From Grazalema, Andalucía
I love driving in Andalucía. The going is easy, the roads quiet, the distances short and the scenery so often is utterly spectacular. There are times when all you want to do is pull over, switch off the engine and gawp at the view that has just unveiled itself through your windscreen.
You're not just getting from A to B, because driving is often a sightseeing act in itself.
From Sierra de Arcena, Andalucía
Adela cleared away the last evidence of a seven-course tasting menu. She beamed with pride as I heaped praise on the delicacy of the carpaccio, the intensity of the honey-glazed goats cheese, the sweetness of the tomato and fig soup.
Orange wine followed, then coffee. But it wasn't just about the food. What filled the experience with joy was that for four hours we put our phones away and lingered over the food, the wine, the fire and the company.
From Sierra de Aracena, Andalucía
William Wordsworth would have approved of his descendents' B&B. He'd have approved of the location, nestled between the rolling forested hills of Aracena. He'd have approved of the cooking, ingredients sourced locally and organically in one of Spain's great food regions.
And he'd have approved of the message from the great man himself, awaiting me on my pillow: "fill your paper with the breathings of your heart".
From Costa de la Luz, Andalucía
A still, warm autumn evening in the village square and the air is softly filled with voices, the ebb and flow of conversations, greetings and laughter. The children of the village play, disappearing and reappearing noisily as they roam the cobbled streets.
No cars, no phones, only the hum of people, young and old, enjoying each other’s company. That is the sound of Andalucía.
From Cádiz, Andalucía
This being Los Reyes, all in Cádiz was quiet and calm. We sat in a corner of Café Royalty, gazing at its ornate ceilings and dipping heavenly churros-like picatostes into a thick melted chocolate.
Outside, amid the palm and orange trees of Plaza Candelaria, monk parakeets squaked nosiliy. I watched one nibble off a twig the size of its body, no small undertaking, then drop it clumsily to the ground as it took flight back to its nest. In this city of great cruise ships, it's a joy to notice such small details.
From Sierras Subbéticas, Andalucia
This is the Andalucía I'd come to love. Peaceful olive groves with the nets of harvesters spread out below centuries-old trees. Shadowy hills and pointy peaks rising up in the distance with a white village perched below like an oasis in a desert. Wild mushrooms growing underneath holm oaks. Stone farmhouses decaying like dying oak trees.
I unpacked my picnic, found a shady spot and lingered long in the moment.
From Granada, Andalucía
I told owner Antonio that I wanted to give a standing ovation at every break. He smiled and said "me too, we only invite the best dancers. It's a privilege to watch them." Indeed, the guitarist had just won a national contest, the female dancer came second.
To see world class flamenco up close in Granada, come here. Or as Antonio says "you can go up to the caves and have a very different experience, here it is just flamenco, flamenco, flamenco."
From Córdoba, Andalucía
Reflecting on the photos I took inside the Mezquita, there’s an unmistakable feeling that, no matter from what angle you stand you just can’t quite capture the overwhelming sense of awe that you get upon first entering and being greeted by a sea of perfect red and white arches.
You can travel from the Celtic Sea to the Caspian Sea and from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Finland and you won't find anything quite like it in all of Europe.