Posted 6th Oct 2016
Inntravel’s collection of SlowMotion holidays – self-guided adventures amid the most beautiful corners of Europe – will guarantee memories that last a lifetime
These holidays offer not only a rewarding sense of journey, as you travel from one enchanting location to the next, but also the chance to get ‘under the skin’ of some very special regions. Here we take a look at flamboyant and flavoursome Andalucia, in many ways the very essence of Spain, with an intoxicating atmosphere that is imbued with the spirit and the passion of its people. Sit back and enjoy the ride...
Ah, Sevilla! How wonderful it is to stroll the elegant boulevards and riverside promenades by day, pausing in orange-tree-filled plazas and wandering amid the Alcázar’s sumptuous gardens. And then, when night falls, to wander through the lattice-like network of streets within Barrio de Santa Cruz, sashaying from tapas bar to tapas bar, washing down chunks of chorizo and gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) with slugs of cold fino sherry, refreshing enough to penetrate the city’s sultry splendour after dark...
You might sit for hours in a small bar waiting for the first strum of an impromptu flamenco guitar to strike up and the first notes of a cante jondo to begin. But when it happens, the heart-stopping, spine-tingling, insanely exciting swirling of skirts, stamping of feet, clapping of hands and soulful lament of a flamenco performance captures all the fiery passion of Andalucia in one breathtaking experience. Olé!
Iconic sights & hidden depths
Seville’s cathedral and iconic Giralda (the bell tower that is the symbol of the city) are mightily impressive, especially Columbus’ tomb, the inauguration cloak of Charles V, and the access-friendly ramps to the top (an ingenious feature allowing the muezzin to ascend and descend on his horse to call the faithful to prayer). At the Alcázar, besides the Moorish splendour of the palace and gardens, don’t miss the ‘Baths of Dona Maria Padilla’, tucked away in a basement. Dona Maria was the mistress of Pedro the Cruel, so you might have fun imagining what might have gone on in her baths – only to find out that they are, in fact, rainwater tanks. But they are surely the most beautiful rainwater tanks in the world.
Once the capital of the Islamic Empire in the west, with architectural treasures to rival anything in the world, there’s far more to Córdoba than meets the eye. Behind the iconic striped arches and marble and jasper columns of the magnificent 11th-century Mezquita lies a splendid, 16th-century Renaissance cathedral. Sequestered within the walls of the maze of the Jewish quarter lay exquisite, flower-bedecked courtyard gardens, which each May are opened to the public during the annual Fiesta de los Patios.
Córdoba’s Mezquita is justly famous, but what many visitors don’t realise is that, every weekday at 8.30am, you can get in for free! You have to leave by 9.30am, but that’s no great hardship as you’ll time it just right for a leisurely breakfast back at your hotel. When you first enter the Great Mosque, your jaw will drop at the forest of red and white, Moorisharched pillars. But what might surprise you even more though, is the vast, soaring – and defiantly Christian – Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, laying right at its centre.
A fusion of faiths
Part of Andalucia’s fascination springs from eight centuries of relatively harmonious inter-mingling between the great faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Blending over subsequent years like sherry in a solera system, this peculiar synthesis has left a unique cultural legacy: ancient mosques transformed into churches, a cuisine infused with dashes of North African spices, and dazzling white towns (pueblos blancos) in whose shady corners, during the drowsy heat of a sizzling afternoon, little seems to have changed since Lorca’s depiction of passion and loss in his masterpiece, Blood Wedding.
Tapas treats in Granada
In general, the bars in Granada don’t advertise themselves as tapas places, but in reality they seem to serve a free tapa with every drink! One favourite among Inntravellers is La Vinoteca on Carrer Almerireceros: although drinks prices are a little higher than elsewhere, once you factor in the ‘free’ – and invariably very tasty – tapa, you’re getting quite a bargain.
What is there left to say about the incomparable Alhambra that the guidebooks haven’t said already? It is utterly magnificent and justifiably super-popular, of course, and buying tickets online in advance is a must for the Nasrid palaces. But once you’ve braved the crowds, take a break from the exquisite architecture and seek out the tiny open-air kiosk in the grounds that, despite its monopoly, sells a fortifying fino at €1.70, or a decent Rioja for just €2.
Legacy of the Moors
Hotel Casa Morisca, a converted 15thcentury mansion with an ornate, balustraded courtyard and mosaic tiling on its walls and floors, simply oozes character from its prime location in the heart of Granada’s medieval Albaicin district. It offers some of the most sumptuous views of all Inntravel hotels, and you can enjoy drinks on the terrace while gazing across at the Alhambra itself, the fortress palace crowning the city that has bewitched kings, warriors and poets for centuries. Once you’ve taken in the panorama, climb the streets of neighbouring Sacromonte, the gypsy quarter, for yet more sensational views against the soundtrack of gently strumming flamenco guitars.