Our main event for this visit to Spain is our Andalucian Moorish Trails walking week with Explore!. Our ultimate destination, Canillas de Albaida, is about 350 miles away, roughly southwest, so we could do it in a day if we wanted but we thought we’d supplement our adventure by stopping en route somewhere.
Once in new territory for us and with lunch time approaching, we veered off the autovia thinking we might look for lunch in a town called Lorca. Lorca proved to be a bit bigger than we anticipated and, other than traffic lights, we found little to delay us so we veered back onto the autovia again. Not the best of starts for amateur Spanish travellers.
Francine looked for a smaller blob on her map and found one rejoicing in the name of Huercal Overa. We veered off to try our luck again. Not only did we find street parking but the street parking was conveniently close to the main square, for those with legs and not afraid to stretch them. Even amateurs know that the most likely place to find bars with refreshments and umbrellas is the main square. We picked one of three or so available and had two tapas washed down by a beer each for a whole 5€. Not only that but one of the tapas on offer was caracoles [snails].Better! If I’m perfectly honest, the snails were rather too salty, even for a fully signed up member of the salt party such as myself. Still, it had to be done and it did tick the “local colour” box.
Salty snails over and back on the autovia, we began heading inland for the dessert. BTW, it appears that the toll motorways are called autopistas, whereas the free ones are called autovias. South of Alicante, they’re all autovias. With our mix of languages around Jalon, I’d been incorrectly assuming we’d been dealing with a language difference between Castilian and Valenciana.
So, why was this European dessert attracting our attention in particular? Well, this is where those delightful Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns were filmed, along with a fistful of others [sorry, couldn’t resist it]. Nestling up against the various fake Hollywood film sets is a town called Tabernas where Francine had booked us a room for the night at a Casa Rural called Jardin del Desierto. Miraculously, Sally Satnav found it for us via a relatively sensible route – just one farm track to be avoided. We checked in and paid 10€ to park our car in a private garage instead of on the narrow streets.
It’s difficult to avoid the western motifs as you wander around the town, which is essentially one long street. There were no horses hitched to rails outside bars, though, regrettably. In need of refreshment, we picked one shady, horse-free bar to wash the dust out of our throats, listening to a blaring TV inside which was impressing on us the western heritage of our location.
Whilst there were several bars that would be offering tapas in the evening – come on, Clint, let’s grab a shot of red-eye and some sepia or albondigas – restaurants, as such, seemed scarce. Our delightful hosts at the casa rural had indicated just two restaurants which were more or less side by side at the north end of town, up by the fuel station. In the early evening, we wandered up to find them. One of the two was closed so it looked like Hobson’s choice. Unpromising as it looked, with the outside tables overlooking the petrol station forecourt, we filled our bellies with excellent food while we watched people filling their cars for a little entertainment. Do I know how to show a girl a good time, or what?
On our way back, we noticed another option, though it may have offered only tapas for all I know. These would’ve been consumed sitting beside a builder’s skip. In the unlikely event of the food being rubbish, that could come in quite handy.
I can’t help but feel that the films might’ve celebrated the location rather than the money and been called Paella Westerns, instead. I certainly think Tabernas should be renamed Olé-wood.