petit sant miquel : calonge : mallorca

petit sant miquel : calonge : mallorca

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

After spending time on the western side of Mallorca, we decided to explore the eastern side of the island and found a gem of a hotel, called Petit Sant Miquel in the very pretty and very traditional village of Calonge. Renovated and opened in August 2018 by a Mallorcan couple, it is the epitome of relaxation in contemporary and very stylish surroundings. We stayed right at the beginning of the season, which for us was fabulous, as it meant that we literally had this small, but  perfectly formed, boutique hotel almost to ourselves.

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

The interior of the hotel is spotlessly clean and well thought out, design wise. Furnishings and accessories are subtle and stylish, in the colour tones we love – blues, greys and whites with natural touches. The ever-present Spanish floor tiles are much in evidence and as ever, just very beautiful. We stayed two nights and chose to have breakfast outside, in the internal courtyard, because the weather was gorgeous – just like the courtyard, in fact. As with the interior, the exterior just oozes calmness and effortless style. The owners certainly have good eyes for design detail. Marble topped tables, olive trees, lanterns, candles, palette planters and well thought out lighting all create an environment where it’s impossible not to feel completely chilled out. Breakfast is simple but again, well thought out – there are the usual cold cured meats and cheeses and breads and pastries and juices but these are all of a very high standard. We didn’t check, but wouldn’t be surprised if everything was sourced locally. Eggs, to your taste, can also be prepared – always a nice touch.

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

The hotel also operates an Honesty Bar, with very reasonably priced wines and beers and snacks – and the lit up courtyard is a perfect place to enjoy a drink at the end of the night.

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

So, to our room. Well, it’s no surprise it was rather gorgeous. Not huge in size, but the space had clearly been really well considered. With a big double bed, a very sizeable (and very pretty vintage vanilla coloured) wardroble and a table and chair, it had everything you would need for a short stay. The toilet and walk in shower were housed in separate areas within the room, divided by opaque glass – the rainhead shower was powerful and the cubicle was spacious. This gets a big tick from me, as there’s nothing worse bathroom-wise, than a cramped shower area. But the best thing of all – always a bonus if you want a relaxing experience – was the free standing bath. Utter luxury, especially when travelling…

Petit Sant Miquel, Mallorca

We also had a tiny little balcony (although still with two sun chairs and a table) overlooking the courtyard – and it did look as if all rooms overlooking this area had a balcony too.

But perhaps our favourite part of Petit Sant Miquel, and what originally caught our eye online when we were booking, was the rooftop terrace, with views overlooking the rooftops of Calonge, the mountains and the shimmering sea. We spent quite a lot of time on this balcony and because no-one else was using it at the same time, we had it all to ourselves. That meant no fighting over the great big sunbed, with billowing side panels. And it also meant that we had the gorgeous plunge pool to ourselves. It was absolute heaven, soaking up the sun, with a cold bottle of dry Spanish white wine…

The hotel is located in a sleepy (at least when we were there in mid-May) village, although it does benefit from two superb restaurants. Restaurant Bona Taula is a traditional Mallorcan restaurant, specialising in meat and fish. The menu never changes – it doesn’t have to as it is excellent. We had a tapas style meal of whitebait, padron peppers, cheese and potatoes, followed by the most delicious Creme Catalan I’ve ever tasted.

And the second restaurant we tried, and thoroughly loved, was Pizzeria Nou which served amazing pizzas. We ate outside in the vine and honeysuckle and wisteria covered courtyard which was just so pretty. Great food, excellent wine and wonderful service. Both restaurants are highly recommended.

