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Andalucia

Andalucia, the magnificent splendor of the South

 

Andalucia is dangerous. This land is blessed by all four elements, and beauty explodes in every single tile, alley, garden, and in the deep gaze of its people. Once you have taken your first step in this land and been caressed by the heartbreaking notes of flamenco celebrated by its magnificent artists … your soul is stolen, forever. No matter if you travel the world and see all its treasures, after that first time, everything will be hopelessly different, and there will always be a voice inside yourself, telling you, “Vuelve.” *                  

 *(come back)

FLAMENCO: FEELING ITS POWER BEYOND STEREOTYPES

A couple of people clapping hands, a guitar, a voice that has traveled through the centuries, a dancer who appears suddenly and kills you with a glance… they put their whole soul into it: pain, joy, love, anger, humor, arrogance… and the magic happens. Witnessing all this is an experience that cannot be expressed in words. No matter if you have seen flamenco many times in movies or on TV, being present, hearing every single breath of the singers and keeping the rhythm of dancers’ steps with your hands will really help you understand its essence

“Everything in Andalucia seems too much: colors, flavors, sounds, art, nature… it all goes directly to your heart, telling you that life can be so beautiful…”

Flamenco is the sound of Andalucia, the sound of life itself. You will constantly hear it coming from an open window, at the bakery, in the streets, in modern bars as well as in traditional “tablaos.” You will see pictures of legends like Camaron de la Isla, Paco de Lucia, Carmen Amaya, or Manolo Caracol hanging everywhere and being honored with candles and flowers as if they were saints. Far from being just a traditional art, flamenco is constantly evolving together with its land—that’s why nothing can impress upon you the magnificence of Andalucia more than being there.

CADIZFORNIA, THE WEST COAST HAS NEVER BEEN SO WILD

Our journey starts in Cadiz, the oldest city in Europe, with its vibrant, popular barrios, or “tabernas” where there is always somebody singing and strumming a guitar while tasting the local red wine (vino tinto) or beer accompanied by cheese and cold cuts. Taberna Casa Manteca offers the best tapas experience as well as top quality southern hospitality. Try their “chicharrones especiales” and prepare to stay there longer than expected! After visiting the stunning cathedral with its golden dome, the best way to enjoy Cadiz is to get lost in its tiny streets. Barrio del Pópulo and Barrio de la Viña are the heart of the old town and the best places to enjoy the fabulous carnival celebrations. Playa de la Caleta, with its liberty spa and many small, colored boats moored to the shore, offers the best view. On both sides of the beach is a castle that can be reached by walking through the water. Heading there at sunset will introduce you to thousands of new colors.

GRANADA: THE PEARL OF THE AL ANDALUS EMPIRE

Granada is a modern, vibrant university town, the cradle of gypsy tradition, and the cultural capital of the Al Andalus Islamic empire. Every single corner of this wonderful place is pure poetry; even the writings on the walls seem to talk directly to you. Watching a sunset from the Sacromonte or the Mirador de San Nicolas is an unmissable ritual, as well as tasting fried aubergines in honey in a cool bar in the surroundings of the stunning cathedral. Albaicin, the old Arab barrio, is the heart of the town and a sort of stargate that will deliver you directly to North Africa. After walking in its maze of streets and jumping from one artisan shop to another, you can relax in a “teteria,” a Moroccan style bar that offers delicious mint tea, Arab delicacies, and, of course, shishas! While gently smoking the aromatic shisha surrounded by exotic melodies, you can close your eyes and feel like a caliph getting ready to visit the Alhambra Palace, UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The richness of the Alhambra’s architecture, the incredible decorations, and the beauty of its gardens cannot be described in words; you just have to spend at least a half-day there and enjoy every single corner of this marvel. The best way to end the day in Granada is by eating a tasty and vibrant couscous (Bab Mansur’s one is supreme), then running to the Sacromonte and attending a flamenco show in the unique scenery of the Cuevas, the old gypsy houses carved into the rock. A very limited audience is admitted inside these tiny spaces, and the show has an overwhelming emotional impact; the local artists will leave you speechless.

