Peñiscola - Paella and Pirates
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
In 1961 life in what was then a small fishing town called Peñiscola changed forever.
Film director Anthony Mann marched a crew of thousands into the previously sedate coastal resort. The making of Oscar nominated movie 'El Cid' was about to put Peñiscola firmly on the tourist map.
Today, long after lead actors Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren left Peñiscola, its other star attractions continue to be enjoyed by all. Including the regional cuisine on offer along this often overlooked stretch of coastline.
The comment you will hear most often from people living in the area, is that they are very much at home on the “forgotten” coastline of Spain. Not that they are complaining about that. They like it that way and are glad an army of film technicians no longer line the streets. The locals are much more at ease with the copious tourists.
The castle itself is the second most visited monument in Spain, after the Alhambra Palace in Granada. It is a national listed building that rises sixty four kilometres above the sea. It was built by the Knights Templar between 1294 and 1307 and is the best preserved example of their construction work.
But they played no part in the construction of the uppermost battlements.
They were built in order to stage the dramatic fight scenes in 'El Cid'. The north beach, which played a significant supporting role in the film, is vast at over five thousand metres in length and forty four metres wide.
Energy is what you will need when you arrive in Peñiscola. The climb up to the oldest part of the city can be hard going, especially in the summer months. Peñiscola is somewhere that has become increasingly dependent on tourism. Visit in February and you could be forgiven for thinking the place is closed.
Return in March and the hotels and restaurants are opening up in readiness for the arrival of thousands of visitors, including many movie buffs and a few men playing pirates – all in the name of tourism you understand. Peñiscola has much more to offer than would be Captain Hooks.
The Serra d’Irta, for example, lies on the southern shore of Peñiscola and is the last unspoilt mountain range in the Valencian region. Here cliffs measure 40 metres in height and the area attracts rare birds and those who like to watch them. The sea is home to several botanical species that are exclusive to the area and, therefore, of interest to scuba divers.
As for the Spanish food on offer in this area, well your cup will run over. It is understandable that the third biggest city in Spain, Valencia, grabs all the attention when it comes to being the birthplace of Paella and the home of one of the best alcoholic drink in the country, Agua de Valencia.
But there is much to savour a little over one hundred kilometres south of Valecia along the Costa Azahar. Of course rice is served plenty here but if that is not your thing try a nice Fideuà. Effectively a paella dish only using noodles instead of rice. It is a gem of a dish.
The seafood dishes are excellent in this region and squid is a speciality of the area.
As oranges grow throughout this region, you will come across meals such as Chicken breasts with orange or, in summer, a refreshing orange salad.
And refreshing sums up this coastline and the distinctive town of Peñiscola - a classic location for a classic movie.