We started to have an idea of what the walking would be like as our coach wound up the hair pin bends towards our first hotel in Berchules. The next day we started the first of six days of walking, one group heading off on a 10 mile walk with some fairly strenuous uphill and the second group doing around 6 miles with less ascent and descent. The walking was much more varied than we had expected as we drove through the mountains – we had wooded stream valleys, open fields, pine forests and rugged hills/mountains.
One of the joys of the walking throughout the trip was the wild flowers, and in particular the herbs – we would be brushing through wild lavender, thyme and sage so that the air was perfumed as you walked along. The views were fantastic as we climbed – at one point we could see as far as Morocco.
Each day of walking was a variation on these themes, with shorter and longer walks available. After two days of walking at Berchules we were ready to move on to our second hotel at Mairena, Casa Las Chimeneas. The coach dropped some of the group off about 8 miles away from the next hotel, some about 6 miles away, and a few took the coach all the way. It was fun arriving at the hotel on foot.
Las Chimeneas was a special place to stay: the village itself only had about 250 inhabitants and the hotel was owned by a British couple who have lived in Spain for 18 years. They have bought various houses in the village and converted them into hotel rooms so everyone had a room that was different from any other but all were special in their own way. A few were at the top of the rather steep village, so some of our group had an extra hike each evening after dinner!
Meals throughout were excellent – at Berchules it was more rustic in character while at Las Chimeneas it was more polished but each was fabulous. On two of the evenings we had musical entertainment – once a local gypsy on the Spanish guitar, and the other time it was two women playing Spanish guitar and Bandurria with incredible passion.
While at Mairena we had a few extra events – a visit led by David Illesley to a restored local church which had variously been a mosque, a synagogue and a church, a visit to their finca (smallholding) where they grew much of the fruit and vegetables used in the meals, and a tour of a local Jamon Serrano (like Parma ham) installation where we saw the process of salting and drying the traditional ham – a memorable experience for all, some for the good and some for the bad!
After five nights at Las Chimeneas we finished our walking and moved on to Granada. Our hotel was in the centre of the city and we were only minutes away from the Cathedral and other historical sites. The city was in the middle of a holiday weekend and every time we turned a corner we found a decorated square and people dancing and singing – very much a festive feel. We all visited the Alhambra which must be one of the wonders of the world, and then on our last evening we went out and had a meal in a Flamenco establishment and then watched a Flamenco performance with four musicians and two dancers. A fun way to end a busy and varied 10 days with a great group of people.
You can see some pictures of our trip in the Gallery.