Southern Spain, and Andalucia in particular, has obvious appeal as a destination for a British traveller. It’s both easy and cheap to get to. It’s warm all year round. It’s sufficiently different, with touches of the exotic, but with enough that is familiar to help the more unadventurous holiday-maker feel comfortable. For Mrs P and myself, it’s also a cheap and easy substitute to Mexico. She, of course, enjoys the ability to speak her native language for a few days. This was our second trip in less than a year, flying into Malaga airport from Bournemouth.
Last time, we stuck to Malaga. This time we jumped on a train to Seville, with a few more train journeys for a day trip to Jerez and Cadiz. There will be a next time. Granada and Cordoba need to be seen. But what in particular draws us to this part of the world, beyond the obvious benefits I’ve already mentioned? It’s time for a top five. With photos…
Sometimes, when we’re strolling down narrow cobbled streets between brightly coloured buildings, we can almost imagine that we are back in Mexico. I joke to Mrs P that it’s just like Mexico. I joke, because the truth – of course – is the other way round. Spain is the original, not the copy. Regardless, it’s wonderful to get lost in the maze of streets in the centre of Seville, occasionally popping out onto a main road, before diving back in to explore more alleys, find more secret plazas and sample the full palette of colour that is splashed across the city.
Spain is ever so Catholic. More so than Mexico? It’s hard to say. Equally so, perhaps. But they are certainly Catholic in different ways. In Spain, the cathedrals and churches give you a three for one. Besides the spiritual experience (if that’s your thing), you’ll find the history of the city and its most prized artworks too. Seville’s grandest house of God is the Cathedral of Seville. Only St Peters in the Vatican and St Pauls in London are bigger. The Cathedral provides a view across the city for those with the energy to walk to the top of its tower, La Giralda. But everyone can enjoy the tomb of Cristopher Colombus. There are, if you didn’t know already, two tombs of the great explorer. This one in Seville, and another at one of his previous resting places in the Dominican Republic. DNA tests have confirmed, as far as they can be, that Seville has the right man.
The Spanish value their heritage, customs and traditions. But the country does not live in the past. A relatively new rail network has transformed the transport infrastructure. And modern buildings sit side by side with older ones. Or even on top of the older ones. We paid our three euros to go up to the top of the Metropol Parasol, the construction of which was delayed when Roman ruins were discovered on the site. The exposed ruins are on display in the basement. And charming as they are, we preferred to stay in more up-to-date accommodation, however. Which is another plus in Andalusia. We’ve found numerous hotels and guesthouses which provide modern creature comforts, carefully blended into older buildings of character.
What’s the point of boasting such a wonderful climate if you don’t make time and space to enjoy it? Enter the wonderful plazas. You’ll rarely walk three streets without finding one. Bars and restaurants make the most of the space, with heaters at the ready for the cooler winter evenings. Which brings us to the accompanying Spanish treasure – the food. Mrs P loves seafood. I love pork. Spain does both extremely well. We both love a good paella. But my favourite dish has to be ox tail stew in a red wine sauce.
There is an Islamic influence to life in southern Spain everywhere. Architecturally, there are still plenty of fabulous old palaces and buildings put up by the Moors. Their style remained fashionable even after their departure. Malaga, Seville and Cordoba all have fabulous Hammams too. What finer way to end the day than a few leisurely hours spent in some ornate Arabic baths. And then there’s Flamenco. The Arabic influence is instantly recognisable. I am no Flamenco expert (quite the opposite) but I enjoy watching it. It’s hypnotising. We watched a performance in Malaga, which was superb. So we went again in Seville, which is the home of Flamenco. It too was excellent, although we preferred the Malagan show. The photo above, though, was taken at the Plaza de Espana of an impromptu performance. It was free (of course, we tipped) and was also superb.
Viva Espana. We shall see you again soon.