Amalfi Coast, Mi Amore

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(photo courtesy of Getty Images)

The Amalfi Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage sight for many reasons…mountains shooting up out of the deep, blue sea; pastel villages on the two-lane road that hugs the mountains along the water; long, languorous, al fresco lunches of fish just-plucked from the sea; lemon groves; medieval villages rich in history; colorful ceramics galore; water gazing and big, bright views. Let’s go!

Stay

BOOK NOW: “By March, the best hotels start to sell out.” (I can personally vouch for this great advice from Andrew Harper)

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Il San Pietro di Positano: Definitely go for a drink on one of the world’s more beautiful terraces!

  • Il San Pietro and Le Sirenuse hotels are the two grandes dames of the Amalfi Coast, and both are in Positano. While Positano is crowded, these hotels are glorious.
    • Il San Pietro di Positano   Il San Pietro sits by itself just outside of Positano, clinging to a cliff overlooking the sea.  Decor is classic Italian. Definitely go for a drink on this spectacular terrace, as I did. This uber-glamorous hotel is recommended by Vogue and Andrew Harper, although you will probably run into a lot of Americans.
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Il San Pietro di Positano

  • Positano
    • Le Sirenuse (recommended by Andrew Harper, the NYTimes, goop.com & me) is super glam, with a lemon tree scented terrace overlooking the deep, blue sea; you will run into lots of Americans here. Decor is old world Italian. An extremely well-traveled and good friend of mine recently stayed at Le Sirenuse and loved it! Read the Sirenuse Journal on their website for excellent tips on the Amalfi Coast. (58 rooms and suites)
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Le Sirenuse

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Le Sirenuse’ beautiful dining room overlooking the water

  • also in Positano
    • Villa Treville looks beautiful and stylishly decorated. No wonder Gwyneth Paltrow (see her goop.com) recommended it! This is your place if you are afraid of heights because it is not as high up as some of the other hotels.
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Villa Treville

  • in Ravello (relaxed pace, less crowded than Amalfi & Positano)
    • Belmond Hotel Caruso , former 11th century palace recommended by impeccable sources: Town & Country, Vogue, Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop.com, and Andrew Harper
    • Palazzo Avino (formerly Palazzo Sasso) Travel aficionado Andrew Harper recommends this 33 room hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant in a former 12th century private villa
    • Villa Cimbrone Recommended by Elle Décor, Vogue & NY Times, the Villa Cimbrone is noted for its beautiful gardens
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Villa Cimbrone

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Villa Cimbrone

  • In Conca dei Marini (not crowded)
    • Monastero Santa Rosa (recommended by the NY Times, Town & Country, Bazaar, How to Spend It, & Vogue–pretty impressive!) — This is the place to stay if you want to get away from the crowds in Positano and Amalfi. This former 17th century monastery, whose decor is not overly sophisticated, is in a tiny town with a charming little church, breathtaking views AND a great-looking Michelin-starred restaurant. I think it would be a peaceful, beautiful experience. (20 rooms and suites)
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Monastero Santa Rosa – a former monastery – reminds me of those monasteries sitting atop cliffs in Tibet – but with waaaay more services

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Pretty hard to beat this view from Monastero Santa Rosa’s pool!

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Oh, waiter! I’d like a Limoncello mojito, por favore. (photo courtesy of Monastero Santa Rosa)

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Let’s order lemon risotto for lunch! (photo courtesy of Casa Angelina)

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Casa Angelina’s jr. suite terrace

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Take an elevator down through the cliffs (so cool!) to sit on Casa Angelina’s beach.

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Il Refettorio — This has to be the most fun Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Nothing stuffy here!

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Il Pirata

In an excellent article in Food & Wine, Mario Batali recommends:

  • in hard-to-find Massa Lubrense, La Scoglio, Taverna del Capitano, and Quattro Passi
  • La Tagliate in Montepertuso – “
I love this town dearly as a relief from the chichi beach and Armani crowd,” said Mario Battali in Food & Wine.Vogue likes it, too!
  • in Positano, Il Capitano (“high above the sea”), Chez Black (“right on the water” & Vogue magazine also likes Chez Black), and “the restaurant in Le Sirenuse is quite tasty.”
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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse

 

da Adolfo, “a hippie spot” on Laurito Beach where Carla Sersale, who runs Emporio, the boutique at her family’s hotel (the fab Le Sirenuse), spends some of her time off, according to an interview in Veranda Magazine. Click here for details. This place looks like so much fun! The Financial Times‘ excellent “How to Spend It” magazine also recommended it, as do goop.com and Vogue magazine.

