Sanlucar de Barrameda in the province of Cadiz in south-west Spain, opposite the natural environment of the Donana National Park, ( a must-visit place by boat or barge, with guided walks), is a fabulous Spanish seaside town, rich in history, and one that we discovered quite by chance. We were driving south to Andalucia from the ferry at Santander, and having pored over a map, it looked an interesting place to visit. My son then told me that we would really love it, as he had recently been there with friends during his trip to Ronda.
When we stay anywhere in Spain, I always search for small boutique hotels in the heart of the old town ,( full of character), and I found the lovely, Posada de Palacio, set in a wonderful historic building with cool inner courtyards, lush palms and gorgeous Spanish tiles. A fantastic breakfast on the terrace too.
We have been three times now, and we are heading there again later in the year, for our hit of Sanlucar, with its amazing seafood gastronomy , sherry, the famed wine producer Barbadillo (one of Spain`s oldest family businesses), and lovely beaches. If you are spending a few days there, do visit a sherry bodega, La Gitana ( meaning Gypsy) is very good. The town is also known for its flamenco music and beach horse racing in August.
Sanlucar is basically a very unspoilt , very Spanish town, and that is why we love it. Opposite the hotel is the Palacio de los Duques de Medina Sidonia, now converted to a hotel with the most gorgeous , romantic Mediterranean gardens. We had a glass of local wine there, sitting amongst the olive and lemon trees , the gravel beneath our feet planted with lavender and rosemary. There are amazing views over the town from the long viewing point.
As you walk from here down the hill to the main square, (Plaza del Cabildo), you pass the covered market, Mercado de Abasto , which is wonderful, watched over by sculptures of two mermaids. You can buy your fresh fish from one of the stalls there, and then take it be grilled at Bar-Cafeteria La Plaza.
Once in the busy square with its spectacular central fountain , ( small children running around it looking up in awe), it is hard to choose where to eat, as it is lined with Tapas bars. But we recommend sitting outside, at Casa Balbino in the top left hand corner. The walls of the bar are lined with hundreds of black and white photographs depicting the towns bull fighting history.
The thing to eat at Casa Balbino are Tortillas de Camarones. All you see are people pouring out of the bar balancing plates of Tapas including towers of these crispy beauties. I love them. They are basically fritters made with flour,( plain and chickpea), water , onions, parsley and tiny sweet shrimps. The batter is then fried in olive oil until crispy. The ones served here are famous for being the absolute best, and I agree. They are also huge, so don’t over-order!
We had lunch at Avante Claro, ( do ask the hotel to book for you), it`s on the edge of the sand in Bajo de Guia, the old fishing quarter, now a row of seafood restaurants.( Rick Stein ate there on his Spanish odyssey, and loved it as much as we do). Order the Clams in sherry and the (enormous) bright red , mini lobster -looking Langostinos de Sanlucar.
It`s what Sanlucar de Barrameda is all about!