Leon – The Gastronomic Jewel in the Castillian Crown
Leon, a compact city home to around 140,000 and located about four hours drive north west of Madrid, is not a destination often found on the ‘Must Visit’ lists of Spanish hot-spots. High up on the Castilian ‘meseta’ and surrounded by interminable agricultural plains, the city feels isolated and somewhat trapped in time, a sensation amplified by its long, cold winters and gothic city centre. The few tourists who do visit here are almost exclusively pilgrims on the ‘Camino de Santiago’ who stop to admire the imposing cathedral that dominates the ‘Casco Antiguo’ (the old town). But deep within its centuries-old heart and crumbling city walls, Leon hides a culinary surprise of inestimable value, both cultural and gastronomic. Tapas. Not petrol station-style snacks, not British-style tapas-as-a-meal, not 3 Euro San Sebastian-style pinchos, but authentic Spanish tapas.
Not only is Leon one of the only Spanish cities left where tapas are still served as they have been for centuries – as a small, free accompaniment to a drink, but the tapas are generous (sometimes amazingly so) and a ‘corto’ (a small glass of beer) still only costs 1 Euro (Jan 2009) or less and will earn you the right to your tapa dish. To this add the incredible variety of tapas served by the hundreds of bars dotted around the city, most of which have a distinct house specialty, and the laid-back, bar-hopping style of the locals and the result is a ‘tapas culture’ which is rivaled perhaps only by Granada on a world scale.
I’m Jonathan Pincas, a big fan of ‘worklife freedom’ and the founder of a small Spanish food importer which I run as a virtual business.
Want to know how? Visit ‘Say No! to the Office’ http://www.saynototheoffice.com/.
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