The Cultural village of Menerbes

It is said that Menerbes comes from Minerva (Minerve in French), the Roman goddess of wisdom and a supporter of the arts. Fitting to it’s name, it is also village where Peter Mayle wrote his book “A Year in Provence” and its sequels and has attracted a number of artists and noblemen in the past giving it a cultural setting.

Menerbes is also another little town with the “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” label that has heaps of charm and sophisticated beauty. The Luberon region is filled with towns in close proximity and therefore you can easily combine visiting a few of them in one day. For example, visiting Oppede, Bonniuex, and Menerbes is a great combination. Keep in mind that market day is here on Thursday mornings, which we sadly missed.

Read more about cute provence towns here: Uzes, Lourmarin, Saint rémy de provence, Roussillon, Gordes

The hilltop town is scatted with blue shutter windows that is sleepy in the mornings and comes to life closer to noon. It is less crowded than Roussillon and Gordes for instance, which makes it peaceful to stroll around and take in the feeling of the town. Stores, galleries and a few cafes start to trickle open as we walk around the main street. The pink bougainvillea, chic little boutiques and stunning stone buildings give that feeling of traditional Provence. The town is surrounded with vines and orchards with a fortification on top with a tower (La Citadelle) and castle (castle Le Castellet) on each end.

We had pre-booked lunch reservations in the town of Ansouis, but if you are looking for a place to eat in Menerbes, Maison de la Truffe et du Vin is apparently a darling spot. It is dedicated to fresh truffles when in season and it holds tastings with local wines. It is located in a beautiful garden with views of the valley all focused on truffle themed dishes.

Another Beautiful village in France, Gordes

‘Gordes, another picturesque town in Provence’

You are welcomed to another sweet town with blue shutter windows, impressive cars, twisting cobbled pathways, iron chaired cafes and wicker basket holidayers taking a leisurely French-style stroll.

Gordes, a town in the Luberon region, which I’m sure most of you have heard about, as it is often referred as the crown jewel of Provence. If any of you have watched one of favourite movies, “A Good Year”, many of the scenes have been filmed in this cosy town. Being such a picturesque place, Gordes was home to many artists including Marc Chagall and Victor Vasarely and today it is listed as “one of the most beautiful villages of France“.

When driving to Gordes, where Route de Cavaillon (D15) and Chemin de Gaumaud meet, you are welcomed by the façade of the perched hilltop town and this is the first spot you are destined to take a photo of the spilling village. Here you can spot the luxurious Bastide de Gordes and see the roads climb up the town that are all surrounded with olive groves and lush fields of wine.

Wandering through the little streets, it is much like any other provincial town that feels like a step back in time where everything is beautiful and well preserved. The town is filled with museums, restaurants, little shops and wandering people who have all come to admire the location. Market day is on Tuesday, if you are in the midst of planning your Provence itinerary. It is very quintessential where you can shop for straw baskets, lavender infused products and all things linen. We stopped for an espresso in the restaurant by the fountain, the same spot where the movie had its restaurant.

From muted violets and mauve tones, this is the region where lavender fields come alive from June to August. Gordes is surrounded with blooming fields and if you are here in season, make sure to visit the Notre-Dame de Senanque that is a Cistercian abbey. Despite the fact that we missed the lavender season by a month as we visited in September, Gordes is a village worth exploring. During the day, we visited other little villages nearby such as Menerbes, Lourmarin and Cucuron as everything is in close region to each other.

Spanish Countryside, Ronda

Molino del Arco – A peaceful getaway near Ronda

The calmness of the countryside is what draws my husband and I to find hidden gems when planning our routes, on holidays. We came across this countryside manner in Andalucía that is an old restored 18th century mill. We drove from Seville to stay here for 2 nights before heading back to the city of Granada. We booked the suite because of the rooftop terrace that overlooks the gardens of the manner, which made it the perfect pre-drink spot just before sunset and dinner time. It was the perfect warm place to read our books if didn’t want to be at poolside. We ate dinner at the hotel in the evenings and during the day we explored towns nearby, such as Ronda. Molino del Arco makes a great little getaway from the city if you are looking for a little relaxation on your next Spanish holiday.