See the Sights

Drive the Drive: The drive from Vietri to Positano along the Amalfi Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That’s how spectacular it is!!! While nerve-wracking at times, you MUST do the  drive as it is gorgeous. We had to back up on this narrow, two-lane road with STEEP drop-off to make room for a truck; take your time!).

Village Hop along the Way: For a great article by Elle Decor on which towns to visit along the Amalfi Coast, click here

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(photo courtesy of Casa Angelina)

Boat the Coast: For a  different perspective, see the Amalfi Coast by boat! Take the Travelmar ferry to points along the coast

Hike for Views: An alternative way to take in the stunning sea views is suggested by the NYT: “For better views and less congestion, head to Bomerano, a mountaintop hamlet, to hike Il Sentiero degli Dei, or the Path of the Gods. As the name suggests, the up-in-the-clouds views are spectacular along this well-marked trail. Though not recommended for anyone prone to vertigo, it’s a relatively easy three-hour hike to the town of Nocelle, where hundreds of steps then lead down to the beach at Arienzo and a well-deserved dip in the sea.”

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

See Amalfi’s Duomo’s façade of mosaics and striped arches and Chiostro del Paradiso, a 13th-century cloister

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

 

BTW, have I mentioned that Positano and Amalfi are crowded?! The NYTimes  (“36 Hours on the Amalfi Coast” ), Vogue and/or Elle Décor (recommend seeking out these following charming smaller towns:

  • Cetara (medieval village, anchovy sauce)
  • Vietri sul Mare (ceramics, majolicas)
  • Praiano (click here to read the NYTimes‘ article on Praiano & click here to read Vogue‘s article)
  • Conca dei Marini
  • Maiori (has a sand beach, unlike most of the other AC beaches, which are all pebbles; Collegiate di Santa Maria a Mare)
  • Minori (Villa Marittima, a first-century Roman villa ruins)
  • Ravello (Click here to read Vogue‘s article on Ravello; Villa Cimbrone’s gardens; Villa Rufolo — the inspiration for the magic garden of Klingsor in Wagner’s “Parsifal;” Ravello Festival attracts world class music talent from July-September)
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Ravello Music Festival (photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

 

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

Day trips

  • Pompeii is an easy day trip by train from Sorrento
  • Capri — Take a day-trip on a Riva speedboat

SHOP

Lucio Liguori, Via San Vito 49, Raito, 84019 Vietri sul Mare. Tel +39 339 310 7071. Studio visits on request.

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

in Positano

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(photo courtesy of Emporio Le Sirenuse)

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(photo courtesy of Emporio Le Sirenuse)

For more shopping opp’s, see goop.com

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You  will see lots of beautiful tiles like this for sale in boutiques along the Amalfi Coast. (photo courtesy of Villa Treville)

When to Visit

Elle Décor recommends May-June and Sept-Oct, when the weather is slightly cooler.

My husband and I spent part of our  honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast 20 years ago, so I thought it would be the perfect location for a Valentine’s Day post.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Swiss Driving Trip: Yodel-ay-hee-hoo!

 

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(photo courtesy of Jungfrau Region Tourism)

The sights featured on this trip were recommended by my French teacher, who is Swiss, and my father, who lived in Geneva for over a year. They are timeless destinations, rich in history and settings. So, hop in the car and let’s drive around Switzerland! My husband and I just took this trip and it was great.

Geneva to Vevey

Take the Lake Road (La Route du Lac)–not the autoroute–from Geneva to Vevey (1-1.5 hours, depending on traffic). TIP: Be sure to time your arrival for anytime other than rush hour!

Montreux Riviera: Vevey (recommend 4 nights)

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Chateau de Chillon–Take on of the many beautiful 1900’s-era steamers from Vevey to the Chateau de Chillon, a highly photogenic medieval castle on Lake Geneva
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Chateau de Chillon (photo courtesy of montreuxriviera.com)

  • LaVaux Vineyards (a UNESCO World Heritage Site of terraced vineyards dating from the 12th century, on the north shore of Lake Geneva/Lac Leman): You can bike, hike or see the vineyards while eating lunch aboard on of the CGN Belle Époque steamers that cruise the lake frequently each day.
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Lavaux Vineyards (photo courtesy of REGIS COLOMBO/diapo.ch)

