17th – 19th March 2017
From Faro, it was an quick 90-minute bus ride to Huelva. My girlfriend gets quite travel sick so I had to do most of the talking (while also arranging where, when and how we would meet my friends M&J). We’re quite a talkative couple – as are the friends we were visiting. Thankfully, we were at leisure to chat once free from the winding road from Portugal.
I got a little moan about London out of the way early on. We were filled in on M&J’s plans for the summer and their own complaints about their own lives. But a five minute walk to drop off our bags was enough sourness. On our way to the restaurant, we were on happier topics.
We ate at Guatiné an Argentinian place with a crisp baby-blue and white awning, a bright, white interior and outside seating (in March, it was already 25C during the day!). The waitress was effusive and bright. I thought she was pronouncing her words with all the sounds a la salamanquesa to begin with. If she ever was, she soon grew tied of the effort and slipped back in to her andaluz slur.
My friends M&J previously lived in the Basque Country and Mexico. But J is doing a paticularly good job of picking up the wonderful southern accent. My girlfriend, however, is sadly a converted salamartina and seems to be sticking to her ‘proper’ Spanish for now.
M&J introduced us to el choco (a fried squid stick favoured so much that the people of Huelva are called choqueros) and a few other tapas before the Argentine steak emerged, rare and so tender that we pulled it apart with just our darting, competing forks.
Over beers in the least-Irish Irish bar I’ve ever seen, we nattered about the andalucians, secessionists across Spain and in Scotland, Basque politics, British politics and finally silly jokes and comedy shows.
The next day we nattered all the way to the beach, ate sandwiches and drank Pimm’s in the sun. The others braved the water but I only dipped my head in the icy Atlantic before retreating. We headed for a tapas bar across town, passing a jarring barrio of wood-beamed, tudor-style, English homes. Apparently they were built by British industrialists who also brought the first football team to Spain.
A stop at a beer house that would have felt at home in Shoreditch rounded off the night. The microbrewery produced more exciting beers than the average Spanish lager and the bar was abuzz with energy.
We spent our last day chatting in a sunny square in front of the theatre. La Fonda de Maria Mondao served incredible food: a mini burger of beef and a quail’s eggs; a simple, marinated cod steak; slow cooked beef croquettes; and my favourite, solomillo al whiskey. After a long lunch and a few bottles of wine, my sometimes-graceful girlfriend tried her luck rollerskating for the first time. It wasn’t a pretentiously polished performance but she didn’t fall either. So a win, I’d say.
On to Seville.