A Tasting Trip Through Spain
There’s good reason why Spanish restaurants always feature so prominently in “world’s best” lists. Food is integral to regional identity here, and there’s a heavy element of pride involved in putting dishes together. The culinary scene now ranges from tapas-style classics to new-wave gastronomy, and this 370-mile Spanish road trip gives the chance to enjoy high-quality Spanish food in various guises. Winding from Navarra across to the Mediterranean coast, it’s also a drive that throws up a range of cultural and natural treasures.
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Synonymous with the Running of the Bulls (which takes place during July’s San Fermín fiesta), the city of Pamplona has been capital of the Navarre region since the 9th century. Much of its historical core can still be explored in the Casco Antiguo (Old Town). Its Gothic cathedral and the superb Museo de Navarra, which houses some original Goya paintings, are highlights. The region is known for its lamb, peppers and asparagus – splash out at Michelin-starred Rodero, or try the garroticos (flaky chocolate pastries) at the Beatriz bakery. Driving into La Rioja, Logroño sits an hour away.
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The province might be chiefly renowned for its wine, but La Rioja knows a thing or two about food too. The medieval city of Logroño bears this out. It was named Spanish Capital of Gastronomy in 2012, and among its bell-towers and bridges you’ll find some excellent restaurants and tapas bars. Order the shrimp and grilled mushroom tapas at Bar Soriano – it’s usually crowded, which says plenty – or try the fusion fare at Tastavin. Elsewhere, the daily Mercado de Abastos market holds rewards of its own. Moving on, Zaragoza is a little more than 100 miles to the southeast.
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Lively Zaragoza is the hub of the Aragón region and has a whole swathe of bars and restaurants to show for it. Local specialities include hearty stews and roast meats – book a table at barbecue grill Vuelta y Vuelta or try the much-acclaimed La Prensa. Away from the food, more than 2,000 years of history make Zaragoza itself deeply atmospheric. Don’t miss the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and the UNESCO-listed La Seo Cathedral, built in a Moorish style. The car-hire itinerary then leads east for 150 miles to the coast, and Cambrils.
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An attractive harbour town on Catalonia’s Costa Dorada, Cambrils sits just 80 minutes south of Barcelona and offers a laid-back contrast to the metropolis. What it shares with the regional capital, however, is excellent beaches and restaurants. Cambrils has a total of nine Blue Flag beaches, and its dining scene is no less strong. Two restaurants, Can Bosch and Rincón de Diego, have Michelin stars. Seafood is the town’s main draw – try the catch of the day at Acuamar or the squid with black rice at Bresca. Sixty miles further down the coast, you’ll reach Vinaròs.
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Once heavily involved in the Valencian wine trade, Vinaròs is today best known as a high-quality fishing port. Its langoustines are said to be the best in Spain – there’s even a Fiesta del Langostino held each August. At other times of year, you can watch the evening seafood auctions at the dockside market or enjoy the town’s most celebrated produce at El Langostino de Oro. Elsewhere, beaches and an ornate baroque church mean there’s more to do than eat. Perish the thought.
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