With the three years I lived in Spain plus all the travels before, I've been lucky enough to see all corners of Spain. First as a tourist, later as a local. I must say that I liked many small towns much more than the big cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Valencia.
One of the places I really enjoyed visiting was Granada in Andalusia, South of Spain. You will discover later that this story is more about the Barcelo La Bobadilla hotel than Granada itself, because it was just so stunning I would even call it unbelievable ;)
Granada lies on the foot of the Sierra Nevada skiing mountains and the key tourist attraction there is Alhambra.
Alhambra was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-11th century by the Moorish king, Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Kingdom of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.
The architecture, art and details are just breathtaking.
I would recommend two very nice restaurants in Granda - Restaurante La Fábula & Carmen Mirador de Aixa (the photo below).
Since I went there at summer time and all the hotels were almost fully booked or way too overpriced, I decided to stay a bit outside of the city of Granada. I chose a 5 star hotel in Loja - Barceló La Bobadilla. La Bobadilla is about an hour drive from Granada, but it is totally worth it. And because I was planning on going shopping to Marbella anyway, it took us exactly half way there - also an hour drive to MARBS (haha). It is a bit pricey, but coming from a big city... It was like heaven on earth - pure relaxation, so it was well worth the 200+ EUR per night.
If you are more there to enjoy the hotel and their facilities (not so much tourist stuff) you can always dine in the hotel as well because they have awesome restaurants and amazing wine lists + a lot of different cafes and spas, pools around. So you don't have to go to the same place over and over again - it is like a little town.
On the left, you can see their La Finca gourmet restaurant, and hey leave your flipflops home, you have to wear long trousers and look respectable - let's not be pheasants here. In the middle picture is El Mirador Bar where you can enjoy snacks and drinks, with a view to the pool. And right... guess?! Wedding planner alert.
I've stayed in many Barceló hotels, and I'm always pleasantly surprised by how perfect the service is and how large and luxurious the rooms are. Every room of is designed in a unique and exclusive way. Tip: I would ask for a ground floor room with a little private garden :)
It was a lovely finca-style rustic hotel surrounded by beautiful nature with a lot of outdoor activites. From all the countless awards they have, I think the coolest part is that they actually have also been awarded by the King of Spain, Don Juan Carlos I himself. How awesome is that? Who's gonna top that? I felt like I was in some Venezuelan soap opera, except it was very relaxing and quiet! A perfect place to stay if you need to recharge your batteries. Don't go there if you are looking for clubbing and parties, it's ZEN all the way through, far far away from all the nonsense.
You can check out more photos from my Spanish experience on our Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/puravidalondon/marias-spain/