Hammam Baths in Granada

The Al Andalus Hammam Baths in Granada are just off the famous River Darro with flags fluttering from the Alhambra tower above. Cross one of the lovely ancient arched bridges and down a narrow back street the Hammam welcomes you to enter the hefty Moorish wooden door.

Al Aandalus Hammam Baths Granada

Greeted by humidity and incense, candles and Moroccan decor you know the journey has begun. Welcomed, given a coloured band if you’re booked for a massage and protective plastic slip-ons to go over your footwear you enter the steamy, dimly-lit, senuous (but hot with street clothes on) changing rooms. Moorish horseshoe arches, candles, Nasri-style  decoration and beautiful tiles set the scene. Silence prevails. Relaxation and pampering begin here.

Hammam Baths, Granada

Head out into the baths and you’re shown the different bathing areas, one cold, one warm, two hot and the sauna. Take a shower in the massage area and you’re ready to float, relax, work your way through the different temperature baths, admire the lovely decor, inhale the incense and drift away to the soft and dreamy  Moorish music. The quietness, the ambient lighting and the romance means you will relax, except in the cold pool if you’re brave enough!

Hammam Baths, Granada

After several rounds of pools and sauna sessions, between hot mint tea which made you actually want to get into that cold pool, and having chosen between four different essential oils for our massage, we were summoned. I chose Lavender and hubby chose Pomegranate oil for ours.

Hammam Baths, Granada

Waiting briefly on a huge hot stone, too warm without a towel, I could have stayed there longer, our masseures beckoned us. Each in our own little cave-like cubby hole our chosen oil and our choice of back or legs or both and soft, medium or hard our Mimma massage began. After feeling clean and cleansed from bathing the massage was the cream on the cake. Pampered? Yes. Relaxed? Yes. Calm? Yes. Content? Yes. Revived? Yes.  Wanting to leave? NO!

I was a very contented guest of Hammam Al Andalus who have four Hammams in Spain in Cordoba, Granada, Madrid and Malaga.

 

Luxurious Andalusian Hotels on Conde Nast List

I’m always looking up and visiting great hotels in Spain, they are my passion and the sole reason for starting my Only Spain ~ Boutique Hotel collection. It’s taking me a while and it’s not easy visiting gorgeous hotels but the portfolio is growing and most quickly in Andalusia the region of Spain in which I live.

Hotel Cortijo Bravo

When I stumbled upon the Spanish Conde Nast list El Lujo es un Cortijo – Luxury is a Cortijo (country house)  I was very happy that I knew about (but have not visited) most of them. The one new addition (Cortijo Los Malenos) to my  list of ‘lovely places to stay that I want to visit for Only Spain’ makes me wonder whether I’ll make it around the whole of Spain when Andalucia is so large and diverse. It’s a huge country to a Brit like me but one I delight in exploring.

Hotel Molino del Arco, Ronda, Jose Salto

How Conde Nast managed to limit their list to eleven  I don’t know but these ones are indeed gorgeous, luxury cortijos which are now small hotels or B&Bs.  I thought the list should be shared in English – if you’re looking for a great place to stay then this list won’t make your choice easy!

Luxurious Cortijo Hotels in Andalusia

Cortijo Carligto – Canillas del Aceituno, Malaga

Hotel Cortijo Bravo – Velez, Malaga

Molino del Arco – Ronda, Malaga

La Amunia – Monachil, Granada

Cortijo Los Malenos – Cabo de Gata, Almería

Finca Las Encinas – Iznajar, Cordoba

Finca La Guarda – Alcala del Valle, Cadiz

Molino Rio Alajar – Aracena, Huelva

Hacienda San Rafael – Cabezas de San Juan, Sevilla

Cortijo El Sarmiento – Mojacar, Almeria

Finca Cortesin – Casares, Malaga

The only part of this list I’m not happy about is that there is at least one hotel from every one of the eight provinces in Andalusia except my home province of  Jaen. How sad is that. I know Jaen doesn’t have the same amount of luxury properties as other more touristy  and famous areas but there are some special places here too! Check out Boutique Hotels in Jaen Province on Only Spain to see.

The only one on the list that is on Only Spain at the moment is Finca Las Encinas.

Finca de las Encinas

The source for this post was this article – Conde Nast Spain if you want to see the original post in Spanish.

To read other posts about Hotels in Spain here on Luxury Spain Travel have a look at the Review page.

Dixtinto Gastro - Arroceria

Jaen Restaurant ~ Dixtinto Gastro -Arroceria

Restaurant Dixtinto or to use it’s full name Dixtinto Gastro – Arroceria in the lively, downtown area of Jaen is a fun place to eat.

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Light and bright, eat inside or out with a choice of Mediterranean and Traditional cuisine as well as specialising in rice dishes  means making a choice is not easy to do.

Dixtinto Gastro - Arroceria

Manuel Frutos, chef and 3rd place prize-winner in the 2015 International Competiton for Valencian Paella, is from Jaen. Weaned on local extra virgin olive oils, the base of all Jaen’s gastronomy which this days are getting better and better. Not only the oils but the presentation of them too. Frutos also did his training in Jaen, so what better qualifications could he have. For a showcase of young, avantguard Jaen cuisine by a great upcoming chef this is a great place to experience.

