Bookings Consultant Emylou and her boyfriend Stefan have just returned from a trip to sunny southern Spain, where they feasted on local dishes, drank in glorious views and were seriously spoiled in some very special hotels…
My imaginary Andalucía was a place of eternal golden sunsets basking the mountains in a warm glow, with orange trees stretching as far as the eye could see and a beautiful Spanish man playing the guitar by my side. As it turns out, the real Andalucia was exactly that (beautiful Spanish man optional, of course).
The former Moorish kingdom of Al-Andalus is a region of simple pleasures, and the best meals of our trip were eaten in dusty, lopsided ventas (farm shops with a few plastic tables offering beer and regional fare). We feasted on tortilla española, garlic olives, manchego, and heaps of jamón ibérico sliced directly from the hoofed leg propped in the corner of the kitchen. All accompanied by wine that went down way too easily at EUR 1.20 a glass…
Our first stop was just outside the largest of the famous white villages, Ronda. Here we checked into the stylish but wonderfully relaxed Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera, set on the edge of a beautiful little valley dotted with farmhouses and criss-crossed by dusty roads. The suites are massive and the art collection really impressive – it has a distinctly old-world, colonial feel. It was too chilly to swim in the garden pool, but we were thrilled with the wood-burning fireplaces in each room.
We spent a lovely day strolling through Ronda’s cobbled streets, crossing the famous Roman bridge, browsing quirky little shops (selling all those bits and bobs we never knew we wanted!) and admiring the bull ring. We’d never want to watch a bull fight but, as Ronda is the home of bull fighting, we were interested to learn about its history and admire the architecture.
From there we moved onto tiny Gaucín, where historical inn La Fructuosa gave us a window into Spanish village life. The views from its terrace are incredible, and we could see 50+ miles to the Rock of Gibraltar and even across the sea to Africa. Gaucín is so friendly, and we were greeted with a kind smile and a warm ‘hola!’ from every passer-by.
We loved the innovative design of our final stop, Hospes Palacio de los Patos in Granada. It sits in a restored mansion which has been fused with an ultra-modern steel and white-marble building.
Granada is home to the world-famous Alhambra Palace, one of the largest and most intact examples of Moorish architecture in the world. Thanks to poor planning, we didn’t manage to get tickets to go inside (advance purchase is crucial, apparently!), but we enjoyed a nice stroll around the outside and marvelled at how imposing this massive fortress would have seemed to invaders hundreds of years ago.
We simply loved Andalucía, and we left feeling that Andalucía loved us back.