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Expat Spotlight: Phil's Top 3 Tips for Spain

In 2012, Phil moved from England’s beautiful Lake District to rural Andalucía. Phil is a freelance chef and blogger, and lives amongst Jaen’s olive groves in Monte Lope Alvarez, a small white-washed village with a population of 742 where he runs a cookery school.

Top 3 Favourite Restaurants in Monte Lope Alvarez, Spain?

1) Bar la Revuelta, Monte Lope Alvarez – Don’t be put off by the location within a disused petrol station because this family run establishment will serve up a cold bottle of beer or a glass of Rioja for 1.50€ plus a choice of tapas from their blackboard. Enjoy suckling pig cooked with potatoes or kidneys in fresh tomato sauce. Wonderful value and very friendly people. Closed on Tuesdays.
2) Mesón Restaurante El Charcón, Iznájar – OK, so this is an hour’s drive away but as I live in the middle of nowhere it has to be done if I want Chuletillas de Cordero (lamb chops) from lamb reared in la Sierra de Málaga and sold at the butchers behind the restaurant.
3) The Flexible Chef @ Casa Adora, Monte Lope Alvarez – No driving for me as this is my home where I practice my cooking skills and where you can eat Pork Tenderloin in Pedro Ximénez Sauce with Raisins & Pine Nuts, Chicken with Golden Couscous & Crispy Onions or even home-made baked beans. Bookings only.

Top 3 favourite foods in Spain?

1) Choto – Is young goat (kid) meat that you see sometimes on restaurant menus. I buy mine whole from Paco in my village which I butcher myself. My favourite is Mauritian Goat Curry.
2) Rabbit – My neighbours are always donating wild rabbits (during the hunting season) and I use them to make a one pot with prunes, pine nuts and a pig’s trotter.
3) Paella – I cooked it for 80 people at an event recently, paella is perfect for feeding a crowd and me.

Top 3 tips for new expats in Spain?

1) Learn the language – That’s easy for me to say as I only speak lazy Andaluz village style where an ‘s’ at the end of a word is always dropped and most words are abbreviated in some way or other. It took me weeks to realise that Francisco in my local fruit and veg shop wasn’t saying ‘keema’ but que mas.
2) Get in the slow lane – Life here is rather relaxed and the sooner you acknowledge that the quicker your blood pressure will drop.
3) Neighbours – Make friends with your neighbours – they’ll be on hand to help with any problems. Knock on their door and introduce yourself with a bottle of wine and some cakes (they love sweet things). This will break down any language barrier.

Top 3 tips for travellers in Spain?

1) Inland – Explore the real Spain. When visiting Granada or Córdoba for example don’t drive past Priego de Córdoba, Alcala la Real or the city of Jaén, stop and enjoy the virtually tourist free sights.
2) Sunscreen – Obvious but it needs pointing out especially in July and August (June and September too).
3) Trains – Forget about car hire why not use the Spanish train system and if you want an experience of ‘flying on the ground’ then take the AVE (Spain’s high speed train service). It’s very fast: Valencia to Madrid 1h30m. Córdoba to Madrid 1h40m. Córdoba to Seville 0h45m. Malaga to Córdoba 0h55m.

Top 3 tips for what to pack for Spain?

1) T shirts
2) Flip flops
3) Sunglasses

Top 3 favourite places in Spain

1) Córdoba – There’s always something going on in Córdoba and in May it features the Patios of Flowers as well as The May Crosses Festival in the same month.
2) Salobreña – Is a lovely seaside resort on the Costa Tropical. It has a typically Spanish old town with a 10th century Moorish castle. The natives are very friendly and a great selection of eateries. I can recommend La Traviesa with its good food, friendly staff and wonderful views of the town.
3) Jaén – For reasons I cannot explain a visit to the city of Jaén is often missed by travellers yet it boasts a mountain top Moorish castle, Spain’s largest Arab baths and a magnificent cathedral. And I haven’t even mentioned olive oil yet.

Top 3 neighbourhoods in Monte Lope Alvarez

1) Martos – A working town but worth a visit to the castle and later a drink or two with tapas at one of many bars and eateries on the avenue of trees (Avenada Pierre Cibié) where the plane trees that line the avenue have been trained so that their branches make a natural canopy across the road giving shade for those sitting outside.
2) Baena – It bustles at night time with bars aplenty in the park, a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.
3) Monte Lope Alvarez – It may only have a population of 742 but in downtown MLA it supports three bars and enjoys several gatherings including the annual Romeria (Procession of the Virgen del Carmen to Mingoyustre) in May, a Fiesta in honour of the patron saint, the Virgen del Carmen in July and the Matanza (killing of the pig) in November.

For more tips from Phil – The Flexible Chef – on Spain, watch for upcoming posts on the Spain blog and go to his site, www.theflexiblechef.co.uk, and follow him at @theflexiblechef or facebook.

Interested in contributing? Contact erin {at} insidersabroad {dot} com!

Published August 17th, 2015 by Phil Morrison
Posted to Inside Secrets to Spain

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