April 14, 2024 - Entre dos Aguas (Paco de Lucia's home), Toledo

When considering hotels in Toledo we were drawn to Entre dos Aguas (La Casa de Paco de Lucia), one because we enjoy Spanish flamenco guitar music, and two because it is, according to TripAdvisor, the top rated hotel in Toledo, and three the price was reasonable for being in the centre of an historic city.

The five room boutique hotel, a 15th-century house was owned by famous Spanish composer and guitarist Paco de Lucia, known to have revolutionized flamenco. The hotel is essentially a museum / shrine to Paco de Lucia.

Throughout the hotel there are photos, busts, guitars, memorabilia etc. honouring Paco de Lucia, a virtuoso flamenco guitarist, composer and record producer.  A leading proponent of the new flamenco style, he was one of the first flamenco guitarists to branch into classical and jazz.  Paco de Lucia has been described as a "titanic figure in the world of flamenco guitar" and "one of history's greatest guitarists".  In the 1970s De Lucia recorded ten albums with flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla, regarded as some of the most important and influential in flamenco history.

It is our goal to stay in lodgings with character.  La Casa de Paco de Lucia has character +++.

Toledo is a small ancient city with a population of 84,000 set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain.  The capital of the region it is known for medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments in its walled old city.  The Moorish Bisagra Gate and the Sol Gate, in Mudejar style, open into the old quarter.  Toledo is primarily located on the north bank of the Rio Tagus, nestled in a bend in the river.  It is known as the 'City of the Three Cultures' for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews throughout its history.  Toledo was the capital of the Visigothic kingdom from 542 to 725 AD.  The city includes a Gothic Cathedral and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive monumental and cultural heritage.

Toledo is a difficult city to walk, especially for those of us with some mobility issues.  The meandering alleys and streets are rarely flat, most often on an incline or decline.  This, and the cobblestones can make walking a challenge.  But it is an interesting city with a number of churches, historical buildings and monuments.  There are actually too many to keep track of.  Our walk today took us through the Jewish quarter, on the west side of the old city.  It is the Jewish community of Toledo that in the 12th and 13th centuries became the most populous and rich of the Kingdom of Castile, coexisting for centuries, more or less peacefully, with Muslins and Christians contributing to Toledo being known as the city of the three cultures.

After our walk we returned to Entre dos Aguas to find a gift in our room - a box of marzipan.  Marzipan is a ready-to-eat sweet treat traditionally found in confectionary shops across Europe.  Made from ground almonds, sugar and egg whites, marzipan is often shaped and dyed or painted as realistic fruits and vegetables.

Being Sunday night virtually every restaurant was closed, with us ending up at Restaurant Alfilerito 24, open 24 hours a day.  Generally we were pleased.  The ambiance was nice, blending old and new.  The bread was delicious, served of course with olive oil.  Cheese and olives were provided before our meal.  There were no vegetarian options on the menu but when Gayle asked she was provided with three.  As soon as Boletus Risotto was mentioned there was no need to consider anything else.  It was excellent, a nice tasty, large serving.  Norm on the other hand wish he could have a do-over.  The choice was between lamb chops and wild boar loin marinated in citrus, herb butter and green asparagus.  Norm went with the wild boar which unfortunately was quite tough and did not reflect the citrus marinade.  Some times we get it right; some times we don't.

The walk back was again difficult (up, down, up, down) through quiet streets but we returned to our hotel after a somewhat tiring day.

Beautiful flower arrangements in the courtyard.


Breakfast was comprised of croissants, fresh bread, wonderful orange juice, coffee and as a bonus fresh fruit salad. 

Everything here at Entre dos Aguas / La Casa de Paco de Lucia is dedicated to Paco.

An opportunity to purchase Paco de Lucia CDs and memorabilia.  

 A bust of Paco de Lucia.

The mailbox - with a guitar.

     The hotel sign - with a guitar.

The hotel's balconies - no doubt with a guitar somewhere.

The Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes from the outside and inside.               Near Palazio de la Cava.

The Rio Tajo encircling the south of Toledo.                       Gayle taking a photo of Norm taking a photo of Gayle.

Interesting tile designs on a building.                                  Stained glass in San Juan de Los Reyes.

Again the impressive Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes.                              Another of the many churches.

The Puerta (Gate) Del Padron.                                            Beautiful brick work.

And yet another church.

Just some of the beautiful stone towers and buildings throughout Toledo.

Massive wooden doors of Toledo.

Upon returning from our walk-about we were treated to some traditional Toledo Marzapan, a nice gift of Entre dos Aguas, which I enjoyed with a craft beer.

Cheese and olives provided with the bread to start our meal.

The finishing cooking touches done at our table.

Wild boar with supposedly a citrus marinade and asparagus.

There were no vegetarian dishes on the menu but when there were choice offered.  Without hesitation Gayle said yes to the boletus risotto which was absolutely delicious.

April 13, 2024 - Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas to 
                          Entre dos Aguas (Paco de Lucia's house), Toledo

Construction of Hotel Rural Las Tejeulas began in 1992, finishing two years later.  It was originally built as a typical Andalucian farmhouse consisting of three beautiful patios.  Also built was a cozy hermitage that is consecrated to hold religious ceremonies.  

The current owners, in love with the farm and its surroundings, decided to acquire the property to create what is today the 'Las Tejuelas' Rural Hotel.  A year later (2016) a comprehensive renovation of the property began refurbishing it as a hotel, respecting the original style.  Two years after renovation began (2018) 'Las Tejuelas' Rural Hotel began to welcome guests.

Due to a mess up by Avis we HAD to be at a meeting place just outside Toledo at 2:30 pm.   We planned to leave no later than 11:00 am to give ourselves plenty of time.  Breakfast, being great as ever took a bit longer than expected due to Belen, in spite of her struggle with English, being the perfect host, preparing coffee and toast and constantly replenishing the breakfast buffet. 

After breakfast and settling up, I ended up chatting with the other couple staying at the Las Tejuelas.  Serkan and Judith (and their young daughter Emily) from Valencia chatted with us about traveling through Spain and elsewhere in Europe.  The time flew by with the result being we left somewhat later than planned.

As a result we had virtually no time to stop for photos along the way, which was a shame given the many gorgeous fields of wildflowers, flocks of sheep and rolling hills of olive trees.

The drive to Toledo was scheduled for, and took 2 1/2 hours.  We arrived at the meeting place a 2:04 pm where we waited for the Avis reps.  They were somewhat late but did arrive at 2:55 pm to pick up our vehicle.  

After completing the paperwork one of the fellows drove us to our hotel Entre dos Aguas in the historical centre of Toledo.

