Mar 192015


This is not a plug for a winery, this is about a Spanish gentleman that makes great wine.  I had the pleasure of meeting Clemente Sequeiros when he escorted my friend Julie B. and I around the Vigo area, house hunting.  Clemente is an architect as well as a winemaker, a scholar and a gentleman.


Julie B. and Clemente

This is the tasting room of the winery and that is the largest oak barrel in all of Spain.

Clemente makes primarily Albariño, although he does have a few other varietals planted, and I am sure he will be experimenting with those when the time is right.  However, Albariño is the primary wine of the area around Vigo, and this area produces some of the finest Albariño in the world.

Wall of Pride

Wall of Pride

The winery has won several  medals from the prestigious Decanter World Wines competition in London.  The awards, coincidentally, were signed by my old professor, Steven Spurrier of L’Academie du Vin in Paris.


If you find yourself in the area, and can wrangle an appointment, stop in and buy a few bottles.  The winery is working on distribution in the United States, but hasn’t cracked that difficult market quite yet.

You can read all about the process that the winery uses in an article written by Clemente’s friend, and now mine, Mark Auchincloss here.



Mar 192015

March 2015

DSC_0937I have traveled to Galicia, Spain with my friend Julie B. to go house hunting.  The house is for her and her husband, not for me, I am just along for the adventure.

I have named this Casa Julie SansRoof

House Number One – I have named this Casa Julie SansRoof

Househunting in a foreign country is always a different experience, and Spain is no different.  There are the rules you expect, and the laws to be understood, and then there is the culture to interpret, therein lies the tale I will attempt to tell in this one simple blog post.

The first floor of Casa Julie SansRoof

The first floor of Casa Julie SansRoof

I named the first house SansRoof, because, well, it has no roof.  It had no walls, no bathroom and a lot of other no’s, but the joke became the lack of roof. It sits on a beautiful piece of property, but for some reason I failed to take a photo of that.


Looking at House Number 2 from the road

The second home, I fell in love with.  As an architectural historian, and a lover of history I could have happily spent the next 10 years restoring this one, if only someone drops hundreds of thousands of dollars in my lap that is.


It did however, come with property.  Julie presently owns a vineyard in Sonoma, California, and repeating the experience in Spain is something she is mulling over, so we did tend to look at things with property or existing vineyards attached.

The land that comes with house 2

The land that comes with house two.

At house three I JUMPED out of the car and screamed I LOVE this house.  I think the architect, Julie, and the architect’s friend Mark Auchincloss, at that very instant, decided I was crazy and if they could find a nice quiet, out of the way asylum they would drop me there tout de suite.


House Number Three

The property was a minimum of 10 acres, and Julie knew that was entirely too much work, we didn’t discuss the fact that the house was, well, in ruins?

House Three

The vineyard


House Four

House Four

House four was actually a hotel.  The original stone building was from 1847, and then a seven room hotel was added to the to the right of the giant camellia tree.  The owners poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project, only to watch the world economy collapse and loose everything.  The inside is just stunning, albeit, minus any form of electrical wiring, fixtures, plumbing and anything else that could be removed and salvaged to help pay off a bank debt.

DSC_0929This old wine press sits outside and would make the perfect place to cater a wedding or just build a fire and sit outside with a bottle of wine on a beautiful spring evening.

House Five

House Five

Don’t let the picture fool you.  I was scared to walk in house five, the floors appeared to be just looking for the poor sucker that stepped on the wrong spot and tumbled to their death, or a broken leg, the house didn’t care, it just felt mean.


However this ancient wine press was in the basement, and that was just cool.

House Six

House Six

This is house six, it had some lovely property and it came with this –


We were unable to get inside the home, so I have no idea what the interior was like, but the outside looked like it had potential.

The house in town.

The house in town.

We looked at a few pieces of property, but those photos really wouldn’t be of interest to you, so the last one is a sweet little house in the town of Arbo.  I must admit, that I am the one that pushed to see this one, I was dying to see what a house in town was like.

There were at least 10 bedrooms, but only one bathroom. This is the dining room area.

There were at least 10 bedrooms, but only one bathroom. This is the dining room area.

