Category Archives: Spain

10 reasons to visit Andalucia

Whilst for us spending a week with old Spanish-Sri Lankan friends from Sydney and seeing them grow into a family, this time round was by far our highlight of Andalucia, even without that this most diverse and sun-kissed region in Southern Spain is a fabulous hodgepodge of anything a traveller’s heart could wish for. Here’s only a few reasons of why to go.

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1. It’s beautiful

From UNESCO heritage sites, over splendid nature in all its shapes and forms, the few English settlements on the Costa de Sol aside, there’s not a spot on this land that anyone could call anything but breath-takingly beautiful. If you like picturesque cities, from Granada and Sevilla over Cordoba or smaller towns like Ronda and Jimena de la Frontera – there is a more than abundant premium selection to pick from. If you are a beach lover, you can chose from the English pub and fiesta beaches by the Costa de Sol, to more beautiful scenery further East or West. If you like it colder, head up one of the many mountains and national parks covered in lush forests and green pastures.

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Driving south from Madrid, past castles and Manchego factories in Castillo la Mancha, we first pass olive tree fields as far as the eyes can reach, then stop for lunch in one of historians world mekkas, Granada, from where winding roads through lush mountains finally land us by the endless beaches. We couldn’t have asked for more variety in two days  of travelling from Madrid to the Southern coasts.

2. It’s dry

Granada_530This might sound irrelevant to non-sailors. But all those who’ve lived on a boat for any amount of time, who now the litres of mildew sticking even to the smallest items the moment night falls, who have experienced skin blisters and bruises not healing for the constant humid environment, and understand what it means not getting that humid salty air out of any of their clothes, blankies and cushions – all those will appreciate like us, the beautiful warm, dry Andalucian air like nothing else.

3. People are most laid-back and friendly

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Spaniards in general are hard to dislike with their happy, open and chilled-out attitude. Southerners take it to the next level. Siesta is a must. Stress unknown territory. Talking about savoir-vivre, they’ve got it!

4. Kids are welcome

Jimena Frontera_568When one of the littlies starts giving their best karaoke in the middle of a restaurant without stop, instead of grumpy looks its more likely to blend in with the generally loud and joyous atmosphere of Spanish life. At most, the waiter or grand-ma from the next table will come and start playing or hugging your kid. Nothing for touch-averse people, but a paradise for curious and flexible travelling families.

This, unfortunately does not include many accommodation options which tend to charge extra for each child. Make sure you check in advance whether there is extra charges for extra beds, cots and/or breakfast.

5. Tapas are delicious and generous

Often with neither ordering nor having to pay for them, beverages are accompanied by the most delicious snacks. We are not talking greasy packaged chips here. Tapas can be anything from tortilla de patatas, over some egg variation, little sandwich with local ham, cheese, seafood and other local specialties. An unwritten rule tends to be that the further into the rounds of cerveza you head, the more elaborate the tapas get. For instance, while the first one might get you a few delicious local olives, the tenth round might see you and your mates dipping into oysters or scallops.

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6. There are many off-the-beaten tracks to discover

Sierra d Nieves_541Although tourism is well developed in the coastal areas, cities and some mountain towns, there are still many areas like national park tracks, small mountain villages not mentioned in the latest Lonely Planet. Even just the hinterland of more developed coastal towns sometimes awaits with delicious local-ness and a magic touch.

7. For those who like it loud…

Of course there are the LA/Gold Coast remixes as Marbella and the like. You don’t need to look hard to find them and honestly, get your Lonely Planet for this as I won’t be able to tell you any secrets about that scene anymore. I’m a mum! Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia… the past is the past, jaja.

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8. Arabic culture in European environment

If Africa feels a bit scary, but you are still curious to discover some of its culture at first hand, Andalucía is the place to be. With hundreds of years of Moor influence, many of the places like Granada and the famous white villages in its surroundings, show at least as much Arabic influence as Christian or Jewish. The further south you head, the more common hammams, more abundant Morroccon cuisine, and more omnipresent moor architecture become.