We both enjoy Spanish (flamenco) guitar music.  When we realized we had an opportunity to stay in a home owned by Paco de Lucia, one of the best Spanish guitarists of all time we did so.  More on Paco and the hotel tomorrow as the following focuses on the dinner we booked tonight at the intimate 8 seat restaurant where the chef cooks directly in front of us.  The restaurant Entre dos Fuegos is located in our boutique hotel Entre dos Aguas.  The dinner was 10 dishes served over two and a half hours by Chef José Lopez, assisted by his sous-chef Yolanda.

Dinner was an experience.  Unfortunately it was essentially all in Spanish (Jose spoke no English), although thankfully we were provided an English menu.  But even as Jose explained the variations for Gayle's vegetarian versions of each serving we really did not understand (Asi es la vida / That's life).  As well four of the other guests spoke only Spanish - an elderly couple from Toledo and a young couple from the Basque region of Spain.  Fortunately one guest from Boston knew a fair amount of Spanish, serving as an interpreter during the evening.

The meal consisted of four Appetizers, three Starters, a Fish dish, a Meat dish and a Dessert.  We ordered a bottle of (reasonably priced) wine and water (in a pretty blue bottle) to enjoy with our dinner.

The Appetizers were (Gayle was served vegetarian variations)
  • a pickled combo (Basque chili pepper, green olive, anchovy and octopus)
  • Wasabi chips with salmon dices and mango vinegar 
  • red endive with mussels, bacon and mustard, and
  • teriyaki crunchy bean candy
Then the Starters of
  • brioche toast with guacamole, sardine, wakame and soy & yuzu pearls
  • pastry bags filled with pear and gorgonzola, cheese cream and parmesan slices, and 
  • pan with artichokes fried with Iberian pork jowls, poached egg and foie, truffles and mushroom sauce
The fish dish was a
  • sheet of bread with baked turbot, baked apple cream, caramelized onion, pea shoots and samphire
While the meat dish was 
  • beef and mushroom 'brownie' with sweet potato cream, sweet potato chips, a Padron pepper, currant and chive sprouts
Finally for dessert we had
  • cheesecake with Torrija ice cream, red fruit coulis, raspberry and mint leaf.
After dinner we were offered a digestive - we choose limoncello.

A few observations
  • although the servings were (very) small we were stuffed by the end
  • our favourites were the pastry bags (aka pasta) in cream cheese and the cheesecake dessert
  • the cooking of the poached egg was very unique and interesting
  • there were a number of unique touches e.g. samphire; yuzu pearls, pea shoots etc.
  • in spite of our frustration with our lack of Spanish smiles go a long way
  • all the guests seemed engaged and enjoying themselves
  • it was a unique and fun experience 
It was 11:30 pm when dinner finished - quite late for us but we only had to take the elevator up to our room where we retired full and tired after a long day.

The Spanish and Extremadura Regional flags.                  Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas.

The cobblestone courtyards.

Breakfast included fruit (banana and orange slices and other uncut fruits.)

And the best fresh orange juice.

Chocolate rolls.

The breakfast table.                                Olive oil and fresh tomato puree.        Iberian ham and tomato on toast.

The grounds, including the pool (still closed).                     One of the Hotel's lounges.

The small church on the property.

Belen, who along with Marina were fantastic.                        Serkon, baby Emily and Judith.

We just couldn't not stop at this field as we drove to Toledo.

Boutique Hotel Entre dos Aguas.                                 Paco de Lucia playing Entre dos aguas.

Even our room was guitar themed.

In the hallway there was a Memorial cabinet of guitars.

Relaxing just before dinner.                    Some of the interesting artifacts in the central courtyard.

The courtyard as seen from the second floor walkway.

Tables and couches warm the courtyard.

The small 8 seat restaurant Entre dos Fuegos.                     Cutlery in a copper cup.       Our wine with dinner.

Sous-chef Yolanda.      J


 cooking the pastry bags                          Gayle in her Spanish dress.




A short video of 


 preparing the Brioche toast with guacamole. 

Gayle's toast, without the sardine.

Pastry bags filled with pear and gorgonzola, in cream cheese with parmesan slices.

A very interesting approach to poaching eggs - encased in saran wrap.

Served with artichokes for Gayle.

And with Iberian pork jowls, foie, truffles and mushroom sauce for the others.

The fish dish was turbot (vegetables for Gayle) and the meat a beef 'brownie' with Padron pepper and sweet potato chip.  Turbot would still be far from my favourite fish.

Delicious cheesecake with Torrija ice cream and fruit.

After dinner - a choice of a number of digestives - we each chose Limoncello.   

April 12, 2024 - Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas with a drive
                          into the nearby countryside / mountains

This was our only full day spent at Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas.  

On the way to breakfast I met Andres, the gardener.  He mentioned something in Spanish but after I indicated I had no idea what he was saying immediately switched to English.  Interestingly Andres' English was surprisingly good.  He was clearly proud of his other vocation, that being as a fishing guide here in the 'lake district' of central Spain.

Breakfast was superb, including fresh tomato to spread on toast with excellent quality (the best Norm had on the trip) Iberian ham, the freshest orange juice and all the other breakfast items.  

Marina recommended a drive north and west, past Guadalupe which we are familiar with having stayed in the parador on two occasions, and on to Castanar di Ibor.  From there west past Robledollano where we turned south, heading to Canamero to complete the loop.  

Mid-afternoon we headed out as recommended on what turned out to be more or less a three-hour drive.

The drive was a nice mixture of rolling countryside, lots and lots of olive trees, mountains, animals (sheep, pigs and cows) and more wildflowers.

Somewhat unexpectedly we also came across a small forest of cork trees.

Upon returning we decided to order a bottle of wine with dinner, but open it beforehand to enjoy a glass outside 
our room in the hot (it went up to 28 C today) afternoon sun with some tasty olives and 'tapas'.  

Afterwards we wandered over to the restaurant where we enjoyed another nice meal starting with some bread and a tasty red pepper, tomato, bread, olive oil and salt mixture traditional to Marina's home region of Cadiz.  Gayle followed with a pumpkin soup while Norm had the salmon in orange sauce.  Both very good.

Rural Hotel Las Tejuelas is our kind of place.  The hotel is a typical Andalusian farmhouse.  Based on the number of mounted animals (the local taxidermy was well employed) this is an area where hunting was prominent.  Wild boar, mouflon and roe deer live on the property's land as well as various birds. 

One really has the feeling of being with nature here where it is quiet with vast open spaces.

The moon in the pitch black night.                                       The sun rising in the morning.

Love the way the light encircles the leaves.

Rana apparently means frog in Spanish.         The morning light shining on a building.           Gardener Andres.

Breakfast table all set.                            Fresh fruit salad.                               Iberian ham on tomato toast.

Some of the best fresh orange juice (not too tart) we've had, along with fresh tomato to be used on toast with ham and oil.

Our wonderful hostess Marina.

The lounge area of the restaurante.                                    With its unique light fixture. 

There are a number of orange and lemon trees in the courtyards.

The Las Tejuelas restaurant building in the traditional Andalucian style.

The nice verandah area - as seen from both ends.

