Seeking sun in late November, I headed off to Andalusia in southern Spain. I took advantage of the low season prices for flights, car hire and accommodation. It’s definitely good to be a retired senior traveller when it comes to choosing exactly when you want to travel.
And yes I did manage to get warm weather and sunshine for most of the time, intermingled with the odd shower and a heavy thunderstorm one night.
But this touring holiday was about much more than the weather. During my one week tour of Andalusia (Andalucia in Spanish), I visited some of the finest cathedrals and palaces (alcázars) in Spain, along with two historic bridges.
I flew into Málaga, a fine city in its own right, before heading inland to Ronda, and then along the coast to stay near Los Barrios just outside of Gibraltar. I’ll give a separate posting on that anachronistic, but fascinating, British enclave. Having spent a day in Cádiz, I then headed inland to Seville and Córdoba, before completing my 500 mile drive in Malaga.
Highlights of my Tour of Andalusia
Many of my highlights are the standard iconic sights of the region, but they were impressive, particularly at this time of the year when not swamped by hordes of tourists.
1. Málaga is a picturesque city and proved at this time of the year to be fairly quiet and laid-back. My first port of call was the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro on the hill overlooking the city. Not only does it provide excellent refreshments and panoramic views, but also it is just by the entrance to the Gibralfaro Castle.
Although there were relatively few tourists around, I made the mistake of trying to drive through Málaga town centre early evening on the last Sunday in November. This apparently is the main time for viewing the Christmas lights and shopping – definitely a no-go area for cars!
2. Ronda is famous for its spectacular 18th Century Puenta Nuevo (New Bridge) connecting the two sides of the town over a rocky gorge 400 feet deep.
But there is much else to see including the main square, Plaza de España, made famous by Hemingway in his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the narrow streets lined with balconied houses leading down to the Old Bridge and Arab Bridge.
3. The drive south from Ronda to the coast at Algeciras provided the most attractive scenery of the whole of this touring holiday. There are a series of whitewashed settlements, such as Atajate, perched on hillsides. Along the way, there are several viewing points, miradors.
4. Cádiz was a disappointment. Maybe I was expecting too much based on its historical significance and its peninsula-island site; maybe it was the showery weather or the disruption being caused by road-works along the sea-front.
However, I was impressed with Cádiz Cathedral capped with a dome of golden tiles and with the Tavira Tower with its camera obscura show. Just along the coast from Cádiz, I visited the picturesque port of El Puerto de Santa Maria, the transit point for sherry from Jerez, just 15 miles up the road towards Seville.
5. Seville has great buildings and gardens and in addition I found it to have a very pleasant, lively atmosphere. The Plaza de España, Alcázar of Seville and Seville Cathedral with its massive Giralda tower, formerly a minaret, are all magnificent sites.
But allow time to wander at will through the old town and then stop and enjoy some delicious tapas at one of the many street cafes, such as Las Escobas close to Seville Cathedral.
6. Córdoba was in some ways overshadowed on this tour by its larger neighbour, Seville. However Córdoba has its own distinct charms. The massive Córdoba Cathedral is a hardly disguised mosque with typical Moorish archways inside.
The medieval Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos has beautifully laid out courtyards and water gardens reminiscent of Tivoli Gardens near Rome. And the Roman Bridge will be included in my list of top ten bridges of the world, once I get round to compiling it.
Senior Traveller Discounts
Most of the sites that I visited that had admission charges gave discounts for seniors over 65, of as much as 80%. In Malaga, because I happened to be visiting on a Sunday, the Castle, Alcazaba and Picasso Museum (after 6pm) were all free of charge!
Flying with Ryanair from the UK to Malaga during the week cost only about £70 return, see: Fly on a Tuesday – Travel Tip.
Ryanair now assign seats when checking in online and also allow a small bag as well as the normal cabin baggage. The downside of this is that the overhead storage fills up quickly, so on the return flight my hand baggage had to be put in the hold.
I hired a compact car through Economy Car Hire/Zest Car Rental for just £46 a week, collected and returned with a full tank of fuel. Separately I had taken out Car Hire Excess Insurance which covered for all excesses including tyres, windows and undercarriage; this saved a lot over paying local excess charges. The roads are relatively quiet at this time of the year and hence the driving proved to be a pleasant and relaxed.
I stayed at Holiday Inn Expresses in Málaga and Los Barrios – the former was very convenient for the airport and the latter for travelling to Gibraltar. I chose the Hilton Garden Hotel on the outskirts of Seville and took the regular bus service to the centre, whereas I could walk to the centre of Córdoba from the Marriott AC Hotel. All the hotels were very reasonably priced at this time of the year with good senior discounts – see: Hotel Deals for Seniors.
POSTED 18th DECEMBER 2014 by STEVE HANSON