In the north west of Andalusia, Spain near the Portuguese border lies a mountain range hiding a quintessential English boutique B&B…
… And the story goes on ….
When the great, great grandson of William Wordsworth, Charles, was sent by a petro-chemical company to work in Madrid over half a century ago, never would he have thought his retirement would be spent serving breakfast in his own hotel in a Spanish Natural Park often to the accompaniment of his Spanish son-in-law playing and singing popular Spanish and English songs.
My husband and I had the pleasure of discovering this touch of pure England in really rural Spain. Turning off the twisting, tree-lined mountain road the short, almost rough track leads to the delightful, single-storey, terracotta-coloured Finca la Fronda.
One of Charles’ bilingual children, Alec, who is also the chef, greeted us and showed us around the beautiful Casa Rural Superior, a Spanish term for an upper class B&B. We were on a visit with a view to add Finca la Frona to our personally visited portfolio – Only Spain Boutique Hotels.
Our enormous bedroom, the largest for wheelchair access, was beautifully and classically decorated with our own little terrace, as do all rooms, surrounded by trees and lovely views.
The finca, a Spanish term for rural property, is in the vast Natural Park Sierra de Aracena & Picos de Aroche, on the border of Portugal to the west and the province of Cadiz to the south.
English tea is served in a teapot with cups and saucers, only fitting when sitting with a portrait of the nature-loving William Wordsworth on the lounge wall and another charming family touch is the verse of Wordsworth’s poetry left on your bed each night.
There’s lots to explore and do in the area if you like walking, running or mountain biking this is a great spot with paths, tracks and trails linking all around the mountains. If relaxing by the pool is your thing, exploring charming towns and stunning scenery or helping yourself to tea or coffee and drinks from the honesty bar and dining while watching the stars light up the black evening sky in this starlight reserve, with oodles of charm, class and culture here, throw in its history, poetry and nature and you’ve a fabulous winning combination.
Forgetting the party side of La Palma, this beautiful Canary Island is an ideal place for slow-travel and back-to-nature holidays well away from mass tourism and the hoards. It’s easy to be an ecotourist and follow the sustainable travel code on La Palma, see just a few of its offerings.
Stargazing in UNESCO Starlight Reserve of La Palma
La Palma has an abundance of stargazing destinations for the casual stargazer or for Astronomy fanatics.
Llanos del Jable is just one of La Palma’s mesmerizing stargazing locations in the town of El Paso, which is 1,200 metres above sea level. Both day and night it’s worth the asent. During the day there are amazing views over the Aridane valley and the ancient volcano and at night it’s a perfect stargazing spot being one of the UNESCO Starlight Reserves.
Walking and Hiking in UNESCO La Palma
La Palma is well known for its impressive natural landscapes, the whole island became a Biosphere Reserve in 1983, with 706 square kilometres of stunning scenery and over 1,000 kilometres of marked trails, which means it’s ideal for walking and hiking.
One of this Canary Island’s most impressive natural attractions is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, a volcanic 8-kilometre diameter crater surrounded by orange coloured waterfalls and springs scattered through the crater, as well as pine forests and indigenous species.
Slowtravel and Slowfood on La Palma
La Palma is a gastronomic hub with many restaurants serving traditional dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, slowfood, including fresh fish such as moray eels or parrot fish, papas arrugadas (delicious wrinkled potatoes) with the local mojo rojo or verde (green or red local salsa), as well as hearty meat dishes.
Great restaurants to try include La Recova in the capital. The fabulous food market Santa Cruz de La Palma sells local specialities such as cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables and the island’s wines. The farmers’ markets in Villa de Mazo, Puntagorda, Puntallana and El Paso are a must for the slowfood foodie too showcasing local seasonal produce and delicious local pastries.
Granada has long been a favourite place to visit of mine, I find the more I go, the more I discover and the better I like it! It’s alright for me, it’s almost on my doorstep. I’m lucky enough to live in northern Andalusia. Jaen is ‘my’ province and nearest Andalusian city, then at equidistance I have the delightful cities of both Cordoba and Granada which I never tire of visiting.
I went to Granada again this week. This trip was for a special reason – a food tour run by my ‘online’ friend and Spain blogger Molly who writes a lot about Spain and even more about Granada on her blog – Piccavey. We finally met face-to-face after years of ‘knowing’ each other.
A long-time local to Granada she’s pounded the pavements, got to know the locals, the best (and not so good) places to eat and now has combined her knowledge and joined with Spain Food Sherpas to create the Taste of Granada Food Tour.
