I find myself in Spain so I hope you don’t mind too much if I temporarily morph my fledgling blog into a travel diary.
I’m in Marbella, on the south coast of Spain (the famous Costa del Sol), at the invitation of Donna, a friend and seasoned traveller whom I met in Positano, Italy, years ago. The trip came about suddenly and I had no expectations whatsoever about what we’d do when we got here.
Our first day was very relaxed and started off quite late as we’d only got into the resort we’re staying in at midnight the night before. We kept things pretty low-key, exploring the very large resort before going to the beach where we lay on chaise lounges looking out at the sea and talking for hours. Yes, it’s winter here in Europe, but it was 20 degrees and very warm in the sun. We didn’t even need coats.
The next few days were go-go-go as we took tours of Granada, Seville and Cordoba respectively. I’m not normally an organised tour kind of gal but I have to say our guides were great and I learnt quite a lot through them, not only about the places we visited but about Andalusian life and history as well.
After three days of driving through Andalusia I also have a great appreciation for the landscape, from the rocky limestone mountains to the rolling green hills and fertile valleys which are home to millions of rows of olive trees. There are other trees and crops as well, my favourite of which are the almond trees which are currently in blossom and covered in pretty white flowers.
Each tour has involved one or two highlights, a walking tour and some free time to explore and grab some lunch. The highlight in Granada was a visit to the magnificent Alhambra, the fortress and palace of the Muslim emirs that ruled Granada. All of our guides emphasised the importance of the Islamic Arabic influence in Andalusia’s history and culture, the Moors having ruled southern Spain for 800 years until 1492. Given how much of the Muslim culture was destroyed by the Christians during the crusades, it is a blessing that the Alhambra has survived more or less intact. And thank God, because it’s a stunning piece of architecture.
Our introduction to Seville was via Avenida de la Palmera, or Avenue of the Palm Tree, which is lined with these exquisite and unique buildings built as pavillions for each country that exhibited in the Spanish-American fair of 1929. We stopped at the very grand Plaza de Espana, the Spanish pavillion, before then making our way into the old city to see the Seville Cathedral, the third largest church in the world, where Christopher Columbus is buried.
My personal highlight in Seville was having lunch at Las Lapas, a small restaurant off one of the main squares. It was a gloriously warm and sunny winter’s day and we sat outside in the warm sun to eat this delicious Spanish meal. Very simple but very lovely.
In Cordoba the highlight was a visit to the very beautiful La Mezquita Cathedral, or “Mosque Cathedral”. A World Heritage listed site, the Cathedral is a fusion of Muslim and Christian architecture and design and is a stunning encapsulation of Cordoba’s history in building form. Its 856 columns and red and white striped arches are instantly recognisable.
All three cities are very beautiful. It was too rainy to walk through Granada but we did venture down the narrow cobbled streets in the old cities of Seville and Cordoba which were both gorgeous. In Cordoba people decorate their external walls with flower pots filled with geraniums, in addition to the usual flower pots on balconies.
Donna and I have never travelled together and in fact didn’t even spend an enormous amount of time together when we met, so I had no idea what spending a week together might be like or might do to a friendship that otherwise exists only via email.
We’ve clashed once, when we discovered we have a different understanding of what a capuccino is, down to what kind of cup it has to be served in. Overwhelmingly though we’ve discovered that we get on like a house on fire and travel very well together. Which is good to know should any other opportunities arise in the future!