by Cathi Burnett-Cosgrove, September 2014
I have the pleasure of escorting high quality group tours to beautiful and sometimes, unusual destinations. In September this year, I saw the culmination of a meticulously planned itinerary became a reality. This tour was over twelve months in the making and together with my guests, we made our way to experience the ‘Treasures of Northern Spain’.
When I plan an itinerary, I aim to provide my guests with the opportunity to absorb all that makes a country unique. This includes specialty foods and cultural experiences. Let me share the thoughts of one couple’s first-class experiences of a Spanish tapas evening whilst on tour.
You cannot export the delights of tapas – you simply have to visit magnificent Spain.
The Spanish appetisers are at their realistic best in their country of origin.
To do otherwise is like visiting an Irish pub in Australia, nice, but not authentic.
The Tasmanian travel company that excels in delivering the best of Spain and a gastronomic tapas experience is without doubt Andrew Jones Travel through its association with the Spanish travel specialist, Madrid & Beyond.
From Tasmania, an exclusive night of tapas pleasure can be arranged for a couple or small party.
An expert guide on Spanish cuisine, their country and city from Madrid & Beyond can lead you through an unforgettable night.
In fact, this should all come with a warning: do not do this without a guide.
To do otherwise is to rob yourself of a unique travel experience.
Our hand-picked Madrid & Beyond guide for our Madrid tapas tour is the effervescent Frederico.
Frederico meets us at our hotel and offers us two choices. We can bar-restaurant hop or go to a single restaurant and sample a range of tapas.
After a day of causal walking with another Madrid & Beyond guide taking in the amazing masterpieces of the Prado Museum and other city highlights we opt for the latter.
Frederico is pleased with our choice and says he has just the place.
He leads us to the El Anciano Rey de los Vinos, a place where Federico has dined since being taken there by his parents as a boy.
It is located a couple of stone throws from the Royal Palace.
All the staff know Frederico and it us getting the royal treatment.
We decide to dine outside where you can hear (and feel) the buzz of amazing Madrid.
He quickly puts up a few drink recommendations, including starting with a Vermouth and a sherry to ready the palate.
Next it is on to the food, with each suggested dish and its nearby origins detailed by Frederico.
Two of the dishes that might not grab the attention of Australian diners without local advice are the Bull’s Presents and Sepia.
Now, the Bull’s Presents conjured some not overly palatable images, but in fact is a deeply flavoursome dish of ox tail.
The Sepia is cuttlefish and we had no idea that this sea creature could be such wonderful delicacy.
One of Spain’s greatest gifts is Iberian ham, which finds its way to dining tables across the country from acorn-fed pigs. Surely, no other ham in the world can match this.
The fantastic fruit and vegetables of Spain mean that vegetarians will also be in heaven.
As we made our culinary discoveries we drank the Spanish white verdejo, known in Australia as verdelho, and the red tempranillo, which is gaining a significant Australian following as an alternative to shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.
The tapas just kept coming and the food was better than excellent.
We also found that conversation was an important part of the tapas experience, with Frederico giving his views on Spanish issues, including bullfighting and Catalan secession.
It seemed, through Frederico, we had become part of the El Anciano Rey de los Vinos and our holiday snaps soon included pictures at the table with managers, waiters and, of course, Frederico.
Totally satisfied, we are escorted back to our hotel by Frederico, but not before he gives us mini night tour of Madrid.
He is still giving us tips on how to enjoy Madrid as we walk into our hotel foyer, and recommends a building tower to enjoy cocktails and watch the sunset the following day.
On parting, Frederico tells us that he has enjoyed the night.
Is he kidding? The pleasure was all ours!
Why not put yourself in their shoes by registering your interest for future tours to the world’s best destinations? You would be very welcome.