At the Special Corner of the Iberian Peninsula

26 September 2008

My blog is becoming more like a seasonal newsletter rather than a blog (!) – I didn’t mean to leave it so long, but thank you for all your kind notes asking how I’ve been/where I’ve gone. I’ve been busy working on some exciting projects, hopefully I can share some of the stories here soon.

It’s been nearly two months since I came back from a wonderful trip to Spain and Portugal – although my tan has faded in this already-late-autumn weather in the UK, my fond memories haven’t :)

Since I moved to the UK nearly 10 years ago, I’ve enjoyed discovering lots of types of food from all over Europe. In particular, I seem to have a soft spot for Spanish food – evident from the fact that a fair amount of room on my cookbook shelves is occupied by Spanish and Portuguese cuisine (I’m especially fond of these Moorish influenced books – and this gorgeous new addition is becoming my favourite too)

I have been to Barcelona a couple of times, but it was my first visit to Madrid and further south, Andalucia. When I originally planned the trip, it was supposed to be just a short stay in Madrid to attend my friend Tomoka’s wedding – I first met her when we were studying in London but hadn’t seen each other for a long time so I was looking forward to the trip.

Then I was thrilled to receive a lovely email from a British gentleman called Alastair from Sierra Rica, a fantastic organic food company in Aracena, Andalucia. I’ve been a big fan of their products for a long time since I first tried their organic chestnuts. Alastair’s love affair with Spain had started long ago, but about 10 years ago he decided to quit his job in London and moved to Aracena where he started the company.

After seeing my posts about chestnut desserts, he asked me if it’d be OK to put some of my images on their website – and kindly invited me to come over to Aracena. I can’t explain it well, but I knew straight away that I would accept his invitation – just swapping a few emails, I could tell how passionate he is about good local produce, and his wonderful, warm personality ensured that my trip was soon extended :)

I spent my first few days in Madrid; although it was a short stay, I had a lovely time in the city and it was great that my friend Aya could fly over from Tokyo for Tomoka’s wedding. The reception was lovely – very much in a Spanish style – everyone was enjoying dancing even after 3am…

We couldn’t have enjoyed our stay in the city as much without help from my lovely friend Yuly – we had been swapping emails for a while and I was looking forward to meeting her in person on this trip.

As I mentioned earlier, Spanish food is definitely my favourite – the simplicity of cooking and the emphasis on quality of ingredients is reminiscent of Japanese food. Another reason I love Spanish food is that, as Japanese, we enjoy sharing lots of small dishes so Izakaya style Tapas is something that appeals to us – we concentrated on that style of eating during our stay :)

I remember enjoying a lot of great seafood in Barcelona – I’m obviously a big seafood fan (just like other Japanese folks), but wasn’t sure what Madrid would offer. It turned out that, being as capital, the city has a great choice of cuisine from all over Spain. As well as general Tapas bars, we tried some specialised Tapas places where they focus on a specific ingredient – from sardines, anchovies, prawns, octopus, mushrooms, tortillas and so on… We absolutely loved crawling between these small bars with lots of local beer to go with the food – I could tell my jeans were getting tighter and tighter every day…!

Yuly took us to some gorgeous shops around town too – including Helena Rohner (my long time favourite), Pez, Oliphant and Mamblona (many of them are in the hip Chueca area). I’ve always loved the Spanish culture – design, architecture, films and so on – and it was great to have a great guide who knows the city and could show us the best of it. Thanks again, Yuly!

After saying farewell to Yuly and Aya, I headed to Seville. It takes only two hours from Madrid on the AVE train, as I looked out the window I could tell by the changing scenery that I was heading very south. Andalucia is the most southern part of Spain and has a colourful history, with many cultures leaving their mark – there is especially a strong Islamic influence.

As soon as I got off the train, I could feel the air was much hotter than Madrid. I remember the temperature rose to the mid forties (centigrade!) every day – a scary number if you’re used to the mild British summer, but it was surprisingly dry, and I had kind of acclimatised myself in Madrid which helped.