Which is where I was headed when leaving home on a fairly fresh summer morning (20c) I drove southwards into the early morning sun and with the stunning backdrop of the Serra Nevada mountain range welcoming me to the city of Granada. I left my car on the outskirts, took a one-stop tram ride to the bus station and caught the number 33 bus into the city. Easy. Never again (only did it once) will I drive into Granada city centre, it is a nightmare.
Spain Food Sherpa – Taste of Granada Food Tour
I met Molly and the other food-tourers, a lovely French couple at the designated spot and our tour began. This isn’t a fill your belly with tapas tour, but a sample and learn about food experience. Granada has a wealth of diverse produce from its coast – the Costa Tropical to its mountain ranges which create individual micro climates producing everything you can think of.
Our first stop a compact delicatessen shop heaving with slowfood. Air-dried jamons from villages high on the Sierra Nevada slopes. Local, prize-winning extra virgin olive oils, cheeses, wines, jams and chocolates – all sourced from within Granada province. We sampled some great cheeses and olive oils followed by chocolate – I choose one with honey and one with chilli. I now have the chocolate factory on my list to visit!
Onto the oldest shop in Spain, once an importer of fine goods, now still selling healthy nuts and dried fruits snacks, an all important part of the Mediterranean Diet. The shop remains unchanged since its opening in 1850, such beautiful wooden shop fittings.
Unfortunately the jamon tasting by the local cutter and expert wasn’t possible so we tried some jamon and olives as a tapas with a glass of very good local Granada wine.
Then on to La Milagrosa, a contemporary-design bar with an award-winning young chef where we sampled Local Artichoke and Organic Tomato with Herring Roe on a Prawn Cracker, followed by Bull’s Tail Croquette with Kimchi Mayonnaise and Quail’s Egg. Both were fabulous.
After a quick visit to the shop next door, a wonderful old producer of grass, wicker and wooden goods. Such a treat to see dying trades like this in a city centre. Our French couple bought a beautiful, carved olive wood salad bowl.
Then we headed to the historical La Chikitito, open since the early 1900s, a bar where writers and poets such as Federico Garcia Lorca would gather.
True to their history they serve great traditional dishes. We had Remojon Granadino, followed by Artichoke and Almond Stew and a local desert with an interesting history – Pinonos, I’ll let you hear that story yourself!
Some of the tapas we sampled are not on the normal menu but made especially for Molly and her groups to share what local food is all about.
Suddenly over 3 hours (we’d gone well past the 2pm finish time) had passed very pleasantly indeed, repleat, Molly wished us well and retreated into a part of Granada I’ve yet to discover.
I went off to explore some more…. that will be another post.
I was a guest of Spain Food Sherpas Taste of Granada Food Tour, enjoyed it immensely and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Food tours are very interesting ways to learn from a local about the area, history and culture all in one. I’d be more than happy to join Spain Food Sherpas in Malaga, another addition to my ever growing must-do list.
Spain has an incredible amount of beaches which cover its almost 5,000 km of coastline (4,964 km.) From the Bay of Biscay in the north, heading east to the Atlantic Ocean, down and round to the Mediterranean Sea tiny, rocky coves, fishing villages and large expanses of white, sandy beaches adorn the shore.
There are more than 180 beaches in Spain which are over 2km long but there are some even longer. The Guiness Book of Records has three entries for the three longest beaches in Spain. Playa de Castilla is the first, in Huelva province and measures an unbelievalbe 17 kilometres. Can you imagine the view?
The second one is Playa El Cofete which is in Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, which is nearly 14 km long.
The third is Playa de Nueva Umbria which is 12km long and is also in Huelva in Andalusia.
I find it hard to imagine a beach 2km long let alone 17km in length, that must be a sight worth seeing and also make Huelva, one of the lesser touristy, quieter spots in Andalusia, the south of Spain, worthy of a visit.
So if you’re looking for Spain’s most beautiful and longest beaches you know where to go! Huelva sounds like the best spot on the mainland or Fuerteventura for a visit to one of the Spanish Islands.
It seems to be Canary Island season as we’re now going to take a look around Fuerteventura (the last post was about La Gomera.) Fuerteventura is known for its almost daily sunshine,gorgeous beaches and jammed packed with events, this Spanish Island which is actually nearer Africa than Spain is just a four hour flight from the UK.
The sizzling and bustling summers brings Fuerteventura to life and attracts jet setters from around the globe. With plenty of local festivals, sporting challenges and local island traditions.