Dixtinto Gastro - Arroceria

Dixtinto is an Oleo Tour Jaen Restaurant, a group promoting ‘Olive Oil Tourism‘ be it restaurants, spas, olive oil mills, producers and olive oill museums. Normally there’s a display and the possibitlity to purchase of extra virgin olive oils on all these premises.

Oleo Tour Jaen

Dixtinto

Just two of the extra virgin olive oils we got to taste, dunk lovely fresh bread into fresh and vibrant olive oils, each one different, is a perfect start to you meal. Then taster after taster of beautifully prepared, artistically designed tapas kept arriving pared with a very good couple of local red wines. When in Jaen……

 

I visited Jaen as part of a blog trip for the promotion for its 20 year anniversary as ‘Jaen Inland Paradise’. As I  live in the province I will be re-visiting Dixtinto, my sons too who first told me about it.

Boutique Hotel-ing Road Trip in Spain

One of the many things I love about living in rural Andalucia is the quietness. Peaceful countryside, vast vistas and empty roads. Open roads, sweeping views, gorgeous scenery. Mountains, valleys, olive groves and swathes of sunflower fields. Each small white town, lies as if planted in nature and can be seen as a dot in the distance growing larger. Narrow streets, plants cascading from balconies and pots…….. Read More.

Empty Road, Road Trip Spain
Empty Road, Road Trip Spain

Small, Luxury Hotel in Rural Spain

There’s Malaga city and Malaga province, so when booking a small, luxury hotel in rural Malaga you can be sure it’s not in the city.  But only 35 minutes or so drive from the airport into rural countryside, mountains and olive groves you’ll find an enchanting small, luxurious, owner- run hotel that you might just want to stay in forever.

Boutique Hotel Cortijo Sabila Malaga

Hubby and I visited on a rather wild and windy February weekend. We loved the location, decor, roaring log fire, dinner and Airedale dogs. Our trip was to check out the lovely-looking Cortijo Sabila for addition to our Only Spain ~ Boutique  Hotel portfolio of gorgeous little places to stay in our adopted homeland of Spain.

How did we find it? After a little detour, I was driving hubby map reading (or phone reading) without glasses and not being able to check signs, follow the map and communicate with me at the same time (know this one ladies?) we missed it the first time around. But no worries, we got there, approached the rather grand entrance rang the bell and open sesame the gates withdrew. We entered the grounds and gardens of Cortijo Sabila and found it very much to our liking.

Boutique Hotel, Malaga

The day, a little dismal, was brightened by our new furry-friend-doormen who ushered us to the gorgeous wooden door (if you read my Andalucia Explorer blog you’ll know I love wood) which was opened, and we were welcomed, by  the friendly owner and our host Yvonne.

Hotel Cortijo Sabila, Malaga

After seeing several of the lovely, uniquely decorated and laid out rooms we chose the upstairs room with cute terrace and windows on two sides. Brimming with lovely furnishings, tons of details and unique antiques we grabbed our cameras and took lots of photos before our bags were unpacked and things generally became less photogenic.

Boutique Hotel Cortijo Sabila, Villanueva del Rosario, Malaga

The plush purple towels and lovely large wet-room bathroom with his n’hers sink and again lots of lovely touches including big refillable toiletries which the recycling-green-me loves to see and avoids the necessity of taking home semi-used small ones.

See small, luxury Cortijo Sabila on Only Spain Boutique Hotels.

Book Cortijo Sabila on Booking.com (and give me a small comission to keep  writing, exploring and checking out great hotels)

Disclaimer: As the weather wasn’t good and our trip was in February some of photos are  ours and some (it’s obvious which)  the courtesy of our hosts Yvonne and Ray and are on their Cortijo Sabila website.

Barcelona Food Market – La Boqueria

Barcelona has around forty food markets  but the most famous, probably because of its location is La Boqueria or Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. It’s a thriving hub of shoppers and eaters and if you are going there to eat you’ll be lucky to find a bar stool at any of the eateries and there are many. Don’t you just love those light fittings?

La Boqueria market, Barcelona

The choice of stalls from Seafood Restaurants to Tapas take-outs is fun and makes for a difficult decision. If you’re going there to buy fresh food or cooked food for a takeaway picnic you’ll while away plenty of time oohing and ahhing over the incredible array on offer.

La Boqueria market, Barcelona

I found everything so enticing and even though it was too early to eat I came away with several tasty morsels such as  bite-sized chunks of fresh pineapple and my favourite snack – again mouth-sized coconut pieces.

La Boqueria market, Barcelona

La Boqueria has a long history with locals selling meat by the city gate in the 1200s, it was opened offcially as a market in 1840 and has since undergone many alterations to became the amusing, interesting and tasty place it is today. From dried spice stalls to sweet counters, meat, dairy, fresh vegetables the 200+ colourful and attractively arranged stalls  make it a great place to visit if only to look.

