Little Travel Stories: Granada, Alhambra and so much more

 

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The impressive and world-known Alhambra palace, the most visited monument in Spain,  is the reference point when it comes to talk or write about Granada in Andalusia. It dominates all aspects of the city, and indeed it is a must-do for all visitors (booking in advance is essential).

But Granada has so much more. A mid-sized city, easy to walk, unless you prefer to explore the beautiful Albaicín quarter, full of slopes, alleys and quiet charming streets, where tourists seek the best views over the Alhambra. These can be found at the popular Mirador de San Nicolás lookout point, where floods of people gather around sunset to enjoy the views. But for a complete city view, here´s a tip: get a taxi and ask to drive you to Ermita San Miguel, an old church on top of a hill, just 10min drive from downtown. The best unobstructed views over Granada and Alhambra, with the sun setting right behind.

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We spent a weekend in the city and chose a lovely small boutique hotel, Casa 1800. They also have a sister hotel in Sevilla. This one in Granada, with less than 30 rooms, is a small piece of tranquility in the heart of downtown. Expect charming rooms and attentive service. Some of the rooms overlook the Alhambra. As an added value, the hotel offers a complimentary coffee and pastry service every afternoon to all guests at the lovely interior patio, which is the center of the property. We stayed at Suite 1800, their signature room, a huge and spacious Suite with jacuzzi bath, separate living-room and big balconies with views over Alhambra palace.

From the hotel, it is easy to explore the city. The popular Carrera Del Darro Street by the small Darro river is just in front of the hotel, and it is the starting point from where to walk the Albaicín neighbourhood. Tea shops, small cafes and restaurants are easy to find all over.  I like Carmen De Aben Humeya, a little cozy restaurant with splendid views, outdoor terrace and great local cuisine.

The Realejo district is becoming a fashionable area lately. Also a few minutes walk from the hotel, it has become a kind of soho area, full of stylish restaurants, coffee-shops, jazz and music clubs, galleries… try Picoteca 3Maneras, a modern tapas bar and restaurant with surprising local dishes combined with a Northern touch as a reminder of the origins of the owner. Just a few steps from there, Papaupa is also surprising: a retro decor, cozy atmosphere and fusion dishes. They also open for afternoon coffee and late night drinks.

Culture: spend some time visiting the cathedral and nearby streets. The very interesting Royal Chapel is where the Catholic Kings are buried, and you can also see not only the grave but some of the original clothes and jewels they used during their reign. And right next to the chapel, narrow streets where artisans used to work and sell their products are now full of shops with handcraft, but the charm of those times still remain.

Fine dining: Arriaga Restaurant is the place to go. The setting is spectacular: the highest floor of the Memoria de Andalucia Museum, at 60 meters high, and with glass on both sides of the restaurant walls so you can enjoy amazing city views in all directions. However, the food will call most of the attention: a combination of local and basque cuisine, excellent product, great wines (with some surprising ones from Granada), and seamless service. Daniel the maitre is a great host, while owner Álvaro Arriaga, a basque chef who settled years ago in Granada, is the soul of the place. Their tasting menus are really interesting. Booking in advance is essential.

Daytrip: Sierra Nevada, the only place to ski in Southern Spain, is 1h drive from the city. The amazing white-washed mountains and snow landscapes are totally worth it. Between December and March, ski season takes place and it is a popular weekend destination. But you can also go during summer time, less crowded and same as spectacular nature. The finest resort is El Lodge, a small luxury boutique hotel right next to ski slopes, with comfortable rooms and chic atmosphere. Only complaint would be their Sun Deck outdoor restaurant, which still lacks efficient service to match a 5 star, but hopefully should improve.

Distances: Granada is 2h approx drive from Sevilla, 1,30h from Málaga and  about 2h from Córdoba. Its airport connects with Barcelona, Madrid and other international destinations.

For private tailormade itineraries to Granada, insider tips or additional activities or requests concerning the city of Alhambra palace, please feel free to contact directly.

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BLANCONCIERGE is a privately owned Luxury Travel & Concierge agency based in Seville, Spain, and managed by founder Eduardo Blanco.

 

 

Little travel stories: Málaga, a perfect getaway

 

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The capital of Costa del Sol is widely known as a holiday destination. Perfectly connected through its international airport, Málaga has transformed itself into a culture hub and a vibrant city with several possibilities. We spent a weekend there in January, here´s our little travel story:

Travelling from Sevilla as we did is just a couple hours away by highway (fast and easy), but as mentioned, the airport is very well connected with most major airports in Europe. Delta also flies directly from the US.

