Our time is Spain came to an end all too soon (we will be back) and we were meeting family in Paris so spent a few days road tripping up from southern Spain to France. Our favorite spot was San Sebastian which is right on the border and certainly foodie-heaven. It had a different feel than Andalusia and was cooler. The beach and surrounding hills were lovely and the buildings very interesting. It’s on our list to go back to and spend longer time in.
We had a short stop in Tours, France. Great looking city and again would enjoy going back to it.
We had a road trip and went to Jerez which is in the south and just over an hour to Seville. Cadiz is right next to it and across a peninsular so easy trips to both cities.
The trip was planned because of horses (Charlotte) and sherry (Jake and me) and all of us loved this small city. There are so many bodegas selling sherry and you can tour and sample most of them. It’s also growing in craft beer scene and is home to the Royal Andalusian Horse School:
Charlotte and I went to see the show and tour at this. It was really interesting and the horses are beautiful. Both of us were uncomfortable at the show aspect because training animals to work in order to entertain humans makes us uncomfortable (such as elephants in circuses). We appreciated the skill and culture at this horse show but probably would not go back. Charlotte did think she could be happy living in the School’s old building.
The city though was amazing. Very walkable and small enough not to exhaust us. We saw various bars with flamenco shows going on and music sounding from all over. The food was excellent and great markets and restaurant scene. One evening we did a tasting menu at a Michelin recognized restaurant where they pair sherry to the courses. The range of tastes in sherry is really interesting and not simply that of my English youth at Christmas (although Harvey’s is there and I have to admit I like the sweet taste of this one:)
The drive down and local area was really beautiful as well.
Our house in Jimena had been rented out for one week during our longer rental time so quite serendipitously we had an offer to house swap our Florida place for a Seville apartment so headed there for this week. It was rather a crazy time to try and get to the apartment which was in the very central part of the city.
Our car air conditioner was not working so we planned on leaving the car at a garage and using cabify to get a car in. Sadly that system would not work for us and we waited an hour for a taxi but none came because it was May 1 and everyone on holiday! So Jake drove us into the city center, dropped us off on a narrow street (complete with heavy honking of horns behind us) and then attempted to park the car for the night. It took him ages because with a car top carrier he couldn’t get into covered parking places but he finally found a spot. Then his phone died but luckily he had memorized the address and approximate location of where he had dropped us off. That and the sudden pouring of rain was an auspicious start. But the apartment was gorgeous with high ceilings and lovely furnishings: all white! Everyone had a comfy bed and we could look out of the balcony and see the cathedral. You couldn’t have been any closer to the old city of Seville. We were living it!
There were so many restaurants around us it was hard to choose. We ate our way around and never had to go more than a few streets for great food. Tapas reigns supreme there and we sampled many.
It was nice to have a week and just explore the city slowly rather than racing to every spot. We went to the Alcazar on Monday which was free (but you have to buy your free ticket online for one euro) and organized a tour into the cathedral as it is huge. We thought a tour would help lessen the wait time in line for tickets but in hindsight I’d just have waited as we had a pitifully bad tour guide and she didn’t add much to the process. We did make it up the tower which was part of the old Mosque there and built so a horse could walk up 5 times a day for the call to prayer. Christopher Columbus (the guide referred to him as Cristóbal Colón and I had no idea who she was talking about at first) is supposedly partly buried in the cathedral although there is controversy as to whether it is him or not.
Both places are incredibly beautiful and fun to wander around. I read not to do both in one day and while I’m glad we were able not to, it wouldn’t have been hard to.
We also went to a neat flamenco show. The city is full of shops with flamenco dresses and seems to be much more of a center than in other places. Musicians were playing the music around the city and it feels very much part of the heart of Seville. We saw a few dancers perform pieces from multiple styles of flamenco which was interesting. In a couple of them you could really hear the Arab sounds infused in the music too. The guitar player was amazing.
And of course there is the famous Plaze de Espana where one of the Star Wars movies filmed a segment:
Seville is a beautiful city. We probably missed many museums or spots but for us the beauty was just wandering old city streets and eating at sidewalk cafes etc. Very vibrant city that we enjoyed our week in.
Our house is on this street — on the left of the square
We rented a house from the sabbatical dot com website as I fell in love with the walk through video they had made. The house is probably over 300 years old and just gorgeous; part of an old convent. Flagstones, wooden windows and old doors, hidden patios tucked away, claw foot tub and chandelier, and a little pool all made me just have to live here for a bit. The owner is delightful too and really helpful with everything which sure helps for an easy landing. We are told that half the village has fiber internet and it’s coming to this house soon – that will be nice! Internet is OK but not consistently good.
The house is located in a small white village in the Southern part of Spain about half an hour drive from the coast and Gibraltar. Jimena de la Frontera is one of the historical “pueblos blancos” where the buildings are all painted white. It’s lovely driving through the country when you can see these villages across a valley tucked away in the mountains. We are just a few houses from the main square and have various restaurants and cafes around us but it’s still a quiet little place. An old castle looms down on us and it’s a pretty, albeit strenuous, walk up to it. From the top you can see Gibraltar and Morocco on a clear day!
The house was a bit chilly at first and with the flagstones it took a bit to warm up plus they have had an unusually cold and long winter. We wore layers of clothes a lot and put to good use the oil heaters and wood stove. It’s not hot yet but we are told the house stays lovely and cool in summer because of the thick walls and stone floors. We shall see in June.
We headed out from Florida again with one-way tickets to Europe (yay) and this time our team had expanded to include Darwin the beagle and Mark (grandson) and his mom. Our landing was in Barcelona and from there we drove down in the new car to our long-term rental in Andalusia. We only spent four nights traveling as it’s just 11 hours down the east coast. We stayed for two nights just south of Barcelona in a beach suburb called Castelldefels. It was a quieter side of the city I think and all the more as it was quite chilly at the end of March so few people at the beach. Food was OK. Internet was lousy at the Airbnb but still a relaxed settling in.
We then drove about half way down the coast and stayed in another beach town called Puerto de Mazarron. Again it was rather sleepy and quiet with most of the houses looking a tad depressing. Shutters on all the windows and a desolate feel to it. I think this could be normal of the beach areas we saw all the way down the coast. Between shutters, dead flower-pots, factories, and concrete block high rises, it wasn’t exactly an exciting intro to Spain. I’m afraid the coastal route did little to impress us nor did the internet speed in either place!
From about Malaga on it was prettier and veering inland a bit near Granada was lovely with lots of sweeping open views and mountains.
Highways are very easy to access although tolls are not cheap. Everywhere is pretty easy to drive in but there some narrow country roads and old city streets that make you gasp a bit. Central Seville was quite nerve wracking!
The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine