Here’s a thing. Y Viva España, a song so irritatingly catchy that once inside your head it’s hard to get it to leave again, was actually the creation of a Belgian musical duo who wrote the original song in Dutch. The English version, which plagued my childhood, was recorded by a Swedish singer-songwriter, and went on to sell over one million copies worldwide. It was recorded in a dozen languages, including Spanish.
The point about the song, with its resounding finale of “España por favor, España por favor”, is that it’s an infectiously upbeat homage to the joy felt by northern Europeans en route to the warmer, sunnier climes of southern Spain. The song may brim over with 1970s cliché of Spain, a place of dusky flamenco dancers and hunky matadors, where you can “meet señoritas by the score”, but it’s done with affection.
It’s the same feeling I have every time I return to Spain, and I’ve been often enough to know that it’s a country I never grow tired of visiting. Whether its depth of history and culture, easy-going lifestyle, good food and wine, or dramatic landscapes, Spain is a country that I feel almost compelled to visit time and time again.
This time, we were escaping the miserable northern European winter in search of some warmth in Andalusia. We transited through Malaga and headed straight to the fabled Moorish city of Granada, where it rained on my first ever trip to the Alhambra. There was even snow on the hills of the Sierra Nevada behind the city – hills that we later visited to explore the famed pueblo blancos, before driving cross-country to glorious Seville.
Seville is a city I’ve visited before, but I can’t ever imagine feeling tired of this truly magnificent town. It’s large enough to have a big city vibe, but small enough to explore on foot. While we were there, roaming bands of musicians took over the town and were playing in bars and in the streets around the centre. It was a lot of fun, involving quite a lot of wine.
We headed east, into the corner of Spain bordering Portugal. This region of wooded hills covered with Spanish oak, is home to some of the finest black Iberian pigs known to humanity. Pigs that eventually become jamón ibérico, which is best washed down with a glass of dry fino sherry. We made it to La Rábida, on the Rio Tinto, a remarkably tourist free spot where Christopher Columbus departed on his voyage of discovery to the Americas.
Turning south, the Costa de la Luz beckoned. We stopped in at the wonderful sherry town of Jerez de la Frontera and buzzing Cádiz. Both are fascinating and friendly, and often overlooked by tourists coming to Andalusia. Both are worth a few days of anyone’s time. Finally, we ground to a halt at some of the rugged and beautiful beaches that run down Spain’s Atlantic Coast towards Gibraltar.
We ended the trip with a mad dash back along the coast, hoping to reach Malaga in time for our flight home. If this trip proved anything, other than that driving in Spanish cities is terrifying, but not as terrifying as trying to find a parking space, it is that Spain is a country of immense variety. And this was only Andalusia. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we return again.