Looking for new adventures, after concluding our summer campaign in Russia, Monica, my inseparable Suzuki Vstrom and I decided to go to Andalusia on New Year’s Eve with the prospect of finding some warmth.
Unfortunately, however, the weather was not exactly our friend, but the customs and traditions of that part of Spain that best reflects the stereotypes that gave rise to fiestas, siestas, flamenco and bullfighting have warmed our hearts.
The last part of the Iberian Peninsula to be abandoned by the Moors following the reconquest, Andalusia is a mix of Christian faith and Islamic culture, which finds its maximum expression in the Mudejar style of the Alhambra of Granada.
But let’s proceed with order….
We leave from the port of Savona, the ferry trip goes by between reading tourist guides and playing cards, with Corrado (this time we had company) who, we don’t know how, managed to sleep the whole time!
Once disembarked in Barcelona, we head straight south, but soon the rain suits become the best defence against a cold that gets into our bones. We arrive in Valencia half frozen and tired as if we had been travelling for days.
We don’t have the strength to visit the city and with a bit of melancholy we go to sleep… the next day Don Quixote’s Tip was waiting for us!
The choice to cross the lands of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel led us through dreamy landscapes, but also dark and cold winter fogs, which caused the temperature to fall a few degrees above zero. Seeing Corrado curse me in the rear-view mirror, I decide it is time to stop for lunch.
In Almagro, between a Jamón ibérico and a glass of tinted wine, we manage to warm up. After seeing a few windmills, we head south, entering the park of the Sierra de Andújar and, finally, Andalusia.
The sun begins to set, giving us a breath-taking sunset among the curves of the Sierra, which accompanies us as far as Cordoba.
The 547 km of the day was more tiring than expected, but the city calls. In the evening we visit the new part of what was the first capital of Roman Spain and then the Moorish Kingdom.
Wide streets, still decorated with hundreds of Christmas lights, teem with restaurants, bars and shops. Satisfied, let’s go to sleep.
We decided to get up early, but the alarm clock has different programs (never set a single one).
It is already late in the morning when we realize the time. In a moment we are ready, we walk along the narrow alleys of the Juderia to the Mezquita, the real jewel of Cordoba. Originally a mosque, it was transformed into a cathedral in 1523 destroying, only partially, the harmony of the complex, characterized by a series of red and white horseshoe arches, which recalls the sense of infinity.
A perspective prodigy.
Just before lunch we set off on our motorcycle and following the gentle folds of the Guadalquivir, a once navigable river, we resume our march towards Seville when, suddenly, a castle on top of a hill attracts Monica’s attention: a magnificent palace dominating the plain below.
We set our bikes towards the town, Almodóvar del Rio, and the closer we get, the more I’m sure I’ve already seen it: it was Alto Giardino, Casa Tyrell! After identifying myself for a while with the characters of Game of Thrones, I call to order Corrado and Monica.
Seville was waiting for us, but first we still had to visit Carmona and its medieval walls!
Seville is a magnificent city, full of history and with much more frenetic and festive rhythms than Cordoba.
The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in the world, built on the ashes of the mosque of which it still preserves the ancient minaret, converted into a bell tower, the Giralda.
For a traveller, however, Santa Maria della Sede di Siviglia preserves something even more fascinating: carried in triumph by four heralds, representing the four crowns of Spain, rests Christopher Columbus.
A few metres away stands the Alcázar. A true pearl of the city, the palace is one of the best examples of Mudejar architecture, the style developed during the Christian reign of Spain and which used Islamic influences.
A beautiful place, also used as a set for the reign of Dorne by Game of Thrones. But the cinematic surprises were not over.
Before going back to the hotel to get ready for the New Year’s Eve dinner, we went to see Plaza de Espana, where a scene from Star Wars – The Attack of the Clones – was recorded.
On the first of the year, after enjoying another nice walk through the streets of Seville and yet another tapas lunch, we are ready to set off again towards the southernmost point of Europe: Punta de Tarifa.
After crossing the vineyards of Jerez de la Frontera and rolling hills, we reach the Strait of Gibraltar just in time to see yet another sunset to be framed and the lights turn on in the houses on the other side of the sea, in Tunis.
The next morning we go to see the mythological boundary between the known and the unknown. The point where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean is something special. It makes you small, just like our sea compared to the immensity of the ocean.
The day’s itinerary then takes us back to the centre of Andalusia, through panoramic roads that allow us to visit the area of the Sierre with its pueblos blancos, small villages with classic white houses climbing the hills.
After visiting Arcos de la Frontera, a charming town dominating the valley below, through the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park we arrive in Ronda.
The Nuevo Bridge, which joins the two parts of the town divided by the deep gorge created by the Guadalevín stream, is spectacular to say the least.
We still travel along roads full of gentle curves, until darkness and cold weather advise us to speed up our arrival in Granada via the motorway. In the evening we treat ourselves to a rich paella, accompanied by an excellent wine, then off to bed quickly.
The next day one of the most beautiful and unique buildings in the world awaited us: Alhambra!
Granada was dominated by the Moors since 731, but after the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, it became independent and capital of a kingdom where art and science flourished in a climate of intellectual ferment and religious tolerance.
The Alhambra welcomes us, on top of the hill from which it dominates the city, with its crenellated towers and heavenly gardens.
If the red castle gives the idea of the military force that allowed it to be the last city of the Moors to fall during the reconquest, the Nazrid Palace and the Generalife Palace are the triumph of the Moorish style with its geometric mosaics, colourful stucco decorations, friezes, capitals, arches, gardens and fountains. But that’s not all…
Back in the city centre, our sightseeing tour still had so much to offer. In fact, Granada continued to prosper even after the conquest of the city in 1492, when the Catholic Monarchs came victorious after 6 months of siege.
The last stronghold of the Moors was to become, according to the Spanish Monarchs, the capital of the new kingdom. Only 3 years after the reconquest, by their order, construction work began on the immense Renaissance cathedral and the Capilla Real, where, in the splendour, they rested.
With our eyes still filled with all this splendour, in the late afternoon we climbed the steep and picturesque streets of the Albaicìn to see the sun set over the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada: something unique.
The following day a beautiful route under the snowy peaks took us to the coast, to Alicante, the last stop before returning to the port of Barcelona.
The last day on Iberian soil, in the morning we still allowed ourselves a visit to the Castle of Santa Barbara, one of the largest military fortresses in Spain, from which you can also enjoy an incredible view over the whole bay of Alicante.
It’s 11 o’clock, it’s time for us to set off for the port of Barcelona, the ferry to Italy was waiting for us.
We had two alternatives to face the 500 km daily: the motorway or a diversion to Valencia, moving away from the coast and up the nearby mountains in search of some curves. Under a spring sun, the choice was easy!
In a breathtaking panorama, with canyons and fields overflowing with orange and pomegranate trees, fly away the first part of the day. Once in the vicinity of Valencia, we return by motorway to get to the port in Barcelona in time for dinner.
Our New Year’s Eve in Andalusia ends with a more than peaceful crossing of the Mediterranean Sea and the thought, which comes alive among the fresh memories of Spain, of the next adventures.