  • Vevey’s old town is small and lovely, has some charming shops, and is located on Lake Geneva.
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Vevey (photo courtesy of montreuxrivera.com)

  • Gruyères is 20 minutes’ drive from Vevey: HIGHLY recommend a visit to this “tres jolie” small town and its castle!
  • Neuchatel/Lake Neuchatel (Vevey to Neuchatel is 1 hour and 20 minutes’ drive)

STAY in Vevey

  • Hotel des Trois Couronnes in Vevey (NY Times 2011 & Andrew Harper 2016 & recommended by MySwitzerland.com as “typically Swiss” & gave it 5 stars), 71 rooms, half of which face Lake Geneva; while the bar, two restaurants, and some of the sleeping rooms could use a facelift, the lobby is dramatic, terrace wonderful, and staff is charming and service-oriented; and views onto Lake Geneva couldn’t be better!
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view of Lake Geneva from our room at Hotel des Trois Couronnes

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view from Hotel des Trois Couronnes

  • Grand Hotel du Lac in Vevey, 50 rooms, is a Relais et Chateaux & recommended by MySwitzerland.com as “typically Swiss”& gave it 5 stars; its lobby decor is prettier and more updated than that of Les Trois Couronnes but I read somewhere reputable that its service was not as good. It is also two blocks farther away from the center of Vevey’s old town.

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY in Vevey

  • Ze Fork on the Water is zee place to eat in Vevey and is booked weeks in advance, so call ahead. Lovely terrace looking onto Lake Geneva!
  • Have lunch on board one of the CGN steamers that motor around Lake Geneva. Their dining rooms are very nice and it’s so much fun to cruise by the little and large towns as you sip champagne!
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dining room on CGN steamer

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one of the beautiful CGN steamers that cruise Lake Geneva

Zermatt/Matterhorn (recommend 2 nights)–via Sion

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Rhone River valley–The first part of the drive from Vevey to Sion takes you along the Rhone River valley, which is lush, filled with fruit trees and the Lavaux Vineyards. So pretty!
  • Sion–Stop here for lunch on cobble-stoned Rue du Grand Pont, the main street in Sion’s old town, then walk to the two medieval castles that top Sion’s camel-like hills (see sketch below).
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Sion

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Sion: My photos didn’t capture this so I had to resort to this sketch. The two mountains topped with churches with Sion in between is what makes this small city unusual.

  •  Zermatt
    • Tour the Matterhorn Museum
    • Hike up out of Zermatt around the base of the Matterhorn
    • Shop: NOT! The shops are touristy and totally unappealing
    • Take the cogwheel train from Zermatt up, up, up to the Gornergrat (3,089 m) to see the highest peaks of the Alps and a glorious view of the Matterhorn (30 minutes each way)

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STAY in Zermatt

  • The Omnia Hotel: This is a great hotel! The photos don’t do it justice. Just go! You will love it. Get a room with a balcony facing the Matterhorn. Suggest Room X (that’s right, Room X), as its balcony is very private and it’s a big room. Plus, great service, e.g.: When I called down to the Omnia’s desk to ask for a restaurant suggestion for that night, our wedding anniversary, the concierge said he’d call me back in 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, exactly (so Swiss!), he called, told me the time of our reservation, and said a bellman was at our bedroom door. When I opened the door, the bellman presented me with a raspberry enshrouded heart-shaped ice cream, and my husband’s and my favorite drinks. Impressive!
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The Omnia with its perfect Matterhorn backdrop

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The Omnia has a sleek James Bond vibe!

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY in Zermatt

  • The restaurant at the Omnia has one Michelin star and is very good.
  • Restaurant Blatten–Imagine this: You have just hiked around the base of the Matterhorn, far from the madding crowds of Zermatt, and want a genuinely Swiss lunch, like fondue perhaps, up in the mountains. Restaurant Blatten is for you! It’s a 20 minute walk from Zermatt. The owners are fun and welcoming.
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Restaurant Blatten: Those people huddled in the lower right corner of this photo have views of the Matterhorn!

Interlaken area (recommend 3 nights)

Near Interlaken, my Swiss friend recommends Oberhoffen (3 hours drive from Zermatt), Grindelwald & Wengen. We stayed in Grindelwald.