9. Uncountable national parks

Just from a general map I counted over 14. Many of them unknown even to my well-tracked Spanish friends. From hippie havens inviting for handycraft stops in quain villages (Alpujarras), over abandoned railway tracks offering miles of walks or bike rides through tunnels and stunning scenery (Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema) to mountain hikes past rivers and Roman ruins for all levels. Andalucia has got it all.

10. Uncountable beaches

Given it’s miles and miles of coastline, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Most of Spain’s southern coasts have made a name for themselves and once again you can chose between party zones, remote beaches, big, small, developed and chilled.

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A little extra handy characteristic for adventurous travelling nomads like us: Africa is just ½ hr ferry ride away. And that’s where we are heading for as I send off this post.

Bargain boat gadgets for sale

As you know, we are selling Happy Dancer, our Moody 425 and home of past two years, to travel over land for a while. This will balance out our sea legs and calm down the cravings of high mountains, green forests and vast plains I’ve been having.

A few items which have provided super useful on the boat are not so necessary on land anymore. Here’s the best deals and items I wouldn’t step on any boat without – let alone consider crossing an ocean.

Yellowbrick Satellite Tracker – as new

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Handheld VHF Std Horizon HX851

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Soon there’ll be more updates and pictures here, from since we left Madrid a week ago.  Interesting Castilla la Mancha and beautiful Andalucia have provided plenty of lovely adventures, well-needed relaxation, smiles and laughter with old friends and lots more. The next post will be a summary of a good time in southern Spain as I’m sending this off from the ferry on our way from Algeciras, Spain, to Tanger, Morocco – a bit closer to Tenerife where there’s only a few places left for my yoga retreat there in November. Life never stops. And neither to us travelling nomads – with or without boat;)

Live begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Loving Madrid

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The flight from Malta to Madrid could have been the worst family flying experience (which it wasn’t), and still wouldn’t have chased the smile away from my face. All I could compare it to is  more than two weeks non-stop at sea in rather unpleasant weather, with no viable escape route. This would have been the alternative to a three hour flight. Crazy!

Let me avoid misunderstandings. Although we are selling Happy Dancer, we still love sailing. But long passages have never been our favourite. What we loved most about cruising life is what we are taking with us to land: Travelling. Seeing new places. Shacking hands with old ones. Meeting old and new friends. Tasting different cultures. Enjoying various foods. Immersing ourselves in other cultures. Smelling smells you’ve never been able to imagine before. Experiencingthe unexpected. Seeing crazy stuff. You get the gist.

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Sunrise views over the river Manzanares from our super cute river front apartment

The few days in Madrid were fabulous. For me they brought back many treasured memories from when I went to high-school here. Walking down memory lane, remembering botellones in many of Spain’s finest plazas, seeing old friends again whose hugs still feel the same like when we were 14, watching the turtles at Attocha (the world’s most lush train station), hanging out in tapas bars hours on end, seeing friendly smiling people EVERYWHERE. Honestly, Spain must be one of my very favourite countries in the world.

I also discovered some new places thanks to family preferences: The naval museum which fascinated Pablo with the first ever map drawn of the Americas, more than 1000 years old (!) and the beautiful newly designed river walk by the Manzanares by which we found the cutest appartment with river views, sunrise on the balcony and everything we could ask for to come back to and relax after long days of exploring down town, marveling at the Plaza Mayor, enjoying churros in the oldest Chocolateria in town and, of course, Spanish food in the local bars.

Tomorrow we continue our journey, past castles, manchego tours, old town squares and the world’s finest olive oil to sun-kissed Andalucia where we’ll spend a wonderful week with friends who’ve flown in all the way from Australia. My heart already beats faster just by the thought of it. Farewell’s are not my thing – but they most often than not do have the inevitable advantage of retrouvailles which not many things can beat in this world.

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We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us!