Cistus landifers / rock rose (we call them mountain flowers) covering the mountainous countryside.

More - you guessed it - wildflowers.

Nothing but olive trees as far as the eye can see.

Along the route we came upon a small forest of cork trees.

Sheep peacefully grazing in the fields.

A few pigs along the way.

The drive into Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas.

A collection of more flowers - wildflowers in a field; yellow roses at Las Tejuelas and Thapsia villosa, or villous deadly carrot which is actually poisonous.

An attractive outdoor eating area.                                          Las Tejuelas from the south (front) side.

Upon returning we decided to order a bottle of wine before dinner to enjoy with some olives and 'tapas' at our room.  As one can see the wine was delivered with a few flowers - a very special touch.  What a great way to relax with the sun streaming on us.  Life if very good.

A tasty red pepper / tomato / bread mix as a starter.            A plate (half portion) of Iberian ham.

Pumpkin soup.                                                                     Salmon in an orange sauce with vegetables.

April 11, 2024 - Cordoba to Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas

After three nights in Cordoba it was time to move on.  We tend not to visit / stay in larger cities but after having done so in Sevilla a number of years ago we decided to see both Cordoba and Toledo on this trip.  We stayed right in the heart of Cordoba.  We didn't try to see or do too much, but rather just enjoyed wandering the narrow medina like streets / alleyways.  

The hotel we chose - Hotel Madinat was wonderful - the decor, breakfast and service.  Our room was very interesting with it's Moroccan lights and touches, bringing back fond memories of our trip to Morocco.  Sure the room was smaller than those we are accustomed to when staying at cortijos in rural areas but that was as expected in the historical centre of a city.

Before leaving we enjoyed a nice chat with Christian, one of the staff here at Hotel Madinat.

But then it was off on a 236 km supposedly nearly three hour drive.  However with all the photo stops the drive took us nearly double that.  

Our route took us essentially due north from Cordoba into Extramadura to Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas between Valdecaballeros and Guadaloupe.

The drive was, at least for us, quite something - some flat; some rolling hills; not many towns but beautiful scenic countryside throughout.  The wildflowers were in full bloom, very prolific.  The olive trees were seen throughout as were the many sheep along the way.

We finally arrived at Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas, a place we chose as it is a rural lodging more or less half way between Cordoba and Toledo.  We were warmly greeted by Marina who while appearing to understand most of what we said could not express herself well in English, relying on her translator, which actually was very effective.

Las Tejuelas serves dinner - a good thing as it is at least 20 km from the nearest place to eat.  We had dinner in a beautiful dining room, staring with some cheese, olives and toast with a jam-like spread.  Gayle then had a warm goat cheese salad with walnuts and fruit while Norm enjoyed a dish of tasty pork with an apple / pear chutney.  

A nice meal to end a nice day.

Last delicious breakfast here at Hotel Madinat including traditional toasted bread with tomato and serrano ham; the local almond cake and a chocolate croissant, among many other things.

Tiled floor and wall in our room.                                           Tiling in the courtyard.

Below the ceiling of the staircase; and some of the art in the courtyard.

To the right Gayle and Christian. 

A few of the offerings of a bakery we passed on the way to the parking garage.  If only we were not so full from breakfast.

Flor de Esteva or Rock Rose, or mountain flowers as we call them.

Cistus laurifolius.

Very unusual to see an orange poppy here.                        Very common to see red poppies.

This could be a painting but it is simply a photo of a field.

Perhaps Paterson's Curse.                     Possibly Salvation Jane.                     Definitely a field of wildflowers.

Olive trees in fields filled with wildflowers.

There are no lengths Norm will not go to get that wildflower photo. 

Gayle amongst a field of wildflowers. 

Photographing the poppies.


Gayle believes these are fields of thyme.

Olive trees and fields of wildflowers.

The beauty of our drive just never ended with the fields of colourful wildflowers and acres and acres of olive trees.

If you like sheep like we do here are a few photos (and one video) .  

Photo of sheep marching up the hill.                            Video of sheep marching up the hill.

Rolling countryside of olive trees.

As well, here in Extramadura we passed a number of castles on our drive.

And storks, including one abandoned building where Gayle counted nearly 20, plus some unknown number of babies.

Early evening, after a fairly long drive, we finally arrived at our destination Hotel Rural Las Tejuelas. 

Our unique circular room separate from the main building - Chozo.

A few shots of the inside of our room, including the spectacular circular wood roof.

 Lots of colourful flowers on the property.                            On our way to dinner.

Which Gayle spent time capturing on her iPad.

Orange blossoms on a tree in the courtyard.                     There are a number of old stone troughs around.

Sunset before dinner.                                                                              Cheese and toast with a jam-like spread.

For Gayle a goat cheese salad, without the bacon.             For Norm pork with an apple and pear chutney.

April 10, 2024 - Cordoba

Our day started, as is nearly always the case, with a large breakfast.  Lots of choice and good food / coffee.

After relaxing through the late morning we then headed over to see the inside of Cordoba's Mezquita-Catedral.

The Mosque-Catedral is Cordoba's main monument.  Work on the construction of a Mosque started soon after Abd al Rahman the first took over the Emirate in 711.  Its most ancient foundations are built over the remains of the primitive Visigothic basilica of San Vicente.  After Cordoba was conquered by the Christians at the beginning of the sixteenth century the city council decided to build a Cathedral in the heart of the Mosque which at present stands in the middle of an impressive forest of Moorish arches.

The building is massive and very impressive with the rows and rows and rows of arches.  We were very glad we took the time to tour such a historical site.

While wandering back we first stepped into a leather (or cuero) shop where Norm bought a belt.  Cordoba is known for its leather artesans with goods, in particular bags, purses, wallets and belts being a local speciality in Cordoba, still made by hand in studios and workshops all over town.  Then we stopped in a small outdoor cafe on this sunny warm afternoon where Norm had a glass of sangria (actually better than expected) and Gayle a glass of cava, along with a bowl of tasty olives.

As well, on our way back to Hotel Madinat we passed a restaurant that offered a flamenco show.  While worried about being 'touristy' the venue looked interesting and the reviews were generally quite good causing us to book a table.  Another excellent decision.  The food was actually much better than we expected.  The traditional Gazpacho was excellent as was the Doble de Cepa potato omelette (tortilla) with candied onions.  Gayle very much like the fried aubergine (eggplant) with cane syrop although Norm less so.  Norm's ox tail was quite tasty with a rich sauce.  Water and a couple of glasses of wine were sipped during the one hour performance.  

The flamenco was quite enjoyable.  A guitarist, a singer and two dancers, one male and one female.  Their intensity could be felt, particularly the male dancer who at first did not appear to be a 'traditionally built' flamenco performer but surprised us with the quality of his performance.

We left very happy with this Spanish experience, returning the short way to our hotel to bring an end to our last full day in Cordoba. 