STAY in Grindelwald

  • Aspen Alpin Lifestyle Hotel, 4* by MySwitzerland, an excellent web site for finding hotels, train trips, and restaurants in Switzerland. The Aspen Alpin Lifestyle Hotel (despite its overkill of a name) is up above Grindelwald (5 minute drive), in a small, small village, with big, big views. Get a room with a balcony and make sure you are in the building with the elevator, so you don’t have to lug your steamer trunk up stairs. The corner rooms are the largest. While the check-in area is not pretty, the rest of the hotel is attractively decorated.
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Aspen Alpin Lifestyle Hotel: Check out those views!

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Observe the locals: While gazing at the big valley views from our Aspen Alpin Lifestyle Hotel’s balcony, I saw the local farmers leading their cows down from the high mountain pastures to their homes for the winter on the lower part of the mountain. They walked right by the hotel. For this once-a-year occasion, the cows wore their extra big cowbells (an autumn tradition) and participated in a prettiest-cow contest–in the Aspen Alpin Lifestyle Hotel’s parking lot! The winner was awarded a crown of flowers and a BIG bell, which its owner later mounted on its barn to advertise his fine-looking bovine. So great!
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cow bells awarded to the prettiest bovine

  • Hike the Heidi-like hills and mountains around Grindelwald. They are heaven! We took the cable car from Grindelwald Grund to Mannlichen and then hiked 1.5 hours to the train station at Kleine-Scheidegg. Huge, breath-taking views and relatively flat hike. Once you reach the K-S train station, you can have lunch and then take another train to Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe,” for even higher views of the mountain peaks. Walk a short way from there for lunch at Monchsjochhutte, as recommended to us by a local Heidi.
  • Take the 1.5-hour train trip from Grindelwald to Berne, Switzerland’s capital, for the day. Berne’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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medieval building in Berne’s old town

Zurich area: Braunwald, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen (recommend 4 nights)

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Schaffhausen–I haven’t been here but my Swiss friend highly recommends this  town that was an important center of trade from the early Middle Ages. Its Old Town is lined with Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo buildings.
  • St. Gallen (1 afternoon)–Beautiful old town, whose cathedral and library (est. 9th century) are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. St. Gallen’s origins go back to 612! The stunning library, called the Stiftsbibliothek, has 170,000 works, of which 400 date from before the year 1000.
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St. Gallen Cathedral

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St. Gallen

  • Braunwald–Our last stop was Braunwald. Park your car Linthal at the base of the mountain and take the 7-minute cable car ride up, up and away to the tiny Alpine village (300 residents) of Braunwald, where the Ahorn Hotel’s taxi will pick you up and drive 5 minutes to the lovely hotel…The main activities in Braunwald are hiking and skiing but it would also be a great spot to “chillax” and observe Alpine village life from the comfort of your balcony overlooking the mountains. The suites come with their own saunas!
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hiking above Braunwald

 

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charming bee houses we saw along the trails in and around Braunwald

STAY

Ahorn Chalet Hotel Braunwald–This hotel consists of two BIG suites in the main building and five chalets. The decor is attractive and chef is EXCELLENT. He and his wife expertly manage this nice hotel with world-class views of the mountains and hikes to match. This is remote and yet, you can be back within reach of civilization in 7 minutes by cable care.

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Ahorn Hotel in Braunwald

Switzerland Summer

(photo courtesy of Switzerland Tourism/Andre Meier))

TIP on Tipping in Switzerland: By law, service is included at restaurants, so just leave a little something (“pour boire”), i.e., round up the bill.

TIP on Paying by Credit Card: You will be asked whether you would like to do the cc transaction in Swiss francs or US dollars. Before departing for SW, ask your credit card company for their recommendation, because it may differ from card to card.

Literary Traveling Companions: “Heidi,” by Johanna Spyri, of course; “Daisy Miller,” by Henry James, takes place at the Hotel Des Trois Couronnes in Vevey; and highly recommend the “Eyewitness Guide Switzerland.”

 

Spain: Madrid & Andalucia-Ándale!

 

Almudena Cathedral

Cortijo del Marques Alumna Cathedral, Madrid, Contents provided by MADRID DESTINO TURISMO CULTURA Y NEGOCIO, S.A. available at http://www.esmadrid.com

STAY in Madrid

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Ritz Madrid

  • Hotel Ritz Wonderfully stylish designer Carolina Herrera stays here every time she goes to Madrid (per Departures 2012). Elle Decor also recommended it, as do I. Particularly heavenly is the outdoor patio behind the hotel!
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Ritz’s lovely patio

  • Casa de Madrid Carolina Herrera’s daughter reserved this for her wedding (per Departures 2012). Elle Decor also recommended it and described it as, “Antiques and 18th century portraits grace this luxury B&B in a grand apartment near the Royal Palace.” Website currently under construction but the few photos I found (like below) in travel mag’s look very pretty! 7 rooms, moderately priced
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Casa de Madrid

