What does the word 'luxury' mean in 2017? Do we overuse this word, in the same way that the word 'awesome' is utilised so frequently that now everything is awesome? As we market La Cazalla de Ronda as a 'luxury villa rental', we thought we'd take a look at what makes an item or experience 'luxurious'.
What's the first image that comes to mind when you think of Spain? Blue skies? Beaches? Flamenco? Bullfighting? Paella? If you Google 'Spain' in images, actually the photos are predominantly of fantastic architecture and little white houses cascading down mountainsides. These are the pueblos blancos (white villages) and their strategically-defensive hill-top positions, narrow cobbled streets and brilliantly-white casas reflecting back the bright Andalusian sunshine make for interesting and picturesque places to visit. Here are five of our favourites within a short drive from your base at La Cazalla, our secluded luxury villa rental in Ronda:
Since our June blog with our top ten restaurant recommendations in and around Ronda, we have diligently endured further dining out experiences on behalf of visitors to the town (such a hard life we have here!) and therefore thought we'd share our latest discoveries with you. Without further ado, here are five more restaurants we highly recommend you eat at during your stay in Ronda:
A lovely family that stayed with us recently remarked upon how much they had enjoyed their day trip to Córdoba, so we thought it might be helpful to write a one-day walking guide to this ancient city. Cordoba is such a diverse city, where east truly meets west: the typical Spanish narrow streets, lined with white houses decorated with colourful flower pots, are surrounded by exquisite gems of Islamic architecture, remnants of a time when Muslims, Christians and Jews once lived peacefully side-by-side.
Something that crops up frequently in reviews from our guests is the beautiful location of La Cazalla and the wildlife that can be seen in and around the grounds. With this in mind, this year we asked our resident artist to create a map of the estate, to both help our visitors explore the property to its fullest extent and to demonstrate the flora and fauna they may encounter there.
August is upon us in Andalusia, signifying sultry summer days and cool nights spent in the plazas with friends. The summer sunshine also means the ripening of fruits and nuts, and before we know it, it will be time for the harvest again. At La Cazalla we are lucky enough to be blessed with grapes, figs, blackberries, olives, almonds, pears, pomegranates, persimmons, quince and walnuts, and throughout Andalusia people will be harvesting this produce and more over the coming months.
Andalusians have a reputation for being passionate, and according to award-winning flamenco dancer Sara Baras from Cádiz, passion is "the most important thing in flamenco". You don't have to understand Spanish to be able to appreciate this Andalusian art form. Flamenco shows are generally intimate, close-to-the-stage affairs. As the lights dim and the guitarist plucks the introduction, there's the click of heels and fingers, a swish of skirt, the song begins, and the raw emotion in the singer's voice will make your hairs stand on end.
If you're into adventure sports, like staying active during your holiday, or want to do something exciting with the whole family, there's plenty to do in and around Ronda, Andalucía. We've got mountains and caves, deep gorges, rivers and lakes, and the coast is just over an hour's drive away, so there truly is an outdoor activity for everyone. Here are some fun ideas for things to do, should you feel inclined to stray further than the swimming pool.
Seville: romantic, lively, passionate and historical, and being located along a flat plain on the Guadalquivir River, the city is entirely walkable for a perfect day of exploration. Seville is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia. Its Old Town, with an area of 4 square kilometres (2 sq mi), contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.
Beer. The world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage and the third-most popular drink overall (after water and tea). The Spaniards' relationship with beer ('cerveza' en español) got off to a rocky start when Charles V arrived from Flanders in 1516 to rule and introduced his favourite tipple to the country. They hated him and his beer. Nowadays, Spain is Europe's fourth-largest producer of beer and in sultry Andalucía they drink it with great enthusiasm, icy cold.
September in Andalucía: the kids go back to school, the flight prices fall, but the temperatures remain in the low 30s (high 80s Fahrenheit) and there's still 9 hours of sunshine a day. For those seeking a late-summer getaway, Andalucía is an excellent low-cost, sunshine-soaked destination, and there's always plenty going on in and around Ronda.
We feel that La Cazalla is the perfect base for birding. Its secluded valley location, with a stream running through it surrounded by forests and cliffs, provides an optimum habit for a variety of birds and animals. For months we've been wanting to post photographs to get twitchers interested, but the problem is that we are terrible photographers of birds. We do have an artist on the team, so here's our list of ten birds you can enjoying watching from your base at La Cazalla with some sketches (and a couple of borrowed photos):
Did you know that Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world? Accordingly to worldatlas.com, Spain produces 5,276,899 metric tons of olive annually and about 75% of the total olive production is concentrated around the Andalusian region. Yup. We have a lot of olive trees here, and the sight of their straight lines of twisted trunks marching across the golden hillsides of southern Spain have inspired many an artist. Van Gogh said that the "rustle of the olive grove has something very secret in it, and immensely old. It is too beautiful for us to dare to paint it or to be able to imagine it." A symbol of wisdom and peace, both beautiful and beneficial to health, the olive tree is an intrinsic ingredient of life in Andalucía.
The peppered history of Andalucía and its peoples has occasioned a fusion of ingredients and cooking methods. The arrival of the Moors from Arabia and North Africa proved the greatest influence on food, but they didn't only bring with them aromatic spices and herbs. They also introduced irrigation systems (the 'huertas') to the arid lands of the south. Andalusian cuisine remains fresh and simple, with leanings towards a peasant's diet due to historical periods of abject poverty in Spain. Staples were soups, paellas and rich stews cooked for great lengths of time on 'stove-tops', called poyos. The poyos and the poverty may be long gone, but the dishes remain, and these are a few you can sample during your visit to Andalucía:
Dazzling in the bright Andalusian sunshine, the pueblos blancos (white villages) perch precariously on the mountainsides of southern Spain and are a delight for the discerning traveller seeking an authentic experience of the region. Tourist towns they are not, and wandering peacefully through their narrow streets with splashes of brightly-coloured potted flowers is a salve for the soul in this age of instant gratification and constant stimulation. Relax. Take a seat alongside the older town caballeros admiring the view and discussing the weather, and immerse yourself, slow-tourism style. Sample our five favourite interesting and lesser-visited white villages in the Serranía de Ronda:
Last year we wrote that we had started to feed the lonely white horse living in the oak forest opposite the house and, of course, like any animal in need of rescuing, feeding him brought him to the house. The one thing that we really wanted to do for Oberon was find a companion for him. He's lived on his own for SO long and his loneliness made us feel sad. However, we are pleased to report that this weekend, we got him some friends. Just look at how happy he is, with his little victory run!
With its roots entwined with the Roman and Moorish cultures, the cuisine in Andalucía is rich and varied. Olive oil, jamón serrano and fresh, local produce form the staples, all presented in a variety of deliciously different dishes. A glass of locally-produced wine, a tinto de verano or a beer make the perfect accompaniment to your taste of Spain. Here are our ten favourite restaurants for enjoying during your stay at La Cazalla.