10 August 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Cimbarra, Aldeaquemada.

The summer-dry waterfall of Cimbarra in the village of Aldeaquemada, Despenaperros Natural Park.

06 June 2015

Gar Anat Boutique Hotel, Granada Review

The Gar Anat is a small hotel with a big soul and a long history. In the XVII it was a pilgrim hospital, giving rest and recuperation to weary travellers in the heart of the city. After years of neglect the famous architect Carlos Sánchez brought it back to life and its doors opened as the charming Gar Anat Boutique Hotel in 2008.

Wish Tree, Gar Anat Hotel, Granada

Hubby and I spent two restful nights in the small yet oozing with character hotel two minutes walk away from the throbbing, dynamic heart of Granada. We loved both the hotel and its position. Deciding to leave the car on the city outskirts, mainly due to having found a good parking spot and a great bar for lunch, our weekend began with several beers so we caught the bus in and walked 5 minutes to the hotel. Parking is available if you'd rather drive there.

Gar Anat Hotel, Granada

We very much liked the quaint hotel with lots of original features and the domed-cellar breakfast room. Just a short walk from everything and everywhere we wanted to explore in the centre of Granada.

Gar Anat Hotel, Granada

The staff were very helpful, welcoming and friendly, this is a small hotel with a small team but with a high desire to make your stay as good as possible. It is somewhere I would return too (if there weren't so many others to try out) and recommend too.

22 April 2015

Bootcamp Fitness in Spain

A boot camp in the sun that encourages and supports without bullying or being too rigid. If you want to train hard, lose weight, learn how to improve your diet and have fun in the almost guaranteed sun then Aurora BootCamp should be your next fitness session, day or holiday.

Just a short drive from Malaga airport and a 15 minute walk to the nearest beach Aurora's offers fun in the sun with a wide array of activities. Yoga, boxing, Zumba and trekking, with a training day followed by an active rest day designed not to push but to keep up low level activity. Go for a week long camp, weekend, day or just a session to get you leaner, fitter and healthier as well as tanned by the end.

I had the pleasure of joining a new week-long course for a day. The group of 6 of us met on Friday evening with dinner (no-carb here) and an explanatory talk about the week, or in my case day, ahead.

Camp director Roseanna talked us through the diet, the accommodation, the planned activities and answered any questions we had. With no bans and few rules I was rather relieved when someone asked about alcohol and we were able to have a glass of Spanish Cava before retiring. I needed a good nights sleep, not knowing what was in store the following day - I already ached.

I'm overweight, over 50 (but only just,) and was apprehensive. This was my first bootcamp, first fitness day and first organised group fitness activity since my aerobic heyday 30+ years ago. It was definitely time to be more active, but could I stand the pace?

The morning started with a measuring session and weigh-in for those that wanted and whose aim for the week was weightloss. I declined. Breakfast of scrambled egg, fried onions, mushrooms and peppers set us up for the first and warm-up session with Ross a great motivator, incredibly knowledgable and obviously fit, tanned (and good-looking, young) chap.

With short sharp bursts of exercise and rest, stretching and rest, being to talked to and encouraged constantly the first two hour session flew by. This was not as hard and much more fun than I'd imagined. But only the start. After a snack break of lemon-water and spicy roasted walnuts we were pretty warm in the late February sun and very warm after a circuit session with weights, squats, pulls, jumps, sprints and swings. All short bursts (that seemed longer than the rests) and with a countdown which was a great incentive to keep going and pushing yourself a bit harder (or not!)

Lunchtime was a welcome relief from sun, exercise and groaning. A chance to get to know the group a little better, chat about what we'd done and wonder what was in store for us after lunch. I learnt a lot about bootcamps (and how strict some are) from some other veterans around the table and felt very relieved that this and no other had been my first experience.

The afternoon also flew by, no worries needed about keeping up. The pace is your own, no pressure (unless Ross thought you weren't working enough) but lots of encouragement.

I'm not sure how I'd have coped staying for the active recovery day (although I did go for a 5km walk) because I was in agony the next day. Sitting down on the loo hurt! Getting off it again hurt! Hanging out the washing was noisy but survived I did. Enjoy it? Yes, I did. Would I do it again? Yes, definitely. It was fun, enlightening and best of all I (more or less) kept up.

