The sun began to force it’s way through the shuttered windows of my suite at El Nobo, and I knew should get uo. Yet the bed was so comfy, but a day of hiking (and eating!) lay ahead.
After a leisurely breakfast on the terrace we headed to Jimera de Libar, and started a hike through the Guadiaro valley, above the tracks and river below. The steep hillsides provided welcome shade and the path gently twisted through spectacular countryside to the village of Benaoján. The walks are a time for each person in the group to find their own space; chat if they wanted to, or pull back and enjoy peace and solitude. Each day’s hike unveiled something new about this beautiful part of Andalucía – soaring vultures overhead, craggy gorges and ancient woodlands. This is the heart of this experience – to really see and feel the heart of Andalucia.
For me there is a distinctive aroma of late summer in Andalucia; it’s the sweet, green, fresh and seductive scent of ripening figs. It was this smell that greeted us, as we came to the end of the hike and approached the small foot bridge that would take us over the river into the village of Benaoján and the welcoming ‘Hotel del Santo’.
I’ve stayed at the hotel before, so it was a pleasure to see Andy and Pauline again, the owners and hosts who converted this former mill into an intimate hotel, some 27 years ago. Over the years their restaurant has built up quite a reputation.
We had a large table on the terrace beside the river, and were treated to a few appetisers including a delicious fig salad with cheese, Iberian ham, pine nuts and honey that echoed the wonderful smell of fresh figs that embraced us during the last few hundred metres of the hike.
I started lunch with:
- Vichyssoise with soft boiled egg and croutons
and then tucked into
- Grilled salmon with ginger and pea pilaf rice
On this trip you can’t help but eat well, and since I had just clocked up 10 kilometres or so, I felt worthy of such a good lunch. The setting is impressive, with the river alongside the terrace, and the steep hillsides of the valley rising up behind the hotel.
As we were on a shortened version of this tour, we didn’t stay the night at Hotel Molino del Santo but continued onto Ronda, but normally Hotel del Santo is one of the selected properties, especially commissioned by Toma Tours.