“SEVILLA HAS GOT A SPECIAL COLOR” 

(“Sevilla tiene un color especial” – a song by Los del Rio)

Sevilla is the capital city of Andalucia, where the sacred rituals of Semana Santa with its processions and smells of incense cohabit with the more profane Feria, the summer fair with its concerts and street art all enveloped in the sensual perfume of jasmine. Start the visit by viewing its infinite beauty from the top of Las Setas, the best sunset spot in town! Then get lost in the lovely streets of Santa Cruz and visit the magnificent cathedral and the symbol of the city, “La Giralda,” the earlier minaret of the Great Mosque of Seville, now converted into a bell tower. Reaching the top can be really challenging, but the view is totally worth it! Not far from the cathedral is another treasure, the Alcazar Royal Palace, with its rich decorations and charming gardens.

“A land blessed by the four elements, where the light is golden and a gypsy dancer can bring you to tears.”

If the Alhambra was not enough to feast your senses, here you can once again fully immerse into the caliph’s world. If you are hungry and searching for a fun night, the place to be is Alameda Street; once a seedy area of town and now the center of its gastronomic offerings and nightlife. Sit at a tiny table at Casa Paco and enjoy their specialties, a fusion between traditional and contemporary cuisine. After dinner, try to find La Carbonería, the temple of local flamenco, where you can drink the best sangria in town and experience the true atmosphere of Sevilla and the authenticity of its artists. There is no signboard at the entrance; just follow the call of flamenco! 

The Guadalquivir River and its bridges are another beautiful attraction, especially at sunset. Sit on the ground, take a deep breath in the golden sunlight, drink a beer (Cruzcampo is the local one), and prepare to explore the most characteristic barrio of Sevilla! Triana is on the other side of the river and is considered the cradle of flamenco. A great many local singers, dancers, and guitarists come from this popular district, and its inhabitants are very proud of it. The best way to enjoy Triana is by having a walk in wonderful Calle Betis, eating at the covered market (fish dishes are irresistible and so cheap there), taking a look at the Iglesia de Santa Ana, and joining the queue outside Casa Anselma, an authentic institution for flamenco and Spanish popular music. Try to look smart and hope that Anselma, the aged owner, will let you go in and enjoy live music played by local legends.

You can’t leave Sevilla without having a walk on the spectacular Plaza de Espana, a magnificent monument built for the 1929 expo in a lush urban park. You can also rent a rowing boat and admire its beauty from the canals. A special mention for the most peculiar bar you will ever see: El Garlochi. It reveals the mystic essence of Semana Santa vibes, and the super funny bartender can serve you a cup of Christ’s blood…

If you want to be completely overwhelmed by Sevilla’s authentic spirit go there during Feria de Abril; it’s a whole week of pure joy and partying! Find a traje flamenco (flamenco traditional dress) and get ready to dance until dawn!

BONUS SIDE-VISITS

Cordoba: an explosion of colors on its patios and the breathtaking Mezquita cathedral where Islam and Christianity fuse. Try a flamenquin with salmorejo, as well as Bar Santos’ legendary tortilla de papas.

Ronda: a marvelous little town in a unique location, where you can take in stunning views over the plains from a dramatic canyon drop and have a fantastic trekking experience.

Jerez de la Frontera: taste its delicious sherry and admire the magnificent local horses.

Malaga: Picasso’s hometown offers a wonderful museum, an incredible mix of modern and Arabic architecture, and, of course, a lovely beach, la Malagueta, where you can eat fresh fish cooked on small grills filled with sand and embers.

Valdevaqueros beach: dunes, wind, kitesurfs, and the legendary Bar Tumbao… the best hamburgers and the greatest beach parties are here!

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