Barcelona Flamenco Show

I’m not a stranger to Flamenco, I live in Spain. I’ve seen the real spontaneous raw song and dance, also several not good ‘tourist shows’ so when I was invited to the new City Hall Flamenco Show  and as I was going to Barcelona for a Writers Retreat I took the plunge and two of my course mates along. We all loved it!

Flamenco Dancer, City Hall, Barcelona

 

This is what I wote on the retreat about the Show when given the prompt: A Time you Were Really Present…

Entering, a narrow front door, the street noise receded the further along the darkening corridor we went. Rounding a corner notes of piped music wafted upwards, which grew louder as we descended into a sensuous cavern, soft lighting, chairs and a stage set the scene, we wait. Expectant, hesitant, excited.

The music and lights fade, curtains open and the show begins. Four men, three women start clapping, not loud, not fast. The speed picks up, then builds with feet also tapping. One dancer rises, poised. The guitar joins in and the swirling, mesmerizing dancer in red-layered dress begins. Stamping. Clapping, whirling, swirling. Faster, slower, softer, louder. I’m being wooed, played with, absorbed, aroused, she has my attention, louder, faster, excited, she has me. The climax, the eruption of clapping from all around. I breathe, I applaud. Sweaty, exhausted, satisfied I lean back in my chair.

Then it begins again, a different song, another dance but the same intensity, then another and another. I’m overawed, overwhelmed, emotional, content.

That’s what the City Hall Flamenco show did for me!

Flamenco Dancer, City Hall, Barcelona

 

A fabulous experience and atmosphere which we recommended the Writers Retreat added to the itinerary. Why? The seven performers were obviously a troop, they talked and laughed together, and improvised. It wasn’t a perfectly rehearsed, stick-to-the-plot show. They teased each other, followed each other and enjoyed themselves. I felt as though it was a jamming session to them, raw, real and passionate.

Where’s the show?  City Hall, Rambla de Catalunya, 2

When’s the show? Thursday to Sunday  7:30 pm and 9:30 pm

What’s their website? City Hall Flamenco

Flamenco Dancer, City Hall, Barcelona

I was given complimentary tickets to the show, I would pay to go again.

 

 

Two Fabulous, Small, Owner-run, Adult-only, Foodie Hotels

This year I’ve gallivanted around Spain again, covering lots of kilometres, new and interesting places and staying in some really great Boutique Hotels for OnlySpain. Here I’m going to share two  very lovely, small, owner-run hotels that  also cook and serve great food and don’t allow young children.

One at a beach destination but not on the beach and the other a rural mountain village hotel – both are fabulous. Enjoy.

Hotel La Gastrocasa

Gandia is a beach town in the Valencia region on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, not a spot you’d think of for a quiet escape. Hotel La Gastrocasa offers just that, away from the hubble and bubble of the beach but only five minutes or so by free-to-use hotel bike. In a sleepy urbanisation this once family villa is now a gorgeous 5-bedroom adult-only hotel.

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Hubby and I stayed two nights and couldn’t fault a thing. The service, by the family, the food and presentation, by the family, the individually decorated rooms (yes, I got to see them all) and the fabulous breakfast spread.

Hotel La Gastocasa Breakfast

For a real country-feel escape yet on the coast  with the beach nearby then this charming hotel is for you.

Read more about Hotel La Gastrocasa.

Hotel Los Castaños

Cartijima, a small, white village in the huge mountain range Serrania de Ronda is home to the lovely Hotel Los Castaños. A quiet, sleepy town providing the perfect setting for a step-back in time, relaxing stay.

Hotel Los Castanos

Hotel Los Castaños with only six rooms provides an escape, a base for walking, great hosts and home-cooked food, you’ll feel as if you’re staying with friends, perfectly relaxed and at home-comfortable.

Hotel Los Castanos

Huge rolling mountain views from some rooms and the pretty  roof terrace are to die for, it is impossible to see those views and not take a deep breath of calming satisfaction. Our one-night stay was just spot on, had we stayed longer I, who cannot draw or paint, would have had a go, with the provided artist materials, to capture those enormous views.

