It's a golf complex. It was 52 euros for green fees including a trolley. If you ask them you might get unlimited golf for that fee. It's in good condition for January - none of the mud that you'll find in Estoril or Pinha Longa at this time of the year.
2815-207 Charneca da Caparica. 25 km south of lisbon
+34212 979 100
Cádiz has one of the oldest Carnivals in the world thanks to its historical port that saw its sailors return home from afar with fashions and trinkets that would be worn during street parties. Groups continue this tradition by dressing as today's celebrities while singing songs about current news topics. They are surrounded by other revelers, who are also dressed up, resembling a massive British stag do party. The atmosphere, however, is far more jubilant and set within this beautiful city with its narrow cobbled alleys and tiny bars serving delicious Andalucian food, make this a free and democratic street party that cannot be missed.
If you enjoy a carnival atmosphere, but Brazil is too far to go, I recommend taking a trip to Cadiz in the Costa de la Luz area of Spain as the town goes carnival crazy and is host to one of the most spectacular and famous carnivals in the whole of Spain. People flock here from all over the country to enjoy this four day event packed full of music, parades and street theatre. Be prepared for late nights and lots of refuelling at one of the many tapas bars. What makes it so special, this is true Spanish culture and as far removed from the other Costa's diluted tourist traps as possible. Vámonos.
Here you can chose from a range of sit down meals and enjoy a fantastic view of the surrounding slopes. If it is a bit nippy, warm up with Sopa de Grazalema (Grazalema soup, a broth with chorizo and pieces of bread). Next, my favourite paté de perdiz (Partridge paté) and then if you really want a feast a revuelto (scrambled egg) with seasonal veg (mushroom, asparagus, etc) and a meat of your choice (we opted for the beast of a leg of lamb, which could feed an army, not just two people!)
If you are finding it impossible to get a ticket to the Alhambra, a final resort could always be to purchase a bono (pass). For €25 or €30 it combines entry into the Cathedral among other places, and provides a number of journeys on local buses (you may be grateful, the city is quite hilly, although the ride often feels more like a rollercoaster!!)
I really recommend heading 20 minutes away from the city to La Puebla del Río to feast on their speciality arroz con pato (rice with duck). There are many restaurants that serve it, but the locals love the riverside, family-run El Rezón. The dish costs €8 per head and comes served in a cazuela (casserole dish) with your very own ladle. If you are rather peckish try the camarones con pimiento asado y huevo frito (tiny shrimps with roasted peppers and fried eggs) or mejillones rellenos (filled mussels) for starters.
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.
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