recommended walking tours in Montfragüe.

And you probably already have the "Daytrips-Spain and Portugal" guide by Normal P.T. Renouf, Hastings House Press, but it has recommended walking tours of both Cáceres and Mérida.

Hope you have a wonderful journey with clear blue skies every single day!
Maribel is online now  
Oct 4th, 2003, 11:30 AM
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Just one more culinary note:
You may want to pick up some of the famous "pimentón de la Vera" while you're in the Vera valley. There are tons of smokehouses in these villages. This smoky, deep red pepper powder from this valley even has its own denominación de origen status. It's a key ingredient in lamb stew (caldereta) and patatas a la Riojana plus many other dishes.

And as I'm sure you will, we'll be taking the Extremadura chapter of my very favorite Spain guidebook, Penelope Casas's "Discovering Spain" with us. It has lead us to some truly wonderful discoveries, such as Bàrcena Mayor in Cantabria and Taramundi in Asturias, which I know you discovered on your last trip. Happy travels!
Maribel is online now  
Oct 4th, 2003, 11:53 AM
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Maria--- unfortunately my husband & I haven't gotten to Southwestern Spain....YET. It is definitely on our short list, most likely within the next couple of years. Only place I can help you with is Merida (don't miss), and Huelva (please skip). I wish I could help you because your trip sounds absolutely wonderful. I have read every entry, all great advice. Maribel, always so generous, had me rolling with the name of the restaurant (La Puta Pario). I can't wait to hear where that came from (I am assuming you know what it means in Spanish, right?). Have the best time planning Maria!! November in Andalucia can be a great time to be there! gt;
Oct 4th, 2003, 12:58 PM
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Hi Maira,
Isn't that a hoot? Apparently, from what liitle info I've been able to gather, Jarandilla, which was the Holy Roman Emperor's temporary residence while waiting for Yuste to be finished, became filled with "casas de citas" during its royal residence glory time.
It must have something to do with the amorous adventures of Carlos V's butler, that rascal Don Luis de Quijada.

See it here!
Maribel is online now  
Oct 6th, 2003, 05:47 AM
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Yes we have the Penelope Casas book which is one of our favorites! I also checked out the website for Gourmet Tour and it is a fabulous source for restaurant info. Thanks for calling my attention to it.

For non-Spanish speakers, the restaurant we are all interested in, La Puta Pario, means "The Whore (Slut) Gave Birth"! But it is highly rated in several guides so we will "preview" it for the rest of you.

Maria is offline  
Oct 6th, 2003, 08:43 AM
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Hi Maria,
Besides the Gourmetour, which I buy every yr. as my gastronomic Bible for Spain, I also like the Guía Campsa's recs.
Besides being an atlas, with every single teeny, tiny Spanish village listed, albeit written in teeny, weeny type, it's also a gourmet guide. They rate their very top restaurants with "soles" and Atrio gets 3 soles, the highest designation. It's really a splurge destination with a gastronomic menu for 56 euros, but we would pay twice that in Paris, and we're celebrating a special b-day. The average dinner there costs 45.
Their other recs for Cáceres, the Figón and Torre de Sande, are more reasonably priced, precio medio 24 and 36 respectively.

The specialties of the now infamous Puta Paríó II (don't know what happened to P.P. I) include cabrito, migas and natillas. Average check is only 18 euros. Found the web site:
more photos here:

If you find yourself Barbadillo bodega touring in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, for tapas we love Casa Bilbaíno with its huge selection (George Semler wrote an article on it in Saveur mag.) on the Plaza del Cabildo in the upper town and down across from Doñana, on the riverfront Bajo de Guía we've enjoyed both the terrace of Casa Juan (a group of quite distinguished, well-dressed senior "ladies who lunch" lead us to it) and the Mirador de Doñana. Both great places for arroz con langostinos and manzanilla.

In Jerez, the Bar Juanito on Pescadería Vieja is a good place for tapas and cazuelitas (won the Spain tapa championship once) and the Mesa Redonda for a more formal meal (1 "sol" in the Campsa guide). Or if you want to try a very authentic venta, on our Easter trip we really enjoyed great rice dishes at the very typical "Venta Antonio" on the Jerez-Sanlúcar road, km. 5, (on left going towards Sanlúcar). because we couldn't make it to the Bajo de Guía before closing time at 4 p.m. It looks like a cortijo, and you'll be dining among the locals only. Found it in an article "The Roadside Inns of the Sherry Triangle" in Spain Gourmetour magazine.
If you don't get to Jerez or Sanlúcar, a legendary Cádiz venta you could try is "El Ventorillo del Chato" founded in 1780! It's on the Cádiz-San Fernando road, km. 2 and has 1 "sol" in the Campsa guide, is a favorite of Penelope's and also has a very pretty interior decor.

You've probably already read about it here, but if you take the vaporcito or the catamaran from Cádiz over to El Puerto de Santa María, there's the "Romerijo", on the Ribera del Marisco, where they sell boiled seafood, including those Sanlúcar langostinos. They wrap your choices up in a paper funnel, then you can move over to the freiduría part and add fried fish to your picnic. But freidurías also abound in Cádiz.

Happy eating!
Maribel is online now  
Oct 6th, 2003, 10:31 AM
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Yes, the Guia Campsa was a gift to us from some of our Madrid friends and we love it. We do not travel with it because of the size but review it thoroughly and jot down ideas for the region we will be in. It is a great source for hotel info also, but we always fall back on the paradors when we can. The maps are good too but the Michelin ones are more compact. So it mostly ends up being our planning guide rather than our travelling resource.

I need to look into the Amigos of the Paradors Program. I have not used it yet and probably am missing lots of benefits.

Maria is offline  

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