Fun in the sun - go for it.

Aurora Bootcamp is more like home. Based in a lovely villa with lounge and dining area we all felt comfortable leaving personal items around and having bedrooms without locks on the doors. A great place to lose weight (I should have stayed longer) and get fitter.

20 April 2015

Monday Morning Photo - San Lorenzo Arch, Jaen

Yes, I've missed a few of these. With an Easter break in Granada and a flying visit to see my mum in the UK I submerged briefly, but am surfacing now.

This interesting narrow door is on the inner wall of the Arco de San Lorenzo in Jaen city.

08 April 2015

Where to Stay - Hotels in Jaen

Are you planning a trip to Jaen city and wondering where to stay? There's not a huge choice of hotels but you still need to choose and probably the Parador de Santa Catalina is the first to come to mind. Many times on TripAdvisors 'Top Ten Castle Hotels in Europe' list the Parador and its location needs to be visited even if you don't stay there.

Wind up the side of the hill, through a flagged entry gate to the impressive 13th century Arabic Fortress extended in 1968 to become the state-run 4* Jaen Parador. With an enviable position and fabulous views from some of the bedroom terrraces it is without a doubt the place to stay. But it isn't really in the city centre and you'll need a car or taxi or to be very willing and fit to get down into the city and back. It's not far as the crow flies but almost 3 km of steep winding road.

With 45 bedrooms and a roof top swimming pool this really is the best spot in the heat of the summer.

Jaen Parador

The 4* Hotel HO Ciudad de Jaen is just outside the city on the north side. It's big, clean, modern and has some nice views but a car or taxi is needed to reach the city centre from the maze of roads it is located on. A good base for work or an overnight stop rather than for tourists and longer stays. A huge plus is plenty of parking.

4* Hotel Infanta Cristina is on a busy road, quite a walk from the historical part of town. A touch of slightly faded old fashion elegance, move it into the old part of town and it would definitely be the best, sadly it's location amongst shops and workshops in the dingy modern part is a big letdown. But step inside for an instant uplift.

Hotel Infanta Cristina

Hotel Condestable Iranzo is another 4* hotel located between the bus station and train station on a busy crossroads, handy for the museum and shops, a bit of an uphill walk to the old quarter. In need of a freshen up the outside gives a fair opinion of the decor - bland. Underground parking is available, charged daily.

In the centre the 3* Hotel Europa isn't immediately obvious and parking is down the road, not ideal if you have a lot of luggage. It is the closest to the bus station if you're walking and a good spot for exploring the city.

The 3* Xauen Hotel has a lovely small roof terrace with cathedral and Parador views. It's modern and clean, with a great location. Parking again is a bit of a pain. Pull up and unload right outside the door and ask for directions and a discount ticket for parking just three minutes walk away. The rooms are nothing special but more than adequate. There is no lounge or restaurant but plenty two steps outside the rather nice lobby. Tip - Ask for a room on the upper floors to get a reasonable view rather than walls!

Hotel Xauen

My choice of Hotels in Jaen for:

Charm - Jaen Parador

Elegance - Hotel Infanta Cristina

Location in the Old Quarter - Xauen Hotel

Location for Views - Jaen Parador

No Car/Cheapest - Xauen or Europa

23 March 2015

Monday Morning Photo - The Alhambra

The star of Andalucia, its most-visited monument and the must-see-at-least once Moorish Palace - The Alhambra.

15 March 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Detail in Backstreet Cordoba

I just had to stop and snap this gorgeous tiny window with hand-crafted wrought iron work and Mediterranean blue painted border in a narrow backstreet near the fabulous Palacio de Viana in Cordoba.

09 March 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Palm Grove in Elche

El Palmeral The huge Palm Grove in Elche, Alicante thought to have been planted in the 5th century BC by Carthaginians who settled in the area.

03 March 2015

My Dream Route - Ruta La Palma Soñada

La Palma, Isla Bonita - 'the pretty island,' is like a rare gem, one of the Canary Islands which offers the best of everything ...

Star Gazing ...

History ...

Nature ...

Activity ...

and Gastronomy

So when I read about the #EscuchaLPalma 'Listen to La Palma' competition I was intrigued to hear the soundtracks. They did indeed lull me into holiday mode, into sharing my thoughts and dreaming of being on different parts of the island. The birdsong, footsteps crunching in woods, waterfalls, running rivers, swirling waters, shushing tides transformed me there, well you want to be there too, don't you?