Málaga is very walkable. Downtown area is not accesible for cars, which makes it very comfortable and without traffic noise. There are plenty of private apartments that can be rented for short stays, and very good luxury apartments, many of them with great sunny rooftops. However, on this occasion we recommend the brand new Gran Hotel Miramar, the latest luxury hotel in town, part of The Leading Hotels Of The World. It promises to be the landmark hotel in town, great sea views, attentive service and comfortable rooms. Its rooftop will also be open for the summer season.

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From the hotel, it´s just a short nice stroll along the promenade into Muelle Uno, the harbor area. Cruise ships dock here, and it´s full of shops, restaurants, and the Pompidou Museum, one of the many museums in the city and part of the visual landscape of Muelle Uno.

Gastronomy is one of the main attractions of Málaga. The number of tapas bars has increased lately, and the variety of restaurants and places for lunch/dinner makes it hard to choose. For lunch, we tried Taberna Garcia, a very small tapas place in a quiet street behind the Mercado de la Merced market. Nice service and dishes worth the visit. Booking in advance is essential on weekends. For dinner, La Cosmopolita restaurant & tapas bar is an excellent choice, with chef Dani Carnero taking care of guests.

But before dinner, the place to go is the small mountain of Gibralfaro, for one simple reason: the best views over the city. Easy to reach on foot (15min of slopes but easy to do on a paved walking small way), the reward comes at the end. Go at sunset, and stay until the city lights appear. Totally worth it.

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The following day, there´s a fun daytrip to consider seriously: Caminito Del Rey, a popular walkway, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near the small and charming village of Ardales. All is just 1h drive from Málaga. Tickets for guided tours must be booked online in advance. Expect breath-taking views, impressive nature and beautiful landscapes.

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Back in Málaga, it´s time to explore some of the trendy spots. Try La Sole Del Pimpi, the modern version of the well-known traditional El Pimpi, and located right next. At La Sole, you can find signature cocktails, Asian food and a fashionable atmosphere. But a visit to Málaga is not complete without its amazing sweet wines. Taste some at La Odisea, a surprising lovely old bar with wine barrels, bohemian decor, old books, and a charming small outdoor patio in the back.

Museums in Málaga are all great. Our favorites are Picasso Museum, a must-do, Carmen Thyssen, the CAC, and Pompidou for modern-art lovers.

Finally, and since the Costa del Sol is perfectly connected East to West by highway, visiting the Axarquía region is a very good idea. This is the mountain region next to Málaga, full of small charming white villages. We chose Frigiliana, about 40min drive along the coast, and known as one of the most beautiful villages out there. Walk the alleys and streets, buy some local handcraft and try their local cheeses and wines.  Top it up with a coffee with sea views in the town of Nerja, just 15min from Frigiliana, before returning to Málaga.

Málaga is about 1.30h drive from Granada, just 2 hours away from Sevilla or Córdoba. But these are other small travel stories that deserve separate upcoming posts.

When to go: Costa del Sol has a very specific climate, the mountains surrounding Málaga and Marbella create a micro-climate that keeps mild temperatures all year round and sunny weather most of the time.

 

For an insider private trip to Costa del Sol, Málaga and Marbella, please contact us below:

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Eduardo Blanco provides luxury travel planning and concierge services in Spain. From private transfers to luxury hotel booking with dedicated attention and vip treatment, bespoke expert local guides, car & driver disposals, daytrips, off-the-beaten path experiences or gourmet journeys. Upon request only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

¿Qué es un Concierge?

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El término ¨Concierge¨ proviene del francés ¨Comte des Cierges¨, algo así como ¨guardián de las velas¨ , personas que solían visitar a los nobles en sus castillos durante la Edad Media. La traducción actual más utilizada en castellano es la de ¨Conserje¨, y que se asocia con los responsables en los hoteles de lujo o apartamentos privados de reservar un restaurante, pedir un taxi, encargar unas flores, etc. Éste término ha evolucionado y hoy día se aplica a los profesionales encargados de arreglar y solucionar cualquier petición de sus clientes (papeleos, encargos personales, tareas varias, compras…) algo así como un asistente personal.