Another morning; another tasty and filling breakfast.

Beautiful tiles as seen from Hotel Madinat's terrace.

The bell tower.                                    Cordoba's Mezquite-Catedral.

More random buildings along the streets of the old medina area of Cordoba.

We purchased tickets to the Mozquita-Catedral de Cordoba.  Lots and lots of photos and a couple of videos of the massive and stunning interior.

                                                               Coloured light on the floor after shining through a stained glass window.

A couple of shots of ceilings.

Gold - lots of gold.

                                                           An intricate mechanical machine of some sort dating from 1747.

The arches go on and on and on - so impressive.

A small portion of the interior of the Mezquita-

Nice stained glass window.

Our return to the hotel took us through more narrow streets of nicely painted (most often yellow) buildings.

We stopped for drinks (sangria and cava) at a taverna along the way.

Hotel Madinat.                                                   Our room ras lain.                                        Welcome chocolates.

There is a business for horse drawn carriages for 
the tourists in Cordoba.

Colourful decoration in a courtyard.

Late afternoon - back to the terrace.

Waiting for the sunset.                                                         Somewhat disappointing but still some colour.

We found an intimate flamenco venue for a show and dinner tonight.

The stage is set.

Guitar, dancing and song (or perhaps better described as wailing).

Pretty plates.                                                    Fried aubergine with cane syrup.                     Gazpacho.

Delicious tortilla.                                                                   Ox-tail.

A couple of short videos of the performance.

The performers.

April 09, 2024 - Cordoba

Today was a leisurely day in Cordoba.  We slept in, worked a bit on the travel blog and then went down to a very nice breakfast, including a Spanish tortilla that Gayle was so much hoping for.

We are very happy with the room we chose - Ras Lain, Moroccan themed, with its beautiful lights.  It is also nice that it is on the first floor to which there is an elevator, which Norm's knees and Gayle's hip are very appreciative of (although we still manage to climb the four flights of steps to the roof-top terrace).

Early afternoon we went out for a walk, through the narrow streets / alleyways of our neighbourhood, heading toward the river and the restaurant the hotel booked for us.  A quick glimpse in of Regadera did not leave us super excited but based on the hotel's recommendation and great reviews we kept our reservation and glad we did as we enjoyed a wonderful meal.

Our walk took us to the Mezquita-Catedral, the most significant landmark of the city.  Cordoba was first built on the banks of the no longer navigable Guadalquivir River, the largest in Andalucia in 164 BC.  The modest Roman Imperial settlement grew to the point that two centuries later it competed with the most magnificent of all cities.  The arrival of the Moors to Spain in 711 made Cordoba the headquarters of the Emirate founded by Abd al-Rahman the first.  His descendants made Cordoba at that time the richest and most sumptuous city in the known world, so much so that it was proclaimed the capital of al-Andalus in 929.  A few decades later, Cordoba became the object of a bloody civil war between different Moorish factions with its immense power then being relegated to a modest and weakened Moorish kingdom.  Finally in 1236 the Christian army led by the King of Castile, Fernando the third the Saint, took Cordoba and its Mosque.  Over time the city developed in keeping with the aesthetics dictated by the Christians, eventually becoming an agricultural and artisan center. 

Currently Cordoba has the most elements declared as World Heritage Sites in Spain with four included on the UNESCO World Heritage list
  1.    the historic center of Cordoba,
  2.    the Caliphal City of Medina Azahara,
  3.    the Festival of the Cordoba Patios, and
  4.    the Mosque-Catedral of Cordoba, including the historic centre that surrounds it.
We decided we would return tomorrow and visit the interior of the Mezquita-Catedral.

After returning to and relaxing at our hotel we went out to dinner.  Regadare turned out to be an interesting restaurant with a huge open kitchen and a large herb garden.  Norm started with Acorn fed Iberian ham croquettes with a confit of garlic mayonnaise and sliced chives.  Gayle then had the warm asparagus salad with mayonnaise foam, citrus and sesame vinaigrette.  While the salad was ordered without the ham, which based on others we saw was very plentiful, we suspect more asparagus were included.  Norm went with the Spring lamb leg with carrots, miso butter and Ras el Hanout. What is Ras el Hanout you ask?  It is a spice mix of cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, pepper and more, often called for in many Moroccan recipes.  The lamb and sauce was delicious.  Surprisingly lamb is not very common on menus in Andalucia.  

For dessert anything with the word 'chocolate' jumps off the page which had Gayle ordering the Chocolate cake with Madagascar vanilla ice cream, very rich and intense.  There was another interesting option called 'All about the Lemon!  Foam, cream, ice cream, sponge cake and mint' which also looked very interesting - no doubt we will order if there is a next time.

Love turning the Moroccan lights out at night, and on again in the morning.

Fresh cut fruit.                                          A Spanish tortilla.                               Norm's breakfast!

View looking up from the courtyard.                                    View looking down into the courtyard.

The original tiling of Madinat's entry way.
One of the interior courtyard windows.

A few of the (very) narrow streets of Cordoba.

The streets and plazas in the historic centre of Cordoba are still primarily of cobblestone.

Cordoba is known for its walls covered in flower pots, culminating in the Festival of Patios, Window and Balconies each May.

The western exterior of the Mezquita-Catedral, a massive building.

The bell tower and other sites from the garden area in front of the Mezquita-Catedral.

The bell tower.

Just a small sampling of the exterior of the Mezquita-Catedral.

There are so many interesting sights here in Cordoba.

Interesting buildings in the area of Cordoba in which we are staying.

Most homes have these gorgeous interior courtyards.       Many doors have very interesting door-knockers.

A beautifully kept home, attractively painted with nice balconies.

A huge palm tree in a courtyard.

Regadera - tonight's restaurant.              Fresh herb garden.                       Cool banos (bathroom) watering can.

Reserved tables had these classy name signs.

Ham croquettes.                                                                    Warm asparagus salad.

Spring lamb leg, with carrot, miso butter and Ras El Hanout.

Gayle is certainly in her happy place when dessert includes the word 'chocolate'.

April 08, 2024 - El Amparo to Hotel Madinat, Cordoba

The anniversary of the day of my birth, or what others traditionally would call my birthday.  The start of my 8th decade.  And the reason for this trip as Gayle suggested we do something special to celebrate this special occasion.

The weather was better today - the dust had for the most part cleared with bluer skies and warm enough temperatures that we were able to enjoy breakfast outside.  After eating and packing we chatted with Nick, said goodbye to Simon and took a number of final photos.  And then we were on our way for the 210 km drive to Cordoba, our next stop.  

For the most part we drove the highway until 30 km or so south of Cordoba when we took a rural road to the east along which the ditches were full of wildflowers.  It was hard not to stop around nearly every turn as the colours were so vibrant.  No doubt too many photos below but only a small portion of the number we took.

