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Spanish Secrets: The Spice Of Life

Tall, straight eucalyptus trees, with flaying bark like the peeling skin of an overenthusiastic sunbather, fragrance the air with their aromatic odour... Craig Briggs, his wife Melanie, and their friends go on a quest for cool air - and hot, spicy food.

With temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, we thought a trip to the coast might give our friends and us a refreshing change of climate, and the opportunity to add a little spice to our lives.

I surfed the internet looking for suitable accommodation for 4 adults, and our dog Jazz. My favourite website for finding this type of short overnight break is www.turismorural.com

CottageUnder the banner of Rural Tourism, private individuals, with the assistance of government grants, have restored old buildings for the specific purpose of renting them to the general public. Included in the scheme are properties ranging from stately homes to small cottages. The main criterion is the restoration of buildings of architectural and cultural interest, which would otherwise fall into ruin and eventually be lost forever.

After a brief search I found a small, two-bedroom cottage situated in the Monte Aloia, Parque Natural. A quick telephone call to the owners secured our booking for an overnight stay at the end of the week.

The Monte Aloia is a mountainous preservation area on the outskirts of the historic town of Tui, near the Atlantic Ocean and close to the Portuguese border. The mountains are carpeted in natural eucalyptus forests. These tall, straight, evergreen trees with flaying bark, like the peeling skin of an overenthusiastic sunbather, fragrance the air with their aromatic odour.

We arrived before lunch and were warmly greeted by the owners. They took great pride in showing us their beautifully restored stone cottage.

The cottage was constructed from local grey granite and roofed with traditional terracotta cupped tiles. Each huge granite block measuring 50 centimetres deep by 1 metre in length.

On the first floor were two double, en-suite bedrooms with exposed granite walls on three sides and polished wooden floors and ceilings. Occupying the ground floor was a sitting room with open fireplace, a marble topped kitchen, and dining room. To the front was a tiled terrace and lawned garden with spectacular views of the mountains.

Having unloaded our luggage from the car, we departed for the coastal city of Vigo, only 20 minutes north along the coast. It was here, in this large, busy, and overcrowded metropolis, we were confident of spicing up our lives.

Entry into the city was slow and uncomfortable. Vigo has been chosen as hosts for the start of this years round-the-world yacht race. As a consequence, it’s undergoing something of an urban makeover. This makes travelling in and around the city slow and difficult. We all remained confident that this slow, hot and uncomfortable journey would provide us with the spice we were looking for.

Finally we parked the car and continued our quest on foot. Rounding a corner in the heart of the city our search had finally come to an end. Emblazoned in neon lights were the words, “The Taj Mahal Restaurant”, the only oasis of Indian cuisine in a 100 mile radius.

Like children let loose in a sweet shop, we ordered from the menu - Samosa, Bajhi’s, Dansak, and Vindaloo, to name but a few.

Later that evening at our cottage-home for the night, we sat outside under the stars feasting on our deliciously spicy takeaway.

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