Our first visit to Spain two years ago was brief and only focused on Barcelona. It was a great introduction and now we wanted to see more.
On October 15th we jetted off to London and directly on to Barcelona. We stayed at the charming Margot House Hotel on Passeig de Gracia, right across the street from Antoni Gaudi’s Castillo Batllo, the architects signature gingerbread house that attracts hundreds of onlookers day and night.
In Barca we frequented the stunning El National restaurant complex for oysters and cava, visited Gaudi’s stunning ‘Segrada Familia' cathedral, spent a day at Barconeleta the beach area, visited the wonderful ‘Mercado Boqueria’ market off of Las Ramblas and took the Big Red open top bus tour in the October sunshine.
A highlight was meeting up with our Shanghai friends Bertrand and Jay at La Serras hotel’s rooftop bar over the harbour and then on to a rare reservation at Bodega 1900 for amazing new age tapas, including a liquid olive served in a wooden spoon. Perhaps the best olive, liquid or otherwise, we’ve ever tasted.
After four lovely nights we flew to Malaga and with an upgraded rental Mercedes, drove 100KM’s west to the village of Ronda. This little town is built on both sides of a 425 foot deep gorge joined by a 200 year old bridge separating old town from new town (new a relative term as it dates from 1485).
We stayed at the lovely Hotel Catalonia Reine Victoria in an upgraded suite, courtesy of Tablet Hotels, with a giant terrace and a 50 KM view of the gorge and valley beyond. Food was very good as was the local Ronda wine but you can only spend so much time looking into a deep hole. Three nights was one too many.
Our next stop was Granada and the amazing Alhambra Palace. I was only able to get into the Parador San Francisco, a government run 4-star hotel right inside the palace walls, for two nights. Sufficient to see this wonderful palace built by the Moors (North African Muslims mostly) during their 800 year occupation of Southern Spain. Given the Moors were expelled in 1492 the Palace was redone, rebuilt and added to by a succession of Christian Kings over the centuries. However, the Moorish influence and their stunning carvings, intricate gardens, water features and architecture remain. Great place, book in advance as they limit tour numbers. One special highlight was lunch at Estrellas de San Nicholas in Granada town high on a hill overlooking the palace. Amazing food, fabulous wine and just impossible to find. Don’t drive. This place is so well hidden you need a bloodhound. VERY narrow lanes too.
Leaving Granada on another sunny day we pointed the Mercedes west again to a 10,000 acre resort estate called Barcelo de Bobadilla. On the way were nothing but olive groves as far as the eye could see. The estate is gorgeous with several excellent restaurants, stables, heated pools, a lovely spa and great vistas over the hills. Very chill place. We were 130 KM’s from Costa del Sol and our friends Peter and Janice’s home outside of Marbella.
Beautiful drive through the ubiquitous olive groves, around lakes and over dams. On arrival in Marbella, we were surprised how developed it was but Peter and Janice took the time to show us all the still charming little seaside villages and hillside hamlets where the good local markets and excellent restaurants can be found. We loved old town Marbella, enjoyed the St. Tropez lookalike Puerto Banus and the quiet hillside village of Benahavis with its Michelin starred restaurants.
Their home in Estepona is just minutes from their golf course where we had a fabulous afternoon game under clear blue skies and temperatures of about 23 degrees. Soon enough, too soon really, we were off to London from Malaga for Ellen’s meetings. To our surprise London was clear, blue skies and just a bit cold. Better than we imagined. Ellen’s meetings were in Guilford, a train ride away, leaving me to tour The Globe Theatre, the HMS Belfast, etc.
We did have a chance to visit with Trevor Hardy and Blake (Lisa was in New York) and met with Michelle Siddorn on our last morning before our afternoon flight.
This, our second taste of Spain, inspired us to spend more time on the Costa del Sol. Today, barely six months later, we are booking a beach side condo rental outside of Marbella for two weeks the end of May.
Barcelona What & Where
Margot House Hotel - boutique Hotel located in the heart of Paseo de Gracia with unbeatable views to Batlló House.
El National - the first restaurant in Barcelona with different areas (4 bars and 4 restaurants) where you can try traditional recipes from around the Iberian Peninsula, prepared with high quality produce in unique surroundings. Located at the heart of Passeig de Gràcia.
El Sueno rooftop bar in La Serras hotel has lovely views over the harbour.
Bodega 1900 for amazing new age tapas.
Andalusia What & Where
Hotel Catalonia Reine Victoria - 4-star hotel overlooking Ronda’s spectacular Tajo Gorge. The Victorian-style hotel was built in 1906 and fully renovated in 2012. Decorated in a sleek contemporary style, it is just 500 metres from Puente Nuevo Bridge and Ronda Bullring.
Taberna Al Amacen in Ronda - lovely little Tapas bar with incredible value.
Parador San Francisco - a government run 4-star hotel right inside the Alhambra Palace walls.
Estrellas de San Nicholas - located in Granada town high on a hill overlooking the Alhambra Palace. Amazing food, fabulous wine and just impossible to find.
La Bobadilla - a luxury hotel in the Sierra de Loja area, between Granada and the Costa del Sol.