Read more about Hotel Los Castaños.

 

 

Home Swap in Marbella, Spain

I had done a couple of home swaps before but this was my first with LoveHomeSwap a site I’ve been with for a couple of years and had lots of requests from, but never actually swapped through them.

Marbella

Their system is easy and I like the fact it is from the outset contact, via the website, with the owner of the potential swap. In this case a lovely Spanish lady with an apartment in Marbella. It was short notice and looked like we were going to be seven for part of the stay, so the number the potential swap could accomodate and number of bedrooms and bathrooms was a major consideration.

Marbella

From the first positive reply we were on our way to Marbella or to be precise Nueva Andalucia just inland from Puerto Banus. Communication is easy and only when a swap has been agreed are contact details available to see. In this case we did a points swap, meaning we booked using accumulated points rather than a simultaneous swap which are in my opinion much easier to agree on.

Marbella
We had a  couple from Taiwan stay in our holiday home which gave us a nice lot of points to spend on what and where we wanted to go. Our criteria comfortably large enough for us all, hubby, 3 sons and two girlfriends and nearish a beach preferably with pool or access to a pool.

Love Home Swap Marbella

Booked and paid was quick and easy then contact details and address and suddenly we were on our way excited to discover our new roof. It was absolutely great, better than the practically non-existant website blurb with one of the biggest and most fabulous pools  I’ve ever seen.

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The apartment was perfect, terrace overlooking the gardens with pool view, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 15 minutes walk from Puerto Banus. A great time was had by all, nobody was ready to leave and now it’s time to peruse our next escape with the points we still have in hand. Where to next?

 

 

Off-roading 4×4 Land Rovers on the Andalucia Mountain Tracks

Andalucia is a huge mountainous region. One sierra or mountain range rolls into another across the south of Spain meaning a huge network of tracks and dry river beds ideal for mountain biking, quads or 4×4 off roading.

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I’ve often explored rugged tracks around where I live in my estate car, which is not ideal, so when the opportunity of driving a 4×4 Land Rover defender around the sierras in Granada came my way I happily jumped in behind the wheel. Actually I didn’t jump, they are higher than I thought.

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Three of us were in one Land Rover and we were six vehicles in all. Stage one was the easier bit, partly  road and mostly dry river beds with jutting out tree trunks, large stones and at times slippy wet puddles. I chose to drive first, each stage being about an hour so doing as told and keeping both hands firmly on the steering wheel with thumbs on the outside (in case of jarring) off we went. What fun!

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We stopped for photo calls and driver swaps as the river bed terrain changed and the driving a bit more skilful with the need of a lower gear ratio and careful manoeuvring.

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The river beds became open countryside with stunning surreal landscapes, steep climbs and hairpin bends on the pine-covered mountain slopes.

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Now the back-seat driver I could enjoy the scenery  more and relax between jolts.

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After winding and climbing with no other sign of life around we reached the Vereda de Chirlata, a spot of Natural Interest and at midday a lot of heat  haze too! But what incredible far-reaching landscapes, disappearing into the horizon with no sign of life or habitiation.

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We then wound down to civilisation again, leaving the wild, stunning mountain views behind, an experience not to be forgotten with wishes to repeat it in spring or autumn.

Many thanks to my co-drivers Abi and Jesu,  TurGranada the official tourist board for the GXPerience blog trip especially Raul also known as MisterBackstage for his humour, joie de vivre, planning skills and lack of sleep, Garnata Tours who provide many different types of activities and tours around Granada province  and Sports Adventures who own the Land Rovers and plan vespa, quad, Land Rover, car treks and rallies in Spain and Northern Africa.

 

 

Hot Air Balloon Flight over Granada

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Without even realising  we were airborne. Floating gently, the distance between us and the ground growing. The views over the town of Guadix, 60 km from Granada city, revealing its beauty, calmly we drift upwards. In tandem with a smaller balloon we are at times above it, then below with no sensation of rising or falling – just a steady calm, barely noticeable movement.

