Autumn Holiday Photo Diary – Elviria, Benahavís, Seville

(Flowers on a grey day outside the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña, Mijas Pueblo)

Well, this was a long time coming; our autumn holiday! And what a holiday it was. I did a couple of city breaks this year, and to balance out all that pavement pounding and sightseeing, a holiday full of sunshine and chilling out was required. This one was the whole enchilada – two weeks along the coast this past October. Lazing around at the pool, by the sea, eating, drinking and most importantly, recharging batteries.

I mentioned this was a long time coming because this post has been as all over the place, just as I’ve been recently. I started organising the pictures in Granada just before a trip to Dublin, then organised a handful travelling from Madrid back to Granada, then wrote a little in the air from Malaga to Madrid to catch a flight to Lisbon. Now I’m firmly putting the nail in the coffin travelling back to Granada again after an incredible week-long press trip in Portugal with Simplyb Tours.
Time has flown by, and while everyone says that, it’s true. This part of the year always, always does. By the time my parents left Granada at the end of October (which feels like it was about 3 weeks ago, not 6) I got back to normality, saw some friends, was back into the Granada groove; and before knew it, I was off again. I’m not complaining though, not one bit. 2017 has been full to the brim; fast-paced and fun, and it’s not over yet.
On a side note: I also used to curse myself regularly for taking so many photographs; whether on my camera or iPhone. But to be honest, I’ve learned to embrace it. It definitely means more work and getting my act together (and more scrolling for you) but hey, it’s who I am, I take way too many photos! So if I can’t beat me, I’ll join me.

So here we go, a recap of our time (‘our’ referring to six of us, Iñaki and I, my parents, more family – Helen and Victor) spent in Granada, Elviria, Benahavís, Seville and some places in between. A lot of these places (old haunts) have appeared here before, as have the restaurants. But it’s nice to share the collection along with some tips and a handful of new discoveries, and it means I have even more chapters in my digital scrapbook to look back on (even the dodgy quality of mobile photography circa 2013) So while I sometimes find these image heavy posts take some time, I always appreciate them afterwards and I’m glad I have them. Like this recent holiday, the blog holds some fantastic memories.

Sundowners with my parents at The Alhambra Palace Hotel, soon after they arrived. An absolute must if you’re visiting, the balcony truly has the best views of Granada’s famous sunsets. That evening I had my first White Lady cocktail (gin, lemon, triple sec) and it didn’t disappoint! We caught up on news of home and I loved having them stay. I really like bringing visitors here, especially for a pre-dinner drink as it never fails to impress. The prices are about 3 times more expensive than the bars down below, but it’s worth it for the views (For example, a caña is €3.50, all cocktails start at €10).

You can see one side of Granada from the hotel (The Alhambra is just up the hill behind the hotel, so it can’t be seen from the balcony) so we dined in Estrella de San Nicolas to enjoy the view from the opposite side; the golden lights of The Alhambra. That night we experienced more or less a 360-degree view of the city. The food at Estrella de San Nicolas is very good, and not too expensive. If you want a seat on the balcony, I recommend reserving a table via their online form here.
(You can also go up to the Mirador de San Nicolas for the same views and atmosphere without dining!)
We then went to the Meliá hotel to the Garbo Bar (named after Greta Garbo, the signature cocktail of the same name I can also recommend) where I often go to sit in their big squishy armchairs and read. Escobar looked after us well (he always does, I often see him on my Sunday visits) and gave us deliciously delicate little cakes to try. David is a great guy who works there too – a master at cocktails, really professional, always scanning the bar (rare in Granada, lol) and very easy on the eyes. The Garbo team often bring around treats…a really nice touch. I love going to the Melia, it’s a great place for a quiet drink or a cup of coffee if you *gasp!* want a break from tapas and a little quiet time.

This shot is from an afternoon spent chatting away with my Mam outside the cathedral. My Dad then joined us after he spent most of the morning and early afternoon working (no surprise there) and we all went to Baraka, my favourite place in Granada for brunch. Order the eggs benedict or eggs florentine and thank me later.