The ripe avocados were my favourite beakfast treat

Enjoying the view from our terrace

Ronda

Ronda is a mountaintop city in Spain (Malaga) that is famous for it’s position on a steep gorge. It was about 40 degrees celcious during our visit, so we primarily opted for eating jamon and icecream in the shade.

December Spain Moments

I spent a few weeks in Southern Spain in the beginning of December to get a bit of sunshine before getting into all the Christmas chaos. The idea of the holiday was purely golf related and played some of our favourite courses around the coast. The first week of the holiday I was alone with my dad and on the second half of the week, my brother and husband joined us as well, which was simply amazing. Here are a few non-golf related pictures from the holiday. We visited Mijas, Frigliana and Malaga and stayed in Costa del Sol so all the golf courses were near.

Pre-Christmas Holiday to Spain!

‘The white town of Arcos de la frontera’

I booked tickets a few days ago and today I will be leaving on an extempore golf holiday to Spain. My father is there already, my brother and husband will be coming later and we will basically be playing golf on a daily basis. We will be staying on the coastline, close to all the courses for convenience. Christmas is put on hold for the next 2 weeks as it’s time for a bit of much needed sunshine. These pictures are from a cute little white town called Arcos de la Frontera, which we skimmed through with hubby in August. It was a charming sleeping town which made it the perfect stroll for a morning coffee.

A Visual guide to Granada

‘Granada, the beautiful diverse city of Andalucia’

Granada is a beautiful city with echoes of diversity that is worth visiting during your Andalucía stay. Much different to it’s neighbouring cities, Granada is a mixture of culture with a Moorish neighbourhood that has remained the same for centuries, areas near Plaza Nueva that almost look as if you were in Italy and parts of the old town look as if you could be in the Moroccan souk, where dreadlocks seem to be the thing. Granada has been inhabited by the ancient Iberians to the Romans and Visigoths and all have left an imprint in the walls. The buzzing University City has a lively street food life, where locals eat and drink along bars that spill to pathways. Granada is known for its “complimentary tapas” culture when purchasing a drink, you get a free tapas. Often the dishes are so large, you fill yourself up before even heading over to lunch. The city has an interesting buzz, it’s lively and friendly with a mix of interesting people.

Prepare for a lot of climbing stairs as roaming the city by foot is the best way to explore all the amazing neighbourhoods. As the walking increases your appetite, make sure to also eat your way through the old city. Since the tapas culture is so fabulous, I wouldn’t even bother finding proper sit down restaurants but rather make your way to the buzzing counters, as locals would do. Buy some local artisan perfumes and scented candles at PATIO and find some handcraft shops to purchase beautiful Moorish prints to put on walls and bowls to bring back home. We also found the cutest courtyard bookstore right next our hotel (Hotel Casa Granada) where we purchased some coffee table books.

Walk up to Plaza San Nicolas during sunrise or sunset and enjoy a stunning view of the Alhambra as the sky turns a saturated pink. You will hear gypsies playing flamenco as it gets darker, children running in little courtyards and the atmosphere is blissful and romantic.

The Alhambra

Read more about Alhambra from here.

The Alhambra is a beautiful Arabesque Palace and grounds that were built in the mid 14th century by the Roman remains and Moors. The Moorish princes lived in the complex until they were driven out of Spain in 1492, when the Christians took over. Today the palace is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a very popular tourist attraction.It is essential to visit the Alhambra if you are Granada as it has played such a large role in history. The grounds are massive and take a bit of time to explore, but it’s beautiful and full of historic beauty that is absolutely worth it. Make sure to purchase your ticket online well in advance and visit the place just as it opens to avoid all the daytime tourists.

The Arab Quarter

Albayzin- Take a walk back in time by visitng the old Arab quarter

The Albaycin is the old Arab Quarter that is a hillside section of Granada on the opposite side to the Alhambra. By far, this was the most beautiful section of Granada dating back to the 11th century, because of the strong Muslim influence in the area. Alzayin is visually the most beautiful especially early morning when its peaceful and empty soaking up all the Moorish history and peaking into the most stunning hidden gardens.

Read more about Albayzin from here.