We definitely think we found a bit of a gem when we discovered Petit Sant Miquel, and although we definitely preferred the west side of Mallorca to the east, next time we visit, we will be making a return to this lovely boutique hotel. (This is NOT a sponsored or paid for post. Simply our experience of our visit).

puerto banus : andalusia : spain

puerto banus : andalusia : spain

Puerto Banus was built in May 1970 by José Banús, a local property developer, as a luxury marina and shopping complex. And, as we were staying in the area, we decided to check it out – depsite our reservations. And, my goodness, it was EVERYTHING we expected it to be. And more. It was totally over the top and ridiculously hideous, attracting everything that we dislike. The actual town is mostly pretty – but it’s around the harbour that it is just gross. The displays of wealth are totally over the top and everything just seemed designed to be flashy and to impress the kind of people who’d be impressed by flashy shows of extravagence. It was truly, truly awful. From the designer menswear boutique called “Billionaire”, to Jimmy Choo & D&G, to the tosser who screeched around the harbour, repeatedly, in a vile red sports car. Whilst it may well have been his, I do hope he was the kind of idiot who rented it out for a short timeframe for stupid amounts of money. I suspect it – and dearly hope – it was the latter. I still remember this ridiculous show pony, who is still presumably behaving like an A-grade idiot. The harbour is awful – rows and rows of super expensive yachts, sometimes dispensing the people on board. And strangely enough, often glamorous (plastic) young women and much older, highly unattractive men. Maybe they were their fathers, but I don’t think so…

Anyway, we beat a hasty retreat from the harbour and headed away from the throngs of people who just wanted to be seen. I’ve never disliked a place quite as much, and so glad that I can have a whale of a time, in places that are authentic, rough around the edges, unpolished and visited by more real, authentic people. Anyway, I’ve done it, can tick it off my list, and NEVER return.

But, just a short walk away from the super yachts and super rich, we found the real Puerto Banus. And the real people. Families walking together. People of all shapes and sizes. People who seemed to be very happy to be with friends and family, rather than preening like peacocks. From this part of the beach, we could still see the playground of the rich – but we were so relieved to be back in amongst “normal” people…

So, there you go. An awful place, which we will always avoid in the future. Definitely not for us…

 

cómpeta : andalusia : spain

cómpeta : andalusia : spain

Although much larger than Frigiliana, and perhaps not quite as immediately pretty, Cómpeta is another of Andalusia’s white-washed towns – the famous pueblo blancos. In the Axarquía  (meaning ‘East’ in Arabic) region, with beautiful traditional architecture and ancient customs, Cómpeta is known as the Cornice of the Costa del Sol, because of its location.

Competa doesn’t have a large modern shopping centre. on its outskirts – instead, it offers wonderful boutique shops. Wander the pretty tiled streets, and you will find art galleries, shops selling hand-made soaps, rugs, pottery, honey and olive oil. There are also many multi craft shops selling traditional Spanish wares. You will also find a good range of small supermarkets, fishmongers and grocers. Saturday is the day for the Competa Market on Avenida de la Constitucion, from 10am to 2pm. Here you can buy clothing, crafts, spices, pottery, fruit and much more. It’s colourful and vibrant and extremely popular. Although our visit was very short, it was noticeable that the town has many bars and restaurants. Judging by the menus we looked at, each restaurant offers a unique variety and and a wide selection, and it was great to see that vegan, GF and vegetarian diners are all well catered for, too.

So, another one on our list of places we must return to…

 

casa 1800 : granada : andalusia

casa 1800 : granada : andalusia

Casa 1800 are hotels I’ve had an eye on for some time. With one in Seville and in one Granada, I figured that some way we’d find a way to visit one of them, at least, but I also assumed that price may be prohibitive. So, when we decided to visit The Alhambra again, we investigated Casa 1800. Not only is this particular hotel almost underneath the walls of the beautiful Moorish fort, we also got a night for a really decent price. Booked. There & then.

Located in a historic and fully refurbished 16th-century building that used to be the barracks of the militia, known as “Casa de los Migueletes”, this boutique hotel is in the historic centre of Granada, in the district of Albaicín. It’s in a pedestrianised area, but the hotel senr clear directions to the nearest car park and it was a relatively short distance to walk. Although – we did visit in April so it wasn’t stifling, and we only had an overnight bag. I assume the hotel has a transport service – but if not, be prepared in hotter months and if you have more luggage, for a much slower walk than we did. Initially, it’s quite difficult to find, as the hotel is tucked up and away behind the main pedestrian street, and there are a few twists and turns to navigate, but once you arrive, it is absolute heaven on earth.