SEE THE SIGHTS in Madrid

  • Prado (Museo Nacional del Prado)world-class & world-famous art collection
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Prado–Contents provided by MADRID DESTINO TURISMO CULTURA Y NEGOCIO, S.A. available at http://www.esmadrid.com

  • Flamenco–“On Thursdays, Laray (Calle de los Hermanos Becquer 6) is the insider dance venue–but the show won’t start until after midnight,” per Carolina Herrera (Departures 2012)
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Contents provided by MADRID DESTINO TURISMO CULTURA Y NEGOCIO, S.A. available at http://www.esmadrid.com

  • Hidden Treasure, per CH–“Cinephiles shouldn’t miss Cine Dore (Calle de Santa Isabel 3) housed in a gorgeous 1920s theater.”
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Las Ventas

  • See a bullfight at Las Ventas–While the tradition and symbolism of bullfights are interesting & the spectacle dramatic, I felt sad for the bull but it’s worth seeing once.

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EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY in Madrid

  • La Tasquita de Enfrente (Calle de la Ballesta, 6)–“best tapas,” per Carolina Herrera (2012, Departures)
  • Samm (Calle de Carlos Caamano 3)–for paella, per Carolina Herrera (2012, Departures)

Cocktails & Dancing in Madrid

  • Le Cabrera (Calle de Barbara de Braganza 2)–“You can’t beat a gin and tonic at Le Cabrera,” per Carolina Herrera (2012, Departures)
  • The pool at Room Mate Oscar hotel (Plaza Vasquez de Mella 12)–also per CH
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Room Mate Oscar roof terrace: I want to go here immediately!

  • Evaristo Club (11 Calle Marques de Santa Ana)–per Travel + Leisure (2013)
  • Hit the dance floor at Charada Club de Baile —Travel + Leisure (2013)
  • “For one of the city’s most cinematic views, head to the rooftop terrace at the cultural center, Circulo de Bellas Artes  (42 Calle de Alcala),” per Travel + Leisure (2013)

SHOP in Madrid

  • For espadrilles, Lobo (Calle de Toledo 30) “is the place for the more traditional shoe, in every color. For more fashion-forward styles, try Castaner (Calle de Claudio Coello 51),” per Carolina Herrera.
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If & when you buy these sexy Castaner espadrilles, you will look exactly like her!

  • Sunday’s outdoor flea market El Rastro for antiques (recommended by CH in Departures, 2012, as well as Travel + Leisure 2013)

ANDALUCÍA

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Sevilla

SEVILLE (“Sevilla”)–300 miles SW of Madrid, Seville is the capital of Andalusia and the fourth-largest city in Spain (pop. 700,000+). “Though its history dates back to the Roman times, an invasion by the Moors in the eighth century left a cultural imprint that largely defines the city today.”  (Travel+Leisure, 2014)

STAY in or near Seville

  • Trasierra (Cazalla de la Sierra)–“Tucked away in Seville’s foothills, this tiny whitewashed town is a favorite of Carolina Herrera, who stays at the 16th-century hacienda Trasierra. It’s the perfect jumping-off point for exploring nearby Seville.” (per Travel+Leisure, 2014) The town of Cazalla de le Sierra is located 80 km. north of Seville and looks intriguing. Trasierra is a 19-room inn that has received rave reviews by excellent sources (interior designer, Mark D. Sikes, the New York Times Style magazine, and Condé Nast Traveler). I am so in love with the photos and feel of Trasierra that I have posted three photos below, as well as several more at the very end of this post*…check them out!
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Trasierra

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Trasierra

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Trasierra

  • Corral del Rey (Seville) –“a chic, low-key boutique hotel in a restored 17th-century palace”  (Travel+Leisure, 2014). This is a sister property of the Hacienda de San Rafael (Pippa Middleton’s b-day bash location, described below). Its website looks okay, not amazing.
  • Hotel Alfonso XIII (Seville) Built in 1929 and renovated, this is the grand dame hotel in Seville’s city center. The website looks great: lots of Spanish tiles and character!
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Hotel Alfonso XIII

