January and February is a quiet time of year for us here at Go Cotswolds, so we use this time to down-tools and take a winter break. We usually spend part of this time on a family holiday (we’re too busy during the British summer to take any time off!) and catch up on our business admin – tax returns, website updates, vehicle maintenance and all that boring stuff…

So what did we do on our winter break this year?

Well, in recent years, Tom has got a little bit obsessed with cycling – despite not actually owning a bike! He is an avid fan of major cycling events like the Tour De France, the Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta a España, and it was the latter that provided the inspiration for this year’s winter holiday: a month travelling around Andalucía in Spain.

So, on the 3rd January we waved goodbye to a very cold and frosty Birmingham Airport, and landed two hours later in the warmer Spanish city of Málaga. We did and saw so much in our month away that there isn’t time for me to tell you about it all, so here – in no particular order – are our Top 5…

Barbary macaques at the top of The Rock

1. Gibraltar. It was quite strange to suddenly be spending British pounds again and eating fish and chips in a traditional British pub! We also took a cable car trip up to the “top of the Rock” where we encountered the famous and rather cheeky Gibraltar monkeys, and experienced walking across the runway of Gibraltar airport, which also doubles as the main road into town!

2. El Caminito del Rey. This 5 km walking trail used to be known as the most dangerous in the world, and was actually closed for several years after people fell to their deaths! Fortunately, it has been completely renovated and is very safe, but is still only open to limited numbers of ticket holders each day. Since children under the age of 7 are not permitted on the trail, Tom and I had to take turns doing the walk so that the other could look after our 18-month-old daughter Zoe. It was a shame we couldn’t do it all together, but the scenery and views were stunning so it was totally worth it (see above for an example!).

Orange trees in the grounds of Seville cathedral

3. Sevilla. We’re not easily impressed by big cities, but we were completely enchanted by Seville! The famous Moorish cathedral is fabulously impressive, as are the views from the rather more modern “Mushrooms” – an unusual wooden structure that is part sculpture, part viewing platform. Tom managed to get tickets to an FC Sevilla football game, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and we were all extremely impressed with the churros con chocolate – especially Zoe!

Team Benjamin taking in the view in Granada

4. Granada. The Alhambra – a complex of ancient Moorish palaces and gardens sited on the edge of Granada – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is absolutely stunning. We rushed our visit here a little bit (turns out toddlers don’t appreciate ancient architecture as much as grown-ups do!), but I’m so glad that we managed to get tickets – it’s notoriously difficult! We had our first rainy days of the trip while we were in Granada, but this meant we could spend some time ducking in and out of various tapas bars – we were thrilled to find that it’s a “thing” in Granada that you get a free tapa with every drink. Everywhere! Our Airbnb host recommended his favourite tapas bars to us, and the food was amazing in all of them.

Our little exploradora enjoying the local fruit in Driving over Lemons country

5. The Alpujarras. We were inspired to visit this beautiful mountainous area for two reasons: 1) the book “Driving Over Lemons”, an autobiographical account of his move this region by former Genesis drummer Chris Stewart, and 2) La Vuelta a España (of course). We stayed just outside the town of Órgiva (turns out we were only about 3 miles from Chris Stewart’s house!), but used this as a base to drive around, explore and see if we could find any bidons (water bottles discarded by Vuelta cyclists. We didn’t). The scenery here is just amazing – although I must confess that after visiting the Alpujarran town of Trévelez, a.k.a. “Ham City”, I may not be eating any more serrano ham for a while – ham overload!

What now?

Now that we’re back in Blighty, it’s back to reality, but if this weeks’ tours – our first of the year – are anything to go by, 2019 looks set to be a fabulous one for us!