Andrew & Family

May 2016.

Andalucia: The Gateway

Dear Andrew,

Located in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and just north of Morocco, Andalucia retains a rich culture comprised of deep Muslim and Romani influences. A gateway between Europe and Africa and located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean sea, it is no surprise that Andalucia has figured prominently in the history of Europe. I think you will find this trip not only fascinating but fun, every day offering you, Nancy and the girls experiences that are unique to the region.



Day 1:  Seville


An English-speaking driver will be waiting for you upon arrival at the San Pablo airport in Seville to take you to your private palace which will be your home for the next few days.


The owner’s son will be on hand to greet you.  Charming and gracious, he left his job in London’s banking world a number of years ago and returned to Spain to redesign and redecorate the  family’s Palacio here in Seville and to work on the restoration of a beautiful castle the family owns in Belmonte, 1.5 hours from Madrid.  To walk through the Palace is to enjoy a view into the fascinating history of one of Spain’s noble families.


The capital of Andalucia, Seville, is Spain’s most historically rich city, boasting a unique blend of Islamic and Iberian styles.


Walk 10-minutes to the Guadalquivir River and board a private boat which will take you along the river for approximately two hours. We will have juices, water and tapas on board for your lunch. The cured Iberian ham, assorted cheeses, assorted breads, king prawns, Spanish tortilla and salmorejo (similar to gazpacho) will sweep you immediately in to the world of southern Spain’s delicious food culture.


When you return to the palace this afternoon, we have left most of the remainder of the day at leisure so that you can rest up from your transatlantic flight.  We have only scheduled a flamenco designer to come this afternoon to fit the girls for their flamenco dresses that will be worn on the 16th!


Enjoy drinks and dinner after which we suggest you walk home through the gardens of Murillo which were once the vegetable gardens and orchards of the Real Alcazar.



Day 2: Seville


Begin today with a walking tour of the Maestranza, the city’s bullfighting ring and museum. Continue on to the Parque María Luisa, a public park and the city’s principal green area; the Plaza de España, a grand plaza built inside of the park in 1929; and the famous gothic Cathedral.


This afternoon you will have a special sensory “time machine” journey, an experience that uses video glasses to allow you to travel back in time to see the shops, streets, and squares of Seville as they once were.  You will be guided along your time journey by various famous figures.


At 9PM, Maria will pick you up at the hotel for a tapas dinner and a guided flamenco night in Triana, a neighborhood located on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River. Residents of Triana have traditionally been called trianeros, and identify strongly with their neighborhood which they consider to be different in character from the rest of the city.



Day 3:  Seville


This morning the countryside beckons. You will leave the city and head out into the countryside to visit a local bull breeding farm, a trip which you will make in two glamorous Hurtan-designed convertibles. Set in a beautiful landscape, this Cortijo is an unspoiled Andalusian paradise. You will visit the bulls and horses on the farm guided by the owner who is the only female bull breeder in Spain.


Enjoy a delicious lunch on the verandah overlooking the lush garden and, afterwards, you will have a private flamenco lesson. The girls will dress up in  their bespoke Sevillan dresses that were fitted for them on the night of your arrival and there will be a group of live musicians teaching you how to wear your dress, style your hair, and dance flamenco!


Upon returning to the city, you will have a private nighttime visit of the Alcázar with an English-speaking guide. The Alcazar is the oldest royal palace that remains in use in Europe. Your guide will lead you through the old Moorish fort, one of the best remaining examples of mudéjar architecture. Subsequent monarchs have added a number of additions over the years, the most mundane being the kitchens constructed for General Franco, who stayed in the royal apartments whenever he visited Seville.


Dine late as is the custom!



Day 4:  Seville-Cordoba


Transfer to Santa Justa station this morning to meet the high-speed AVE train to Córdoba (40 minutes).  The driver will transfer your luggage to Córdoba by car, and a second private car will be waiting for you at the station in Córdoba.


On arrival you will go directly to la Mezquita, the city’s famous Cathedral and Mosque, one of the most mad and beautiful buildings in the world and, I believe, one of the sites you must see before you die.


At 6:30PM head off on a bike tour along the route of the patios (guide will pick you up at the hotel with bikes). Beginning in May, after many months of maintenance, locals open their patios, which are decorated with hundreds of types of colorful flowerpots arranged in different ways, to the public for viewing.  After the judging, the finest one receives a coveted prize.


Upon returning to the hotel you may wish to have a spa appointment or simply spend a little time in the Roman Baths of the spa.


We have made a reservation for you at 9:00 PM to dine in the Hospes Baillio’s patio restaurant, one of the best in the city.



Day 5:  Cordoba-Granada


Mid-morning you will be driven to the Cortijo Hoyabuela country house for a private olive oil tasting.  Andalucia is Spain’s premier olive oil region, with seemingly endless olive groves planted in a perfect Mediterranean climate. You will soon learn that every bottle of olive oil tells a story about the weather and terrain of the terroir that it comes from.


The beautiful country estate is better described as a hacienda rather than a cortijo (farm) because it includes hectares planted in olive trees. Again, you will see here a mix of architectural styles that tell the multi-layered story of Andalucia’s past, gorgeous gardens that produce essential oils that are used for soaps, oils and essences, and a lovely interior that possesses an impressive library assembled by the owner’s father. You will have an olive oil tasting workshop followed by an artisan’s workshop during which the girls will learn to make soap and lip balm using olive oil.


There is also a lovely swimming pool and, if you would like a swim, you are more than welcome.


Following the tasting, you will break for lunch, after which you will be driven another 1.5 hours to the Parador de Granada.


Late afternoon visit the Albayzín quarter for a walking tour of the oldest part of Granada, a neighborhood that retains the narrow winding streets of its medieval Moorish past. El Albayzín is located on a hill facing the Alhambra and offers the most spectacular views of the palace in the city.  Enjoy dinner in El Albayzín this evening before continuing on to the Sacromonte district, home to Granada’s thriving Roma (Gypsy) community. Sacromonte is the best place to see zambra, a flamenco variation with a more Oriental feel in which the singer also dances.


Around 11:00 PM head back to the Parador where you will be met by your guide in the reception area for your midnight tour of the Alhambra.


Tonight you have the  unforgettable experience of visiting the Alhambra on your own with your guide, Pablo.  A palace and fortress, the Alhambra was constructed in the 10th century and displays the country’s most significant Berber Islamic architecture, together with the Christian gardens of the 16th century. Moorish poets described the palace as a “pearl set in emeralds”, in allusion to the color of its buildings and the woods around them.  Lit up at night, this will be an unforgettable experience.



Day 6:  Granada & Departure


Today is a day at leisure until your departure.  You can sleep in after your late night and then breakfast at the Parador, or you might wish to go down in to the new town and have a walk around (driver at your disposal).   Visit the Soko (souvenir market) and the tea shops or have a more contemporary excursion to Zara (origin Spain) for a bit of retail therapy.  We can advise you on where to lunch and, afterwards, get an ice cream at the best ice cream shop in all of Spain.


Finally, head to the airport for your departure.