Now that the dreaded month of January (I go through phases of loving and hating it) We can all start to look towards the rest of the year! I can feel Spring approaching... or am I just being optimistic!?
For my birthday this year, despite my efforts to stay home and nurse a cold I picked up in India... The Hubs took me to my favourite hotel for Cocktails and Dinner.
Just a stones throw away, The Marbella Club hotel on the famous golden mile is really quite gorgeous and dripping in old school riviera glamour. An invitation too fabulous to miss so I threw on my louboutin's and headed out for the evening.
So, I explained in my previous post that we had visited Madrid previously, and didn't come away loving it. So visit this was my second chance to love it, or at least like it a little more than I had!
A couple of months ago we took a road trip to Madrid.
My husband managed to get tickets to the champions league final, which was the main reason for going. But also, we has been to celebrate New Year's a couple of years ago and I came away feeling like Madrid was somewhere that I didn't love.
In it's defence, it was cold (surprisingly to us) and a little fact we didn't know at the time is that much of Spain tends to close down over the holidays. So I felt like perhaps we hadn't chosen the best time to visit. I very rarely come away from a city without finding something to love about it. So this was a second attempt to love Madrid.
So after 7 hours in the car we arrived in Madrid, breaking up the journey with a stop off at The windmills of La Mancha (more here, and defiantly worth a visit)
We stayed at a really cute boutique hotel, called Only You which Id definitely recommend.
We started our day with breakfast at Zenith cafe. They have a really great menu with all kind of yummy options! But I just cannot resist pancakes when the are on the menu. A few cappuccinos later, we were ready to explore the city.
Madrid has some of the best street art iv seen, really beautifully done. Its not always something that I'm a fan of but I felt that here it was quite special.
It is a much more vibrant place in the summer months, than in the winter. Its very busy and bustling and truly feels like a capital city.
We took a walk around Mercado de San Miguel, which like most Mercado's in Spain is utterly beautiful. They always have the most beautiful vaulted ceilings, and are a great place to pick up fresh local produce.
I found the architecture to be very diverse in Madrid. Many of the buildings have an imperial and almost art deco feel to them which is very different to other Spanish city's we have visited. There is a real mix of historic buildings along with more modern architecture.
So, the question is... did I finally fall in love with Madrid. I'll tell you in my next post later this week!
Vejar de la Frontier
Widely known to be the prettiest of all the pueblos blancos, I figured Vejar (more detailed here) would be a great place to start. Around 30 minutes drive from Seville through the picturesque Spanish countryside this super cute town is one of my favourites and definitely not to be passed on. Stop by the Plaza de Espana for cafe con leche and people watching and a dose of Andalusian culture.
I went to Ubrique in search of the famous leather bags which are made there, and whist I failed at my primary goal (these designer handbags are kept well hidden away) I won at finding another Spanish town to fall in love with.
Another town that takes away your breath at first sight, I couldn't quite get over how stunning Ubrique is set against a giant mountain range. Get lost in the little cobbles streets and head to the Plaza d'Espana for coffee and people watching. More on Ubrique here
Arcos de la Frontier
The old town of Arcos de La Frontier is a tangled labyrinth of cobbled streets that lead up to a castle (a vision in sandstone) and views of the rolling Spanish countryside. Head to the central Callejón de las Monjas for Tapas and a refreshing glass of tinto de verano. If its just a coffee your after, head to The Casa del Corregidor’s in the Parador hotel. The views from here make the trip worthwhile on their own. Arcos has some of the most beautiful Andalusian architecture iv ever seen just in case you needed more reasons to visit.
Another super cute and relatively tourist free town, frigiliana was voted prettiest Andalusian village by the Spanish tourist board and I can see why. Like most of these mountain towns, its best explored by foot. This way you'll be sure not to miss a thing. Be sure to taste the local wine!