We arrived in Cordoba, a city of 325,000 with more UNESCO world heritage sites than any other city in the world.  After finding the parkade and experiencing a scare when Gayle could not find her phone (on the third trip back to the parked car we finally found it wedged between the seat and the side of the car) we eventually (after going one street too far and having to circle back) found Hotel Madinat, a beautifully renovated hotel in the heart of the old medina of Cordoba.

Our room, Ras Lain, takes its name from an Arabic toponym whose literal translation is 'head of the fountain', the name of a remote Moroccan town with which the Hotel Madinat feels twinned.  The room maintains the original hydraulic floor from the 19th century.

For my birthday dinner I wanted traditional Spanish paella.  We asked the hotel to suggest / book a restaurant where paella was available.  They did a great job, booking us in to nearby (< a 2 minute walk) MacSura.  We were very pleased with the ambiance of the restaurant, the level of service, the quality of food and the very enjoyable Spanish guitar / flamenco music being played.

We started with a traditional Cordoba 'soup' - Salmorejo cordobes accompanado de jamon Iberico huevito duro y aciete de oliva (cold cream soup garnished with hard boiled egg, cured ham and oil) - a thick cold soup of mashed bread, tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic.  The starter was followed by paella - de verduras / vegetable for Gayle and marisco / seafood for Norm.  Our meal was accompanied by a nice Albarino wine - Adega Pazos de Lusco.  Everything about the meal was perfect - 10 out of 10 - a great end to a wonderful day.

Breakfast outdoors in the sun.


An orange tree overlooking the countryside.  

This way to Lemon Tree Retreat / El Amparo.

Perhaps a form of heather.

It took some research but Nick identified this as a chinaberry tree.

El Amparo's pool.

Views of the countryside.

The front of El Amparo (where we enjoyed dinner the first night).

An orange tree at El Amparo.               A marigold (?)                                      Maybe calendula.

El Amparo up on the hill as seen from the road.                A building set in the yellow fields.

The drive to Cordoba was pretty easy - north from El Amparo back to Moraleno de Zafayona and then west for 60 plus kms on the A92.  Just before Antequerra where we turned north on the A45. 

Just past Montilla we took a country road, along which there was a wealth of wildflowers, especially poppies, east to Santa Cruz.  From there it was north to Cordoba where we found the recommended parking garage.

Not every wildflower here is a poppy - Chrysanthemum indicum and daisies all being captured by Gayle.

An unusual sight - pink poppies growing naturally on the roadside.

More colourful roadside wildflowers.

And yet more.

The heat of the past few days must have brought out the poppies.  They were everywhere.

Miles and miles of olive trees.                                              A field with one lonely tree left standing.

Along the drive Gayle spotted a stork's nest.                      Photo cropped to better see little baby stork.

Welcome glasses of lemonade.                                            Beautiful Moroccan light fixtures.

Our Moroccan inspired room.

Upon entering our room, Ras Lain, we were welcomed by almond cake, cava and a nice note from the Madinat Team thanking us for "celebrating this day with us".

The card, cava and almond cake.

Enjoying a welcome birthday glass of cava.

Hotel Madinat's rooftop terrace.

Tile roofs.                                                                             Looking down into the central courtyard.

Views of the city of Cordoba from the rooftop terrace.

The inner courtyard.

The original tile floors have been retained in the common areas and rooms.

Tiles in our room - Ras Lain.                                               The entry to the hotel.

"Happy Anniversary of the Day of Your Birth" as Norm would say.  The rest of us: "Happy Birthday!"

Luis serving our wine.                                                         About to enjoy dinner.

Our Alborina wine.

MacSura turned out to be an excellent choice for a special meal.

Traditional Salmorejo cordobes, a 'soup' specialty of the city.

Rafa with Gayle's paella verdura.                                        Paella Marisco for Norm.

Plated and ready to be enjoyed.

April 07, 2024 - El Amparo; a visit to Alhama de Granada

The after effects of the calima were still obvious as the sun struggled to poke through the 'clouds' of dust.  

After another late breakfast (10:00 am qualifies as late even to us) we hung around El Amparo, working on our travel blogs, napping on the day bed and generally chilling out.

Late afternoon we drove into the nearby town of Alhama de Granada where we strolled through the historic streets.  We had again considered going to the Moorish quarter of Granada but with the 45 minute drive each way and less than perfect air quality decided against it.
It was believed that in the 15th century the town was consolidated by the Arabs who it is believed built the thermal baths here. However it now appears the earliest baths date back further - to the 12th century and were Roman, based on the style of construction.

In 1482 the fortress town was taken from the Moorish Sultanate and Kingdom of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs.  Alhama's position between Malaga and Granada gave it strategic importance for the Moors, although they also had a particular fondness for the town and its thermal waters and hot springs.  The strategic influence of Alhama de Granada made its fall vital for the conquest of the Kingdom of Granada, which led to the beginning of a flourishing Christian age.

Alhama de Granada was the community with the highest number of victims from the 1884 Andalusian earthquake where it was reported 463 died and 473 were injured, although the real number seems to have been considerably higher as more bodies were subsequently found under the rubble.  More than 70% of the houses collapsed.

We wandered through the town past a number of churches, a castle, towers, hospitals and the prison, built in 1674 under the mandate of Carlos II.

A very worthwhile outing.

As El Amparo does not serve dinner on Sundays Simon booked us into a highly regarded new restaurant, Mar y Brassas in Moraleda de Zafayona, about a 20 minute drive.  Known as a steakhouse Norm not surprisingly ordered a steak which was of excellent quality (although had a massive amount of fat), nicely served with asparagus and roasted potatoes.  The starter of a sampling of croquettes (although we had no idea what was in the croquettes.  The best we could get from the waiter was 'pescado' and 'carne' (fish and meat), Gayle's rice with vegetables dish, topped with asparagus and the three chocolate cake were all good. 

However that's where the good ends.  The woman who greeted us, speaking no English whatsoever said she did not have any reservation for us.  In retrospect it should not have been an issue as the restaurant was for the most part empty.  A waiter who spoke some English helped us settle in but then must have left as there was no-one remaining who spoke any English at all.  The decor, in Norm's view was boring and the music loud and simply terrible.  Perhaps it was the language but our service was definitely lacking.  Plus the mushroom sauce Norm ordered was apparently not available (?).  So while the food was decent the overall experience much less so.

After dinner it was an easy drive back to El Amparo.

Breakfast, including fresh fruit, meat cheese, avocado, tomato, granola, yoghurt, bread, juice, banana bread, regular bread and oats with chai seeds.

There is this old cart on the property.

Catching some shut eye on the comfy day bed near the pool.

More lemons along with a flower.

There were three resident cats at El Amparo, this orange fellow, another and Rocky here.

The impacts of the weekend's calima - dust filled skies.

An attractive rural farm building, again with dusty air beyond.

Not wildflowers but colourful flowers near the tourism office - not sure of the ones on the left but likely Cape Marguerite on the right.

