For me there is nothing better than going back to the places where I have spent precious time. Sometimes it takes years to get back to certain places regardless of how close they are to us. The area of the Alpujarra in the Sierra Nevada mountain range south of Granada is one of those places for me. I recently read a novel based mostly in the town of Pampaneira which spoke of Gypsies and the difficult times of the Spanish Civil War. These beautiful towns are so filled with history that one can almost feel it in your bones and you hike through the valleys and drink from the fountains. Last week I was ready to come and spend a few days here enjoying the solitude and beauty.
As an important agricultural area the Alpujjara produces almonds, lemons, figs and the most delicious cheese. It also boasts an amazing variety of cured pork products. Cured pork loin with rosemary, white sausage, blood sausage, morcón (similar to chorizo yet a bit bigger) and of course, the ham from Trevélez. You can enjoy a generous tapa with one of the local wines from Europe’a “highest vineyards”.
It’s not all pork and cheese here in this region. We ordered a great dish made with fava beans, based on a recipe that goes back generations. It was prepared with local fava beans, pods and all. Usually we only find these beans naked, shucked from their home. But here in Pampaneira they use them in their entirety and bathed in a flavorful almond sauce to make any vegetarian smile! They went perfectly with a local wine served in a glass Porrón which actually originated in Catolonia.
The poet, Federico García Lorca, referred to the Alupjarra as “el país de ninguna parte”. A NOWHERE COUNTRY. The history lingers here in the streams and the valleys. Such as the legend of Boabdil, the last Moorish King of Granada, going into exile here. And more stories of the rebellion and expulsion of the Moriscos and the repopulation of the area by colonists from Extremadura and Galicia. All of this and more rests here in the trees.
If someone told me that they visited Switzerland and did not like it, I would be seriously worried about them. Yes, it is expensive. Insanely expensive. A glass of wine poured out of a thimble costs 15 dollars, fine. A pizza for one person, 20 dollars. But, you can also have one of the best homemade sausages in Zermatt and beyond for about 5 dollars. Add a beer or wine. 3 more. And, everywhere you turn it is jaw-dropping gorgeous. Every place is more beautiful than the next. It’s clean, organized and people are genuinely nice.
I was so lucky to be introduced to this amazing restaurant, Alphitta, near Zermatt. The owners are genuine and friendly, the food is outstanding, and the view is unbeatable. Can’t get much better than this in one day. My friend ordered a boar ragu that was absolutely delicious but I had to have the Rosti with Sausage and it did not disappoint. It was prepared perfectly and absolutely gorgeous. I can’t wait to go back to visit!!
I especially love the Italian part of Switzerland. It’s where I feel most at home with the language and the people. And of course, the food!! My daughter and I make panettone every Christmas so I loved seeing this display of Cherry Panettone that they prepare in the summertime. I was also served the most beautiful and delicious raviolis I have ever seen (besides my Nana’s) recommended by our gracious bartender, Mario. Smoked eggplant with mozzarella. They were so good that my colleagues actually ordered them for dessert! I couldn’t repeat so I had BABA, a small cake saturated with a rum syrup. Oh dear, time for a jog!!
Thank goodness Switzerland is best known for it’s hiking and swimming in beautiful crystal clear lakes and I was able to enjoy both of these. I left Switzerland holding a special place for it in my heart. It’s beauty, cleanliness and culture. Glaciers. Mountains. Cows, oh the beautiful cows. It is a small bit of heaven in Europe. I can’t wait to go back.