The Arab Quarter of Granada, Albayzin

‘A step back into middle eastern time in the Arab quarter of Granada, The Albaycin’

The Albaycin is the old Arab Quarter that is a hillside section of Granada on the opposite side to the Alhambra. By far, this was the most beautiful section of Granada dating back to the 11th century, because of the strong Muslim influence in the area. This region used to by filled with luxurious carmenes (rustic house with grape vine filled gardens) and public baths. When you walk around and peak through houses iron gates, you discover beautiful hidden garden, decorated walls with mosaic plates and hundreds of year old draping of vines. The character and historic quarter shows many of stories within its cobbled streets and squares and it is best seen, by roaming around.

Make your way up to the hilltop and enjoy the stunning views of the Alhambra and if you are there for sunset, it fills up with locals gathering for beers and various street musicians as the sun starts to turn red. The Albayzin region has a street dedicated to cinnamon lingering tearooms draped in Arab fabrics which set you straight back in Middle Eastern time. One morning we came to enjoy a typical Arabian tea made from milk, cardamom and cinnamon, what we often had in Dubai.

For centuries, Granada is a city of passing cultures that have all left imprints behind, just like in many other Andalucían cities. Again, there is a heavy Moorish influence here as they ruled in the 10th century, which is easily seen in the architecture. There is a mixture of typical catholic towering cathedral spires combined on top of something that looks more like a mosque, showing how they built on top during different eras of rule.

You get to experience the whimsical spell of Albayzin either early morning or late afternoon when the sky slowly starts falling into a saturated golden hour. I loved the morning because it was so peaceful to walk around, stop for some Arabic coffees and soak in the beauty of the old architecture. All the colourful flowers stood still with time and a gentle guitar play in the background as a local sat playing in the corner.

Read more about the Alhambra palace from here.

The magical Alhambra, Granada

‘ The Moorish Secret gardens of Alhambra’

My hubby and I spent a few days in Granada during our Andalucía road trip and we knew that visiting Alhambra was a must, when staying here. The Alhambra is a beautiful Arabesque Palace and grounds that were built in the mid 14th century by the Roman remains and Moors. The Moorish princes lived in the complex until they were driven out of Spain in 1492, when the Christians took over. Today the palace is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a very popular tourist attraction. The name Alhambra comes from the Moorish time, as the Arabic word “alhamra” means “the red one” referring to the stone colour used in parts of the palace construction.

The Alhambra is located right in the old town, but it is a real uphill hike to get the actual site. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes; it was a great bum workout to say the least. Also make sure to buy tickets online in advance. Just like the Alcazar in Seville, the per-ordered ticket will save you a lot of time queuing and guarantees a spot in seeing something for that day. Even though we booked our tickets 2 weeks before our trip, seeing the inside of the Nasrid palace was sold out, so instead we explored the grounds and generalife, which was more than enough for us. Another tip is to visit the palace just as it opens, to avoid the mid-day tourist mass. This allows you to capture beautiful images as the sun is still low and rising and you get to roam around in a peaceful environment.

The grounds are conducted with a myriad of amazing buildings to explore, including the Tower of Justice that has the most stunning views of Granada below. Opposite of the Nasrid Palace (which should be breathtaking from inside) is the Alcazaba that shows the military history of the time. We explored the buildings first and then walked through the generalife and the stunning gardens. This part was the vacation home of Granada’s royalty. The gardens were simply stunning, something that looks out of a fairytale. There were decorative fountains, maze-like bush pathways and an explosion of manicured pathways and flowers as far as the eye can see. The Moorish influence is seen throughout the Alhambra in its archways, tiled walls, and intricate carvings. We spent probably a good 3 hours soaking in all the grand beauty, working up an appetite from all the walking around.