Another beautiful town mural covering the walls of several buildings.

The gorge on the east side of Alhama de Granada.

The Church of our Lady of Carmen, built in the last third of the sixteenth century.

Beautiful designs on the way to the Plaza de Los Presos (Square of the Prisoners).

Looking down through the arch leading to the Plaza de Los Presos.

Church of Santa Maria de la Encarnacion.                          Across the Plaza of the Prisoners.

A door.                                   Another door.                        Yet another door.                   And finally another door.

The Plaza de Los Presos.

Colourful planters and plants adorned the wall of a building on the edge of the plaza.

Church bells.                                                                                              A typical building with lots of balconies.

Across the tile rooves to the olive groves outside of town.

A local enjoying a laugh in the town square.

Santa Cruz del Comericio, outside of which is El Amparo where we are staying.

Entering town were these beautiful irises, not only the traditional purple but a number of white ones as well.

Simon suggested Mar y Brasas for dinner, in Moraleda de Zafayona.

The chef carving serrano ham.

Before dinner - olives and parmesan cheese.

As a starter I had a plate of four different croquettes.

Gayle was offered a meal of rice with asparagus. 

While Norm had a steak.

Three chocolate cake for dessert.

April 06, 2024 - El Amparo

Last night we experienced a calima.  Very strong winds bringing sand from North Africa.  Also known as 'blood rain' a calima casts a reddish hue over the Spanish skies.  If there is accompanying rain a fine red coating settles over streets, cars and the land in general.  Sometimes inadequately translated as a 'haze' it is a rare weather phenomenon marked by a dense concentration of dust, sand and ash from the Sahara Desert trapped among rain clouds.

Unlike fog, which consists of water droplets, the calima comprises solid particles that can travel vast distances carried by the wind.  It can also have the added effect of potentially altering local climate conditions by trapping heat in the atmosphere.  The origins of the calima are multifaceted, involving natural processes such as sandstorms in arid regions and volcanic eruptions, as well as human-induced factors from factories and agricultural activities.

Apparently the calima of 2022 was much worse than this weekend's when a significant orange glow covered the countryside.  This was more like the aftermath of a fire but still created concern for Nick, the owner who encouraged us to stay inside in order not to be impacted by the dust.  The 'haze' normally lingers for a few days. 

We started the day with a nice breakfast that included bread, a large bowl of fresh fruit, excellent yoghurt, oats with chai seeds and mango along with some meat, cheese and avocado ... juice and coffee of course.

The calima kept us inside most of the day until we took a late afternoon drive through the countryside amongst the many olive groves and orchards of another tree that appeared to look like a cork tree but was likely some form of nut.  Our drive ended with us in the largest nearby town of Alhama de Granada.  We just nipped in with the thought of returning tomorrow.

Saturday night is pizza night at El Amparo.  There was another family from Belgium, with two young children, who had checked in so we were not alone tonight.  The meal started with an excellent salad followed by pizza and finally a delicious lemon / lemoncello 'tiramisu' cake.  A very good meal to finish the day.

Breakfast included banana bread, granola, yoghurt (not pictured) and oats with chai seeds and mango.

Fresh fruit served in a very nice bowl.                                 Meats, cheese and avocado.

Owners Nick and Jody, along with Simon have spent time in Thailand. 

El Ampero.                                                                                                                            Locked in (?).

El Amparo's front porch with the haze of the calima.           A corner bench overlooking olive groves.

A lemon flower.                                    One of the lemon trees here.               A callistemon speciosus flower.

Pretty flower pots, many with colourful flowers, and Rocky!

Lots of nice tiling on the property.                                        And a mural including a lemon tree.

The entrance to the courtyard of El Amparo.                       The architecture of the building.

In addition to acres of olive trees there are many of these cork like perhaps some kind of nut. 

And this orange blossomed tree - no idea what it is.

Poppies and daisies.

Maybe Dame's Rocket - but regardless colourful.                                  At El Ampero - Lycianthes rantonnetii.

A field covered with wildflowers.

Most likely Campanula trachelium.                                     And perhaps Cercis siliquastrum (Judas-tree).

The village of Santa Cruz del Comercio.                                The town clock.                     And the market.

A beautiful salad of various lettuce, beets, avocado, tomato, cucumber, cheese and walnuts, accompanied by a very nice dressing.

Our pizzas - vegetarian for Gayle and a variety of stuff for Norm.

Pizza and salad - plated.

A lemon / lemoncello 'tirimasu' cake for dessert - refreshing.

April 05, 2024 - Cortijo del Marques to El Amparo

Today was moving day.  Our time here at Cortijo del Marques has come to an end.  We certainly could have stayed another couple of days.  This is a beautiful property with great staff and superb food.  Silvia was so helpful, and generous including giving Norm a bottle of wine to take and enjoy on his upcoming birthday, er we mean anniversary of the day of his birth.

On our way to our next stop, being El Amparo our route took us back past the Granada airport where we stopped to deal with our car rental problem.  We had booked a one way rental with drop off in Toledo.  Upon picking up the vehicle we were told the office in Toledo had permanently closed back in January, in spite of having received a 'reminder' email only three days earlier with Toledo still listed as the drop off destination.  We had decided we would drop the vehicle off in Madrid, requesting someone from Avis drive us back to Toledo.  Mari-Carmen, who was very understanding and helpful wasn't sure she could make that happen and alternatively suggested we take a taxi to Toledo and submit the bill to Avis for reimbursement.  This seemed like a decent compromise.  An hour wasted and we guess we will see how it goes.

We easily found El Amparo (aka The Lemon Tree Retreat), arriving before 3:00 pm siesta.  We were met by Simon, an affable English fellow who is the do it all guy here at El Amparo.  After relaxing during the afternoon we had dinner on the front veranda (thanks to the suggestion of Simon), cooked and served by Simon, overlooking the olive groves to the hill and sunset beyond.  Although others are booking in tomorrow we were the only ones here tonight.

Another very nice sunny day with temperatures reaching the mid 20s.

We ordered a bottle of our favourite Spanish white wine - Alborina that we started before dinner, and then continued to enjoy with our plate of asparagus, covered with cheese and a poached egg.  The main was a very interesting / unusual cauliflower steak, covered with a tomato / carrot sauce.  .As well Norm was served a chicken stir fry.  For dessert we enjoyed a delicious chocolate molten cake while watching an ok, but somewhat disappointing sunset.

The Iglesia room is on the east side of the Cortijo, allowing us to see this early morning sunrise from one of the windows.

Attractive tile roof nicely blending in with the plowed field.

Cortijo del Marquis has a lot of attractive pottery throughout the property.  This reminded us of our Gordon Pottery that Norm acquired during his university days from a potter in Elora, Ontario.

There is no better start to a day than fresh squeezed orange juice.  This was particularly tart.

Breakfast included this 'Savoury cake of chickpeas, spinach and bacon'.

