Think of Spain and you picture Flamenco dancers, bull-fighting, sangria and tapas! The Andalucia region is rich in the folklore and traditions of Spain that we have come to know and love. We rented a car and spent 5 weeks exploring many cities, each with it’s own unique charm and full of history.
Where We Stayed
Our neighbours in Canada have a vacation home in Bahia de Casares along the Costa del Sol that we used as a home base. It was so nice to be able to spread out and not have to pack and unpack while we explored the region. We rented a car and drove to each of the cities we wanted to visit and even took a side trip to Morocco since it was so close! More on that trip in a later post.
The first town we visited was Ronda, about a 3 hour drive away. We visited the Plaza de Toros (bullring), the oldest in Spain. We took a tour of the bullring, stables and the museum that gives the cultural history of bulls, bullfighting and equestrian sport. It really gave us a good understanding of how important bullfighting and horses are to the Spanish culture.
After we hiked down the El Tajo gorge for some impressive views of the Puente Nuevo. Once we started to climb back up a thunderstorm started and we took cover in a restaurant at the top of the hike. The rains stopped after dinner and we wandered a bit through old town before heading home.
Jerez a la Frontera
Avery is absolutely horse-crazy so a trip to Jerez to see the Andalusian Horse Show at the Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre was a must. We surprised her with tickets when she was invited to attend her first jumping competition! Unfortunately there we’re not allowed to take photos, but what an amazing performance. We purchased tickets in advance online a week before the performance to ensure we didn’t miss out.
On the most southern tip of Spain lies the British territory of Gibraltar. Here we rode the cable car to the top of the famous rock to see the monkeys, the only wild population in Europe! Although they are wild they have become used to human contact since tourists have been feeding them. They have no fear and will jump and sit on your shoulder to pick through your hair or try to get into your backpack!
Back in old town there are many shops and eateries and decent prices. We loved the quaint British charm and it was a nice to not have to deal with a language barrier. Avery was so excited to visit and English bookstore and buy a new chapter book!
About 15 minutes away from our townhouse is one of the most prestigious riding schools in Spain, the Escuela de Arte Ecuestre Costa del Sol. Her intructor worked her hard during her first lesson and she started jumping! She was showing such potential she was asked to attend her first jumping competition that weekend. She was so excited to participate and she did so well! We are so proud of her commitment to her sport and her drive to always do her best that she ended up riding for 3 weeks straight, even on weekends!
At the beginning of our trip the weather was warmer and we spent some time on the beach. During the summer I’m sure the beaches would be full, but with the season winding down most restaurants and bars were closed and it was nice having it all to ourselves.
If you’re an avid Game of Thrones fan, you’ll have heard of Seville. It has been a shooting location for multiple seasons and home base for the cast and crew. It is the capital of the Andalusian region and honestly my favourite city in Spain. There is so much rich history and culture here I definitely want to come back for a longer visit.
We started with a visit of the Real Alcazar, a palace developed by Moorish Muslim kings. The architectural detail is truly stunning and you can spend an entire day roaming through the courtyard and gardens.
Next week took a horse carriage ride around the city centre. My favourite stop was the Plaza de España where they had rowboats in the canal that you could rent! Unfortunately we had to move on and it was getting dark, but what a fun family activity for next time.
Before our arrival to Seville I booked dinner reservations at Tablao El Arenal to see a Flamenco show. We arrived half an hour before our ticket time and were seated right by the stage to start our meal. The food was great and the show was so intense. There were live guitarists and singers along with the dancers and they put on such a great show. The room was small which provided such an intimate production that you truly feel the passion in the performers. The girls were mesmerized and really enjoyed it as well.
It has been a while since we climbed some stairs so a visit to the Catedral de Cadiz seemed appropriate. It was a short climb and the views were lovely. Admission to the bell tower included the audio tour of the Cathedral. At dusk the sky turned a pretty pink and we got some great shots of the Cathedral as we headed into town for dinner.
Sentenil de la Bodegas
One of the most interesting towns we visited was Sentinil de las Bodegas, a town literally living under a rock! Many of the houses are built into and under the walls of the Tejo river gorge. It was quite the sight to see! We stayed for lunch and had some of the best tapas during our whole stay in Spain! No one really spoke English here so that was a bit of a challenge but we enjoyed our afternoon and left with full bellies.
We ended our stay with a cooking class in Cordoba. A lot of Spanish cuisine revolves around seafood but I’m not a fan, so it took me a while to find a cooking class that didn’t focus on paella or seafood tapas. It took over 3 hours to get there and unfortunately due to the rain we didn’t spend much time exploring. The class focused on traditional Spanish dishes like rabo de toro, braised oxtail, and salmorejo, a thick chilled tomato soup. Unfortunately the class was more of a demonstration so we didn’t get to do anything hands-on but the dishes were delicious and easy to make.
The Andalucia region is a great family destination in Spain. Spanish culture revolves around the (extended) family, and children are made welcome at all but the most formal restaurants, as well as at bars, and the majority of hotels. With lots of places to visit and beaches to explore there is no shortage of fun things to do. If you have a horse-lover in the family then this area of Spain is definitely a bucket list destination. We hope to visit again soon!