After exploring the Alhambra we headed back to the old town for some seafood lunch. We came across a tiny tapas bar called “Bar Los Diamantes” on Plaza nueva 13, nothing fancy or decadent with rows of joint tables. There was a queue of locals outside and we quickly discover this was the place to eat. After queuing for a little while, we got a place inside. The place has that typical loud Spanish tapas atmosphere which we love and we ordered some mouth-watering seafood. Don’t expect to get anything fancy here, this is authentic quick simple but delish tapas. I didn’t take pictures of everything, but we ate rosada (type of cod fish), razor clams, shrimps, pilpil, and smoked paprika pulpo and our bill came to only about 50euros. It was the perfect seafood spot, to indulge in all the fresh goods, exactly the way locals would. We came to disvoer afterwards that it was also recommended by Loney planet as one of the best eateries in the area.

Bar Los Diamantes for some seafood tapas after exploring the Alhambra

The charming Balneario Aguas de Villaharta

‘Countryside getaway in the rolling hills of Andalucia’

As the sun begins to rise from the back of the mountains, the low rays hit our faces, as we get ready for a dreamy breakfast. Waking up at the Spanish countryside is pure relaxation, especially when the surroundings are visually this pleasing. Naturally, you hear the roosters in the horizon and the occasional hee-hawing of the hotels donkey. With the largest ears, the furry friend loved it when it reserved visitors to it’s pen. We watch the glorious sun come up as we hear the coffee machine ramble as it makes our first frothy cappuccino.

Read more about our breakfast bliss from here.

Surrounded with olive trees and a blissful view of the Andalucían countryside, Balneario Aguas de Villaharta is a chic hidden gem that makes a great place to unwind. We stayed for a few nights just to relax by the pool, spend time in the hamam, and fully slow down. Moreover, after spending some days in various cities in Andalucía, heading out to the mountains near Cordoba was the perfect thing to do. The drive up from Cadiz to this hotel was stunning, the rolling hills of dried sunflower stretched for miles and the occasional white doted towns shined in contrast against the greenery.

With fig trees growing in corner pots and white curtains dancing to a slight breeze, the rustic aesthetics create that charming atmosphere, a visual addict desires. Bistro lights hang from side to side in the yards and the bohemian style paper lamps and sun umbrellas look like a rivera maison advert.

During the daytime, we either relaxed by the pool or spent some time exploring nearby towns. For example, Cordoba is a great place to visit that is near by.

Read more about Cordoba from here.

The gastronomic experience was a highlight of our stay. Every evening during dinner we watched the sun drop behind the hills as we sat outside restaurant (Hierro) listening to the sound of wildlife as it becomes darker. With gentle music in the background, the sound of the Spanish language and a full-bodied red wine on the tip of our tongues, evenings were relaxing and memorable. We were spoiled with mouth-watering dishes made from local produce that crowned our evenings to the fullest. Some of my favourite dishes included pork cheek, slow cooked rabbit, oxtail and a refreshing watermelon vinaigrette salad. After a long nights sleep with our stomachs full, it was refreshing to the start the day with a morning swim in the almost empty pool.

With a heart full of good memories and a wonderfully pleasant stay and staff, we will for sure come back to this darling place.

Spanish Countryside Breakfast

Dreamy breakfast in the hills of Andalucía

As the sun begins to rise from the back of the mountains, the low rays hit our faces, as we get ready for a dreamy breakfast. Waking up at the Spanish countryside is pure relaxation, especially when the surroundings are visually this pleasing. We watch the glorious sun come up as we hear the coffee machine ramble as it makes our first frothy cappuccino.

We stayed in the countryside hotel Balneario Aguas de Villaharta for a few nights just to relax by the pool and fully wind down. Moreover, after spending some days in various cities in Andalucía, heading out to the mountains near Cordoba was the perfect thing to do. The drive up from Cadiz to this hotel was stunning, the rolling hills of dried sunflower stretched for miles and the occasional white doted towns shined in contrast against the greenery. I must mention that driving in Spain has changed so much in the last 15years; the roads are in great condition, it is much more safe and people actually follow regulations.

We enjoy breakfast outside as the day isn’t hot yet and watch the sunlight push through the fig trees and white sun curtains. The somewhat bohemian and aesthetics of this hotel reminds me of many Puglian masserias, which is probably why I felt at home right away. The rustic white wooden tables, the tassel sunshades and even the staff wore matching linen dresses that looked so chic. After several cappuccinos and a beautiful slow breakfast, a wonderful mood was set for the entire day.