A designed stone box in our room.                                     Iglesia's large comfortable 'living' area.

The entrance to and the inner courtyard.

The pool here at Cortijo del Marques - no doubt very enticing once the water warms up after consistent hot temperatures - perhaps in another month - but certainly not yet.

Roses near the pool.                                                            View from the pool to the chapel.

From the wall beside the pool to the courtyard.

Beautiful intricate Spanish roof tiles.

View of the Terraza room through the stable window.    

The Silo room, located in the former grain silo.

The chapel and windows in the back (just above our bedroom).

A few remaining troughs in what was once the stable.

The chapel and Mirador room as seen from the road upon departure.

Leaving Cortijo del Marques.

The drive to our next lodging - El Amparo was relatively short and very easy.

However along the way we returned to Avis to discuss the problem we have with the Toledo office now being closed and where and when to return our vehicle.

Mari-Carmen was very empathetic and as helpful as she could be.  We left with a plan - that being to return the vehicle to Madrid (an hour out of our way) and then taxi back to Toledo (another hour) with Avis picking up the cost of the taxi.  Not perfect, but at least a plan.

Just before reaching El Ampara (like literally right next door) was this herd of goats and a barn.  Occasionally we would hear their goat bells but otherwise hardly knew they were there.

Unfortunately it is still too cold to use the pool here at El Amparo as well, but no doubt in the heat of the summer it is very much appreciated by guests.

The shaded day bed area next to a lemon tree just off the pool area. 

Relaxing before dinner.

When Simon suggested an Albarino for our pre-dinner, and dinner drink our decision was made.

Asparagus with cheese and a poached egg to start.          A very interesting (and tasty) cauliflower 'steak'.

A chicken stir fry with Bok choy.                                           Chocolate molten cake with fruit and ice cream.

Simon, Mr. do it all here at El Amparo.

Sunset was not as spectacular as expected but still a nice way to end the day.

April 04, 2024 - Cortijo del Marques with a drive in the country

Today was another relatively quiet and relaxing day although we did go for a drive into the countryside later in the afternoon. 

After breakfast and a restful time basking in the sun we asked Eilko if we might be able to see the Terrace room, the other one we considered.  While we certainly like Iglesia, particularly with the history of the bedroom being in a corner of the chapel building, the room is a bit dark, and with its three plus foot walls somewhat cool.  However the views across the courtyard / pool to the hills beyond and through another window to the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains is very impressive.  On the other hand La Terraza, while smaller is still a very nice size, very bright, with a large balcony / terrace that soaks in the afternoon sun.  It will be out choice next time.  

We had considered going into the Albayzin (Moorish) Quarter of Granada but in the end were just not up for such an excursion with parking in the city etc.  Rather we took a picturesque drive through the countryside east and then north of the Cortijo.  It was scenic - if you like lots and lots of olive trees stretching out as far as one can see.  There was also a decent amount of colour with a variety of wildflowers.  After the cool (4 C) start to the day it warmed up considerably with the temperature reaching 28 C on our drive.

We returned a bit before 6:00 after which it was back to the terrace where we enjoyed the sun and warmth, along with a glass of Alborino, a white wine from Galicia, before dinner.

Dinner was again creative and very enjoyable although perhaps not quite as memorable as last nights.  
  • the Bunuelo de puerro a la sarten con crema fresca, or Leek fritter with cream was light and tasty but not quite as wonderful as yesterday's avocado roll
  • the starter Esparrago tradicional con tirabeques y habas - traditional asparagus with snow peas and broad beans was an excellent combination of vegetables
  • Gayle had a stuffed aubergine / eggplant - very attractively presented but again not creamy risotto
  • Norm, not being a fan of sea bass, tonight's dish, asked if there was an alternative and was served delicious Iberian pork with cherry tomatoes and potatoes - an excellent main course (albeit a bit salty)
  • finally dessert was a Bizchochito de zanahoria y especias morunas, crema de brownie y helado (Moorishly spiced carrot cake with brownie cream and caramel ice cream)
Another excellent meal, very good quality and value for 35 euros each.

Being our last night here at Cortijo del Marques we enjoy this place so much we did wonder whether we should have stayed longer.  Perhapas next time.

Wake up, peer out our window to see this - a great start to any day.

Jams, bread, cheese, ham and other meats, eggs, oranges (and other fruit) all make for a nice breakfast plate.

A traditional breakfast item here in Spain is the tostada - a slice of fresh white bread toasted and then smothered with fresh tomatoes, olive oil and a pinch of salt.

We decided to take a drive late afternoon through the rolling nearby countryside.

An old tower seen along the way.   


The view from the road to Cortijo del Marques across the olive groves to the Sierra Nevada moutains.

More olive trees.                                                                    The town of Iznalloz.             Ruta de la Nazaries.

Spring is poppy time in Andalucia.

Abeja en el jaramago, we think.

Ulex parviflorus - Mediterranean.

A field rose.                                                                          Moricandia arvensis, so suggests Mr. Google.

Centaurea pullata aka "Iberian knapweed"                           Bearded Iris.

The still snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains.

The Cortijo de Marques chapel.

Spring tulips.   

A relaxing afternoon enjoying a glass of Alborino (and the olives) soaking in the sun.

A comfy couch a glass of wine, a warm fire and Spanish music - what is there not to love?

Our set dinner table.

Leek fritter with cream.

Asparagus with snow peas and broad beans.   

Stuffed aubergine (eggplant).

Iberian pork with tomatoes and potatoes.                            Dessert was a Moorishly spiced carrot cake. 

The chapel and one of the cedar trees lit up at night.

April 03, 2024 - Cortijo del Marques

We expected we would sleep for quite a while, and in spite of waking during the night a couple of times we did.  After having turned the lights out 9:00 ish it was 8:30 before we got up in the morning.

Our room, while large, interesting  and full of character is cold.  The bedroom is part of the chapel complex with extremely thick walls.  Upon waking up we saw the temperature was only 5 C, and perhaps felt colder. 

The buffet breakfast was exactly what one expects at a boutique hotel / cortijo such as this.  Cereal, fruit, juice, yoghurt, cakes and cookies, a variety of fresh bread, a number of jams, cheese, meats, a tortilla, eggs (boiled and scrambled) and fresh tomato for local toasted bread (more on this tomorrow), coffee and fresh (tart) orange juice.

We knew right away we were going to spend the day here at del Marques.  After a leisurely breakfast and some work on our travel blog it was nap time.  We then finished the first day of the travel blog after which we headed down for the warmth of the sun on the terrace in front of the restaurant.  The temperature rose to a bit over     20 C, very nice in the sun. 

Late afternoon we ordered a bottle of Cava - Spanish sparkling wine - that we very much enjoyed, with what Gayle concluded was a surprisingly good bowl of olives, taking us to dinner.