Our beautiful, spacious suite – with a bathroom with a bath! – overlooked the internal courtyard, where breakfast is served, and where in late afternoon, complimentary afternoon tea is served. What a fantastic idea, in such gorgeous location.

An utter class act of a hotel. Now to book Seville…

los coracoles : frigiliana : andalusia : november 14

los coracoles : frigiliana : andalusia : november 14

On a drive from the white washed hill top town of Frigiliana, down to Torrox on the coast, we noticed some strange shaped buildings looming up on a hill ahead of us – and were totally bemused, as we drove past them, to see that they looked like hobbit style dwellings, looking out to sea.

As soon as we got back to where we staying in Nerja, I looked up these strange buildings and found out that they were actually pods, part of a rural hotel and restaurant, called Los Coracoles – snails, in Spanish! So, of course, we had to make a booking and a couple of days later, were checking in.

The reception was housed in a cave-like building, with the restaurant to the rear of the check in area. If you don’t like rustic touches, this may not be for you, but we loved it immediately. Very Moorish, with lanterns strung across the low, arched of the ceiling. Dark wood, white washed walls, tiled floor. Just very different and very pretty.

It was quite a long and winding road up to Los Coracoles – you definitely need transport – but wow, was it worth it for the views down the sea. A small pool was perfectly placed for drinking in those views, and an outdoor terrace looked very tempting, for outdoor dining. However, as we were staying very late in the season, both were closed.

So, to our apartment. Again, another wow! It was a proper cave-like dwelling, with a balcony with a magnificent view.

 

Luckily, even though out of high season, the restaurant was still open, showing its popularity. People apparently travel from some distance to dine here, and we found the food to be pretty amazing.

In fact, we loved it so much here, and prices in November were so affordable, that we returned a few days later and tried out a suite, with more facilities and a larger bathroom. That woodburner was needed too, as the weather took a real turn and being on the top of the mountain, it was drizzly and misty and quite cold. Very atmospheric though.

We got to experience the restaurant again – for dinner and breakfast – and were as impressed as on our previous visit. Both with the food and the decor.

We also got to know Blass, the hotel “puppy”. His size suggested he was way beyond puppy years, but his personality and boundless energy definitely marked him out as a puppy. Although a large one, it has to be said…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

semana santa : seville : andalusia : spain

semana santa : seville : andalusia : spain

Easter may be well over now, and it’s a couple of weeks since we returned, but memories of Seville are still burning very, very brightly. We were lucky enough to be there during Semana Santa (Holy Week) and, oh my word! What a spectacle! The week features the processions of pasosfloats of life-like wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events from the Passion, or of the Virgin Mary. The processions are organized by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods. During the processions, members precede the pasos dressed in penitential robes, and conical shaped hoods. The processions work along a designated route from their home churches and chapels to the Cathedral, the ones from the suburban barrios taking up to  14 hours to return to their home churches. The processions continue from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday morning. The climax of the week is the night of Holy Thursday, when the processions continue throughout the night, into Good Friday morning – the madrugá.

An astonishing display of theatre…

Gathering crowds on Holy Thursday...

Gathering crowds on Holy Thursday…

The unnerving first sight of the hooded cofradías, mingling with the crowds...

The unnerving first sight of the hooded cofradías, mingling with the crowds…

The MADRUGA begins on the evening of Holy Thursday and continues through the night, into the small hours, often still going on Good Friday morning. It is a real test of endurance. The processions of local brotherhoods – endless rows of nazarenos, or penitents, who slowly walk carrying candles, torches, wooden crosses, and lavish “Pasos”, or floats – wind their way through the central streets of Seville, accompanied by the haunting and hypnotising sounds of drums and coronets from the marching bands. Considered as one of the main elements of the Holy Week processions, the elaborate floats, carried at head height, are decorated with religious statues that depict scenes from the gospels related to the Passion of Jesus Christ and the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. They march, slowly, from their neighbourhood churches to the cathedral and the whole night is a real test of endurance. A mesmerizing feature of the processions is the wearing of the penitential robe – the nazareno. Although similar to those of the Ku Klux Klan, they’re completely unrelated – these long purple robes with pointy hoods (capirote) were widely used in medieval times.