This little hidden Gem, (now made a little more famous with game of thrones) is an absolute must. The first time I saw it it took my breath away, much like seeing Gordes In Provence for the first time. If you view the town from afar, you may be lucky enough to see falcons and eagles.
Make sure you head to the old town at the top. If you fancy staying at one of the most fabulous hotels in Europe (one of my favourites too), Finca cortesin at the bottom of Casares will blow your socks off. When its time to leave, turn right for the next fairy tale village below...
Gaucin is another super cute, whitewashed mountain village. I'll never forget the first time we visited, and made a total rookie mistake of arriving at 2 pm in the peak of summer. We got out of the car to 44 degree heat... ouch. Still totally worth it. Gaucin is just beautiful, charming and honestly Andalusian. In the summer they decorate the town with crochet bunting for the ferias! Whats not to love...
Setinil de las bodega
In my opinion, Setinil (I wrote more about it here) is one of the most magical of all of the pueblos blancos. A village that grew out of the rocks and cliffs, it is a total bucket list place to visit. It may look like something from lord of the rings, but is a fully functioning village complete with restaurants and cafes. Pure magic!
Have you ever visited any of these lovely little towns? Or maybe you know of some I haven't mentioned? Let me know in the comments below!
Sadly the last day of our little weekend break in the Spanish countryside arrived and it was time to leave the beautiful Hacienda de San Rafael.
We made the most of our stay right up to the last minute. After a lovely breakfast (they have it all set up for you right outside your room for when you wake up, isn't that cute!) we spent the morning by the pool before taking a final walk around the stunning grounds.
I love how authentically Andalusian the hacienda was. From its 18th century architecture, to its eclectic mix of interior decor. It really felt like a home away from home. They cleverly used wild flowers and foliage from the gardens to create lovely fresh arrangements around the hotel... something that inspired me to recreate in my own home.
The hacienda is placed right in the middle an old olive (and almond) estate that surrounds the hacienda. The hotel even make its own brand of olive oil, which we bought a few bottles of.
My Dress is an old one, but I found some similar dresses below
We took in our last view of colourful bougainvillea before heading back to our own piece of heaven, inspired and refreshed after the perfect weekend in the Spanish countryside.
Once the unforgiving Spanish heat subsides, and golden hour approaches it was time to grab a cocktail and head out for dinner. Iv said this before, but its really great to be able to leave your hotel room and not have to travel too far got Dinner. It just adds a more relaxed vibe to the evening, don't you think?
One of my favourite things about the Hacienda was that even though it was at full occupancy, it quite often felt like we had the place to ourselves and was so peaceful. The hacienda only has 11 rooms and I'm told they keep the hotel small for this very reason, Its such a wonderful contrast to busy the much faster pace of Seville, which is only 30 minutes away.
Its a place where you can quite literally find the time to stop and smell the roses.. or in this case Bougainvillea.
Daisy print dress is zara
Dinner at the Hacienda is a simple affair served al fresco in the summer months right next to the hotel bar. The menu is set, which at first terrified us but after seeing that we would love everything offered we quickly forgot. In fact it was quite nice not to make any decisions... they even pair the meal with wine for you.
After dinner, we headed to the front of the hacienda to watch the sunset over the sunflower fields. The perfect end to a wonder day.
I'll never get bored of a sunset...
So I mentioned in my previous post that there was a hotel - The Hacienda de San Raael iv been dying to stay at, not far from Vejar de La Frontier. Its been on my radar ever since reading about it on one of my favourite blog's Gal meets Glam.
When I saw it pop up on Julia's Instagram account I actually could not believe that there was such a cute hotel so close to us that I hadn't even heard of, let alone been to. That's why following good, like minded accounts on Instagram (You can find mine here) is so beneficial for finding fabulous places around the world
On the drive down to the Hacienda we passed endless beautiful sunflower fields, so naturally we had to stop to take some pictures. The sunflower heads were so giant, it was amazing to see.