Listen to Footsteps in the Forest

Silence reigns in the woods, footsteps crunch and peace invades the soul. Birds chatter and flutter between the trees, the vibrant greenery envelops, calms and invigorates. A moment in time, a memory in the making, a place like no other.

Watch the stars with the tinkling of a waterfall or flowing of a river mummuring in the background. Darkness so pure that a multitud of stars twinking, normally obscured to the human eye, but visible here on this Star Tourism magical island.

Walking on the Beach

Feel the gentle lapping of pristine waters on fine sandy beaches. Lie on a sun-warmed eastern beach with sand oozing between the toes, clear seawater that's sheer pleasure to bask in. With a land total of only 706 sq km, the island, so diverse, offers activity or rest, bustle or silence, escapism or towns. A luxurious balm that quiets and restores inner peace.

And to complete an island tour it's time to lie and relax on the beach at the southen tip of the island near Los Volcanes de Teneguia with the constantness of the waves lulling the senses.

Listen to the Waves

La Palma, one of the The Canary Islands, is nearer the coast of Africa than the Spanish coast.

Visit La Palma website to read more about this fascinating Canary island the place for a slow, slow travel experience. Maybe I'll see you there.

23 February 2015

Historical Paradors in Andalucia

Ranging from mansions to palaces and situated in 16th plazas, to possessing fabulous sea views or sitting on a hill-top, visit the eight out of 16 paradors of Andalucia which are in delightful historical buildings.

What better way to tour five out of the eight provinces in Andalucia than to become royalty for the night in the 14th century Moorish fortess of Carmona with Mudejar fountain, landscaped gardens and sweeping views over the hot dusty plains. Located between Cordoba and Sevilla, Carmona itself is a lovely town with plenty to explore so several nights stay here would be ideal.

Or what about the 15th century convent San Francisco in the Alhambra Palace grounds with views of the Generalife Gardens and a magical Christian/Moorish blend of architecture. An ideal place to stay while visiting the UNESCO and must-visit Alhambra.

Next it's  'on top of the world'  at the 13th century Parador de Santa Catalina, an Arabic fortress overlooking Jaen city and its sea of surrounding olive groves. Its small pretty flower-filled patios, thick walls, solid wooden doors, topped by a 20 metre high drawing room ceiling make it one of my favourites.

The historical palace of Casa del Corregidor in one of The White Villages of Arcos de la Frontera in Cadiz province sits on an enormous limestone ridge with far-reaching views. The town was declared a national historic-artistic monument in 1962 and is charming although driving in the town itself and parking is difficult. But don't let that put you off, both the town and Parador warrant the inconvenience.

Just as Arcos de la Frontera has to be the most spectacularly sited town in Cadiz province so is Ronda Parador in the province of Malaga. The 100m deep Tajo Gorge on which the town sits provides head-spinning views from the balconies along the ridge and from the Parador, a former Town Hall, close to its edge.

Another Parador with a view is Malaga Gibralfaro. Once a castle, founded by Greek colonists, part of its name 'faro' means lighthouse being a beacon on the Gibralfaro hill for ships heading for Malaga's port. It's opposite the Alcazaba a delightful Moorish fortress like a mini Alhambra Palace, with a Roman Amphitheatre at it's base.

Lastly heading from the Mediterranean Sea to the green sea of olive trees in Jaen province and on the edge of Cazorla, Spain's largest natural park, is the splendid Ubeda Parador Condestable Davalos a 16th century Renaissance Palace, part of an incredible huge plaza filled with superb sandstone monuments of the same period.

Covering 300 years of history these paradors are just part of a great Andalucian travel experience waiting for you in Southern Spain.

08 February 2015

Sierra de la Pandera, highest point of Sierra Sur de Jaen

La Pandera at 1872 m is the highest point of the Sierra Sur de Jaen, a long winding road leads up to an old military base from which the Rock of Gibraltar can be seen. In the distance, right in the middle the Santa Catalina Parador is just visible.

One of the many beautiful spots to visit from our holiday home Casa El Reguelo for walkers, cyclist and fabulous views.