Cava and tapas at Puerta del Carmen, one of the best places in the city and a favourite amongst parents and friends who come to visit. Their tapas are always good; expect a mini burger, prawns like above, croquetas, juicy slivers of jamón or fried aubergines with honey; my sister’s favourite.

The day after this shot was taken Helen and Victor came to Granada and I showed them around (as much as I could, as a national holiday meant the city was super busy) and they really seemed to like it. I’m glad so many people in my life have experienced the beauty of Granada, and I’m looking forward to welcoming more people in 2018. Only fun people allowed though. You know how it is.

Iñaki arrived in Granada on Friday night and we set off for Elviria on Saturday morning. This was our first lunch together in Elviria as a group. We went to a local place called Volare, just across the bridge. Iñaki and I shared carpaccio and our usual, provolone cheese. It ain’t a real blog post if provolone doesn’t feature!

That night we went to Pinzimonio for dinner where I had my usual; mussels in Parisienne sauce followed by prawns wrapped in sole in champagne sauce. Heaven. Ugly to photograph though, so you’re not missing much there. Taste-wise, get on it. The whipped garlic butter is a mustie too. That stuff is pure danger.

Alanda Club Marbella; the view from our balcony. Our apartment has two balconies, so you get the best of both views. Mountains on one side, the sea on the other.

Flowers around the resort. You’ll spy many a little lizard too.

We spent Sunday afternoon at the resort pool and then headed down to the beach. I used to hate everything about the beach, but now I love it. I couldn’t wait to get my feet on the sand.

Life’s a beach! Mojitos by the sea. October sun is the best kind of sun. Not too hot, not too cold – just right.

We stayed until the sun set, watching the last of the colours fade back at the apartment balcony; the best seat in the house. The two images of the beach above…can you tell who took what? The top one is mine, the fancier one is Iñakis. He shared some pictures he took on his phone from the trip with me, and they feature here. See if you can spot them (his talent is quite obvious)

Pre-dinner drinks (and affection) at the clubhouse before an amazing meal at Dragon del Mar Chinese. The food is so good, and there’s plenty of it, lots of flavours and variety. You get a pretty sizeable complimentary drink at the end too. Tip: order the duck Cantonese and the Singapore chow mein.

Early afternoon skies, and a typical lunch with everyone at the apartment. We ate like this a few days during the trip if we weren’t out exploring. My favourite kind of lunch; salads, meats, cheeses, eggs, pâté, crackers, olive oil and fresh bread. A bit of everything keeps the heart happy and the belly full. Pretty sure that’s an old proverb.

Another beach day but with a new discovery! We found Pepe El Lido Beach Bar and it became our favourite. A shack-like bar with surprisingly good music (which of course made the atmosphere great) a varied food menu (hot dogs, burgers, pasta, salads) with a terrace and sun loungers right outside the main entrance. We spent a few hours there, forgetting the time (as one does on holiday) and when we paid the bill, it was one of the cheapest. Win-win.
The last two are Iñaki’s shots. As if you couldn’t tell.

Ready for dinner in head to toe Zara. Even my clutch a couple of images down is a Zara find. Ignore ridiculous tan lines on feet.

Dinner was at Da Bruno in Cabopino. I love when we go there! The colours, fairy lights, everything is magical. The only bad thing? The menu has so many delicious things, I get order anxiety trying to choose. It’s definitely a thing.

I started with baked goats cheese with red wine jam, and my main was their incredible steak Rossini – steak with foie gras, red wine gravy, potato dauphinoise and fresh crunchy vegetables. There were more steaks and pizzas and salads and prawns pil-pil but I only photographed mine. Whoops! I blame the distracting food. Iñaki ordered their pasta (all made fresh) and it was incredible. His portion was definitely the smallest at the table though. Lots of diners ordered pasta tossed in a big fat wheel of pecorino which was fun to watch. Everyone loves a good dinner and show combo.