  • Hacienda de San Rafaeltranquil, rustic, luxury hotel set in an olive grove 40 minutes south of Seville; site of Pippa Middleton’s 40th birthday party weekend; 11 bedrooms, three suites, three pools, bougainvillea-lined courtyard, gardens, al fresco dining, plus spa services and flamenco classes  (per Hello magazine, 2013). While at Hacienda de San Rafael, Pippa and her friends visited “Cortijo de Arenales, a traditional Andalusian estate about 45 minutes from Seville. Owned by the Count of La Maza, the beautiful estate maintains the traditions of Andalusian country life. Pippa’s party were given a tour …and taught about the fighting bulls that are bred on the estate and roam around its 7,000 acres.” (Hello magazine, 2013) Check out the other good cultural excursions on HdSF’s website, like touring the great white hilltop towns of the region!
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Hacienda de San Rafael

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Hacienda de San Rafael: I bet Pippa put on a good party here!

SEE THE SIGHTS of Seville

Following is a partial listing to whet your appetite:

  • La Giralda & the Cathedral–12th century bell tower, originally built as a minaret during the Moorish period; a UNESCO World Heritage Site
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La Giralda–Seville

  • The Alcazar –also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcazar is a royal palace originally built by Moorish Muslim kings, one of the most beautiful in Spain, and it is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe
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Plaza de Espana, Seville

  • Plaza de Espana – The beautiful Plaza de España, Seville, was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. Its tiled wall, benches, floors and walkways are an example of the Renaissance Revival style in Spanish architecture. Feast your eyes below…
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Plaza de Espana, Seville

  • Basilica de la Macarena –has one of the most revered sculptures in Seville, the 17th-century Virgin of Hope, which locals call La Macarena. La Macarena is the patron saint of matadors and a favorite of Spanish gypsies.
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Basilica de la Macarena

  • Casa de PilatosDuke of Medinaceli’s 16th century residence with STUNNING arabesque mosaics; considered to be prototypical Andalusian palace

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Case de Pilatos (photo courtesy of Fundacion Casa Ducal de Medinaceli)

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Case de Pilatos (photo courtesy of Fundacion Casa Ducal de Medinaceli)

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY in Seville

  • La Monedatraditional tapas bar near the cathedral that is a favorite with locals (Hello magazine, 2013)
  • El Rinconcillo–for tapas, “the oldest tavern in Seville, dating from 1670…as old-school as it gets”  (Travel+Leisure, 2014)
  • Eslava–“at the other end of the tapas spectrum, Eslava, hip, modern joint, draws a smart urban crowd”…”the tourists come here early; the locals come late.”  (Travel+Leisure, 2014)

Elsewhere in Andalucía

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Granada

  • Granada–I could find no good hotels in Granada proper. Years ago, we stayed in the parador, a former convent called the Hotel San Francisco and it was dumpy, though its website looks as if they’ve made improvements. HOWEVER, it is on the grounds of The Alhambra, which is a sight to behold! It is the only medieval Islamic palace preserved in its entirety, with beautiful  gardens and magical architecture. Another option: Located 18 km. north of Granada is Cortijo del Marques, a former convent turned small hotel in the midst of olive groves.  TIP: Advise you buy tickets to the Alhambra the day before to avoid the lines. Staying on the grounds facilitates that as you can go to the ticket office at off hours or late in the day when there are no lines.
  • Cordoba–This smallish city’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and these are always good. It has been occupied since 42,ooo BC, ruled by the Moors for many years, and then conquered by Christians. Its Great Mosque of Córdoba and current cathedral, alongside the Roman bridge are wonderfully memorable and definitely worthy of one night. STAY  at the 53-room Hospes Palacio del Bailio, as recommended by Andrew Harper and Tablet Hotels.
  • Carmona–Carmona has been continuously inhabited for 5,000 years, is 15 minutes from Seville International Airport, and has a lovely hotel, the Casa de Carmona, where we stayed years ago. Nice hotel and nice little city!

Of Note:

Should you prefer an upscale tour to driving/self-guided exploring, Al Andalus is a renovated, beautiful old train that has several different tour routes through Spain, including an Andalusian route. The Al Andalus is a luxury train finished in 1930 and designed in France for England’s royal family. “There are five routes: two run along the mountain-sea routes of the north, two more traverse the central areas of the country, and one in the south, where the Al Andalus stops in Seville, Jerez, and Granada and at other monuments to Spain’s Islamic past.” (Departures magazine, 2015)

Ole!

Ole!

*MORE PHOTOS FOLLOW OF Trasierra, BECAUSE THEY ARE SO BEAUTIFUL THAT I COULDN’T RESIST…

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-Posted May 2016