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Learn how to create delicious feasts at a wonderful traditional cortijo. Enjoy a unique four-night holiday, where you will be able to cook, explore historical towns, go on delightful country walks in the stunning Sierra de Montanchez, or just relax and enjoy the pool and lovely views. Delight with Finca Al-Manzil’s cooking style, a fusion of Iberic and Moroccan cuisine; sumptuous traditional food with a bit more imagination thrown in. The holiday includes cooking, walking, well-being, cultural visits, and fantastic country life.
A country house in the heart of Extremadura, Finca Al-Manzil is a 22-hectare finca, located on the south west slope of the Sierra de Montanchez, one of the most beautiful sierras in Extremadura. You will approach the finca along a winding lane, part of the ancient system of communication that link even the most remote parts of the sierra.
Finca Al-Manzil is in an olive and fig country and it is a delight to see the carefully tended land along the way. As you climb and turn the last bend, you can see a marvelous vista of five craggy peaks erupting out of the sumptuous green of the sierra. The peaks are like the guardians of the finca, wherever you may roam, look up and there they will be, simply magical.
Enjoy the unique benefits to be gained from this area of the Extremadura: the rich nature, the ancient Roman and Moorish vestiges, the healthy natural food products, and the comfortable, friendly, and versatile environment to enjoy all these pleasures at Finca al-Manzil.
The finca offers an interesting and rewarding holiday for their guests, they are keeping the grounds as natural as possible but with stone paths for better and safer access to all parts of the finca, especially the higher part which contains many old stone shelters, chozos, springs, and wonderful vistas from the spectacular rock formations.
Finca Al-Manzil wants their guests to be able to enjoy a safe and rewarding wander around the finca and beyond, using the original ancient paths, two of which lead to the castle of Montanchez. They plan to revive as much pathway as possible as it is a truly great experience to walk on Roman and Moorish history.
The barn is situated in its own 1-hectare ground with a sunny aspect and views across the olive groves and up to the peaks of the mountain. There is a spacious double height sitting room and dining area with stairs to a big first floor bedroom.
The whole space is heated by a wood burning stove in the cooler months. The bathroom has a roomy shower and views of the meadow. The kitchen is well equipped with gas hob and oven, fridge, washing machine, lots of utensils, and attractive table wear.
There are French windows from the sitting room leading to a long covered terrace for outside dining with barbecue, lovely views of the mountain peaks, and to a shady area under a copse of holm oaks in the pasture, perfect for siestas, dining, and bird watching.
Eagle owls can be seen and heard at dusk. Private entrance and parking. Access to swimming pool through small gate and along path.
The cortijo has been renovated with loving care, using traditional materials, the windows, thick shutters, and doors were made by a local carpenter with seasoned chestnut wood. The spacious double height sitting room stays cool in summer and is cozy in the colder months with a wood burning fire.
There are lots of books, DVDs, and comfy chairs. Doors lead on to the porch and terrace with lovely views of the surrounding countryside. The kitchen is well equipped and features a marvelous old stone work table, very inspirational for imaginative cooks. Wi-Fi connection is available. The dining room leads off the kitchen; there is a huge 3.30 meters dining table and access to the back terrace with barbecue, dining table for lovely outside dining experiences and sweeping views up to the peaks. The little path to the swimming pool starts here.
There is accommodation for 6 people in three comfortable bedrooms, all have en-suite bathrooms. Finca Al-Manzil has a cot and 2 camp beds for children if needed. The upstairs bedroom has access to a secluded 20 square meter roof terrace with the best views of the mountain. The other two twin bedrooms lead off the porch, a lovely space for enjoying the views and star gazing at night. Private entrance gate and driveway to entrance hall of the cortijo.
Visit local villages to take a cheese and jamon curing tour.
This cooking holiday will take place in Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain.
The capital of upper Extremadura has a beautiful old quarter, enclosed by Moorish town walls with great watch-towers. Additional attractions include some exceptional Renaissance palaces. Founded by Romans in 34 B.C., this thriving provincial capital is the closest Extremadura comes to a big city. Named a world heritage city in 1986, the barrio antiguo offers plenty of architectural wonder.
Between the 14th and 16th centuries, rival noble families vied for social and political control, each building a miniature palace to demonstrate their power and wealth. As a result, the old city is a wonderful maze of palaces, museums, and churches. Although the more modern areas are less interesting, the Parque del Principe and a healthy nightlife scene provide ample amusement for a short stay. From Caceres it is possible to enter Portugal by bus or Badajoz, or Valencia de Alcantara by train.