Alastair’s friend Michael kindly took me the hour and a half drive from Seville to Aracena, where Sierra Rica is based. He gave me a wonderful (and witty) tour and as we drove up La Sierra de Aracena, the landscape became much greener, you can see little villages on the hills with beautiful Andalucian white walls.

Aracena is a lovely little town in the Huelva region of Andalucia. Before I arrived, Alastair had specifically told me as little as possible about the town – he thought I should experience it for myself when I got there; I think he knew I would fall in love with this special little town, and I certainly did :)

Alastair, along with Janet who has been working with him since Sierra Rica started (and also pampered me throughout my stay), took me for breakfast every morning. We went to a bar that serves a great open sandwich with hand sliced ham, freshly pureed tomato and a drizzle of olive oil.

The region is famous for Jamon Iberico – which comes from black Iberian pigs (with black hooves aka pata negra). The ham is graded to according to how much of their diet consists of acorns (bellota). In this region, traditional annual pig slaughter – called Matanza – is still practiced. As you know if you have ever tasted the ham, the rich dark meat has a wonderful strong flavour and the heavenly fat melts in your mouth – once you’ve tasted it, I don’t think you can really go back to any other ham, it is that good. It’s actually not difficult to find it in the UK, but you obviously pay a lot more.

I loved Alastair’s description of those Iberian pigs’ legs being sexy and slender :) I was hoping to see some pigs munching acorns under the oak tress (it was interesting to see cork being harvested from the trees, apparently they can collect it every ten years), but it seemed too hot even for them to come out in the heat when humans are taking a siesta!

So the gorgeous open sandwich became my favourite instantly – in the end Alastair stopped asking me what I wanted, I was just happy to start my day with one…

I had a chance to visit the Sierra Rica factory too – they are not big, and I could meet most of the staff who really are a great team. We watched a Japanese TV programme about Matanza that was filmed in a nearby village of Jabugo a little while ago. Some of the Sierra Rica members made an appearance in the film and I’m glad they thought that the Japanese crew did a good job :)

Alastair let me taste some of their products that I haven’t tried before – I loved them all, especially the extra virgin olive oil from near Cordoba – I am a big fan of Spanish olive oils and this was no exception, you can taste their passion and love, that’s what I like about their products :)

As well as exploring the town, I enjoyed some excursions too. Alastair took me to a beautiful border town of Tavira in Portugal, where his friend Rui produces salt which Alastair sells through Sierra Rica.

I’ve never visited a salt pond before and was quite excited about it. Rui, the owner, has been running the place for generations and showed me how the salt pond works. It wasn’t rocket science as you can probably imagine, but I just fell in love with the beauty of the place and the whole delicate process.

Almost everything you see at Rui’s place was handmade and old-fashioned – taste-wise, I agree with Alastair that Rui’s salt has a certain cleanness, yet complexity, over other salts – it has a slightly sweet aftertaste. We brought a packet of Maldon for him to try, which didn’t impress him too much – Rui thinks the production is too big!

I remember taking many pictures there – I thought the place was just beautiful and every element and shape inspired me.

I also had the pleasure meeting with some other artisans. We visited the studio of Alberto German who is an acclaimed sculptor based in Aracena whose subjects often include bullfighters as well as religious icons. I love being in a workshop of any kind – I used to do work in which I spent lots of time in a workshop, so I always feel at home in one.

Alberto kindly told me that he wouldn’t mind if I took some pictures – his work is highly beautiful and evocative so I didn’t feel that my quick snaps would do it justice; rather, I just tried to capture the atmosphere of the studio which I hope reflects his charming personality.

I also had the pleasure of meeting a food writer and presenter Maria Jose Sevilla and her lovely husband David. We enjoyed a lunch together at a transport cafe – the food was great, somewhat different from the traditional British greasy spoon! Over lunch, I learned about her work at the Spanish embassy in London, promoting Spanish food and wine in the UK as well as her new cookbook she is working on at the moment. Her passion was really contagious and her great stories made me want to travel all around Spain right away!

