Delicious Drives Spain Route 3
By Jackie De Burca
Recently I teamed up with Hertz to explore some of Spain’s most beautiful towns, as part of the Delicious Drives series.
This remarkable route includes a town where Game of Thrones was filmed, which also used to be a Papal Residence, an inland town with stunning views that was re-constructed by artists and an incredibly striking historic town, with breathtaking views.
In each of these beautiful towns we discovered some great foodie finds along the way.
Magnificent Morella: an incredibly striking historic town with breathtaking views
We had Morella mapped out as our first port of call. The route from Els Ports Natural Park to Morella is filled with beautiful scenery, and although we didn’t have time, I would highly recommend stopping off at Horta de Sant Joan.
This is where Picasso said he discovered nature. The village itself is gorgeous, includes a Picasso Museum and has wonderful views over the nature that was so inspirational for Picasso.
The drive up towards Morella is absolutely spectacular. Verdant scenery embraces a road that is steep, narrow and curved in parts as it winds its way up to magnificent Morella.
We were very happy to be navigating the road smoothly and comfortably in our Hertz Opel Mokka 4x4.
Buzzing on market day
As you approach Morella, it’s hard not to be impressed with the spectacular ancient stone that climbs up above the terracotta and white washed houses.
Morella pulsates with history, culture, beauty, folklore, tradition and gastronomy. We were lucky enough to choose market day to visit, as it was Sunday.
The ancient stone streets were buzzing with traders, gorgeous stalls, shops and visitors. We were able to enjoy this even more than on a normal visit, as we were given a police escort to let us drive through, so that we could show it to you!
An explosion of taste sensations
I had been to Morella quite a few times before. It never ceases to amaze me and I never bore of its sprawling stone streets, the Roman aqueduct and its endless amount of fine foodie offerings.
Up to now I have never been to a disappointing restaurant in Morella. This visit was no different.
We went to Da Luan, which is an absolute gem hidden in a side street of the old town. Every dish was an explosion of taste sensations. The atmosphere was fantastic, and both the staff and owners were really friendly and professional.
Below you can eat one of their truffle dishes with your eyes! Truffles are a huge speciality around Morella.
Vineyards in Vilafamés: a town with stunning views, which was re-constructed by artists
From Morella we took the N-232 to Vilafamés, another one of Spain’s officially most beautiful towns. There’s nothing like a peculiarity when you’re on a road trip, and on the road to Vilafamés there’s one. You will pass the Greenwich Meridian sign, believe or not. So even though we are one hour ahead of the United Kingdom, the Greenwich Meridian runs by Vilafamés.
The old quarter of Vilafames dates back to the 11th century and is of Muslim origin. These remains are the foundations of the charming urban layout and the castle. Explore narrow winding streets, dotted with whitewashed and terracotta buildings, which are often enhanced with vibrant, pretty plant pots. The views over the countryside are spectacular, and Vilafamés has a boutique town feel about it, with around 2000 inhabitants.
Artists & vineyards
However I often wonder how it would be today, if it’s destiny hadn’t been changed by a simple turn of fate. Sadly a lot of its old town was destroyed in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War, but a few decades later something special happened. An architect who had an uncle living there came to the town on a visit, and fell in love with it. This architect told other creative people about it, and during the 1970s a number of artists relocated there and started to refurbish it.
Today apart from enjoying the beautiful town and its spectacular surroundings, you can also sample some of the local wines there. The Mayo Garcia Vineyard is a family affair who have been harvesting grapes and making wine since 1945. In fact now they even produce an ecological Reserve Brut. Make your way to Vilafamés on a Saturday or Sunday, and for €12 you can enjoy a tour of the vineyards, a tasting and take a bottle of their signature wine away with you. It’s a wonderful experience in a gorgeous location.
3. Postcard pretty Peñiscola: where Game of Thrones was filmed, also a former Papal Residence
We decided to go back to the coast, to visit Peñiscola where El Cid and Game of Thrones were filmed. Peñiscola has a very modern side to it, but it also has its gorgeous old town, that overlooks the sea along with great beaches. In fact the nickname for Peñiscola is the City in the Sea. The little streets are overflowing with cute shops, cafés and restaurants. And all of this in a Templar Castle where a Pope used to live!! In fact now you can buy a tea there, called Tissana Papa Luna which legend says was the tea that saved his life.
Condé Naste featured Peñiscola in one of their top towns features, which really doesn’t surprise me. It rises 64 metres above the azure Mediterranean sea, with sturdy city walls which envelope cobbled stone, windy streets. The old quarter of Peñiscola is simply special.
Sunday Times recommended
And as you can see from the photo above, the beaches are also lovely. Yes our car is on the beach, but we did have special permission from the police, so this isn’t something that we recommend that you to try in Peñiscola.
Funnily enough, during the same weekend as we were experiencing this route in order to be able to write about it, the Sunday Times featured Peñiscola in Spain’s Secret Weekends. You can see the article by subscribing, without paying, as they let readers have 2 articles free per week.
We do however highly recommend that you go to one of our all-time favourite restaurants – Restaurant Carmen Guillemot, located in the old quarter of Peñiscola. This is where the crew from Game of Thrones went for their celebration meal when they had finished filming in Peñiscola.
Sunday Times recommended restaurant
The owners Mamen and Philippe, are both artists, as well as being culinary artists. The foodie experience in Restaurant Carmen Guillemot is sumptuous and Philippe is the perfect host. You can choose from a seasonal tasting menu for €42, which is what we always have, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Alternatively there is also an a la carte menu.
I had already written this before seeing the Sunday Times article. So I was delighted to see Restaurant Carmen Guillemot also recommended by Chris Haslam. To learn more about this restaurant and three more, which make up the Spain Michelin Star Triangle, follow us on our next Delicious Drive with Hertz. All of these restaurants are located within around a 25 mile radius from each other, making this area not only tempting for its diverse scenery and experiences, but a must for enthusiastic foodies. Discover: Delicious drives Spain: the Michelin Star Triangle and a special gem