Andalusia: Where Our Executive Digital Editor Will Return Once His Travels Resume

Memories of freedom, relaxation and discovery in southern Spain.

With our 2020 travel plans temporarily on hold, we find ourselves returning to memories of past adventures, finding joy in journeys that resonated, inspired, elevated – and that taught us something meaningful about ourselves and the wider world we share. In this new series, we revisit our best–ever trips with you, and hope you’ll do the same for us. This week, digital executive editor Malcolm Gilderdale travels back to Spain, where he visited in the fall of 2017.

enRoute Tell us why this trip in particular keeps coming back to you now – what made it so memorable?

Malcolm Gilderdale One of my favourite things about travel is the idea of personal freedom it represents: not only do you visit places that are heartbreakingly beautiful, you are (temporarily) unencumbered by little concerns like “working for a living.” My trip to Spain with my wife and (then three–year–old) son was a delicious slice of indulgence for the senses. We wandered through cobblestone streets in mountain towns, touched the rough–hewn outer walls of the Alhambra palace, smelled the sea air in La Herradura, lived in homes filled with books and light... At this moment escape is at a premium, and I can still close my eyes and feel free when I remember our time there.

May 20, 2020
A boat ride off the coast of Costa del Sol, Spain
Loving the Costa del Sol is even easier while out on the water.
A balcony view of the sunset over the water in from La Herradura, Spain
Our own personal sunset, viewed from the balcony in La Herradura.

ER Why did you decide to go to Spain for this trip?

MG This was our second time in Spain. Before we became parents, my wife and I went to Barcelona and had a wonderful time – exceptional food, stunning architecture and lifelong friendships with fellow visitors, who happened to live down the street from us in Toronto. This time around, we wanted to see another side of Spanish life, and Andalusia, the birthplace of flamenco and a region of wild beauty and rich history, seemed like the perfect place to start.

The pebbly beaches of the La Herradura region
In the off season, La Herradura’s pebbly beach is yours to explore.
Nerja's sidestreets are lined with pretty doorways and windows
Patios in Nerja overlooking the sea
Nerja’s sidestreets are filled with doorways and windows nice enough that you might be tempted to move in permanently.
#backdeckgoals in Nerja.

ER The high season for tourism in the region is June to August. Why go in late September?

MG We often travel in the fall, when there are fewer visitors around. We enjoyed being some of the only visitors in La Herradura, a lovely seaside town which gets very busy in the summer months. We had La Herradura castle (a small “shore battery” designed to repel 18th–century pirates) entirely to ourselves. We spent a lazy morning at Cantarriján, a secluded nudist beach, with all of our clothes on and not a naturist in sight. We descended into the otherworldly caves at Nerja with only one or two other people. And our rented apartment overlooked the pebble beach – usually empty of all but a few locals, so that it felt like the glorious nightly sunsets were solely for us.

Beaches line the coast of an ancient Roman-built settlement in Nerja, Spain
The majestic coast of an ancient Roman-built settlement in Nerja, Spain
The ancient Romans built three settlements in Nerja. It’s easy to see why.
A blue tiled motif at the bottom of a pool in the mountains of Spain
At the pool, in the mountains.

ER It sounds you did a lot of relaxing and unwinding.

MG A lot of the trip was relaxing – but one of my most vivid memories is three hours of white–knuckled driving up a series of switchbacks to our hotel in Bubión, a village in the Alpujarra region high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I am not the most confident driver, and while I was tempted to take in the breathtaking views on our journey up, I didn’t have any breath to spare and refused to take my eyes off the road ahead. Still, the drive was worth it: we checked in and then went on an epic walk along worn dirt paths that took us between mountain towns, with a stop at a beautiful country inn for dinner. We got back to our hotel exhausted and exhilarated.

Long vines hang from potted plants on the side of white painted homes in Bubión
Getting lost among the whitewashed walls of Bubión.
The vista in the Las Alpujarras region borders the Sierra Nevada mountains
Taking in the vista in the Las Alpujarras region on the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
An uphill path on the streets of Bubión, Spain
A downhill path on the streets of Bubión, Spain
The streets of Bubión take visitors through stunning ups and downs.

ER Is there one place you visited that really sticks with you?

MG The trip was filled with stunning scenery, but one place that I can instantly conjure up in my mind is the grounds outside the Alhambra palace in Granada. We made the (incorrect) assumption that, during the off–season, we could easily get day–of tickets to access the palace itself. While we were disappointed not to go inside, wandering the perimeter was a trip in itself. As an avowed nerd who has seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy more times than is healthy, it felt like visiting a place out of my imagination – an effect magnified by seeing my son’s awe at the scale and majesty of it all.

Majestic rooftop views from Granada homes in Spain
Picturesque hilltop homes in Granada, Spain
There are no bad views in Granada.
A rooftop view of the Alhambra palace in Grenada
A jewel in the heart of Granada: the Alhambra palace and fortress was built between 1238 and 1358.

ER Next time you’re in that part of the world, what will your itinerary look like?

MG Although we spent a wonderful two weeks in Andalusia, I know we barely scratched the surface. When I get back, I’ll have to return to Granada and the Alhambra (this time booking an advance ticket and going all the way inside). From there, I’ll drive to Málaga to check out its resurgent art scene and the Picasso Museum. Then it’s on to Seville to explore the city’s narrow streets and catch a show in the Triana neighbourhood, where flamenco was born. And finally, I’d like to add to my collection of visits to ancient Roman ruins and head to Baelo Claudio in Bolonia.

A shop front in Granada decorated in tiled motifs
A walk through Granada yields plenty of tile inspiration.
The sun sets over the flower-covered homes of Granada
Wandering Granada’s historic streets as the sun sets is like walking through time.

We’d love to hear about your favourite travel memory. Just send us a photo and 50–100 words about why this trip in particular had such an impact on you – and why you can’t wait to go back.