En el entorno del turismo, que es al que me refiero, un Concierge o Travel Concierge es aquella persona que ofrece sus servicios a clientes para organizarles cualquier cosa que deseen dentro del entorno del mundo de los viajes y eventos. Siempre relacionado con el turismo de lujo, un Concierge es la evolución de la agencia de viajes tradicional hacia un servicio personalizado que una sola persona o un conjunto de ellas puede ofrecer. Este concepto está bastante extendido en países como Reino Unido o Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, En España, y aunque existen varias agencias o profesionales independientes (como es mi caso), no es aún un término demasiado conocido y entendido. El Concierge basa su servicios en contactos personales o profesionales, a través de los cuales puede acceder a un universo de posibilidades de muy difícil acceso y de esta manera poder satisfacer siempre a sus clientes. Desde unas entradas vip de último minuto para una final de Champions League, pases para saludar al grupo o cantante de moda antes de un concierto, asientos en primera fila para las pasarelas de moda de Milán, París o Nueva York, pasando por acceso a las mejores fiestas privadas de los principales festivales internacionales de cine, o entradas para una final de NBA o Roland Garros, por poner algunos ejemplos. Pero los servicios se extienden más allá, y como profesional especializado, también puede organizar eventos privados de todo tipo, un tour con expertos en arte, arquitectura o gastronomía, mesa en los mejores restaurantes o hasta alquilar las mejores villas de Ibiza y conseguir acceso a las discotecas de moda más solicitadas de la Costa Azul, Porto Cervo o Miami.

Los clientes que acceden a estos servicios son de alto o muy alto poder adquisitivo, conocidos en inglés con las siglas HNW (High Net Worth). La privacidad es esencial, así como los servicios ofrecidos. Esto es parte de la profesionalidad de un buen Concierge. Asímismo, la rapidez y eficacia son igualmente esenciales a la hora de conseguir la petición del cliente. Evolucionamos hacia un turismo personalizado, que se profesionaliza en aspectos muy concretos y que debe estar al día de todo lo nuevo, lo novedoso y diferente, ya que el cliente de hoy día, y más aún el cliente del turismo de lujo, está también evolucionando muy rápidamente, está preparado y sabe perfectamente lo que quiere y cómo lo quiere. Tener la capacidad de dárselo y de seguir ofreciendo un factor sorpresa añadido es la base del éxito de un buen profesional o Concierge

Macallan & El Celler de Can Roca

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The Macallan and El Celler de Can Roca have worked together to create the ultimate taste experience, an exquisite combination of craft cuisine and whisky making.
At the dinner you will taste unique dishes specially created for the ocassion, inspired by the flavour of The Macallan plus an outstanding range of The Macallan whiskies (from the unreleased single cask malts through to M; the world’s most expensive whisky, The Macallan in Lalique 62 year old and the oldest single malt ever released by The Macallan distillery).
The combination of this menu and the collection of fine whiskies served are being exclusively created for these charity dinners and will not be served anywhere in the world aside from on these six occasions.
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Sevilla in summer

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As a local, I am in love with Sevilla, my hometown. And although summertime is the season when the city remains quiet, it´s also the time to visit it despite the hot weather. There are plenty of summer terraces and rooftops with fantastic city views, either for drinks or dinner. Check some of the best ones on this post (thanks to my friend Shawn) .  I also recommend dining out with views at places like the Vincci La Rabida or Fontecruz hotels.

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Jets & Islands

Luxury travel always heads for new trends and options. In the recent years, private jet services have been one of the main demanding options when it comes to moving from one place to another. Several companies offer a wide variety of services, jet models and flights. The customer profile is not the rock star or CEOs as it used to be, but more and more it´s approaching companies using it for their trips or business. It rivalizes any first class onboard service at a top airline, personalized treatment is taken for granted and the most important thing: you fly when you wish, no schedules.
Using a private jet to get to a private island, is quite a good idea. These type of islands, easily found in Mauritius, Seychelles or Fidji to mention a few, are easily prepared to accomodate couples, groups or families and pamper them with the most luxurious and incredible services you can imagine. Places to get lost, forget about the rest of the world and enjoy an array of facilities and activities.
In a world of stress and hard work, finding yourself in such places is a rewarding experience. Packages and prices vary, but it´s reaching more and more customers who are discovering the fact that living for working can be turned into working for living.