An overcast afternoon spent up in the town of Mijas Pueblo, also known as ‘The White Village’. We visited the Ermita, stopped for lunch and we (mostly Helen) spent some time browsing the wall to wall shops and little markets. 

That night we dined at Restaurante Elviria, a serendipity find this time last year. The food was incredible in both presentation and flavour, and the service was really good. The wine had its very own little decanting table (I love when restaurants in Spain do that!) and it was served in enormous balloon glasses (I love when they use those!) Just look at all the amazing colours in every dish. My ceviche was a work of art and any sort of crème brûlée infused with tonka bean and coffee is glorious in my book.
The only thing they could do to finish off a well-savoured meal? Offer a digestif; most restaurants of this quality and style in Spain do so. 

That freezing cold seawater ain’t no joke.

On Wednesday morning we woke up to heavy rain, wind and dull skies. No one seemed to mind though, we were all having a great time. We went to La Cañada where I had the beautiful cup of oil-slicked looking coffee above. Such a satisfying shot! We just walked around for an hour and I bought nothing, which is a new record for me on a La Cañada trip.
Despite the gross weather,
 Iñaki and I decided to brave the beach after lunch and see if Bar Lido was open, and sure enough, it was. In fact, it was the only bar open on the beach that day. Another reason to give those heroes some business! We sat inside because the wind was crazy and played Yahtzee. Ireland vs. Argentina, of course. My Mam introduced Iñaki to Yahtzee the first night, and he and the dice became fast friends. We still play it quite a bit, especially on planes.

That night we went to Albert’s in Cabopino where almost everyone ordered a cheeseburger (go team, cravings by telepathy) and Iñaki and I shared salt & chilli squid and prawns pil-pil with pesto bread to start. I like Albert’s, but it’s definitely one of the most expensive restaurants in the area by far. I enjoy the food but can’t put my finger on it – something is missing for me.

Thursday we took a trip down to Cala de Mijas. We went for a drive so Helen and my Mam could look in souvenir shops, but there weren’t really any decent finds. The only one we spotted had the token (and rather cheeky) male and female anatomy ceramics that most people wouldn’t put in their garages. Unsuccessful in our souvenir endeavours, we succeeded in our quest for coffee, and stopped for one in a nice little cafe along the coast where Victor took this candid shot. Candid shots are the best, don’t you think? Forced smiles make me look half tranquilised.

It cleared up that day and the sun shined, so we spent the afternoon at the pool and later on the beach. Again. I won’t bore you with more beach or water shots. I promise! It’s pretty much the only beach I see year to year, so one has to make the most of it.

Here’s another sunset though. You can never see too many of those.

Dragon del Mar was so darn enjoyable, we just had to go back. And that’s what we did that Thursday night. I had to share this picture of our table…look at all that alcohol! Oops.
We had a fantastic meal but didn’t stop there. We went to Harmon’s, the local Irish bar for drinks afterwards. Irish bars and drinks, always a recipe for trouble. We met another gang of Irish (predictable from a mile off) and sure enough, songs were sung. Many songs. Especially Irish ones. Go figure. At midnight we all sang Happy Birthday to Iñaki and I’ve never seen him happier. He loves when the Irish burst into song, and of course, adores his birthday. Who doesn’t?! He should have milked the whole month though. I better teach him my ways. Rookie.
Friday morning I brought the birthday boy to brunch at Volare (the cure) where we both ordered pancakes with maple syrup. He had a juice, I had a delicious concoction of what I think was coffee, banana, nut or coconut milk and maple syrup – I can’t find any menus online to confirm exactly. Either way, it is an elixir of life. We went back to Alanda and spent some time by the pool before we were beckoned from the balcony. Streamers, balloons, presents, cava and a cake were all there as a birthday surprise.
Truth be told I organised the cake during brunch, distracting Iñaki with some sort of white lie, and he bought it, the chump. It was three different types of chocolate mousse and it was DIVINE. The best I could get with no dulce de leche cakes to be found. His presents were all so generous and thoughtful and had a running theme – Ireland! What can I say, he’s our country’s biggest fan. Needless to say, he really enjoyed his birthday. Mission accomplished by all.

