A Spanish adventure
Over four days we visited Seville, the Andalusian countryside, Cordoba, Ronda, Grenada and Malaga. What a feast for the senses. There is something about the blue of the sky, the orange trees everywhere and incredible architecture that sets a theme throughout the area but the towns themselves are very different and make a wonderful tour.
Seville is everything I had hoped for. Cobbled streets with lovely hidden tapas bars. A new photo opportunity around every corner and the sense of history is tangible. We stayed at Corral del Rey which is a restored townhouse right in the historic quarter. I was allocated (by luck) the Penthouse. This is a stunning property which combined the townhouse feel with impeccable service. Casa no 7 is just over the road and also a great property but very much someone’s home with a butler.
In all the places we visited the swallows darted above us, the sun shone and the service was stunning but what made the trip for me were the guides. To walk in the Cathedral and towns is wonderful but the guides bring the place to life. We had several through our trip and when clients ask is it worth it my answer will always be yes when it is somewhere historic. Room after room of mosaics and fountains make more sense when you feel the history. We were whisked past long queues of tourists to the front by our guides and they knew all the peaceful spots in the shade for us. To be told this is the room Christopher Columbus stood in when given the go ahead to see if there was anything beyond Spain is so special.
Cordoba is breathtaking. The Cathedral and Juderia could take weeks to explore but we gently glided after our guide who explained about the layers of development from the Muslim to Christian rule and how it had changed over the ages. Lunch was a welcome sit down and rest and the best chilled tomato soup I’ve eaten. It is thicker than a gazpacho served with some ham and egg and a real highlight.
Then came the Hacienda de San Raphael. This old farm house was where it all started for the family who now own this property and Corral del Rey in Seville. You drive through fields of sunflowers to get there and on arrival are greeted by all the staff with refreshing lemonade (home made of course) and cold lavender towels. You immediately relax and when they show you your room key, it sits on the side table for the rest of your stay. No one needs to lock a door. The brothers who run it are fabulous hosts. After dinner we were taken for a “drink at the bar” but they had also organised a flamenco show for us as a surprise. It is this attention to detail that wowed us all. The food was lovely and nothing was too much trouble. This twinned with a stay at the house in Seville is my perfect break in the area for city action and poolside relaxation.
We then travelled to Ronda, the hilltop town perched on a spectacular gorge. This is a wonderful place to visit for the day and the old town is just amazing. We stayed at the Parador in Ronda but if I am honest I am not sure I would have clients stay unless they wanted some down time there and were on a slow paced schedule. The Parador is in the perfect position but more of a base than a special hotel.
What can you say about the Alhambra in Grenada? It is one of the most breathtaking places I’ve seen. Our guide was amazing and brought the place to life; the reason for building the summer palace where they did, the importance of the running water throughout, the modern toilet system they used while in the UK we were throwing buckets out of windows, the gardens and the detail in the architecture. It was a flying visit for us but for clients a three hour stroll would be a must for any visit to this area in my opinion.
When I used to think of Malaga it was as a tacky port town with an airport. I could not have been more wrong. Our last day was spent here and what a place. It is stylish with a combination of modern and ancient. They are doing this place up house by house preserving the facades and it really is wonderful. The sea breeze is also a lovely treat and cools the alleys down in the town. There is a fantastic Picasso museum and the old town is small with everything about a ten minute walk. If you are looking for great shopping, a lovely seafront town and amazing food this is a fantastic place and somewhere I’ll be coming back to. There is also a very special automobile museum paired with outfits of the day and all priceless. This is my top tip for avoiding the midday sun as it is cool and peaceful to stroll around.
It was a whirlwind tour for us but depending on time and pace any combination of these towns would be special and Seville for a long weekend is next on my list.
As I finished writing this a colleague appeared bleary eyed and when I asked what time they got in “about 6am I think” was the answer. This town starts late with dinner from 9.30 and clubs open at 1am. If you are inclined it is apparently great fun. Like most of my clients the lure of a comfy bed after a day exploring will always win for me.