The Extremadura region of Spain has had a long, hard history. It was difficult to extract a living out of this mountainous and remote area in past ages. Thankfully, the very reason for the Extremadura's difficulties in the past is the great advantage it has now. Vast areas of the rest of Spain have been negatively affected by the industrial and tourist ages, beautiful areas decimated by unplanned development; this did not happen in the Extremadura. Here, the people have clung on to their ancient traditions and the great love and natural respect for nature and it is evident, wherever you travel in this region.
Extremadura has two mighty rivers flowing through it, the Tajo and the Guadiana. They have been utilized to make many extensive and beautiful lakes, so, although far from the sea, there are plenty of watersport and fishing possibilities. The wild sierras, rolling plains and wonderfully atmospheric villages and towns all make for an interesting and restful holiday. Communication is improving to bordering regions with excellent roads to Castille in the north, Portugal to the west, Andalusia to the south.
The largest village in the Sierra de Montanchez. Dominated by its Moorish castle it is known as the balcony of the Extremadura because of the splendid, vast views down into the valleys and plains towards Trujillo, the Gredos mountains, and Cornalvo natural park. The oldest part of the town is typical of its Moorish heritage, small, narrow streets leading to secluded little courtyards.
The life of the village centers on the thriving jamon production. In fact, the local jamon is one of only three recognized in the whole of Spain for its outstanding quality. Life is still slow here; the older generation still use their donkeys as the main means of transport to their outlying fincas.
There has been much acclaim for the dinners prepared at the finca, so they have decided to share their secrets and run creative cooking courses several times a year. The cortijo kitchen is spacious with all the special equipment and implements needed to create delicious Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Spanish, and Portuguese dishes, using natural fresh local vegetables, meat, fish, fruit and herbs; the spices are imported regularly from Morocco.
The Finca Al-Manzil’s aim and pleasure is to inspire enjoyment of the food in the well designed and decorated surroundings of the Finca. Dinner will be the highlight of every day. Starting with tapas, which they have had fun inventing, served on the terrace, you will eat dinner around the huge dining table or maybe outside if the evening is warm. Possibly dinner will have been cooked in the traditional clay oven or over a charcoal grill.
During this culinary vacation, you will be feasted delicious meals, all made with traditional ingredients. You will enjoy some tapas and drinks, to spend a very Spanish time and you will be able to pair your dishes with Extremea wines, coffee with some special liqueur from the Jerte Valley, or some aguardiente made from the medroo or wild strawberry bush.
In the Sierra de Montanchez, where Finca Al-Manzil is situated, the small black Iberic pigs graze contentedly in the oak forests gorging on the abundant acorns, they produce the famous Montanchez jamon and chorizo. Cows and sheep are left to graze on the mountain pastures and the cheese products are delicious.
The wine produced in the Extremadura is very characteristic, usually quite strong and full bodied, it can be up to 16%. In many towns, such as Montanchez, the local wine, Pitarra, is still made from the grapes that grow in the mountain vineyards, transported to the musty cellars that exist in most of the old houses and fermented in huge Ali Baba clay pots called tinajas.
Bicycle hire is available for easy riding on the lanes around the finca, maybe a visit to the Visigoth Basilica set in beautiful cork oak forests.
Bird watching is exceptional on any part of the finca, either on walks or from the porches of the houses. Finca Al-Manzil has had many professional wild life photographers staying with them and they are impressed with the variety and richness of the bird life. The star attraction are the eagle owl nests on the crags. The famed Monfrague National Nature Reserve is about 1 hour from the finca and the colony of Griffon Vultures is particularly interesting.
Finca Al-Manzil is only 10 minutes from Montanchez with its famous jamon, served in all the bars, and the lively Saturday market. The nearest large towns are Caceres, Trujillo, or Merida and can be reached within 30 to 40 minutes.
Finca Al-Manzil has 4 horses that are available for experienced riders and 1 donkey for gentler rides. There is also a riding stable nearby for trekking with a guide.
Take some extra hours of creative cooking or cultural tours or simply enjoy the wonderful location, food, and wine.
Depending on the time of the year, you can participate in different local events that go from olive harvest from December to January, grape and fig harvest in September, and wild asparagus picking in Spring. During May, you can visit WOMAD in Caceres or attend the Medieval Fair in Caceres during November. Usually every month has a local fiesta going on which you can visit.
There is a delightful walk directly to the village of Montanchez on the old Moorish path which takes about 40 minutes. The walk to Arroyomolinos and the water mills takes about 1 hour. There are also several beautiful walks on ancient paved paths on the higher parts of the sierra, walking through the typical landscape of olive grove, chestnut woods, and cherry orchards.
Arrive at Seville Airport (SVQ).