Alastair and I had a mission to try Salmorejo every time we ate out. Salmorejo is a soup traditionally served mainly in Andalusia – similar to Gazpacho, but much thicker because of the bread content. Every place had a slightly different texture and flavour, but topping-wise it often has chopped hard-boiled eggs and Jamon Iberico – they work wonderfully together. I’m hoping to recreate this sometime as I was given a good recipe from one of the restaurants we visited – but I just know that however hard I tried, it wouldn’t taste the same – it’s always the best to taste it in its place of origin…

After a few wonderful days in Aracena, we headed to Portugal again for my last night – Alastair kindly let me stay with him and his family in a town of Olhao. Olhao is a beautiful old town on the Algarve coast where Alastair and his lovely wife Jane have been restoring their old townhouse they bought a couple of years ago. Jane is a great interior designer with a wealth of experience – I got too excited when Alastair told me about her, I’ve been a big fan of her books and gorgeous styling! So obviously Jane’s magic touch is very evident in their beautiful house. Check out Jane’s fabulous blog here – as you can see, she is a wonderful cook too!

It was lovely strolling around the narrow streets in Olhao, but Alastair told me that many of the old buildings are now neglected and abandoned, which is a great shame. The next morning, we visited the market in Olhao – it was amazing, from the huge indoor fish market to the vegetable/fruit market along the seafront – I would be happy to live there just for that market :)

Although I only stayed in Portugal for a short time, I could notice the subtle differences between the Spanish and Portuguese character of people, architecture etc. I’ll have to visit again and report more – I’m already planning another trip to go back to see them, maybe on a motorbike next time :)

Thank you again everyone for making me feel so at home on my trip, I’m looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

Places        68 comments    Permalink

  • Hi
    I just discovered your website yesterday thru surfing I think on some nordic or french country decor blogs and I love your pictures and most of all I got all nostalgic because you have just shown pictures of Tavira in the Algarve where my parents used to live. I live in Paris, my parents were portuguese but I was born in Zimbabwe and brought up in South Africa, Japan is one of my favourite countries that I used to visit often when my rate of exchange was strong and I worked for an airline so tickets were nearly freebies. It feels quite weird and coincidental because just yesterday I was looking at your pictures on Paris, one of my favourite shops is also Astier et Vilatte and then today you show Tavira and Olhao so I could not resist to write !! Keep up the good work take care and I will certainly keep returning to read your blog liz

    Posted by liz | 26 September 2008 #
  • Very nice. I love south Europa! It’s so colorful.

    Keiko, don’t leave us waiting so long for your next post. Please.

    Posted by oolong | 26 September 2008 #
  • part 2 oh yes and thank you for letting me discover le petit atelier à Paris can’t wait to visit it, That’s the wonderful thing about blogs the generosity of sharing small bits of information that add to a lot

    Posted by liz | 26 September 2008 #
  • Keiko,

    Was that a version of chocolate-dipped churros? What was in the cup?


    Posted by Sri Utami | 26 September 2008 #
  • Keiko,
    Wecome back!
    I am book marking this article as I never visited Andalucia before. I’ve been to Madrid and barcelona and love the two cities very much, I love the food, the culture and the people. Thanks for sharing your stories and looking forward to the next one, especially Portugal.

    Posted by elra | 26 September 2008 #
  • I really enjoyed your trip account.
    It made me want to go back to Spain and travel around.

    Posted by Kate B | 27 September 2008 #
  • Hi, I just want to congratulate you for the the wonderfull blog you have and to say, as a Portuguese girl, that I apprecciated a lot your comments and to invite you to visit the north of Portugal. It is delightfull! Thank you so much for the wonder photos, I also LOVE algarve. (sorry if my writing isn’t good, i don’t write in english as much as I would like…)

    Posted by Sandra | 27 September 2008 #
  • It’s so nice to read you again! And to look at your precious photos…
    Best wishes,

    Posted by Marcela | 27 September 2008 #
  • Hello, Keiko san!

    Nice to see your new posting!
    As always, your photos are beautiful, some of them have sentimental, colorful, deep touch to it! Love them!