Where to Stay on Fuerteventura
The Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahіa Real makes a fabulous base offering a perfect haven for visitors seeking a touch of luxury to explore from. This multi-award winning hotel has one of the island’s most comprehensive spas, six exquisite restaurants with some of the island’s best local gastronomy, as well as an Ibiza-style beach club and lounge, Coco Bahia.
San Juan Festival
San Juan takes place every 24th June to celebrate the summer solstice. It starts with a large bonfire, a candle and a salt ceremony followed by a dip in the sea as the final part of the cleansing ritual. Those who stay at Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real can enjoy the celebrations at their very own beachfront club, Coco Bahia, and also sample some of the best mojitos on the island. More information here.
Corralejo Night Run
On 30th June hundreds of runners fill Corralejo town centre for its annual night run along a five kiolmetre stretch of the coastline. There’s a Children up to the age of 13 can also get involved in some sporting fun, completing a one kilometre kids night race. Visitors will be able join in with street parties, musical events, whilst enjoying local Canarian cuisine and wine until the early hours. More information here.
The Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahіa Real
Our Lady of Carmen
From 8th to 16th July Corralejo is full of locals and visitors from across the islands, who gather on hundreds of flower embellished boats to honour the patroness of the town the religious figure – Lady Carmen which is paraded through the towns, along with traditional music and Canarian song.
Once at the beach the figure is placed on a boat and sailed around the harbour. An age old tradition, the festival and its patroness are believed to bring good luck to the fisherman of the sea, making it a great spectacle for all. More information here.
Just a short review of what to see and do while on holiday in Fuerteventura.
Spain’s Canary Islands guarantee sun and swimming season from May to January making them the ideal go to place for watersports. But La Gomera is tops, with clear waters that hardly ever drop below 20 degrees Celsius, in the Atlantic Ocean offers all season, year-round watersports like Stand-Up Paddleboarding & Canoeing, Snorkelling & Diving, Deep Sea Fishing and Boat Excursions.
Stand-up paddleboarding gives you an all out workout as it’s a high- intensity exercise which derived from ancient Polynesian roots. Its popularity began when surfers started to use oars in training to increase their balance.
There are three companies on La Gomera which provide all you need for paddleboarding or canoeing and they are in Valle Gran Rey, San Sebastián and in Playa Santiago.
Snorkelling & Diving
La Gomera has been the location for underwater photography and free diving championships because of its diverse natural resources. The island was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2012 for its subaquatic flora and fauna.
It’s an ideal location for beginners but also for the more experienced and adventurous divers. There are drift dives, caves and deep reefs to explore, as well as the impressive huge volcanic structure at the Natural Monument of Los Organos that continues underwater.
Deep Sea Fishing
La Gomera’s rich marine life make it one of the best destinations for deep sea fishing. It is the home to many species such as blue marlin, white marlin, spearfish, tuna, blue fin, big-eye, yellow fin and albacore as well as hammerhead and mako sharks, dorado and more.
There are many charter boat services in San Sebastian’s marina with world-class boats, equipment and expertise for big game fishing, bottom fishing, jigging and blue marlin fishing.
One of the most important fishing events of the year ‘Isla de Gomera’ Deep Sea Fishing Championship takes place here.
With 90 km of virtually unexplored coastline, the island’s marine life is rich and abundant. Schools of fish, barracudas, rays, turtles, dolphins and whales can be seen near the coast.
La Gomera is one the world’s most important places for whale and dolphin watching with 30 different species inhabiting the waters, almost one-third of the 87 species worldwide.
Several companies provide boat excursions, most of them depart from the port of Vueltas (Valle Gran Rey), but also from San Sebastián and Playa Santiago.
These are just some of the reasons why La Gomera is a top spot for watersports but it’s a great place for hiking, star gazing and relaxing too if all that activity sounds too exhausting.
May is the best time to see wild flowers in Andalusia and I find myself coming home from walking every morning with a fistful of wild flowers. Right now living in the Sierra Sur de Jaen, northern Andalusia, luxury is being able to walk in the sunshine, through the olive groves. Breathe in fresh air and see the magnificence of the countryside. A patchwork of colour. A work of art by nature.
The dictionary definition of Luxury is ‘a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.’
Great expense for me is actually tearing myself away from my laptop and going out for a walk while it’s still cool.
I started off counting the different wild flowers I picked. I only go for pink, purple and white ones (I can’t abide yellow and pink or purple together.) But soon lost count and couldn’t have comfortable carried a bigger bouquet. Bouquet because I did actually arrange each one in place as I picked it.
Luxury means different things to different people and right now, this morning my little bit of luxury was free and healthy. That’s not always so!