As the evening progresses, the crowds grow and the atmosphere is palpable. There’s a heady mix of religious fervour and curiosity and awe. Some people are clearly there to have a full on religious experience, but some – like us – wanted to experience it for the first time. I can honestly say I have never witnessed, or experienced anything quite like it. It really was quite intoxicating and we followed the processions for hours, into the early morning of Good Friday. Luckily, bars and restaurants are mostly open for the duration, so weary feet can be rested…

Good Friday sees Round Two, and as we were there, we did the whole thing again. Seeing it all in darkness is a spectacle but you did miss lots  of what is going on, so doing it in the day time, gives you the opportunity to everything in its full glory…

Easter Saturday is a little more subdued, but if you want your fix of processions again, you can do the whole lot again. Fair play to the people participating – although they do apparently rehearse all year round and it is considered to be the greatest honour to take part.

The Costaleros - members of "Cofradías" who carry the floats through the streets - taking a rest...

The Costaleros – members of “Cofradías” who carry the floats through the streets – taking a rest…

Easter Sunday itself, is perhaps the quietest day of the whole of Semana Santa. I’m not sure how many processions we could have actually taken, but there are none on this day itself, as this is the day when the pesos are carried back to their churches and the statues brought home, for another year.

All in all, one of the breath-taking weekends we have ever experienced. And, on top of all of the Semana Santa excitement, we still were able to experience and explore Seville. And, what a city…

 

 

 

ronda : andalucia : spain

ronda : andalucia : spain

Staying in southern Spain, with a hire car, meant that we could get out and about and really explore the region of Andalucia. One of our trips was across to the west and the amazing city of Seville. All the more amazing because we visited over Easter and this was totally mind blowing. A true spectacle that we will never forget. However, on the way to Seville, we couldn’t not stop and take in Ronda, the mountaintop city in the Malaga region, that’s set dramatically above the deep El Tajo gorge, which separates the city’s 15th-century new town from its old town, dating back to Moorish times. It was mid-April when we arrived, and already hot. It seemed as if summer was in full swing, with cloudless sky, bright sunshine and wide esplanades, filled with orange trees, bursting with fruit.

When we arrived, the town was vibrant and full of locals and tourists. Bars and restaurants were buzzing. But, as we continued to explore, the streets started to empty as siesta time kicked in. And, although it was very, very warm, we decided to stay out and about, as we were only there for a short time and wanted to see as much as we could. And, without throngs of tourists, this was much more bearable in the early summer heat.

Although not small, Ronda retains much of its historic charm, particularly in its old town. Elegant, pastel and cream coloured buildings, with elaborate facades look onto tree lined roads. The trees are beautifully manicured and clearly looked after, all year round. During our very short visit, we couldn’t even really begin to take in the buildings and the architecture, as there was just so much to see and savour. So, we had whistle stop tour of the area around the gorge – as that was what we had come to see on this occasion.

The Gorge : El Tajo

This area, an Andalusian Natural Monument, has two distinct sections. The first is the 500-metre long, 100 metre deep, gorge goes to the Guadalevín river. The other part is a large scarp that opens onto “La Caldera”, a circular hollow. It dates back 5,000 years, a seismic movement created two plateaus separated by the gorge, known as the Tajo de Ronda.

The Puente Nuevo connects two parts of the city known as El Mercadillo and La Ciudad (the old and new towns), which are otherwise separated by the El Tajo gorge. It’s dizzingly high, and if you suffer from a fear of heights, it may be an idea not to lean over the edge and look down…

Had we not been determined to experience Semana Santa on Seville, I think we’d have made a booking for a couple of night’s accommodation, there and then, but the pull of the processions was just too great. So, Ronda is bookmarked for a return visit, and we’ll get to explore a whole lot more.