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Exploring three different parts of Andalusia: Seville, Cordoba and Granada

History, cuisine, and sunshine in Andalusia.

Arriving in Granada ‘Place of dreams’ during Holy Week, we squeeze through crowds, by the ‘pasos’ floats of thrones with religious icons, and marvel at the spectacle of the hooded holy men. Our hotel, Gar Anat has a courtyard with a tinkling fountain and a metal tubular wishing tree to hang our wishes on. A brisk sunshine walk, past souvenir shops, towards old Moorish neighbourhood The Albaicin, to reach delightful Mirador de Morayma restaurant, in the heart of Sacromonte quarters.

A fountain gurgles in the tranquil terraced gardens and the views of Alhambra are so incredible it looks like a film set backdrop. After a delicious lunch, we walk uphill to meet our friendly Spanish guide, for a private tour of The Generalife - Alhambra. The Alhambra was a palatine city and military fortress until 1870 when it was declared a Monument. Generalife is beautifully planted with perfectly manicured hedges, with vibrant colourful flowers and wistful wisteria. Cypress trees line up across the horizon like a Van Gogh painting. Hedges create an emerald tunnel, and the courtyard has a canal, fountains and flowers.

At Palacio Nazaries, the water mirrors the building and skyline as we rest and reflect on the view.

“If what is beneath my feet is paradise, then what is the Alhambra? Heaven?” Lope de Vega. Buildings have keyhole windows or stars cut out the ceilings and balconies overlook beautiful gardens. Wisteria winds a lilac garland around the awesome architecture. The Place of the Lions has reflective white marble with stone lions guarding the fountain. This rich decorative palace steeped in history is decorated with ornate tiling.

Remember, as in life, don’t forget to look up. See stalactite effect Islamic carvings on the ceilings, admire the Gypsum stone decoration on the walls.

“Granada is so moving that it stimulates and melts all of the senses” Henri Matisse.

Next stop Córdoba. It’s Good Friday so roads are closed due to Holy Week as the brotherhoods pass around the Mosque. We squeeze respectfully past a hushed crowd looking at the ornate mayhem; a swinging golden float with candles flaming. At Horno San Luis for a much-needed drink and an innovative meal amongst cool quirky interiors.

Breakfast is on a private roof terrace at Las Casas de la Juderia listening to bird song, overlooking the cathedral. The hotel has a spectacular courtyard with large stone pillars and hedges and a fountain next to an honesty bar. At the Mezquita-Catedral we marvel at the serene expanse surrounded by seemingly infinite dimly lit candy-striped pillars.

Bodegas Campos for dinner, with orange archways, and retro posters, the wine glass is as big as my head. Roll out the barrel... the hallways are full of them.

A ‘water journey’ is the best way to start any day at Hammam Córdoba. Wish it was every day! An incredible massage then hammam – floating about in dimly lit warm baths, then daring to take the plunge into an icy bath. Wim Hof would be proud. We float out and into another religious procession. The church bells chime and the brass band play, as we are sandwiched in the crowd gawking at the candle-lit Virgin Mary. Talking of sandwiches, lunch is at Casa Pepe de la Judería, with flower-filled balconies, beautiful interiors, a courtyard, wonderful food and staff dashing past the religious iconography.

Driving on to Seville via Carmona, giant black bulls loom on the horizon. (Thankfully, they’re cut outs.) On a tour of Alcazar and Cathedral of Seville, we scale the Giralda tower up a series of slopes, designed so you could climb the tower riding a donkey! Onto La Terraza del EME for a refreshing drink on the roof. Dinner is at Bar Pelayo drinking sangrias and tasting tapas under the bull heads. Sunset cocktails on Hotel Doña María’s rooftop terrace enjoying the music and atmosphere.

Relaxing sunny pool time up on Hotel Unuk’s roof, then a satisfying shop at boutique Tenderete. Gazing up at blue skies through the honeycomb structure of Setas de Sevilla. The modern waffle-like structure, Metropol Parasol, juxtaposed with the historic buildings that surround it, has a gastro food market and archaeological museum. Up in a spotty lift to the serpentine walkway on the observation deck, you can hear the chatter of people and the hubbub of the city below.

Perched at lively bar Donaire Azabache, we watch the world go by. Hanging jamons and amazing tapas washed down with a superb white wine. Clip-clop of hooves slipping on cobblestones as horse-drawn carriages pass. Oranges hang ripe in trees, threatening to splat on the pavement. A girl in a pink dotted flamenco dress runs past as we head off into the sunshine.

At Plaza de Toros Real Maestranza, the largest bullring in Spain, a large yellow sand circle of the round, red auditorium contrasts with the blue sky.

We dash to a flamenco show and can’t help but tap toes in time to the beat. An anguished singer wails. Loud banging heels, stomping and clicking fingers of the male dancer jolts me alert. Olé! The dancer loops her spotted dress up, kicking the ruffled train into the air with her back heel. Fancy footwork. Clapping hands. Them, then us.

Cross over the river to the Triana quarter to Mariatrifulca for fine dining, hushed tones. We enjoy views of the river, but prefer to be in buzzy El Pintón, listening to Balearic tunes. Stopping at a cute bar for a relaxed ambiance by the Alameda de Hércules arches.

Through the Renaissance gate of Casa de Pilatos where Lawrence of Arabia and Knight and Day were filmed. petals flutter from a magnificent bougainvillaea in a typical courtyard. Precious azulejo tiles adorn inside the Andalusian palace walls. Sherry tasting, stumbling out into the streets, blossoming jasmine scent infuses the warm air. Orange trees abound.

Saving the best until last, through Royal Alcazar Gardens into stunning Parque de María Luisa, to visit must-see Plaza de España, a giant curved tiled building with fountains.

Gorgeous Granada, incredible Cordoba, satisfying Seville, relishing a revisit.

Written by Crystal McClory

For more info and to organise your trip contact Abbotts Travel

See p104, April issue of Absolutely Essex and Absolutely West Essex magazines.

Read more on Architecture & Orange Blossom on our website


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