An adventure in Andalusia
The plan was to find a relaxed mountain retreat with a warm climate in Europe. We narrowed the top three to Andalusia, Malta and Crete. Southern Spain came out on top due to flight prices, so I stalked Airbnb for days before settling on a chilled-out little riverside finca (farmhouse) near a town called Gaucin. The nearest airport to Gaucin with direct flights was Seville. I had always heard good things about Seville and recognised the football team as well; so a couple of nights were tacked on to the Southern Spain holiday to have a gander.
The city is teaming with tapas, paella, red wine and public squares filled with young people. Make sure you stay somewhere within the city centre so you can lose yourself in the tangled web of curving alleyways bursting with activity with sunlight glinting off walls like a scene out of Aladdin. The architecture is a crazy mix of Gothic-European and Moorish influences, in one step you are in Barcelona and the next, Casablanca.
Take a morning stroll around the central cathedral, which is impressive even to most seasoned European tourists, then it’s only a few blocks down to the magnificently planned riverside for a cold cerveza before checking out the bullring. Have a look at the posters in the gift shop - they have a colourful edition from each year dating back decades. Pick one and post home to mum and dad for safekeeping!
If you start to salivate over the huge saffron-filled paella pans you see all around you, slow down! The locals don’t chow down until 9 or 10pm. So pace yourself with the odd pintxo (ready-made tapas) or two while cruising the bars. Slowly work your way north from the city centre towards Alameda de Hercules. Here you will find hip Sevillians getting their drink on and their eat on in the trendiest new ‘hood. Now enjoy the night and practice your Español on your new amigos!
The next morning after coffee and delicious local ham sandwiches, we took a cab to the rental car offices at the train station. I’d hired a vehicle to drive the next 300 kilometres or so to Gaucin, and at the desk I reached into my pocket for my phone where the booking number was saved. Empty. Panic ensued. I ran towards to street to see at least 100 taxis in every direction. Crap! My photos! My passwords! My, my… Everything! Fast-forward 15 minutes and Senor Taxi Driver has returned with my iPhone and a beaming smile. Heartbeat returns to normal. What a great way to leave Seville! Gracias!
Roughly three hours’ drive and several wrong turns later (my tip: spring for the GPS), we rock up in Gaucin. Wow! Centuries-old white buildings jumbled atop cliffs like Lego blocks and fresh mountain breezes gust through empty passageways. They built the town in such a hard-to-reach location for protection from marauders and conquerors and the results are breathtaking!
Our riverside finca was 15 minutes’ drive down the mountain and tucked into a warm valley. The lovely retired English duo who own and live on the Airbnb property were an absolute treat. Nick and Julie live in a yurt (ha!) among orange groves next to the river and can be found easily for a chat or advice anytime you need them. The view from the property across the valley towards Sierra Crestellina is beyond relaxing with sunrises especially spectacular. The finca came fully equipped with beds, linen, a full kitchen and bathrooms. Oh, and two beautiful dogs, Tilly and Clara, who both love a belly rub! (Who doesn’t?)
A week in this rustic paradise is the perfect amount of time really. Any less and you wouldn’t fully zone out, and any more and you might never zone back in. If you’re content with swimming naked in rivers full of trout, tramping around the countryside, catching up on your reading, writing and a few games of gin rummy over wine; then this kind of break is perfect for you.
City hopping around Europe is amazing but you can burn out pretty easily trying to remember which language to say “hello” every day. Cooking your own meals and enjoying a bottle of local wine will recharge your health (and bank account) too. So why not consider an Airbnb adventure of your own?