Nothing beats a massage or spa session after a long hike in the mountains. A 30 minute therapeutic massage is a bargain at €20.
Paco, the owner, would go out of his way to ensure that you go away knot-free! He even stayed after hours to make sure that my friends and I were all seen to.
This is a wonderful modern art gallery in the heart of Palma, in a beautiful mansion with sweeping staircases and chandeliers. The display spaces are clean, neutral modern products of a sensitive renovation. There are impressive temporary 'big name' exhibitions (Picasso etchings when I was there), and the permanent collection boasts some Dali, Miro, etc. But the real treat is the extraordinary array of Spanish modern art, from artists that few of us Brits have heard of. We loved Eusebio Sempere, Antonio Lopez Garcia, Miquel Barcelo, and the comical surrealism of Equipo Cronica, such as their wicked update of Velasquez's painting Las Meninas, also beloved by Picasso. It's a hidden delight.
This off-the-beaten-path culinary tour is a great find. We walked for about three hours between four different shops and restaurants and got a fabulous introduction to Barcelona's Gothic neighbourhood. Excellent.
More of a museum than a gallery, this quirky museum was the summer home of Dali and his wife Gala. Situated in the picturesque sleepy bay of Portlligat, close to Cadaques on the Costa Brava. You need to book in advance for a timed admission but will be rewarded with an intimate insight into the artist and his work. Highlights include his studio, themed rooms, sculptered eggs and examples of pop art around the phallic shaped pool. Don't expect a trendy cafe or extensive gift shop but you may come away with a smile!
The Guggenheim is such a contrast in an otherwise old and somewhat industrial Bilbao. Ultra modern and unmistakable building - both inside and out, it should not be missed. After your visit, wander down from the Guggenheim to the 'old town' for great old buildings that house terrific traditional tapas bars and cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by whilst dipping your churros into some thick hot chocolate!
The Museum of Spanish Abstract Art houses a magnificent permanent display of abstract painting and sculpture by some of the best modern Spanish artists, such as Chillida, Saura, Tapies and, our favourite, Zobel - works of light, contrast and wonder.
Temporary exhibitions of world artists offer further delights, but perhaps the greatest of all is the museum building itself - the Casas Colgadas, the 15th century houses of stone, wood and plaster hanging over the Hoz gorge. It sounds incongruous but sympathetic reconstruction provides spacious display areas in a contemporary style. And there are the vertiginous views over the gorge. In all, a surprise and a triumph.
Casas Colgadas, 16001 Cuenca
+ 34 969 21 29 83
Google map: bit.ly/eAd4XI
A fantastic museum in a very hidden and beautiful part of Spain. Very few tourists and very authentic. A fantastic modern gallery in a historical setting. The whole of Cuenca is an art lover's haven.
Casas Colgadas, 16001 Cuenca
+ 34 969 21 29 83
Google map: bit.ly/eAd4XI
Tucked down one of the many narrow streets in the Santa Cruz district is this jawdropping 16th century palace built by an Indian viceroy. The vast baths are vaulted, with stuccoed Mudejars, antique lanterns and roman seating. Float around in the incense-filled chambers - it's a truly magical experience. All this and fragrant tea!
An alternative to the big city art establishments is La Tabacalera. A community-run gallery/workshop space/music venue/café/bar in the multicultural barrio of Lavapies, this old tobacco factory is the laid back, graffiti-walled hangout for the cool kids, mums and dads of Madrid. If you want to mix with locals and brush up on your Spanish the vibe is friendly, the art is edgy and the drinks are cheap. Any given night of the week there is bound to be a salsa-class, skateboarding practice, art exhibition or workshop in session, open to anyone and all for free.
Calle Embajadores 53, Madrid
Metro stop: Embajadores
The hammam in Malaga is the antithesis of the Costa del Sol. Calm, dimly lit, it is as authentic as I have found outside of Turkey. You can have a steam - no time limit - or book a massage as part of a package. The massage takes place either in the hammam itself on a marble slab, or (for more privacy) in a separate room. Afterward you can rest on the outside terrace with herbal tea. One of the most memorable moments in Malaga for me, apart from the Picasso Museum which is close by.
The beautiful spa town of Alhama, just 50kms from Granada, has hot springs which the Arabs and Romans both used. You can visit and use the Arabic baths, at a price, in the hotel built around them. But locals and others in the know, simply scramble down the banks of the river just outside, where the hot springs gush out of a hole in the walls of the hotel grounds. Here you can bathe in the pools created naturally by rocks, and feel the cool water of the river by your side. The pools are at different levels but are always warm and a delight that is absolutely free!
Alhama de Granada is in the mountains around 50 kms from Granada. To get to the springs you have to walk out of the town at its lower end,
near the market and follow the signposted road for about 2-3 kms.
Google map: bit.ly/gBwEsU
Finca al-manzil is a wonderful place to stay in the Sierra de Montanchez of Extremadura, the most undiscovered region of Spain. It's near three world heritage towns, Trujillo, Merida and Caceres. The finca is in beautiful scenery with great walking, bird watching and site seeing possibilities. Very comfortable and great atmosphere, I stayed in the barn which is self catering, a lovely space with views over the olive groves, no neighbours, just peace and beauty. Spring was spectacular.
Escape the heat of the day (and the hoards) and head to the Hammam de Al Andalus Banos Arabes.
Relax while enjoying traditional Hammam massage or refresh in the clear blue pools while glimpsing the sky through the star shaped roof lights.
Top it all off with Arabic pastries and tea. The ultimate afternoon of relaxation.
Cordoba is a fantastic place to visit. Its Great Mosque and Christian Cathedral, emotive synagogue, evidence of Roman occupation and the narrow streets and courtyards of the old town all provide the visitor with sights and smells in abundance. An afternoon in the Banos Arabes compliments the sensual charm of the city. The baths are an indulgent, relaxing and stimulating experience; for 41 Euro you can luxuriate in the warm, hot and cold baths, experience a traditional hammam massage and drink glasses of sweet peppermint tea and emerge ready for more sight seeing.
This is THE treat. Try some churros con chocolate (or coffee or orange juice for a lighter version) and enjoy the way locals have been treating themselves for centuries. I particularly recommend the coffee house Alhambra in Plaza Bib-rambla, right in town, near the cathedral. Awsome. I was a local myself.
Pl. Bib-Rambla, 27 , 18001
A Christmas Fair in Barcelona. Lovely atmosphere and very pretty figurines and decorations. Don't miss the little crouching man "giving back to the earth" what he has taken from it. An essential figure in any Catalan Nativity scene.
Right in front of the Cathedral and on this blog I found:
Lovingly restored small hotel with a charming feel. Remote enough to relax in luxury and close enough to the coast for some action.
Beautiful part of Spain
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