Each morning a four course menu is presented of that evening's dinner.  For the quantity and quality of food the 35 euro each ($51 Canadian - tax and service included) was very reasonable.  Of course being in Spain where the wine is excellent and decently priced there is a very strong temptation to order a bottle with dinner.  In spite of the pre-dinner cava we did order a nice 50 cl bottle of Marques de Murrieta (25 euro) to accompany our meal. 

Dinner started with
  • an appetizer of Canutillo de aquacate (avocado roll) - 10 out of 10,
  • the starter of Champinones cremosos alajillo romeo, vino de Jerez y espinacas (creamy mushrooms with rosemary, garlic, sherry and spinach) - another winner.
  • then the main courses - risotto with spring vegetables including leeks for Gayle and Albondigas caseras de ternera con salsa jardinere y verduritas al vapor (homemade beef meat balls with garden vegetable sauce and steamed vegetables) - both also excellent, and finally
  • the meal ended with a Tarta fina de almendras y helado de yoghurt artesano (fine almond cake with artisan yoghurt ice cream) - light and delicious.

During dinner Eilko stopped by (as he did with all the other guests) to chat with us.  What was so appreciated is that we never felt as if his visit was a box to tick, but rather that he was sincerely interested in how things were going, both with dinner and otherwise.  

A superb meal ending a great first day here in Spain.

Cortijo del Marques' restaurant.

The terrace early morning.                                                                                    A cool water spout.

Being only 5 C when we woke the fire at breakfast was very much appreciated.

Today's dinner menu.

A plate of tart (no doubt from the courtyard) oranges.         Today's tortilla.

Plate 1 of breakfast.                                                             and Plate 2.

Romeo the resident cat.                                                                                        Attractive floor tiling.

A couple of day beds highlighted by the sun.                        A small terrace area.           Another orange tree.

Beautiful buildings; beautiful people in the buildings and beautiful flower arrangements adorn the walls.

Afternoon on the terrace enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Some of the largest lemons we have every seen on a tree in the terrace gardens.

The pool area - in spite of the nice afternoon temperature way too cold to swim.

Views of the interior of the Cortijo, highlighted by the orange trees full of fruit.

The courtyard of the Corijo, lined with orange trees.

The wine list is 35 pages!  Choices, choices.                       Our pre-dinner drink was a bottle of Cava.

Veronica serving us our cava for us to toast our arrival in Spain.

Enjoying our bottle of cava.

Although the day was nice and warm it does cool off in the evening.  The fire was appreciated, as was the wine.

Our appetizer was a delicious avocado roll.                        Then a starter of mushrooms in a flavourful sauce.

Main dishes - for Gayle creamy risotto with vegetables.     And for Norm beef meatballs with garden vegetables.

Eilko chatting with us between courses. 

Dessert - an almond tart with yoghurt ice cream and jam.

April 01->02, 2024 - Halifax to Toronto to Madrid to                                                     Granada to Cortijo del Marques

A long day / two to get here to Spain - not that we're complaining.

First Halifax to Toronto where we had a lengthy seven hour layover (thank goodness for the Maple Leaf Lounge), then overnight to Madrid.  

This was followed by a short 40 minute flight to Granada where we picked up a rental car.

While waiting for our connection to Granada we spent a few hours in one of Madrid's airport lounges (accessed through our Dragon Pass).  This was quite a nice lounge with a wonderful selection of drink (wine, cava, liqueurs, beer, soft drinks, juice etc.) and an excellent selection of taps - served in individual small dishes.  Unfortunately we were too tired to enjoy much of the food and drink (although I did have a glass of cava).  In fact Gayle was so tired she needed a short nap. 

Clearly visible from just outside the Granada airport are the Sierra Nevada mountains, just east of the city of Granada.  The highest elevation in continental Spain - Mulhacén is in the Sierra Nevades, still covered with a significant amount of snow in early April.

From Granada airport it was an easy half hour drive to Cortijo del Marques, a beautiful rural lodging where we stayed in both 2013 (twice) and 2017.  A 'Cortijo' is a traditional rural dwelling, often a farm.  Cortijo del Marques is a property set amongst rolling fields with views of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east. 

At this time of the year the fields are often adorned with poppies (see the banner photo above taken from the Cortijo in 2017).

The Cortijo del Marques is set in the countryside more or less 30 km north of Granada and its famous Alhambra.  It's history has been traced back 500 years through the Roman columns in one of the hotel rooms.  After the conquest of Granada in 1492 the remaining Moors were forced to hand over two thirds of their property to their Catholic victors.  In 1532 such a transfer was made of a large agricultural property at the base of the Pozuelo mountains to the Marquis (Marqués in Spanish) of Mondéjar - henceforth becoming known as the Cortijo del Marqués.

The full name of the Marqués was Luis Hurtado de Mondoza, captain of the general of the kingdom of Granada and alcaide of the Alhambra.  Luis was an early supporter of Charles V with whom he became a close friend.  His closeness to the Emperor earned him high profile jobs such as overseeing the construction of the renaissance Cathedral of Granada as well as the Palace of Charles V in the Alhambra.

In the early 19th century the Cortijo del Marques passed to a local family, continuing its role as an outsized agricultural property.  In 1878 the sizeable chapel and the tower of the Cortijo were built resulting in the property coming to look more like a small village than a farmhouse.  The chapel received its full church rights by means of a papal bull dated 1880 with the seal of Pope Leon XIII.

During the Spanish civil war the Cortijo served as barracks for the Republican forces, with the chapel being damaged when hit by a Nationalist artillery round.

Toward the end of the 20th century the property was abandoned and quickly deteriorated.  Despite its glorious past nobody but the locals were aware of its existence until it was carefully restored at the beginning of the 21st century.  Restoration work and adaptation to its use as a small country hotel were carried out.  Many original features have been maintained and for this reason the property still has the air of a historical Andalusian manor house.


We chose the Iglesia room, or more accurately a small apartment of 80 sq m.  A bedroom, large living space and a huge bathroom with a beautiful claw-foot tub (along with a shower).

We immediately took notice of the many birds here, including what we believe is this Eurasian collared dove.

The courtyard includes a number of Seville or bitter orange trees, all very abundant with ripe fruit.

Our room is very bright with many windows providing impressive views of the countryside.

Rather than having the full dinner (which featured salmon tonight) we sat out in one of the terraces and snacked on some Manchego cheese, chorizo, olives, bread and wine, sitting across from the property's chapel.

The Cortijo del Marques chapel, built in 1878.

Although not yet 9:00 pm when we finished our light meal it was back to our room and straight to bed for a much needed long sleep!

Spain - April 01, 2024 to April 16, 2024

As Norm turns 70 this April (the 8th) we have decided to spend his birthday and some time around it in Andalucia, Spain.  

While three of our lodgings will be in rural settings somewhat unusual will be two in cities - Cordoba and Toledo.

We will fly from Madrid to Granada where we will pick up our rental car and work our way north to Toledo staying along the way