Andalucía 2: Hacienda San Rafael and Ronda
After our fairly full-on approach in Seville, we drove an hour south on the E-5 to the oasis of calm that is Hacienda San Rafael. This was our 'treat two nights' and what a treat it was. The hacienda has 12 rooms and is set amongst olive groves in the middle of nowhere. With its two pools, seemingly never ending bougainvillea and shady courtyard, it was difficult to do anything apart from flop in various places and feel content.
The hacienda is about a 20 minute drive from civilisation so, other than a drive out to the little village of Utrera (not a huge amount to say on this other than it's got a pretty church and old windy Spanish looking streets!), we did very little other than laze like lizards in the sun. It was the 'holiday' part of our holiday (or at least what James considers to be a holiday...!) and it did the world of good to recharge our batteries.
Food at the hacienda was a total winner and we indulged in three course set meals both evenings along with a bottle of wine (which was actually the only option food wise). On the first night, after pre-dinner drinks by the pool and aforementioned wine, Joy Filled Jaunts was born! At 55 euros a head it wasn't by any stretch bargainous but it was absolutely delicious and would have cost a lot more in London.
About an hour's drive from Hacienda San Rafael is Ronda. We went on our way over to Málaga but it would absolutely be worth tearing yourself off the sun bed to see this iconic, and stunning, Spanish town. We joined the tourists at the Mirador for stunning views of El Puente Nuevo (the name makes NO sense because it is SO old!) and also visited the bullring which is right next door. The ring is still in action during festivals but it's mostly just a museum nowadays. It's beautifully presented and I particularly loved all the old posters that are displayed in the mini museum on the opposite side of the ring.
After battling our way past groups of coach tourists, we wandered across the bridge and into the more local part of town. In search of a place for lunch we ended up in Plaza Ruedo Alameda. Despite whipping out my best smiles and Spanish we couldn't get a spot at either of the restaurants recommended to us by the staff at the hacienda (Restaurante Almocabar and Casa María) but we snagged a high table at the bar area of the newly opened El Zucio. It was LUSH and it felt great to be in such a tourist spot but be surrounded by locals enjoying a long weekday lunch (oh to be Spanish...). Surprise, surprise we had tapas, devouring warm artichokes in white wine sauce with crispy ham, the freshest tomatoes with garlic, cod fritters and padrón peppers, all washed down with yummy local Ronda wine at just 3 euro a glass. We then indulged in Milhojas (Spanish mille feuille)...well it would be rude not to given it was allegedly a Semana Santa speciality.