by KATHERINE STEVENS
Who doesn’t like a good road trip? God knows I do. I recently moved back to Jacksonville from Barcelona, Spain. And as luck would have it, I participated in many-a road trip while living there. Friends by your side, a map on your lap, the wind in your hair…it doesn’t get much better than that. Well, except for the hundreds of dollars (or euros) going into the gas tank.
So what if you didn’t have to spend a dime? Ta-da! WJCT is making it a little easier on us… Jacksonville’s favorite public television station is bringing a taste of Europe to our living rooms with a new series Spain…on the road Again. The series comes from producer Frappe, Inc. and distribution-presenter American Public Television. Some of their TV credits include: Cooking in Europe; Jacques Pepin: The Apprentice; How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes on America’s Chefs.
From Catalunya (where I was living) to Galicia to Andalucia, oh my! The road leads from one awe-inspiring Spanish region to the next. Just as each has its own distinct accent, so do the tapas (appetizers), the architecture and the aura. From the seaside cliffs of Mallorca to the majestic cathedrals of Barcelona, the 13-episode series takes us to every end of the Iberian Peninsula.
Take it from me, the beautiful scenery and thrill of being part of such a rich and deeply embedded culture is alluring enough. But if you’re not convinced, the cast will close the deal. Four dynamic personalities unite as they embark on a one-of-a-kind culinary and cultural tour of Spain. The foursome includes: Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, celebrity iron chef Mario Batali, celebrated cookbook author Mark Bittman and the beautiful Spanish actress Claudia Bassols; each of whom have their own personal connection to the country.
Paltrow marks her first foray on television with Spain…on the road Again. She fell in love with Spain while living there as an exchange student in high school. Her stellar Spanish-speaking skills along with a reunion with her “Spanish family” are just a few highlights viewers can expect.
Batali, a lover of Spanish cuisine, attended high school in Spain and learned (in his words) “how to eat and drink” there. Known for his Food Network talent, Batali also runs two Spanish restaurants in New York City, Bar Jamon and Casa Mono.
Bittman, who’s learned on Spanish excursions, is one of our country’s best-known and widely admired food writers. He adds an extra level of spunk to the group, as he’s dubbed the “Larry David” of the kitchen.
Barcelona-Born Bassols is an up-and-coming actress and singer who’s fluent in Spanish, Catalan (a romance language spoken in Northeast Spain), Swedish, Italian, French and English. Her keen Spanish eye keeps the group in shape while on the road.
The road trip begins in Madrid and surprises await as they make their way through cooking lessons (partridges and “migas”), museums (featuring El Greco), and a birthday celebration in Toledo (the former capital.) They travel the route of Don Quixote, learn how to make cava (Spanish sparkling wine, it’s delicious), explore the Ribera del Duero wine country, hike the Camino de Santiago (an historic pilgrimage route) and chat with the architect of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Basically, if it’s worth mentioning in Spanish travel guides, they’re going to do it.
Just two months ago my friends and I did an excursion not far from Spain…on the road Again. We started in Lisbon, drove along the coast of Portugal and into southern Spain, along the coast there. Some of my highlights were finding an abandoned beach (Amalia) with a natural waterfall, having foot-long sardines along the Atlantic in Sines, watching the sun set on Africa in Tarifa, Spain, enjoying a pint at the rock of Gibraltar, celebrating my friends birthday on the side of a mountain in Rhonda, Spain and every minute on the road with two of my close friends. Now, we’re planning a …on the road Again viewing party.
As someone who’s seen it firsthand, I’ve got nothing but high hopes for this show. And, how apropos to have Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again’ for the series’ theme song (in fact, it’s a specially recorded version, just for the show)! The lyrics certainly complement the foursome’s leisurely journey through Espana.
You can find Spain…On The Road Again every Monday at 1 pm on WJCT-TV. And, I don’t know about you, but I plan on DVR-ing it, buying a nice bottle of Spanish wine and warming up to the flavor of Espana each and every week. I mean, what could be better than a free road trip?
hola, adios… see you on the road
by KATHERINE STEVENS