We live in the tiny village of Lucainena de las Torres, ‘one the most beautiful villages in Spain’ in the province of Almeria in the south-east of Spain and there are some beautiful things to see and experience here.
However, sometimes you just fancy a change of scenery, so one of the things we like doing from time to time is visiting the city and the environs of Granada for a couple of days, especially as it isn’t too far and we can be there in under two hours in our little Fiat 500.
On past trips to Granada, we have taken the ‘northern’ route around the Alpujarras via Guadix, but this time we fancied a change and thought we would go past Almería along the southern coast where we ended up in the small resort of Calahonda – not to be confused with the one near Marbella.
It was a windy morning so when we arrived the waves were crashing on the beach making me think more of the Atlantic than the Mediterranean. Maybe it was being by the sea, but as is often the case since moving to Andalucia eight years ago, it very quickly felt like a fried fish kind of lunchtime.
But before lunch, we had a quick look at the the Parroquia de la Inmaculada Concepción church right next to the beach. It’s a curious Hispanic colonial-looking church, not unusual given the history of the area linked to sugar cane in Motril just a few minutes away.
The church also had some inspiring poetry on its outer walls and as a church, I guess it’s quite handy if you ever fancy morning mass followed by a swim in the sea!
After a bit of nature and culture, just around the corner we happened upon the wonderful and very local Taberna Ancla where we had a plate of rather delicious gambas rebozadas (battered prawns) for lunch.
And then it was time to get back on the road to our next stop, Motril. Although we had lived in Granada for two years and driven past it many times, we had never actually visited, so we thought we’d pop by this time.
The second biggest town after Granada in the province, I wasn’t expecting Motril to be much more than a modern, functional town but I was pleasantly surprised.
On entering the town with a population of 60,000, the first thing that struck me was the stunning Parque de los Pueblos de America with its varied collection of unusual trees, public art, small lake, concert space and Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza church keeping an eye over everything from its spot at the top of the hill. It was so calming walking through the park taking it all in.
Ambling through the town later and as someone that used to work in sustainable transport, another thing I liked was the quantity of paths for cyclists and pedestrians, especially by the park. And they were actually being used.
Most of the architecture is similar to many other modern towns in Andalucia but Motril also has some interesting influences from its history with Latin America and sugar cane industry.
And then it was time to get back in the car to make our way to Órgiva. It was our first time visiting this village too.
I’d heard about the creative culture and hippie communities living on the outskirts of the village for 20 years (it transpires that there are three of them with the most well-known being Beneficio) and we did get a sense of that while we were there.
The main reason that tourists visit this village is to go hiking in the Alpujarras, but we prefer sauntering and getting a feel for the places we visit and Órgiva has a lovely, chilled vibe to it. Surprisingly, it also has one of the best pizza places I’ve been to in Spain.
Called Pizza and Love, it has bright lights and it’s noisy, like most restaurants in Andalucia, and it also has fantastic thin crust pizza. Good options if you’re veggie and they also have apple crumble for dessert which is wonderful, if like me, you’re into that kind of thing.
After a late night stroll in the village taking in some of the wonderful public art, stopping off for a drink at the very friendly Bar Rincón (where we happened upon a rather wonderful selection of photos by photographer Fred Shively) and then a nightcap at the hotel bar Palacio Nazari, we’d had a lovely evening.
What was already really noticeable is that we really felt like we were ‘getting away’. Even though we were only two hours from home, being in the province of Granada had a very different ambience to where we live in Almería.
Sunday morning was lovely. We found Panadería Gerardo, a sweet little bakery with an excellent range of baked goods and then took a couple of our purchases to a local bar for coffee. It was quiet at this time of year but I can imagine how busy it gets in summer especially.
Then after our time in the mountains and on the coast, we went to Granada. After checking in at our favourite hotel the Room Mate Leo in the city centre, we fancied some fried fish (again!) for a late-ish lunch, but it took us ages to find anywhere with some space as everywhere was just so busy.
The last few times we had been here we’d seen how quiet the city had been, especially at the peak of the pandemic, but looking at the packed bars and restaurants, things looked like whatever normal used to be.
We eventually found Los Marianos, a relatively new place and off the tourist track where we had gambas rebozadas again (it’s a current favourite). This place is just as good as Granada’s famous fried fish place called Los Diamantes and better for us that day because we could get in.
On paying the bill, some restaurants give you a little something sweet like mints or chocolates. At Los Marianos they give you a mini Magnum ice cream which is not only cute but practical after fried fish and wine. A nice touch!
As we had lived in Granada in the past and visited many times after moving to Almería, we don’t need to go to the usual tourist destinations such as the Alhambra, however incredible that place is especially.
It’s nice just to wander around and see what you find. As I think you may have gathered from this post, my favourite thing when travelling or visiting places usually includes some kind of food, coffee or alcohol which is always interesting and different wherever you go as everyone has their own twist.
Having said that we know Granada reasonably well and have a few favourite haunts and so we popped by the Realejo neighbourhood to go to Rosario Varela for their wonderful vermouth and then had dinner with friends at our favourite sushi place Potemkin run by the ever-friendly David and just round the corner from our old flat.
We may be familiar with Granada but each time we go, as with most cities, there are always new places to go and on the way back to the hotel from Potemkin, we saw a swanky new bar and restaurant called La Reina which looked interesting for future reference, especially as it is on the ground floor of what I thought was a long-derelict building.
Finding a coffee shop open at 8am on Monday morning isn’t as easy as it seems. There are one or two traditional bars open, but nowhere that sells coffee with decent baked goods until after 9am.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditional morning tostada in a bar in Andalucia but one of the reasons I enjoy going to the ‘big city’ is to have a choice of croissants and pastries in the morning. One of the few things I miss about living in London.
I found a new coffee place in the Realejo called I Need. Nice pastries, good coffee, friendly service plus cute booths on the lower level. Then we went to another old haunt Finca for fantastic coffee right by the cathedral.
After living in Andalucia for eight years, it still amazes me how impressive the cathedral is in Plaza de las Pasiegas. Then it was a quick trip to Discos Marcapasos to have a browse in a contemporary yet old-school record shop, back to the hotel and then back home to Lucainena.
As always, we had a relaxing, interesting and fun time on our weekend trip to Granada. Already looking forward to the next one!