Day 51: Spain, L’Estartit

Having had a very early night last night (getting too old for too many late nights!!!!), we woke up this morning raring to go…..well, some of us did, others lazed around in bed. No names, no pack-drill!

Yesterday after lunch we’d popped over to introduce Gillian & Steve to my favourite store, Supermercat (now forever called Super Meerkat) and I’d bought the ingredients for a chicken paella that we were going to have after a quick visit to Castell del Montgri.

Top of the shopping list was a local Spanish chicken, Pollo de Campo (direct translation “field chicken”) but basically this is a local, free-range, corn-fed chicken purchased semi-gutted (giblets intact and attached but all the “green” guts removed – how do they do that?) and head and feet on so that you can truly see the quality of the product. Shops will clean and butcher these for you but I like to do it myself. They have the most exceptional flavour and it’s worth looking out for these at the fresh meat counters and butchers.

Next a packet of select Bomba rice (Arroz Bomba), for me the only rice for paella. It really is exceptional and cooks perfectly very time – I know I sound like a commercial but if you are going to try making paella, this is the rice and it does make a difference, I promise. A large jar of good chicken consomme which is available everywhere here.

So back to this morning, chicken butchered and cleaned and giblets set aside, sofrito (tomato & red pepper stew flavoured with loads of garlic, saffron and smoked paprika and the base of every paella) made and set aside to cool and we were off.

Now this was supposed to be a 45 minute bike ride to visit Castell del Montgri (built between 1294 and 1301 by James II of Aragon but never completed) and from the look on Google Maps, this would take us on our bikes around the back of the hill and we’d be there in a quick walk.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

2 x 45 minute bike rides, a 2 hour walk UP the mountain and a 40 minute trot down the mountain later – THAT was what it actually was!!! But it was a glorious day, hot but not as hot as it could have been, thank goodness, and the walk was peppered with loads of chat and laughs, some very cute goats

(the gorgeous Mr T was imagining these on a spit!!!Pre-marinaded with wild rosemary), several stops to allow me to recuperate and recover (thanks, guys, truly appreciated!) and at the top, the most spectacular 360deg views of the Catalan countryside, up the north and down the south coast of the Costa Brava and all the way to the Pyrenees, that we could ever wish for.

After a visit around the tower (I didn’t make it up as the picture of the stairs may attest to! They WOBBLED when you stepped on them and then you had to come back down),

we relaxed in the shade of the only tree. Thank all the gods for the gorgeous one, as he’d popped into the shop before we left the campsite and bought 4 chocolate bars which he doled out as to as we rested at the top before we setting off back down again.

I think we must have been hungry as we rode passed Super Meerkat (Supermercat) and stopped in for “some starters” before the paella.

Sushi (really nice for supermarket-made) and served with some rich soy sauce with wasabi and some homemade Ponzu Sauce I’d been keeping for such an occasion. Followed by bacalao croquetas (nice but not the best) deep-fried in olive oil and served with homemade allioli and Gillian & Steve’s fabulous watercress salad dressed simply in olive oil and & apple cider vinegar, anchovy olives with feta cheese from Gillian & Steve, chicken paella and to finish (because we needed the calories that we had expended during the day!!!!) a huge raspberry cheesecake also provided by Gillian & Steve.

With wine and beer flowing, a day full of exercise and a belly full of food under our belts, we staggered off to bed to sleep off the now excess calories.

Why is there nothing as easy as getting fat?

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