For our final night together in Elviria we went to The Playwright; another old favourite. It’s quite a special little spot and one of the places I most look forward to each year. It being Irish themed and perfect for a special occasion, we decided to go there for our last night and for Iñaki’s birthday meal.
We started with a drink at the bar before moving to our round table in the corner. Restaurants with a selection of round tables always make me happy. A table is for conversation, it needs to be round!
The menu never changes much, but it really doesn’t have to. I had the fried black pudding with goats cheese and apple puree, followed by the fillet of Angus beef with cheddar mash. Most went for steak, and starters varied between mussels cooked with coconut, chilli and lime, prawns pil-pil (I still maintain they make the best) and deep fried brie. The magret of duck pictured above was ordered by my dear Mother. The handsome looking duck you see before you is marinated in herbs and spices served with sauteed potatoes and a Cointreau and cumquat sauce.
The Playwright offers an early bird menu, Sunday lunch menu and host Christmas parties. Their sister restaurant, Becketts, is in the city of Marbella, just 30 minutes away.
Fun fact: I had my first espresso martini here in 2012. I’ve tried many since but to me, they will always be the original and best.

And then there were four. My parents, Iñaki and I left Elviria with Benahavís as our next stop, but we didn’t go directly. Where’s the fun in that? Instead, we went all around Ronda, scaling the mountains and taking in the views (me in the front as I always feel nauseous in the car…there are pros and cons to everything) spotting some adorable goats along the way! I wanted to tell them how much I love their cheese, but I didn’t want to scare them away. And I don’t speak goat.

We stopped in Ronda in time for lunch, after our pleasant drive through the mountains. We went to a little Italian spot in the square and everyone ordered pizza. I had my first Bianca – a pizza with onion, ham and mushroom and mozzarella, with a base of alfredo sauce instead of tomato. Delicious, but rich. Better shared, 100%.

After a short trip in the car from Ronda to Benahavís (only about 45 minutes, if you’re thinking of branching out and doing some driving away from the coast) we arrived at Gran Hotel Benahavís, a really lovely hotel with a lot of personality. It’s probably the best choice in town, as there tend to be more apartments up for rent than hotel offerings. There are about 7,000 people living in the town of Benahavís, also know as ‘The Dining Room,’ due to the popularity of the restaurants there. It’s a busy area for golfing, home to 9 of the Costa del Sol golf courses. The town itself is pretty as a picture, clean, full of flowers…very well manicured.

The view from our room. We checked in and went straight to the pool, of which they have two. There’s nothing like going for a swim with a bunch of mountains for company. So serene you guys.

Cool dude in the pool. He looks pensive – I figure he was thinking about the dulce de leche ice cream he just ate, wishing he had another.

Lobby accents. No two pieces of furniture or paintings are the same at this hotel. I love the courtyard too, with a babbling fountain in the centre. The perfect place for breakfast in the morning.

The reason we visit Benahavís every year is to dine at Los Abanicos, an amazing restaurant in the centre of town. Well, actually, two reasons – we go to La Bodeguita first, a tiny little bar next door. The bar is run by a husband and wife team and now their son is involved too. The walls are covered with photographs of their lives, football memorabilia and other kinds of knick-knacks.

The owner keeps tabs on orders and bills with a copybook (super old school) and his wife does the cooking. We tend to go here for giant pre-dinner gin and tonics. A must visit in Benahavís, loved by both locals and tourists.