    Posted by junko | 27 September 2008 #
  • Wow! Your photos are amazing! What a lovely trip.

    xox Sarah

    Posted by Sarah | 27 September 2008 #
  • Oh Keiko, how wonderful your photos are, it’s just as hard to say as if I had to describe a paint from Friedrich.

    Posted by g. | 27 September 2008 #
  • Nice Work. I really enjoyed reading it. Next time you visit Iberian Peninsula why don’t you visit us, here in the North?

    I am sure you would love the landscapes, the people and, of course, the food and, who knows, maybe we could even have a coffee.

    Loved to see you were back

    Posted by Gourmetdeprovincias | 27 September 2008 #
  • hi keiko, what an adventure you must had had, and such beautiful photos as souvenirs of your trip. and the photo of the churros makes me yearn for some right now! ;)

    Posted by Lil | 27 September 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko, what a delight of a post. I love Spain. I used to go to the South – Granada and surroundings to visit friends. Haven’t been in a while. your post made me feel like packing.i wish I could.

    Posted by valentina | 27 September 2008 #
  • Hi—good to have you back—I love your blog and the beautiful photographs and travel tales

    Posted by Melanie | 27 September 2008 #
  • Hey Keiko! Glad to hear everything is going well for you. I was in Portugal too, over the Summer, in the Algarve as well and took similar pictures to yours in Portimão, including the hand-shaped door knockers! Though your pictures remind me of Silves too, which is where we spent more time. See here:

    Posted by sam | 27 September 2008 #
  • very very kewl blog posting. spanish cuisine and in particular the food of andalucia is very close to my hear. i lived in granada for one year. we are currently visiting the south of france/north of spain so please check out our latest blogs for adventures of food there. thanks again!

    Posted by kelsie mortimer | 27 September 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko-san,

    I am so happy to read and see your journal again. What an amazing trip!!

    Posted by yukko | 27 September 2008 #
  • keiko, reading your stories, looking at your fab photos make me want to go back to Europe asap….
    it’s delightful as ever….

    Posted by shalimar | 28 September 2008 #
  • Always wonderful to hear from you Keiko and read about your adventures! What an amazing trip you had!

    Posted by Anita | 28 September 2008 #
  • Keiko-san こんにちわ! お久しぶりです。
    えー いつものように英語はニガテなので写真で楽しませてもらいました。
    イベリコハム・・・でしょうか? おいしそう。

    いつもステキな写真で旅心がうずうずします。が、先立つものがないため実際飛行機に飛び乗ることができません。ということでそのままこの写真で満たされることに! :)

    Posted by azu | 28 September 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko-san, nice photos as usual. I love them!

    Posted by mami | 28 September 2008 #
  • Welcome back Keiko! I have been looking and looking if there was an update from and alas, there is one now! As usual, beautiful stories and amazing, amazing photos! Thank you for delighting me always. :)

    Posted by Nur Suraya | 28 September 2008 #
  • dearest keiko, i can’t tell you how thrilled i am to visit, read your fabulous new story and sigh over the beauty of your pictures…it’s a pleasure i must confess i’ve truly missed ;-) so glad to hear you had a lovely trip, and can’t wait to hear more!

    Posted by Joycelyn | 28 September 2008 #
  • Hi,Keiko-san
    I’m very glad to see you(and your photographs) here again. Your Photos are always make me happy.Thank you~♪

    Posted by seiko | 29 September 2008 #
  • Nice Blog to visitting .. as first time i read your blong till now i get always good time to see your pics and read your stories ^^.
    So just drop some msg to let you know , that you i am your big fan here as the other here ^^ .

    Posted by Jewnid | 29 September 2008 #
  • Dear Keiko

    It’s good to know you are keeping well. Reading this wonderfully composed blog also reminds me it’s worth all the wait. I especially like how you see the world, always so positive and full of love and energy! I was in Italy this summer to attend a good friend’s wedding and moved to visit a friend in Barcelona after that. Your blog reminds me the wonderful trip I had. As you, I love Spanish food very much!

