Our adventure began in the heart of Andalusia’s pueblos blancos, the white hill towns. White-washed villages dot the countryside, perched atop mountains and nestled in valleys all throughout this region. The one we chose to stay in is called Zahara de la Sierra -- one of the smallest, and designated a National Heritage Site. These villages have history dating back to the Moorish rule of Spain, and Zahara de la Sierra hosts the ruins of a Moorish castle at the top of the highest peak above the village.
We stayed at a hotel called Al Lago which overlooks a lake surrounded by jagged hills. The view from their dining patio was gorgeous, but after a glass of wine, we realized it was too chilly to stay outside, so we headed inside for dinner. Mona, one of the owners, is English and her husband and co-owner Stephan used to be a chef in New York City. We ate at the hotel restaurant both nights we were there, and the food was delicious.
The town is built up the side of the mountain, so the walk up to the castle was no meager task… but we were rewarded with views of
The castle tower
The sky in this photo is so dark blue, it's sort of reminiscent of a creepy Count Dracula movie... you expect to hear thunder and see lightening come cracking down over it any time.
the lake and the valley that would take your breath away. The white houses sprawled across the lush hillside with olive groves stretching as far as the eye could see.
The castle was built around the year 742, and though there’s not much of it left, it was still easy to imagine people living there (and impossible to imagine horses making it up that steep, slippery path.) The castle’s position at the top of the mountain made for a perfect fortress and the steep hillside made it virtually impenetrable to attack. We barely made it up there ourselves, and could not imagine how hard it would be carrying weapons and wearing armor.
We wandered up the stairs through room after room, peeking out the windows that looked out over the valley. On top of the castle, I climbed up on the wall and looked down into the village... tiny people the size of ants were wandering in the square and minuscule cars weaved through the streets. I sat on the wall far above it all and just enjoyed the breeze and the quiet for a while.
On our way back down the narrow winding streets, we heard
a horn honking furiously and leapt out of the way just in time to see a festooned car zooming up the mountain... followed by another car, and another… and realized it was a wedding party on their way up to the castle. It reminded us of our wedding almost a year ago, and the fact that we were coming up on our (can you believe it??) FIRST ANNIVERSARY! We strolled hand in hand down the mountain to the village, eager to start our vacation and looking forward to our next year together.
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