August 28th, 2012
I love some of the names of the rivers that run through Spain. Some are impossible to pronounce. Others can be funny or very apt when it comes to what they are named after.
I enjoy visiting locations in Spain that have a river running through the city, town or village.
And Riofrio, in Andalusia, is one of my favourites.
This place can hardly be called a well kept secret. It is well known about. The coach parties are testament to that. Spanish tourists from all over Spain come to Riofrio, near Loja.
For the trout, the sturgeon and for the caviar. Either to take back home or to taste courtesy of one of the several good restaurants there. And, of course, for the clear waters of that river.
It is amazing that this tranquil place is so close to the A92 motorway that links Seville and Malaga with Granada. The autovia is so close and yet, when it comes to noise, seemingly so far away. The surrounding countryside is stunning and worth taking time to appreciate.
Riofrio is a great place for a day out, it is true. But i also class it as an ideal location to base yourself for a holiday. After all, that motorway is close by. You have the superb city of Seville ninety minutes away. Marvellous Malaga is even closer. And the great city of Granada is less than an hour away in the opposite direction.
Riofrio is compact and child friendly, you should park up in one of the large car parks provided and wander around the village. Go to the trout farm and, at certain times, join a tour of the place. A few years ago it suffered greatly during a major flood but the business is up and running again and production of the famous sturgeon is as prolific as ever.
If you are into angling, be sure to come prepared to fish in the shallow waters. Though, frankly, if you have fast reflexes you will not need a fishing rod. You could catch something with your hands.
But why bother when the selection of excellent restaurants all serve the locally produced trout in a variety of ways. Perhaps in what is called Navarra style (trucha a la Navarra). The trout is stuffed with serrano ham and seasoned with salt an pepper. Lovely!
The local restaurants offer you a great choice when it comes to trout but also serve up great food for the carnivore. I have enjoyed a vast plate of grilled meats while sat by the river in a restaurant that closed for years when damaged by heavy rain and rising river levels. But La Quintana is, to the relief of regular customers, born again and doing what it does best. Serving up a taste of Riofrio.
The salmon trout (trucha alsalmonada) can also be found in Spanish streams. It has a light skin and pale pink flesh. Its eyecatching colour and delicate flavour is a result of the amount of crayfish it consumes. The rainbow trout (trucha arco iris) that is so popular with diners at restaurants is multi coloured and is chiefly available from fish farms such as the one located at Riofrio.
You will know by now that i am a big fan of the variety of food available across the diverse country that is Spain. I think the restaurants here offer great value for money, especially when you consider that it is for much of the year a very busy tourist haunt.
And the craft and gift shops offer a genuine variety of quality items for sale at reasonable prices.
Molly Sears-Piccavey writes a daily blog, piccavey, about all that is on offer in the province of Granada and beyond. Being a fluent Spanish speaker she went on a tour of the trout farm.
She tells me: “Riofrio is a peaceful place set in the countryside of Andalusia. There is the Ruta Verde de Riofrío, a nature ramble along the river organized by the local tourist office. On Sundays they hold a craft market too that may be of interest.
“I am not a fan of salmon or shellfish and did not expect to enjoy Caviar. I was quite surprised at the taste, it was more balanced and less salty than i expected. The sturgeon is one of the oldest fish in existence. Fossils of these fish appear as far back as two hundred million years ago. On the tour i learned that sturgeon do not have vertebrae but a cartilage along their back. Sometimes this is damaged, but they are capable of regenerating this cartilage themselves.”
Molly sums up her liking for the place. She said: “Riofrio is a great location for trout fishing and for food lovers as they can eat local trout & sturgeon as well as sampling the world’s only organic caviar.”
The organic fish farm has operated at Riofrio since the early 1960′s. It sells hundreds and thousands of trout each year. It employs organic techniques, not intensive fish farming. It is also home to a species of trout no longer found in the wild, the Acipenser Naccari breed is indigenous to Andalusia.
For a small community, this business is an essential one and when the farm had to close due to the flood, the population of Riofrio noticed the difference in the local economy. They were tough times.
But the community worked hard together to get the hamlet up and running again. And Riofrio has bounced back better than ever. And it is the local people that make Riofrio so charming. At certain times of the year they put up with lots of tourist cars and coaches. In deepest winter, when Riofrio is winter wonderland like beautiful, they pretty much have the place to themselves. Other than me that is.
If you want to experience other places of interest close by, then is plenty to see on the doorstep of Riofrio. Travel to the elevated and atmospheric town of Montefrio. After all, you have seen the cold river so now you must see the cold mountain.
Just a few kilometres away from Riofrio is nearest town, Loja. There are great views of the surrounding countryside from a viewing point high in the town, close to some stunning churches. Both Montefrio and Loja are often ignored by those travelling around Andalusia.
Yes, there are lots of reasons to rush off to Seville. True, the museums and beaches of Malaga are an attraction worth getting to as quickly as possible. And the reasons to drive by the likes of Riofrio in order to get to Granada are endless; but you best discover Andalusia by coming off the motorway slip road and seeing the lesser known locations.
You see these white washed villages and towns as you drive by and my curiosity has led to me discovering many gems. So many of them have a river running through them.
The reason to visit these places in Spain is as clear as the water in those rivers.