    I hope the autumn in Britain is not too cold to bear. Tokyo has just started getting cold, and I already very much looking forward to the autumn food and the beautiful maple leaves.


    Posted by shereen | 29 September 2008 #
  • Konnichiha Keiko-san!

    I’m very impressed by your beautiful photos again!!!
    I’m looking forward to seeing next page soon :-)

    Posted by Noriko | 29 September 2008 #
  • Your posts may be few and far between, but I treasure each one of them. Your photos are simply gorgeous.

    Posted by Tracy | 30 September 2008 #
  • une belle balade ibérique… avec de très belle images qui donnent envie de repartir immédiatement en voyage…

    Posted by bcommebon | 30 September 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko,
    I thought you had stayed in Cuba or something, pictures and story are wonderful, reminds me of my short stay in Istanbul!

    Welcome back!

    Posted by Jeremy | 1 October 2008 #
  • hi keiko, what fabulous photos :) i’m itching now to go to all these places! this is becoming more like a travel blog now! and i love the way you tell the stories, you have so much humility! best, soo

    Posted by soo | 1 October 2008 #
  • Keiko-san,


    Thank you for such lovely, such emotion-inducing photos.

    Posted by cocopuff1212 | 1 October 2008 #
  • Lovely blog! I’m leaving for Spain and Portugal next week and your pictures have gotten me all excited.

    Posted by casey | 1 October 2008 #
  • Incredible photos!
    I live in Barcelona, and I really think you´ve had a very good time! Hope you enjoyed our country, specially food :-P
    Regards from the Seignalet diet.

    Posted by cdecocina | 1 October 2008 #
  • Hey Keiko,
    You’ve done a beautiful job once more. I’m off to East Africa this christmas and I can only dream to take such amazing photos. It great to be inspired with such wonderful images.

    Posted by Alpa | 2 October 2008 #
  • Always a joy to read your very inspiring travelogue and fantastic photos!

    Very much looking forward to read some of your new-found recipes from the region, á la Keiko!


    Posted by Rowina | 2 October 2008 #
  • Breathtaking photographs, a lovely, inspiring weblog, absolutely beautiful.

    Posted by Michelle | 3 October 2008 #
  • It is lovely to hear from you again after such a long hiatus, Keiko. Your pics brought back many food memories for me. I can smell the jamon from here & their black, black coffee!

    Posted by Helena | 5 October 2008 #
  • Again, I love the photo collections you show after each trip. This post brought back so many great memories of when I studied in Spain, especially the food and the laid-back way of life. There’s such a huge emphasis now on new Spanish cuisine but it’s the pimientos the padron, embutidos, and other traditional tapas that will always hit home for me.

    Posted by Diana @ Appetite for China | 6 October 2008 #
  • I am amazed by your posts and the blog is very informative !

    Posted by anamika: the sugarcrafter | 7 October 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko, your photos are beautiful as ALWAYS!! I was just wondering if you use your 50mm 1.8 lens all the time or do you switch it up with another lens?

    Posted by Nina | 7 October 2008 #
  • I can’t wait to visit Spain and Portugal myself! But in the meantime, I’m happy to contend with enjoying your gorgeous photos instead.

    Posted by Y | 8 October 2008 #
  • Très belles photos qui donnent envie de voyager …

    Posted by cindy | 9 October 2008 #
  • Keiko, you have an immense talent, thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs. You need to publish a book! I particularly love the salt photographs, stunningly beautiful!

    Posted by The Cwtch | 10 October 2008 #
  • Lovely pictures. Makes me want to returnto Spain right away. Great blog, too!

    Posted by La Traductora | 10 October 2008 #
  • These pictures are really, really, really great. You’re whole photo blog actually! And the sweets always make me hungry.(^^;)

    I also like the way you write-it’s informative and easy reading! Cheers!

    Posted by denise | 10 October 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko! I’m glad you enjoyed that little part of Portugal. I’m a portuguese girl, so I’m always very proud of my country when I read nice things about it, or when I see these amazing pictures. You must come back and visit the north area: Oporto (the city where I live), the Douro Valley (great wine and food), and other amazing sights!

