Summertime is here, or at any rate it is creeping in. Swallows are diving in through our bedroom window in the early morning; geckos darting up onto the ceiling, lilies bursting into flower in the courtyard, and the sun is pouring in horizontally by 8 o'clock, bringing some heat, so that we close the shutters to keep cool, and live in a dim aquamarine glow.... The pool is ready and waiting. Tim Clinch is here for a few days with his group of photographers for a workshop. Non-photographers are sunbathing and reading by the pool, or walking through the shady chestnut woods.
I've been a lousy blogger as usual, the early year is so much taken up with trying to get everything set up for the season, as well as winter cooking courses, spring walks, exploration, preparation of the organic gardens, inescapable paperwork etc. so that it is hard to find time. Perhaps it's an excuse for laziness or forgetfulness!
We started the year with a full house, and a jovial crowd of Germans, Australians and Chinese guests. Grapes were eaten at midnight and toasts were drunk and kisses exchanged.
In mid January we were joined by a team from the Danish Insitute for International Studies in Copenhagen who were working on a joint paper. We were able to provide peace and quiet, a desk in each room, regular mealtimes, and space for them to meet and discuss in front of the fire.
in February we ran our specific food course about Iberian Pork; learning about Jamón Ibérico, how the pigs are raised; the special landscape of the dehesa; and the curing process. We had a special tasting at 5J's (Cinco Jotas)after visiting one of their strikingly beautiful farms to see the animals free range under the oaks. We had visitors from Brazil, California Ireland and Scotland. We were fortunate to have Darina and Tim Allen from the Ballymaloe C|ookery School with us over the course as we learned how to prepare fresh Iberian pork. She of course in her famous red hat, with notebook and pen and a barrage of questions!
We were in London for a few nights and attended the Caballeros del Vino Español dinner at the Dorchester Hotel. after that back for a fairly quiet month.
Easter visitors were able to enjoy the Semana Santa processions in Aracena , which are less crowded than those of Seville
At the end of the month of April Jeannie and I had a wonderful couple of weeks travelling with Australian friends, starting with visits to Seville and Jerez with Manni Coe with whom we visited the small Bodegas Tradición and tasted their fine sherries whilst admiring their spectacular art collection.
Lustau 's Juan Mateos Arizón gave us a tour of the venerable cellars and we were able to taste the wines as we went along through the great winery 'cathedrals' with their soaring roofs.
Juan and his wife Gema Urquijo, organised us a sublime dinner in their vineyard near Las Tablas, just west of Jerez, and we were able to watch the sun setting over the rolling countryside, whilst sipping a Papirusa and tucking into delicious tapas before retiring for dinner into the cortijo which was beautifully decorated with huge branches of flowering pomegranate.
We drove over the new bicentenary "Pepa" bridge into the heart of old Cádiz where we tucked into fresh shellfish bought in the market, and then obligingly cooked for us in one of the local bars, where we were able to sit out on the street, watch life go by and consume some ice cold beers.
Next day we left for Sanlúcar de Barrameda to visit Javier Hidalgo , and visit the cellars where the classic La Gitana manzanilla is produced.After tasting some fine wines we drove out to his country place, where we were greeted by a mixture of bantams and peacocks and dogs, before tucking into more sherry, salmorejo followed byfine baby broad beans and squid (habas con choco). All too soon we had to head back to the Sierra de Aracena for a couple of nights here at Finca Buenvino before following on through Extremadura on our way to the High Douro valley.
We stopped off at the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, where we spent a fascinating couple of hours before emerging to find out that we had a flat tyre. after this was sorted we headed for the small village of Aliseda, west of the city of Cáceres. Here we stayed in the enchanting Hotel La Tierra Roja where we were advised to visit the astounding surrealist Museo Vostell in Malpartida de Caceres. We were astonished never to have heard of this wonderful place, only a bit more than a couple of hours north of here.
We headed towards Portugal via the Roman Bridge at Alcántara, still used by traffic today.