When we arrived to the Hacienda after a morning discovering Vejar and the most beautiful drive through endless olive and cotton trees, we knew immediately that it would be exactly what I hoped and expected it to be. Rustic, laid back Andalusian style. A true Spanish Cortijo, with bucket loads of character
After checking in and checking out our room we decided upon some tapas for lunch on the terrace outside our room. The perfect way to spend the afternoon after a busy morning exploring Vejar de La Frontier.
After lunch we explored the rest of the hotel, finding endless bougainvillea in every colour imaginable, along with lemon and olive groves. The Hacienda is beautifully stylish in the most humble and rustic way with gorgeous grounds to match
As we know the area well at this point - having explored Seville and the surrounding towns extensively over the past few years, and although i'm sure there is still more for us to discover we took the opportunity to relax and sit by the pool and enjoy the hotel and gardens.
The Hacienda is a trove of fascinating treasures, the kind you find while travelling the world. I'm sure they must have many stories behind them. These are the details that make the hacienda something more than a hotel. It has a depth that can only be achieved with love. Its not like staying in a hotel, more like a friends house (fabulous friends who are well travelled)
The honestly bar seriously helps with this vibe...
Now all i'm doing of dreaming of my return....
A few weeks ago, the hubs and I decided to have a little date weekend exploration around some still undiscovered "to us" parts of Andalusia.
Id heard tales of a pretty white town towards Seville.
In fact, its said that its the prettiest of the white towns. It also happens to be on the way to one of my wish list hotels. Meant to be...
So we packed our weekend luggage and jumped in the car to see for ourselves
It really is breathtaking to see the hilltop pueblos blancos from afar for the first time. Against the brilliant, blue, cloudless Andalusian sky its really quite breathtaking.
And once inside Vejar, its no less disappointing. Charming, rustic and unique... I could literally explore these towns for hours.
After spending so much time in southern Spain at this point, we now try and avoid the mid day heat and always aim to arrive in either the morning or late evening as the town's close for siesta due to the sweltering heat. We once arrived at one of these little towns and had to get straight back into the car within minutes it was that hot.
There are endless pretty streets to explore and get lost in.
We headed to the Plaza de Espana which features a Seville tile fountain and is known as the Plaza de los Pescaítos. This is wear you'll find many of the locals hanging out at the cafe's and children playing by the fountain
Although this was a flying visit to Vejar, it has became an instant favourite. We will definitely be returning soon. If you are visiting Andalusia, id definitely recommend adding it to your list.
I have wanted to visit the Windmills of La Mancha at Campo de Criptana or molinos de viento (Spanish translation) as my Spanish friends call them, ever since since seeing them on Rick Steins Spain! They are quite the drive from Andalusia (nearly 6 hours in fact) so trying to persuade my husband that we absolutely had to visit some windmills so far away hadn't been too successful
So when a trip to Madrid came on the agenda (Its amazing how the Champions league final will motivate a man) I saw my opportunity. He gets football, I get culture and we both get a weekend in Madrid (coming soon)
This tiny pueblo, in the region of La Mancha, would be unknown if it was not home to a collection of windmills made famous by Don Quixote (which also happens to be one of the best ballets we have ever seen). The novel chronicles the adventures of Alonso Quixano in his quest to revive chivalry.
The most iconic scenes in the novel involves a collection of windmills that Don Quixote fights, mistaking to be giants.
The 10 windmills are such an impressive sight, their height and scale imposing over the little town like something out of a fairy-tale.
Dress is Zara, now in the sale HERE
We were on a whistle stop tour, so we didn't venture into the town. I had been told that there wasn't too much to do here once you had seen the giant windmills (la molinos de viento gigantes) so we came, saw conquered and hot footed it to Madrid for the weekend.
Am I glad I pursued mi hombre to do the 2 hour detour? Absolutely! These giant windmills are truly unique, and very very special. Another tick off my bucket list...
A Travel, beauty and lifestyle blog with the occasional afternoon tea by Angelina Belle
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