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Andalusia’s Gems - Malaga, Seville, Granada

Written by  Maxine Albert

LUXE
Flamenco, gypsies, tapas: Andalusia captures the essence of what we think of as Spanish, and so much more. This enchanting region on Spain’s southern coast boasts remarkable cuisine, art and architecture. The magnificent landmarks from the 8th-15th centuries when it was under Moorish rule, such as Malaga’s Alcazaba, Seville’s Alcázar and Granada’s Alhambra, are sights to behold!  Today, wine and culinary tourism are some of Andalusia’s main attractions.

MALAGA
I arrived in Malaga for the Gastronomy Festival. Here I savored their famous Boquerones fritos - fried anchovies, as well as superb espeto (sardines), stuffed tuna, cod, Serrano ham, local cheese, olive oil, gazpacho with almonds and grapes, all paired with excellent Malaga wines. Not to mention the luscious almond sweets. A gastro city tour included yummy breakfast churros with chocolate at La Malaguena, samplings at Mercado La Merced, the trendy new gourmet eatery and dinner with glorious views at acclaimed Refectorium del Campanario Restaurant. A highlight was the sublime meal of tapas and local dishes under the stars on the festival’s closing night, crafted by the town’s top chefs.
Malaga charms with its gorgeously colorful flowers, palm fringed boulevards, lush foliage, scenic water views and lively pedestrian walkways. You’re sure to find people chatting, eating and drinking in al fresco cafes. With a recent revamp, historic buildings have been restored and the port has been spectacularly rebuilt with a new beautiful grand promenade.
I marveled at the Moorish Alcazaba Fortress perched high above the Roman Theater. Art aficionados will love this ‘City of Museums’ with over 30, including one honoring the work of a native son; Museo Picasso Malaga contains the family’s private collection. After all this culture, you may want to kick back and relax at one of the many sun drenched sandy beaches.
Just out of town there’s more: Trek the newly reopened, redone popular Caminito del Rey for breathtaking vistas. Savor a gastronomic lunch at idyllic Venta San Antonio, perhaps stay the night at Hotel Cortijo San Antonio (www.ventasanantonio.com). Take a jaunt to the upscale resort town Marbella with its yachts and swanky restaurants such as BiBo de Dani Garcia and sizzling night life.

SEVILLE
Seville intoxicates the senses with its orange tree lined streets, sounds of Flamenco and tasty tapas. The capital of Andalusia is known for its ocher color palaces, Baroque facades and elegant ambiance. A visit to Palacio de las Duenas, the palatial residence of the Duchess of Alba, is a must. Recently opened to the public are the rooms where this beloved Seville icon, a bohemian-chic Aristocrat, entertained Jackie Kennedy and had her daily flamenco lessons amid her prestigious collection of Roman sculptures, art and Flamenco fans. Don’t miss the Flamenco Museum where you learn about the dance, view the costumes, watch films of the greats such as the spellbinding Antonio Gades and see a live show.
The Royal Alcázar Palace’s impressive gardens, courtyard of dolls and maids and sumptuous Hall of Ambassadors evoke the stirring images of A Thousand and One Nights. Also stupendous is the gigantic Gothic Seville Cathedral with the world’s biggest altarpiece and famed minaret turned belltower, the Giralda. For dinner Spain’s oldest restaurant, the atmospheric El Rinconcillo, served up excellent regional cuisine. I overnighted at the centrally located Becquer Hotel, in a handsome room, stylishly decorated with a lovely balcony. www.hotelbecquer.com

GRANADA
For a leisurely lunch, the luxurious Hotel La Bobadilla set in the middle of olive groves with exceptional food and scenic views was splendid. www.barcelolabobadilla.com
Granada, with its beautiful buildings against the backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains, contains Spain’s greatest monument. The Alhambra, a colossal Royal City, has long inspired poets, musicians, writers and romantics. The magnificent palaces with intricately carved medieval walls, glazed-tile walkways, elaborate honeycomb-domed ceilings and soaring arabesqued archways transported me back to the time of sultans and harems.
The Court of the Myrtles’ reflecting pool and otherworldly star pattern representing the seven heavens of Paradise in the Chamber of the Ambassadors as well as the Courtyard of the Lions are just some of the dazzling attractions. Later that evening a dinner of fine food and wine with panoramic Alhambra views at Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicolas was utterly entrancing.
For more information about Spain, visit www.andalucia.org or www.spain.info
For an exceptional tour guide, contact consummate professional, Trinidad Blanco at www.tierraeventos.com
Delta offers daily nonstop service from JFK to Malaga, Spain through the end of September.

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