People ask me where I like to relax in September. I really want, of course, to advise the newly acquired Crimea, but, alas, so far it is not so calm there as we would like. Therefore, I choose Spain this year, and more specifically, Aragon. The best time to travel here is spring and autumn, because during these seasons it is good to taste the gifts of the Aragonese land – asparagus, mushrooms, truffles, and in other seasons the climate is not so comfortable.
What is Aragon anyway? This, one might say, is a kind of Spanish Crimea. Not politically, of course, and not in the sense of the sea, but there is simply something in the spirit of these places, subtly akin to our Russian place of power. Fortunately, Aragon is not as popular as the Crimea. People visit the Iberian Peninsula, but Aragon usually stays away from traditional routes. Although from Barcelona or Valencia to go here no more than an hour.
Fact one: it is in Southern Aragon that the king of Spain likes to relax. Juan Carlos stays at the La Torre del Visco hotel in the province of Teruel. Olive and almond trees, inviting poppy fields, the imposing Maestrazgo Mountains, water mills. The air smells of southern herbs (no worse than in the Crimea), and deep gorges are covered with relic pine forests.
You will have to pass through one of these forests if, like me, you want to choose the royal La Torre del Visco. A small but authentic 15th-century castle in the middle of a private reserve, once owned by a bishop, now owned by the English Piers Dutton and Gemma Markham. Twenty years ago, they opened this hotel here, buying out the surrounding olive groves, the forest, and even herds of sheep and goats.
Of the 17 suites, the best is, of course, in the tower. However, other rooms are also on the level, and the windows offer decent views of the valley or the courtyard with fountains.
It is easy to get lost in this medieval labyrinth, but this loss will probably be one of the most desired in your life. As an option: you can sit down for a long time in the local library, which is on the ground floor. Here you can explore Spain far and wide without leaving your comfortable chair. Around the hotel there is a magnificent garden. Roses, freesias, geraniums… These smells are crazy…
Special mention should be made of the hotel’s restaurant. There are abstract paintings on the walls, designer lamps and… a classic Spanish pastoral outside the windows – green valleys and mystical silhouettes of mountains.
The owner himself cooks in the restaurant. And by the way, he can teach you his wonderful art. And his wife will acquaint you with olive oil, which is produced here, on the estate. Imagine: several small glasses with different oils are placed in front of you, and you first sniff, and then taste. There is an apple aroma, and lemon, and black pepper, and an almond shade, and fresh grass. A highly refined adventure that will teach you the value of olive oil and the distinction between its many varieties.
For lunch, it is best to order a fried goat. The king of Spain loves this business more than anything, and he, as we know, is a big meat-eater. The meat turns out to be the most tender, most aromatic, with the smell of local herbs and fanned with a light smoke. And for dessert, I recommend airy almendrado cakes and goat milk ice cream or the freshest apple sorbet. There is also pumpkin ice cream with honey and even parmesan ice cream (I have not tried it, try it – tell me).
And finally, take the Cariñena wine, strong and sweet. By the way, the hotel has an excellent collection of wines.
But the best thing you can think of here is, of course, to walk around the neighborhood (and you can also hunt partridges and deer here). Waterfalls, pine trees, ancient villages,
Teruel itself is also not bad to visit once to walk along the ancient streets of this once Arab town, admiring its turrets, arches, bell towers and tiles.
Lovers love to come here, because one old legend is connected with Teruel: seven centuries ago, Juan Diego Martinez de Marsilla and Isabel de Segura, who were 15 years old, could not find understanding with their parents. Diego was poor and was denied. Then he went in search of wealth, and when he returned five years later, he found out that just the day before, his beloved had been forcibly passed off as a rich old man from a neighboring city. Isabel was a decent girl, and refused her beloved even a farewell kiss. Then Juan, overwhelmed with a deadly dose of conflicting emotions, lay down on the ground and immediately died. Only at his funeral did Isabel kiss him. And she also dropped dead. They were buried together in the church of San Pedro.
Marble statues Diego and Isabel come to bow from all sides of Spain. “Teruel lovers” is one of the main Spanish symbols, along with Carmen, for example.
If you are in Teruel, eat at La Tierreta, this is the winner of many Spanish gastronomic awards. It is worth choosing the tasting menu: sea wolf with seasonal mushroom stew, wild boar fillet with tomato and sage foam and cottage cheese dessert with lavender, honey ice cream and caramelized flower petals.
And finally, be sure to go to the capital of Aragon, the birthplace of Francisco Goya – Zaragoza. And don’t take the highway, but the roads that run along the western borders of Aragon. This road is much more interesting, especially if you are interested in medieval history. Associated towns – Pernasens and Albarracin – are also interesting from this point of view.
In Zaragoza, it is worth settling in Palafox, which is in the very center of the city. Book the most spacious and comfortable Pignatelli Suite and be happy!
Restaurants in Zaragoza? Please: Aragonia Paradis, the menu is dominated by meat dishes. The lamb stewed in olive oil deserves attention. They put it out no more, no less than 20 hours. And the wine cellar of the restaurant is fraught with more than 800 wines.
However, the best food in Zaragoza is still in La Granada. Snails with mint alioli sauce, oysters with peas, cauliflower and garlic and stuffed chicken from the northern Aragonese province of Sobarbre, marinated in Armagnac and wrapped in foie gras. Real jam.