Not Provence again.
No, amor. Set your compass west to Southern Spain. The Moorish palaces and stunning beaches of Andalusia await.
Bask in luxury at the Hotel Alfonso XIII (Calle San Fernando 2; +34-95-491-7000) or keep it real (well, nineteenth-century-splendor real) at Hotel Simon (Garcia de Vinuesa 19; +34-95-422-6660). Start your day at the stunning cathedral (like most churches around here, it’s built atop an old mosque) and the royal apartments of the Real Alcazar.
Allow several hours for lunch at Bodega Santa Cruz (Rodrigo Caro 1; +34-95-421-3246), then hit Calle Antillano Campos in Triana, the old gypsy quarter, to stock up on inexpensive ceramics. Come twilight, people-watch from El Rinconcillo (Calle Gerona 40; +34-95-422-3183), the 1670 bar that invented tapas. Have some. Later, have marinated fish at Egana Oriza (Calle San Fernando 41; +34-95-422-7211). Ready for after-dinner kitsch? It’s flamenco time! You’ll get castanets, wild gesticulating, and garish lace at El Patio Sevillano (Paseo Cristóbal Colón 11; +34-95-421-4120).
Arab Thrills in the Hills
Rent a car and head up the windy roads to Carmona, for quaint medieval fortresses, Arab gardens, and real storks in the church steeples. Stay at Casa de Carmona, a restored sixteenth-century residence where rooms face flowering courtyards. Continue on to Cordoba, the former Islamic capital, for white-washed alleys, cascading geraniums, and its impressive Great Mosque. Freshen up with some fino, the local Montilla-Moriles wine.
Pre-order tickets and sail into the Alhambra, a gorgeous collection of fourteenth-century palaces, honeycomb domes, and reflecting pools in Granada. You’ll want to kick out everyone else and move in forever. If you can’t get a room at the popular Parador de Granada in the gardens, nest at the totally over-the-top Alhambra Palace Hotel.
Soul of the Costa del Sol
Time for the beach. Craving Cristal? Hit Marbella and check into the Marbella Club, then head out for Nikki Beach, swordfish carpaccio at La Meridiana (Camino de la Cruz; +34-95-277-6190), and dancing until dawn at Olivia Valere (Carretera de Istán; +34-95-282-8861). For a mellower seaside scene, go to Sanlucar de Barrameda, a charming fishing port with outdoor markets and horse racing on the beach. Locals drink Manzanilla at Casa Bigote on the waterfront (Bajo de Guia 10; +34-95-636-2696).
The Home Stretch
The charming Arab-inspired pueblo blancos (white villages) on the road back to Seville are being touted as the new Tuscany (minus the tourists). The best stop is Gaucin, where the charming Hotel Casablanca has views of North Africa.
Not that you’d rather be anywhere but here.