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The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION EUROPE -

De­par­tures for Aus­tralian-based Wandering the World’s 12-day In­dulging in South­ern Spain and Por­tu­gal tour can be ar­ranged for two or more trav­ellers on dates to suit. From €7745 ($10,700) a per­son, twin-share. An es­corted small-group 11day In­dulging in Por­tu­gal tour de­parts June 14 this year and Septem­ber 1, 2018. Tours in­clude lo­cal guides, bou­tique ac­com­mo­da­tion, meals with wine, and pri­vate trans­port. More: wan­der­ingth­e­world. com.au. tray that re­turns with a box of but­tery al­mond and wal­nut bis­cuits.

An­other day, an­other high­light. At Carta­gena, I’m at a pig farm, but these are no or­di­nary pigs. We are in Iber­ica ham coun­try. At Finca Mon­te­frio, they roam free among hun­dreds of oak trees, and eat only acorns. In­side the cur­ing room, where 500 hams hang from the ceil­ing, I dis­cover what makes this meat so spe­cial. Ar­mando ex­plains the ex­tra­or­di­nary four-year process in hushed tones, as if we’re in­side a church. The cli­max of our visit is the tast­ing in the farm kitchen, where he slices the ham with the rev­er­ence of a re­li­gious rit­ual, and in­structs us how to eat it. First smell, then let it linger in our mouths, fi­nally swal­low. It’s so luscious, it all but dis­solves.

On our last day in An­dalu­sia, we drive to Linares de la Sierra. Strolling along its labyrinth of an­cient al­leys, we come to a cob­bled square where a woman is wash­ing her laun­dry in the well. It’s quaint, but I have no idea why we’re here. David is smil­ing. “You think you’ve eaten at good restau­rants,’’ he says. “Just wait.” It’s hard to be­lieve that a restau­rant in this re­mote ham­let has been en­thu­si­as­ti­cally re­viewed by food writers in The New York Times, but that’s the case with Ar­rieros, once a stop­ping point for post­men delivering mail on don­keys. We’re ush­ered into a cosy pri­vate room that over­looks wooded hills, and the feast be­gins.

We start with pota­toes and diced onions in cumin, pars­ley and olive oil, fol­lowed by pork carpac­cio with foie gras, driz­zled with wine vine­gar. Then comes the sig­na­ture dish of tomato soup spiced with garam masala and fresh figs. The plat­ters keep com­ing — lo­cal goat’s cheese with oregano, or­ganic honey, laven­der and thyme melted on bread, and Ibe­rian pork ham­burger with minced mush­rooms and red cap­sicum jam. The seven-course meal in­cludes glasses of verdejo, a red and a dessert wine that’s perfect with a lemon mousse with gin­ger, cin­na­mon and sesame seeds. It’s all sur­pris­ingly light. Af­ter a week of Span­ish feast­ing, how­ever, I can’t say the same about my­self.

Diane Arm­strong was a guest of Wandering the World.

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