& COOKING ARTICLE
Holiday in Spain - I finca Ive found paradise
Jacqui Thake of Sunday Mirror
midwinter and Im sitting in glorious sunshine,
absolutely bowled over by the sensational scenery laid
out around me like an art gallery full of masterpieces.
is so, so beautiful here on the outskirts of Algodonales
in southern Spains Andalucia that I cant
find the words to do justice to the layers of gorgeous
greens and rich browns of the mountains that totally
surround our holiday idyll. Olive trees are scattered
over the slopes and a dramatic blue sky outlines a horizon
full of shrubs and bushes.
bray in the distance, and the high notes of a cockerel
crowing harmonise with the gentle sound of the bells
from a nearby herd of goats.
minute now our hosts will serve up a traditional Spanish
tapas lunch and the aromas are wafting from the kitchen
on to the terrace, where husband Tom and I are relaxing
with glasses of wine.
difficult to believe that just a few hours earlier Id
felt so miserable eyes streaming and nose pouring
from a winter cold as I shivered in the wind-whipped
car park at Stansted.
I can throw away the Vicks inhaler this clear
mountain air is all I need as a decongestant, and the
promise of more sun-filled days further lifts my spirits.
terrace at Finca Alta Cocina
12 x 6 metre swimming pool
cookery school kitchen
temperatures in winter can reach 20ºC (68ºF,
bring a woolly for after dark when it can plummet to
a frosty zero). Given the surroundings and the climate,
its no wonder so many people in Britain up sticks
and move here, and thats exactly what our hosts
William and Eva did.
staying at the unique country house which they have
recently renovated to open as a cookery school and B&B.
and haute cuisine in Southern Spain
Alta Cocina (it means country house of haute cuisine)
comprises two houses guest quarters with five
double en-suite rooms and a comfortable lounge, and
the main building where our hosts live and where superchef
Eva conducts her cookery classes in a kitchen to inspire
even the most inexperienced.
run from Friday to Sunday and Monday to Wednesday. A
fantastic value package includes bed and breakfast plus
two lunches and two dinners (which you play a part in
cooking) along with wine.
meal we helped prepare on our last night was the highlight,
with stuffed squid, tortilla Española (Spanish
omelette), lomo de cerdo asado (roast loin of pork),
patatas a lo pobre (potatoes with green peppers), roast
veg and coconut caramel custard.
specialises in Spanish and Mediterranean cookery but
will happily provide courses in anything that takes
the heat of the kitchen gets too much or indeed
if you just want to use Finca Alta Cocina as a B&B
and a base to explore this beautiful area you
can cool off in the inviting pool, prettily set off
on two sides by colourful plants.
across the way is one of two delightful pergolas, where
you can relax with a book or take a siesta.
in the Spanish sun . . . or perhaps paragliding in Spain
youre helping to cook the food or just eating
it (evening meals are available without lessons too)
youll find it so tasty and plentiful that serious
exercise will be needed or you wont want to show
those swimsuit shots when you get home.
and Eva plan to install a mini-gym in the huge basement
of the guest quarters but its more fun
by far to climb their very own mountain, which is part
of the six-acre estate. Its a bit steep but the
view from the top is well worth the effort.
are lots of larger mountains to challenge the seriously
active, but if you prefer to take your exercise on the
flat its only a 10-minute walk to a small cluster
of restaurants and bars.
a 40-minute walk will take you into the pueblo blanco
(white hill town) of Algodonales where you can watch
the bustle of the lively locals from a cafe in the square.
town is world-famous as a base for paragliding and hang-gliding
flying schools, where you can take lessons and/or hire
often land in the field next to Finca Alta Cocina after
taking off in the hills. So they drop in for high
tea, do they? quips husband Tom.
and Eva suggest partners may like to split up so while
one goes hang-gliding the other can take cookery lessons
a kind of fly-and-fry break!
is a big area for horse-riding too, but the easiest
way to explore is, of course, by car. While you dont
have to have your own transport William and Eva
can recommend a cut-price cab service from the airport
we found a hire car essential as we wanted to
pack in as much as possible during our short stay.
much to see, so much to do!
are certainly many lovely places to visit. The nearby
town of Grazalema is another place where you can again
watch the world go by from a cafe in the square. I recommend
the Cafeteria Gumores, where we had three bottles of
water, two coffees, a cheese and ham roll, a plate of
squid and a tortilla all for 10 euros (£7).
the nearby mountaintop town of Zahara de la Sierra on
your itinerary too, where breath-taking views include
a huge lake where you can swim in the hot summer months.
closest big town is Ronda, 25 minutes away, and we also
made trips to Jerez and the busy city of Seville, which
are both within an hours drive.
enjoyed the friendly grandeur of Cadiz (a 90 minute
drive), which claims to be the oldest city in Europe
with so many layers of history built by Phoenicians,
ruled by Moors, invaded by Sir Francis Drake (but well
gloss over that) and it was the home port of Christopher
Columbus for his epic voyages to the Americas.
pueblo blanco and its magnificent lake
you dont feel youve been on holiday unless
youve spent time on the beach, then you also have
a choice of Sanlucar de Barrameda (90 minutes) or San
Pedro on the Costa del Sol (75 minutes).
if youre anything like us, youll find it
difficult to tear yourself away from the peace and tranquillity
of Finca Alta Cocina. It truly is somewhere very special,
and when you learn of all the trials and tribulations
its owners have been through to create such a jewel
youll wonder how it ever got off the ground.
and Eva had to overcome problems with water and electricity
supplies, a succession of recalcitrant builders, an
avalanche and flooding. But theyve done it and
this gorgeous place has to be seen to be believed.
Alta Cocina had just one teething problem during our
stay when the hot water failed in the guest quarters.
William promised to get the plumber in the next morning
only to be told when he called that the poor
man had died!
Alta Cocina has low opening rates until July. A three-day
cookery break is €396pp (£295) sharing
double en-suite room. For partners or guests who dont
want lessons, price including all meals with wine
is €320 (£239). Extra day's B&B cost
£26pp a day. See www.finca-altacocina.com
or call 00 3485 6026094 or 00 3463 6402895.
a fast overnight train service from St Pancras to
the south of Spain via Paris. For fares and info see
by By Jacqui Thake 06/01/2008
article has been reproduced with the permission of the
Sunday Mirror newspaper
Copyright 2008 Sunday Mirror - www.sundaymirror.co.uk
21 January 2008
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