Vicky Bell, Retail Travel Sales Consultant at our Norwich travel store in Jarrold’s, travelled with Kirker Holidays to the Spanish region of Andalusia. Here are the highlights from her short four-night trip…
(Hotel names/Ship name): Parador Carmona, Parador Jaen, Parador Malaga Golf
Airline: easyJet & Monarch
Duration: 4 Nights
Our flight out was with easyJet and, having never flown with them before, I was pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the airline. Everything was all very speedy from check-in to the departure gate and departing on time. The crew on board were very pleasant, but there isn’t much legroom. However, with the flight being short this doesn’t pose a problem for me. I was surprised that the seats didn’t recline, but I guess that’s the deal on low-cost airlines.
Our flight home was with Monarch. Again, it was a very pleasant flight; very quick at check-in and boarding and this time there was much more leg room with the seats. The crew were also very friendly.
On both flights, there was a range of meals and drinks to buy and these were at reasonable prices. However, I did hear someone trying to order a particular hot sandwich, but the airline had run out. This seems a bit unfair to the people towards the back of the plane as the trolley didn’t get to them till last and by this time a lot of the options were gone. I would recommend bringing some food on with you in case this happens to you during your flight.
I was very privileged to stay in the Paradors of Spain, which are government-run hotels.
Our first Parador was the 4 star Carmona, which is situated at the top of this beautiful old town. This hotel is a fourteenth-century Arabic fortress which has been restored to offer travellers modern luxury but still keeping its ancient traditional charm. In the centre of the hotel is a beautiful tiled courtyard with a fountain centrepiece. It is tastefully furnished with old style wood, leather furnishing, rugs and coloured drapes. This is a very charming hotel with very attentive staff and one I could fully recommend.
Our second hotel was the Parador Jaen; a 13th-century Arabic castle situated on top of a hill, overlooking the city of Jaen and the Andalusian countryside. This hotel was a real treat. The drive up to the castle winds around the mountain and offers you breath-taking views. Inside the castle, it is just like, well, a castle! Stone walls throughout, with full, life-sized armour in the corners of the corridors. The restaurant and bar area has been kept as traditional as possible and you really feel like you have stepped back in time and are experiencing real history.
Although the Jaen only has 44 rooms, there is a real sense of space with long dimly lit corridors and big, but simply furnished rooms. Each room offers a huge balcony and views over the countryside or the town. This was my favourite Parador and one I could have stayed in for days to just soak up the history of this beautifully restored castle. The staff were very attentive and you could tell how proud they were to work in such surroundings.
Our third hotel was the Malaga Golf Parador - one of the more modern Paradors, built on a golf course overlooking the sea. However, I wouldn’t recommend the beach as the sand is very muddy and brown, which is something to do with the minerals in the sea. There are 70 bedrooms which are very modern, bright and spacious; all offering balconies overlooking the golf course and giving you sea views.
Although the hotel is very clean, spacious, and contemporary in design, it does lack a certain charm that the other two Paradors have. The staff had a slightly surly attitude where you didn’t feel you could approach them if you had a problem and therefore it was my least favourite of the hotels we stayed in.
Our trip included visits to Seville, Cordoba, Carmona, Jaén, Granada and Malaga.
We were treated to a visit and dinner at the beautifully restored, 5-star Alfonso hotel in Seville, plus a full city walking tour by an excellent Kirker guide who took us to a new attraction in Seville called the Metropol Parasol or ‘The Mushroom’ to the locals. This is a plateau you walk up, shaped like a mushroom, where you are treated to stunning views for miles over Seville and its surrounding area.
In each city that we went to we were given full walking tours by Kirker’s excellent guides, which did include several cathedral visits in each city. I have never been to so many cathedrals before; all of which were beautiful and with their own stories and history.
In Granada, we visited the Alhambra Palace, which is a must see attraction. You could spend hours walking around here, soaking up the history. I would fully recommend a guide who will tell you all about the history and who will take you to all the important places of the area. Also, by booking a Kirker guide, you will bypass any queues, of which there are many.
My favourite part of the trip was our stay in the Parador Jaen, also including the city itself. Jaen is positioned in the hills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and has very steep, narrow streets. The most important building is the renaissance style Jaen Cathedral of which construction was initiated in 1570 and finished in 1800. Due to the amount of time it took to build, you can see many different styles of building work and features. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have been in.
Our trip would take a lot of beating. However, I feel that we visited too many cities in such a short amount of time. In some cities, we only had a couple of hours to look around due to the long distance it took to get to each place, and most of this time was spent in cathedrals! We didn’t get to appreciate some of the area because we were rushed through just so the tour guides could get us into the cathedrals. Each cathedral is very beautiful and holds lots of history, but too much time was spent looking around them in my opinion. So I would definitely say to not include so many and enjoy more the cities.
I would definitely recommend the Andalusian area of Spain. With its quaint, cobbled, historical cities, excellent shopping, and beautiful cathedrals, this region has something for everyone. A city break with Kirker will offer the best of the best to anyone wanting to see this part of the world. All of their hotels are centrally positioned and they have very experienced tour guides on hand to enhance your holiday experience.
I would definitely recommend booking a tour guide, even if it’s for just a short city tour. Their knowledge is second to none, and they really make you appreciate the city that you are in. If you wanted to see a specific attraction, I would encourage you to book a tour guide as they will pick you up and take you back to your hotel, as well as giving you all of their local knowledge.
I would recommend stays in the Paradors in Carmona and Jaen, for their traditional charm and excellent service. Anyone who loves history is in for a real treat visiting this region of Spain. I would recommend staying at least two nights in Seville, a night in Granada and at least two nights in the Parador Jaen.
We were really well looked after by Cathryn and the Kirker team. I cannot thank them enough for all that they did for us in the time we were there. I’d also like to thank Vicky Gladding for offering me the trip and the opportunity to visit a place I wouldn’t have probably chosen for my own holiday.
Must see? Alhambra Palace in Granada
Must do? Stay in the Parador Jaen
Must try? Some of the local dishes
Andalusia is a popular destination for families and couples looking for a relaxing summer holiday which offers more than simply lounging around the pool.
To book your holiday to this region you can visit your nearest Travel with Fred. Olsen shop or contact us via the enquiry form on the website. We have stores all over East Anglia and along the south coast, such as our travel agents in Colchester.