    Posted by Marta Ferreira | 12 October 2008 #
  • Lovely, lovely blog. I just discovered it! A food sabbitcal mixed with work and travel is my idea of gasto, slow-food, traditional, organic bliss!

    Posted by Quail By Mail | 13 October 2008 #
  • Your photos are truly amazing and a great source of inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Karin in Paris | 13 October 2008 #
  • beautiful pictures as always! now you’ve made me want to visit spain….

    Posted by J. | 16 October 2008 #
  • I love it everytime I come to your blog and I find your beautiful photographs and read your experiences. I am from Spain and I feel you’ve captured the spirit of the place.

    Posted by Ana | 21 October 2008 #
  • Keiko, お誕生日おめでとう!
    Have a smashing day!!

    Posted by blimp | 22 October 2008 #
  • Beautiful and inspiring. I love your photos.

    Posted by Sara | 23 October 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko! Can’t believe I didn’t see this great post sooner. Sounds like you had a fun trip. Your photos are stunning as always. Not that you asked, but f I had to pick a favorite, it would be the fourth picture in the first set – the two elderly ladies cooking little fish a la plancha. Awesome!

    Posted by Brett | 23 October 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko,

    I’m a new fan. I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like to and am envious of those who do. But your photos are just amazing and alive that I feel myself transported as I gaze into each and every one of them. So, thank you for spiriting me away :)

    Posted by passionfordecor | 24 October 2008 #
  • 虽然我看不懂你的文字。

    Posted by 铁柱 | 24 October 2008 #
  • beautiful work!

    Posted by Amanda Marie S | 24 October 2008 #
  • it’s really lovely to watch your photographs of traveling and food.

    keep it up

    Posted by ladydesign | 25 October 2008 #
  • Oh Keiko, what a wonderful trip that must have been. I, too, adore Spain – Nick was working in madrid for 3 months in 2006 so I spent quite a bit of time there. We lived quite near te Mercado La Maz and there was a shope there that sold the best ham I’ve ever eaten. It was a total revelation and you are right – once you’ve had Jamon Iberico de bellota you can’t go back! There is a depth of flavour that is lacking in everything else.

    I loved Andalucia too – I only went to Granada but we stayed in the Albaicin with its winding alleyways and exotic markets, and I remember the stillness of the siesta hour when we’d tramp up the hill, exhausted, and collapse on our little terrace, cooling our feet in icy water and sipping something fresh lemonade until the call to prayer from the mosque signalled the start of the cooler evening hours. Bliss!

    Posted by Jeanne | 25 October 2008 #
  • Hi everyone, thank you so much for all your kind note.

    Liz – I’m envious you’ve been everywhere, and you now live in Paris! :) I’m already looking forward to going back to Portugal and Spain – the people are wonderful, and the food is great :)

    Oolong, Nur Suraya – you must know what I’m like by now… but I will try to update more often, thank you for your kind words.

    Sri – yes, they are churros and that is very thick hot chocolate in the cup :)

    Elra – I think you will enjoy visiting the south, let me know when you have a chance.

    Sandra – your English is great, I’d love to visit the north of Portugal (or anywhere :)) sometime, I just know I will love it.

    g – thank you for your kind word as always, I’m honoured!

    Gourmetdeprovincias – yes I’ve been wanting to visit the north too, I will let you know when I do!

    Valentina – I’m not sure where you are at the moment, but hope all is well!

    Sam – yes I enjoyed your lovely posts, I guess you didn’t come to the UK then…

    Kelsie – I’d love to visit Granada next time – hope your move went well.

    azu-san – イベリコハムです。美味しいですよね。黒豚なんですが、足がふつうの豚さんよりスレンダーでセクシーなんですよ(笑)塩田、今回初めて行ったので他の場所は分からないんですが、基本的(だんだん塩水を凝縮させていく)なプロセスは一緒だと思います。今、ポンドがすっごく下がってますから、遊びに来るなら今ですよ!ぜひ来てくださいな、うちのネコも待ってます。

    Mami-san – look forward to catching up soon!

