Back in June, I entered Roots and Toots into a competition hosted by the Spanish cherry growers, Picota. I wrote about my favourite ways to enjoy these addictive, ruby-coloured juicy gems. Needless to say, being a new blogger at the time, I didn’t expect to win. But as the tally was finally counted and verified, I was over the moon that so many of my followers, friends, colleagues and fellow bloggers had voted for me to win. (A big high-five and hug to everyone who voted for me!)
(My winning post which featured the below recipes for Bakewell Bircher and Boozy Cherry Pancakes can be found here.)
And what a prize. What could be more fitting than to have the chance to travel to the land where Picotas are grown – the Jerte Valley (Valle del Jerte) in Spain.
We arrived home from the trip a few days ago and I think it’s safe to say, the bright, white waterfalls and tree-lined terraced hillsides from this region will leave a lasting imprint on our memories.
Our trip began at Plasencia, a pretty, peaceful town, which reminded me of the York of Spain and where you’ll find sloping, cobbled streets with churches and gothic architecture at every turn.
Above: Teens being teens. Same stuff, different town. Plasencia under the orange trees.
As we wandered around on our first day, we encountered lively and expressive Spanish coffee-culture in the square. We took a seat and soaked up the atmosphere. I soon recollected, from previous trips to Spain, the smooth and rich café con leche made with full-fat milk.
There was a charity walk for breast cancer the afternoon we arrived, so we were happy to have the chance to meet the entire population of Placensia on our first afternoon wandering around town.
We loved this beautiful Spanish senior rockin’ a green cardigan with shades:
Autumn is my favourite season in the UK, but in Spain, not only do you see the changing leaves, but the skies are still brilliant blue and the sun very warm, with just an occasional brush stroke of cloud in the sky. Instead of leaves on the floor, the streets were lined with fallen, over-ripe oranges.
We stayed at the Parador, in Plasencia, a beautifully-converted 15th century convent and church, a stunning conversion which overlooks the town.
With a unique ribbed vault and open staircases, we felt like royalty for the next three nights. The stunning cloister, coffered and with etchings, was the focal point of the hotel, which was lined with lush seating and where you could also access: the dining room, coffee shop, a wedding venue and a cellar bar (which was sadly closed for the duration of our stay).
There’s also a lovely outdoor swimming pool, which is open during high season and a gym, sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room for 8 Euros per hour. But the stunning architecture, pristine furnishings and plush surroundings aside, the hotel’s next biggest asset were its staff. Everyone had a calm and very warm manner and what a difference that makes to any stay.
Below: Our first evening: Subtle Pictoa reds in tonight’s sunset:
Breakfast at the Parador: Every morning we dined liked gourmands in the colossal dining hall, the walls of which were decorated in a 19th century frieze of Talaveran tile work.
We feasted on: cubes of warm tortilla Espanol, local cured hams, a selection of homemade breads (including my favourite, sourdough), fresh melon, pineapple, peaches, Spanish cheeses, cooked spicy chorizo sausage, bacon, cereals, a selection of warm miniature pastries, cereals, yoghurts, freshly brewed café con leche and best of all, freshly squeezed local oranges (poetry in a glass).
Dinner at the Parador: On Sunday we had a lovely meal (thank you Picota!):
Boletus Edulis – mushroom and cod croquettes with crispy vegetables:
For main – Cod loin Monacal style (light mayonnaise style dressing with garlic and milk), served with spinach and potato cream:
For dessert, layers of coffee-flavoured filo pastry with raspberries from Valle del Jerte.
Finished off with a glass of Cereza, a local cherry flavoured wine:
A three-course meal from the a la carte menu costs around 50 Euros per head including wine. There are gluten-free and vegetarian options available, although bear in mind that the Spanish class fish as vegetarian fare.
I’d just like to say a special thank you to the Picota team who organised such a beautiful trip for us.
Over the next week – in Part 2 – I’ll be blogging about the rest of our trip, which was spent exploring the Jerte Valley.
For more information about the stunning Parador Hotel go to: www.paradores.com
Rooms start from £115 per room, per night, including an extensive breakfast menu.
For more information about Picota cherries go to: www.pictoa.co.uk
Pictoa are currently looking for your views about cherries, if you’d like to take part in a brief survey please click here