Discover Andalucia with Cosmos Tours - Part 1
I never quite realised the colourful
complexity of religious history in southern Spain, how it has shaped the region
today and its long-lasting impact on other countries in Europe, and further
Cosmos Tours’ 'Discover Andalucia' tour is
a joyful patchwork quilt of history, faiths, culture, food, music and much more
from this enchanting area, laid out in front of you in a 7-day feast of the
Spend the first night near Mijas, to avoid
a long transfer from Malaga airport. With its cobbled streets and whitewashed
'pueblo-style' houses, this is the perfect start to your Andalucian adventure.
Settle in at one of the many restaurants, choose some tapas, guzzle a couple of
cold cervezas and banish all thoughts of home as you gaze down at the lights of
the Costa del Sol resorts, 430 metres in the hazy distance below.
Andalucia really begins to seduce you when
you head to Seville in the morning, the over-developed coastal ribbon soon
giving way to rolling hills, olive groves, cultivated fields, occasional wind
turbines and ancient hilltop villages.
An African army crossed from Gibraltar in
711, conquered the Iberian peninsula and remained for more than 500 years in
'Al-Andalus', although it wasn’t until 1492 - and the fall of Granada - that
the Moors were finally expelled from all of modern Spain. With the reconquest
of the country by Christian forces, the Muslim Moors retrenched to Africa, but
their tenure left an indelible impression, so visible on this well structured
The Sephardic Jews - named after the Hebrew
word for Spain - predated the Moors in Spain by centuries, yet they were also
faced with a stark choice in 1492: convert to Christianity, or leave the
country. Some did convert, some migrated to North Africa, some to northern
Europe and others headed east to modern-day Turkey and Greece, then part of
the Ottoman Empire.
The Cosmos holiday lets you spend 3 nights in Seville and 2 in Granada, after the first night in Mijas, with pit-stops along the way in Ronda and Cordoba. And with guided tours by local experts in Seville, Cordoba and Granada, you begin to understand how the exotic pieces of the Andalucian history jigsaw puzzle fit together.
you’ll walk through the narrow alleyways of the Barrio Santa Cruz, once the
Jewish quarter and now an atmospheric labyrinth of cobbled streets, bars,
restaurants, shops, old palaces and churches. Marvel at the scale of the Plaza
de Espana, the centrepiece of the extravagant Latin America International Fair
of 1929, hosted by the city, and which even has Venetian-style canals and
bridges. Sadly, the Fair coincided with the Wall Street crash, and a global
economic crisis and as a result, there were few visitors at the time. Other
countries’ grand pavilions also remain - dotted around the peaceful oasis of
the Maria Luisa park - but are now repurposed as galleries, museums and
With plenty of spare time in Seville, you
will probably want to visit the famous Real
Alcazar. The oldest occupied royal palace in the world, it encapsulates all
those layers of culture and history inside its castellated 'mudejar'
walls, from the Moorish epoch through until the 19th century.
On the other hand, Seville’s imposing
Cathedral - one of the largest Christian churches in the world - replaced the
12th century Almohad mosque, which was destroyed in 1401. Somewhat bizarrely
though, the Giralda - the mosque’s minaret - still towers besides the Christian
But there’s so much more to do in Seville,
other than absorb history and religion.
We went to the local restaurants and
markets of Triana, on the west bank of the wide Guadalquivir river,
away from the main tourist haunts; we clapped and wailed along with some
authentic flamenco dancing at El Patio
Sevillano; we stumbled across some live late night music in a grungy
youthful venue, in the authentic Macarena
barrio, near the dark Moorish walls. And we ventured west from the city for a
ride on Andalucian horses, amongst olive groves and farmland.
And all the time you’re in this sprawling
city, you won’t be far from one of its 14000 orange trees. Bitter and
inedible, other than sweetened for marmalade, did you know that a Seville
orange has a distinctive double leaf on each stem? Nor did we, until our guide
Francisco gave us this tasty insight into one of the city’s defining emblems.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Cosmos Tours and Cruises