At Los Abanicos we started with the bread, crackers and pâtés and all that good stuff (Los Abanicos have a tendency to overfeed) and we ordered fried morcilla and chorizo to start. Another tradition that will last forever. The morcilla of Benahavís is my absolute favourite in Spain, followed by Zaragoza (I love the spicy ones). I had my favourite fish of all time, and one of my favourite dishes on the planet; John Dory and prawns in a creamy tarragon sauce. It’s life-changing. Trust me.
The waiters also fill the table with plenty of sides – rice, chips and vegetables, so you won’t leave hungry. The men drank Emilio Moro and the ladies drank Gran Viña Sol. It was a wonderful night. My Dad made an interesting point though, Los Abanicos now have tables taking up the entire street, not to mention all the tables inside. He felt with all the extra tables they service wasn’t as good as always, and I get what he’s saying. The food is delicious, but monopolising the entire street is a little greedy. Forget some of the tables and focus on your customers, guys!
I forgive them though, since they gave us a digestif (apple liqueur) and I then asked for pacharán for everyone so things ended as they should. Restaurante Elviria, take note!

Morning light. My tan is sure coming along nicely. I call it milk bottle glam.

Breakfast in the courtyard of Gran Hotel. I had more than this to eat, but this was my favourite part. Croissants make me weak, so does Nocilla (as does Nutella).

The last picture I took of Benahavís before we continued on our road trip. This time we were headed for Seville. I lied in my recent Seville post when I mentioned it was the final frontier. I just couldn’t stay away. Olé!

Before Seville, we stopped in Jerez for an hour or so. As y’all know, the city is famous for sherry and brandy production. Sure there’s a picture of Uncle Pepe himself above, he’s pretty famous. I mean, his sign is in Puerta del Sol in Madrid. I really like those lights. Anyway, other than the beautiful light in Jerez de la Frontera Cathedral, I wasn’t that impressed with the city. Perhaps I just need someone to show me around?

The views from the rooftop bar at our hotel, Hotel Fernando III in the heart of Santa Cruz, Seville.

Colours on the third floor.

Italian delights and cañas at Bar Alfalfa. It was only a matter of time. I could never stay away!

We spent most of our first day strolling around, stopping from time to time in peaceful little squares. Mam and I looked around all the little shops and boutiques. We really took the time to slow down and not do much at all, really enjoying the final days of our trip.

The lounge at our hotel. So warmly lit and inviting.
Breakfast in…where else? We had coffees, juice and crispy baguettes with mortadella and provolone cheese. Bar Alfalfa is such a nice place to start the day! And go for snacks. And lunch, and finish the day. And have a midnight snack…

We spent our last day in Seville exploring, meandering the narrow streets, stopping into a cathedral, shop, square, the usual. The clothing brand, ‘Emma’ which I took photos of for obvious reasons was in a classic Sevillian building, now serving as an arcade or little market, housing clothing and jewellery and pretty things from all kinds of designers.  We walked along Avenida de Constitución and stopped for a coffee before visiting Parque de Maria Luisa and of course, Plaza de España.

We enjoyed a spectacular long leisurely late lunch (all the ‘l’s) at San Marco, which I’ll write about separately to this post. We passed it lots of times on our trip last July and honestly forgot about it, so booked it for this Seville trip, and I’m so glad we did.

Hours later we finished our night in Bar Alfalfa (nope, not joking) where the atmosphere was electric (as usual) and I introduced my parents to the deliciousness and dangers of melted scamorza. I just realised I’ve used so many brackets in this post. It must be all the coffee I’ve had today. Sorry about that.
Anyway, the next day we said our goodbyes to Iñaki at Sevilla Santa Justa train station. He decided to make the journey from Seville as there’s a train direct to Madrid that takes only 2 hours, and Granada currently doesn’t have an operating train station. Here’s hoping it’ll be accessible again by early 2018. We weren’t too sad saying goodbye as we knew we’d see Iñaki again a couple of weeks later for my sister’s birthday celebrations in Dublin.

Hotel Alhambra Palace from the outside.
And just like that, we were back in Granada. In true Granada fashion, the book fair was going on. Granada ALWAYS has something going on. It’s one of the things I adore about it, no other place in my life have I see so many celebrations, parades, live music, markets and such well-organised community get-togethers, concerts or car shows. As I type this, the place is hopping outside, and the Christmas market is in full swing.
We ended the holiday pretty much as we began – drinks on the balcony of the Alhambra palace. This time, as the sun went down, we toasted to a wonderful few weeks.

♥ ♥ ♥