La Boqueria market, Barcelona

Just off La Rambla La Boqueria is quite mesmerizing, hold onto your wallet or handbag and enjoy the throng of people the shouts of the vendors and the atmosphere. It’s one of those great places to visit but do try to eat there if you can, the atmosphere is just amazing.

Have you been to Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria in Barcelona? Would you like to go? Share your experience or tell us why you’d like to go in the comment box below.

Cordoba – Lots to See and Do

At just over an hour from my home in Jaen province Cordoba is a frequent day trip and often an overnighter too. The Casco Historico I know pretty well, but not so the new sprawling town, which is where the train station is. If you’re heading to Cordoba by car there’s lots of on-street free parking on the other side of the bridge from the main monumental area.

Cordoba – Lots to See and Do

Crossing from this side makes a great start to a visit, walk across the Roman bridge that straddles the River Guadalquivir. Although called the ‘Roman bridge’ what we see today is mostly an Islamic re-construction built on the ruins of the 1st century Roman Bridge.

Hotel Viento 10, Cordoba

As you pass over the 9 metre wide 247 metre long bridge into historical Cordoba a first glimpse of the incredible Mezquita is in front you and the Royal Fortress or to give it its full name – Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Castle of the Christian Monarchs) to your left. Both are must visits. The Mezquita, an enormous Islamic Mosque has a huge orange-tree-filled courtyard with a minaret tower and an enormous prayer hall. If you can, go at the beginning or the end of the day to it’s appreciate its size and splendour in almost solitude and silence.

Visit the Alcazar fortress and palace with beautiful Moorish design gardens and a great many Roman mosaics recovered from the Plaza de la Corredera. Adjacent to the fortress in the Royal Stables where Andalusian horse shows are regular features. Do try and see one if you can, horse lover or not it’s an incredible display of human and animal interaction which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Hotel Viento 10, Cordoba

For garden lovers the Cordoba Patio or Courtyard Competition at the beginning of May, is a glorious riot of colours and great time to visit. Many private patios are open to the public for two weeks while the competition is on, some are open year- round and you can have a guided tour instead of trying to find them yourself with a map. The range, style, design and flowers of these, unique, patios are stunning, even my non-gardener, flower-ignorant hubby enjoyed it. Although I only took him once, each year would be pushing it! Some of these historical patios give a glimpse into the past, with tiny patios, wells, communal wash rooms it’s easy to imagine neighbours sitting out in the cool of the night singing and dancing flamenco. In recent years some of the patios have opened over Christmas and New Year too.

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One of my favourite spots for coffee, if the weather is fine, is the amazingly large Plaza de la Corredera. Some spots like this can only be seen on foot or possibly by Segway. I have done a Segway tour (great fun when you learn how to stop) and a sightseeing bus tour which we took when we just did not want to walk anymore! I recommend both but enjoyed the segway tour more as we went through the narrow streets (only just avoiding tourists) and saw interesting corners and buildings which we revisted on foot afterwards. It’s a great way of having an overview of the city and getting your bearings.

Segway Tour in Cordoba

Plaza de las Tendillas is another lovely old square, more commercial than Plaza Corredera with restaurants and not just bars, for another refreshment stop. If you like Spanish Tortilla then you’ll love the enormous ones made in a tiny little bar near the Mezquita – Bar Taberna Los Santos, famous for their tortillas made from 30 eggs and five kilos of potoatoes. Where to Eat near the Mezquita. Stop here for a tortilla tapa and a fino wine, if only to see the size of the Tortillas!

Another great eating place is the gastromarket Mercado Victoria in a lovely old forged metal structure dating from 1877. Around 30 stalls provide tapas and rations from Oysters to T-bone steaks. Buy your drinks from one stall and food from others. A lovely way to try lots of different dishes, meat for one, fish for another, and a lively fun atmosphere too. I prefer visiting at lunchtime as the evenings are for the younger crowd and much noisier.

Cordoba

One of my favourite visits is to the Palacio de Marquises de Viana or Viana Palace a gorgeous house/museum dating from the 14th century with, you guessed it, lovely patios! In fact there are twelve unique patios ranging from Roman and Arabic to Renaissance styles and the museum is really interesting too.

Heading Out of Town

Medina Azahara,Cordoba

About 6km to the west of Cordoba by Abd-ar-Rahman between 912- 961, a huge, costly and time consuming project. The restoration and Unesco site, Medina Azahara, are the ruins of an Arab palace, more like a city, buildings are ongoing but it’s an incredible eye-opener to the way and wealth of the times. The on-site museum holds many treasures discovered on site and is the first port of call, then you take the bus up to the ruined city. You can park at the museum, but can’t take cars up to the ruins, a bus runs constantly between the two. There are also buses that run from Cordoba city to the site several times a day, if you don’t fancy the drive.

Hotels I recommend in  Cordoba

With such a choice of hotel in Cordoba it’s difficult to know where to start, but I’ve got two great suggestions for you – Hotel Balcon de Cordoba and Hotel Viento 10 they are both on our sister site Only Spain ~Boutique Hotels and you’re sure to like one if not both of them.

If you have any questions about Cordoba that I can help you with don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the comments box below.