We are delighted to publish this guest post by our good friend Myles who shares the Toma passion for All-Things-Andalusia. Myles runs the delightful Almohalla 51 Bed and Breakfast in Archidona, near Antequera, a regular stop-over of ours and a firm favourite with our touring guests.
We hope you enjoy the post and do leave us a comment below if you have visited any of the places or indeed explored Andalusia by train…
The Trains in Spain Run Gently Through Andalusia.
Wind turbines stretch across swathes of the most southern point of Europe, powered by winds thrown across the straits of Gibraltar. Close up they make a strangely comforting drone type noise. Love them or hate them they are a sight to be seen.
This part of Andalucía, specifically Cádiz province, is blessed with endlessly long, white sandy beaches, against a backdrop of rolling hills on which many of these land locked propellers live. The contrast to the other end of this vast region could not be starker. Several hours away by train is Granada, city of the Alhambra, Flamenco and the poet Lorca. which sits below the craggy, grey majestic heights of the Sierra Nevada, white-topped until the very height of summer.
You could fly to Málaga, hire a car and queue at the car rental desk for 2 hours after your flight from Gatwick, or, you could do something a bit different.
Although polemic at the moment, Gibraltar is a great gateway to Algeciras, the port town where the train starts on its near epic 4 hour journey tootling from one end of Andalucía to the other. Once through the border it´s a quick taxi or bus ride to the station and saves a long trek from Málaga.
Aside the big hub stations, the rest are a relaxed affair with pretty flowers and tiles decorating waiting areas, where the Station Master still meets and sees off every service in his red and black cap harking back to days gone by. There is often a station bar or restaurant, worth getting there early to savour home-cooked tapas, stews and fresh tortillas.
There is still something old fashioned about this particular route, as it chugs along, in no hurry, allowing the traveller to take in the cork trees of the countryside, and the storks faithfully snuggled together into their nest on the tops of pylons just near San Roque.
Renfe, the Spanish train company, operates clean, welcoming trains with plenty of space, a buffet car and what is a travel experience rather than a train to get you from A to B. For a week or more, you could start by visting the pretty white mountain villages of Gaucín and Jimena de la Frontera before your train climbs to Ronda. Still popular after years of attracting foreign tourists who marvel at its gorge and tour the first bull ring ever constructed in Spain, the Parador is a stunning place to stay, if just for the terrace.
The train then drops down into the plains of Antequera, through Bobadilla, once the main interchange station for all routes in the South, but in the middle of what in summer appears to be a desert, near nowhereville.
At only 5pm with a cold fanta orange and a tortilla sandwich, Bobadilla station was mystically quiet, a silence that only scorching temperatures can create and I was the only one on the platform. That sense of peace still pervades the start of the olive belt, where for hundreds of kilometers the landscape is topped with silvery green cotton wool balls offering the finest oil in the world.
Antequera sits at the foot of the the Torcal National Park, a unique karstic formation offering walkers and hikers abundant wildlife, flowers and trees. The town itself is beautifully maintained and is looked over by its Moorish Alcazaba on the top of the hill. Adorned with churches and chapels, the town centre is now home to many high quality restaurants offering fresh local food and a wide and varied hotel offering including a state Parador, small inns and medium sized hotels.
If you want to escape the larger towns, a short hop by bus from Antequera lies Archidona, nestled into the Sierra de Grácia and looking across to the legendary Lover´s Rock in the valley which spawned the tale of two Moorish lovers from rival clans who fall in love and, like Romeo and Juliette can only be together in death. The train runs through a small hamlet nearby however ceased stopping here some years back, however it´s worth the quick diversion.
Named after the Latin Arxis Domina and once the Moorish capital of Málaga given its strategic setting, Archidona sits at the crossroads of Andalucía. People come from all over Spain to make the pilgrimage to see The Virgin of Grace, which sits in the chapel high on the hill of the same name. Outside Córdoba, it is the only religious site where a Christian church and Moorish mosque have been merged into one. The towns labyrinthine streets and renaissance style eight sided square, unique in Spain, are home to numerous restaurants and bars serving chilled sherry and the finest of serrano ham and cured cheeses.
From Archidona the short journey to Granada takes you though plains and what is known as the Vega, an area of fields and plane tree woods. Soon, the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada come into view with Granada sitting protected to the East. The Mexican Agustín Lara in his lyrics dedicated to the city described it as “Granada, land of dreams”. And it certainly is a dream.
The stronghold of Moorish Spain and its last king Boabdil, the city holds the finest example of Moorish architecture, some would say, in the world.
The Alhambra dominates the city and a visit is compulsory to marvel at the intricacy of design, construction and graceful gardens that are known as the Generalife.
Outside of sightseeing Granada offers some of the finest cuisine in Spain, and is well known for the quality of its tapas, still given free with every drink.
The Ruta de la Tapa near the bullring allows you to tapa crawl and enjoy a vibrant night at any time of the year, but especially so in the Summer when a chilled Alhambra beer and the simplest yet tastiest of olives from nearby groves makes you know you couldn´t be anywhere else but Spain…..and you didn´t even have to get in a car!
Flights to Gibraltar and from Granada with British Airways www.ba.com
Where to stay; Archidona – www.almohalla51.com