The cool thing about this house is that it had a bodega.  In Galicia, a bodega is a cellar, and in this case one for wine.


So, what does it take to buy a home?  I don’t actually know.  You don’t really know until you meet the owner and start talking, which we only did on property number one.

Spain has been badly affected by the global financial crisis and the world property market crash. Since 2008, Spanish property prices have fallen by 30 percent overall and other areas, like Galicia, have been affected even more.

Over 80 percent of Spanish residents own their own home, with around 50 percent of the population owning their home outright, i.e. without a mortgage. This means they are in no hurry to sell, there is no bank breathing down their neck.

Also, do not look at these houses and think tear down.  Most of the older properties in Spain are protected, this includes the horreos. They have a very strong historic preservation system, and you can’t just go remodeling willy-nilly.

The other thing we needed to be conscious of was water, sewer and electric, we asked that question at every property, as these services aren’t necessarily easily obtained.

I did learn that remodel costs are in the neighborhood of 255 euros per square meter and that you can rent a nice one-bedroom apartment for about 400 euros per month.

Spain currently offers a ‘golden visa’ program for property owners. In other words, if you invest more than 500,000 Euros in Spanish property you would normally be automatically eligible for a residency visa. I was told that there is a new law and that the financial number is now 300,000 Euros, but I am not positive.

We were accompanied by an architect on some of these properties, and a real estate agent on some.  I found the real estate agents to be unprepared and unaware of what was actually on the market.  In other words, we climbed fences and peeked in windows, and were told – I am not sure this is for sale, but if you like it, I will find out.

I would have been pulling my hair out, but then I was along for the adventure, it wasn’t my house.

I did not want to flood the top of this with photos, but if you are still reading and would like to see a few more choice ones from the search here you go.


The House in Town

The Hotel

The Hotel


Frames of the horreos of House Five


House Five



The old section of the Hotel


The vineyard of the Hotel


The horrreo of House Three


House Two


The stairway of the house in town

The stairway of the house in town

The kitchen of the house in town

The kitchen of the house in town


House Six




Mar 192015
Balneario de Mondariz

The Baranda which now serves as the  Hotel

What ever happened to Taking the Waters?  What a lovely way to pass the time, and yet you only see people doing so in Hercule Poirot TV shows and old movies.

Balneario de Mondariz is one of hundreds of “spas” that dotted Galician Spain in their heyday, and we stayed there for just long enough to enjoy the Water Palace and spend the night.

The hotel is about 20 minutes from the Vigo airport.


Doctor Enrique Peinador Vela

The hotel opened in 1873, and was the brain child of Don Enrique Peinador Vela.  Vela believed in the curative powers of mineral water, and was instrumental in getting the then Republican Government to declare that the mineral waters were a public utility and open to all.

Don Enrique

Don Enrique Peinador Lines (son of the founder)

Designed by architect Genaro de la Fuente it attracted the rich and famous including the Rockefellers, the Infanta Isabel de Borbon and other Famous Spaniards, the likes of which I have never heard of.

The Hotel apparently even minted its own currency had a program of operas and published a newsletter.

The Original Hotel

The Original Hotel

In 1973 a fire ravaged the hotel, but as it was stone they were able to complete a faithful reconstruction, the building is now condominiums.

The Garanada

The Gandara Spring

The Gándara Spring, housed in this Classical-style temple, was designed by architect Antonio Palacios.

There is a “ferruginous” composition to the water in the spring, which contains carbonated gas and calcium bicarbonate apparently suitable for metabolic, locomotive, respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular illnesses, and lots of others, according to the  plaque on the wall.

The stunning metal work on the chain surrounding the spring

The stunning metal work on the chain surrounding the spring

There is a beautiful spa

Balneario de Mondariz Spa

Balneario de Mondariz Spa

Alas, we were lacking in time, so we spent our down time in the Water Palace.

The exterior of the Water Palace

The exterior of the Water Palace, the right hand side dome is the Gander Spring

They did not allow photos in the Water Palace, so I took these from the Hotel’s website.  We were in the pool long enough to get pruny fingers and try out every one of the spray jets, bubble seats and even the spot in the center where the water pushes you along in a circle as you lay on your back.


Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 1.54.10 PMLiterature Nobel Laureate Jose Echegaray said, “This is not a resort, it is the Palace of the Waters”

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The pool is almost 1000 feet across and sits  under a huge glass dome There are also several mini-pools throughout the building as well as, saunas with different temperatures and humidities.

You go to the pool in a bathrobe and slippers provided, but if you arrive without a proper bathing cap they get you for 4 euros.


*Balneario de MondarizThere is much to do in the area, and it becomes very crowded during the season, which begins at Easter.

Hike the Tea River Valley

Hike the Tea River Valley

There are golf courses, a full gym, or just hike through the ruins, whatever you decide to do, I highly recommend you get there in early spring before the crowds.





We had a twin bed situation, and once again I didn’t think to take the photo until we were checking out, but as you can see through the window, the views are really lovely, and the room adequate.



The Comet

The Comet

But, I had to add this photo of the room blow dryer, you don’t see these that often anymore and I love the name.


This was one of the hallways, the hotel covers the gamut between 1920 and 1950 and yet is charming as can be.


The sitting room, and overflow bar/restaurant with a look onto the newer outdoor pool


The bar

The bar

The Water Palace

All and all, we had a wonderful time, I just wish we had had more time to enjoy the services.




Mar 192015

La Festa Da LampreaIt is Lamprey season in Galicia Spain.  If you are a queasy about cuisine, I suggest you stop reading right here and right now and move on to the next post.

The lamprey’s actual genealogy is of some question, but basically it is a jawless creature that affixes itself to a fish or other aquatic animals using suckers and the extremely sharp teeth around its mouth…and then sucks their blood.

A Live Lamprey

A Live Lamprey


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In Spain the lamprey can only be found in the lower portions of the Rio Guadiana in Extremadura and in the Rio Miño in Galicia.  They are caught between January and April and there are large celebratory festivals in most of the towns during this special time.

Abra the Village of Lamprey

Arbo, Village of the Lamprey

It is important to buy the lamprey fresh thus ensuring a dark, fatty and slightly sweet flesh that many diners prefer.

I was taken to my lamprey dining experience by Clemente Sequeiros owner of the Angel Sequeiros Winery in Pontevedra. We dined as Os Pirus in Arbo.

Our choice for my first lamprey dining experience

Our choice for my first lamprey dining experience

Clemente explained that there are several ways to prepare lamprey. He also understood that it is not for everyone, so did not order the entire lamprey as is often done.

We began with a delightful introduction of smoked lamprey with red pepper, ham and egg.  Essentially the lamprey is soaked in salt, much like Bacalao, then soaked in water to remove much of the salt, smoked, and then rolled with the three ingredients.  I found it to taste like any other smoked fish, quite palatable and set off magnificently with the potato-tuna-egg salad that was served as an accompaniment.

Lamprea Reina

Lamprea Reina

Our second dish was another delicacy of the season, and the area, Angulas.  Google translated the word as Elvers, which I later learned is what the English call them, we would simply call them small eels. These small animals enter the Miño River from the Atlantic Ocean at the same time as the lamprey.  They are probably Spain’s most expensive dish, last season they were running around 140 Euros per gram, but the price has dropped to about 60 this year. They are cooked with pan fried garlic and one whole cayenne pepper then served in a small earthenware dish, with a wooden fork, the only way to keep them on a fork and get them to your mouth.



I was in absolute heaven, I honestly thought they were DELICIOUS.  Clemente commented it was a good thing that I wasn’t going to be around for the entire season as my wallet couldn’t handle it.

Our third dish was a more traditional way to eat lamprey.



This, the more traditional way, is to either boil or braise the lamprey in its own blood, often with a local red wine.  This is then served over a bed of very plump, very white rice.  I found the dish to be delightful.  It is so very, very rich and dense that 2 of those pieces was all that I could possibly consume.  I tried to do more, but the density of the lamprey fills you up almost instantly.  There are no bones in lampreys, like sharks they are an animal of simply meat and cartilage, so they are easy to eat.

We enjoyed the entire meal with a bottle of Albarino, not Clemente’s sadly, but a lovely one none-the-less.


It was a truly fun afternoon, and while not one for the feint of heart, one that I was glad to have had the chance to experience.