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This is the land of cave houses, stunning scenery and mountain ranges. The cathedral captures my eye, a merge of Renaissance and Baroque style, with clay ridges behind and in the distance the mighty mountain range of the Sierra Nevada with glints of white snow still visible at the end of June.

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Higher we go, 360 degree views of uninterrupted beauty. The silence is calming then the flare of the flame a noisy blast and serenity resumes. I could live up here, peacefully drifting the skies, looking down on the hustle and bustle of the city below and the immense expanse of nature far greater than that of civilisation. Never for a moment feeling scared or unsafe.

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And those views go on forever, oh to keep on flying.

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Where to stay in the province of Granada – Only Spain ~ Boutique Hotels in Granada

My balloon flight experience  was thanks to GloventoSur and part of the GRXperience blogtrip run by Granada Tourist Board. A big thank you to both. Would I go again? Oh yes. I want to fly over the Alhambra in Granada city and over Ronda and the stunning mountains around it.

All photos are mine except the one with me in the basket! – copyright deMiku

A Night of Stars -Star Gazing in the Sierra Sur de Jaen Starlight Reserve

A few weeks ago  I had the pleasure of joining together with some of the  Andalucia Travel Bloggers (ATB) in Martos my nearest town in the most northerly province of Andalucia – Jaen.

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Jaen,  you may have heard is Spain’s largest producer of olive oil which means much of its mountainous land is sprinkled with olive groves. There more olive trees than people in Spain, with  large areas of unihabited land giving rise to it being a designated area and given the title – Starlight Reserve.

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Thi cultivation of olives led to a railway being built to transport oil further south and which is now a Via Verde or Greenway for walkers and cyclists but also a great spot for star gazing activities. This is where the local company Astro Andalus choose for our fabulous and informative  session with the night sky.

AstroAndalus is the first online travel agency that specialises in astronomic and scientific tourism and its based in Martos part of the Starlight Reserve Sierra Morena and Sierra Sur de Jaen.

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Even though on our visit it was cloudy in patches we looked through the enormous telescope at stars and planets. What to the naked eye looked like a sprinkling of stars became hundreds or thousands through the telescopic lens. An amazing sight, awesome and down-to-earth bumping.

Jose from AstroAndalus is a walking encyclopedia who could pull out incredible facts and put them into simple examples that we could imagine but still mind-blowing. How small and insignificant we are and feel when faced with the beauty of our universe.

We even learnt how to take photos in the dark, a great, fun activity.

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AstroAndalus offer packages for groups and couples – from one night exeriences to longer holidays. See their fabulous choice of trips here on AstroAndalus.

What it a  Starlight Reserve?

A designated Starlight Reserve is one which has the quality of dark skies necessary for the optimum conditions  to practice astrology.

To be a Starlight Reserve means that the towns and villages in the area must take measures to conserve and protect the night sky from light pollution by limiting the street lighting output, using downward facing lights and generally minimising as much as possible the use of public lighting.

All photos except the last one are copyright of AstroAndalus.

 

Sea Festival in Tenerife – Fenautica

Marina del Sur, near Tenerife South Airport, is host to Tenerife’s biggest nautical show, Fenautica. This year is the second event and takes place on 4th and 5th June after a successful first edition last year to which almost 7,000 people went.

The sea, boats and water sports are the stars of the show along with activities, exhibitions, workshops, concerts and a regatt. Fenáutica is free to attend and visitors will have be able to participate in a variety of water sports including jet skiing, kayaking and paddle surfing as well as learning how to scuba dive.

The sea festival will also host the 4th edition of the Guanche’s Cup the popular race of around 100 vessels which aims promoting sailing to all ages.

There will be a ‘shuttle ship’ – Peter Pan laid on which will take visitors to the event and back throughout the two days of the event.

Tenerife’s pleasant all year round sea temperatures, from 19 to 26 degrees, mean you can do your favourite water sport at any time of the year. Scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, kayaking and free diving are some of the options available on the island.

Further information on Fenautica can be found at www.fenautica.com