The A Word: Spanish songs in Andalucía

The A Word: Spanish songs in Andalucía

I love the Clash, and this song was never far from my mind during our latest exploits.  But let me start at the beginning; how did we decide to do something out of our comfort zone?

The big question that goes through our mind, often subconsciously, before we make a purchasing decision is “What’s in it for me” more frequently known as WIIFM! What do I gain from giving my time to this activity? What are the advantages to me, personally? We want to be sure we’ll get something out of spending our hard-earned cash.

When I worked full-time in London, my hours were long and often stressful. Weekends were valuable, and holidays even more so. My WIIFM criteria were, first and foremost, a rest; I just wanted to lie on a beach and recuperate before returning to work revived and ready to go.

In semi-retirement, the beach holiday doesn’t appeal as much as it used to. I’m not a massive fan of lying around all day, and as I only ever sit in the shade, the WIIFM test doesn’t tick the box anymore.  Luckily Jamie is similar, so we decided to try something new outside our comfort zone, and it was truly one of the best experiences we’ve had. We went on a holiday to walk!

Everyone knows how much Jamie and I love walking, but why should walking tick everyone’s WIIFM box? Walking has so many advantages to our health. It increases heart and lung fitness and helps with joint and muscular pain; it’s mostly free and easy to do at any pace.  For those of us who suffer from chronic pain, walking releases natural pain­killing endorphins to the body, which I can certainly vouch for.  Research has also shown that walking daily can help lessen symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, so what’s not to like?

Today, many holiday companies focus on “slow travel”, e.g., walking or cycling, and we bought tickets to the travel show in London to do our research.  We decided to book our trip with a company called Inntravel, and we couldn’t have chosen better; they were amazing. As we’re relatively experienced hikers, we selected grade 2 and 3 walks, but many grade 1 options exist for those who want a gentler experience.  We also wanted self-guided (i.e. we didn’t want to walk in a group), as we like our independence.

We chose the mountain ranges in Andalucia mainly because we wanted to travel in March, and many mountain destinations are still covered in snow.

We flew to Malaga and transferred to Zahara de la Sierra, a glorious white village nestled in the mountains, which has one of the most stunning settings I’ve ever seen. There’s a castle perched on the hilltop standing proudly over the whitewashed village below, and this was our first climb before stopping at one of the local bars for a well-deserved beer.  Living in one of the most beautiful counties in the UK, we’re lucky to see spectacular scenery most days. However, we were in awe at the magnificence of the steep little cobbled streets, constantly stopping to take in the breathtaking views over the valley and lake below.

Our accommodation over the seven days comprised small B&Bs and guest houses with only a few rooms.  The view from the balcony of our first abode was amazing, and the following morning we opened the balcony doors to the sound of the most wonderful birdsong I’ve ever heard.  This theme continued; all our accommodation was stunning, with incredible views and a real ambience that made you feel happy and relaxed.  The small village of Grazalema was also a highlight; located in a high valley over 800m, it’s dominated by the magnificent rocky outcrop, Peñon Grande. The narrow streets are immaculately kept and lined by whitewashed houses with windows covered by wrought-iron rejas and plant pots spilling with colourful flowers.  Andreas, who owns the guest house, was such a wonderful host; cold beers were waiting for us on the veranda, looking down on the aqua water of the pool and the surrounding landscape. After a hard day walking, this welcome was very much appreciated.  The camaraderie with your fellow walkers is also fun and gets better and better as the week progresses as you see the same people arrive at the new location as you’d chatted to the night before over dinner.  Stories of our day unfolded as we talked over more beers.  Mostly we compared notes on where we got lost!

I won’t go into details about each daily walk except to say we were provided with GPS, a large map, and detailed notes for each trek. We only needed our day sacks as our luggage was transferred by car and waiting for us in our new room when we arrived tired, needing a shower, and hungry after a hard day’s hike. Some days were harder than others, and the villages and scenery we encountered on our journey were too beautiful to describe with my basic writing skills 😊.  I did find myself winging on a couple of occasions, but I know Jamie would miss it if I didn’t have a moan now and again.  I got a blister on day five and found one of the hikes from Grazalema to Benaojan particularly hard.  The terrain was difficult; it was incredibly hot, and even with GPS and Jamie’s superb navigation skills, finding our route across the mountain tops was particularly challenging.  We saw a lot of Spain that you don’t see on the coast. Country folk using donkeys to carry drinking water up to their hillside homes; some of the hardships people go through in their daily life stopped me from moaning too much.

We saw turtles, griffon vultures, eagles, deer, and mountain goats with bells around their necks.  The cows were too hot to follow us, unlike the cows in Cornwall, who always take a liking to us when crossing their fields.  The wildflowers were stunning, and the sun shone brightly on us daily.  We had a hearty breakfast daily, a picnic (provided by the guest house) for lunch and superb home-cooked evening meals, which we enjoyed immensely after our daily exertion. We were in bed by 10 pm and up bright and early the next morning to start again.

Our walking days felt incredibly therapeutic. We met a guy who’d been walking for five years. He’d started in Germany and was heading to Portugal with all his possessions on his back.  There was something I found appealing about his daily life.

Our last destination, Ronda, is one of Andalucia’s loveliest towns, steeped in history. There was so much to see beyond the view from the bridge over the plunging gorge which divides the town. We treated ourselves to a Spanish guitar concert which didn’t disappoint, and dinner at the most romantic restaurant with breathtaking sunset views over El Tajo Gorge and the valley below.  We also added an extra day to our trip, took the bus to Seville the following morning, and spent 24 hours sightseeing, made special by the semana santa festival.  I didn’t know about this festival and it was only by coincidence that our visit coincided with the magnificence of one of the biggest religious events in Andalucia.  If you google it, you’ll be treated to some fab photos.

We loved this holiday, and wanted it to go on longer. I’ve missed our days walking since we returned, but I’ve taken solace in reading the brochure and planning our next adventure.

Watch this space; we’ve just bought a tent 😊. 

Until next time, keep walking.

Published by meadandrea

Blogger, writer, author, love to travel, photographer

2 thoughts on “The A Word: Spanish songs in Andalucía

  1. Love to you both and hope to see you soon! Y and I also had some challenging walking here in Alicante province. Sort of sunny holiday but she can’t show a tan because it looks like a bear attacked her 🤣 much love xx

    Liked by 1 person

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