    Shereen – I’ve never seen myself as a positive person but am glad I’m giving you positive energy :) Glad you had a lovely time in Italy and Spain, you must come to the UK next time, though :) Hope all is well, take care. x

    Cocopuff-san – いつもありがとうございます。cocopuffさんも飛行機苦手なのですね。どう転んでも好きにはなれないので、とにかくあまり間をあけないで乗るようにしないと、とは思っているのですが…(間を空けすぎるとますますコワくなるので…)

    Casey – hope you had a lovely time there. :)

    Cdecocina – I think you’re lucky living in Barcelona :)

    Alpa – have a great time in Africa, let me know about the trip when you’re back!

    Rowina – I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes too, will you let you know when I do :)

    Helena, Diana – glad I brought you back some good memories, Spanish food has been/will always be my favourite!

    Nina – funny you asked that – I WAS using 50mm/f1.8 on this trip, but one day I fell over on the stairs (!) and it kind of pushed the lens cap into the lens and the cap got stuck in the lens – a very kind man whom we met at a flea market in Madrid next day (he was selling old cameras) managed to take the lens cap out for me so I could still use it for the rest of the trip, but the focus ring was a bit stuck. So, I finally decided to get a f1.4 when I came back… I could have got another f1.8, but I just needed the help of the quicker focusing of the USM. I don’t think I’ve noticed any difference between the two on image-wise though – so if you’re not bothered about the f1.8 being slightly noisy and slow, I still think it’s much better value than f1.4.

    Cwtch – the salt pond was really beautiful. I was very inspired :)

    Marta – Oporto is definitely one of the places I’d love to visit in Portugal. Hopefully I’ll have another chance to visit the country soon!

    Blimp – oh you’re so sweet, thank you! I didn’t know you had a blog, it’s brilliant! Look forward to reading more of your posts, take care.

    Brett – I’m glad I may be able to help you on this – will email you soon!

    Jeanne – thank you for sharing your lovely story in Spain, I want to go back now :) I wasn’t sure if I’d like Madrid as much as Barcelona, but I thought it was a great city. I’m looking forward to exploring more regions next time, there are so many great things to see and eat :) Hope all is well.

    Posted by keiko | 29 October 2008 #
  • Beautiful, just beautiful. I can’t really say much more than that. I found myself smiling as I looked through your photos.

    Posted by Haley | 30 October 2008 #
  • Hi Keiko,

    I have been following your blog for a while, always too shy to write but this entry about Spain and Portugal just went to my heart. I am half Spanish half Irish I live between Sevilla and Jerez and I have a house in Aracena for weekends. Through my work I know Janet Murray and Alistair of Sierra Rica so I got goose pimples (you say it like that?) reading your post.

    I adore your photographs, i arrived at your blog through la tartine gourmande.

    Please don’t stop posting you are the inviting shade in our too sunny days!!!

    Posted by maria lara | 7 November 2008 #
  • I’m going to be living in Spain next year and this post made me so excited! Your photography is absolutely beautiful – I hope I can get photos even half as lovely next year.

    Posted by Sophie | 13 November 2008 #
  • Hi there!

    I will be visiting Spain next June. Do you have any recommendations on the places to eat?

    P.S: Just curious, which camera model do you use?

    Posted by Viona | 26 December 2008 #
  • Your photographs and decsriptions are ah-mazing !

    Posted by Dhana | 6 January 2009 #
  • Hi there, sincere apologies for the super late response, but thank you so much for all your kind notes.

    Maria Lara – it’s wonderful you know Janet and Alastair – they are the loveliest people and I’m really looking forward to going back to see them again. Hopefully I can meet you then too…

    Sophie – good luck in your new life in Spain!

    Viona – I’m not sure which parts you’re visiting, but there are SO MANY great places :) Have a lovely time! As for camera, I use a Canon 5D.

    Posted by keiko | 27 April 2009 #
  • keiko,
    my mother is from sevilla and i used to live in southern spain. your photos are beautiful and i nearly cried looking at them. in a good way.


    Posted by Elena | 7 March 2011 #

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