Eating Black Slime

Conil de la Frontera Travel Blog

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Ortiguillas are a delicacy in Conil. Yes, some people go mad for them!
I, on the other hand can take them or leave them. Why all the fuss?, you might ask.

Maybe it is because they are hard to come by - a bit like the caviar effect. Maybe it is because they are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside (still not doing it for me) or maybe it is just because of the mere fact that you are eating something harvested less than 24 hours ago in a romantic seaside location, the soft scent of tangy salt in the air, the saline aftertaste in your mouth (along with a fair amount of sand from the beach as well) . . .
aaaah maybe for some but certainly not for me. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hated them, it’s just that I couldn't really get past the unusual texture and the thought of them in their natural habitat put me off.

What the hell are you on about (I can hear you asking at this point). Well, I have done a little bit of background research for you all so here goes. See if you would be interested in tucking into a place of ortiguillas after this!

Ortiguillas are effectively sea anemones and are harvested on the south coast of Spain. The Cadiz area is famous for them and as I was staying just south of there in Conil, my friends saw the need to ensure that I experienced this local delicacy.

Did you know that they are ‘animal’ but also thought to be ‘plant’ by some as they have no skeleton and are thought to photosynthesize? They reproduce sexually and have also been known to reproduce asexually (producing both eggs and sperm). It is also very difficult to determine the age of an anemone (plenty of resources for tongue twisters here - might use it in one of my English classes jajaja). The smaller ones may not necessarily be younger than the bigger ones and research done in New Zealand (of all places) has discovered a small anemone that is 300 years old - urrrrgh imagine eating something that old!
So back in pretty seaside Conil, I am served a plate of fried Ortiguillas with a wedge of lemon. Simple bar food. Nacio and Jaime loved them but after five or six of the crunchy, slippery, salty and sandy creatures, I had had my fill. Just the once, I think.

I was invited to spend the long weekend (affectionately know as ‘el puente’ or the bridge in Spain) with one of English my students, Nacio and his friend, Jaime. Jaime owns a holiday apartment in Conil in one of the new ‘resort-style’ residences just behind the old town. Conil is a favourite destination for holiday makers from Madrid and other large towns further North. Although it gets its fare share of extranjeros (western tourists), it is far more Spanish than many Southern towns.

The apartment is large and roomy and there is a 25m pool in the complex but being so far back from the beach really meant a car was necessary to get there, otherwise a 20-25 minute walk is necessary.

The town itself is typical of all seaside towns in Cadiz province. All the buildings are white and jammed together around twisty narrow cobbled streets. The main thoroughfares are lined with small bars and ice-cream shops open late every night.

Even though the holiday season has officially finished in Spain, it was difficult to get a seat in the tapas bars on both nights but patience wins out in the end. The food was delicious (apart form afore-mentioned delicacy) and the warm balmy air a perfect setting to practice my Spanish.

During the day we went to the beaches. There are plenty to choose from and this area of the coast is famous for its nudist (‘en pelotas’) beaches. On Saturday we drove to one of these as it is in a little cove with sharp cliffs rising behind it and so sheltered form the Levante (mediterranean winds that cause uncomfortable sand blasting on your exposed skin).
The trees at the top of the cliff have spent their entire lives being buffeted by these strong winds and have grown up disfigured, pushed sideways and lop-sided like birthday candles being blown out.

Yes, there were plenty of nudists (not us, I should add) but I must say that there are some ‘things’ that should never be paraded in public! I am glad I had my book to keep my eyes trained on!

It was so relaxing being away from my computer and lesson planning for 2 days! I had to cut my ‘puente’ short and return on Sunday afternoon though as I had a lesson Monday morning (which was subsequently cancelled).

As the bus pulled in to Sevilla late on Sunday night, I had a surge of excitement and under my breath I muttered, “I’m home”. . . . .
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Conil de la Frontera
photo by: lucacinel